The man behind the mask: Forget about Who Killed Jigaboo Jones -- who is Jeff Campbell?

Categories: Interviews

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Jeff Campbell as Jigaboo Jones

Jeff Campbell's one-man show, Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?, premieres tonight at work | space. Our Show & Tell blog spoke with Campbell about the show, and that piece focuses primarily on the production. We also caught up with Campbell, who's been a stalwart of the Colorado hip-hop scene for the better part of two decades, and our interview focuses more on the author himself.

See also: Jeff Campbell on Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?, his one-man show

Returning home after some time in Northern California, he first started making a name for himself in the '90s as Apostle. His rhymes and stage presence were a cut above even back then. In addition to holding it down as an emcee on his own, Campbell put in some strong work with the Heavyweight Dub Champion collective, and he also founded the Colorado Hip-Hop Coalition, a non-profit organization that taught school kids about hip-hop culture.

After grinding tirelessly for a number of years, Campbell disappeared for a while, and now he's back wearing black face and generally pissed off at everything about hip-hop. We met with him on a rainy afternoon recently to try and sort out the impending madness that he will unleash tonight at work|space, Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?

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Jeff Campbell, aka Apostle
Westword: Tell me about your early days in Colorado?

Jeff Campbell: I went to school in Longmont, Colorado, and then I would go home in the summer to Decatur, Alabama. I had these dual experiences as a kid. My parents would bring me back to Colorado kicking and screaming at the end of every summer, and I would bring my experience in Alabama back with me, and jigaboo it up for 'em. I wanted to have friends, and I had no idea what I was doing. I was so alienated in that world, that I became a class clown for that acceptance. Because being a class clown was so much better than those rocks, and that spit and those fists.

In addition to that, when I was fifteen years old, I joined the speech and debate team. On the speech team, we did these things called "humorous interpretation." You'd take a piece of literature and do a ten-minute interpretation of it. You don't retell the story, but you portray the story. So my teacher gave me a play called The Green Pastures by Marc Connelly.

It was a minstrel show. I had no idea what a minstrel show was at the age of fifteen. I became the state champion, and I took fourth place in nationals, stickin' my lips out, tawkin' like 'dis, and being a minstrel for a 90 percent white audience. My parents were like, "As long as you're having fun." They were typical '80s parents, more concerned with their careers. My dad was an engineer who worked for IBM. You know, we were "Movin' on up!"

You're parents had no idea you were performing a minstrel show, and I suspect your success was academic enough to be thought of as high achievement?

Oh yeah, they saw little bits and pieces of the performance, and they were just like, "Wow, how are you playing all those characters?" They were proud of me, and just wanted me to be happy. It wasn't until I was older and realized what a minstrel show was, that I understood how racist and sick this teacher was, and how he used me for a couple of trophies.

I am not still in contact with him, but I understand that he just retired as the principal at Eerie High School. I'm gonna call him and make a trip out to there to go get a copy of that performance because I'm going to put that in an eventual documentary about "Who Killed Jigaboo Jones?" I didn't realize it then, but as I look back on it now, I was receiving direction and coaching on how to be the best jigaboo. That's why this show is so much about me, and not just about hip-hop culture.

Do you agree that when we look at the leaders of hip hop culture that what we are looking at is the perfection of the "cult of personality"? The idea of personal branding is a direct extension of hip hop culture; MCs and DJs have perfected the art of personal branding...

We have gotten so far away from hip hop culture. We are so far away from it's principles. What we see on a day to day through mass media is a manufactured product that has very little to do with hip-hop culture. Do you remember when rappers were ugly? But nowadays you get a spread in GQ magazine, a clothing line and a photo shoot when you sign your label deal.

Okay, let me posit this, the first rapper I can think of that's not "pretty" is Trinidad James. The reaction to him has been completely off the charts all of a sudden he's the worst thing that ever happened to music.

Trinidad James, I mean forgive me I've only heard the one single ["All Gold Everything"], and I guess I'm still waiting to hear talent. When I heard that song I was like, "What the fuck is this?"

Is there some huge plot to fast track and mainline the worst of hip-hop culture?

No, but at the same time, I expect more out of us. I am so disconnected, so disengaged from the fuckin' rap music game. I am so bored. And quite frankly, I am only concerned with the community in which hip-hop culture finds its' origin, low-income communities of color. Therefore, when I see images perpetuated through mass media, okay, with these record deals. Granted, I don't know these cats' career tracks, but when I see these cats that are rammed down our throats by these labels, corporate entities, magazines and channels "Brought to you by Burger King" and all of this shit....

The majority of all the consumers that are buying tickets and downloading music have no connection to the community in which hip-hop culture finds its origin. Then they could give a DAMN who is a coon and who is not, while at the same time propping up the Eminems and the Yelawolfs as these much more "skilled" or educated or artistic MCs and whatnot.

Do you have a problem with white rappers?

I don't have a problem with white rappers who recognize that without Grandmaster Melle Mel they would not have an identity. To me, it all comes down to the community in which hip-hop culture finds its origin and your relationship to that. I love Chris Karns, but my question is with these kids, these despised and rejected youth who took broken turntables and light switch circuits and reworked them to create music out of nothing...out of garbage.

A segment of a population that nobody gave a damn about anymore created a multi-billion dollar industry. I don't give a fuck if you can rap your ass off or scratch your ass off, my contention is with: "What is your relationship to that community from which your livelihood sprang?" it's not even up to me to hold you to task; it's only up to me to put that out there in the atmosphere for you to grab it or take it.

Okay, let's take a step back way back. Compare 1993 to 2013 and rap music and hip-hop culture in its relationship to the larger world. What are some of the marked differences that you see in a culture, whose cornerstone idea is to be progressive and keep moving forward. Did we have it better off twenty years ago?

Well, twenty years ago you didn't have white rappers that could come up with an entirely white audience and battle other white rappers to win a rap contest. They had to go through the ranks of the 'hood and the streets. They had to battle cats from the community in order to get there. And the only white boys that were involved in hip-hop, were the ones that didn't have to apologize for being there in the first place.

Even in its' infancy in the late '70s in the Bronx, hip-hop was a multi-ethnic culture. Are you trying to say that hip-hop culture is black culture?

Well, you can't separate hip-hop from Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. You can't even separate it from James Brown. You can't, you can try, but you can't. You can't even separate it from Clarence 13X and Malcolm X.

But at the same time, I have to challenge you because the "heartbeat of hip-hop," the beat from "Planet Rock," is sampled from Kraftwerk; Henry Stone was a famous white producer from the '70s and '80s that produced a lot of the breaks sampled...

Mmm hmmm, Malcolm McLaren...you're not challenging me because we are in agreeance. We are 100 percent agreeing. Where we differ, is what I see is Afrika Bambaataa is the separation between extracting raw materials and creating a product, which was the culture. Taking the raw materials of graffiti art, which was a separate thing within itself, and taking b-boyin' and emceeing, and deejyaing and calling it hip-hop culture and then founding the Zulu Nation.

I think, at that point, that was the birth of something in particular, meant for a particular purpose, which was to empower these young folks, these disenfranchised people, particularly gang members. You cannot separate hip-hop from these gang members who came together in the streets in the Bronx and chose to battle each other instead of killing each other as a means of conflict resolution.

You can play this game, and say, "Well it was multicultural, and there was white guys doin' stuff and Taki 183 and all that stuff..." and, yes, there absolutely were those things. But once Afrika Bambaataa brought all this together for that purpose, it was no longer this funky German electronic music that was a raw material that was used to create a product.

Okay, so when did hip-hop culture shift away from that? I proposed 1993, but it sounds like you want to take it all the way back to 1973. But no matter how you slice it, for a long time, "hip hop culture" was synonymous with "black culture." When was the shift?

Well, the agent of that shift quite simply was black people being 13.5 percent of the population and white folks being 70 percent of the population and record executives realizing that, "Okay, we can't ram black power down a bunch of white kids throats." This would be around 1989, the number, another summer, when I saw an article on Public Enemy filling an arena and the crowd was a bunch of white kids screaming, "Fight The Power"

Oh! I remember I saw that, and I said, "Wow!" That was interesting. They were on stage with FOI cats [Fruit of Islam, Security trained by the Nation of Islam] -- you could call them S1Ws, but they were FOI. I think the wise folks in power seeing that were like, "Eh..." I think another shift was 1995 when Lauryn Hill walked away with all those Grammys. Also in 1995, when black radio made two-million men show up to Washington on October 16, 1995. In 1996, Bill Clinton passed the telecommunications act that deregulated monopolies, and all of a sudden Clear Channel buys every black radio station.

The popularity of certain rap music, like Young Jeezy, etc., shows that a majority of fans are capitalists or venture capitalists in wait. Jeezy's first three albums are all about how to build a successful business from the ground up. Do you see today's fans being driven by examples like his?

Well, what I see within the youth the last four years or so, working in the public school system, what I see is only a handful of youth as excited about hip-hop culture as our generation. This generation is so much more...distracted. As a dean of students, I saw this everyday. Kids are distracted by devices, and games and screens -- they can get porn on their phones at thirteen.

How many kids did I bust showing porn in class and confiscate their phones? Kids are more distracted, and there is a lack of foundation because there's a lot of things broken down in our communities. Which creates the atmosphere for another spring, for another something like hip-hop to emerge. I think somewhere in some low-income community of color, some kids that the world has forgot about again, are doing something very artistic, and creative and different.

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Most people over the age of thirty, who it can be said grew up with hip-hop as a culture, have a very blasé attitude toward the popular rap music of today. I didn't say hip-hop culture because most people do not interface with the culture of hip-hop today. To me, they have become their parents, passively dismissing the output of young people today as "trash" or "garbage," and they only point out examples that are a part of the major label system. They don't consider independent, or what we used to call underground artists; those guys aren't legitimate.

Well, that's a part of the distraction piece. You are inundated with, let's call it what it is: Rap music is a byproduct of popular culture that's pop music that's Top 40 music. Hip-hop still exists in the underground; there are artists that are still innovating and pushing the envelope.

Having said that, "Who killed Jigaboo Jones?"

I don't want to give away the end of the story. The jigaboo is not born; jigaboos are made, they are manufactured. So many black men have died so that jigaboos could live.
We spend a lot of time blaming everybody else for our problems, but there's only one thing in the entire universe powerful enough to kill a jigaboo. There's only one thing that can kill a jigaboo. The ones we blame? They don't kill jigaboos; they kill black men.

In the press materials for Who Killed Jigaboo Jones, you mention the term "Hip-Hop Industrial Complex.", I think that's a neat turn of phrase; I don't regard it as a real entity. Do you regard it as a real entity?

The corporate benefactors of the creativity from the community in which hip-hop culture finds it's origin. I'm a playwright, not a conspiracy theorist.

I'm glad you clarified that. Let's take another step back. People say they love "hip-hop," but most people don't regard it as a culture. Since 1993, we have seen the rise of hip-hop music and the death of hip-hop culture. The four elements of hip-hop are no longer important, and in fact, using "hip-hop" to describe a music genre includes everything from Wu Tang to Justin Bieber. Who stands to gain the most from this demise of hip-hop culture?

The dominant culture. Let me say this: is Sushi Japanese?

It's actually Chinese in origin.

Okay, well is Yoga Southeast Asian? I want to separate it just like you separated it. Is it a southeast Asian practice of health and well being? If the [question] is, "Is this music black culture?" If the answer is no, then Yoga is not Southeast Asian. When I was in Bozeman, Montana on tour with DJ Quest, we had this Montana group open up for us.

Throwin' them Ms!

Yeah, thrown the M's up at us, and they have this rapper who tells me he doesn't listen to any other rappers because he doesn't want to be influenced by them. And he had this New York accent like: "I grew up in Bozeman all my life, but I feel like hip-hop is a part of me and where I came from yaknawimean, kid?" When I encountered that dude, that was what I imagine Yoga and Taco Bell and all this shit is to [the people who originated it]. I have a friend from Southeast Asia, and he said to me, "You know the yoga they practice here is not even close." It has morphed and become this American thing.

Do you have kids of your own?

I have a nineteen-year-old son.

Who are his favorite rappers, or does he even like rap music?

Yeah he does, and he raps. I introduced him to the artists that influenced me. He loves them; he still listens to a lot of the old school today because I try to ram it down his throat. He was really into Lil' Wayne at one point, and then I gave him PRT, Guru. He also really loves Mos and Lupe.

Aw man, Lupe fell off. He's a pretty duplicitous character.

We have a shared experience with someone who is very much "do as I say, not as I do." [Laughs!]

[Editor's note: Several years ago KRS-One got into a shoving match backstage at a show here in Denver with the author, around the same time he was allegedly stealing the entire curriculum that Campbell had developed for his fledgling Colorado Hip Hop Coalition. More on that later.]

How did we lose our sense of what's valuable and our sense of culture? Who is responsible?

The jigaboo is responsible. Upon writing this, I was searching for a universally accepted definition for the word jigaboo. The racial slur database the closest I got to a widely accepted definition was "an exceptionally dark person or a lazy black person." "That lazy jigaboo." I put that in the hip-hop context. Lazy meaning you will do anything for a dollar. You won't push yourself creatively. That's what I hear when I hear "Gold all in my chains/Gold all in my rings."

Okay, but I have to challenge you again because he recorded that outside the major label framework; he made that in Decatur for himself and his people. And even though I understand your mindset to just dismiss it. But to me, it's an undeniable record. It's the 2013 "Bout It, Bout It," and people hated "Bout It, Bout It" when it came out. He may not be the world's greatest rapper, but he is speaking his truth, and that's why it resonates with everyone else.

Okay, well let's take a look at Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow, and the disproportionate incarceration rate, take Trayvon Martin. Put Trinidad James in THIS context, and let's take Paula Deen, as well. So she gets busted for saying the "n" word, and all these articles come out on the internet. If you look at the comments over and over again, what is cited? "If these gangsta rappers can say the 'n' word in every song two-hundred freakin' times, then how come Paula can't freakin' say it?"

Hip-hop is cited constantly. So what we have to talk about is the dominant world view of who black males are, and he [Trinidad] is embodying that. Now let's go to Trayvon Martin. My experience? I experience racism all the time, on a daily basis. Micro aggressions. Nothing I need to call the NAACP about, or march about or cry.

Somebody digs up a picture of Trayvon looking like a thug, and it wasn't even him but scroll down to the comments, and how many times do people say: "Oh look, he was a thug, and he got what he deserved." And back to Michelle Alexander, and her book examining the disproportionate incarceration of blacks to everybody else. We are 13.5 percent of the general population and 50 percent of the imprisoned population. We are being funneled into prison. It's not even Jim Crow anymore; it's the new slavery.

So what does a Trinidad James represent in that context? The dominant world view that we are nothing but misogynist, materialist, violent ignorant criminals. So whether the song is hot in the 'hood doesn't matter because guess what? Ozzy Osbourne is not frightening to white people, and he bit the head off a bat. He replaced Ludacris as the Pepsi spokesperson, but Ludacris is not scary to us because we know he's not really wildin' out shooting' folks. But Bill O'Reilly gets up in arms...and you see what I'm saying?

You just mentioned the prison industrial complex being the new slavery. About a month ago, Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse set the game on fire because he named his peers and said he was a better rapper. The rap world stopped. Kanye, a couple weeks before that, tweeted that his second verse on "New Slaves" was the best rap verse of all time. People laughed at him. The people laughing at him weren't Bill O'Reilly, or conservative bloggers or Politico; they were the same people whose faces melted a week later when Kendrick Lamar said he was better than Drake. Can you explain that for me?

First of all, Kendrick's verse wasn't that hot. What that was, was a setup for that Freshman class to retaliate and come back. Most of the people in those chat rooms and [on twitter] are paid by Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to get this shit going. Because you know what? Nothing sells like the controversy of niggas wanting to kill each other. As far as Kanye's verse, he's just not that good of a rapper. And he's a cornball anyway. He's married to a fucking Kardashian on a reality TV show half the time. I don't think a hip-hop head could take him seriously.

So to bring things full circle, you're saying his cult of personality is so goofy that he has lost the right to wield any power?

Yeah, he's so contrived and arbitrary.

But we both agree that we need to move away from hero worship. Huey Newton was an addict, but he still liberated the people. Kanye can't be married to a Kardashian and talk about the Prison Industrial Complex?

No he absolutely can, but talking about selling your soul to the devil...

Okay, time out. Let's talk about that. Using your context and the intersection of cult of personality, hero worship and having a platform to affect change, on selling your soul to the devil -- he's saying some of the same things that the Pharcyde said before, Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson. But he's so corny? Please elaborate.

That's my own personal opinion. I am not a big fan of his music.

We're not talking about his music; this is about his cult of personality. His personal brand is so goofy that for you he has no impact?

Yeah, it just sounds contrived. It's not an articulate statement. There's underground cats who have articulated that statement in a much more powerful way.

Yes, but they lack the platform...

Yeah, they lack the platform.

We keep returning to that, the notion of legitimacy that the major labels provide.

I suppose you can be a real fool and be a Top 40 artist.

Can you be a real fool and speak to the people? Don't forget Flava Flav was a part of Public Enemy.

And he was always a crack head and a jack ass..

And he was always right there next to Chuck on stage.

I think that was tactical and purposeful.

Are hip-hop fans lazy?

Well diggin' through the crates doesn't exist anymore.

Can't we just go to Google and type in "hottest new hip-hop"? What do you think the quality of your results will be?

I think the quality of your results will be those who have the means, as well as the knowledge, to market themselves via Google and social media experts. I don't think fans are any more lazy than we were. I just think they are more distracted.

What do you hope to accomplish with Jigaboo Jones?

A lot of this has to do with my experience. Like with the CHHC it started out with me wanting to be in the high schools and middle schools and teaching kids about hip-hop history and the culture and writing some raps. I wound up working seventy hours a week and begging rich folks for money!

Where was the hip-hop community in Denver when this happened?

Well they didn't... [exasperated] Well, you know what?

Tell the truth. Shame the devil. Where was the hip-hop community? Did they have your back?

Well, the community felt like this was a "cult of personality" thing. It didn't start off that way, but then my ego got involved, and it certainly became that to a degree.

How many other coalitions were you competing against for the role of educator?

At first zero, by the time it was over...at least a dozen. By 2006, when I was ready to just say, "Fuck y'all," do you know how many people ware coming to me? Even my own former teachers were coming to me saying: "I'm doing this class; where do I get the materials you use?" Like, if you have to ask for the materials, you shouldn't be doing it. Because I built all this by myself!

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I'm not trying to bait you. I just want to clarify: Are you angry?

No, not anymore. At the time, I was SO frustrated because I was working my ass off, and I worked against the grain! The landscape of the music was the same way that it is right now you know? There was very little going on about, "Let's do something for the youth." Let's transform literacy in the minds of young people and become valuable in their minds, not just another celebrity selling alcohol. Let's be valuable in another way.

Did you get a lot of support for that initiative? How many people were like, "That's a great idea, Jeff"?

Educators thought it was a great idea; philanthropists organizations thought it was a great idea. Kids loved it, but very few hip-hoppers thought it was a great idea. Let's focus on the hip hoppers for a second...this bothers me, obviously... But once I stood up on my own two feet and made it happen? Then a few of them jumped on the train, and at least a dozen of them, by the time I was done, had started their own after school programs, including KRS-One, who told me to dissolve my organization and run the education division of his!

"Wow!" I thought to myself. Wow! It must be a really good idea if you're going to steal it. You want to talk about things I have to forgive and absolve? I walked up on stage at Cervantes while he was in the middle of that song "Hip-Hop Lives" and made him stop the song and tell everybody that he got "Hip-Hop is Intelligent Movement" from me. I jumped up on stage and just stood there like this [takes a perfect b-boy stance], and he was like "Hold up, hold up, stop the music!"

I made him tell everybody! I had a friend in New York who called me and said, "I'm in New York at the university, Kris is on stage, biting your lecture and not quoting you! I'm in line right now to get to the microphone, so I can ask him where he got that from!" And they stopped the questions before my boy could get up there. So I was like THIS nigg...[stops himself, chuckles]. I had to do that one man!

So did you ever get the chance to dialogue with KRS-One?

He apparently gave me props in The Gospel of Hip-Hop, his book that nobody bought, saying that's where he got the idea, and a documentary as well. And you know what, I'm forgiving...I need to exonerate my inner prostitute, and that's who Jigaboo Jones is.

I used to hear spoken word poets say this all the time, "pimpin' your poetry." Is that what it is? When you're doing your dance on stage in Montana, are you just prostituting yourself?

Oh absolutely! I remember being at Sherpa & Yeti's in, I think, Breckenridge, and being up there with Heavyweight Dub Champion and spittin' my shit that I spit, from my perspective of who I am, not apologizing for it, rockin' a sold out crowd. And I remember them selling merchandise, and being at the merchandise table, and the very last person to walk out that night was this little sweet cute little blond girl with a Peruvian hat, and she looks at me as she's going up the stairs, puts her fist up in the air and goes [sarcastically] "Right On Brother!" and starts crackin' up! Just laughin' her ass off.

I remember at that moment going, "You know what, she could give a damn about what I have to say. I am here to sell alcohol. I'm not here for anything else." That moment for me, the Kris [KRS-One] thing, but I will never NEVER forget that moment.

Because you know what, during the show, it's packed people are dancing, my ego is so gigantic at that moment when I feel like what I have to say is so important to everybody in the room. I am on a high that nobody can take me down, and this sweet little girl really just knocked me right off my square. Knocked me straight off my square. And it just made think, this is all bullshit, Jeff. This is your ego telling you this is something that it's not.

Considering that experience, and how you reexamined your self image and exonerated your inner prostitute, talk to me about the choice to use black face.

Black face is, in the modern context, the pre-conceived ideas of who black people are, that we put on in order to be considered authentic and to sell, and to be "real niggas."

Be specific. When you say "we," you are talking about...

For instance, take a look at 50 Cent on the cover of GQ and then take a look at him on the cover of his record.

Now that's in the modern sense. What about the historical sense. Many blacks talk long and hard about the deep history of pain associated with blackface. Did you think long and hard?

Um, yes...and no. Yes in that I made a conscious decision to make this point to really draw this connection [voice drops to a whisper] but then I put it on! And when I did that video of me jumpin' around actin' like a buffoon and hearing my white friends tell me, "Stick your lips out a little more! Directing me! Whether he was innocently trying to help me and draw the picture, I felt my ancestors enter the room at that point. They weren't angry. They were just watching, and saying, "What are you gonna do with this?"

I felt, honestly, and I'm not one of these superstitious, goofy ass "I'm so fuckin' esoteric," you know -- some of that shit is so arbitrary -- but I felt a coldness and a stiffness, and I'm lookin' at this dude, and I'm lookin' at Donnie [Betts, his director for the stage], and I can see myself. I can't see myself, but I can see myself, and I was short of breath, tight of throat...I felt weird in that moment. And I was like, "Yo, can we take a break for a minute?"

Because it was HARD to do. And I have to do it again tomorrow for more press shots, and it gets increasingly harder and harder to put it on as I do it because to try to make this point there is an immense level of responsibility. I could not just put this on tongue-and-cheek in a satirical sense without swinging in the other direction. And saying, you know, I'm putting this on because my ancestors used to swing from poplar trees because fools would put this make up on and create this image that justified our disparity in treatment.

And turned us into the "thugs that got what we deserved"?

It helped to relegate our position in people's minds so that they didn't have a problem with them brutalizing us.

So, knowing what we know about Trayvon Martin, the apt example you gave of 50 Cent and his album cover, is blackface overkill?

No, because my people are dying. No, because in Chicago, fifteen-year-old kids are getting on YouTube with stacks of money and guns and talking about how they will kill each other, and then winding up dead. Children are dying. It is not overkill. I've had plenty of people upset with me about the blackface, and it's like, "You're upset with me, but you're not upset about the incarceration rate, the homicide rate. You're not up in arms about that but you're up in arms about me?" I expected a few older black folks to be put off.

Aren't you worried that people don't take the time to try and enjoy things that lead us out of our comfort zone?

I expected older black folks to get taken aback and not completely understand where I was trying to go with it. Then I expected young white kids to say racist stuff and to like it for the racist overtones, and I got exactly what I expected there. I did not expect young black businesses, particularity people that I know, refusing to support me and then blaming it on their older white customers! That's bullshit! You should just say "I don't like it!"

The other thing that I got that was not expected was rappers who thought that I was a new rapper on the scene named Jigaboo Jones and that I was releasing an album and that wanted to battle. That tells you where the state of hip-hop is: If you think that I'm really going to come out as a rapper in black face and battle you...wow! homey. The kids nowadays have no point of reference of what historical black face is!

I did not expect the cats that want to straight up box! One night I'm handing out fliers at Cold Crush, just blindly handing out fliers, and I turn around to see this dude the size of Debo [from Friday) staring at me with his fists balled up! So I say to him: "Hey, brother, if you get a chance, you should come check out the show," and he says, "What? That JIGABOO shit? This better be a fuckin' ploy."

I said, "What?" and he said, "Motherfucker you know what a ploy is!" I said, "Did you read the back of the flier?" He flips the flier over, reads it for 2.6 seconds, flips it back over, looks at me, and says, "Jigaboo? That's a step down from nigger!" Well, yeah, that's the whole point. At that moment, because dude looked fresh out the pen, at that moment, I thought maybe this is not the best idea.

So have you underestimated your audience with this project?

Am I underestimating them? Well from these reactions, I did not feel that way. I was discouraged by those reactions. When I was writing this, I was laughing, and I was really thinking that folks were gonna understand where I was com in' from.

But our generation was supposed to be the "scythe of reclamation." We were the ones! So who stopped us?

I believe we stopped us, but I also believe there was effort from outside forces that created the atmosphere for us to be divided and conquered. For Elijah Muhammad's message to end up winning nine Grammys, for Tupac Shakur, the legacy of the Black Panthers, to weave its way into the mainstream and become a superstar in music and film!

For that to show up again, you can't tell me that outside forces did not see the potential danger for challenging the status quo, and at least creating the atmosphere to dismantle what was happening in hip-hop. Maybe it wasn't "black music," maybe it wasn't exclusively "black culture," but it was an empowering force for black people. And it was changing the tax bracket for a lot of young black entrepreneurs.

It's bigger than hip-hop. Of course I want to do well, and I want to kill it and establish my brand and sell tickets etc. I have to have the performance of my lifetime. I want to; I have to kill it. I want people to go, "Okay, he's a performer. He's an artist. He's talented." I want to bring it and I want to people to feel like I can do it.

Yeah, I'm still searching for that acceptance, and being the class clown to keep people from spitting on me and calling me nigger. Yeah, I'm still doing that. But instead, I have taken the weapon of minstrelsy, and I am killing that within me that allows me to be susceptible to that weapon. And now you know who killed Jigaboo Jones.

Who Killed Jigaboo Jones? opens Friday, October 4 at work | space, 2701 Lawrence Street; opening night is sold out, but tickets are available for additional performances running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through October 19; for a schedule and tickets, $16 to $20, visit the venue's website.




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work | space

2701 Lawrence St., Denver, CO

Category: General


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