Robert Williams

24 May 19
The Old Book Appreciator

For the final project of my Rare Book Curatorship class, I have been given two imaginary budgets—one large budget of $50,000 to $100,000, and a small budget of $1,000 to $1,500—with which to create two useful and thematically-focused collections from rare books currently on the market. For my large budget, I decided to create a […]

24 May 19
Times-Herald
Legal proceedings continued in the following felony cases heard this past week in Solano County Superior Court: MARION T. ALLENTERRI R. WILSON Legal proceedings on Friday were continued until early next year for two Recology employees charged with taking cash bribes from garbage haulers while working at the waste disposal firm’s Vacaville landfill. Marion Taylor Allen, 57, of Fairfield, and Terri Rosalind Wilson, 56, of Esparto, will return at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 10 for a readiness conference, a trial management conference at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20, and a jury trial at 9:30 a.m. March 3, all in Department 1, Judge Jeffrey C. Kauffman’s courtroom, in the Justice Center in Fairfield. They were indicted last year by a specially convened Solano County grand jury on one count of felony conspiracy to commit a crime and 38 felony counts of grand theft stemming from activities while working at the San Francisco-based company’s Hay Road landfill in rural Vacaville. Wilson is being represented by Vallejo criminal defense lawyer Daniel J. Russo and Allen by the Solano County Public Defender’s Office. According to court records, from Nov. 14 to Dec. 30, 2015, the two women allegedly accepted cash bribes from waste haulers in exchange for allowing trucks to bypass Recology’s inbound truck scales and point-of-sale system at the landfill. Charges were brought by the Solano County District Attorney after an internal forensic audit by Recology revealed that the alleged bypasses were occurring when Allen and Wilson were working as weighmasters in the inbound scale house. Police investigators obtained search warrants to gain access to their residences, where they recovered $93,000 in cash from Allen’s home and nearly $155,000 in cash from Wilson’s. They were arraigned on the indictment on June 27. Allen posted $195,000 bail and Wilson was granted supervised release through pretrial services. The case is being prosecuted by deputy district attorneys Matthew Olsen and Janice Williams. MICHAEL L. WILLIAMS A judge postponed sentencing until early next month for a 35-year-old Vallejo man found guilty in March of fatally shooting another man six years ago in Vallejo. Judge Daniel Healy on Friday ordered Michael Leon Williams, who was retried on the charge, to return for a motion for a new trial and sentencng at 8:30 a.m. June 6 in Department 2 in the Justice Building in Vallejo. When sentenced, Williams faces the possibility of 50 years to life in state prison for the main charge, first-degree murder, for using a firearm, and a prior prison term. The verdict in the 15-day second trial, including jury selection and attorneys motions, came three months after another jury deadlocked on conviction. Williams’ defense attorney, Vincent Maher, previously told The Reporter he planned to appeal the verdict, and, after success in the first trial, was clearly frustrated with the new jury’s decision. “There are many factors I’m disappointed with in this trial,” he said at the time, then added, “I’ve never had my defense limited in cross-examining witnesses known to be liars. I don’t think he got a fair trial.” Deputy District Attorney Melainee Collins prosecuted the case. Jurors believed Williams was guilty of the March 17, 2013, killing of Michael Weil, 65, a transient who reportedly was staying in the detached garage of a home in the 400 block of Hichborn Street in Vallejo. Jurors in the retrial saw and heard much of the same evidence and testimony presented in the first trial. During that trial, Maher repeatedly questioned statements by witnesses, some with police records and convictions for drug use and possession, in a effort to cast doubt and undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s case. As he did during the first trial, on cross-examination, Maher established that Skye Bennett,a woman who lived in the Hichborn Street house, was in the rear section of the home when she heard “a muffled gunshot” and seemingly raised the possibility that she did not have a clear view of the defendant’s and another man’s faces. The Williams retrial came after jurors on Dec. 19 deadlocked, with Healy declaring a mistrial, and Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams vowing to retry the case in front of a new jury. During the first trial, testimony indicated that the shooting was prompted by Williams’ belief that Weil owed him rent money for staying in the garage on the property owned by his former wife. When Weil refused to hand over the cash and also subsequently refused to hand over a bottle of Everclear, an alcoholic drink, Williams allegedly shot him once in the forehead with a .22-caliber revolver, killing him. HEATH J. SOMMER A Solano County Superior Court judge on Thursday delayed sentencing, once again, for a former Travis Air Force Base psychologist found guilty last fall of a series of felony sexual assaults on female patients and three misdemeanor counts. Judge E. Bradley Nelson ordered Heath J. Sommer, 42, to return Department 4 at 8:30 a.m. June 12 in the Hall of Justice in Fairfield. During a January proceeding, Deputy District Attorney Shelly Moore, who had taken over the case after prosecutor Brian Roberts left the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, told Nelson that she plans to schedule victim impact statements. The jury’s Oct. 31 verdicts came one day after lawyers in the case, defense attorney Thomas Maas and Roberts, argued for clarification and revision of jury instructions on one of two charges of sexual intercourse by fraudulent means. Sommer, who remains in Solano County Jail, was convicted on one charge of oral copulation by fraudulent representation; one charge of sexual intercourse by fraudulent means, saying it was for professional purposes; one charge of sexual battery by fraudulent means; and three misdemeanor charges of sexual battery for the purpose of sexual arousal. At his sentencing, Sommer, who will be required to register as a sex offender for life, faces a maximum state prison term of 11 years and eight months. During the trial, witnesses, one of them an Air Force colonel, testified that they underwent “exposure therapy” in Sommer’s office at David Grant Medical Center at various times between 2014 to 2016. A generally accepted form of psychotherapy, the technique is thought to help allay or purge anxiety disorders by having the patient face — or even re-enact — circumstances related to the source of their distress. In this case, the therapy included sexual intercourse, oral sex and sexual touching, among other things. The women, some of whom had suffered sexual trauma while deployed to the Middle East or Afghanistan, had sought Sommer’s help to rid themselves of — or learn how to cope with — horrific memories. Sommer was arrested in May 2017 and pleaded not guilty in a case that drew national headlines and embarrassment for the Department of Defense in the #metoo era, the global movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault of women by men, especially in the workplace, and of victims speaking out and publicly identifying the perpetrators. Travis officials hired Sommer, who once went by the alias of Heath Jacob Lind, through a contracting company in 2014. At the medical center, just south of Vacaville, he treated more than 100 people before being suspended on July 12, 2016, Air Force officials have said.
24 May 19
The Reporter
Legal proceedings continued in the following felony cases heard this past week in Solano County Superior Court: MARION T. ALLEN TERRI R. WILSON Legal proceedings on Friday were continued until early next year for two Recology employees charged with taking cash bribes from garbage haulers while working at the waste disposal firm’s Vacaville landfill. Marion Taylor Allen, 57, of Fairfield, and Terri Rosalind Wilson, 56, of Esparto, will return at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 10 for a readiness conference, a trial management conference at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20, and a jury trial at 9:30 a.m. March 3, all in Department 1, Judge Jeffrey C. Kauffman’s courtroom, in the Justice Center in Fairfield. They were indicted last year by a specially convened Solano County grand jury on one count of felony conspiracy to commit a crime and 38 felony counts of grand theft stemming from activities while working at the San Francisco-based company’s Hay Road landfill in rural Vacaville. Wilson is being represented by Vallejo criminal defense lawyer Daniel J. Russo and Allen by the Solano County Public Defender’s Office. According to court records, from Nov. 14 to Dec. 30, 2015, the two women allegedly accepted cash bribes from waste haulers in exchange for allowing trucks to bypass Recology’s inbound truck scales and point-of-sale system at the landfill. Charges were brought by the Solano County District Attorney after an internal forensic audit by Recology revealed that the alleged bypasses were occurring when Allen and Wilson were working as weighmasters in the inbound scale house. Police investigators obtained search warrants to gain access to their residences, where they recovered $93,000 in cash from Allen’s home and nearly $155,000 in cash from Wilson’s. They were arraigned on the indictment on June 27. Allen posted $195,000 bail and Wilson was granted supervised release through pretrial services. The case is being prosecuted by deputy district attorneys Matthew Olsen and Janice Williams. MICHAEL L. WILLIAMS A judge postponed sentencing until early next month for a 35-year-old Vallejo man found guilty in March of fatally shooting another man six years ago in Vallejo. Judge Daniel Healy on Friday ordered Michael Leon Williams, who was retried on the charge, to return for a motion for a new trial and sentencng at 8:30 a.m. June 6 in Department 2 in the Justice Building in Vallejo. When sentenced, Williams faces the possibility of 50 years to life in state prison for the main charge, first-degree murder, for using a firearm, and a prior prison term. The verdict in the 15-day second trial, including jury selection and attorneys motions, came three months after another jury deadlocked on conviction. Williams’ defense attorney, Vincent Maher, previously told The Reporter he planned to appeal the verdict, and, after success in the first trial, was clearly frustrated with the new jury’s decision. “There are many factors I’m disappointed with in this trial,” he said at the time, then added, “I’ve never had my defense limited in cross-examining witnesses known to be liars. I don’t think he got a fair trial.” Deputy District Attorney Melainee Collins prosecuted the case. Jurors believed Williams was guilty of the March 17, 2013, killing of Michael Weil, 65, a transient who reportedly was staying in the detached garage of a home in the 400 block of Hichborn Street in Vallejo. Jurors in the retrial saw and heard much of the same evidence and testimony presented in the first trial. During that trial, Maher repeatedly questioned statements by witnesses, some with police records and convictions for drug use and possession, in a effort to cast doubt and undermine the credibility of the prosecution’s case. As he did during the first trial, on cross-examination, Maher established that Skye Bennett,a woman who lived in the Hichborn Street house, was in the rear section of the home when she heard “a muffled gunshot” and seemingly raised the possibility that she did not have a clear view of the defendant’s and another man’s faces. The Williams retrial came after jurors on Dec. 19 deadlocked, with Healy declaring a mistrial, and Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams vowing to retry the case in front of a new jury. During the first trial, testimony indicated that the shooting was prompted by Williams’ belief that Weil owed him rent money for staying in the garage on the property owned by his former wife. When Weil refused to hand over the cash and also subsequently refused to hand over a bottle of Everclear, an alcoholic drink, Williams allegedly shot him once in the forehead with a .22-caliber revolver, killing him. HEATH J. SOMMER A Solano County Superior Court judge on Thursday delayed sentencing, once again, for a former Travis Air Force Base psychologist found guilty last fall of a series of felony sexual assaults on female patients and three misdemeanor counts. Judge E. Bradley Nelson ordered Heath J. Sommer, 42, to return Department 4 at 8:30 a.m. June 12 in the Hall of Justice in Fairfield. During a January proceeding, Deputy District Attorney Shelly Moore, who had taken over the case after prosecutor Brian Roberts left the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, told Nelson that she plans to schedule victim impact statements. The jury’s Oct. 31 verdicts came one day after lawyers in the case, defense attorney Thomas Maas and Roberts, argued for clarification and revision of jury instructions on one of two charges of sexual intercourse by fraudulent means. Sommer, who remains in Solano County Jail, was convicted on one charge of oral copulation by fraudulent representation; one charge of sexual intercourse by fraudulent means, saying it was for professional purposes; one charge of sexual battery by fraudulent means; and three misdemeanor charges of sexual battery for the purpose of sexual arousal. At his sentencing, Sommer, who will be required to register as a sex offender for life, faces a maximum state prison term of 11 years and eight months. During the trial, witnesses, one of them an Air Force colonel, testified that they underwent “exposure therapy” in Sommer’s office at David Grant Medical Center at various times between 2014 to 2016. A generally accepted form of psychotherapy, the technique is thought to help allay or purge anxiety disorders by having the patient face — or even re-enact — circumstances related to the source of their distress. In this case, the therapy included sexual intercourse, oral sex and sexual touching, among other things. The women, some of whom had suffered sexual trauma while deployed to the Middle East or Afghanistan, had sought Sommer’s help to rid themselves of — or learn how to cope with — horrific memories. Sommer was arrested in May 2017 and pleaded not guilty in a case that drew national headlines and embarrassment for the Department of Defense in the #metoo era, the global movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault of women by men, especially in the workplace, and of victims speaking out and publicly identifying the perpetrators. Travis officials hired Sommer, who once went by the alias of Heath Jacob Lind, through a contracting company in 2014. At the medical center, just south of Vacaville, he treated more than 100 people before being suspended on July 12, 2016, Air Force officials have said.
24 May 19
Archy Worldys

content page 1 – head over heels Page 2 – The mixture of city and weather appeals to many Read on a page Did she really hear that now? With the guide in hand, a woman stands on an upper tier in the Teatro Greco in Taormina, a Roman-built theater from the 3rd century BC, […]

24 May 19
News Directory

CLOSE In 2022 the people of the city find it difficult to climb the Herndon Monument at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., On Monday. (Photo: Joshua McKerrow / Sun Baltimore via AP) Alabama The PBS show "Arthur" hosts gay wedding in a program called "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," but will not see […]

24 May 19
ineffablemystique

Sometimes I look up to the night sky filled with stars, and I look for a sign; for what though? It’s a mystery; seems normal to others, for they don’t see it the way I see it. Am I weird or maybe I am crazy. My mind is like a forest; dark, and deep, yet […]

24 May 19
viral news reports

US President Donald Trump, saying there is a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, is clearing the sale of billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries, US senators said on Friday, despite strong resistance to the plan from both Republicans and Democrats. The administration […]

24 May 19
Angelique tulip

Earlier this week, I visited Prairie Springs Cemetery, just beyond Burleson, Texas, in Johnson County. The relatively newer part of the cemetery, closer to the street, was well-organized, while some older sections were scattered from each other and clustered together. The cemetery was established in 1857 by pioneers in Johnson County.

24 May 19
Unearned Wisdom

Summary Robert Johnson starts with Jung’s favorite story. Without effort or limit, the water of life wanted to make itself known on earth, so it appeared through an artesian well. People drank this magic water and were nourished, but eventually, they chose to escape this Edenic state. They erupted walls regulations, charged admission, and claimed […]

24 May 19
The Undefeated
It was 2017, and Will Smith’s career seemed to have come full circle. That’s when a sneak peek video surfaced featuring the world-famous entertainer performing a hip-hop version of the theme from Aladdin, a Disney musical, which opens in movie theaters Friday, featuring Smith in the role of the genie. For fans, the tune conjured memories of Smith’s career-launching hit “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble,” which sampled the theme from I Dream of Jeannie, a 1960s sitcom about a genie. The coincidence was eerily appropriate. With four Grammys, six American Music Awards, four NAACP Image Awards and two Oscar nominations, Smith’s career has seemed like a magic carpet ride, almost as if a wizard granted his wish of becoming one of history’s most successful entertainers. But while his big-screen achievements have been exhaustively examined, Smith’s musical accomplishments have received shorter critical shrift. From PTA-approved hits such as “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “A Nightmare on My Street” to party-starting jams such as “Summertime” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” Smith’s songs are so cursedly simple that some might argue they’re undeserving of serious critical scrutiny. We’re here to argue otherwise. Smith’s career has seemed like a magic carpet ride, almost as if a wizard granted his wish of becoming one of history’s most successful entertainers. Take, for example, the aforementioned Aladdin rap. Like most songs from Smith’s canon, the tune is a bouncy urban jam with lyrics of nursery rhyme simplicity. “One fine day the bazaar was at peace, when the guards started running through the Agrabah streets They were lookin’ for a lad and a beast, ’cause they was nabbin’ some yeast The thickest of thieves in the Wild, Wild East …” Notice how Smith sets up a story, stoking your desire to learn more. From his very first 1980s hits, he has repeatedly woven fablelike narratives into his songs, a creative device that makes listeners hang onto his every word. In this regard, he has just as much in common with legendary country and western songwriters such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton as with his rapping peers. Next, note how the line “a lad and” is a subliminal reference to the title Aladdin, while the phrase “Wild, Wild East” alludes to Smith’s 1999 hit “Wild Wild West.” Rap music is a narcissistic genre in which artists’ skills are largely judged by the ingenuity of their boasts. In the Aladdin song, Smith triumphantly toots his own horn while never once name-checking himself, which makes him appear both humble and confident. That’s the kind of skill that helped the Philadelphia native nab the first best rap song Grammy Award in 1989. The Aladdin promo music video harks back to Smith’s 1990s heyday, when he triumphantly sampled old rhythm and blues and TV theme song tunes packed with sentimental value (Aladdin samples Alan Menken’s theme from the 1992 animated version of the Middle Eastern folk tale). Smith’s rap also marks a return to the days when his songs were movie promotions, and it’s tempting to view his lucrative music career as a byproduct of his movie fame: safe-as-milk family entertainment concealed beneath a fashionable urban disguise. Indeed, Smith’s gentlemanly, glad-handing public image contrasts sharply with prevailing rap iconography, which has become so hard-nosed that most rappers wouldn’t be caught dead smiling in their promotional photos. But a closer inspection of Smith’s music career reveals an artist who gambled on a personal belief in an Afrocentric American dream, one based on ambition, hustle, black pride and monogamy. His decidedly nerdy worldview has drawn its share of hilarious ridicule and attacks from peers, but in hindsight his ’90s hits now seem almost heroic in their contrarian niceness. What follows is an examination of Smith’s music career, an exploration that reveals how he remained true to his principles at the risk of being labeled a corporate sellout … and in the process became one of the best-selling hip-hop artists of all time. The Plain Brown Rapper It was 1988, and Smith was bombing. Better known by his alias “The Fresh Prince,” Smith and musical partner DJ Jazzy Jeff were onstage at the Greek Theatre in Hollywood, California, opening for the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. At the time, Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff (real name Jeff Townes) were savoring the success of “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” the breakthrough single from their multimillion-selling album He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. They were 19-year-old millionaires, the darlings of radio and MTV. So why were they being jeered on a Los Angeles stage? Despite their critics, DJ Jazzy Jeff (left) and The Fresh Prince (right) were the darlings of radio and MTV in 1988, savoring the success of their hit song “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The reason was simple — Smith and Townes’ set was a disaster. This writer attended that night, and I recall being agog at Smith’s attempts to transform his performance into an interactive experience, appealing for audience participation as he emulated childhood games. Had smartphone cameras and YouTube existed back then, Smith and Townes might have become instant laughingstocks. Compared with the Beastie Boys’ beer-swilling rowdyism and Public Enemy’s fist-thrusting black militancy, Smith and Townes’ slapstick performance was embarrassingly naive and out of touch. Other rappers might have taken the hostile crowd response as a cue to change course toward an edgier sound. But not Smith and Townes. They seemed creatively beholden to the early days of hip-hop, when the scene was dominated by boogie-down jams such as “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Big Mouth.” As hip-hop legend William “Flavor Flav” Drayton told MTV in 1999: “I remember rap music. We used to party and dance off of it.” But the dancing came to an abrupt halt in 1988. It was the final year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, an eight-year term that saw black communities devastated by a federal escalation of the war on drugs. Nationwide, African American neighborhoods had watched in dismay as a blighting influx of crack cocaine gripped the areas where they lived. In mostly black South Central Los Angeles, police were using military-grade weaponry to confront young black suspects, while East Coast neighborhoods such as Roosevelt, New York, went from middle-class prosperity to abject desolation. “Mostly every household had somebody that was strung out,” said Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. “Even my brother had a brief moment being addicted, so it resonated very close to me.” As if in response to Reagan’s hard-line conservatism, hip-hop got deadly serious. Hard-core rap subgenres that had been gestating underground suddenly began garnering widespread radio and consumer attention. Whether it was the political hip-hop of Public Enemy, the desperado “gangsta rap” of N.W.A. and Ice-T or the Afrocentric “conscious rap” of Gang Starr and the Jungle Brothers, 1988 marked a paradigm shift. Just as the Beatles proved rock music could make broader sociopolitical statements, rap’s Class of ’88 seized on hip-hop’s thematic potential, sowing the seeds of a musical revolution. Into this chaotic musical fray entered Smith. His initial recordings helped transform rap into a lucrative crossover genre, yet he was already at risk of becoming a has-been. In 1989, he and Townes issued yet another collection of teen-targeted novelty tunes entitled And in This Corner …. The album and its spinoff singles flopped. “It was a tragedy,” Smith recalled in 2018. “[The album] went, like, double-plastic.” The LP’s failure sent Smith into a downward spiral. Like many nouveau riche overnight successes, he had blown through his fortune while neglecting to pay his taxes, and now the IRS was knocking. “Being famous and broke is a s—– combination,” he would later say, “because you’re still famous and people recognize you, but they recognize you while you’re sitting next to them on the bus.” Then, fate intervened. Hoping to keep his career afloat, Smith began appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show, a new late-night talk show that was an instant hit with the MTV generation. Backstage during one of his appearances, Smith was introduced to Benny Medina, who along with entertainment legend Quincy Jones was developing a sitcom about his childhood experience growing up with a wealthy Hollywood family. Smith aced his audition, and within months of its 1990 premiere, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the top-rated sitcom of the year. In one fell swoop, Smith was rescued from near irrelevance, and he would make the best of his second chance. Cautiously embarking on a movie career, he earned all-important Hollywood cred by starring in acclaimed, low-budget art house films such as Six Degrees of Separation and Where the Day Takes You. He was craftily starting with modest projects, methodically inching his way up the Hollywood ladder, demonstrating the shrewdness that would make him a megastar. Triumph of the Will It had been years since the sales disappointment of And in This Corner…, but now it was 1991 and Smith was appearing on a talk show touting the imminent release of his first single of the new decade. “May 20, we’ll be premiering our video,” he earnestly told Byron Allen. “We’ve been away for a while, and we’re coming at you spankin’ new.” Will Smith (left) and Benny Medina (right) attend the premiere of Disney’s Aladdin at El Capitan Theatre on May 21 in Los Angeles. A chance meeting with Medina helped launch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which changed the trajectory of Smith’s career. The music video Smith alluded to was “Summertime,” a mellow head-bobber that deviated from the madcap mold of previous Fresh Prince/Jazzy Jeff tunes. Featuring a “slightly transformed” sample of Kool & The Gang’s seductive ’70s jam “Summer Madness,” Smith’s retooled version perfectly captured the soulful essence of a midsummer day in the ’hood. “The temperature’s about 88 Hop in the water plug just for old time’s sake Break to ya’ crib, change your clothes once more Cause you’re invited to a barbecue that’s starting at 4 Sitting with your friends cause y’all reminisce About the days growing up and the first person you kiss And as I think back makes me wonder how The smell from a grill could spark up nostalgia …” Call it a comeback. “Summertime” dramatically reversed Smith’s flagging musical fortunes, selling more than 1 million copies and nabbing the Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group. But for Smith, the single’s importance went beyond accolades and peer honors. “Summertime” seemed to establish a template for the rapper’s subsequent singles. He would eventually part ways with Townes, embarking on a solo career in which he would apply his rhymes to samples of R&B radio favorites from the post-Motown era, including tracks by Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Sister Sledge, Roy Ayers Ubiquity and others. His music evinced a sense of elegance and upward social mobility. While he wasn’t above sampling the occasional gutbucket stomp, his biggest singles were assembled mostly from R&B songs produced north of the Mason-Dixon Line, lavish funk hits that lent his music the upscale appeal of a Versace collection. Perhaps the best example of this was “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” the gold-certified hit from Smith’s high-stakes 1997 solo debut album, Big Willie Style. The tune sampled “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” the disco classic that name-checks elite clothing brands such as Halston, Gucci and Fiorucci. Smith’s musical choices couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. He was launching his solo career in the late ’90s, a period of tremendous economic growth and conspicuous consumption. To underscore the notion that he was a musical status symbol, he crammed Big Willie Style with broadly appealing, expensive-sounding samples. “Men in Black” appropriated Patrice Rushen’s luxurious ’80s shuffle “Forget Me Nots,” while subsequent singles “Miami” and “Just the Two of Us” borrowed from The Whispers’ “And The Beat Goes On” and Bill Withers’ satiny 1981 ballad “Just the Two of Us.” Yet, while his tony, aspirational music matched your Cartier ensemble, Smith’s songs were still down-home enough to be played at the neighborhood block party. His music may have conveyed sophistication, but his lyrics were pure, old-fashioned hip-hop egomania. Big Willie Style found Smith boasting constantly about his boffo film career while flipping off his detractors (“Player haters been hatin’ all my playin’ for years / Now they seein’ they worst fears as I bathe in cheers”). Yet despite all his Tarzanlike chest-thumping, Smith was careful to promote himself as hip-hop’s resident straight arrow. Where his gangsta rap rivals were dismissing women as “b—-es” and worse, the females in Smith’s songs were “ladies” and “hot mamis.” He trumpeted the joys of fatherhood and celebrated his romance with soon-to-be wife Jada Pinkett (“Finally found a person, worthy of all / Instead of pushin’ me down, you want to cushion my fall / Your eyes could make the sun rise, all the birds sing / Seal it with a kiss, bind it with a ring”). While his tony, aspirational music matched your Cartier ensemble, Smith’s songs were still down-home enough to be played at the neighborhood block party. This reconciliation of bravado and gee-whiz humility is classic Smith, and he would be rewarded handsomely for his bluster. Boosted by its status as the theme song from the Smith movie of the same name, “Men in Black” topped singles charts throughout Europe and Australia, capturing the 1998 Grammy Award for best rap solo performance. By the time its initial sales run was through, Big Willie Style had moved 9 million copies, making it one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time. In the midst of gangsta rap’s blood-splattered heyday, Smith was topping the charts with obscenity-free songs about clubbing, chivalry … and himself. Seizing on the momentum of his blockbuster performances in movies such as Independence Day and Bad Boys, Smith released his second solo album in 1999. Willennium spawned the debut single “Wild Wild West,” another movie tie-in featuring a sample of Stevie Wonder’s percolating single “I Wish.” The follow-up single “Will 2K” was built from The Clash’s 1983 funky post-punk classic “Rock the Casbah,” while “Freakin’ It” bummed its beat from Diana Ross’ ritzy disco classic “Love Hangover.” Though not quite the sales bulldozer its predecessor was, Willennium nonetheless penetrated Billboard‘s Top 5 and sold more than 5 million copies. It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that Smith was trading on musical nostalgia to make his songs broadly appealing, but was that so bad? He had already proved with his movie career that he was a shameless, crowd-pleasing capitalist, so why would his music goals be any different? Black songwriters such as Rushen, Nile Rodgers and Kool & The Gang certainly weren’t complaining about Smith’s sentimental hip-hop — his samples were plumping their bank accounts. He was so good at tapping prime funk hits that an associate of mine described him as an “archivist,” a man who heedfully selects stylish baby boomer jams, then gently contemporizes them for posterity (and lucrative Gen X consumption). Asked about Smith and others sampling his songs, Kool & The Gang’s Robert Bell said, “We feel honored! People are listening to our music.” Will Smith (left) and Tommy Lee Jones (right) in a scene from the film Men in Black in 1997. Smith’s single “Men in Black” captured the 1998 Grammy Award for best rap solo performance. But while millions were buying into Smith’s retrograde rap, others were calling him out. It was rumored that he didn’t write his own songs, although Smith’s collaborators attested to his lyric writing/composing skills. Others attributed his musical fame to his soaring movie career, while others criticized him for trafficking in “nonstop pop-rap clichés.” Worst of all, hip-hop purists viewed him as the grievous poster child for corporate rap, exhuming crossover R&B classics to stroke MTV and Top 40 radio programmers. “Just because a song was fun when I was a kid doesn’t mean the guy who made it isn’t a bit of a crossover clown and has made some of the most embarrassing singles of all time,” wrote one contributor on an online forum. Comments like these would dog Smith throughout his heyday, making him one of rap’s most controversial artists, and you’d still be hard-pressed to find a hip-hop artist who drives purists crazier. Rap music had always prided itself on salting wounds, whether through its automated, minimalist sound, its uncompromising political stances or its embrace of outlaw stereotypes. But then along came Smith with his “nice, clean rap,” and some folks became unglued. He was resented for not buying into the myth that black hooliganism is somehow authentic (or “real,” to use the parlance of the ’hood). Smith had chosen to become a symbol of the black middle class, a millions-strong group of gainfully employed, law-abiding African Americans who paid their taxes, maybe attended church on given Sundays, and preferred Calvin Klein and FUBU to gangbanger bandannas. His sampling of opulent funk was a subtle shout-out to a black bourgeoisie the media largely ignored. “It’s real important to have balance of the imagery,” Smith told Billboard magazine in 2005. “Yes, there are people who fire guns in the street, but there’s also doctors who go to work in those areas to feed their children.” But Smith’s critics were raising even broader questions about crossover and hip-hop’s plagiaristic roots. Why was it a crime for Smith to tap the sentimental value of old funk and pop tunes? After all, The Sugarhill Gang established the cannibalistic rules for hip-hop in 1979 when they executed a verbatim lift of Chic’s “Good Times” for their tune “Rapper’s Delight,” the first rap tune of any consequence. Moreover, amid current debates about cultural appropriation, were rap acts such as Smith, Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy conducting artistic larceny when they sampled white rock bands such as The Clash, Aerosmith and Slayer? Or were these and other rappers simply flipping the bird at segregationist radio programmers who persisted in compartmentalizing white and black music? Whatever the case, it seemed Smith was being held to a harder standard than many of his peers. His detractors didn’t seem to take into account that sampling is a statement. During hip-hop’s hypercompetitive golden age, the best rap acts used samples partly as a way to align themselves with certain musicians, philosophies and movements. When Dr. Dre heavily sampled Parliament-Funkadelic on his 1991 magnum opus The Chronic, he was establishing an attitudinal connection between his own laid-back jams and George Clinton’s weed-scented stoner funk. Similarly, Smith’s appropriation of post-Motown R&B seemed like a rational choice, an honest reflection of his middle-class upbringing. The son of a refrigeration engineer and a school administrator, Willard Carroll Smith II was a Baptist who attended a West Philly Catholic middle school. By all accounts, his was a grassroots upbringing that had little, if anything, to do with hoodlums and black militancy. He was 12 years old when his devoutly Christian grandmother discovered a book of his rhymes, many of them peppered with vulgarities. “Dear Will,” she wrote inside the notebook, “truly intelligent people don’t have to use words like this to express themselves. Please show the world that you’re as smart as we think you are.” [boxout id=”167231″] That scribbled rebuke changed Smith. “She made me realize that I wasn’t creating only for me,” he said in 2016. “The things I created were going to have an effect on her and were going to have an effect on everyone who came into contact with my artistry.” Smith took his grandmom’s advice, and if one examines his music, one will discover a positivist philosophy encapsulated by the title track of his 2002 album Born to Reign: “I believe in God, I believe in destiny Not destiny in the sense of all of our actions being predetermined But destiny in the sense of … our ability to choose who we are, and who we are supposed to be …” He had molded himself into a massively popular polymath entertainer, a man so sure of his rapping dominance that he flamboyantly christened the 2000s the “Willennium.” His hip-hop future seemed bright and unstoppable. Then he faded from the music scene. The smartest dude In 2005, after a three-year absence, Smith returned to the recording fold with an album entitled Lost and Found. Its cover featured Smith at the make-believe intersection of “West Philly” and “Hollywood” streets, an image that suggested he was at a musical crossroads. That notion was underscored by new songs in which he ditched his vintage funk samples for original beats. Although it spawned the Top 10 single “Switch,” the album ultimately sold 500,000 units, not even close to the performance of his multimillion-selling 1990s CDs. Though he hasn’t released an album in nearly 15 years, Smith hasn’t vanished into obscurity. To the contrary, he’s leveraging his fame to become a digital influencer. He recently used his Instagram account (30 million followers and counting) to hawk branded merchandise, including a sold-out limited run of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air accessories. More than 5 million subscribers visit his YouTube channel to keep up with him and his family. Smith’s songs are still played across the broad spectrum of African American life: at the club, at parties, at backyard barbecues and family get-togethers. Get a real gangsta liquored up enough and he might confess that Smith jams like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” and “Miami” are on his personal mixtape. Smith is 50 now, and as he enters the elder statesman period of his career, his legacy seems more wide-ranging than many would imagine. He exists as a genre unto himself, a rapper whose austere lyrics and uncomplicated samples are unique in hip-hop. Although he’s never confessed to such, he was a pioneering black nerd well before the empowering phrase “blerd” was even coined. He played a role in unseating rock ’n’ roll as the favored music of youth worldwide, then helped raise rap music’s international stature by becoming a multimedia megastar. He recently made a surprise guest appearance at Coachella, arguably the world’s most popular and lucrative music and arts festival. Popping onstage during his son Jaden’s performance, the old man reportedly stole the show, lending credence to his lifelong theory that nice guys finish first. “I’m trying to present … a more sound approach to survival,” he said in 2005. “It’s a more long-term approach based on intellect and skills that can’t be taken away from you. “The smartest dude survives the best.”
24 May 19
Nachrichten Welt

US-Präsident Donald Trump sagte, es gebe einen nationalen Notfall aufgrund von Spannungen mit dem Iran, und räumte damit den Verkauf von Waffen im Wert von Milliarden von Dollar an Saudi-Arabien, die Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate und andere Länder ab, teilten US-Senatoren am Freitag mit starker Widerstand gegen den Plan von Republikanern und Demokraten. Die Regierung hat […]