Toasted Jams: Music for Jah Weekend and Jah Lyfe

A review of the new Thievery Corporation album “The Temple of I & I” and some inspired listening to accompany it.

Editor’s note: The Corporate Buddha will be doing music focused posts under the “Toasted Jams” label. They will cover music both new and old, and always be completely and totally focused towards listening while consuming and enjoying cannabis.

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The New: The Temple of I & I

Every good cannabis enthusiast has some familiarity with Thievery Corporation. With a career spanning 20+ years, songs like 2001: A Spliff Odyssey, Lebanese Blonde, The Richest Man in Babylon, and countless festivals and tours, they are a group that is hard to miss.

Over the course of their career Thievery Corporation has blended all sorts of genres into their music. From Bossa Nova, and eastern Indian to reggae and hip-hop and everywhere in between, their eclectic style has become signature to their sound. It’s one of the things to love about them. Each album weaves a tapestry of influences from around the world.

The best way to describe The Temple of I & I as a whole is reggae-chill. That is not to say that it lacks some tracks that are upbeat, rather overall the album is decidedly on the chill side of reggae and this is evidenced by the opening track. Signature reggae sounds meeting the bong rips of ambient chill. One can just feel stress melting away on deep riddims. In one album longtime fans will find odes to Thievery’s signature sounds and reggae enthusiasts will find a new take on a beloved genre.

“In one album longtime fans will find odes to Thievery’s signature sounds and reggae enthusiasts will find a refreshing take on a beloved genre.”

A couple of tracks offer up some solid hip-hop and a few are straight up ambient/chill in true Thievery Corporation form. As a whole, this is a great album. It’s perfect for a relaxing smoke session and warm feelings for any time of year. Got some snow where you’re at? Give this a listen and it’ll feel like summer is just a spliff away. Hanging out on the back porch in some flip-flops? Throw this on and it’ll do you just right. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, it’s free, though this is one album that merits repeat listening for years to come.

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The recently uncovered: “Why don’t I know this?”

I was heading down to the market in my town to collect some fruits, veggies, spices, and Asian staples. After parking, I was making my way to get a bhan mi from a local food truck and a dude pulled up in his shiny red pick up truck. He was blasting some music – it was reggae, that much was clear – and I watched him park and then get out. The dude who got out was a black guy with dreads and a rastafarian knit hat. You know the kind. It’s large enough to hold dreads while looking nice and colorful. He seemed friendly enough, and I am always on the hunt for good, new music so naturally I asked him what he was listening to. Sho nuff, it was Stephen Marley with the song “Rock Stone”. As soon as I got home, I did a search and found the whole album “The Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit Of Life” free with Amazon Prime.

The incident described above took place a couple of months ago, but I just can’t get away from “The Revelation Pt. II.” Seriously, it’s a great record. With lots of upbeat tracks, some you might hear in a club, then just good music the rest of the way through, it holds its own. After listening from start to finish a few times, it is hard to find fault with anything. “The Revelation Pt. II” is right up there with “Welcome to Jamrock” as far as a fun, great, reggae record is concerned, and dare I say it has surpassed “Jamrock” in my book.

“A tough world meets feelgood reggae”

That being said, it is definitely a modern addition to the genre. With the use of Pitbull, Shaggy, Damian Marley, Bounty Killer, Wyclef Jean, and a whole host of others, the whole album is fresh, inspired, and striking. Great lyrics, great music, and overall a really fun, enjoyable listen.

At 24 songs including the bonus tracks at the end, you get your money’s worth. Some of the highlights are: Revelation Party – a total blast, upbeat, but chill, it will have you singing along and tapping your feet; The Lion Roars – a little bit more emotional, this is a heartfelt ode that depicts the depth this album can take; Pleasure or Pain – Busta Rhymes lends his voice to this minimalist track that shines for it’s ability to highlight lyrical work; Paradise – sensuous melodies plus Twista, it’s just awesome; Tonight (It’s a Party) – can definitely be played at your next party; Ghetto Boy – it is the surprisingly listenable story of a ghetto boy; Rock Stone – going to lose some hearing to blasting this one at high volume, just like the guy in the red pickup; When She Dances – another great song for a party or good feels.

“The Revelation Pt. II: The Fruit of Life” is a new classic. A tough world meets feel good reggae. The intro says it all. It is a clip of Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from “The Great Dictator” imploring us to unite against tyranny, oppression, hate, and greed, set to a solemn drum beat. But despite the hardships and difficulties in life, there is a lot of fun to be had, the Fruit of Life as one might say. This is not one to be missed.

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Who controls your narrative?

Who writes your narratives? Who controls what you are reading?

This is something I often think about. With almost unlimited access to information and news sources, which ones do we regularly depend on? And how does that control how we see the world? These questions can take us much deeper; right into our core beliefs. Who controlled our narratives growing up? How are our core beliefs shaped?

I grew up in the post Regan days where DARE was still very much a thing. “JUST SAY NO!!” and all that crap. A few years after going through that program in a white suburban middle school, I started smoking cannabis at the age of 16. It changed my life in a number of positive ways and I realized that I had been fed a bunch of bullshit by most of the authoritative figures in my life. It led me to question what other things they were lying or were just plain wrong about. Fast-forward to 2017 and we know that the War on Drugs is predicated on lies told to the public with the objective to lock up minorities. The War on Drugs has done nothing but harm to millions and millions of people all over the world. The momentum of the program, the money invested in keeping drugs illegal and American’s prisons full, is fighting tooth and nail to keep from reforming. Heck, after the DEA ruled CBDs a Schedule 1 drug, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the UK has just announced that CBDs are medicine.

It goes to show that there are different sides to every story. On the one hand, the stereotypical image of the stoner is something that nearly everyone can call to mind with little hesitation. That image alone is enough to push people away. Compounded by the fact that getting caught with cannabis is the most dangerous aspect of the plant, and it just isn’t worth trying to many folks.  On the other hand, according to this article, which cites this research paper, maybe humans (some of us anyway) suffer from a cannabis deficiency. Cannabis could be downright healthy for us. And without the civil disobedience of widespread illegal cannabis use, we almost surely wouldn’t have the wave of legalization and changing public opinion that we have seen recently. Maybe cannabis isn’t the demon drug my generation was told to think it was.

We have all been fed a steady diet of narratives since we were born. Many of them were outright lies designed to controls us. These narratives mixed with lies have shaped who we are, how we identify ourselves, how we project ourselves to the world, and how we behave every single day of our lives. We are nurtured from childhood to consume stuff. It starts with the toys we want based on commercials we see, the chemicals in the food we crave, and ultimately how we view, and more importantly value ourselves. The story is told in many ways, but the Story of Stuff is a most succinct explanation of how criminally screwed up our society has become in the last 60 years due to a false narrative. It’s really an excellent short film, and certainly more powerful now than when it was first produced in 2007 because very little has changed.

These collective narratives leading us to consume have also led to depression, obesity, pill addictions, eating disorders, climate change, suicides, and more.  It is a powerful narrative spoon fed to us in every imaginable way. The ‘consume’ narrative is propped up by more money than we can possibly imagine, but it is not the way to happiness and never was, despite the fact that we are tricked to believe that it is. Cracks in the narrative have been appearing since the financial crisis in 2008. Recently those gaudy,oversized homes have fallen out of favor. The lifestyles of our parents are unaffordable by their children. Millennials are living at home more than anywhere else. Many are even worse off than their parents were at the same age for the first time in generations.

Compounding into all of this is the fact that everyone still collectively believes the narrative that we have to go to college. As a result, colleges got smart and look what happened to the cost. This narrative needs to be challenged and in some ways, it is.

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Here’s the part where I’m supposed to share a positive upside, but I’m not sure that I have anything positive to share. I don’t have all of the answers, and I’m just as susceptible to collective narratives as everyone else. I buy shit all the time chasing the rush, but that is starting to change for me. This year my wife and I placed a mandate on no gifts for Christmas. We are shopping for our first home, and we are focusing on smaller homes and steering clear of larger ones. I just donated a ton of clothes that I don’t wear any more, and I have no intentions (nor am I the type) to go shopping for more. This year I am making a concerted and focused effort to do more with less. To get rid of stuff, keep more from coming into our lives, and get the maximum utility out of everything we have.

The end result of this, I hope, is that we have more experiences. Personally I want to get outside more. Go hiking and camping and backpacking. Enjoy the vanishing nature that legally belongs to all Americans – for the moment. Spend time with the people I love doing things. We would rather take trips and go places than be shackled to our home by things with little to no intrinsic value. We are rejecting the narrative that stuff brings happiness.

However, choosing your narrative – and choosing it carefully – is going to become considerably harder. President Obama signed into law an act with a provision to create a national anti-propaganda center. The provisions in this law could be dangerous for the freedom of the press.  And almost certainly will totally not turn itself into it’s own propaganda machine to act in the interests of those throwing the most money at it. I mean, I just can’t imagine a scenario where this turns out bad. The American people being told what and how to think by corporate interests under the guise of the government…

My point with all of this is that in the era of fake news and information bubbles we owe it to ourselves to scrutinize not only who we are getting our information from, but the narratives that we ourselves believe – and the narratives that are constantly being forced on us by external parties. When we pick and choose what is right by us, we can’t turn a blind eye to the bigger picture or to the possibility that we are being duped. It is not OK anymore to dogmatically believe in one way of thinking and ignore all evidence to the contrary. The world is a complicated and nuanced place that requires more adaptation now than ever before, and that has to extend to our belief system. When I turned 16 I thought that buying shit at the mall was good and that cannabis was bad. I have since figured out that it is the other way around, guided by the search for truth. In that search I’ve had to shed closely held beliefs as their fallacy became exposed. The quest for truth will never end, but that’s the whole point: it is the journey itself that matters most.

 

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 2016: Super Tuesday Aftermath 

Last night sent an already historic presidential race careening into the primaries amid an unprecedented amount of turmoil. Trump took a major lead for the Republican’s, but Cruz refuses to respond to the bug spray and go back into his hole in Texas. Clinton took home seven states to Sanders’ four, but the progressive still had impressive turns at the polls. In the seven states that he lost, Sanders won around a third of the vote or more, sometimes nearly half, with the two exceptions being Alaska and Georgia with 19% and 28% respectively. Still a considerable pull for someone who never stood a chance…
With the most populous states yet to vote (Texas being the exception), the race is far from over. Trump and Clinton both gave their speeches from Florida amid their continued campaign. Clinton’s message changed somewhat from earlier in her campaign. Her speech attempted to unite her party’s foundation against Trump and win over some of Sanders’ base with some progressive lingo borrowed directly from Sanders’ talking points. Seeing her attitude change towards the progressive policies is encouraging, but the American people have been fooled by this before. It’s old politics and her rhetoric is only masking the nebulous possibilities of what a Clinton presidency could hold. 
Elsewhere in Florida, Trump gave his Super Tuesday victory speech. First introduced by Chris Christie, the fat bully and bigot from New Jersey, there was great pleasure to take in watching Christie share the airwaves while Trump expelled his signature gaseous eruptions. Christie, standing over Trump’s right shoulder in prominent view as he attempts to sidle up to the GOP’s wrecking ball, offered us insight into his lost soul. His brow constantly furrowed as his eyes darted around the room, unable to remain focused for long. We see him frequently getting lost in thought, not paying particular attention to Trump. Christie is clearly on another planet, praying for Trump’s speech to end so he can engulf more of the buffet. I encourage anyone to – just once – fast forward or rewind through Trump’s speech and focus on Christie the whole time. His performance was that of a brilliant sad clown. 
Drumpf’s speech was entertaining as usual. Covering familiar points, the fatuous fuck praised his voters – CNN isn’t shy about calling them dumb, poor, and white – for giving him his lead. Offering little in the way of policy, and shutting down a reporter or two trying to ask real questions, Drumpf provided us with the familiar canon that has pulled him to lead in this race. 
As his neck folds attempted to engulf his shirt collar, Drumpf continued to sell his base on his negotiating skills while taking ample opportunities to inhale his own stench with long, audible sniffs. The questions that have been left unanswered, and I’m sure Drumpf would call me a loser and refuse to answer them, is how in God’s name does a trade deficit equate to A) Mexico paying for a wall? and B) the Gulf States taking in refugees? There is no answer because it won’t happen. Drumpf is great at selling himself and negotiating from a position where he holds the power, but what happens when he gets into a mess and has little or no power left to negotiate with? He is a bully, like the sniveling barnacle suckling at his jowls, Chris Christie, and when their power dries up, or the tables turn against them, there is no doubt that this type of megalomaniac will sell us all down the river, or scorch the earth trying. Make no mistake, the sots parading before us are not there to help make America great; they’re there only to make themselves great. 
But credit must be given where it’s due. Both Drumpf and Sanders are galvanizing a population dissatisfied with establishment politics and corporate interests buying up Washington. Both party establishments have taken years to painstakingly usher in this current wave of political revolution and creative destruction. Granted, that certainly wasn’t their intention. No, they were vying for complete control; constricting the movements of government to a two party system that serves as a profitable charade for private institutions. Politics is the entertainment division of the political industrial complex, we are told. 

The GOP, for years, has worked diligently night and day to keep large swaths of America poor, dumb, and fearful. They’ve been grooming that vein and tapping into it regularly for the last 50 years. What they didn’t anticipate was that it was open for others to tap into as well. 
Both parties, by creating such impossible barriers for a third party after the ‘96 elections, have limited America to a two party system – which is why we have Drumpf running as a Republican and Sanders running on a Democratic ticket. This circus has now created a schism of divide within each party. Unless each party addresses the progressive, antiestablishment contingents by catering to them, the parties are doomed to splinter or ruin, with the GOP falling first. The larger thought is that America needs more than two parties. The idea of a two party system representing the vastly different regions of America is as absurd as saying that Texas, New York, Chicago, California, and Florida are all pretty much the same; one you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.  
On the democratic side, it would seem that by moving towards the center right since the 80’s, they’ve alienated a certain – and sizeable – chunk of their base. And there is really no telling how the Sanders supporters are going to vote come November if it’s a Clinton/Drumpf race, which it will almost certainly be. More than a few people see any alternative to Clinton as a ‘fuck you’ to the powers that be… At this point in the race, Clinton is not the unifying candidate Obama was in 2008 and she lacks the charisma and charm of her husband. She has begun changing her message, but with a campaign entrenched in scandal and a current of distrust rippling through potential voters, Drumpf has a shot of winning some of the democratic antiestablishment over to his side. He will have no trouble pouncing on her weaknesses and ripping them open like a rabid hyena in front of all the world. (What’s the over under for how many times he calls Hillary a loser? Anyone want some of that action?)
The irony of Drumpf parading as the antiestablishment Republican candidate is that he is the very type of businessman that makes his fortune swindling the middle class, the poor, and the ignorant. His rhetoric last night about forcing Apple to bring their iPhone production back to America, bringing jobs back from elsewhere in the world, sounds great, but has no founding in actual economic or political principal. For any of this to work and be profitable for the company, the American worker would need to acquiesce to a life of indentured servitude – which is what the poultry industry has done to its farmers. 
Drumpf is seducing the fat, dumb, American country girl with his glamorous, big money, big city ways. When the lights come on next January, there’s going to be a lot of shame, self-loathing, and regret. But that’s not to say that there isn’t joy to be had watching the establishments of both parties scramble and the two party system teeter on the verge of crumbling. For many of us, myself included, there is a bit of glee watching party politics fail and a joke candidate transform into a sobering reality as we careen forward, almost certainly to our doom.