I was born in 1970, the year Toni Morrison wrote The Bluest Eye and Afrika Bambaataa started to deejay. My writing life began eleven years later, when Marvel Comics published my letter to the editor of Captain America. Growing up in the Bronx during the 70s endeared me to hiphop culture from the start, hearing Kool DJ AJ spin records in St. Mary’s Park outside my grandma’s South Bronx window.
From freshman year to my Morehouse graduation, I lived through all the classic albums of Public Enemy, the Cure, De La Soul, Lenny Kravitz, Guns n’ Roses and A Tribe Called Quest before barely working an internship (no pay) at Vibe during their first two issues. Studying entertainment law at the Fordham University School of Law, I ducked out of classes to score interviews as a contributing writer to The Source, writing my first (unpublished) novel studying abroad in London. I finally decided that if I would lie for a living, it would be writing fiction instead of arguing in courtrooms.
Motivated by Harlem Renaissance and Beat writers, armed with a sociology degree, I resolved to scrutinize culture from the standpoint of my own generation. Over the past 17 years, this has turned out to include essays and reviews on music, literature, art, theater, poetry, dance, erotica, comics, transcultural migration, expatriate life and cinema. Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises, my first book, is a collection of essays describing certain experiences being raised in the Bronx during the 70s and 80s, as well as coming to terms with the modern disorder of hiphop. My second, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, is a critical exploration of that funky Sly and the Family Stone album released on my birthday back in December 1971.
Penning magazine cover stories about Erykah Badu, Mos Def, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Idris Elba and Paula Patton, I’ve also assumed positions at XXL (deputy editor), Vibe (music editor), BET.com (deputy music editor) and Russell Simmons’ Oneworld (literary editor) from 1998-2004. My work has been published by alt-weeklies, newspapers and magazines including The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, The Believer, Spin, L.A. Weekly, Essence, Dazed & Confused, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Fader, Blender, The Huffington Post, Wax Poetics and Salon.com. My shelved novel a transatlantic unrequited love story that reads like Woody Allen raised on Def Jam records was eventually published in abridged form as “Irrésistible” in editor Carol Taylor’s Wanderlust anthology, one of several short stories I’ve written for different fiction collections.
As a native New Yorker, I felt the city change post-September 11 NYPD backpack searches on the train, armed guards patrolling Grand Central Station and pissed off over a Bush-misled America, I moved to Paris in the spring of 2004. For over a year, I wrote about my experiences as a postmodern bohemian B-boy in a 21st-century City of Light for PopMatters.com, a column called “Paris Noir.” My encounters with French hiphop and black culture in Paris, in addition to marrying a Martinican woman and helping raise our two sons, have led to my next book, as yet untitled. With one foot ever in NYC, I founded Bronx Biannual in 2006 as an urbane urban literary journal full of essays and fiction from celebrated and unsung writers who share the hiphop aesthetic.
Some of my greatest inspiration comes from multi-hyphenate artists like photographer-director-author Gordon Parks or magazine editor-painter-director Andy Warhol, and so there will eventually be some filmmaking along with all this writing. But that will be another 500-word bio…one day.
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