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Mega Ran on “Touring While Black” (Full article)

Mega ran Performer Magazine

This month, Mega Ran was chosen as a part of PERFORMER MAGAZINE’s Social Justice Issue. Ran wrote a powerful piece called “Touring While Black.” While the article is available in the magazine on newsstands, the online version was hard to make out. Here is Ran’s article in full and unedited.


TOUR TIME.

My favorite two words to utter, or type, because as a musician, we all dream of getting on the road and knocking down stages in strange places, making new friends and fans, hopefully getting paid, and definitely having stories to tell for ages.

As I’m unpacking from one tour and repacking for another, I get excited at the possibilities involved with late night drives into new cities with a few of my closest homies, Dominic “DJ Organic” Khin-Tay, Mario “SkyBlew” Farrow and Chris “EyeQ” Allen. But it wasn’t until I had finalized the routing had I realized that this could turn out to be one of the more interesting trips, and not for the best reason.

Dom asked me what the tour trail looked like, and I happily read off the list of shows I had booked.

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, The Carolinas, Virginia….

He stopped me. His next question was a little odd, as his face showed some legit concern.

“Are there any white people riding with us on this tour?”

Driving While Black is a very real thing, and I know it all too well, particularly in the South, which hasn’t been able to shake its racist roots, particularly in the eyes of people who don’t frequent its streets or shake hands with its countrymen. Strangely, DWB and racial relations may be getting worse. After spending 5 years now as a touring performer, driving up and down America’s highways and byways, I always ran a loose ship, but was lucky enough to have never been arrested, pulled over or received any type of traffic violation or warning.

Until this year.

A Pew Research Center poll states that 50% of Americans feel like racism is a bigger problem in 2015 than anytime in the last 20 years. Ferguson and it’s fallout are to blame, and it’s probably the only logical reasoning for the number of stops I’ve faced on the road this year. In 2015, which isn’t over yet, I’ve been pulled over five times while out on the road, only to be left with a warning each time.

There was February in upstate New York, where I was greeted by the nicest Highway Patrol officer, who commended me on my signaling before lane changing, but pulled me over because I hadn’t given enough time and warning between the signal and the actual lane change.

There was March outside Tulsa, where I was pulled over for driving in the fast lane too long.

There was April in Arkansas, where I was pulled over for… well, you know, I don’t even know why I was pulled over there.

There was North Carolina, where I was pulled over for speeding in an area with no posted speed limit signs.

There was the time in May in Omaha, when I was pulled over for tailgating the car in front of me and not giving the proper amount of space.

There was the time in Missouri when my tour mate was profiled and followed out of a Wal-Mart to the parking lot, leading to us being surrounded by squad cars.

These all sound like legitimate offenses, right? Well here’s the kicker. On none of these times was anyone charged or arrested.

However, on EACH of these occasions, I was
1- asked to step out of the vehicle.
2. asked if I had any weapons or drugs on me.
3. patted down and searched.

And in a new development, something I had never seen before, in real life or the movies: In the last few instances, I was:

4. asked to sit inside the officer’s vehicle, in the passenger’s seat, while my paperwork was being processed.

New protocol perhaps? Not sure. So here I am, in a police vehicle, out of range of my friends (who were attempting to film), and behind the officer’s dashboard camera, if there is one, with nothing but my word against his to detail the events of what could happen next.

Each time I readied myself for the worst case scenario, and imagined the police officer shoving his state-issued gun into my cheek and reeling off a string of racial epithets in my direction, and telling me that Black lives DON’T matter.

Luckily, the extent of the experience in the police car usually was limited to a semi-diet-racist line of questioning about what I do: where I’m from, why I’m on THEIR road (there was always a sense of ownership) and how much money one makes from singing rap tunes. One officer even tried to guilt me, by letting me know that he wished he could make a living traveling to new places…instead of say, stopping people from getting to this new places. In each situation, I try to cushion the blow by telling them about my past as a teacher and that I make video game tunes, but if they hear the word rap, it usually gets ugly.

In the sub-genre of hip-hop in which I operate, called nerdcore, most of the artists are white, so it makes be as one of the only Black males, stand out like a sore thumb. It’s what I call the “Reverse Eminem” situation. Whereas Em had to prove himself, being a white kid stepping into a black art form, and learn the craft to become respected, Black nerd rappers are looked at as the standard, and crowned, even prematurely, and very seldom questioned on their credibility or talent level. It’s almost the one place in the world that being Black is awesome.

But I often, as most nerd rappers’ only Black friend, have to let them know when they are out of bounds, and that leads to strange conversations.

Recently, inside a discussion group, a white nerdcore rapper was called out for using the N-word on Facebook, and instead of apologizing and never doing it again, decided he would ask all of his Black friends if they felt that he could say it, and then screenshot the responses. This is what privilege looks like, ladies and gentlemen.

In the same group I argued with a Black rapper about the police, who told me the same thing I always hear when I’m around officers, “Don’t break the law and you’ll be fine.”

Like Walter Scott, pulled over for a routine traffic stop.
Like Eric Garner, who sold cigarettes.
Like Felix Kumi, who was a bystander during an undercover sting operation.
Like Sam Dubose, who drove without a license plate.

All dead.

So when Dom got a little hesitant at the thought of four fully grown Black and Brown males driving through the southern U.S., I understood.

I live below the law for the most part. I don’t even steal music….anymore. I have paid for every piece of software I use to make music.

Some people are lucky enough to have never felt the feeling of terror of seeing a police car in your rearview mirror.

Some people are lucky enough to have never been pulled over for doing something that everyone else on the road does, every single day.

Don’t break the law and you’ll be fine.

Unless you’re not.

Pray for us while we’re on the road.

Rest in Peace Sandra Bland.

Mega Ran’s new album RNDM is in stores now.

New NPC Logo!

by Mega Ran.

Since the advent of the NPC, and since the word is so widely used in the gaming community, I felt it was important for us to establish an identity; something that represented who we were and what we stood for, and could separate the initials from the Collective.

My friend Zach came up with an amazing new logo that I think represents all that we wanted to be: retro, but sleek; while giving nods to our gaming culture ties.

So I now present to you, the new NPC Collective Logo! Look for it on more events, music and community oriented, in the future.

NPC_logo_off-white

Xavier Woods Interview on SI.com

xavier-woods-27363115

Xavier Woods (Austin Watson) did an awesome interview with SI.com.

On his upbringing:

“I didn’t have very many friends growing up,” said Woods. “I was very much a nerd, I read comic books, and I wanted to do well in school. I didn’t have any social skills at all, but my mom noticed I was way more vocal when I had a Nintendo controller in my hand. So she’d set up play dates with other kids to come over and play video games. She said I was like a circuit that was finally completed because I was holding a controller, and another kid was holding a controller, and I finally connected with somebody else and opened up my doors of social activity.”

On schooling:

​“It’s intense,” said Woods. “I’m actually transferring schools right now. I had 135 credits and was doing my dissertation in educational psychology, but now I’m transferring to Capella University and start on January 11. They’re taking 25 of my 135 credits, and it will probably take me another three-and-a-half years to finish.”

On his goals in the WWE:

“My goal is to make sure Kofi becomes heavyweight champion. He is the guy who absolutely deserves it over anyone else in the company. My long-term goal is to help, in whatever way I can, Kofi become heavyweight champion.”

Click here to read the whole article and comment!

A Few Reasons You Might Like Anime

So my wonderful girlfriend committed to watching the first 700 episodes of One Piece with me sometime last week (Pretty awesome I know).
Mind you I’m currently on episode 702.
Around episode 30 she asks “I’m just curious, why do you love anime so much?”
 
*Stumped*
 
No one has ever asked me that question in a “I’m serious I actually want to know” tone, it’s usually…
“Dude why do you love that anime stuff so much?” or  “Yo, are you gonna watch cartoons all day?”
 
Because I REALLY like it a lot… Evidence Example 1:

Being the quick thinker that I am (or the fact that I take time for self-reflection a lot so I already knew the answer :P) I realized it boiled down to two things:
 
Honor and Integrity.
 
BACKGROUND THOUGHTS:
 
I think about the series which I enjoyed the most and there is such a stark contrast to what we see in the news and what occurs in the world every day.
It’s always “Drama this” and “Everything is terrible that.” We have to read about people shooting each other and fighting over petty things. The news basically chooses to show us stories that paint the illusion “In order to have or get ahead, you must take from someone else or make them worse off.” It’s almost like propaganda that makes a lot of people get into the “Better them than me!” mindset, and makes society look like the most self-serving group of people in history (which make or may not be true but that is another story).
Take for instance Lance Armstrong. Like anytime someone cheats or lies or steals or WHATEVER, my first thought is “What was going through this person’s mind and what happened in their life that they were fine throwing away their integrity to stand before people pretending to be an honest person?”
He stood behind the façade of “I’m doing this for cancer awareness! Here is the Lance Armstrong Foundation!” when in reality, it was all still for him. And before you argue “Oh he did great things for cancer research!” I know he did. And he also could have done it without cheating and lying, sooo if he were doing it purely for cancer awareness… the blood doping was unnecessary.

I could go on and on but just log this as Example: 1 – Getting rewarded for cheating and being dishonest.
 
MUSICS:
Even mainstream hip hop perpetuates this way of thinking. Talk about how much money you have, how bad the girls surrounding you are and how dope your whips are – add in a little sprinkle of “I will shoot any fool who crosses me” (even if you don’t have a gun). Like I love old school Jay-Z and Kanye but they are some of the most repeat offenders to be honest:
 
Jay-Z:
 
Just add another million to these verses
One million, two million, three million, four
And the money’s really worthless, I’m pissing you off on purpose
 
“Photo shoot fresh looking like wealth, I’m about to call the paparazzi on myself!”
 
Kanye:
 
“They ain’t see me cause I pulled up on my other Benz, last week I was in my other other Benz.”
 
Now I know there is a history that goes along with lyric types such as these and my thoughts are that in the era of Biggie and Tupac, artists were intending lyrics such as these to give a sense of hope and pride in a period of (more) oppression.
Once again… I could go on and on but just log this as Example: 2Elevating yourself by telling everyone how much better you are than them.
 
You’re probably like “Hey I thought this article was about Anime!”
Don’t worry young ones, we are about to get there J
 
THE ANIMEZZ:
 
So in these wonderful days where the massive media outlets want to show us the important things in life are 1. Getting ahead by cheating and 2. Telling everyone how amazing you are, anime provides an outlet to me where the important things are characteristics like honor, pride, integrity and perseverance.
Those of you who know me understand how important integrity and perseverance are to the DEPTHS OF MY SOUL, and to be able to watch shows that put those to the forefront really allows me to connect with the characters.
 
Starting with One Piece as an example (Since that’s the thing that brought this up):
I want to start by saying Luffy is just an awesome character. You get to see so much development from being a little runt getting angry at Shanks for not getting in an unnecessary fight, all the way to him fighting on par with enemies who initially outclass him (Arlong, Crocodile and Doflamingo for example).
All along his journey through the ups and downs he never brags about defeating enemies or being strong, but he engages in fights in his quest to become the king of the pirates.
If you think that him becoming the king of the pirates is why he fights, you are sorely mistaken.
Look at every fight he participates in and you’ll notice something :
Every time Luffy fights, he is fighting for someone else. Defending their home, fighting for their freedom, fighting for friendships etc… In all honesty I think Luffy doesn’t realize his real goal is to just sail around having fun with his friends

 

 

But he continuously is placed in this scenarios where he sees something unfair happening and immediately jumps in without question to fight for what’s right. In each one of these fights he seems initially outclassed but perseveres and in the end is rewarded forDoing the right thing.
Someone rewarded for DOING THE RIGHT THING. Those who were initially his enemies become his friends.
He becomes stronger and learns more about himself without throwing away his honor.
I’m sure Fox News head would explode if they had to report something like that.
 
 
Kiba (Minor spoilers below):
Another good example where in the beginning you are led to think Zed as the trouble maker and feel sympathy for Noah the upstanding citizen who is disabled by a disease. Throughout the series you get to watch Zed grow and develop fighting battle after battle in Templar, and when Noah reappears with power, he’s all of a sudden the bad guy. Basically the world in Noah’s head revolved around him and he wanted to be the strongest and blah blah blah, but who ends up saving a world that he didn’t even belong to?
That’s right. Zed the trouble maker.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! When he returned to his world (Calm), the wind was flowing there again?REWARD FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING.
 
 
 
My Hulu anime watch list is overflowing with shows that exemplify the characteristics above:
Dragon Ball Z – How many times did Goku or someone else sacrifice themselves to save the world who has no clue they even exist? (Granted they were getting wished back to life but minor details… minor details.) Except for Krillin. He just got owned for the sake of getting owned.

Naruto – He is all about fighting for his friends and his village, even the people who scoffed and abused him. And SURPRISE! He eventually achieves his dream of Hokage WITHOUT THROWING AWAY HIS INTEGRITY!? (I’m looking at you Sasuke… >.>)

Pretty much every Gundam Series – The internal struggle every pilot has, but I guess if I was trained young to pilot a huge mech warrior to save my country or planet or whatever I would probably have some things to come to term with too.

 
The list goes on and on (Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Champloo, Gurren Lagann and more) but the last example I want to give is..
 
Death Note (Minor spoilers below):
Light. So pompous. So Bored. This was an anime I started watching sometime late high school early college.
Light THINKS he is the good guy. And he kind of is on the surface. But his character development is one that shows what happens when an individual ignores the concepts of natural law to do what they think is right in an obsessive manner.
He starts off killing people who committed crimes but becomes so neurotic thinking he is god that he begins killing off anyone who stands between him and his goal of creating a “Utopia” where evil no longer exists. But throwing himself away to focus on his perceived justice and right vs wrong, he transforms into the very evil he is trying to rid the world of.
The series devolves into a string of manipulations and lies created by Light in order to maintain the power he accidentally stumbled upon.
And in the end when you’re REALLY starting to get annoyed by his arrogance, he is killed by the power (well Shinigami) which he used to kill others.

Eliminated (eventually) for years of DOING THE WRONG THING.
 
A sense of justice that rarely seems to get served or surfaced in the world today. People interfere with the well-being of other humans, and people remain apathetic, but in these anime series, individuals get rewarded for doing the right thing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Namekian, if you are from a rich background, a poor background or from another galaxy.
The lesson taught is, do the right thing. Everyone as a whole benefits when each person holds themselves accountable to being the best person they can be.
 
Whether or not you realize it, you are being taught a lesson in integrity, honor, pride and character.
You are taught the balance of believing in yourself without being arrogant.
You are taught to value your integrity over your socioeconomic status or heritage.
 
And THAT’S why I love anime so much.
 
~1-UP