Category Archives: Interviews

Paula Wilson: visual artist

paula_wilson_portrait                                                                                                                photo by Milu Abel

When I sat down to write this artist statement I found I was using the same prefix over and over to describe my work and artistic motivation. MULTI>>> “multicultural,” “multimedia,” “multifaceted,” “multi-surfaced,” “multiple viewpoints,” “multiple perspectives,” and “a multitude of factors” were all in my initial draft.

In many ways this age is defined by the global mass of digital experiences and information we instantly access and participate in. Yet there are ancient and traditional paradigms that continue to hold sway in today’s world. My work aims at representing this confluence using the conventional two-dimensional picture-plane as a ground on which pluralism is made visual.

The vessel is one art historical trope I utilize to portray multiple viewpoints within a single surface. I am drawn to the form because it lacks a singular reference; every society, in every age, has utilized the container in one form or another making it universal and multicultural. The vessel serves as a link between the inner and outer, the old and new world. The viewer can perceive an image painted on the surface of the vase, the room where it rests, the contents therein, and the focus of the figures who are often engaged in technological interfaces.

I am also drawn to the vessel and other utilitarian forms because of their association with domesticity and femininity. My work often behaves like a Trickster– wiggling through faux techniques or alternative constructs outside traditional painting. A piece can proclaim “I am not a painting, I am a mosaic!” or “I’m not an artwork, I am a stained glass window!” My rug paintings are literally walked upon– made from narrow slats of wood glued to the canvas. The pieces can be rolled up, stood on end, or laid flat on the floor. This transformability allows the work a flexibility and utilitarianism not often associated with painting. Through this “downgrading,” away from “high” art, I seek to elevate the common place and highlight the magic of the everyday.

My pieces have a dense and mosaiced surface derived from collaging printed and painted material with machine and hand stitching. I am drawn to pattern and to intense color creating a fast-paced viewing experience where details and meaning arise as one’s eyes move about the canvas. This is where distraction mets contemplation. While there is a found-objectness to my work, all the material is generated by my own hand creating a feedback loop of remixed artwork. In this world that is at once fast and antique, virtual and dated this allows me to synthesize a portrait of self where the multiplicity of experience becomes whole. – Paula Wilson


1big_ladyBIG LADY
batik (dye and wax resist process), oil, acrylic, monoprinted stencil on machine sewn canvas laminated to pine, brass-hinged “stick figure”
48″ x 91″


intaglio, screen print on Somerset Textured
Produced in collaboration with MassArt’s Master Print Series
30″ x 15″

MassArt’s Master Print Series


reduction woodblock print on Kitakata mounted to Somerset Satin
Produced in collaboration with City College, NYC’s City Editions
19 1/2″ x 15″


monoprint, acrylic, oil on canvas laminated to pine slats
49″ x 80″



woodblock, acrylic, oil on canvas, machine and hand stitching
41″ x 58″


monotype, acrylic on cloth with machine stitching, pine rod
53 1/2″ x 41″


monotype, acrylic on cloth with machine stitching, pine rod, oak hanger
55″ x 42 1/2″



8 detailBAZAAR
monotype, ink, acrylic, oil, machine stitching on canvas, cherry wood
41″ x 62 1/2″


acrylic, oil on canvas laminated to pine slats
72” x 46”


acrylic, oil on canvas laminated to pine slats
66” x 92 ¼”

Paula’s website:



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Etta Kostick: jewelry maker

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interview by Damon Locks                                                   photos by Arthur Mullen

This Chicago jewelry maker has been creating her wares for sale since 2009. I have admired her work for years and decided that it was high time to spread the word about this talented artist/designer.

Your designs are very sculptural, did you grow up with a background in sculpture? How did you arrive at this combination of materials for your jewelry?

I was never formally trained in either sculpture or jewelry design but consider my parents and upbringing to have had a large influence on my work; both of my parents are self-employed glassblowers. I grew up in rural Massachusetts, where my family was always outside playing in my father’s tree farm or our vegetable garden. I first remember creating sculptures inspired by these surroundings using the elements at hand such as wood, moss, and clay.

At seven my parents taught me the basics of glassblowing. The malleability of glass when heated with a flame was entrancing to me. This love of glass continued into my twenties where I found myself searching for new techniques to express myself artistically. I came across stained glass and really took to it; I liked that the properties of stained glass and soldering had many similarities to molten glass in the ways it can be manipulated. This continuous process of exploring and developing my vision for my work has recently brought me to experiment with torched copper enameling, which involves melting glass powder onto copper sheets to create striking colorful patterns. I love the transformative properties that occurs with all of these methods of manipulating glass and metal.

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For me, I see your work having a futuristic, science fiction aesthetic mixed with elaborate jewelry from an imaginary ancient culture – the perfect accent to a ceremonial outfit on a far off planet. That is most likely a reflection of my own interests that I impose on your work. Knowing you a little bit, your personal style feels more organic, closer to the countryside than to interplanetary exploration. How do you envision the feel of your work? Do you have a context in mind when you are designing?

When I started experimenting with making jewelry I was initially inspired by tribal jewelry and adornments I had collected from South Asia. I loved the strength in the shapes and the feeling of empowerment they give to the wearer. I strive to create jewelry that incorporates both these bold shapes as well as more delicate and organic elements. The patterns in the copper enamel and the more intricate metalwork that I do tend to emulate things I see in nature.

Are there resources that you go to for inspiration? 

Definitely a change of scenery whether to a different neighborhood in the city or a new state energizes both myself and my work. My last visit to Colorado inspired me greatly. The multi-colored lichen growths on rocks I came across influenced the patterns I now make with copper enamel. I also feel that I am influenced by the architecture and shapes that I see while living in Chicago- it definitely contributes to a more industrial look with many of my pieces.

What does your average work day consist of?

I work out of my apartment so it’s easy to get caught up in my work. I can spend hours in my studio, which is great because I really enjoy it, but I am striving towards a more balanced approach. It is something I have yet to master.

Would you ever want your business to be larger so you would have to have others involved in production and sales? 

My jewelry feels like an extension of myself and at this point I feel if I had others working with me it wouldn’t feel as personal. Right now I am really enjoying the solitude and satisfaction of creating everything on my own.

You can find Etta’s work at Etta Kostick Jewelry:

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Taking Notes: Discussing Music with Roscoe Mitchell & Rob Mazurek

extracted from an interview by Edmundo Clairefont by Damon Locks

photos by Damon Locks

In a hotel restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Rob Mazurek and Roscoe Mitchell sit down to talk about music with Edmundo Clairefont. Both Roscoe and Rob are composers, musicians and improvisers. Roscoe was a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and tonight he is the featured guest in Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra.

Roscoe Mitchell:

Music and art functions at its best when it’s out amongst the people. For any style of music you are playing, music has always had its laws for how that style goes. You have to learn what the laws are, study those and keep improving yourself. I enjoy music where no one is responsible for keeping it going…where things can shift. Anybody can be the root. Ensembles building orchestral textures inside of an improvisation…I find that very interesting. There are certainly a lot of young people out there that want to get into some different things. I’ve talked to a lot of disillusioned college students that have gone to these ridged school systems and they come out and say “Now what?”  So many of them don’t have a real identity. One of the things you would like to develop is your own musical identity. A lot of the time, the ways schools exist, they get the students in there and they are trying to get them to live up to other people’s example. When you are doing that you are always behind. I am probably not going to be able to do what you do better than you. What I can do it learn from what you are doing and figure out my own way of doing what I’m doing. Once you tap into that, you tap into an endless resource of ideas. The things that come before us are there to learn from.  Art is bigger than all of us. It has it’s own laws and it’s own direction that its traveling. This is not a bad time for people that are serious about their work. If you want to break through this, go home and really get down. What are you gonna do? I am waiting to see what you’re gonna do? We just need to get back where people are really looking at something they want to do…not to be swayed by what comes along in between. Keep their own focus…out of that emerges something that turns out to be meaningful to everyone.  Music is a big study. It would take more than one lifetime to get to what I would like to get to in music.

Rob Mazurek:

Information is only information unless you experience it. When you experience it, it turns into a kind of knowledge right? A lot of people don’t have the patience. It’s just a matter of being honest with yourself. How much music do you make that gets thrown out…like 80%? A lot of people make stuff and say, “Oh I don’t listen to that.” My criteria for what I am doing is “Am I going to put this on, on my record player at home and listen to it?” That is why I started painting too. I wanted to paint something because I wanted something specific I could look at in my house. You know what I am saying?


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Jasmin Shokrian: fashion designer

interview by Damon Locks

fashion photography by The Collaborationist

Is fashion political? Is your work political? Sometimes it is, although not overtly. I reference where we are currently and the socio-political climate is definitely taken in to consideration when I am thinking about the collection, fabric references etc…

Can you name a few “all time” inspirations? Things that never cease to inspire? Art, Texture, Geometry, Nature, Film, Architecture and above all, Innovative thinking.

At different times, fashion could mark changes in cultural. In 2010, do you feel fashion has an impact culturally? Absolutely, I feel that the arts in general have impacted us greatly in 2010. The arts are exploding in the face of the depression we are in!  Also, In a strange way I feel that the First lady. Mrs-O, has brought fashion to the main stream. People are looking to see what she is wearing as the new first lady, and the fact that she is supporting younger less established designers, is very relevant to the times, and the the idea of Change. Historically speaking the first lady has been dressed by more conservative, established designers. Michelle Obama takes risks along side the classics. I never thought in my lifetimeThank you Mrs-O !

What would be your dream aspiration in terms of your work? If everything went exactly as you would want, what would you want you work to do, say, be considered? My aspiration is to be respected for my work. Although the work I make is artistic, I design with real women in mind. I want people to be moved emotionally by what they see, and moved to wear it as a genuine self expression of confidence. I have come to learn that everything else is out of my control!

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ICE-T on the Topic of Crime

interview by Alix Lambert

This interview is an outtake from Alix’s book entitled “Crime.”

About “Crime” – Through a series of exclusive interviews with artists, authors and actors such as Ben Affleck, David Cronenberg, Elmore Leonard, Viggo Mortensen, Ice-T, David Mamet and Takeshi Kitano, as well as real life bank robbers, gangsters and current prison inmates, editor Alix Lambert explores the gaps and overlaps between real crime and its representation in the arts, each commenting on and assessing the impact of the other.

What was is your earliest memory of crime?

I think my first memory of crime was me stealing bicycles. My father wouldn’t buy me a bike. Oh, wait, you know what happened? My first memory of crime was I got my bike stolen. I didn’t just go out and start doing wrong. I had gotten my bike stolen on Christmas day. I was living in NJ at the time. I had gotten this bike and I was really excited about it and I ran down to my friends house to show it off. I parked it in front of his house. When I went to knock on his door his mother came to the door so, I had my bike like parked, she ended up talking me into coming into the house because I think they had racing cars inside, and I wanted to see them. I got caught up racing the cars. When I went out my bike was gone. I had to be like around ten years old, maybe. I first thought it was a joke. I thought somebody had hid it. But it was gone. I never got it back. We went to the police station, filed a report, all kind of stuff. Then my father was like: You’re not going to get another one. I started to steal bikes. Other people had these old bikes and I would get up earlier than I had to to go to school, cause nobody would watch me. I couldn’t stay out late, but I could get up early. I would go creep into people’s backyards. I would take the bike. I had my own little chop shop. I would take the bikes back and I would take them apart and I would paint them, and change the colors. It sounds so crazy. I haven’t thought back to this since – ever. I kind of put a bike together. But then I had to hide it from my father. One time he came in the back and was like: What are you doing? And I lied, and said: Yo. My friend gave me this bike. That was my first introduction to criminal activity. I would paint them with model paint, like these little spray cans that you got for models. I knew how to take the Schwinn emblem off and paint them and them put them back on. Pretty crafty.  A one man operation so nobody could snitch. From there I didn’t do any crime, I went to elementary school, I guess mischief and stuff, but actually starting to break the law wasn’t truly introduced to me until high school.

What happened in high school?

When I got into high school you start to see people have things that are beyond their means. You see guys in the 12th grade that got cars and you’re looking at everybody going: what’s really going on around here? Drug dealing and all that kind of stuff really hadn’t come into play. But my boys started to sell weed. They would buy like pounds of what would be called today, homegrown weed. Just the cheapest weed. You could get a lot of it cheap, back in the day. They would take it and roll joints and sell dollar joints. That was like an operation, but I never got into that. I was like: Yo, I’m not running around high school with drugs. But they were hustling like that. Then my other friend, his sister, used to steal the lunch tickets from the school. The big lunch ticket roll, she would steal the tickets from the inside of the roll, like tickets that weren’t going to get used til way later in the year and then she would sell them. She was making a lot of money. Then she put us to work. She was like: You guys sell them, and I’ll give you half the money. I was like this little broad’s running an organized crime ring. So all this stuff started to happen at our school. Then I learned how to steal textbooks. Every year people would turn up at the end of the year and have to pay for the textbooks. But we had access to the book room. The print class, we turned that into a counterfeiting ring. We learned how to make special cards, which you could use to get into every event. They cost like 50 dollars. We forged them and we were selling them for like ten dollars. As a kid hustling and making 5 or 6 hundred dollars, that’s a lot of money. So then what we did, we figured out like the science book cost 25 dollars so if you would meet us at nutrition and tell us what the book number was that you lost we would get one from the book room – they were stamped in the front and they were stamped on like page 25, we would rip out page 25 and then we would re-stamp the book with the number of the book you lost. But what happened was, some of the lost books started to show up. So in other words, two books with the same number showed up. That’s how we got caught. What they did was they busted us, they ran a sting. They figured it out, they figured the books had to be coming out of the book room, and they caught us on this like elevator thing with the books one day. It was ugly. We told them we just started to do it and fortunately only a few books showed up even though we had probably ran through like 500 books. I was learning that you could outsmart the game at an early age. But it really didn’t escalate to any serious money. It was very petty. Then what happens is you start to hang around with people who really take pride in beating the system. That’s the scary part. Like if you ain’t a hustler then you’re not cool. That’s where you really start getting sucked in. You start to believe that the only money that’s good is stolen money, working money is not cool.

I was out on my own at 17 years old. I was living with my Aunt. My mother and father had passed. I was living with my Aunt in Los Angeles and I wasn’t getting along with her and I was getting social security checks so one day I just told her: give me that money, which was $250 a month, and I’m gone. And she gave me the money and I bought a hundred dollar a month apartment, I put another hundred dollars into food and I had fifty dollars left. I was living on my own when I was in the 12th grade. So that made me the coolest kid in the whole school. I had my own place, are you kidding me? It was like the size of a closet but it was still my own place. At that point they were doing little corny things like selling fake jewelry. We’d go down town to the jewelry mart and get the fake shit, you know, you’ve seen people do it, the fake chains and they put the 14 kt. gold thing on it, we’d hustle that. Then we ran scams, we learned how to run cons with like fake diamond rings at the bus station down town you walk up on a guy and you tell them that you just bought this for your mother and now you’re stuck out of town and you can’t get home, and they’d give you some money to get a bus ticket or whatever and a little extra money. They always thought they were beating us for the ring, we would tell them the ring was worth 800 dollars and the guy would end up giving you a hundred dollars and the ring only really was worth like ten dollars. That’s the key to the con. The only people that get conned are greedy people, you know. You never get conned if you’re honest. Once your brain kicks in to thinking you’re beating somebody, that’s when you get took. Honest people be like: Oh my God, you only have that ring, that’s your mothers, you’re going to give it to me? No. Here’s fifteen dollars, get the bus ticket. They’d help you. And they’d be out fifteen dollars whereas this other guy: Oh, well you know I’m gonna have to take that from you. I’ll give you a hundred and fifty bucks. They’re the ones that’re greedy trying to beat a poor kid. So, fuck ‘em. Rule one: if it sounds too good to be true, it’s not true. So that basically was my life.

What happened that started to change things?

What happened was I got my girlfriend pregnant at the end of 12th grade and I was living alone and I started to feel a little bit of responsibility and that’s when I went in to the military. Now when I came out of the military my small time friends had elevated the game and they had decided that jewelry stores were the target and they had all kinds of ways to beat the jewelry store. Eventually it just escalated from going in and what we would call playing the jewelry store to…well there’s about ten ways you could rob a jewelry store. The favorite one is what we call playing. Playing a jewelry store is really confusing them and lifting jewelry out of the store without them knowing. That requires a team, and there’s a lot of ways, but what it was was there’s a lock that used to be on jewelry cases that we called a pop lock. It was a lock that if you inserted a piece of metal into it, basically a nail file called a trim, you could file it down in a way that it became like a lock pick and you could reach over; and these locks you’d push em in, turn em and they would pop out. When they popped out, that disengaged the case and now the jewelry case was open. With teams of people and confusion we were able to throw the jewelry store off long enough for somebody to reach over, what we used to call: reach over and bust, reach over, pop the lock, reach in, take the jewelry, close the lock back, lock it back and get out. Usually you’d use a girl and a guy and usually they would be wearing jewelry, they’d come in looking very non-criminal. Back in the days we used to wear Fila and carry tennis rackets and portray yuppie kids. Like: Oh, my father, he’s a developer, he’s building the building down the street. There’s always a building down the street. Or I used to come in and say: my father, he’s a white guy, he’s a state trooper based in Fresno. Cause I’m light. So, we would come in and con them and distract them. It’s not like a one minute lick. It’s really planned. At the end of this game they’re not even supposed to know their shit is gone until later. And that was a victory to us. That was finesse. That finesse later elevated to a lot of different things from what they call bashing which is really just walking in with sledge hammers during the day and taking the whole jewelry store down. And that jewelry store only needed to be cased out to the point that there were no guns. Burglary, which is where you’re trying to find certain jewelry stores, like if you really look they don’t put the jewelry up. It’s like, they’ve put sheets over the cases instead of taking the time to put them in a safe. Usually you’ll find those out of town. Like not in NY, but if you go two hours out, they don’t have crime. That would be a 459. There’s a lot of ways to get into the stores, there’s all kinds of techniques you can use. Then they got the basic one which you still hear about which is called the snatch and grab. Which is more or less, you have to almost have them put the jewelry in your hands. They bring it out, and you say: Can I see this watch? Can I compare this one against that one. What they do now, is as they give you one, they put that one back in. But some fools will bring all that shit out.

Have you ever spent time in prison?

I never been to prison. I never been caught. It’s like the getaway is more important than the actual crime. You have to figure out what you’re going to do with it before you do it. If you’re going to get something that’s very expensive, pre-sell it. Talk to the people that want it and have it sold before you do it.
Who buys it?

You’ve got drug dealers. You’ve got drug dealer’s girls. Drug dealer’s girls are really the best…they want every fucking thing. They want minks, they want this, they want that, and the guys that’re selling the drugs, they’ve got illegal money that they can’t really spend in stores. They want things, you know what I’m saying. In this game a lot of casing goes on. Casing is pre-looking at places. I could be like in Salt Lake City Utah and I could go and check out faces and I could find what we call in the game “a lick.”  A lick is not a store with armed guards and dogs and bullet proof glass, that’s not a lick. A lick is a little store with an old lady that just happens to have a lot of shit and there’s no one around. It’s a situation that lends itself to being taken. And that’s why I tell people today, I’m like – criminals are very opportunistic. They’re looking for something that lends itself to whatever they do. Like in a Mall, a jewelry store that might just happen to be right by that exit door, that’s a great lick. Because if I hit em, I don’t have to run through that mall. I duck out and I’m through those emergency doors and then it’s me and whoever’s after me.

I saw a lick recently in Vegas. I basically went through withdrawal trying to not tell any of my friends because I don’t want anybody to go to jail. But I looked right at it. I told my wife, I’m like: Yo, this could get got, really, really easily. I was like: well, somebody else will probably do it but if I tell my friends, I’ll bring somebody out of retirement. I don’t care what you’ve done in your life, if it ever was a part of your life that part never leaves. If you were a guy that used to knock guys out for talking shit, and somebody’s talking shit and maybe you don’t do it no more, your brain still says: I would knock this fucking fool out. If you were a girl who used to hustle guys and knew how to get up on guys and get money and you see a guy throwing his money around, you go: I could take this idiot off. That element will never leave your brain if you’ve ever done it. You just don’t do it no more because you know there’s probably ramifications.

In crime there’s a million ways to do things. In bank robbery you have what they call playing a note, you have: take over, you got people that want you to go in the vault, you got people that just want to play the door, you know, you got people that want to catch the night deposits, you got people that want to try to take one of the trucks which is really risky, there’s a lot of different levels of it. You gotta know the elements of banks too. They’re told to give you the money. You just don’t want to get too greedy. But what happened with me was, everybody that I was rolling with started to go to jail. One of my friends was in the middle of a bank robbery and his friend got killed by the police so they ended up giving him the murder. You know, in L.A. California, if you’re with somebody and me and you go out and commit a crime, you get killed by the cops, I get the murder. You know I say in one of my records: You raise the risk, you raise the profit. What happens in the game is that eventually those small crimes aren’t going to sustain the lifestyle you live. When you’re young and you want to hustle and you sell a little weed here and there, you try to get some rims, okay, it’s a great hustle. Now, if you move up to Benzs and Ferraris, you can’t sell joints, you gotta sell pounds. The more the crime escalates the more violence escalates. Whether you’re fighting against your own crew, getting double crossed, or being set up, because, in the game you have hustlers and then you have predators. You got the one guy who says: Hey, I’ll sell the dope. And you got the other guy who says: I’ll rob the dope dealer. Let him sell it, fuck it. You’re dealing with professionals. This is what they do, they lie, they deceive, they cheat. Like a lot of times in a game, there’s two games going. One game is for me and you to hit the lick, the next game if for me to beat you. I was in as deep as I could get and my friends started to go under. Cats I really admired were catching really long sentences. My boys were going to jail and I’ll never forget, I went on this one lick in the Pacific Palisades with all these cats that I normally wouldn’t fuck with. It was like the most slapstick disastrous shit I ever been on. We got away, but I was like: Yo, no. No. This is why I never fuck with these guys.

It gets crazy. All my friends went to prison. I’m looking at all these cats that I admired, I started to ask myself: Do I think I’m smarter than them?

Thank God this music called Hip Hop came along, and then Rap came along, I was doing a lot of things, you know what I’m saying. We was pimping. We was in the game. We had girls doing stuff, making money. When people say “Pimping” they think about a guy standing on a corner with girls. That’s one form, but another form is just basically having females around that are hustling and they doing all types of things to get you money. In other words if a guy is in a room with a girl, and that girl has another guy that she’s more dedicated to than him; he’s in a bad situation. As long as they know that I’m the top dog, then that’s pimping. They’re following my instructions to the T. So, we doing all that and rap came along and I was like really idolizing Iceberg Slim, I really was into him. I took my name from him. The whole symbolism and the style and the flair of his conversation, the way he talked, but at some point I realized: Yo, as much as I want to be a pimp, dude is a writer. So, if I’m really idolizing this dude I not only gotta live the game, I have to document the game. So that’s when I started to rap. Cause I didn’t really feel I could be a writer, so I felt like here’s a music where I can talk about the life.

What about gangs?

Gangs are a whole nother fucking structure. Gangs are basically war. I mean gangs aren’t really criminal organizations until they actually start to move drugs. A gang is just male units that are at war. So in Los Angeles, you got Crips, you got Bloods, but then you have sets and the sets are, like there’s hundreds and hundreds of sets, which are divisions of the gang. In L.A. Crips are fighting Crips, Bloods are fighting, Bloods. Your real age for gangbanging is between the ages of 15 and 25. Once murder has come into the game you carry that murder code with you and that’s what gangbanging is based on. If you were going to join my gang immediately I would indoctrinate you with what the other sets did, or who’s our enemies. You’d be out to retaliate, that’s how you get stripes.

I was affiliated with rolling 60 Crips. And what I mean by “affiliated” is I knew all the shot callers, I grew up in the hood, but I never jumped into a gang, but I wear the colors. I got it in my record, you know, but an affiliate would be somebody who would have juice with the gang, know the gang but wouldn’t necessarily go out and put in work or do any of the drive-bys, or whatever is required to be more of a hardcore member. I always been kind of intelligent, so I always knew how to get with the shot callers and they liked me.

If you really go deep in, I mean them kids are at war. They’re not at all like thinking about making rap records or nothing, they just want to move on the enemy. Because somebody close to them probably got killed. These babies are slowly being indoctrinated into the belief that this other gang is somebody to hate. Because they killed his uncle. So, it’s deep.

The thing about Ice – T music that’s different is I always try to show both sides of the game. That’s what makes my music different from pretty much any body else’s rap. If you listen to my records, even though I might say, hey I’m this guy, I usually die at the end of the record. I tell you about the fun in the beginning but there’s pain in the end. So, anybody who tells you about crime and doesn’t tell you that there’s pain and you know, they’re full of shit and they never been there. If you’re talking about it but you’re not telling me that there’s any down side to it – you’re lying. Because if you’re a real criminal, you know a lot of people in prison, you getting them phone calls, you’ve been in situations where you could have been dead, you know what it’s like to have people after you, I mean, you have to be pretty crazy to really like it. I mean, I’m not that guy. I’m not. I think when I was younger, you know, you’re a little bit more fearless. But as you get older you look at it like: This shit is crazy. Usually when you go to prison, finally you figure this out. Half of my crew is locked up. So, they telling me what’s going on, and I listen. I live by the code that: dumb people learn by experience, smart people learn by others experience. I’ve always been like a sponge and I listened to it and I had to kick it real and the thing of it is is that you know, when you deal with the press, I could go and say: Yo, and homelessness and this that and the third and AIDS and education, but then the same cat after that will go: so what’s it like to rob a bank? Then at the end of the article they say I’m promoting it. I didn’t even bring it up. I think the more you talk about it and the more you express it, you know, it’s kind of like, to me, I felt that was my retribution. I tell people in my life I feel like I was running down this road, this hustling road, where I think it’s going to be roses and money and everything at the end; all that good shit. And I got to the end of the road and I seen there’s a cliff, and off the edge of the cliff there’s fires burning. Now I’m like running back up the road yelling at people: don’t go down that road. It looks good, but honestly, I cannot tell you a crime story with a good ending.

From an artists perspective, those rappers and artists that do get out of it they got great stories and experiences to share. It’s extremely entertaining. See I think the thing of it is, is that, people can be entertained with other people’s pain. I think that’s really what it is. This is exciting and it’s fun to listen to but to actually live it is something totally different. A great story about being stranded in the desert is a great story to read or watch, but to be the actual people that do it; that’s not a good place. To watch the Mafia is a great exciting thing, but to be in it and to live every day with potentially somebody blowing your brains out is not so sexy. There’s also another side to it, you know, it’s fun to tell war stories. And a lot of these cats, these aren’t even their war stories. This is something that they fabricated in their brain. I mean, come on, Tarantino writes some of the most crazy movies but he’s a nerd. I mean look at Quentin, I mean he’s never done nothing, I mean he’d probably be the first one to tell you that. But in his brain with his characters he can create these very cool images and theories of how things would go. Like Pulp Fiction probably was one of the greatest movies ever and this is Quentin’s imagination. Because he has a great imagination he’s considered cool. So you can actually become cool by living through other people. I mean you can only ask a kid to speak at his intelligence level. So you take an eighteen year old kid; he don’t know about world politics, you can’t teach him that this may be negative, cause he’s selling dope, he doesn’t even see that as a problem. So as you get older, sure, you get to see the world in a different way. But when you dealing with these young kids they on that shit. If you had interviewed me when I was seventeen years old I’d be like: fuck, square ass motherfucker, man. I’m hustling. This is what I do. I don’t have any conscience. I’m getting paid and fuck you. And I’m winning and I ain’t got caught I mean, what’s to tell me it’s wrong? Until you see the pain, or you get that other side of it, A lot of these kids, some of them don’t even know no better, they don’t know. And you gotta stay out of their way. Because when them kids is moving at that speed and they don’t know no better, they’re invincible, and they’ll murder you.

When did you get into acting?

I got into acting, really my first movie was in the movie Breakin’, my role, I was a rapper, they came into a club that had break dancers and stuff in L.A. and I was on the stage rapping and they said: Would you like to be the rapper? I wasn’t really a good rapper but I was kind of like one of the first rappers people ever seen because that movie came out really early in the genre. After that I did New Jack City. Where I was really an unseasoned actor who got a chance and I just tried at it. People enjoyed it and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m very fortunate. New Jack City, at that time I had already like, deprogrammed myself from the streets and I was learning that it’s all about opportunities and the real hustler is going to take advantage of an opportunity. So I had to re-format myself. Which, at the end of the day means, I’m not trying to break the law, I’m just trying to get money, if I can do it without breaking the law that’s even better. I elevated myself to that. I started to play cops, people were like: Well, that’s a paradox, you didn’t like the cops. I’m like: Well, I didn’t like the cops when I was breaking the law. They were the opponent. I didn’t have no hate against the police. Of course I got hate against certain people who have civil right infractions, and doing things wrong, but just a basic cop, it’s like the movie Heat, man, he’s out to get me; I’m out to get him. Touché, let’s go. So I always respected the cops to an extent. A real criminal can take a pinch. You know: You got me, motherfucker. You don’t turn around at the end of the day and say, oh the laws are wrong, when you robbing somebody. You know what you doing. Nowadays, I’m like, I don’t hate the police, I have no problems with the police. I don’t like cops that bring their personal issues to work, or whatever their doing, if they’re racist or all that, I mean, we can’t tolerate that but an average cop, I’m not mad at him. I don’t have any allegiance to crime.

I just sucked up every bit of game from the actors around me. I just worked with Ludacris and he’s the same way, I asked a lot of questions. They were just like: you can memorize shit, you’re a rapper, just try to put the voice on it that they want. You get better and better at it and after a while you start learning tricks. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot more after the response I got from it. I’ve been very, very fortunate doing it, I feel like I can say: I am an actor. Before I felt like I’m a rapper that’s acting. But I’ve been on Law and Order now 9 years acting every single day, I’ve been in over fifty movies so I think I know what I’m doing now, finally.

Law and Order, the show I’m on, I mean really? Are there that many homicides in New York City? I mean, if you really watch my show, you’ll think rapes and serial killers are running around here every day.  (my wife) Coco’s mother came and was scared to go in Central Park, from watching Law and Order. Movies and TV do give you a warped reality. A lot of people aren’t intelligent enough to read into that. They just believe it at face value. Me, myself, I know a movie is a movie, cause I watch the movies, I’m in movies, I know that the blood ain’t real. I know all that. The average person gets caught up in this stuff, so a lot of this stuff can enforce stereotypes, the angry black man, and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know if you ever going to be able to change that.

I love video games. The best one is Grand Theft Auto, which is just fucking mayhem. It’s just mayhem. I’m in the Scarface game which actually teaches you how to sell drugs. It’s crazy, it teaches you how to sell grams. It’s pretty interesting how you move the drugs from the Islands to Miami and drop them off at dope houses. I was in San Andreas (Grand Theft Auto). I played a cracked out rap star and somebody had stole all my lyrics and he became a star. So, I went on crack and then the end is me getting my reputation back and getting my mansion back. You start off in San Andreas as a kid in South Central L.A. Then you build up your rep and then you get a gang, I mean, it’s definitely like some crazy shit. I will say honestly the Vice City Games are like the worst shit ever – in a good way. It’s so intentionally wrong that you’ve got to just get into it. Rick Ruben one time told me there’s an art in saying the worst shit. Some people in entertainment know how to do that. Comedians know how to do it. Eminem is a great example. And I’ve always done it. I’ve done the interviews where I’ll say kids are top priority and AIDS and this that and the third but I got to run right now because I got to get to a Pit bull fight. Just say the most wrong shit. Because it’s funny. Because it’s wrong. In a way these games are just so over the top that you got to laugh. It’s like: Oh my God if I’m out of money I rob a liquor store? Inside this world, all the things that you think about, you can do. But, does that make you really want to do it in real life? No. To me it kind of diffuses it. I think they work opposite. People say: Oh, they make kids violent. I don’t think so. I think honestly, it’s like an outlet for that aggression. You get to do it on the video game. I think all of us have this aggression, and you’ve got to have an outlet. Video games do it for me. I think it’s a very masculine thing.

I think human beings have some weird blood lust. I mean I watched this show called 48 hours where it’s about murder. It’s about the wife that killed the husband and I’m like what the fuck am I watching this shit for? But I want to see, and then they show the crime scene, I mean I don’t know, maybe you got to get with a psychologist but I think there is something in humans that is triggered by death and violence like they say: why when we’re watching the car races, everybody wants to see the wreck? We watch boxing, what is all this? What is it? I do Metal, I do hard rock, and the kids mosh in the front. There’s a pit. What in the fuck is going on? You’re banging into each other. That’s not dancing. What are you doing? And then guys get bloody and it’s kind of like if you go in a rap studio and one guy gets up and says: Yo, peace …and the guys kind of go: ok, that’s great …and the next guy goes: I’ll blow your mic hand off, and the motherfuckers like: yeah! It’s like what is that? I think since the beginning of time people have been intrigued with this warrior spirit.

I was at the movies the other day and I watched this big commercial for the Army. And they were showing people jumping out of planes. I was in the military. Every single picture the motherfuckers had a gun. And I told Coco, they’re recruiting killers. They’re telling you that there’s honor in killing for your country. The guys who are our best killers are our most honorable people. It conflicts itself so many different ways. I think it just roots back to us being animals. It’s ill though, it’s ill.

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Nicole Mitchell: Creation, Culture and Community


interview by Damon Locks

I have had the opportunity to perform alongside flutist Nicole Mitchell on many occasions in the group Exploding Star Orchestra. We generally set up right next to each other on stage so we can work together and bounce ideas off each other during a performance. This has given me the rare opportunity to enjoy her work from a mere few inches away. As a musician, she is an incredible talent. Her tone is lyrical and soulful, like a beautiful story that should be told again and again. Her musical intuition is always on point. Her achievements and accolades are many (Downbeat magazine’s “Rising Star Flutist 2005-2008, and awarded “Jazz Flutist of the Year 2008” by the Jazz Journalist Association, to name but a couple). She fronts the Black Earth Ensemble and Black Earth Strings. She is a tireless musician and a hard working mom as well. One of the great things about Chicago is that there is a wealth of talent and creativity and sometimes you are lucky enough to be standing right next to it.

What encouraged you to pursue music?

My mother’s artwork, the wonder of creation, and my love for the sound of the flute.

I started playing the viola in 4th grade. I chose it to be different, because everyone else wanted the violin.  I was the only viola so  I  had learned how to read music, because there was no hiding! Then in 5th grade, they introduced us to the wind instruments and it was an instant thing when I heard that sound. I asked, “What is that?!”  and the answer was “It’s a flute, stupid.” I wanted to play it so bad, but my parents were like, “We already bought this viola and you’re going to play it.”  For four years I begged and bothered them for a flute.  I had entered a drawing contest that was in the TV Guide, so some artist lady came to the house to talk to my parents about how I could be a gifted visual artist and they should pay a bunch of money for me to take art lessons.  They were thrilled and asked me if I would like to do that. That was my chance. “Could you take that same money you’d pay for art lessons and get me a flute and some lessons?”  Bingo!  So then I was playing flute and viola.  I still practiced viola and played in orchestra. That same year, when I’d only been playing a few months, there were auditions for all-city orchestra.  I auditioned on flute and viola and ended up making 1st chair viola.  I was miserable, looking at those flute players having a great time.  I went in the back room and I found the judges’ sheets on the floor of the bandroom.  I was shocked to discover that I had made 2nd chair flute, but they decided to put me 1st chair viola because they needed me there.   At that very moment I decided that I was NOT going to play viola again. So I stopped.  Too bad…it would have been nice to continue on. It’s interesting how experiences shape you.

When you are working on your music do you think in terms of genre?

I really don’t think much about genre.  There are different musical styles that swim in my veins, that I’ve been attracted to and absorb. They subconsciously influence my creativity. I consider myself to be a “creative musician,” because with “creative” music people don’t have a specific expectation and they can be open to receive what you bring.

As a member of the musical community of Chicago you work in a medium and within an idiom that has a rich history and tradition. Do you feel a responsibility to respond to that tradition and work within that tradition?

Chicago does have a rich legacy in jazz and creative music and I definitely feel that my work is part of that continuum. As a musician and composer, it’s not so much a feeling of responsibility, but a spiritual connection to those musicians that have come before me. My responsibility is to be myself and express my own voice. This is really clear also for members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a collective that I’m a part of (that will have its 45th birthday in 2010). The AACM is one of the great entities that has shaped musical history in Chicago and internationally, through the ideas of supportive community, self-help, and the encouragement to create original music. I do feel a sense of responsibility to carry the torch for the AACM, because many musicians before me struggled to make a name for it, and because of all the gifts of guidance that mentors like George Lewis, Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake, Arveeayl Ra, Ed Wilkerson, Douglas Ewart and Ernest Dawkins have given me and others. One of the great things about the AACM is the relationship between so many generations playing music together, with members in their twenties to members reaching toward eighty. I just recently was named chairperson, and our new executive board is all younger folks, including cellist Tomeka Reid: treasurer, drummer Mike Reed: vice chair, vocalist Saalik Ziyad: secretary and percussionist Coco Elysses: Dean of AACM School. It’s a big change and I feel a heavy responsibility to serve the organization, its members, our neighboring communities that are music-starved and to keep getting AACM music out there so the world can hear it.

How important is recorded material versus playing live?

When music is recorded, I feel a sense of completion with it, because evidence has been made that it exists.  It represents a moment in time captured of a musician or project that allows us to know and go back.  It creates a sense of history.  Honestly I think recorded music can never be as special as live music though.  Live music is something special between the musicians and the people that were there–something that begins and ends.  There’s a mystery to that.

How do you approach releasing your music?

I started out by making my own label with my life-partner, saxophonist David Boykin.  We put out my first three albums. Since then I’ve realized that it’s good to pass it around, so that other ears can hear your music, so I enjoy working with other labels like Delmark, Greenleaf and Firehouse 12.  It’s good to have a balance. I’m curious how long the CD thing is going to last, and if we’re heading to download as the only answer.  Long story short, I’m open to try new things. It all comes down to sharing the sound and getting it out there.

How has Chicago, as a place or as a musical community, shaped your artistic trajectory?

Chicago has had a huge impact on my life and my art.  I have many childhood memories here, from visiting my grandparents on the southside. I romanticized my mother’s presence here, as she was born and raised in Chicago and she passed when I was a teenager. I never really felt at home anywhere until I made Chicago my home. It was where I needed to be. There’s so much culture here and community.

Is it difficult to survive as a full time musician in Chicago?

I think it’s near impossible anywhere! Most the musicians I know have other jobs and do music because they love it. I’ve been blessed to be a full-time musician, but I never live with any expectations of things being easy, or the same!  Things can change at any moment for better or worse, so I appreciate the positives in the moment.


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Public Views: A Survey of Police from the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area

Ford_Crown_Victoria_Interceptor_DCsurvey coordinated by Damon Locks and Detective Gregg Pemberton

This idea came about when I was working on the WDC issue of Stop Smiling magazine. When brainstorming about our nation’s capital, I thought it would be a great idea to hear from the men and women in blue regarding their feelings about their jobs. With the help of Detective Gregg Pemberton, some questions were put together and inquiries were made. The survey was cut from the issue of Stop Smiling. Luckily, The Population can serve as a venue for such ideas. Here are some thoughts from those sworn to serve and protect.

Officer Joe Gentile – Third District Auto Theft Unit, – MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Neutral. The only extremes are on the negative side, for the most part. It is very rare to see/read anything about extremely positive views of the police.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The low morale at MPD makes it difficult to be doing your best at work. It takes a strong-willed officer to cut through all that and do the best they can.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would overhaul recruiting and hiring. The department needs to make you earn the job through testing and interviews. Therefore, you can weed out people  that don’t really want to do the job or are unqualified. The hiring process needs to be more in-depth and challenging like most agencies.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

The aspects that trouble me the most are poor management and poor training of new recruits. In my opinion, new recruits need to be challenged in the academy and expected to perfrom at a high level throughout. This is not the case. Also, the promotional process needs to be revamped, in the sense that if you are an officer that works in an administrative position for many years (i.e. payroll) and you get promoted, you aren’t sent to lead a squad of patrol officers. They need to promote people to lead what they are skilled at.



Jimmy Paul, Trooper First Class, Executive Protection Section

Maryland State Police, 3-5 years

age: 30-35

race: Asian

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Neutral. I think there are an equal number among the public who view the police in a negative light as there are those who see them in a positive light.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

It is a combination of what the citizens want the police to do along with what the department wants you to do. The job itself is pretty easy, as in what you are required to do. It is the people involved, both the citizens and the superiors, who make it hard. The citizens want you to lower the crime but do not like being inconvenienced. The superiors want you to lower crime as well, but make you jump through hoops to do it (redundant forms, reports etc).

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would let the officers do the right thing and do their jobs. It may come at the cost of a few complaints from citizens but you can never make everyone happy. At the end of the day, everyone goes home safe. That should be the goal.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

All of the above. Each aspect that is listed above could be improved upon in my department. They all play a pivotal role in Trooper’s frustrations.



Officer Sarah Yeaw, Officer, Third District Vice Unit, MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 1-2 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Female


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively. It depends where you work but the media puts a lot of negative stuff out, which colors people’s view

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

In patrol, it’s a lack of resources and personnel to allow officers to do much self-initiated work or investigations. There’s just too few people and too many radio runs to answer, so there’s no time left to really take on any investigations.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

The juvenile justice system! The vast majority of our part 1 offenses are committed by juveniles. But the vast majority of those who arrested are either given a few months in a halfway house (where they can leave during the day and continue to commit crimes, and also run away multiple times without receiving any further punishment), or they are not even charged at all! They learn very quickly that they can do whatever they want and essentially get away with it. There needs to be much stricter punishments for these kids, or else the crime will continue to rise out of control.



Narcotics Detective

Baltimore City Police Department, 8-10 years

age: 35+

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Negatively. It largely depends on the area. Some areas love the police, while others hate them.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The department and politicians lack of support for their officers. Officers are policing with one hand tied behind their backs. This view that the community is always right, demoralizes and de-motivates officers to get involved in fighting crime.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

Command staff needs to know that (especially in narcotics) there are going to be complaints. The majority of the people we deal with are felons and don’t want to go to jail. Therefore, don’t always entertain the absurd complaints.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

Citizens in high crime areas want a crime reduction, yet hate your guts at the same time. This makes for a tough environment to win over popularity. Also, to have multiple cases where criminals with 15+ arrests are still on the street is ridiculous. Inner city juries don’t convict very easily. This is frustrating for police who work hard everyday.



Gregg Pemberton, Detective, Criminal Investigations Division, Seventh District, MPD

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 

age: 30-35

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?


What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

Police departments strategies and operational plans are all too often motivated by politics and public outcry, rather than actual time tested policing techniques. This forces officers to constantly be “reactionary” to the demands of the public, preventing them from aggressive patrols and quality investigations, the bread and butter of crime prevention.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

I would allow the officers to dictate how they would like to address the given issues in their area or their concentration. Crime trends and criminal activity changes so quickly, that only the officers with their boots on the street know the best way to attack a particular problem. All too often, officials develop plans that please citizens concerns, but don’t address the root of the problem.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

It just seems that bad guys never get any punishment around here. Even violent, armed felons can walk away with little or no jail time. Then when they’re released back out on the street to commit more crimes, the citizens blame the police for not doing anything. The public sometimes doesn’t benefit from our hard work and also doesn’t always understand the criminal justice system. This makes people quick to blame police for spikes in crime.



Officer Matthew Mahl, PSA 302 (Columbia Heights) Patrol

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 25-29

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?

Very negatively.

What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

Over the last several years, the police department has started to cater to the citizens of our patrol areas. It seems that management in an attempt to gather public support forgets that we are running a police department. At times the police department chooses to do things that have no effect on crime, but satisfies the public. This hinders my job greatly.



Travis Eagan Officer Patrol (FTO)

Metropolitan Police Department, WDC, 3-5 years

age: 35+

race: Caucasian (Non-Hispanic)

gender: Male


On the average, how do you think the public views the police?


What do you think is the biggest factor that prevents individual police officers from being able to do their job as best as possible?

The politics of this city and the powers that are allowing the citizens to run things.

How would you change your job to make it better and more effective for you?

Do away with the added footbeats and put the officers back in cruisers and allow them to do there job as they are trained to do. The foot beats are to appease the citizens and do little to fight crime.

What frustrates you about your job? (Citizens, Criminal Justice System, Discipline, Management, Inability to get things done right, etc.)

Citizens’ ability to twist the arm of Management.


Filed under Interviews, Public Views