D. Scot Miller

Mos Def

Our once and future truth-teller
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PREVIEW Anyone who heard "Big Brother Beat" on De La Soul's 1996 album Stakes Is High (Tommy Boy) was soon saying, "Who's this kid Mos Def?" Still, it's hard to believe that, 13 years later, the radiant voice on that track would become the ubiquitous scion of that good old Native Tongue can-do.

Mos Def can turn up simultaneously in a movie (his next project is a film version of Iceberg Slim's Mama Black Widow) and on a television show (you catch him on House last a few weeks ago?), yet still find time to cameo on other people's albums, Read more »

His royal highness

Excess and seduction rule the vainglorious art of Yinka Shonibare
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REVIEW Yinka Shonibare's 1998 photographic essay Diary of a Victorian Dandy, Member of the Order of the British Empire runs like clockwork.

At 11 a.m., Shonibare the nobleman is shown waking and then donning a nightcap in his gilded bedroom; he's surrounded by four ruddy-cheeked buxom maids and a pale, thin butler, who each cater to his every whim. At 2 p.m., dressed in a three-piece blue-gray suit, he tends to business in his private library. Read more »

Just dandy

Modern Menswear outfits the new aesthete's imagination
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Men dress up. Yes, we do. We dress like animals: peacocks, roosters, cats. We dress like weapons: blades, pistols, and straps. Men dress up. Always have. Always will.

Something has been happening in men's fashion lately, an evolution that's taken place underneath just about everyone's noses. For the longest time it was assumed that men's fashion was about function over style, resulting in an array of boring, drab clothing. Read more »

Speed Reading

Ishmael Reed's pugnacious Mixing It Up
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MIXING IT UP: TAKING ON THE MEDIA BULLIES AND OTHER REFLECTIONS

By Ishmael Reed

Da Capo Press

320 pages

$15.95

Ishmael Reed is one of the most prolific writers, seers, and pundits of the 20th and 21st centuries. The author of nine novels, six books of poetry, six plays, and four books of political essays has been a constant presence and persistent thorn in the sides of various official experts. Read more »

Barry Jenkins

GOLDIES 2008 winner: Viewing the city -- and its displacements -- through the prism of a relationship
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Barry Jenkins' Medicine for Melancholy was one of the biggest successes of this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, but it almost didn't happen.

"We shot the movie fast and thought maybe we could pass it around to friends," Jenkins says. "I started cutting it and said to myself, 'This is really coming together. Fuck it, let's try to get it into the San Francisco International Film Festival.' I looked on the website and the deadline had already passed. Read more »

Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor

Personal milestones and musical magic at SF Jazz Festival Vanguard Series
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PREVIEW The 2008 San Francisco Jazz Festival's Vanguard Series is screaming. There, I said it. Both neophytes and adepts need to turn out this week for what will be personal milestones — those moments of "aha" and inspiration you'll want to crystallize in something stronger than words — starting with mystic saxophonist Archie Shepp at Herbst Theatre Thursday. Considered one of the inventors of avant-garde jazz, Shepp blended blues, spirituals, and free-form music into a sound that transcends classification. Read more »

Sweetest taboo

"Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship"
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PREVIEW The taboo has always had a special place in my heart. As a pre-adolescent, I was given a list of banned books from a rogue librarian and I hunted down and read every one of them. It may have seemed odd to find an 11-year-old black boy reading the likes of John Rechy's City of Night (Grove, 1963) and William Burroughs' Naked Lunch (Olympia/Grove, 1959), but these verboten tomes, along with the librarian's free beer and porn, served as an illicit gateway out of my little coal-mining town into the larger, lustier world. Read more »

Speed Reading

Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography Of James Baldwin
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BALDWIN'S HARLEM: A BIOGRAPHY OF JAMES BALDWIN

By Herb Boyd

Atria

272 pages

$24

Herb Boyd's Baldwin's Harlem is a successful primer on James Baldwin's work and a well-researched travelogue through the history of ever-changing Harlem. But it's also something more.

When Boyd, an accomplished journalist for the Amsterdam News in Harlem, was approached to write a biography of a native son and his native soil, it probably seemed like an apt placement. Read more »

Beyong the nerd herd

Ta-Nehisi Coates charts a Beautiful Struggle
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REVIEW Amid impoverished rural segregation, my parents were part of the first bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. While my father studied Frantz Fanon and tae kwan do in Okinawa, my mother went on to be a probation officer in Los Angeles during the Watts riots. I was born in a riot-torn Washington, DC, around the time my father helped take over the administration offices of Howard University. Read more »

Speed Reading

Fashion: A Philosophy tumbles on the runway
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FASHION: A PHILOSOPHY

By Lars Svendsen

Reaktion Books

188 pages

$24.95

As a once and future dandy, I've noted the growing field of fashion philosophy. In the realm of the academy, the idea of a unified theory of style has become something of a holy grail. Read more »