Monthly Archives: August 2009

Stephen Chukumba says: “Take It Easy, Mon”

By my own admission, I’m an aggressive driver. When I’m behind the wheel, drive correct or stay the f*ck out of my way. It’s really just that simple.

Now I don’t have road rage. I’m not gonna chase you down with my Jeep and run you off the road or anything like that. Whatever anger I may feel towards sh*tty drivers is fleeting and short-lived. It’s usually restrained to a cuss word (or two) and I’m over it.

If you are in the fast lane, and won’t cede the way so that I can pass your slow stupid a*s, then I may cuss you out until I’ve managed to get by you. I might even throw you an ill hatred-filled stare when I can finally pass you, but it goes no further than that.

There is nothing I hate more than folks who don’t know how to share the road with other vehicles. So you can imagine my chagrin when I encountered this old school sky blue Toyota pickup heading in the opposite direction on a two-way street today, and the guy was driving in the center of the road.

Granted, there were cars parked on both sides of the road, but there was still ample space for us to pass each other, unimpeded by parked cars or any other obstruction.

But rather than move over to his side of the road, and let me pass on mine, dude drove the whole way in the center of the road, only moving to his right, when he had cleared the last parked car on his side. And I was pissed at having had to wait for his slow drivin’-miss-daisy-in-a-sky-blue-jalopy ass.

I guess dude could sense my frustration because as we passed each other, the driver in a thick Jamaican accent said (rather casually), ‘Take it easy, mon.’

And you know what? It was really sage advice. I definitely take myself (and my Mario Andretti-like driver persona) waaaaayyyy too seriously. Where am I really going? (At the time, home. So what was the rush?)

I had to laugh (at myself) because I was ready to let a torrent of cussing flow when I got up to dude’s car for being such a sh*tty driver and not properly navigating a two-way street. But dude’s simple words were so disarming, that I was forced to check myself.

It was a momentary lapse. All other (non-Jamaican) drivers, beware.

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Stephen Chukumba says: “Jump N’ Funk”

I’m blogging about the Jump N Funk party, which was celebrating it’s 8th anniversary, cause I just got home (about an hour ago), and I’m still buzzing.

8th Anniversary flyer

8th Anniversary flyer

I should have come home and gone to bed to prepare for tomorrow (or today, rather), but it was Jump N Funk, and I was already in the city for a whirlwind round of meetings (the last few days – LOVING IT!)

And I’m glad I went!

The party was at Le Poisson Rouge, @ 158 Bleeker, and the joint was popping! If you’ve never been, LPR is a great space. Designed and optimized by true audiophiles, LPR has arguably the best sound system you’ll find in NY.  Full disclosure: I may be a bit biased because it was designed by my peoples, but the acoustics are banging!

The minute I walked in I saw Rich Medina, our DJ & host, and gave him a pound. From there I made my way straight to the dance floor, to shake my groove thang, cause he was spinning Lady by Fela and I LOVE me some Fela – okaayyyy?

After working up a sufficient sweat, and seeing that Rich’s turntable game was as tight as ever, I spied my frat brother (and fellow digital conspirator) Mark Hines up in the control booth, manning the visuals.

The plan was to give him a pound and head home.

But when I got up there, this is what he was doing*:

Is this picture with my 2G iPhone too grainy? Where's the flash Apple?

Is this picture with my 2G iPhone too grainy? Where's the flash Apple?

Mark in profile getting bizzizy

Mark in profile getting bizzizy

View overlooking the crowd. Check the screen (if you can see it). Umm Apple?

View overlooking the crowd. Check the screen (if you can see it). Umm Apple?

*I promise that the next time, I won’t use stills to illustrate a dynamic point.

and I stayed a little longer that I should have. But damn, I was transfixed. Have you ever seen someone mixing video? That sh*t is ILLLLLLL!

Needless to say, Rich and Mark did their thing, I got my dance on and now I’m up blogging! (Can you believe this guy?)

If you get a chance to go to a Jump N Funk party in the future, I highly recommend it.  I’ll definitely keep you posted on the next one.

Little side note to Dan: If my game is a little off tomorrow, this is why.

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Stephen Chukumba says: “The Art of the Entrepreneur”

For those who know me, I’ve been a lawyer in private practice (Chukumba & Cook, LLC), IP specialist (Musa Consulting), partner & general counsel for a digital promotions company (Digiwaxx), head of business and legal affairs for a production company (Marksmen Productions), partner and director of business development for a web and application start up (DOT.TUNES), business development manager for a mobile aggregator (MX Telecom) and I’ve counseled numerous companies in the capacity of an independent business consultant (Red Hot, Sony, Wu-Tang, etc.).

I’ve also started a number of different ventures, USA Records, Source International, C&C Consulting, and most recently, Shadow Propaganda.

I’ve had one job in the past twelve years (MX Telecom). When I interviewed for that job, I was asked ‘I can see that you’ve done a lot of entrepreneurial things in the past. How do I know you’re going to stay here, and not leave to pursue the next big thing?’ At the time, my response was that mobile was where I really wanted to be, and I saw a lot of growth in the space. I wanted to be a part of that growth.

But a little over a year later, I find myself, once again, engaged in a new entrepreneurial venture, FonLabs, and have fully come to terms with the fact that I’m not an employee.

To put it plainly, I’m a chronic entrepreneur.

I’ve met many entrepreneurs in my day, masquerading as employees. We’re fairly easy to spot (if you ask me). While they may be on their 9 to 5 grind, their minds are constantly engaged in contemplating grandiose plans, that are simply incongruous with their jobs. They are trapped between the security of a steady paycheck and the lure of true wealth that can only be achieved by working for self.

Being an entrepreneur has its obvious risks. There is no steady paycheck. You’ve got to earn to eat. What’s more, if you’re not constantly hustling, the burden of your expenses can quickly break you.

But the risks pale in comparison to the upside. Your time is your own. There is no one over your shoulder, critiquing your performance or micro-managing your every move. No office politics. Unlimited earning potential. I could go on and on, but in a word, being an entrepreneur is freedom.

Many of the businesses I’ve started never hit the 5 year mark (the benchmark of a successful business). A few did. Some of my businesses generated over six figures annually. Others stayed in the red.

The sign of a successful entrepreneur, however, is not home many times you failed or succeeded, but rather, whether you were able to achieve success after failure. Did you throw in the towel? Or did you get up, bloody and battered, but unbroken and ready for another round?

I am an entrepreneur, and I think I may have finally found the brass ring. Whether FonLabs, is, indeed, that ring, remains to be seen. But I can tell you definitively, I’ve got a great team of like-minded partners, all hungry and ready to take the world by storm. We’ve got a tight plan, a fantastic product, excellent relationships and the indomitable spirit, that is the signature of any true entrepreneur.

For those of you suffering at a dead-end job, or merely tired of the day-to-day of working for a paycheck, come up with an exit strategy. Focus on your strengths and what truly inspires you. Stack away some chips. Put a little aside each payday and plan for the day that you can liberate yourself and do you.

That’s the art of the entrepreneur – doing you – against all odds.

Here’s a ‘BIG UP!’ to all my fellow entrepreneurs. Holla at your boy if you ever need any advice, or merely words of inspiration. I’ve given counsel to hundreds of people in my day, and I’d be happy to offer you whatever sage advice I can.

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Stephen Chukumba says: “Kudos to Hotel Rivington. Last night was a blast!”

I had a blast party hopping last night at a rooftop soiree in the Hotel Rivington.

Well I wasn’t really ‘party hopping’ in the traditional sense, but rather hopping from people cluster to cluster within one party.

It was a chore I had to do with my girl Flora Vaysanova, of FonLabs, who told me it was some ‘interactive’ function. ‘Chore’ because the last ‘interactive’ function she invited me to was straight Snorelax. But I’m down with the FonLabs clique (Sup D. Holla atcha boy), so I generally accept Flora’s invites (and she’s got the company card-can you say ‘expense it’).

When she told me I had to ‘dress nicely’, and not repeat the ‘100% Negro’ t-shirt incident, from our last outing, I was legitimately frightened about the night that lay ahead and the square set I was sure to run into (again). How long would I have to endure the ‘so what do you do’ query or offered response?

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to run up on the fly ensemble on the Rivington rooftop.

As soon as I hit the door, I spotted my girl Flora. I weaved effortlessly through the well appointed guests to her, and was promptly introduced to the two folks she was speaking to at the time. I’ve forgotten both of their names but they were with a cool company. The one led with ‘so what do you do?’ and a chill ran down my spine. I quickly extricated myself. If our paths are meant to cross again, they will. But for now. I’m out!

Disclaimer: I write this freshly home from this shindig, so it may be VERY stream of consciousness. Don’t hold it against me, but let me know what you think, when I’m done.

I resume.

From Flora I ran into Paula Moss (formerly of LA currently of NJ) and Judith Davis (formerly of Hearst, currently with Conde Nast), two fine sistahs perched by the hotel’s rooftop hot tub. I had my Red Bull on ice  and we chuckled about Commodore 64 word processors and Paula’s niece and nephew’s wonderment at seeing a corded push-button telephone.

Judith challenged me to tell her what the acronym WWD stood for (Women With Digital?). She was an (the?) editor for WWD and I stumbled around in my mind searching for the answer to her query, until she finally relented and told me ‘Women’s Wear Daily.’ Flora, who had joined us, knew this, of course.

I told her it was a fluke and I was going to poll everyone at the party to see if I was in good company with my ignorance. What do I know? I am man! Although I never guessed the actual name of the publication, Judith was, nonetheless, impressed with my ability to make an apparel connection and figure out the ‘Woman’ part without assistance. Thank you very much.

Flora whisked me away from the quizzing duo to meet Carlos and Jessica.  Carlos, a sculptor who counts the BET award trophy as one of his designs, elocuted on on the properties of mescaline and acid. Jessica, who provided therapeutic mental relief for stressed executives, delved into the metaphysical depth of yogis. I asked if they had read Carlos Castanada (to let ’em know I got down with the astral projection), before I was introduced to Luis for the first time (Ahem, pay attention).

After allowing me to dabble with Carlos and Jessica, I was introduced to Zach, who is on the verge of launching an online original song creation tool and social media portal. I can’t remember the name of his service (neither of us had cards to exchange), but Zach gave me the elevator pitch. Essentially, with a simple online interface, users can browse lyrics and beats submitted by aspiring and established artists and producers. Select one artist’s hot lyrics, combine it with another producer’s sick beat and BANG! You’ve created your own song.

The site would allow users to shoot the song to their friends, who could, in turn, share it with their friends (and so on, and so on, and so on…) If the song gets love and goes viral, folks cop it, and the revenue generated is split between the parties. Monetizing UGC…I love it. Plus, the service gives artists and producers a way to flip their shit! Hotness.

Oh, you’ve got beats in the can? Park ’em here and let’s make you some money!

Oh, you think you can spit? Prove it! How many people copped your verbs?

Digression. Sorry

Zach introduced me to Mike, a partner in the venture. We spit about the law, contracts and developers. And then to Luis. That’s twice. We talked application developers and sponsored research with top tech graduate programs, MIT, Carnegie Mellon.

From there, Flora redirected my attention to Jesse (short for Jessica, that’s two) her (Jesse’s) cousin’s wife (who’s name I can’t remember) and Vanessa. This trio was abuzz about how ‘chics be hatin’ on each other. (Of course) I joined in the merriment, offering ‘She think she all cute, don’t she?  She ain’t hardly all that!’ (in my best La’teesha) to which (fuel having been added to the fire) the buzzing began anew.

Jesse broke down the ‘hair weave’ hater…’That’s probably not even her real hair. Umm hmm, I can see the tracks. THAT’S a weave!) Fred’s wife dropped the ‘not-a-real-blonde’ hater…’You can tell she’s not a real blonde, look at her roots. She needs to touch that ratty shit up!’ Vanessa searched for answers..’What’s that even about?’ What is that about indeed, Vanessa. Indeed.

Now since they were all cute (honey, ignore this part), I heard the voice of victims (and not vain assailants), so it was hilarious to listen to them share their genuinely offered perspectives. We talked candidly about the fact that dudes just don’t deal with each other on that level (unless they’re bitch asses) and how annoying it must be. We commiserated on the (sometimes) wack dynamic of female on female interactions.

Before I could complete my thought, Flora grabbed me once again, to introduce the Dominican massive. Literally, it was a massive Dominican posse. They were at least seven deep, and had taken over one whole corner of the roof. If you include Luis (who I was again introduced to in this DM-sweep), Fred Tom (cousin to Jesse, married to the cute chic who’s name I can’t remember), Zach and Michael, they were almost a dozen strong. Throw in the chics with them, there were 14.

I hit ’em all up. I was introduced to and gave pounds all around, but all I’ve got right now is Buddha (not ‘Booty,’ as I called him initially…no-homo!) and Mike…It’s a wrap for my memory right now- gotta work on that.

And they came to party.

Bob Marley dude.

Again, I digress.

Fred Tom (I fucks wit’ Fred Tom – if ya wit’ me stand up!) and I, joked about being the father of girls, and what that REALLY means to be a dad (all my NRA card carriers throw ’em up! Lic’ a shot!) Dude had me dying. I was laughing so hard, it felt like I had been to the gym, busting it out with my trainer. I’m saying, my abs were burning B.

When I recovered sufficiently, we shot the breeze about the mobile industry and the digital space in general. We ended up figuring out that we might could do a lil’ bid’ness, and I was once again, introduced to Luis (that’s 4, if you’re counting), who said he would shoot an NDA over.

Luis (who I now felt like I knew intimately since virtually everyone here introduced me to him – did I say he happened to be the host?) had me doubled over recounting the story of the fly Asian chic. Apparently at his last function, there was this modelesque Asian girl who rudely barged through Luis and his set (without even an ‘excuse me’) only to walk her fly ass smack into a clear glass wall (she mistook as the route to egress). She completely fell out (she hit the wall full stride) and rolled around on the ground in pain, and (I’m sure) sheer embarrassment.

The next thing you knew, there were 15-20 pointing onlookers (as opposed to the original 8 she had insulted with her lack of home training), who were all now hooting and hollering loudly at her sorry state of affairs. Cries of ‘That’s what you get with your rude ass!’ and ‘Oh Shit! Did you see that?!’ To make matters worse, there were allegedly all kinds of ballers and industry cats in the cut.

Hello Insult. I’d like to introduce you to injury. I think you make a lovely pair.

My stomach hurt. My ribs hurt. My jaw hurt. Clearly fucking with these cats was hazardous to my health. By 10:42 (got there at 8, nice little run), I though it appropriate for me to bid all a fond farewell, and hit the bricks back to Jersey.

On the way home  at the PATH station at WTC (parked the Jeep in Hoboken), I ran into Kelvi. Now Kelvi’s a kid I’d been mentoring through my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, since he was in seventh grade, while I was at RU. I’ve been running into casually since I left New Brunswick and we spent the time waiting for the train caughting up. We were so engrossed in conversation, that he followed me back to Hoboken, and I dropped him off in his little gated community (2 stops off the GSP from me).

Kel was the reason I’m getting home at 1:45. If I hadn’t bumped into him, I’da been home by 11:30, easy. But it was well worth it. For 33 (to my 39), the kid had some good sound perspectives on life and we vowed to up the pace of our interaction and dialogues.

Since I’d promised Judith that I would blog about this night (and there’s no time like the present), this post is probably populating your email at 3:52 a.m.

Now I’m off to bed (my homage to those passionate FBers who religiously sign off with that lil’ ditty).

Was I babbling incoherently?

I’ve given only the most cursory review of this post, so feel free to drop me a note and let me know whether this stream-of-consciousness blogging is any good.

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Don’t You Know You Should Always Listen to the Police

He should have been arrest for acting like a damn fool.

He should have been arrested for acting like a damn fool.

As a Black man, you instinctively know that if the cops roll up on you, be cool. We know that there is already a very large target on our backs. Our wallets, combs, cell phones and hands are regularly mistaken as guns, knives or some other deadly weapon, and cops don’t even need a reason to unload 44 shots into our asses, stun or otherwise pummel us.

With that intimate understanding of our uneasy relationship with the dudes in blue, I’m perplexed as to why Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an educated man, chose to do other than comply with the officer’s (reasonable) request to provide proof that the residence, to which he was observed attempting to gain entry (and perceived as a burglar) was his.

When I was in law school, I sublet an apartment in Jersey City from a classmate.  Apparently, his neighbor, who wasn’t privy to our little arrangement, saw me entering the apartment and promptly called the cops.  As I was moving in at the time the fuzz was called, the door was slightly cracked, and I saw three officer coming slowly up the stairs towards the door, guns drawn.

Being the curious fellow I am, I opened the door and asked them if there was a problem.  I was told that a break-in had been reported, and asked to produce identification, which I did promptly.  They then asked me why I was in the apartment (this is my sublet), if I could prove it (here is my lease) and ultimately apologized for the inconvenience they had caused.

I thanked them and told them I understood why they took the steps the did. I mean, I’d call the cops if someone I didn’t recognize was rummaging through my neighbor’s house. Wouldn’t you?

I did not overreact. I did not get hostile. I did not scream at the officers, and I was not arrested.

WTF was HLG thinking? Let’s look at the facts:

1. HLG is a black man.

2. A white woman observed 2 black men (that she didn’t recognize) allegedly trying to forcibly enter a residence.

3. Said white woman called the cops, who responded to a call about an attempted BNE.

4. When the police arrived, HLG lost his f*cking mind and got his ass arrested.

I hold two people responsible for the incarceration of Mr. Gates: (1) the white woman who obviously doesn’t know who her neighbors are; and (2) Henry Louis Gates, who thoroughly overreacted to the situation.

Hank could have made this go away if he had observed this one simple rule: always listen to the police or (if he hadn’t let his Ivy league privilege go to his head and forgotten he was still black) don’t mess with the po-po.

I’ve said my piece.

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