10 Questions For Freestyle of the Arsonists

Posted in Archives, Interviews, Music, NY/NJ, Print, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 5, 2017 by Lupa

(I have a lot of material at other blogs and sites.  Some of it is gone forever, some I just need to move over.  This is one of them.  I’m guessing this is from circa 2009.)

10 Questions for Freestyle of the Arsonists

“I love the smell of danger, hearin the word Arsonist ain’t hard to figure yet / Gotta stop smokin MCs, somebody pass me the Nicorette”

If what passes for hip hop nowadays is store bought milk, then the Arsonists are that straight out of the udder, unpasteurized, unhomogenized thick milk i.e. the real shit. It’s not made for strip clubs and it’s not made for the ladies, point blank it’s made for people in the struggle to color their lives.

The Arsonists formed in 1993 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which then was a prime example of urban blight; the streets were awash with drugs and gunplay was common. It is those conditions in which hip hop itself was born. No other type of environment could have breathed life into such a radical art form.

By the mid 90’s the Arsonists had gained local prominence with their single, “The Session.” This paved the way for their debut album, “As The World Burns” (Matador). It’s one of those albums that bumps all the way through in my opinion, just put the disc in and press play, one of those I have to clean the house discs and can’t be bothered to flip through tracks. Bottom line, if you want to listen to real hip hop, the essence type shit, the Arsonists’ music is as good as any place to start. Could they really call themselves the Arsonists if their shit wasn’t fire? Nuff said.

Recently I had the opportunity to ask Freestyle, a founding member of the Arsonists, some questions. Free has rocked the mic with the Arsonists and as a solo performer all over the globe with the likes of many hip hop heavyweights. He also is dedicated and appreciative of his fans, personally responding to every piece of fan mail he receives. He has a solo album due to drop this year.

Lupa: Can you compare and contrast hip hop from when you first started listening to it, to when the Arsonists were first putting out records, to today? What has changed and what has remained constant from your perspective?

Free: OK, that’s a 30 yr span broken into 3. It started out as an all about fun thing, in the streets and at parties, etc. Then when the Arsonists got to it, it was starting to expand worldwide and independent minded people got into it. Now there’s a big divide between commercial and underground, with underground not getting much light & respect at all. At the same time, it’s a lot easier for people to release stuff on their own, but its made things a bit over saturated. Now that anybody can release music, it doeskin take much skill or intelligence to put something out.

To me, probably the only thing that has remained consistent is the fact that hiphop will never die. Everything else has changed and is constantly changing.

Lupa: Do you think there will be a day that Bushwick will become gentrified to the extent other neighborhoods in Brooklyn have, like Williamsburg or Fort Greene?

Free: Of course, no question about that, its just a matter of time. Bushwick wasn’t always what it is now. It changed into what it is now and it’s changing again.

Lupa: What track would you choose to play for someone who has never heard the Arsonists music?

Free: It would be hard for me to play one track being that our songs all came from different angles. You can’t play one song from us that would completely show what we’re about, so I’d play the whole first album, AS THE WORLD BURNS. That would pretty much sum it up.

Lupa: What was it like when you guys signed with Matador? (Matador was and is known for its indie rock, but the Arsonists were the first hip hop group signed to the label.) Was there any apprehension or disagreement amongst the group for that decision instead of going with an established hip hop label?

Free: It was great being signed to Matador, I wish we still were. It was a perfect fit if you ask me. Matador is looked at as obscure and so were we. There were no disagreements or anything. It was all about who could put the music in the fans’ ears and hands.

Lupa: In my experience, music heads almost always have another creative outlet or art form they enjoy as much, if not more, than music. Is that the case for you?

Free: Yep. COMPUTERS! I’ve been into computers since I was a kid and that will never change. I love em both, but music comes first.

Lupa: What are some of your musical influences? What is the shit you bump today? In your opinion, who is the greatest MC and producer of all time?

Free: Soul singers, movies, and my mom. What I bump today? R&B, soul, alternative, and some reggae and Spanish music as well. Alicia Keys is one of my faves at the moment. Greatest MC of all time = Rakim. Producer = DJ Premier.

Lupa: What would someone who is very familiar with your music might be surprised to learn about you?

Free: That I’m so into computers and computer gaming. I do maintenance and fix computers. I’m big on the great outdoors & travel as well.

Lupa: Kennedy, Crown, what’s the difference or neither?

Free: haha! No difference!

Lupa: What’s the last movie you saw in the theaters and what did you think about it?

Free: Avatar, in 2D and 3D, English and French (although I had NO IDEA what they were saying). OFF THE HOOK!

Lupa: When does the new album drop and what are your thoughts on it?

Free: Not sure when, but it will be this year for sure. So far so good, I’m lovin it. I just hope the fans do too.

Many thanks to Freestyle for the interview and you can check out his music at the links below:

(*I updated the links which were non functional at the artist’s request)










You Can Or Can Not Call Me AL

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 5, 2017 by Lupa


The name AL is like white bread. Unassuming. Prosaic. Relatable. Comforting.

(Before I proceed I will explain that I write the name AL in caps because Al looks like the abbreviation of artificial intelligence every time I read it.)

I doubt there are any King AL’s anywhere. The name is simply too peasantlike. You can’t bow to that. It doesn’t command respect nor could it be taken seriously even contemplating it. It has an almost juvenile quality you have to roll your eyes at. “Sure AL you’ll be president one day, just don’t forget to pick up some milk on your way back from the mall.”

It is not concerned with triffling matters but is not interested in seriousness unless it is warranted. It is relentlessly and unabashedly without trepidation. No not confident or cocky which would hint at ego. Simply free from emotional and psychological hindrance.

The name likes to sleep in and take regular naps. AL is familiar with and enjoys vice but is not consumed with it. AL quit smoking but your second handhand smoke doesn’t bother or tempt him. AL got mustard on his shirt at lunch but since he’s not leaving home anyway he doesn’t bother changing it.

AL is that guy.

Because hardly anyone’s given name is AL and it is an abbreviation, most of the people with the moniker tend to have the attributes of the name because they have either decided to be called it or others christened them that.

Let’s take Albert Einstein. Do you think a random person that didn’t know him called him AL? Na, Einstein was of too much consequence to be an AL to the public. But I bet those closest to him called him AL. “Yo AL I’m really feeling the insight into the relationship of mass and energy you blessed us with.”

AL is noirish. He is the bartender at the dive bar that gets all the troublemakers but no one ever tests him. Not because he’s big or menacing.  Because he’s AL.

AL’s tend to be funny, cool, badass, authentic or a combo of all three.There’s a correlation with easy goingness associated with the name.

AL In Due Time

Nominative determinism is the idea that your name affects your life because you will gravitate to things similar to it.Like how the owner of Tito’s Vodka is named Tito Beveridge. Or there’s a urologist named Dr Dick Chopp.

So who knows if people named AL become such because they are such or they became that way.

Let’s take AL Bundy. Maybe if AL’s name was Robert he wouldn’t be selling shoes. Maybe he’d be a boss of some kind. But AL certainly did become the previously stated funny, cool, badass and authentic.

Pacino, Capone, Lewis, Davis, Green, Sharpton, Cowlings, Borland

They don’t have much in common. But all those AL’s are approachable. They aren’t distant. They are people people.People if you stopped them in the street respectfully you wouldn’t expect a problem from. They are just AL’s.

AL ALong The ALiteration

To top it off AL means “to the” or “at the” or “of the” or “in the style of” in Spanish. So if your name is say AL Swift in Spanish that could be interpreted as in the style of Swift (e.g. tacos AL pastor). Big time bonus for AL’s.

But wait there’s more.  In Arabic AL means “the” (e.g. AL-Qaeda or The Base). So if your name is AL Rios in Arabic it would mean THE Rios.

So then let’s take Pacino. Spanish and Arabic speakers basically know him as THE PACINO.  THE as in the one you should know. The Pacino not A Pacino.

Final Thought

I guess for matters of clarity I should note that many people call me AL.  But I think this a very fine and cogent exposition in any event.  This might be esoteric AL stuff right here I will admit. All my AL’s will get it.  If you don’t your name is Steve or Bill.

Actual Texts I’ve Received

Posted in Actual Texts I've Received, Uncategorized with tags on February 2, 2017 by Lupa


“Ok Alex. Haven’t had my coffee yet. Not In the mood to deal with your narcissism yet. As a matter of fact we should set a rule to not send any messages before 11:am unless its money related.”



Should Psychologists Diagnose President Trump?

Posted in Not By Me, Op/Ed, Print with tags , , , on February 2, 2017 by Lupa


Mark Saligan commenting on a Psychology Today article:

Yes. The so-called “Goldwater Rule” does not apply if and when an individual is as clearly disturbed as this man is. I hear people saying that Mr. Trump suffers from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), Malignant type. While that may indeed be true as he does meet DSM-V criteria, I believe that writers are failing to factor in the differential diagnosis of Dementia. Given his family history (his father died of Alzheimer’s), his predilection for conspiratorial thinking, and his odd speech patterns/digressions I don’t think that one can rule Dementia entirely out. One final thought on the “Goldwater” issue. One did not need to have personally interviewed Hitler, or Manson, or Bundy to render a diagnoses. While I am not directly comparing Mr. Trump to these men in terms of diagnosis I DO think that just as it is foolish to hand car keys to someone who is obviously ‘impaired’ , it is reckless for professionals to ignore the fact that Mr. Trump continues to evidence behavior that at least on the surface seems indicative of some form of mental illness. * In the interest of full disclosure, I hold two advanced degrees in the mental health field and have nearly 20 years clinical experience in the treatment of mental illness.

One final thought here. All mental health professionals are mandated reporters which means they are required by law to report whenever they believe a person poses a significant threat to himself or others. It’s their professional obligation to do so. A person does NOT need to give their consent and they have no right to confidentiality if they are deemed to be a threat. I read these arguments that you shouldn’t diagnose someone if you don’t talk to them or if they don’t give consent – that is ridiculous. Forensic psychologists create personality profiles of criminals all the time. Teachers form opinions based on classroom observation and while those opinions are subjective, they are no less valid than that of a school psychologist who may spend a mere 50 – 90 minutes evaluating a student. Clinicians are professionally obligated to speak out . Period. It is indeed interesting that the same people who argue that we shouldn’t diagnose a public figure are the same people who believe it’s perfectly alright to profile someone at the airport or at the border based on their religion, the color of their skin or their national origin.


Is Gee Money (New Jack City) the worst right hand man of all time?

Posted in Not By Me, Op/Ed with tags , , , on February 2, 2017 by Lupa


Some compelling commentary by NovaKane:

I was watchin’ this joint last week after not seein’ it for years and realized just how useless this dude was to the CMB. I’m goin’ off top, so if I missed anything, feel free to add to the list.

– Started low key slingin’ crack before puttin’ Nino on which I thought was suspect. Nino gave him a pass and saw the bigger picture though. I guess that contribution is debatable :leostare:

– How you braggin’ about gettin’ your jimmy waxed for a week straight several times a day, then you start spazzin’ when some stripper you just met is feelin’ ya mans more than you? Son was talkin’ about to gettin’ to know her and shyt. Somethin’ doesn’t add up here :what:

– Not only that, but the muhfukka had a mental meltdown and started gettin’ high off his own supply after Nino sonned him in front of the whole crew. The Carter situation goin’ to shyt was his fault in the first place. He’s lucky he didn’t get gunned up and clapped quick :damn:

I’m startin’ to think Nas was talkin’ about Gee Money in Dr. Knockboot.

:wtf: are you doin’ promotin’ an ex-crackhead, puttin’ him around the shyt that got him fukked up in the first place? Then gonna let him bag up fully clothed. At least put him in there rockin’ only boxers. That fugazi belt buckle Pookie had on looked mad suspect :deadrose:

– If Gee had cut all ties with the Italians like Nino did, he wouldn’t have got swerved on by them when Ice T came through undercover as the new connect.

– Then he makes shyt worse by tryna cut a side deal with the new connect, so you know it’s a wrap when Nino finds out :snoop:

– Why didn’t Gee Money hem up the old dude in the bar that pulled out on Nino? Instead, Ice T was the one to do it with the quickness.

No loyalty, no heart, no leadership skills and didn’t know how to play his position. What a fukkin’ waste :pacspit:

What Percentage Of People Sitting In Idling Cars Are Up To No Good?

Posted in Poll Position, Polls on January 18, 2017 by Lupa


How Phone Customer Service Works

Posted in Customer Service, Print with tags , , on January 14, 2017 by Lupa
Closeup of a beautiful business customer service woman smiling

What they want you to think the call center is like.  Note the smiles and color scheme.

I spent a few years working as a customer service representative (CSR) in the financial services industry, spending a brief period of time as a quality assurance supervisor.  In my role in quality assurance I would evaluate about 30 calls a day, grade them and provide coaching sessions.  Eventually I worked in FOREX handling inquiries on trades that averaged 2 million dollars.  If you think someone is upset when they call the cable company because Pay Per View doesn’t work, imagine someone who isn’t sure if they executed a two million dollar deal and at what price.

There are some differences in how customer service is approached depending on the industry, product and client however one thing remains constant: the customer wants you to do something and often times it’s because something went wrong or was perceived that way.

To the company employing CSR’s one thing is valued over everything else: how many customers can a rep help in a day at the standard they set.  Time is money.  If a CSR is excellent in handling calls they have more leeway in the number of calls they can take.  Conversely if a rep is merely mediocre quality wise but averages a high call volume they will get a pass.

The best CSRs however can handle many calls, provide high quality support and never need to escalate a matter to supervisor.  Very few, and its usually those with a lot of experience, are able to reach the heights of CSR ability.

To be able to crank out a high call volume a rep needs to be able to dictate the pace of the call while remaining polite and performing research efficiently.  A CSR that has through knowledge of protocol and company information spends less time researching that for a customer.

A CSR must be able to identify when time is being wasted and nip it in the bud.  This can be because the customer is spending a lot of time on chit chat or unrelated matters.  Many people who call in like to talk the reps for whatever reason about anything.  Sometimes they are just lonely.  It’s common for customers to ask where you are and what the weather is like there.  A great CSR will be able to interject without interrupting and bring the call back on track without the customer feeling brushed off.

Another time waster is encouraging a customer’s belligerence whether voluntarily or involuntarily.  Most who call in do so because they have a problem and the fact they can’t see you naturally encourages their belligerence, as we see on the internet. Not only that but if the gripe is legitimate in their eyes the CSR is an extension of the company and is partially to blame.  A great rep mitigates belligerence by sounding alert, legitimately compassionate, knowledgeable and confident. There is never a need for a CSR to lay blame on a customer or challenge them when they get heated.  No one likes a smart ass.

Often a customer is bringing with them the poor experience they received from someone else so not only is something wrong for them as a customer they are already irritated by someone who did not provide the adequate customer service previously.  A CSR should never be engaging in argument with the customer or provoking them in any way.  This can be a challenge for many as some customers can be nasty, nasty people.

A customer will react to the person they are speaking to.  If you sound disinterested, it will bother them.  If you sound like someone is forcing you to do your job and you’d rather be anywhere else, it will show.  Likewise if you sound fake, this can annoy people.  If you sound unsure they will want to get confirmation from a supervisor.  All these things potentially waste time.

There really is no way to teach professionalism.  A CSR has to be able to never, ever take what a customer says personally.  They also have to take their work seriously.  While some people do get fulfillment out of CSR work, most would rather be doing something, often times anything else.  The customer has to always get the impression you are satisfied with your work.  They want to think they have a high paid, competent, happy individual servicing them.

All employers have protocol they want CSRs to perform, however the best CSRs can hit all these notes without sounding forced or canned.  This is key.

When a customer calls in and states the reason for a call the CSR in their response should succinctly summarize the reason and convey empathy.  If the customer’s payment was deducted in their records but not reflected on their account a CSR must apologize for the mistake and state what they will do to remedy the situation.  For example:

CSR: Thank you for calling xxxx my name is Lupa how can I assist you?

Caller:  Yeah you keep sending me bills for January but I paid it two weeks ago.  I called in last week and someone said they would fix it but never did.

CSR: I apologize for the inconvenience, that must be frustrating.  Allow me to see why your payment is not reflected on your account.  How was the payment made?

With this the CSR shows they take the caller’s matter seriously and can relate to it, creating rapport.  By stating in different words the caller’s concern they show their grasp of what the person is calling about and thereby give the impression they will be able to resolve the issue.

Always act like the customer is correct or did what they say even if you know they aren’t and they didn’t.

Caller: I used my debit card.

CSR: OK. May I place you on a brief hold while I look into this?

A CSR needs to always ask the customer if they can place them on hold if they need to research something or get assistance.  Never tell them you will put them on hold, ask them.  This makes the customer feel catered to.  If they know you are considerate they will believe you to be competent.  Depending on how long they will be on hold the CSR should periodically come back on the line to inform the customer they are still researching the issue and need more time.

As important as what is being said is how it is said. The best CSRs will have an irate customer apologizing by the end of the call because they killed them with kindness.  However if the sentiment is fake it is better to minimize how much of it you are conveying.  Likewise empathy is nothing without competence.  No one wants to hear I’m sorry and not get the problem solved.  Also when some people get a little sympathy they’ll lay the whole trip on you.  First was a billing error, next they are telling you how their mom died last week.

CSR: Sorry for the delay I am still researching this issue.  Can I continue to place you on hold?

Caller: Sure

CSR:  Thank you for holding.  I can verify payment has not been received on our end and we have not received any payment from you.  Have you confirmed through your bank they debited the money from you?

Caller:  No, but I remember paying it.

CSR:  If that is the case it could be an issue with your bank and you should see if they deducted the money from your account.  Usually in this situation it turns out to be an issue with the bank.  If you would like I can take your payment now over the phone and provide you a confirmation code for future reference in case this issue arises again.

Caller:  What if I get billed twice?

CSR:  In that event we would credit your account, however if your payment has not been acknowledged through our system after two weeks it will most likely not.  I have never seen that occur.  It is either a bank issue or a glitch in processing but I can assure you we have not received the payment.

Caller:  Ok let me check with my bank first.

CSR:  No problem.  You can always make a payment online or through our automated phone system.  Have I addressed all your concerns?

Caller:  Yes I believe so.

CSR:  If you continue to experience this issue please contact us.  Thank you for calling, have a good day.

The skilled CSR will always make sure the customer leaves the call with all of their concerns met and asking if they have any other inquiries is more important than it seems.  For their benefit they get to think if there is anything else they need and avoid calling again, which is exactly what the company wants.

Some CSRs are just naturally gifted.  I have seen people breeze through irate callers while reading the newspaper, completely unfazed.  Often times these CSRs also have a pleasant voice, which can really help in manipulating customers when they are irate or having them accept information they are skeptical of.

Getting What you Want From CSRs

When I call customer service I always get what I want and it isn’t by accident.

For one if you have a legitimate issue and you are irate about it you are more likely to have people go above and beyond however you must remain tactfully irate.  Once a person curses at the CSR the game is over and the customer loses.  No CSR is instructed to take abuse.

The idea is by expressing anger you are communicating you will be willing to take your business elsewhere as well as tell others about your negative experience.

I never need to become irate though I simply explain my previous work and the understanding irate customers can get increased support and say I would rather not get upset.

Another thing is if you are calling for someone else, say your wife, all you have to do is tell them your name is your wife’s.  The CSR is not a detective, not to mention there are males with typically female names and vice versa.  From their end they are covered.  They will never question why your voice sounds like Barry White but your name is Jenny.

If you can avoid it, do not call on a Monday.  Everyone calls on a Monday.  But don’t call at the end of the day on Friday either because people are trying to leave.

Just remember, besides the fact you are speaking to a human being they often have sensitive information about you.  Have some decency.  If that doesn’t motivate you remember your call is most likely being recorded and there is a good chance someone will hear what a jackass you were.


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