Monday, April 30, 2007

You're Grounded!

Blame Imus for the heightened passions flowing after our final DT event: a film screening and panel discussion at University of Chicago, part of a 2-day symposium that asked, "Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?" The Natalies were sitting on a panel of academics when an older black gentleman stood up in the audience, his tan tailored suit suggesting his marched-with-King Civil Rights bonafides. The man proceeded to trash, then dismiss hip-hop with a wave of his hand. Then he stormed off.
*Deep sigh*
Let's be clear: our pre-Imus book contains many, many rants against the misogyny rampant in some kinds of commercial rap--at times subtle, other times expletive-filled. But with all due respect, The Natalies could not sit quietly as our elders condemned the entire culture and generation that we call hip-hop without taking the time to learn anything about it. So Nat. M tried to shed some light:
"You know, I'm really tired of hearing from these Civil Rights Generation folks, who are really smug..."
Yes, as our fellow panelist Mark Anthony Neal remarked later--Nat M. went there.
As the event winded down, a 60-year-old black woman made a beeline down the auditorium steps toward Nat. M, interrupting her conversation with another jaded CRM audience member. "You were out of line!" the woman scolded Nat.
She might as well have sent her outside to fetch a switch off the tree.
Somehow, some people seem to have the mistaken impression that those of us in the Hip-Hop Generation are still children. Um, The Natalies are 30 YEARS OLD! One of us even got kids! We are too damn old to be grounded.
Ironic because the overwhelmingly positive response to the book from our parents' generation has been the most surprising and heartening development we've seen on the book tour. We will take the fact that this little fisticuff happened on our final out of town event as progress.

Turns out we actually are grounded--kinda. We've had a blast touring these past several months, jetting from coast to coast to promote Tyrone. It's been grand, but it is time for us say goodbye. In the words of Megan: 'Well, Mr. Berger - I guess this is it...'

This Spring we both will be starting new gigs--Natalie M. has accepted a position covering Chicago's South Side for Chicago Public Radio. Natalie H. has taken a position as an assignment editor in the Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section.
So...all those snotty jabs you heard us make against mainstream media? How we said there was no one media C-O-N-spiracy because we've worked in MSM and they are not that organized? That stereotypes don't die because they have always worked and media types are too lazy to figure out something new? How the MSM are "not evil," but have "evil-like qualities"?
Just kidding! We will be putting hot sauce on our crow.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gender & Hip-Hop at U of Chicago

CLICK the image for more details...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The B-word

This photo was taken before a DT event at Illinois Service Federal, one of the oldest black banks in Chicago. In this shot, Nat M. is assuring Ty Andrews, the bank's incredulous assistant V.P. that it is totally OK if he reads the word "bitch"-- out loud-- while he introduced us. Caution is always advised when dealing with that word, but in this case, Bitch is a magazine that has published Nat M.'s work. We always get a kick out of watching people squirm when reading that part of her bio.

Maven, Nat. H's 3-year-old (and Nat. M's goddaughter) came along for this leg of the DT tour in Chicago. She was in good spirits at the bank Friday night--despite dealing with three cancelled flights in one week (#%^$@!@! airlines!). She took her job of handing us the books to sign very seriously. But Maven wasn't feeling well at the next day's DT lecture at Englewood library for the Public Square, part of the Illinois Humanities Council's "Know More" series. She curled up in mommy's lap and slept throughout the lecture and Q&A that followed.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Madame Walker Theatre Center

On March 10, we were the featured authors for the Madame Walker Theatre Center's spring literary series in Indianapolis. It was a homecoming of sorts: Natalie H's mom Serena was the business manager at the historic theater in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She signed the Hopkinson girls up for creative writing, drama and dance in the center's Youth In Arts program. Pictured here are our Indianapolis Fam: Back, from Left to Right: We have Bruce L. Williams, V.P. of the Walker, Serena Hopkinson, Rev. Moja Ajabu (Debo's dad), Kelli & Diana Daniels, Angie & Ann Brown. Front row: Shannon from the Indianapolis Recorder, which co-sponsored the event, and The Natalies. Thanks everyone who came out and Mr. and Mrs. Daniels for the hospitality!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Live From West Palm Beach

Nat. H has NOT defected to the broadcast side of the news business; She is just giving an interview with a local station that filmed a reception and booksigning at her family's home in West Palm Beach, FL. Many city officials stopped by to wish The Natalies well and also see the the progress of the restoration of the house built in 1926 by a Renaissance-Era Tyrone: James Jerome "Cracker" Johnson, a a black man, who made his fortune in real estate and as a bootlegger/numbers runner. Historians say he loaned (bribed?) the city of West Palm Beach $50,000 to balance the budget during the Depression. West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel stopped by, bought a book and delivered some really kind remarks about Deconstructing Tyrone and the family's restoration efforts. Thanks to the Palm Beach Post, especially C.B. Hanif for coming out to Pyramids Bookstore the editor/historian Jan Tuckwood for stopping by the house and publishing this review. Thanks so much to Nat. H's mom Serena Hopkinson for hosting and organizing!
Update: Click HERE to read the article in the Palm Beach Post about the restoration project.

Friday, February 02, 2007

United States of Hip-Hop

Did we dream it?
Jump off yet another plane, open up the Sunday paper, skip to the Washington Post Book World section and here is this cover illustration for the Jan. 28 issue headlined "The United States of Hip-Hop." Inside are reviews three hip-hop related books, including Deconstructing Tyrone and To the Break of Dawn, a new book on hip-hop by our new BFF William Jelani Cobb. Must be a dream, since we just got back home from kicking it in Atlanta. Also: when Jelani agreed to blurb our book back in Feb. 2006, he jokingly predicted that our books might end up getting grouped together for reviews.
Was NOT a dream, which means that he must be clairvoyant, too...The layout in the print edition of Book World inside had pics of a fedora-and-blinged out Kwame Kilpatrick and other hip-hop generation folk. You can check out the dreamy-but-real review to our book HERE.
Later that week, the Natalies appeared on a panel discussion about black masculinity in hip-hop on Thursday (2/1) at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery which followed an advance screening of "Beyond Beats and Rhymes," Byron Hurt's fantastic documentary which will have its PBS premier on Feb. 20. Michael Eric Dyson was supposed to appear on the panel with us and Byron but he had a last-minute scheduling conflict. We still had a great discussion.
Well folks, our Tyrone done made it to the Smithsonian. Whodathunkit?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


This is a photo is a group shot taken at Atlanta's Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on Saturday Jan. 27. The pic is, from left to right, of Valerie, who did that amazing biography of Zora Neale Hurston, Natalie H., Roz&Kristina--our Atlanta hostesses with the mostess, and Natalie M. all surrounding Jelani who gets the prize for suffering through not 1, but 2 Tyrone talks in one weekend. Debo's sister Nzinga stopped by, as well as Nat. H's neice and nephew, Kamen and Jadon Rose, our old HU friends, Seth, Mimi, Mia. Also: Ernie, the two Megans, Candice and her mom.
Later we headed to the Water Tree Arts Gallery in Tucker, Ga., where Nat. H's brother in law Ben Rose invited us to do a talk and check out his studio for his new multimedia company Great to meet his business partner Jason, too. Good the see them repping the Midwest in the ATL.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


here is a picture with a handful of Spelman students we did a talk with in Cosby Hall on the Atlanta campus. We had a really eye-opening to hear how issues of black masculinity play out on the Atlanta University Center campus. The most dramatic part of the talk came when one of Nat M. childhood friends, MikeFlo, was barred from entering Spelman's highly secured campus--he finally got in but not until having to wait for a half-hour outside. Tyroninity indeed. He felt especially resentful about being treated like a suspect being that he went to Clark Atlanta and is a taxpaying resident just blocks away from campus. The Spelman prof Dr. Cobb took the blame for the incident because he forgot to let the guards know we would be speaking; But he explained that there is a good reason why they keep the campus on lock--all kind of crazies coming on campus jeopardizing the women's safety. One Spelman student piped in that her dad is hassled a lot too, but he's happy beacuse that means his babygirl is safe. It was sweet when one student apologized to him and said she understood how he felt. At the heart of it it was a town v. gown issue relevant to most college campuses, complicated, of course, by perceptions of black masculinity.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Portland, Oregon

This picture is of The Natalies in the Oregonian newsroom. Thanks, Randy, for the great photo. Nat. M interned at this newspaper 10 years ago. We gave a talk, a brown-bag discussion to the newsroom about the writing process and Tyrone, and making the leap from newspaper writing to book writing. It was really well attended. Then we went out to dinner with a group of journalists as we've done in every city, to find out the latest gossip and trends in the industry. We are happy that the Oregonian seems to be doing better than many and they definitely have a cheerier disposition than most... Thanks for asking us to come in, George Rede!
The only regrets about the book-signing the next day at the Talking Drum bookstore in Portland was that we didn't get a chance to talk to Reggae Bob. The day before we hoped be a guest on his radio show "Good Times," but we got caught up at ETA. We had a great discussion with a school teacher in the audience, a white man who teaches mostly hip-hop-obsessed boys of color, who asked us to suggest some other books that he could share with his class.
We went out to Higgins which is run as a fully sustainable restaurant, featuring only local meat and seafood and outstanding service. Good environmental practices taste delicious..We also went to the famous Powell's Bookstore which did serious damage to our pocketbooks. As we checked out of the world's largest bookstore, the clerk asked us if we found everything we needed. After the Natalies dropped a C-note a piece, we had to say, yes, unfortunately, we did. We did get a cool Powell's shirt for Rudy which he seemed to like.
Thanks to our hosts Emily and Linda!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


We returned back to Chicago for an event at ETA Creative Arts Foundation in Chicago--where Natalie M. used to do children's theater. We even saw the old drama teacher! JoeMoore mouthed to the Natalie's "no cuss words" before we started reading. Thanks to Tom, Shayne, Corliss, Donna, Kim, Phaedra et al for coming out. Afterward, we kicked it with Chi-town style with Nat M.'s mom Yvonne and her "fun friend" Pat pictured here at a local dive in chicago where the Natalies ignored a sign at the entrance shooing away folks under the age of 35. Felt like old times....

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tyrone--and LeRoy in the Tundra

"Welcome to paradise" the pilot from Midwest Airlines (home of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies)quipped as we landed on the runway of the Twin Cities airport. As soon as we stepped outside the airport and were assaulted by the 6-degree air (minus-15 with the wind chill) The Natalies thought, hmmmmm...maybe not so much. This was Natalie H.'s first time to the tundra and she had to harken back to her childhood days in Edmonton, Alberta.
The weather was literally the ONLY thing we could complain about this stop on the book tour. Our Minneapolis reading at Amazon Feminist Bookstore was by far our most diverse. There were academics, neighborhood folks, students, journalists; white, black, Indian, Native American; old and young. The good people of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave Tyrone the hook up in the newspaper -- 3/4 of the features section front before jumping inside. About 70 people crammed the basement to listen to the Natalies wax about media images and media agency. Minnesota Public Radio taped the two-hour talk/q&a. (We sure hope that Gary Eichten uses our material.) One black woman from the South talked about whether LeRoy, from back in the day, was the same archetype as Tyrone. We met the filmmaker Rachel Raimist and a Howard alum brother who offered us $50 bucks for our personal dog-eared copies when he learned the books were sold out ("Those are worth even more!") After the sell-out reading, we headed over to the home of "LiquorMan" Steve, an old pal of Natalie M. from her Twin Cities days. He graciously gave us an after party. Toward the end of the night, Steve started remembering his days as lead singer of his band Banther, which was part of the Minneapolis Sound . He even knew a guy named Romeo Blue. This is Steve in the picture from the early 1980s.
And then we met Mary. Mary is Steve's former vocal coach. Minutes after meeting us, Mary offered to serenade us with a song about "making dreams come true."

This must be what folks are talking about when they talk about the thing called "Minnesota Nice" This is the state that just elected Keith Ellison, a black man and the nation's first Islamic U.S. Congressman. He took his oath of office using Thomas Jefferson's Koran, which we learned from a local politico at Steve's party, was done at the excellent suggestion of a lovely librarian who happened to be from Minnesota. Nice.
A middle aged white guy who came up to The Natalies after the signing. "I saw the article in the paper. I said to myself, 'I live in the neighborhood, I should check it out'...I'm so glad I did."
So are we. So are we.
Thanks to Aida, Chris and Gia; Nancy; Gita and Nancy Nova; T.C. for being our limo service; Duchesne Drew; Brock and LaDawn; Erin and the boys; and Chuck.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tyrone conquers Beantown

The New Year is here, and Tyrone is definitely feeling a strong gust of wind to his back. DT was featured in the January issue of Ebony Magazine--the one with Will & Jaden Smith on the cover (check out page 32). AOL Black Voices published an excerpt and interview with us. The critic Kam Williams named us #2 in his top-ten list of best books of 2006, while we made the Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago named bestseller list reported to the chicago tribune, beating Obama. We've done pretty well getting coverage in print media and radio, but now more and more invitations are starting to trickle in for corporate, academic and activist groups for The Natalies to appear for speaking engagements and panels. And we still have book tour events in Minneapolis, Cleveland, Palm Beach, Atlanta, Chicago and Indianapolis and D.C. planned for 2007.
That wind gust is not particularly helpful for Nat. H's 2007 calendar filled with school field trips and PTA meetings--not to mention a dissertation to complete by May, or Nat M. whose freelance writing and college teaching plate is filled to the brim. But clearly these are really wonderful problems for a first-time authors to have and we feel happy to have them.
We went to Boston Dec. 16 at the request of our friend Greg who is a former newsroom colleague quoted in DT Ch. 4 and also went to high school with Nat. H's husband in New Orleans. At the bookstore, Jamaicaway Books in Jamaica Plains, we learned the owner's daughter was a recent HU grad, proving once again, that the mighty mighty Bison are everywhere (insert maniacal laugh here). It seemed our role in Boston was just to set the ball rolling and we were really happy to sit back and listen to the sparks fly. Our reading from DT inspired a bout between a hipster mom and a Civil Rights Generation man, going head-to-head over the value of hip-hop. We hope this means the book will spark similar conversations, debates, and ultimately more understanding for others.
The biggest AHA! moment for Boston came after the reading. The Natalies and several journalist friends were lingering in the store afterward. Now just to preface, journalists are constitutionally a whiny bunch. But as we told truly awful horror stories and tales of being young black professionals, the so-called Gatekeepers, working in The Media we realized that we might just have the workings of another project. More on that later.
Thanks for Greg for hosting us and Keith for the hospitality at that great Italian restaurant in Boston. We were surrounded by so many friends we didn't feel any of the famed chills coming from the CACs living in the home of Crispus Attucks and the Tea Party.
Allison: clearly Boston is not NEARLY as bad as you say...right?