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Foremost, I would like to thank the International Country Music Conference for this mind-blowing honor. When Dr. Akenson told me I could make a few comments, I was awestruck, but then, in a series of fond yet bittersweet recollections, the words came to me.

“Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong.”

During my 43 years of life, John Denver’s 50-year-old country-crossover hit single has unlocked many mystical, magical meanings for my life.

As a bleary-eyed child — spending two-week summer vacations sleeping inside one of two double-wide mobile homes my aunt won on the Price is Right…


The shit has hit the fan.

By playing an impromptu, late-night set at Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse, Morgan Wallen — in a manner akin to being recorded screaming the n-word on camera at the beginning of this year’s Black History Month — made an auspiciously inauspicious return to country music in the most mind-blowing manner possible. In doing so, he crystallized and likely set ablaze the polarizing war of morality — superseding those of racism and sexism — at play in post-COVID America.

Reparational justice in America in 2021 has been intriguing to watch unfurl. Most fascinatingly, a century of…


“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” sang Janis Joplin as I ran by Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no…

Today, I heard Janis Joplin sing “Me And Bobby McGee” in my earbuds as a hazy sunset cast a filtered haze over Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC.

Also, today, in one verse, a white woman sang multitudes to me about the demoralizing nature of my Black life.

The yellow letters cautioning against ill-tempered fascism’s literal and metaphorical march into the heart of America’s capital city finally appeared less vibrant and proud and more forlorn and foreboding in their…


The “un-pimped butterfly” created songs that ultimately mediated the eternal universal struggle between good and evil.

As Black Lives haven’t mattered and cities that were one-time citadels of Black excellence — like my hometown of Washington, DC — have been roiled by manic, racist antagonism, I’ve kept an ear open and eye out for one note of salvation.

King Kendrick. The Negus. The good kid in a m.A.A.d city. The un-pimped butterfly.

And I’ve heard nothing.

He’s been silent, save my dear friend Marcus J. Moore’s excellent Lamar biography-of-sorts, The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America. …


How do you murder a man while he’s holding his freedom in the palm of his hand?

The root cause of George Floyd’s murder was not racism. The root cause of George Floyd’s murder was his attempt at using a counterfeit $20 bill for a purchase. Yes, falsifying currency is illegal and punishable by law. But the level of punishment should always equate to the scope of the crime.

Sadly, in this case, in America, a man being kneeled upon to death, instead of facing two decades in prison and a fine, is the preferred manner to deal with this level of criminality.

The metaphor upon which the case for death as justice is good and fair…


Producer Ken “DURO” Ifill remembers the making of 1998’s biggest remix

Here’s the story of an iconic hip-hop single, its remix, and how that led to a mixtape becoming a platinum-selling album. Or rather, how incredibly successful DMX was in 1998.

From Grandmaster Flash blending David Mancuso’s Loft favorites to Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia debuting Nas or 50 Cent teaching hardcore rap fanatics “How To Rob,” street mixtapes have played an integral role in hip-hop. For aspiring artists, paying a DJ to compile your best underground singles with freestyle raps over industry-known beats was a surefire way — in the pre-internet age — to build a fanbase.

By 1998, all…


This is just the true Blaxploitation renaissance, but — again, bittersweetly — better.

Had COVID-19 not imperiled the globe, multicultural and diversely representational cinema almost, once again, saved the movie industry. Instead, the latest — and arguably most brilliant — moments of Black onscreen excellence in fifty years leave the film industry in a bizarre stasis. The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned a Black mainstream film evolution that has served all masters well. Films have been both Afrocentric and Afrofuturistic, plus representing excellence in documentary-style and long-form mediums. Moreover, they’ve been historic and historical, too. …


Lil Nas X “pleased (instead of teased) the Black demon” and evolved mainstream pop’s relationship to race and sexuality.

On Friday morning, Lil Nas X’s groundbreaking spectacle-as-music career took another astounding turn as a Black musician evolved from Dolly Parton into Madonna. The trap-rapping cowboy interloper behind double-diamond selling “Old Town Road” has now become the wildly subversive pop crooner behind the hyper-sexualized “official coming-out party”-as-single, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” Never before, or likely again, will we ever see the internalization, reclamation, and simultaneous evolution and retrofitting of the African-borne and white-embraced whore stereotype in American culture.

In 2013, we almost lost the three-century-old — and in need of permanent recontextualization — Black-to-whore analog forever.

The…


Love…like America…is like a dying ember, and only bittersweet memories remain…

Upon reflecting on the state of the world surrounding me of late, my success in my year-long battle against being infected by COVID-19, retaining a vibrant zest for life, daily, and/or not succumbing to manic depression, makes me a unique outlier in 2021. If you’re dreadfully afraid of reengaging with the world and those who surround you in it, be not afraid: you’re not alone in the belief that one year was likely six months too long for the world to reflect upon its social frailties. …


Though gains for Black artists in country are still slow to develop, they’re happening in more substantial amounts than ever.

Last week marked such a profound level of unprecedented success for Black artists in country music that if you told me that sadly deceased, groundbreaking, African-American country icon Charley Pride also kissed an angel good mornin’ in heaven for good measure, I’d be hard-pressed to be shocked by the notion.

2021 has seen America’s national racial polarization best highlighted by country music. However, for as much as the genre’s top white artists perpetuate negative stereotyping, Black artists — by defying how they have been traditionally presented in the genre — create one of the most compelling stories of “we shall…

Marcus K. Dowling

Creator. Curator. Innovator. Iconoclast.

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