Notes from Underground

We Be Harder Than A Hurricane 


"My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!" 

- J.R.R. Tolkien

Once upon upon (another) time, some time before this time, there was a time and a place that was i-land and there was a people, brown like the truth as earth and black like deep nights clearest sky and red like the reality of the sun. Without weapons and without laws, they owned nothing, but were rich in everything. The word poor was of a foreign tongue and that tongue was forked, twisted, while their mouth was a straight path to truth, their word sounded-like freedom. We will call them Taino(and later Afro-Taino) though they probably called themselves something else. They praised/prayed to no one but the very land itself that provided sustenance for them and theirs. They ate, drank, played, loved, laughed, slept, sang, dreamt, all in real time (all the time). They worshipped life in its essence, naked as their mother (earth) bore them in beauty, transcendent reality of their surroundings. They breathed in the air, plentiful, clean, deep, free, and breathed out the same, but clothed in invisible visions and draped in waking dreams, drenched in life itself. They were something we can no longer define within our capitalized/co-opted/co-modified/conquered and colonized mind (set). They were something we could not keep. Something called free. 

Which may have been what they called themselves be-fore the conquerors came carrying cold steel and craven intentions. The new “masters” re-named these free beings, through force of arms, guns, (their) gods and greed. They called and christened them (un)civilized, culture-less, chaos, savage, shame-full, primitive, Po' Rican beast of burden, and slew and/or enslaved them all, except those who could/would fight and run away and live to fight another day. But those who couldn’t/didn’t were tossed into the mines along with their minds and made to work the killing fields until they were dead/tired. They were infected with the (new) states dis-eases, beaten, battered, bitten (but not broken) and driven (in)to suicide or a state of Cimarron. The enemy waged war against the (new/old) world, so the free ones called for Guazabara(!) against the govern-mint! 

lacking hue-man-made weapons of steely sharp stealth and stench, they brandished bright sunlight struggle and ancient natures natural-ness, intellect as arms, they fought with fist and feet, arrows and aims, finding a new way with Taino-tenets and Moores-mores, mind machetes ‘till freedom or death y hasta la Victoria…. Siempre seditious, autonomous, angry. Most died (and all were re-born) but many (simply) lived and became new (again) and again(st), as cane cutters straight out the Congo and headhunter Jibaro’s from the (h)ills, field negus ninjas from here and machete wielders from there or anywhere, wild (wo)men at war without peace… by piece…. Guabancex against the government, Conquering congress, co-optation and colonization yesterday (today), always arm and arm, with all the arms they/we would ever need. They became Machetero(s) and we became and remained harder than a hurricane! 

arm in arm with arms, 


Strictly Street N Subway  

"His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street" - JOB 18:17 

Doesn't matter where ya come from if you don't know where ya been... Huey Newton said that "youths are passed through schools that don't teach, then forced to search for jobs that don't exist and finally left stranded in the street to stare at the glamorous lives advertised around them," James Baldwin stated that "the American streets resembled nothing so much as one vast, howling, unprecedented orphanage," Oscar Wilde believed that "Art is not to be taught in Academies... The real schools should be the streets." and Nas declared that "Hip-hop is the streets... It's blunt. It's raw, straight off the street." Currently there are an estimated 58,089 homeless people in New York City and each night thousands sleep on New York City streets and in the subways. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, nobody ever teaches you how to live out in the street, you simply find (in more ways than just one) yourself there (wherever there is), on the street and in the streets, and you manage (or don't), survive (or won't), thrive (or can't) or die (for sure!)... No more and maybe less. There are many ways to survive the streets; many are extra/ill-legal and most are dangerous and can get you locked up or for better or worse, killed either by a cop or another street struggler... My days on the streets of Nueva Yo', I survived by singing for my supper... Sometimes I went out into the streets or down into the subways with my compa, Kid Lucky, a beatboxer/rhymer, and sometimes by my lonesome, doing the acapela thang... Sometimes by the end of the day, I made just enough for some rice and beans (and tostones if I was lucky) and sometimes just enough for a dollar slice of pizza. I always preferred to perform in my own stomping grounds; the Boogie Down/el Bronx, El Barrio/East Harlem, Loisaida/Lower East Side of Manhattan, but if you busked in the tourists areas of the shitty or at the subway stations that tourists frequented, and could convince the tourreristas that what they were witnessing/hearing was authentic keeping it "real" New York Hip Hop, you could get a more sizeable "donation" out of em. But you never really knew if you would make enough to eat that day or to pay for a place to sleep that night (if you slept at all), or would end up riding back and forth on the subway train, tryna sleep with one eye open (for safety), and without a "hit" it was usually miss and you were at the worst, condemned to perish from this earth like a piece of trash left in the gutter and at "best," sleep in the park or on a rooftop or on the church steps with Jezuz as your only security blanket. Paul Simon said, "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls..." and they say the streets is watching, but i often wonder if them streets (and subways) is even listening... 

arm in arm with arms,

- Prophet

Abrazos Para Ti 

“Like Nelson Mandela, we must be willing to embrace the long walk toward freedom.” - Angela Davis 

In El Libro de los Abrazos, Eduardo Galeano says that “the system that does not feed or love, condemns many to hunger for bread and many more to hunger for hugs.” It’s said that the average embrace last only three seconds, but that at least twenty seconds is required in order to activate a hug's medical healing properties. The healing process always begins with a touch and embrace. Hugs instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts serotonin levels, elevating mood. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the solar plexus chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body's production of white blood cells. Hugging relaxes muscles. Hugs release tension in the body. Hugs can take away pain; they soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues. Hugs balance the nervous system. Sensations are created on the skin which stimulates nerve endings. Hugs are much like meditation and laughter; they teach us to let go and be present in the moment. They encourage us to flow with the energy of life. Hugs encourage empathy and understanding. Malcolm X pointed out that "If a white man puts his arm around me voluntarily, that's brotherhood. But if you hold a gun on him and make him embrace me and pretend to be friendly or brotherly toward me, then that's not brotherhood, that's hypocrisy." Hugs connect us to our ability to not only self love but also teach us on how love, when it is genuine, flows both ways. In a capitalist society, we are taught to love objects/products/merchandise/capital/things more than each other, but love and solidarity is a revolutionary act and only if we are together and taking care of each other, can we smash capitalism. The most revolutionary things we can do within an oppressive, racist, sexist, traumatizing, white supremacist society that hates and hurts and starves us and teaches us to hate each other, is to love and heal and feed and embrace the long walk toward freedom... together.. arm in arm.. 

arm in arm with arms, 

- Prophet

The Ballad of Oscar Lopez Rivera 

"all my actions have been actions of love, love for my people, love for the future of my people, love for humanity" - Oscar Lopez Rivera

The Puerto Rican/Boricua People have been engaged in an anti-colonial resistance and liberation struggle for over 500 years, first against the Spanish, and than (for the past one-hundred-and-twenty-plus-years) against the United States of America....

Captured and charged on Aug 11, 1981, political prisoner (and prisoner of war), Oscar Lopez Rivera spent 36 years in a US prison, charged with sedition ("conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch") for attempting to liberate his homeland, Puerto Rico from US colonialism. He was pardoned by US President Barack Obama in 2017.

Oscar Lopez Rivera was/is the inspiration for ABRAZOS ARMY'S salseditious song, entitled The Ballad of Oscar Lopez Rivera, which we originally released when Oscar was finally released. The track talks about Oscar's life growing up in Chicago, serving as a Soldier in the US military during the so called Vietnam war, going underground as a member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (who were trying to liberate Puerto Rico and free Boricua minds through the use of armed action and agit-propaganda), and finally, his arrest and imprisonment, all in about four and a half minutes of lyrics and music.

While writing the words to the song, I thought a lot about the old saying "one mans terrorist is another mans revolutionary," and how very few know even very little about the Puerto Rican peoples anti-colonial struggle and next to nothing about the Puerto Rican peoples right to (according to the United Nations) "self determination" and their/our right to "freely determine political status and freely pursue economic, social and cultural development." Or, as Bob Marley put it, "every man gotta right to decide his own destiny." And that includes Puerto Ricans! Essentially we got a right to be FREE (and equal) as a people and as a (free) nation (which we currently ain't)!

while singing this simple song, I hoped to give a bit of background (and hopefully a degree of understanding/empathy) as to what makes an Oscar Lopez Rivera (or a Nelson Mandela, Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Huey Newton, Filiberto Ojeda Rios) and many others who dare to dream and risk their freedom (and their very lives!) to free they gente (by (m)any means necessary)!

Currently, other long time anti-colonial/anti-oppression/anti-injustice fighters for the cause of freedom, such as Leonard Peltier, Sundiata Acoli, Russell 'Maroon' Shoatze, Mumia Abu Jamal and Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown) still languish in US prisons, while others such as Assata Shakur and William Morales remain in exile, cast out of the countries of their birth. 

Hopefully, after listening (and maybe dancing!) to this ballad, you will have a deeper understanding of anti-colonial/anti-imperial struggle and Puerto Rican/indigenous resistance, and what the Puerto Rican/Boricua people have endured, resisted and risen above (and within) every day for centuries with no end in sight.

arm in arm with arms,