The creative landscape is changing. Technologies like Pro Tools, the iPod, and peer-to-peer networks have become mainstream in the digital age, creating a wild frontier of sorts in music. Independent artists can reach mass audiences once forbidden to them. These technologies are fostering the rise of “semiotic democracy”—where more and more people are no longer passive consumers of mass media, but active participants in creating culture. Cops vs Lawyers, Issue 3

الجمعة، تشرين الثاني 17، 2006

Malibu///The Persistence of Memory

Story by Folklore
Flix by Scott Anderson

God bless these memories, guide and protect our child with your graceful presence and with every day he is healthy and strong. Give us the knowledge to bring him above the callous we’ve suffered ...

So begins an inscription in Perry “Malibu” Greggs’ Winnie the Pooh photo album. Penned by Tiara Downey, the mother of Malibu’s newborn son, 7lb-9oz-19” Perry Lee Greggs Jr. The words are a blessing for the new life depicted in sonograms–and a prelude to Malibu’s story.

Malibu channels his demons on a Sunday afternoon for an exercise in freestyle; his eyes telegraph each turn of phrase. His boombox is on hand—part of his press kit along with the photo album and several copies of his CD. A fist and a lighter provide a kick and a snare on the window of an abandoned storefront. A cipher ensues, punctuated with priceless anecdotes, a tell-tale inflection, and cigarette fumes.

He returns to the prosaic, “I used to be a drug dealer, and that’s the key word, used to. Until I finally realized that I was very callous, greedy, inconsiderate, and just everything that Satan offered Jesus on the top of the mountain. ‘I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the Earth if you just go ahead and submit to me.’

“I told my son in a conversation the last time I seen him,” Malibu continues. “‘Steven, your daddy is pretty good. I’m kinda like a padded room, medication, door locks, white-jacket dudes comin’ in and sayin’, ‘Stop talking!’ I said, ‘I’ma be famous one day. I said I’ma be on the radio.’”

His eldest son Steven died shortly thereafter in an auto accident at the age of 20. “We buried my son five days after I get out of the system. Five fuckin days.”

“I've destroyed families, and I regret that,” says Malibu, staring into the short horizon of the Tenderloin streets. “I done destroyed relationships of love, and I regret that… I got regrets of going to prison. I got regrets of not being around my son who passed.” Regret can both quell and fuel motivation, but Malibu refuses to half-step.

Then, turning with a sharp focus in his eyes, “I have no sponsors, no promoters,” says Malibu. “I don’t have no manager, I don’t have no agent. I don’t have none of that shit. I’ve been doing this since my son’s demise.”

“Homeless” is a subjective word. Malibu is actually just houseless. He would have you believe that his home is seven square miles of concrete–and you’d be inclined to believe him. Raised in 1960s Haight / Ashbury, he has remained in San Francisco through at least three major exercises in futility: Vietnam, Reaganomics, and the O.J. trial.

He has family, though: J-Rush, Future Primitive, Frisco Studios, Robotspeak, Milk, The Noc Noc Bar, The Independent, “a tall cat named Ron,” and “another brother named Doug Wiley”–those who’ve endorsed his music. The hiccups in Malibu’s scathing tone lend to his sincerity. A couple cold cans of Sparks lend enthusiasm, as he intermittently opens up the conversation to everyone within a one-block radius—in essence, his living room parlor.

“All these people were recognizing something in me that I failed to recognize,” says Malibu. “Cause I was just doin’ it because this is what I do. It’s my passion, it’s my hobby. You see people down at the Marina with kites and they got eight kites, and you go, ‘This is the stupidest motherfucker in the world,’ Right? You see a motherfucker riding a skateboard with no brakes. You understand me? I don’t have your talent, but one thing I do know is your talent and your blessing is yours, and if we don’t recognize that, we fall very short of the potential success which any of us can reach.”

He has a habit of wandering through analogies to find the point, but his stream of consciousness is unmistakably hip-hop. “It’s like my son is not here, but I talk to youngsters based on my respect for the life that they live because I’ve heard so many youngsters say that they don’t care if they live past twenty-one or twenty-two, or they wanna die when they’re nineteen,” says Malibu. “Just missing my son the way I do, I’ma ask Him why is my son gone when someone else is so nonchalant about what they got to give this world, they wanna live on the streets. My son was gravitating to a level of life, and he died by accident. That’s the part that crushes me the most because I love all and any. I ain’t never set-tripped in my life. I ain’t never gang-banged, I ain’t never wore red or blue, I don’t play that… My son was never involved in anything negative under any context of life, and he gone. So, I’m motivated primarily by pushing it because I know he rollin’.”

Another cipher starts up–this time with the boombox, as Malibu raps along to his song “When One of Yours Dies”:
I’m hearin’ souls that once was bold as they walk these streets
They have been laid to rest once on this concrete.

Success is measured in persistent strides. Malibu has traversed the fire with the faith that he will see his success. And sometimes success is the persistence of memory.

“[Stephen] said, ‘Dad, you’re too old. He said, ‘Dad, you’re not a rapper.’ And this is what I told my son, I said ‘I’m not a rapper, I’m a poet.’ For fifteen years I had went through a whole lot of negative conjectures, just not knowing what I could become [as] opposed to what I should be. And I suffered a lot for it with his mom, and with my times of absence, but I tell you this, I told him I would be famous. I didn’t say famous in respect to [celebrity], but famous from a spiritual standpoint, and he was like, ‘I love you, Dad.’”

Malibu carries his children with him wherever he goes, the worn jacket of his photo album housing the sonograms of little Perry–with thirty blank pages. There are more memories to be made.

“…Let his soul carry his innocence many years into life and I pray that he will have me and Perry in his life unconditionally till his time to rest, never to suffer the neglect or pain of the absence of He who created soul. Amen.”