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At first he was too spooked to write anything. But then, a few months after San Diego rapper Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan was released from jail, the lyrics started flowing.
“What I do to deserve this?” he asks in one of the first songs he released after his arrest. “The truth is, I was rhyming about the place I was born. … I got a right to that.”
In 2014, Duncan was arrested along with 14 other San Diego men and charged with conspiracy, a felony. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis charged the men using an obscure law that hadn’t been tested anywhere in the state. The men were promoting the Lincoln Park gang and benefited from crimes committed by others, the DA argued, even if the men themselves didn’t have anything to do with the underlying crimes.
In Duncan’s case, prosecutors said his song lyrics tied him to a series of shootings. A judge ended up dismissing the charges and, after vigorously defending her use of the statute, Dumanis did an about-face and said she wasn’t going to use it anymore.
The obvious First Amendment implications from Duncan’s case generated a lot of media attention.
“At first when I came home, you know, being that I sat in jail for seven months going through something like that because of my music, I started thinking, Man, should I even make music again? And if I do make music, what do I talk about?” he said.
Since Duncan’s release early last year, he’s been making music about his experience and getting more involved in social justice issues. He’s spoken at public panels and performed during a protest on the steps of the state Capitol.
Duncan is one of five musicians who’ll be talking about music at VOSD’s Meeting of the Minds event Thursday. He’ll be joining others like Steve Poltz and organist Carol Williams in a night of quick talks about how music can change people’s lives.
Being a public figure involved in politics is new to Duncan and he’s not always comfortable playing the role, but he said he feels like he has no choice but to keep at it.
“I have to talk about this stuff,” he said. “It’s definitely, definitely, definitely all new for me but I felt like when I was going through the case that if I was quiet about the situation that they would try to do it again to someone else.”
One of Duncan’s sons recently got caught up in the legal system when he was involved in a fight at Lincoln High School. Things are still playing out in court, but Duncan said he’s seen the video of the incident and he’s certain his son will eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing. That experience has yet to make its way into his music, but Duncan said it probably will.
“It all eventually comes out in my music,” he said. “I feel like I have to continue telling my story. … If I don’t do it I don’t think it’s going to get done, as far as representing where I come from. I’m representing the Lincoln Park neighborhood, speaking for people in southeast San Diego and really every black kid who grew up like me everywhere.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
Placemaking in Paradise Hills
This weekend, a new mural will go up in Paradise Hills. The large painting will cover a wall of La Palapa, a market on Reo Drive.
Reo Drive, which is lined with small commercial storefronts, has a lot of unrealized potential, said San Diego artist Enrique “Chikle” Lugo.
Lugo’s helping head up the mural project. He teaches at High Tech High in Chula Vista, and as part of the school’s project-based learning approach, he got 50 seniors to work with people who live in Paradise Hills to come up with the mural design. Both the students and Paradise Hills residents will begin painting on Friday.
“We hope to make this Paradise Hills business strip a destination much like Third Avenue in Chula Vista or Adams Avenue up north,” Lugo wrote in an email. “I grew up just a few blocks away and La Palapa has been in business as a market ever since I can remember. As you can see from the mock-up pictures, the building has seen better days.”
The City’s Hidden Park Problem, the Big Tijuana Bullfighting Debate and Other Arts and Culture News
• Balboa Park is big, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for tourists to find. VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt explains the park’s weird GPS problem and other issues that can make locating Balboa Park a challenge, plus she details some ongoing efforts to make it easier.
• There’s so much cultural tradition tied to bullfighting, it’s easy to see why some people want the sport to continue. But if, like me, you’ve been to a bullfight and had to leave because watching a fearful animal die isn’t your idea of fun, you’ll be glad to know that Baja California is considering making bullfighting illegal. The U-T reports that the state’s lawmakers have again delayed a vote on the proposed ban, which means this year’s bullfighting season in Tijuana has commenced.
• Forget about attention deficit disorder, San Diego author Richard Louv thinks parents should be worried about something he calls nature deficit disorder – city kids’ lack of connecting with the great outdoors. Louv’s got a new book out on the topic and KPBS talks to him about it.
• Vista residents are not happy with a big sign that recently went up in the city, in part, because there’s an image on it of a bird pecking at something that looks waaaaay too similar to the iconic poop emoji. (U-T)
• VOSD’s Border Report highlights Ana Teresa Fernández’s public art project that uses paint on the border fence to symbolically “erase” the border.
• Freelance writer Susan Myrland lifts the curtain on the process of museum leaders persuading people to share their expensive private art collections with the public. The story about an exhibition currently showing at the San Diego Museum of Art also slips in some art history. (U-T)
• Quint Gallery’s owner Mark Quint has opened a new, more experimental project space in Bay Ho. CityBeat’s Seth Combs has the details.
• San Diego performance artist Claudia Cano has set up an installation at Helmuth Projects gallery. Cano performs as “Rosa,” a house cleaner, and is asking folks to bring shirts that need ironing to the gallery Tuesday night. Cano’s work is meant to point out the “invisibility and inequality of immigrant women” in the United States.
• Local historic preservationists aren’t happy with the way the mayor has handled the appointment process for the city’s Historical Resources Board. I explained why last week.
• San Diego’s surf bro culture is shifting. So says Howard Blackson, who’ll be talking Saturday morning about the city’s move toward “beer, bikes and breakfast.”
• This school’s annual “Art Day” sounds awesome. (U-T)
• Record Store Day is Saturday and Folk Arts Rare Records seems like a good place to celebrate it.
• There’s nothing I can do to stop you from clicking on this story about the cat circus that recently came to town. And that’s a good thing, because Ryan Bradford is super funny. (CityBeat)
• An artist whose paintings are currently on view at Space 4 Art in the East Village tells The Creators Project that his synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon that changes the way people perceive the world, allows him to to see people’s emotions translated into colors.
Food, Beer and Booze News
• Kombucha is essentially fermented tea. The fermentation process naturally creates some alcohol, but normally the percentage is so low even pregnant gals feel OK drinking it. That’s not the case with Boochcraft, an operation in Chula Vista that’s been churning out high-alcohol kombucha geared toward the craft beer crowd. (Reader)
• The dudes behind the bar at JSix talk about their cocktail creations. (San Diego Magazine)
• The folks who run the Mt. Hope community garden are conducting a survey asking people who live in the neighborhood about food access.
• The new Liberty Market at Liberty Station in Point Loma is still making headlines. (U-T)
• An artist collaborated with San Diego State music students for an installation currently on view at the SDSU Downtown Gallery. (press release)