An Adversarial Katrinaversary and the Delusional Post-Diluvial New Orleans — a Manmade Disaster


It took a while, but I’m finally convinced. New Orleans will never be what it was. This 10-year Katrinaversary has forever sealed this city’s fate as a shell of an existence. It is destined to be a post-diluvial distortion of the values it once espoused. The Crescent City has successfully become a cable TV version of itself. By the way, what is Treme? We never called it that when I grew up there. To us, it was the 6th Ward.

We Rock, We Roll, That 6th Ward Got Control

I’m also tired of hearing how resilient New Orleans is. No, it is not. That just furthers this lie that somehow the traditions and the values of what made this city great are not on the verge of extinction, and they are. And let’s be honest, they were suffering well before August 29, 2005. We’ve become those “resilient” folks who exorcize away every tragedy with a second line or a pot of red beans.

“Ooh, baby… you fell and skinned your knee? Come on inside and let Maw Maw heat up some gumbo to help take your mind off the pain.”

We’ve become “those” people…

Strike Up The Band

FairviewThe Real New Orleans of old would never have a second line as a 10-year commemoration for a flood. Today marks the 50th “anniversary” of Betsy. I don’t see no second lines for that. I guess Betsy wasn’t as sexy of a hurricane as Katrina.

The Real New Orleans would boycott and/or picket this second line. This Katrinaversary is all media hype. It’s sick and twisted thinking. Disaster capitalism is alive and kickin’. A second line to honor the dead used to be a solemn occasion. It was respectful to the deceased and their families. The first line used to be the family. The second line was those who came to pay homage. They should call this Katrinaversary parade a third line in honor of all the carpetbaggers we’ve turned this city over to, thus making a caricaturization of this once sacred land.

There has always been a criminal and violent element here. There were always structural issues. I remember hearing that my mentor Danny Barker once said, “I’d rather be a lamppost in New York, than to live in New Orleans.” I heard he got a lot of shit for making that comment, but he made good on it by returning. In case you don’t know who Danny Barker is, if you’ve ever seen that video of Billie Holiday singing “Fine and Mellow,” he’s the cat on guitar.

Danny Barker gave me my first steady, sit-down trad gig. He was clear to tell me “We don’t call it ‘jazz.’ It’s Traditional New Orleans Music.” We played as a trio with Shannon Powell on drums at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. I was 12-years-old. I remember the first day we played, the owner pulled Mr. Barker to the side and said “Hey, that kid is too young to be up there.” Mr. Barker had my back. He told the owner, “Here, we’ll just slap my fedora on his head and no one will notice.” Genius. I still wear a fedora on my head when I play, to this very day.

That’s the Real New Orleans — the passing down of the torch from master to student — the way King Oliver did for Louis Armstrong. It’s what Danny Barker did for New Orleans when he started the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band. I subscribe to the theory that it was his solution to what he saw as a generation of younger people not hip to the brass band tradition. It also helped to take a lot of kids off of the streets so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Genius.

Well, those days are long gone. Now many of these brass bands can only play in one, or two keys, if you’re lucky. It’s not a put down, but our culture has devolved. It has ceased to be important to us. And let’s stop blaming Katrina like New Orleans was paradise before the flood.

See, I thought the flood would give us a clean slate. There’s a contingency in New Orleans that always believed that if this city became too forward-thinking it would lose its charm. That mindset kept New Orleans in a perpetual state of negative static pressure, which restricts flow. Since so much was lost as a result of the flood, I thought this was our shot. Well, that ship has sailed… Ironically enough, we’ve changed a lot by adopting all the wrong new things, while miraculously keeping all fuckedupdedness in tact. Genius. One plus is that per capita there are more bars serving craft spirits and beers than ever was.

Back-O’-Town Blues

And, for God’s sake, let’s stop calling it a “Katrina” anniversary, and “Katrina” this or that. Katrina had come and gone. What destroyed New Orleans were those levees. Some say they were compromised intentionally. I can’t say that for sure, though, I don’t put it past them. What I do know is it didn’t have to happen. The city was warned about those faulty structures for years. And even given that, the federal response to the disaster was abysmal. So, let’s be clear: God may have created Katrina, but God did not design those levees. And God travels at a speed much faster than George W. or Brownie, who did a “heck of a job.”

The future of this city is in the hands of the little ones now…

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— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop

What Folks Have To Say About “Letters” . . .

Well, folks… There you have it. We at PAYTONE Records are appreciative of the above comments and others. Getting love like this from folks affirms why I do what I do.

Download here:


Hardcopy CD with artwork and liner notes:


CD Baby


— Nicholas Payton aka The President of PAYTONE Records

On Why Black Activism Is Not Being Anti-White

DISCLAIMER: By “White” I mean race, not people with white skin.

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“Letters breathe life.”

I don’t care what White people think. I don’t care about their flags. And when the current crop of “Black Activists” get tired of shaking their fists in the air, they still have to come home. But come home to what? Railing against White Supremacy is futile. And I don’t care how many retweets you get, how many Confederate monuments you deface, or flags you take down, you cannot change a racist heart. There’s no point in tearing down somebody else’s stuff when it builds nothing for you.

I say leave the Confederate monuments up, but erect monuments to great Black Americans in close proximity.

America represents slavery regardless of how many Confederate symbols you attempt to eradicate. The Confederacy is America, too. America is based on racism and all flags that represent America are racist — it doesn’t matter how many stars or what direction the stripes are in. You can’t change a racist heart. People have the right to hate you and you have the right not to care. When you shame your enemy into hiding their disdain for you, you only create a more stealthy and crafty opponent. That’s what caused some of y’all to forget you were Black in the first place. Most of what we see is a reaction, not action. You see, Niggas need to stay Black 24/7. A short historical memory is what got us preaching “Black Lives Matter.” Who are you telling it to — the White man or yourselves? If you already know your life matters, there’s no reason for you to proselytize about it.

I get that this may be cathartic for some of you. Well, go ahead and get it all out of your system, but when you’re done, you still have to come home. You will never be acknowledged under the banner of White Supremacy, nor should you want to be. White people are not the arbiters of humanity. They can’t bring you justice, because justice is not any man’s domain, thank God.

Instead of wasting time and energy destroying symbols of White ancestry, we should be building our own. Time spent being angry at White people for being themselves is time away from loving our community. And a movement without Black culture at the center is dead — which is what I see wrong with Black Lives Matter. Holding up signs and chanting you can’t breathe is problematic. Breath is the bridge that connects the body, mind, and soul. Words have power and the mantra you repeat to the universe is exactly what you get back.

This current Black movement is pretty much all histrionics. It is more concerned with social media hits and the coveted CNN appearance than real community groundwork. Forget what racists think about you. Stop wasting your time trying to explain what’s wrong with how they treat you to someone who doesn’t care. Build. Erect. Celebrate. Sure, it’s okay to be angry that we’re still here in this way, but channel that anger to make a contribution towards your people. Attempting to persuade those who seek to oppress you brings you no closer to the truth of who you are.

White Supremacy gave us their religion so when they harm us we are quick to forgive and pray for them. Well, their God is answering your prayers. When I was a child, my aunt taught me if someone hits you, hit them back. So go ahead and hit back, but waging a war against their construct is for the birds. Invest in your heritage. Defend your house. Letter by letter…

So with that, I leave you with a poem I wrote in 2006:

brick by brick
black builders create
structures that defy
what those without
color conceive not
fear doesn’t allow
them to believe
or us to accept
how we are
duplicitous beings
bound by shackles
but mind is free
smooth as a tsunami
quiet as thunder
slow as the blink of an eye

the pharoah needs no mirror
to shave her face in the night
remember we are lynched
by the same ropes
we used to lift the pyramids
it is our mournful bliss
as we square dance around the prism
passersby in our own land lost
as a pig blindfolded in a bull ring

sleeping with the tell-a-vision
my dreams are fed to me
rendering my subconscience
out of earshot
the hands of the clock stand still
dali watches my every move
diseased mind migrates
while my body jitterbugs
possesed by jungle ghosts

behind the other side of the door
my true self awaits me to answer
knock, knock
who’s there?
you who?
you who enslaves yourself
in order to find freedom


— Nicholas Payton aka The Creator of #BAM

On Riley Curry . . .

Remember that name: Riley Curry. She’s going to be somebody, someday. Her father letting her into his world reminds me of how my dad let me play onstage as a toddler. 41 years later, I’m still playing onstage.

Mentorship is key to mastery.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.


— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop