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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Hustle and flow

Stroll past Bongo Man and you'll star in his rhymes

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Bongo Man slinging his rhymes outside the ballpark.

A passing woman sees him and tries to hide her face from his gaze. Too late.

The traffic light by the Fox Theatre has just released a burst of Tigers fans heading to the ballpark on a spring weekday evening. But first they must get past the street performers who line the way there, including the animated sax player, the deranged "Eat 'em up, Tigers" guy, and the man who rattles the nerves of passers-by the most — the one banging out beats on congas and shouting out a steady flow of spontaneous rhymes that point out a passing person's peculiarities, or comment on their clothes, or assess their significant other in frank terms.

The woman approaches, and Bongo Man, as he calls himself, has her in his sights.

"Now that pretty lady in the gray / I'm so glad that you came this way / Smile and don't be sad / Your husband's not that bad / Find a reason to be glad / At least I'm not your baby dad," he rhymes to her and her spouse.

A few in the passing crowd chuckle, but like this couple, most avoid eye contact with him, in fear he'll select them and reel off a few zingers at their public expense. In rhyme, no less.

A man using a wood cane walks by.  He catches Bongo Man's eye.

"Now here's a cool guy with a cane / I know this may sound insane / Now what happened to your leg? / Did you drink the whole keg?" This could mean a few different things, but the man's stony face suggests none of them strike him as funny.

The traffic light turns red, creating a pause in the stream of fans. Bongo Man twists the cap off a glass orange juice bottle and takes a sip of water. "This is not vodka!" he announces, an old joke but also a reference to some people's suggestion that he and the other street performers are little more than bums with talent.

He doesn't drink, though. Hasn't in years, he says. Plus he has a home, and a job, and another job on top of that. And unlike the panhandlers hustling around the ballpark, he offers something for the money he seeks, even if that something is a few squirmingly uncomfortable moments at the center of attention.

He looks down into his tips bucket. It holds two one-dollar bills, a five, a possibly used ticket for tonight's game (upper box, infield), and a handful of change so far. Not nearly enough. The flow must go on.

Another crowd is let loose by a green light and comes his way. He starts again.

"Here's a guy in the tan and black / He might cut me a little slack / I realize this job is wack / But at least I'm here not selling crack." This logic strikes Mr. Tan-and-Black as impeccable, and he puts a dollar into the bucket.


Though the mere sight of him frightens the self-conscious, Nahru Lampkin, 50, is friendly and soft-spoken when he's not behind the congas. He grew up in Michigan, served in the Army, held several jobs afterward, got and got rid of a drug habit, had two children and spent years perfecting this street act, starting at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, later in Florida, then finally in Detroit when he came back home.

He first performed in Hart Plaza during the summer festivals, where he drove the police crazy. They arrested him five times on five different charges — panhandling, obstructing the sidewalk, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and performing without a permit, even though the city didn't have a permit for street performers to perform under. The cops would tell him to move on, he'd refuse, and they'd conjure up a new charge and take him to jail.

"I wanted to have my day in court," he says. "Each time I kicked their butt too." Eventually they gave up, and he added new stages — Lions games at Ford Field, Red Wings games at Joe Louis Arena, University of Michigan games in Ann Arbor. But his main venue became Tigers games downtown.

The man works constantly. He just started his own cab company, Bongo Man Taxi, a one-vehicle operation for which he's both driver and dispatch. His cab features an image of him and a bongo emblazoned on the cab's red door. It operates in off-hours, like 3 a.m. outside the Marriott hotel in the Ren Cen during the week, or downtown Royal Oak starting at midnight on the weekends.

He also teaches robotics at Highland Park Community High School, a career he fell into — he was working yet another job, this time as a school security guard, and was sitting outside the science lab when a student asked for help solving a problem with the little robot he was putting together. Soon a half-dozen other kids saw this and asked for his help too, and when a teacher noticed and made a complaint, the robotics coach not only didn't yell at him, he saw how good he was at it and made Lampkin the assistant coach. That same year the class won the Vex Middle School World Championship in robotics. The school promoted him to robotics instructor.

In his sporadic spare time between those two careers, he's out here on the street, rhyming in your face, sometimes even about your face.

The crowd pours into the park. Most walk briskly by, some smile or laugh at his lyrics, one or two offer to buy the congas. A few have run off with his bucket of tips. And a handful are openly hostile, or worse.

"This guy says, 'Get a job, you nigger!' And so I put him in the show. I said, 'Well, that guy called me a nigger / He's just mad 'cause my johnson is bigger.'"

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