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Sunday, August 13, 2006

"I Always Felt Like I Didn't Wanna Be Like Other Niggas"


"Colored peeps, can’t you see: We have been forced to define ourselves—culturally—based on the organizing principles of radio stations and record stores, because cash rules everything around us. It’s all marketing and the ability to spoon-feed you what they tell you you want. Black people, I’ve got something to share: Y’all are the most creative people on Earth, but y’all are even better at consuming. Y’all need to pay tribute to history instead. Remember, they can’t sell you something you already own."
—Sacha Jenkins

In keeping with the "black-folk-come-in-all-different-flavors" motif:

Today I was flipping through the visual shit sandwich that is Savoy magazine when I came across an article titled "Generation Be: Breaking Down the Black Monolith." Expounding on a study conducted by Dr. Patricia Raspberry, a social psychologist and brand planner for a New York-based company called PortiCo Research, the article, in attempts to show the diversity among African-American consumers, identified four different types of blacks: Neo-Bohemians, Boyz-N-Girlz in the ‘Hood, Black Princes/Princesses (BAPs), and Urban Mainstreamers. Despite the piece being, among other things, way too SistaGurl for anyone not of the opinion that Terry McMillan is God’s gift to prose, I must admit that it got me thinking: What other types of blacks are out there that aren’t necessarily being represented when Fortune 500 companies, like Wal-Mart, or McDonald’s, try to appeal to the so-called "urban" demographic? Just ask independent filmmaker James Spooner.

Afro-Punk, Spooner’s 2003 film exploring "race identity within the punk scene," gives voice to black punks, be they mildly famous figures, such as ex-Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro, or anonymous fans. Aware that a significant number of viewers may be new to this concept, Spooner focuses on several key characters—most notably, Moe Mitchell, of the racially charged CIpher, and Brooklyn’s Tamar Kali—whose interchangeable roles in both hardcore and black, mainstream circles allow them to serve as de facto translators. (Ms. Kali, whose music is among the soundtrack’s most accessible, admits to growing up on rap as well as rock; Mitchell—the only black in his band—espouses pro-black beliefs, and is president of Howard University’s oldest Afro-centric organization.) The bulk of these kids, though, apparently grew up with little to no interaction with other blacks. (TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, at one point, claims that his parents must have been experimenting with finding the "whitest places in America.")

Needless to say, I liked it; Dr. Raspberry's Boyz-N-Girlz in the 'Hood (!) may not.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Of Coons and Saints

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This is a game, and I'm your special man
"One day, to everyone's astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men."
—James Baldwin

I'm aware that the whole Phonte As Paul Wall—he got the internets goin' nuts!—thing is, like, so two weeks ago; I was, in this case, inspired by holy Alanis herself:

First off, sexism, like any other form of discrimination, is a very ugly thing. And whether or not Tay's intentions were innocent (and I'm guessing they were), homegirl was offended, as she certainly has the right to be. I'm not touching the whole "she-shouldn't-have-aired-him-out-on-MySpace" thing, as that's obviously not my call to make. My issue is with something else entirely…

Maybe its true that no one actually listens to Little Brother, 'cause nowhere in LB's oeuvre have I ever heard anything that would lead me to believe that Tay is this righteous musical monk who’s beyond making a comment that could be interpreted as sexist. And I have to say that in her initial post, Tara* ever-so subtly implies that Tay and Pooh have, at some point, anointed themselves as purveyors of all that is pure and "enlightened" in an otherwise Ignant industry. Not true. Little Brother, if anything, speak to the everyday, all-AmeriKKKan chain-rocking nigga that dudes like Kanye and Lupe, who are really exaggerated caricatures of the Everyday Negro, supposedly represent—which is to say, they’re a little bit conscious, a little bit Ignant.

The fact that Phonte and Pooh—two everyman types with no clear-cut agendas or "irony" or over-the-top personalities—are scrutinized to death for the sole reason that they aren’t Jeezy or T.I. or Nelly (or the Coup or Mr. Lif, for that matter) is disturbing in that it seems to support the theory that blacks will only be accepted when they play the roles that far too many whites are comfortable seeing them in—which, like it or not, are the Coon and/or Saint. In other words, Mos was on point when he claimed that "there’s never no in between," and us culluds in these overdrawn wildernesses of North AmeriKKKa are either niggas or kings or bitches or queens. Little Brother, in contrast, are lunchmeat and thermoses, i.e., too pedestrian, too damn normal, too much like…real actual people?

Take it from someone who knows something you don’t, YTs: In AmeriKKKa, no one ever has a problem with blacks that play to the lowest common denominator. It’s different, though, when we refuse to be what many whites and the oh-so conditioned "black community" (even our conditioning’s conditioned!) want us to be. At which point, our every move is scrutinized, our every blunder blown up to extreme proportions. (I’m, for that very reason, relieved that Colin Powell never ran for president.)

Obviously, this discussion is, in the words of Dead Prez, bigger than hip-hop. (Ralph Ellison wrote a book about what I’m getting at—maybe you’ve heard of it?) But it’s surely no coincidence that Little Brother, not to mention their contemporaries (Common, the Roots, et al.), when not being flat-out ignored, are constantly getting picked apart by the press, while, when it comes to dudes like Rick Ross, it's all Kool and the Gang. Bet Rick wouldn’t be catching all this heat were he in Phonte’s shoes. Then again, Rick is a coon, and coons are expected to say dumb shit. Phonte, on the other hand, doesn’t act like a coon, so he must be a saint. Shame on him!

Newsflash: Most black people are just that—people. We catch cases (court case, briefcase, suitcase, cases of Chris) and read books and go to strip clubs (and church) and occasionally crack titty jokes. Just because we're not leaping over hot coals to entertain you with our "swagger" doesn't mean that we're "boring." (Actually, we as real live people reserve the right to be "boring" or "pretentious" like everyone else.) On the same token, the fact that some of us aren't leaping over hot coals to entertain you with our "swagger" doesn’t mean we’re trying to pass ourselves off as Martin Luther King, Jr. Please marinate on that. I’m done.

Assignment: Ask yourself: Do I really enjoy rap on its own terms, or do I need irony or "swagger" to get me off?

Gonna go watch "106 & Park"—it’s the biggest colored show on earth!

*No xxlmag.com bloggers were harmed during the making of this entry.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Designer Recliner (Along With Benefits)

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Watching "Run's House," have you ever wondered when Joseph Simmons last rode the 7? I'm thinking 1980? '79, maybe? (Try and imagine Russell's last commute; your mind just might implode.)

This Kelis joint and "Weekend" = the sound of young Harlem. The latter finding Cam on some splashy '80s fly shit (pause). So much better when he's keeping it basic—which is to say, I don't need another "Get 'Em Girls" (I like the one I've got just fine, thank you). And really, who needs more Bey-Z baiting (unless it's, of course, from Rihanna)?

Speaking of shameless hussies and their increasingly shitty pop songs, "Ring the Alarm" is wack, dudes. Trust (see also: Goin' on a Whim, I'm on My Gladwell Shit).

Denice swears that B, as we sometimes call her, can't fuck. Judging by The Yonce's video performances, which are sexy in only the most sterile, Kubrickian ways, I'd agree. (Hey B, if you wanna successfully channel Tina, you might wanna put your back into a little, so that B’Day won't suck, and our friend Mr. Carter won't be so distracted.)

I’m so estranged from the rap crit elite. Somebody who got it like that (JShep?), put me on: How y’all mugfuckers all, at the exact same time, decide that Rick Ross is worthy of even half the attention he’s been getting of late a.) OutKast fell the fuck off b.) Coke rap and “swagger” > anything else, and c.) Mr. Lif is listenable.

My grandfather used to time it so that his dentures were finished soaking by the time "Walker, Texas Ranger" came on. Maybe that’s how y’all roll.

FYI, Ashanti, according to our friend Denice, can, in fact, fuck.

Had that dream again, where Eva Mendes is smiling at me with Great Britain’s overbite. This latest Vibe cover isn’t helping matters.

Not that I'm mad at JJ's saggy titties; they distract us from her increasingly mutant-like visage…

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Maaarcus!
I'm sayin'.

Build With the God

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Because I try to be as much like Pharrell Williams as humanly possible, last night at Taco Bell, when I ordered one of those Nacho Crunch Burrito joints, with chicken (instead of Carne Asada steak), I asked shorty behind the register (with the mean little poke-out), "Can I have it like that?" She smiled, and with her best Stefani smirk replied, "You got it like that."

International swagger, indeed.

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Christina. Yoo hoo. Christina?
Dude…what are you dressed like?
Never mind.
HERE AM I!
Draw nigh hither, or something; kick of those whore heels, 'cause, like, you're standing on holy ground.
It is I. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Kevin Smith, whose brilliant new film, The Passion of the Clerks Clerks II, starring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes, is currently playing at a theater near you.
Ahem
I have surely seen the affliction of my peeps, who are in New York, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows
You, my child, are chosen to lead them.

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Who am I that I should go against that which represents all that is evil in this world? I mean, I'm from Pittsburg…

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Look, you little hoebag, want to spend the rest of enternity on Koch?
You'll be doing Folklore numbers when I'm through with you.
Cam'ron and Fat Joe clearly didn't know what forces they were screwing with, and neither, apparently, do you.

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But what, dear Lord, shall I do?!

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What would Preem do.

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Is that, like, a rhetorical question?
…WTF? Who goes there?

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Bring your lifestyle to me; I'll make it better.

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How long will I live?

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Eternal life and forever.

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And will I be the G that I was?

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I'll make your life better than you can imagine, or even dreamed of. So relax your soul; let me take control.
Close your eyes, my child.

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My eyes are closed.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Wild Promo!

She's kind of Sheryl Crow-ish, crossed with a post-"Partridge Family," pre-"L.A. Law," Susan Dey kind of thing, but, you know, uh, black.
—Dick, High Fidelity


Acoustic-soul siren: Hope
Los Angeles-based vocalist Hope song-cries with a humble, quiet-fire lucidity—as autumnal as apple juice but as clear as the rain. Her voice, breathy and bittersweet, occasionally cracks Crow-esque, but is ultimately distinguished by an earthier, spiritual sheen that comes feathered in two shades of pain and survivor-guilt soulfulness. Any skepticism concerning Hope's sonic sorcery is purged once you lean into her sound's religion and let the lullabies wash over you like a promise.

"The Rain Don't Last," Hope's new single, does just that. Insightful lyrics loom like some silent peninsula, over minimalist, acoustic-soul strumming. The mood here, while at first melancholic, soon shifts to…well…hopeful, as the recent Atlantic signee reminds us that while the sun may not always shine, it's best to just "let it go." Granted, the whole "chin up" theme has been touched before—it's practically legal tender. Hope, however, manages to take the cliche and, in her breezy alto, make it sound like the blissful riddle to someone's math-encrypted void. Peace and piety seem only a mother's kiss away.

Extra! Extra! Hope, in addition to growing up with homegirl* (who was one of my very first girlfriends, back in the days when high-top fades, polka dots, and African Medallions were in vogue), used to sing hooks for my former extended crew, X-Calibur, and was then known for constantly pestering our esteemed colleague, Mr. Jawnsun, on many a drunken club night ("Dee, can I please utilize your car stereo? There's this song I just wrote, and I'm really dying to practice it!") Well, it seems that Hope's hard work and dedication paid off, 'cause fast forward to 2006 and baby girl is, withought question, doing crazy big things on the label Ahmet Ertegun built*. Word.

*What up, Sukee!