Just A Whole Lot of Hollerin’: A Response to the Response to Jezebel’s White Girl Hip Hop Article

16 Jun

Screen shot White Girls Covering Hip Hop Hits article

On Monday, Jezebel editor Irin Carmon posted a short piece called “White Girls Covering Hip Hop Hits” (obviously) about the apparent growing phenomenon of Caucasian females covering hip hop songs on YouTube. I thought it was decent and intriguing and I was very curious to see what kind of comments people would leave below the article. Because subject matter like that should definitely inspire some interesting comments.

And oh, how it did.

What started off as a discussion over the point of the article in the discussion thread turned into a heated, long-winded, and often confusing internet fight about discrimination, appropriation, reparations and all those other fun race topics. I wasn’t surprised that a heated discussion happened, but I was a bit surprised by how quickly it blew up. When I first read the article earlier this week, I didn’t feel the need to comment (I often don’t comment on random articles because it seems like no matter what you say, someone will pick a fight with you), but after reading through the comments today, I decided to get a few things off my chest here. So here’s what I’d like to address:

The “What is the point of this article?” Question. I wasn’t confused by the article, but I was thoroughly confused by this question. I thought the points Carmon was making were that a.) you don’t see white girls rapping that often, so it’s still a novelty when you do, and there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just out of the norm; and b.) the lyrics, which are at times misogynistic, are reappropriated when they come out of the mouths of white females instead of non-white males. Done and done. Why wasn’t this clear to more people? (Seriously, I really want to know, drop a comment if you have some insight on this. Totally open to disagreement.)

The “New Generation” Sermon. After people got all sorts of pissy, one of the most vocal posters, who goes by the username VisforVanity, repeatedly asserted that she is not racist because she is part of a diverse, aware “new generation” “where racism is watering down.” I’m sorry, but comments like this make my eyes literally roll all the way to the back of my head. I don’t know anything about whoever VisforVanity really is in RL other than the fact that she says she’s 19. But I’m only 28 and not too far removed from this “new generation,” and I’ve had people my age and younger say blatantly prejudice or accidentally racist things to me, and recently. No, my experience with racism is nothing like my mother’s, who went through desegregation; or like my grandmother’s, who was probably called “gal” more times than she’d would’ve liked to admit. My experiences, for the most part, have been a lot more tame. But I don’t believe this “new generation” business. Not yet. I’ll credit this kind of hopeful but ignorant thinking to VisforVanity’s youth. I don’t think she’s racist, just young.

The Tangents. Somehow commenters start going off about reparations and Israel. Seriously? I thought we were talking about YOUTUBE VIDEOS. Yes, I get that the mostly seemingly harmless pop culture minutiae can justifiably inspire larger necessary social conversations, but let’s take it down a notch. ‘Cause you know, THEY’RE YOUTUBE VIDEOS.

I’m going to repeat myself, but I really feel the need to reiterate that in the end, this piece was about novelty. Imagine if Ice-T or ODB or 50 covered “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” Tell me that wouldn’t get seven million hits on YouTube.

The article was also about irony, which Carmon also notes. In the all-girl, a cappella video cover for “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” the chicks are rocking flipped collars, knee socks and tennis rackets. We all know that’s fashion code for WASP. Homegirls knew what they were doing.

Sigh. I feel better, but I’m fully aware that I might need to brace myself for a possible internet fight with someone about this post, seeing as how my blog is so popular (up to four readers now). Let me know what you think y’all.

So Fresh, So Clean: New Music from Flying Lotus, Tinariwen, Kanye West, Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda

14 Jun

Update, 6/16/11, 10am: Turns out the new Kanye West song I talk about near the end of this post was a fake. Oh well. Lyrics are still solid.


Hooray for Tuesday! Normally I wouldn’t say hooray for any day of the week except Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but today I woke up with a lot more get-up-and-go than I did yesterday, and I was pleased to find lots of new music alerts blowing up my Twitter feed. I was inspired to start a new weekly series of posts highlighting some of the best, newest music out there. So here’s a roundup of the latest tracks that I’m currently digging.

Flying Lotus, “Stereolab – GalactagonFINAL2rMX”

FlyLo posted this previously unreleased Stereolab remix on SoundCloud late last night. It’s a deft combination of spacey pulse and lo-fi shuffle. You can hear more brand new FlyLo remixes on his SoundCloud page. (Highly suggest you check out the Massive Attack and Mr. Oizo remixes.)

Tinariwen feat. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, “Tenere Taqhim Tossam”

Yesterday the Malian Tuareg group Tinariwen posted a new video on YouTube for the song “Tenere Taqhim Tossam,” which features Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio (!). Loving how Adebimpe’s voice seamlessly meshes with Tinariwen’s desert blues. The song comes from Tinariwen’s upcoming album Tassili, due out August 30 on Anti-.

Kanye West, “Mama’s Boyfriend”

This bouncy new Kanye joint popped up on the Consequence of Sound blog yesterday. Anybody who grew up with a single parent with an active dating life will be able to relate to this track. Download it here (via the G.O.O.D. Music Blog).

Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda, “Águas de Março [ft. Fernanda Takai + Moreno Veloso]

“Águas de Março” is one of my favorite songs of all time, so imagine my delight when I found a cover of the tune on a recent post on NPR Music‘s Alt.Latino blog. Electronic artists Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda team up with vocalists Fernanda Takai and Moreno Veloso to create a deferential yet inventive interpretation of the original classic. The track appears on the forthcoming two-disc compilation Red Hot + Rio 2 to be released by the HIV charity Red Hot Organization. Listen to it hereRed Hot + Rio 2 drops June 28.

What brand new stuff (released or posted in the last week) have you been listening to?

Throwback: “It’s Time to Break Down” by the Supremes

13 Jun

Because it’s Monday and Mondays are impossible and because I had the Supremes song “It’s Time to Break Down” stuck in my head most of the weekend, I’m posting a YouTube video of the tune below. It’s become one of my new Supremes favorites since I first heard it a few weekends back while browsing CDs at a record store in Durham with my mom and boyfriend (I love that that’s quality family time for us). Enjoy.

P.S. Anyone have any suggestions for some other good but not-so-well-known Supremes tracks?

You Should Dig: Thundercat

9 Jun

In “You Should Dig” posts, I’ll highlight music, films, art, etc. that I’m super excited about. And when I say super excited, I mean YouTube-video-of-a-cheerleader-going-crazy excited. This is an official gush alert. You’ve been warned.

Thundercat

Thundercat, aka Stephen Bruner, on left. Photo credit: dublabrat on Flickr

There’s nothing like finding new music. There’s nothing like trolling your favorite websites and blogs, clicking the play button on some random mp3 by some random artist you’ve never heard of, and having your mind blown by the sudden realization that you just happened upon a song that was made for you. This is exactly what happened to me a few days ago when I was checking out “The Playlist” section on Pitchfork and stumbled upon the track “For Love I Come” by Los Angeles bassist Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat. It’s a cover of the George Duke joint “For Love (I Come Your Friend),” but this version reworks the upbeat, funky, soul-jazz amalgam of the original Duke piece into a sparer, atmospheric lullaby. Thundercat, much like Duke, sings in a warm falsetto as keyboards, bass and reverb unfold all around. Then, the fragmented dreaminess suddenly culminates in a bop explosion at the song’s end.

My first thought/reaction: An emphatic “YAS” after unintentionally holding my breath for a good chunk of the song.

My second thought/reaction: “Oh we bloggin’ about this.”

The Golden Age of Apocalypse album cover

The Golden Age of Apocalypse cover

The track comes from Thundercat’s upcoming album The Golden Age of Apocalypse, due out August 30 on Brainfeeder. It’s a solo work from a man who’s best known for his collaborations with other folks, including Snoop, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus (who’s producing Golden Age) and the hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies, of which he’s a member (really!). I love that this guy has had such a diverse career. It makes me that much more excited to hear his album.

The other things that have me pumped for Thundercat’s solo effort? 1.) A second ill track posted today on Pitchfork called “Daylight,” and 2.) word that Badu and pop duo J*Davey are guesting on the record. So I’m going to need to find a mad scientist with a DeLorean who can transport me to August 30 asap, because I don’t think I can wait. If you’ve got a hookup and some plutonium, tweet me.

Download “For Love I Come” and “Daylight” via Pitchfork.

African Filmmaking, Restless City Get Some Love at MTV Movie Awards

7 Jun

The MTV Movie Awards isn’t something that’s on my radar — blame it on the fact that I didn’t grow up watching the annual shows (no cable as a kid) and I officially aged out of the show’s target audience  about nine or ten years ago (also, I still don’t have cable). So I didn’t tune in Sunday night for all the bronze bucket o’ popcorn teen screaminess. But had I known that MTV added a category for Best African Movie this year, and that Restless City, a film I have been casually cyberstalking for a month, was nominated, I may have clicked over to MTV from the NBA Finals for a minute or two. (I didn’t find out about the nomination until yesterday via the film’s Twitter page. Like I said, casual cyberstalking.) Restless City didn’t win — the Congolese feature Viva Riva! did — but it’s still cool to see RC and African filmmaking at large get some recognition. Let’s just talk about Restless City right now though.

Restless City movie poster

The movie is the first feature by photographer/filmmaker/fashion insider/dude I want to become friends with Andrew Dosunmu. Originally from Nigeria, Dosunmu started out working as a stylist for Yves Saint Lauren in the ’90s and went on to become a fashion photographer and sought-after music video director. The diverse influences from Dosunmu’s background come together in Restless City, which tells the story of a very hip-looking, Vespa-riding African immigrant living in New York. I haven’t seen it yet, but the stills from the film are gorgeous:

Restless City film still

Restless City film still

Restless City film still

Restless City film still

All photos by Jenny Baptiste.

Restless City premiered at Sundance this year and another screening sold out at BAM in NYC over the holiday weekend, but there’s no word yet on when or if the film will get a wide release. I have two high hopes for this film: first, that it will reach my current locale of Wilmington, NC, or at least some city nearby; and second, that its recognition at the MTV Movie Awards along with its ilk will inspire some kid to shun the Twilight franchise and OD on some African films instead.

Have you seen the film? Thoughts?

R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron

3 Jun
Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron. Photo credit: Mischa Richter

It’s Friday night and I’m spending the evening listening to I’m New Here, the last album by the late Gil Scott-Heron,who died last Friday. I got the record for free while I was writing for WNYC’s culture site last year. I was amazed at my luck, that I just happened to be a music writer at the moment when Scott-Heron released his first new work in years, and I posted a brief write-up about the album. I was excited about the new album, but for me (and probably many others) Scott-Heron’s comeback was tinged with sadness and worry. My boyfriend told me about the New Yorker article in which writer Alec Wilkinson wrote about how Scott-Heron smoked crack in front of him. I remember talking with a friend who, planning to attend a show of his at the Blue Note, wistfully wondered aloud if he’d show up for the gig. He’d become one part artist, one part revolutionary, and one part tragedy.

Strangely enough, a few hours before news broke of his death, Scott-Heron’s biggest hit, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” inspired the title of one of my blog posts. The 1971 version of “Revolution” is what most people know him for, but I hope I’m New Here becomes a work that he is remembered for as well. Clocking in at less than 30 minutes, the 15-track album is a spoken word, blues-filled, occasionally industrial-leaning tour de force that tonight, feels like some avant-garde correspondence from beyond the grave. One of my favorite tracks is the brief, haunting cut “Where Did the Night Go.” Scott-Heron speaks with a grandfatherly, strong yet weary rumble as he recounts the events and thoughts of a night without sleep. As a night owl, I can relate.

It’s these pithy bursts of genius that make me wince at the reality that Gil Scott-Heron is dead. Yes, he was 62 (though that’s not that old, really) and yes, he had a drug problem, but damn it, he also had a gift for crafting verse and capturing emotions, a gift that was still as potent as it was in the early ’70s when he quipped “The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.” We’re lucky we had him for as long as we did, but I can’t help but wonder what more this man may have said if we’d had more time with him.

Video: Erykah Badu Jams with My Morning Jacket

1 Jun

Because the glorious holiday weekend/family visit all but derailed my blogging momentum and I have so much to do/catch up on in general, I’m going to keep it simple today with a few videos I found through Pitchfork of everyone’s favorite soul sistah #1, hereafter known as Erykah Badu, performing with much-loved psychedelic Kentucky rockers My Morning Jacket.

Yeah, this happened. And it sounded pretty epic.

First up is a professional clip of the crew covering “Wordless Chorus” with Badu DEMANDING attention in a space-desert-cowgirl getup that only she could pull off.

Second we have a fan video of the gang covering “Tyrone” with all sorts of jammy, soulful abandon.

I don’t know about you guys, but this is just what I need to get through the rest of this post-Memorial Day, way-too-hot-too-already week.