Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why People Hate 808's and Heartbreak


Kanye and Alexis

I listened to 808 and Heartbreaks last week for about two days straight.
It is an album that needs to be played loudly, in your trunk, on your
headphones or in the living groom.

I came to it through the back door as I wasn't really tripping off of it
until I saw folks at The Smoking Section speak and I read the comments
section. I figured if that many people were hating on it, then I should give
it a listen.

Besides, I typically rock for the underdog.

I also knew that given the loss that he experienced in the last year
and the fact that he is a Gemini, he was going to go all out on the album.

Word to Tupac.

The more I listened to the album, the more I realized that this
cat was in a lot of pain, and trying to articulate it.

To say that he "sounds like" T-Pain misses the point by looking
at just the sound, but ignoring the content. T- Pain ain't never
said anything that made me think about nothing.

Whereas, 808's and Heartbreak, helped me with being in
reflection mode last week.

Besides, listening to the beat and not the lyrics has been a troubling
issue in hip hop since The Chronic.

Break up albums allow an artist to lay it on the line. 808's is no different.
In fact, Marvin Gaye's Here my Dear, Erykah's Mamas Gun are some
other examples that come to mind.

Other than the loss of someone, when are you really vulnerable?

Listening to the album and hearing him describe those
post break up slug penetrate moments, I came to realize
that he was being both vulnerable and in pain and in our culture that
is a no no for men, and antithetical to Black manhood. That is if
if you believed what you saw in hip hop.

It was then that I realized that the only acceptable emotion
for Black men to publicly express and still retain their
is rage.

Kill a hundred fools? Cool.
Murder, stab, rape? Fine.
Sad over losing our ex? Blasphemy.

In many ways, 808's and heartbreak is a blues album.

That classic since my baby left me blues music.

In fact, the beef over this Kanye album underscores
the stark differences between the Blues and hip hop.

With the blues, Black men could be complex, emotional
human beings.

With hip hop, at least with regard to the dominant narrative,
they can only be self destructive machines.

I wonder what BB King thinks?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to Be in Pain and Not Fall Apart


There is a fine, fine art to being in pain and not falling apart.
I have had several challenges in the last month. I was facing deadlines,
different areas of my life were flatlining, others were soaring,
it was real.

There are about four things that I have identified that have been
integral to being able to be in pain and not fall apart. They are
faith practices, a community of healing, self care and time.

Faith Practices
What ever your faith practices are, you will have to rely on
them a little more than usual and perhaps get into them a little
more intensely than you normally do. When your spirit is sideways,
and you have been brought to your knees, in many ways faith is all
you have.

Community of Healing

I don't go to the hardware store for bread, I wouldn't go to the zoo to
get a loan. I try and go to the proper places for the proper help which
means that try and see out folks who are a little more spiritually advanced
than I am when crisis mode has me against the wall.
I have about six people
who are more spiritually more grounded than
I am who I can reach out to
when I am trying to make sense of something.
This is new for me. I learned
last year that I needed these folks in my life, when I saw a friend who had
his own community of healing and realized that he dealt with things entirely
differently than I did, and he was far more sane and stable.

These six people are comprised of friends and family, others are people
in a self help fellowship
that I am a member of and then there are folks in my faith
In terms of being in pain, the only way through it is through
, and I hate it. Not above, under or below, but through. There may be
moments where you feel like you are falling apart,
and that is okay, it is
a part of the process.

Just like my dear friend and colleague Tracey Rose mentioned
to me
today, "You have to sit with the feelings because as long
as you fight them,
they continue to get stronger." I was floored.
I looked at the phone, like, she crazy. However, I didn't disagree,
I listened and it helped.
I sat with them, listened to some Al Green
and some new Kanye, it was uncomfortable, but ultimatly I felt transformed.

Self Care

Self care entails doing kind things for yourself. This may be watching
The Cowboys, making cinnamon rolls or going to the movies. There is also
an element of not beating up on yourself when things don't go the way
you expected them. In many ways there is a kind of grace to it. For
me the ultimate self care is a pedicure and brunch, but with the economy
being what it is, the $30 spent on a pedicure and fancy eggs and toast
can used on a cell phone bill, a metro card, or my perpetual
library fines
. The general idea is that you take some time to be kind to

Being in pain and getting through it takes time. Giving that the holidays
are upon us, being around family can be both comforting and amazing,
however it can trigger old wounds. Getting through the pain takes time
and in many ways, being around family shows us that if we don't deal
with it, it will be sitting there waiting for us, whether we like it or not,
year after year. The notion that all this takes time is arguably, one
of the most challending for me to deal with, and perhaps for you as
well. For me it entails accepting that I only have control over myself,
my actions, my thoughts. While I may want things to happen in the
time that I want them to, I simply can't make them. Thats a fact of life.
So I struggle. I struggle with sitting with it, getting the work done that
needs to be done, and I am so grateful for when the pain is lessened
a bit. When that happends, it feels like a boot has been removed
from my throat, and
dios mio am I grateful.

I hope that these help you. I'd like to hear what you think
about my suggestions.

How do you cope with pain?
The big three, alcohol, sex, rage?
Do you shut down?
If you have tools, who taught you?

Joseph, Marquette, Matthew, Pathanapong,
Salina, Tracey, thank you for inspiring me to write this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can Victims Be Perpetrators?


Yesterday the internet was abuzz with the fact that
Prince might be homophobic.

Carmen from New Demographic commented on
Twitter that
this didn't make sense. She wrote ,
"I'm still amazed that Prince is a
I mean, isn't there a good chance he's been gay-

bashed in his life? (Even if he's not gay)
I responded
back saying that she
presumed that possessing
a "fringe Black masculinity" would make him more
likely to be tolerant. I added that tolerance, like hate is taught.
She responded saying she agreed, but it was still sad.

I agreed.

Even before I read the evidence of what Prince said, I suspected that
if Prince was being intolerant, then perhaps may have something
to do with his interpretation of the tenets of his faith practices.

This Prince moment also reminded me that our generation has a
hard time accepting the fact
that victims can be perpetrators.

The question of whether victims can be perpetrators
has been on my mind for a while. A couple of weeks ago,
I was having conversation I had with Krisna Best, of the
Hip Hop and Democracy Project
, which grew from my review
of Byron Hurts film, Barack and Curtis.

Below I provide two quotes, which in my opinion
get to the issue of our discussion of whether victims
can be perpetrators.

Krisna wrote,
Your example of the white woman reminds me a lot of
the whole "black on black crime" thing. This is where
I start to disagree with you. There's a white supremacist
tinge to the black-on-black-crime concept because it
pathologizes, if you will, black behavior. Black folks commit
crime not because of a pathology or because of false
consciousness, but because of much larger structural
circumstances and is related to my point about this generation
breaking with the conditions of work
. They see the old arrangement
as providing no road out of the circumstances of our society,
not because they believe in their inferiority or whatever the
conclusions of this bogus psychoanalysis are.

I responded,

Aren't you pathologizing them into permanent victimhood?

They have agency. They can choose. We all choose to sell crack
blog, have children, vote, join the army. I am completely aware of
the fact that our choices take place within the range of options
available to us, and that often times our parents class status
dictates exactly which options we just may have.

Let me ask you this? Do you think that D-boys/Pimps have agency?
While he didn't respond at the time to my question,
he has done so since I posted this.

The notion of victims being perpetrators weighs heavy on
my mind, as I have been reading a lot about the Black Power
Movement, Gender and Sexism for the past few weeks.
You may be surprised, but, there were folks who felt that Black
men weren't capable of being sexist
because they were
victims of racism
. Somehow, they some folks to believe that being a
victim, they couldn't be a perpetrator.

Now this of course makes no sense. For example, Black folks
who have been victims of racism can be prejudicial towards others
Black folks regarding skin color.
Paper bag party anyone?

Thats the horror of racism. It corrupts. It poisons.

Once we decide to refuse to look at people solely as victims
who have nothing to contribute, and to see people as subjects
who have agency and a will to change, the path will be laid for
us to have personal transformation on an individual and societal scale.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Homoeroticism of "Punks Jump Up to Get Beatdown"


I was on a road trip recently and "Punks Jump Up" came on XM radio,
so it was uncensored.
It had been a long time since I heard Brand Nubian
in all of their raw boom bapness. The contrast between the serenity of the
gold, orange, yellow
trees and the Rocky horns in the songs intro
couldn't have been more stark.

Yet there was something priceless about the moment.

I turned to Filthy and was like, why is Brand Nubian
talking about gay men so much? As both Sadat and Lord Jamar
mention gay folks in their verses.

Oh yes, Im the bad man, and bad men wear black.
And if it comes to droppin bombs, yo, Im with that.
Though I can freak, fly, floow, fuck up a faggot.
Dont understand their ways I aint down with gays.
-Sadat X

Did you want some more? I didnt think so.
Just got whipped like a faggot in the clink, so

I suggest you take your bloody mess and find a piece of wire,
Fix your broken jaw, then its time to retire.
-Lord Jamar
My first reaction was that was that it was quasi homoerotic.
No, I am not saying that Sadat or Lord Jamar are gay.
What I am saying is that looking back at the lyrics 15 years later,
in total, the lyrics are over the top, anti-gay and they make me wonder
why does doing harm to gay cats play such a central role in this song?

One answer is that what is present in American culture is acutely
obvious in Hip Hop. Crime, homophobia, single parenthood.
You name it, both America in general and Hip Hop specifically has it.

The irony is that I saw Sadat perform his verse of the song
this summer, and he did deleted the word "faggot" from his verse.
Granted the performance was in Park Slope, at Prospect Park, so
he may have inferred that it wouldn't have played too well in uber
gay friendly neighborhood.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Check it In


I. Missed. You. All.

I have a few posts percolating.
They are:
Obama as the Black Savior,
On Feeling Irrelevant Because of Obama Win
The Politics of Michelle Obama's Body
The History of Hip Hop Blogs,
Rafi, De La Soul and Crankety old men,
Black women and street harassment,
Black Feminism 101,
How to be in Pain and Not Shut Down.

Good. Clean. Fun.
I can't even begin to tell you what happened
in the last few weeks.

We now have a Black president. I shut down the blog for the first
time EVER. I needed to get it in, and I didn't want to half step
it with you all or with myself.

All I have to say is that it culminated yesterday in me showing up
to take the
GRE with an ID that expired last month and I WAS

Needless to say, I light weight flatlined. I'm alive, here, writing
and prepping to bring the insightful analysis that angers some
and delights many.

Besides, in the last few weeks, I have been looking around the
blogosphere, and I am not trying to clown or nothing, but most
these cats aren't saying nathin. I mean. Zero. Its bugged out.
They actually aggregate AP news articles, and do
so horribly. What is that?

What have you been up to?

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