Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm still not exactly hype about Common's upcoming Universal Mind Control album, considering his inspiration for it and the leaked material to date. But this new joint, Gladiator, actually bangs pretty hard and inspired the beginning of my workout today. I know the album is gonna at least be mostly produced by the Neptunes, so if this beat belongs to Pharrell and Chad, my hats off; it's their hardest since Busta's "Call the Ambulance."
Still not that excited, but I know there'll at least be one dope cut.
I've learned the hard way that, even in an increasingly progressive, post-Obama-as-president society, publications still shy away from polarizing, controversial viewpoints so as to protect their image and/or their hard dollars. And sometimes, the wrong people associated with said publications just flatly disagree with the viewpoint.
Such has been the issue I've found with this editorial. I'm sure if I kept shopping it around a bit more, I'd find someone who would accept it, but the topic has grown somewhat cold. I did spend time writing this, so I want it to be read by someone, goddammit.
I’ve been pretty disappointed in black folks these past couple weeks.
The beauty and historical significance of Barack Obama’s election has, in my eyes, been dramatically undercut by the passing of Proposition 8 in California. The proposition was designed to amend the Constitution to state that true marriage is only between a man and a woman. Its passing sets the gay rights movement back heaven knows how many years, and will essentially serve to preserve their status as second-class citizens.
That this proposition was even on the ballot is troubling. That it was the most highly-funded state campaign in the country is baffling. But that black voters – who no doubt turned out in record numbers to elect our champion – played a pivotal role by being some 70 percent of people who voted for the proposition simply angers me and proves that we still have a long, long way to go.
Unfortunately, nothing about it surprises me; the 800-pound gorilla in the room here is definitely the church. Black folks are a spiritual people, and we’re rather steadfast in our ideas about the family structure. So because we interpreted the antiquated text of the Holy Bible as any and everything gay is “against God,” we leveraged that as an excuse to vote for the proposition…exercising a right we didn’t even have 140 years ago because they thought we were second class citizens.
If you have half a brain that isn’t slowly leaking out of your ass, it should be easy to come to the conclusion after very little invested thought that the civil rights of homosexuals are no intrusion on the rights straight people have to marry whomever they want of the opposite sex. It should be easy to deduce that using the term “marriage” to define existing gay civil unions isn’t going to make more people gay, corrupt our children or lead to plague, genocide and the collapse of American civilization as we know it.
People need to understand that legalization of gay marriage won’t require any church to marry who they don’t want to marry, just as no church or its pastor is required to marry a straight couple.
Gay marriage isn’t going to serve as a detriment to the existing shitty institution of marriage. Folks harp on about how straight marriage is a cornerstone of the traditional family; meanwhile, over half of them end in divorce and any pairing of straight people who’ve known each other for one evening and several Jagerbombs can jaunt down to any city hall with a few bucks and get married only to get that shit annulled the next day.
If anything, gay marriage may help boost the existing divorce rates given that they’ve fought so hard just to have the right.
I could go on and on and on with this topic...it runs that deep. In summation: Americans in general – and black folks specifically – need to pull their heads out of their collective ass and recognize the existence of prejudice in its purest, most malevolent form. I urge you to think long and hard about nature, the history of America, the essential tenets of your religion and the basic common sense that is all too often obfuscated by dogma.
If you still come to the conclusion that gay equals bad, then hopefully your god can help you…because I sure can’t.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I was not nearly as excited about 808s and Heartbreaks as I was his previous three albums, for obvious reasons. It's really difficult to stomach one of the best hip-hop artists of the new millennium singing for a whole album when he can't actually sing. On top of that, I think the Autotune craze that's perverted contemporary rap/R&B is worth burying deep below the Mariana Trench.
That said, I appreciate no more than three songs on this album from a production standpoint alone. Indeed, this is where 'Ye has always shined. "Street Lights" is dope and atmospheric, and "Say You Will" has an extra-dope piano.
So while this will be the first of his albums on which I will not shovel out any loot, a few of those songs will make it on my drive-to-Detroit compilation for tomorrow.
Peep the album here.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
To me, being in love…
…is a key to the crib.
…is a random email saying "I love you," at 3:47 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, just because.
…is goodness with the potential of greatness.
…is an Al Green song belting from your stereo.
…is "well…let me tell you all about her!"
…is the maturation of infatuation.
…is a shine that doesn't wear off.
…is that…that je ne sais quoi.
…is the sacrifice that reaps interminable dividends.
…is truth in position.
…is finding gray hairs on one another.
…is fingers on the keys of a piano.
…is knowing you have a confidant without prejudice.
…is saying "okay" to things you don't wish to do, just to see her smile.
…is Oslo omelettes and potatoes with Hollandaise sauce on a Sunday morning.
…is flashing a toothy grin for no good reason.
… is a weekend wasted away between the bedsheets.
…is an embrace so tight that she can come no closer.
…is uplifting when desired.
…is honesty when needed.
…is patience always.
…is a shared sense of humor.
…is a toothbrush in the bathroom and panties left on the bedroom floor.
…is sneaking a kiss when no one is looking. And sometimes even when they are.
…is the peace in a mind at war.
…is striving to do better.
…is a high that doesn't crash; a drunk that doesn't hang over.
…is dancing the entire night away.
…is an unchained melody.
…is the kindred spirit. The creation and sustenance of family.
…is the duality of joy and agony.
…is the juice that gets you out of bed on an early Monday morning.
…is "what the fuck is this I'm feeling?!?!?"
…is intimacy that disgusts everyone else.
…is a desire to put her comfort over your own.
…is an incomparable elation.
…is stealing food from her plate.
…is omnipresence of the light.
…is the most profound inspiration.
…is shared, knowing glances.
…is an agreement; a contract with no paper.
…is a letter written on yellow paper.
…is the excitement at what's to come.
…is a beautiful surrender.
…is a honeymoon phase that doesn't end.
…is showing your homies a part of you they've never seen.
…is a warm blanket, a couch and a DVD on a cold evening.
…is truly not mattering what anyone – ANYONE – thinks.
…is a restless heart.
…is folks telling you that you're "glowing."
…is reaction we don't always intend.
…is unprecedented exposure of vulnerability.
…is holding her face in your hand and locking her eyes with yours.
…is Sex 2.0: The Lovemaking Edition.
…is the best and worst of circumstances shared.
…is some of the only hard work worth working for.
…is left of center.
…is the essence of the mortal coil.
…is not being able to run away. And not wanting to.
…is many streaming tears.
…is many spent years.
…is waiting for her to return.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My girl Lisa made a pretty good point: sitting at home all day allows for some interesting ruminations.
One topic occupied much of yesterday's thought processes: The meaning of "in love."
It made me curious about what other people think it means. Of course, I don't mean loving someone; like your mama, your child or your dog. I mean the true acknowledgment that you are all-consumingly in love, romantically, with one other person (or persons? Is this possible?).
I don't care if you come to this blog for the sex/relationship stuff, for the hip-hop or for both; please get at me with your three cents. It can be a word, a few words, a sentence or a whole damn essay if you please. Think about what being in love means to you, and drop me a line.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Travel back with me for a bit.
February 1999. State Theater; Detroit, Michigan. Every bit a 17-year-old, there wasn't much to my life besides school, a part-time job at Media Play and the interminable-yet-unsuccessful panty chase. Standing outside in the cold for a concert hours before doors opened so as to secure a spot front row, center-stage for a Roots concert was nothing. During that wait, I met a dope sister who, little did I know, would still be in my life nearly a decade later (One Love, Liz...I know you're reading, ma!).
As for the show itself, I wasn't ready. Little did I know that almost 10 years and many, many concerts later, it would remain the best live show I've ever attended.
That tour was to promote the release of Things Fall Apart, which was phenomenal in that zeitgeist but stands the test of time as the group's magnum opus and a true classic in hip-hop's canon.
The band - then Black Thought, ?uestlove, Kamal, Hub and Scratch - walked out single-file shaking tambourines before taking their positions on stage. And for the following two-and-a-half hours, they gave us more. Late in the show, Thought introduced to the stage a slovenly-dressed, shy young newcomer by the name of Jill Scott as the original songstress behind the "You Got Me" hook. Folks came up to me months later reminding me how she blew everyone away.
The Roots remain my favorite band of all time. Not only is their studio recording catalog stellar, but they singlehandedly set the gold standard of what I have come to expect from a hip-hop show. Such is why the news of their retirement from touring breaks my heart.
The group is transcendent not only in that it's the only hip-hop group I can think of that doesn't rely on machine-driven production or a DJ, but because you could get a different version of their show even if you went on every stop of a single tour. That alone trumps the prosaic nature of most other hip-hop artists who do the same shit with the same DJ every single show.
They don't just get on the stage and play: they have fun. From no other band will you see a nigga with a tuba do the Cupid Shuffle onstage with the bass guitar player. ?uest battling Knuckles in percussion has to be experienced. Scratch emanating noises from his mouth that no human should be able to is insane and eerie. And every time Thought and ?uest do "The Web", I get amped.
While the band's live recordings (which apparently will continue as long as they're under contract) did take a dip in quality for a spell (see: Phrenology and The Tipping Point), many of those songs are interpolated much better in concert.
I've seen them numerous times since that February: the legendary Okayplayer Tour; the stop at Congress Theater on the single hottest day of summer 2006 - after which Vernal and I were exhausted, drenched in sweat and completely satisfied; the stop at The Kaleidoscope last year during which Skillz and Dice Raw (successfully) filled in for an ailing Thought and ?uest and Thought ripping an afterparty at the Victor Hotel earlier this year during the first time I shared a live hip-hop experience with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
I do respect the difficulty that these cats have to endure living with each other on the road for all these years, and I'm not entirely surprised at this decision. Having a regular gig on a television show with Jimmy Fallon - the biggest tool on television since Carson Daly - will definitely stack the math. I just wonder where Thought will fit in, if at all, with a format that probably doesn't allow for an emcee in the mix.
I saw them here in Chicago last Thursday; the evening ?uest made the announcement posted after the jump. I suppose I'm glad I dragged my ass out the house for it; especially they and Cee-Lo straight bodied shit and showed us all what a free concert should be like.
If that really, truly was my swan song with the band, then it's been a fantastic 10 years. We'll always have Detroit.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
But I came across a video last night of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (props, Steele) speaking on Proposition 8 that gave me sheer goosebumps. He demonstrated a disarming passion and perspicacious judgment the likes of which I don't hear or read nearly enough from the newsfolk.
And while I'm sure that many politicians and bureaucrats feel the same way Keith does - President-elect Obama included, i'll wager - not nearly enough of them speak with this level of passion for fear of losing their electorate's imprimatur.
Folks, I implore you to listen to all six-plus minutes of this video. I couldn't have voiced it better myself.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It’s been kinda slow on the hip-hop tip these days….not much out there blowing up my skirt. But yesterday my travels took me to this audio of eternal G-Unit sycophant Tony Yayo talking on Shade 45 radio as reckless as I’ve heard any rapper speak. And that’s a tall motherfucking order.
The only two reasons I listened to him go on and on – barely letting the DJs get a word in edgewise – are because I was cooking dinner and because this train wreck of an "interview" was the most amusing shit I’ve heard in weeks. He dedicates at least 15 minutes talking trash about Young Buck and throwing all manner of rumors out there. He spends the rest of the time talking about other rappers like The Game, kowtowing to his boss 50 Cent and expounding on how he’s one of the realest niggas alive.
Seriously, there are so many quotables in this audio that you have to listen for yourself, even if it’s just background for whatever else you might be doing. This is the most I’ll probably EVER listen to Tony Yayo say anything anywhere – on- or off-wax.
Friday, November 7, 2008
This was deemed too "serious" by my editors. Plus, they weren't about to allow me to level my own personal indictment of R. Kelly given that he'd just been acquitted in a court of law. Politics, man.
I was raised, not surprisingly, with a male-centric perspective on sex: get laid if you can, as much as you can.
I think a by-product of that upbringing was a rather skewed perception of sexual assault: As a youngster, I used to think rapists were evil men with no moral code or redeeming social value who resembled guys like Ted Kaczynski and Charles Manson.
And when I did hear about rapes in the media, they were distant occurrences; acts toward women in rural areas that I didn’t regard nearly as much as I would the victim of any other violent crime.
Most unfortunately, I’d always cast a shadow of doubt over a victim’s truth-telling when she described her story of being raped.
But with age and experience came enlightenment on the realities of rape and sexual assault.
Offenders went from bearded freaks to famous people I respected, like Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur. In adulthood they became even more mainstream characters like Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and the occasional Catholic priest.
The victims went from nameless faces on television to those close to me: Friends, girlfriends, relatives and so-forth. The first time I read the statistics - one in six American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Rainn.org - was a sobering moment.
With it came my “come to Jesus” moment: sexual assault is a bigger problem than many people realize or are willing to accept.
The issue typically evokes three emotions: anger, helplessness and self-reflection.
I’m angry because I want to commit unthinkable acts of violence against the people who‘ve hurt those I love. I feel helpless because I know I can’t.
I can’t do anything about the fact that women I care about have to carry that burden around with them for life. Every sexual experience, every partner, everything…is somehow connected to that negative experience, and I can’t change it.
I stand in self-reflection because I try to figure out in what ways I’ve contributed to what’s really a systemic problem. Obviously, I’m far removed from the idea of ever forcing myself upon someone, but I know that, at least in the past, I have done things to subconsciously contribute to the problem.
When I was in college, I stood outside of a friend’s dorm room, and said something to him along the lines of, “did that exam rape you yesterday?” A woman I knew came outside of her room and asked me not to use that verb in such a cavalier context.
At the time, I was pissed off that someone would try to censor me, but it dawned on me later that she had probably been a victim of sexual assault herself.
And no doubt she was at least close to someone who was assaulted. We all are.
I wonder about the adult material I consume: How much of it actually perpetuates a culture of sexual assault? I don’t personally care for porn that is violent or demeaning to women, but I’ve likely shelled out money for something that indirectly – or directly – supports or promotes sexual assault.
R. Kelly’s acquittal prompted this column: if his video, which clearly depicts an illegal sexual act (yes, I saw it years ago) is not sufficient for a conviction, it simply serves as a reminder that we have such a long way to go.
In the interim, I’m still working to figure out how I can further alter my mentality and behavior to not contribute to the problem.
I suppose I could continue by symbolically ditching my R. Kelly albums.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The world is quite literally at your fingertips. You’ve got countless subordinates and droves of followers. You have the military might to erase entire countries off the map, and you know that all world leaders will think long and hard before developing the grapes to fuck with you.
Through it all, you have a taut, attractive wife by your side who has bore your children, defended you against all detractors and stood by you through the best and worst.
What would your very first move be?
No question for me. I’m finding the closest bed behind four walls and I’m making love to her.
And not just any old love will do. It’s gotta be that toe-curling, pillow-biting, sheet-loosening, sweaty, liquid-y screaming and hollering, yelling-'till-God-tells-you-to-keep-that-shit-down sex. That sex that makes quadruplets. That sex she’ll tell all her friends about and make them look at their sorry-ass partners like “You limp-dick mothafuckah!!!”
Y’all already know how my mind works. For some reason I got to thinking last night about if and how either of the presidential candidates maintained a sex life with their wives during this arduous campaign trail. I mean, you still gotta keep the home fires burning on the road to the big seat, right?
Did they get it on in their respective airplanes? They send all the advisors to the front of the cabin and put a sock on the curtain? Is there some smashing in the makeup room after a debate well-done? Perhaps the occasional nooner before getting in the hot seat with Bill O’Reilly or Larry King? Did Cindy McCain take care of Little John after he got pwned on The View?
It only fits the aesthetic of the presidency that the man holding the post should be capable of doing equal damage with his actual phallus as he is with the phallic weapons he has control over. The feeling I got from meeting Barack in person several years ago is that he’s probably sporting a hang low that crashes to the floor when he drops trou and that Michelle gets it on the regular. It wouldn’t surprise me a tad if President-Elect beats it up all week and we see Cute Obama Daughter #3 pop out in the White House's West Wing sometime next summer.
The feeling that I (and anyone with a high-definition television should) get from McCain is that he hasn’t had a natural erection since Bush 41 was in office, and that it probably takes nothing short of a truck-mounted crane to get him at any kind of attention to please Cindy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a scandal dropped in which Cindy – just a few years and a couple Botox injections past MILF status – is exposed to have participated in an extramarital affair sometime in the past decade.
Maybe he has a couple blue pills on standby in case the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come trotting up the street and he actually takes this thing.
Not that I see that happening. If you haven’t voted yet, get your monkey ass to the polls now. Time’s still left to ensure that McCain doesn't get any victory cooze.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I will forever reflect upon 2008 for a great many reasons – not the least of which is a true awakening to the merits of alternative rock music. I’ve always listened to it to a small extent, but this year I’ve really opened up the genre for the first time; checking out all these bands’ entire catalogs for the first time and appreciating music I never thought would ever stimulate me.
It all snowballed from Coldplay. Before I even started touching other acts, I had the group’s whole damn catalog. Something about their lush instrumentation and Chris Martin’s bleeding heart falsetto reaches out to my emotional faculties on the strength.
I’ve learned that many, many rappers and rap fans also appreciate all things Coldplay, so it comes as no surprise that a DJ would eventually create something like Viva La Hova, on which the always-capable Mick Boogie partnered with Terry Urban to mesh the sounds of Coldplay with the lyrics of the Jiggaman.
Viva La Hova is worth a listen to anyone who likes hip-hop, but will be especially appreciated by enthusiasts of both artists. If you appreciate their proper pairing – Kingdom Come’s “Beach Chair” – then you’ll dig the blending and instrumentation on this compilation. Don’t come looking for new Hove verses – they’re all jacked from previous albums (probably a good thing).
I’m normally extremely averse to genre crossings, but cuts like “What If We Cry?” (a blend of “What If?” and “Song Cry”) and “Public Speeding” (“High Speed” and “Public Service Announcement”) make me wonder what other rock-hop pairings would sound like. Nas and Radiohead? Common and Death Cab for Cutie?
Hopefully this will start a trend. And hopefully the trend won’t suck donkey balls.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Hip-hop isn't dead. This shit will be my election week theme song.