Slow Claps for Cardi: An Album Review

 

Cardi B’s got a new album and y’know… I can appreciate it for what it is. A bop here and there, I fast forwarded through a couple. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.

From the top, Get Up 10 is brazy. Cardi’s coming out the gate with bars for that ass. I love a good Migos feature and “Drip” is no exception.

“Bickenhead”: a bop.

I can never hear Bodack Yellow ever again in my life, I’ll be just fine.

Now, a lot of folks on the twitters and the grams and the shade rooms had a lot to say about “Be Careful.” Cardi, herself, addressed the flac she got after releasing the single in an interview with The Breakfast Club. But I loved the song the first time I heard it. The Lauryn Hill sample really won it over for me. And to hear that Lauryn, herself gave Cardi the blessing to use the sample – validation.

If you check my track record, I’m clearly Chance the Rapper’s biggest fan. Upon scanning the track list and seeing his name, I actually started the album out of order with “Best Life.” Talk about a personal anthem.

Anything with that Caribbean/hip hop flavor immediately has my attention. “I Like It”: I love it.

I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m not saying it’s right but I really just loathe Kehlani’s voice so that really shot “Ring” in the face for me. Skip.

“Money bag”: it was cute the first time, but it’s a skip 8 times out of 10.

“Bartier Cardi”: it goes off in the gym.

I suppose the last three tracks were cute. It got a little more reserved, a little more introspective, which was nice. You can’t go wrong with a little SZA… And just like that it was over. I say it was a good show and a solid debut. I didn’t not like it. I thought it was cohesive. There are certainly some bops for the summer time.

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I’ll give it to her. I sincerely hopes she keeps going. She’s already begun cultivating a lane of her own and I definitely see room for growth. Perhaps, the new baby will kick the creative juices into a new gear. That seems to be a thing. Regardless of all that, she’s apart of the canon now. If you can’t find it in some part of you to commend this woman on a job well done, regardless of if you like her music, I contend that you are simply a hater.

*Kanye shrug*

Django Jane

Not gone lie, I was a little turned on watching the Make Me Feel video.

What a cute way to finish Black History Month.

I kind of have a thing for both of Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monae individually, but just the idea of the two together like as a thing is just… ugh *swoon*

I’ve been a fan of Janelle Monae’s since Metropolis: Suite 1. She never said she was one of us definitively but I always kind of got that vibe. She was an inspiration from jump in her black and white tuxedos. At the time that she first came into the music scene, her aesthetic was drastically different from other female artists, which I found refreshing and interesting.

Personally, Janelle came into my life at a time where I was trying to start expressing myself through my own wardrobe (i.e. wearing “boys” clothes). My mother wasn’t too crazy about my shopping choices and if I hadn’t seen Janelle shuffling around in a tux in the tightrope video, I’d still probably be out here perpetrating a fraud to be fem.

Since Metropolis, I’ve been a loyal fan. And it really makes me smile to see her out here still wearing her suits and slaying my life.

A few days ago, she released another one of her trademark “Emotion Pictures,” this iteration entitled “Dirty Computer.”

Immediately, I knew new music was afoot and earlier this week she delivered with Django Jane and Make Me Feel, which people appear to be holding up as a declaration of her (bi)sexuality. Like I said earlier, I suspected as much but in all honesty the thing that I’m most taken with from the video is the aesthetic of it. It looked like freedom. It looked fun. It looked like somewhere I needed to be. It made me feel good to watch it. The fact that she’s dancing between Tessa Thompson and that light skinned young man, as a woman, not only makes a statement about her sexuality, it illustrates a larger idea of liberation which is what the Archandroid has always stood for.

I’m happy to see Janelle staying true to her narrative and continuing this arch that she started with Cindi Mayweather on Metropolis back in 2007. The fact that this story that Janelle started on that project has been developing for over ten years now is a testament to her storytelling. With each consecutive project, she builds on the narrative and sucks me in to the dystopic reality of our favorite fugitive, Android 57821 a.k.a Cindi Mayweather a.k.a The Archandroid.

Janelle Monae is really an artist of a generation.

 

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Embed from Getty Images

Today in Black History, I’m honoring Lena Waithe.

Lena’s name first came to my knowing back in 2014 during press for Dear White People, the movie. I was deep into Tumblr back then and there was a lot of buzz around the movie. I watched every interview with Justin Simien that I could find. I was just stunned to see a black guy who wrote and directed his own movie that wasn’t Spike Lee. Justin dropped the name Lena Waithe as someone who was instrumental to getting DWP made in a few interviews before I was compelled to do some research.

Lena Waithe’s been doing her thing for a good while now. She produced for Justin Simien, she’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gina Prince Bythewood and Ava DuVernay, and now she’s out here leading her own projects.

I remember watching the pilot for “Twenties” on YouTube back in my freshman year of college and thinking “I’d like to see more.” Now three years later, TBS has picked the show up for a fully realized first season. Talk about full circle.

Her “Thanksgiving” episode in the second season of Master of None was groundbreaking. It was the story of her character Denise’s coming out to her mother. Lena later revealed in interviews that she drew on her own coming out story as she was writing that episode.

This episode went on to put everybody else who watched it in their feels and Lena won an Emmy for the episode last year for comedic writing, making her the first black woman to do so. Goals.

Now, she’s at the helm of the Showtime Original, The Chi, which is some damn good television if I do say so myself.

Being from the South, I’ve heard about the situation in Chicago primarily through social media. Artists like Chance the Rapper, who hail from the city, have also shed light on the reality of living in Chicago, specifically the Southside, and the paranoia and violence that plague the youth of that environment.

What’s happening in Chicago is ultimately indicative of discriminatory housing policies targeted at communities of color in inner cities all over the country. But of course, this is a more informed and nuanced understanding of what’s happening in the city of Chicago. Mainstream media will tell you that black folks are just violent and senselessly killing each other just because. To this point, Spike Lee took a particularly tone deaf approach to this very issue with his film, Chi-raq, portraying an oversimplified, bloods-vs-crips example of gang relations. The film caught series backlash from Chicago natives and activists.

But Lena Waithe pays homage to her city in a beautiful, nuanced display of real people living real lives with real problems. Her characters are not static stereotypes of the people of Chicago. Brandon could easily be my brother, Poppa, Jake, and Kevin, my little cousins. Even the dope boys that run the block seem sympathetic at times.

This show is simply amazing!

On top of all this, Lena will be starring in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, coming to theaters on March 29th.

It’s like she doesn’t sleep, y’all.

Lena is my friend in my head. As someone out here doing what I want to do with my career in the future, she is just a well of inspiration. Not only does she justĀ  make consistently good content, she’s a queer, black woman in Hollywood who’s kicking ass and taking names. With every move she makes, she is showing me and young, black creatives all over the world that we have the power to tell our own stories and change the paradigms of what content can do.

I’ve gushed enough. Lena, if you ever read this, I love you forreal. You’re an inspiration, sis.

Lena Waithe is black history in the making.

 

Robbin’ Season

Today in Black History, I want to honor Atlanta.

This show was good in so many unexpected ways. Not only was the acting good and the lighting right and the shots crispy, the stories of each of these characters unfolded in interesting ways with every episode. I really started to love each character for their quirks. At moments, it almost felt surreal, like what was happening on screen was happening in some other dimension.

In fact, there are several moments where I think to my, “Who the fuck came up with this?”

The Migos pop up in episode 3 for one of the most interesting cameos in television history, honestly. I was thoroughly entertained for their entire scene.

The B.A.N. was the most cerebral and most hilarious. Every episode puts you in a specific character’s shoes for 30 minutes and in this episode we got to get to know Paper Boy through an interview where he gets grilled on the issue of race. The ensuing debate had me on the floor by the end of the episode.

Not to mention, a dose of Darious, Paper Boy’s right hand man, in almost every episode is good for your fix for deep, philosophical offshoots.

It’s been a year now since the show earned several Golden Globes at the 2017 ceremony. Donald gave an acceptance speech for the culture for their winning Best Comedic TV series.

The show is set for return on March 1st, the perfect way to start my birthday month! I’m excited to see where this second season goes. Is Paper Boy gonna pop? Is Earn gonna get his shit together? Where’s Vanessa working now?

So many questions.

Then as if he could sense my growing anticipation, the good people at FX finally released a trailer

I want to do a separate post on Donald Glover himself. He’s a man of many talents who has influenced my artistic journey heavily. His “alter ego,” Childish Gambino is the name I first came to know him as and even though Because the Internet wasn’t his first album, it’s the album that made me a Childish Gambino fan. But more on that in a later post.

March 1st. Mark your calendars. It’s robbin’ season.

What Black Panther Means to Me

Today in Black History, I would be remise without acknowledging the release of Black Panther.

When I saw the photos from the Black Panther premiere, I knew right then and there that the cast and crew of Black Panther was readying themselves to take aim at our necks.

Everyone looked stunning. Just regal. Black excellence.

I overheard a coworker gripping the other day over the fact that all these people were going to see Black Panther who weren’t true fans of the Marvel universe. I rolled my eyes. He’s a white, if you couldn’t tell already… He’s one of those “you can’t wear the shirt if you’re not a fan of the band” type bitches.

To my coworker and anyone else harboring a similar sentiment, this is bigger than your little childish fandom, bitch. Get over yourself or go choke.

I realize that some folks might not grasp the immensity of the occasion, so let me break it down.

First of all, for all the white supremacists talking about how this is some nigger shit and how the Black Panther is some black power propaganda: the character of the Black Panther was introduced in the Marvel comics before the Black Panther Party was formed. With this in mind, we can then conclude that Stan Lee simply thought the Black Panther would be a cool character to add to his comic universe.

While it is a revolutionary thought that an entire African country could exist completely outside of the reality of European colonization and that because of this, they are more technologically and socially advanced, but at the end of the day, Wakanda is fictional. (But oh, can’t we dream?)

Second, the fact that this movie is directed by a black man and features an all black cast is monumental when you consider the discussion about diversity in Hollywood.

Side note on the director, Ryan Coogler

Mr. Coogler’s been working for a long time. His first film, Fruitvale Station, made him an indie darling, taking home the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance as well as international acclaim, winning the Avenir Prize at Cannes. He also directed Creed as well as a few other short films.

The #oscarssowhite thing brought the issue of diversity to public consciousness a few years ago, but just because it’s not trending anymore doesn’t mean the work has stop nor that the problem has been solved. Ryan Coogler, along with other filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, have been out here championing the cause to make Hollywood a not-so-white place.

In theory, this movie should’ve been made. However, I doubt it would’ve been carried out on such a grand scale. There was no Ryan Coogler to direct it (or an Ava DuVernay, who was approached for the project first) and up until recently only a handful of black actors were even getting booked for roles. And the ones who were damn sure weren’t getting booked for Marvel movies. Don’t make me break out the receipts.

As the release date draws near, the girls are readying their hearts and minds to receive something that is way past due.

White people can honestly get over themselves and shut the fuck up.

This movie is not inherently political, but the conditions that even make this movie a possibility are. The fact that the thought of “Maybe somebody black should direct this” actually went through someone’s head is revolutionary. The fact that Marvel didn’t just cast some random white people and white wash this story is revolutionary because we know its been done in the past with no after thought.

If you really wanna know why black folks are going all the way up for this movie, it’s because this is a celebration of us. This beautiful cast is all shades, shapes, and sizes of black. This movie will affirm for so many young black kids that they too can be extraordinary and that they too have the potential to be a superhero.

Not to mention, the soundtrack is produced, at least in part by Top Dawg Entertainment, which…

Honestly, I’ve been burnt out on Marvel movies for a while now. After the Avengers 12 and Iron Man 23, I started to wonder how much more shit these hoes could blow up and smash and destroy with reckless abandon. And for what? (Yeah, yeah, to save the world or whatever)

But best believe,I will be present and accounted for for Black Panther.

 

 

 

 

Life Is But a Read

Today in Black History, I honor The Read.

I’ve never related to two people more than I do these two. I found The Read at a really bad time, or a really good one depending on how you see it. Freshman year was the worst year of my life. I was away from home. I didn’t know very many people and my social anxiety was such that I sat in the back of all my classes and never talked to anyone. I went to class and back to my dorm. Towards the end of the semester, I just stopped going to class. My grades slipped, naturally. I had heard the phrase “College isn’t for everyone,” before but that was never more real for me than at that time in my life.

I couldn’t drop out. Momma wasn’t having that. So sophomore year, I opted to change scenery and transfer. I figured it might be a good move. I knew a couple folks on the new campus who introduced me to more people. It was a small town so I’d run into them often. But even then, I still spent the majority of the time by myself.

I listened to my first episode of The Read on August 19, 2016. The episode: Mess Side Story

So I came in about two years after Fury and Crissle launched The Read, but I picked it up with ease, feeling like I was listening to two friends chop it up over whatever came to mind. It was love at first listen.

Since that fateful day, these two are still doing the damn thing. A good friend and I wanted to get tickets to their 5th anniversary show at The Apollo (yes, bitch, The Apollo), but that shit sold like hot cakes. All the tickets were gone in less than 24 hours and our hopes were dashed.

I got over it, eventually.

But I’ll still be celebrating with them in spirit. At this point, Fury and Crissle feel like siblings to me. Three years after my first listen and a bitch finished undergrad early and is making moves to move to the Big Apple to pursue my own dreams in comedy and writing.

I said all this to thank Fury and Crissle for their contribution to the culture and to my own peace of mind. I’ve been watching them grind together this entire time and I’m extremely happy for them that all the hard work is paying off. They dared to move to NYC to get shit popping and while, at first, it was a little bumpy, they’re out here prospering.

Their wave is crazy and it inspires me every day to get on my shit. (If by some off chance one of them reads this…) Thanks Fury and Crissle for all that y’all do. For being inspiring, influential, and unapologetically yourselves.

Happy Anniversary! I wish y’all the best.

 

 

 

 

In a Real Way

How amazing is Snoop Dog?

Why I haven’t actually subscribed to the Gangsta Good News Network, I don’t know, but I occasionally watch some of Snoop’s interviews because sometimes they’re the best laugh I have all day. There’s really no one like him.

I feel like I’ve always known who Snoop Dog was. In hindsight, it’s like he was always just kind of in the ether. In middle school, I was really into “old school rap” and I knew Snoop by voice but the “Sensual Seduction” video in particular, comes to mind when I think about the first time Snoop Dog ever really stuck out to me.

I remember going to my aunt’s house when I was a kid. Their house was a duplex, set up to house to full families but only three people lived there – my aunt and uncle lived upstairs and my cousin lived in the bottom level. (Idk, they were from Cali)

But I digress…

Of course, I wasn’t allowed to watch BET at my mom’s house, but when I would go to my cousin’s house and of course niggas was watching 106 & Park in the basement when that video premiered.

Of course it was much later that I realized that that was the clean version and the real version was “Sexual Eruption,” but I think seeing this video was the first time I was realized that Snoop Dog was an iconic motherfucker.

And Snoop’s GGN News isn’t just some third string internet show. Snoop has sat and smoked with some esteemed individuals and they open up to Uncle Snoop in ways that they don’t get to on a conventional news set. I appreciate Snoop and this show. It really exists outside any other news media outlet and allows me to see my favorite movers and shakers in a completely different element than what I’m used to. Whether or not they decide to pass their turn on the blunt, the interviews are always fresh, interesting, and entertaining.

And he’s still good for a fresh freestyle

I was looking through the other day and Kathy motherfuckin Bates was on the GGN Network talking about her show, disjointed and the cannabis movement. The video’s about a month old, but it’s still golden.

Snoop also welcomed my good fave Lena Waithe to the Smoker’s Studio. They got high af and talked about blackness and film and Emmy’s.

Snoop has aged quite well and I mean that in every way.

Not only does he look good, he has managed to stay relevant in interesting ways. From his music, to his acting, to his social media antics and memes, to his independent ventures, Snoop is for the culture.

Today in Black History, I honor the Snoop D-O-double Gizzle, Calvin “Snoop Dog” Broadus.

I Used To Be a Purist, but I’ve Seen the Light

Today in Black History, I want to give thanks for Audible.

I sit here typing this, listening to Jenifer Lewis’ memoire The Mother of Black Hollywood on Audible wondering why I hadn’t adopted Audible earlier.

I was one of those kids who was hated on for reading and didn’t really talk much. And because I was black, that just took it way too far.

“That’s so white.”

*wy prsn*: You never heard [insert popular hip hop/rap song]. I’m more black than you are.”

“You such an oreo.”

So, this is an ode to Audible. I stanned down for shit like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and the like. (I just never saw it for Lord of the Rings. sorrynotsorry.) And though I remember trying to imagine some of the characters as people of color, later movie adaptations later showed me that I was clearly wrong. lol.

Now, as of late, it’s really been a gaggle of undoubtedly and unapologetically black people writing books, and I’ve been lit for them, but since I’ve been in college, I haven’t had time to read them.

Over time, I’ve rationalized my double consciousness by associating a sense of pride with my reading because… embracing your insecurities and all that. And I really felt like if I couldn’t sit down and read a book, I was lacking in some way, which then contributed to feelings of anxiety and depression and blah blah blah.

Eventually I realized I had to get off of my high horse. And yeah, it was a high horse that I had mounted to distance myself from the illiterates.

But today in Black History, I’ve come to my senses.

When Issa Rae came on the radar with her memoire, Awkward Black Girl, I made plans to buy the book. However, I was deep into my major at the time and had to buy a lot of other books for class readings. So, I never got around to buying it. And I was still team fuck audio books.

But growing up, getting older, and trying to live out here has made me realize that, no one with two part time occupations just trying to pay rent (i.e. a regular bitch) has time to sit down and read. One thing I’m realizing is that time is truly a luxury – and an expensive one, at that.

I hear a lot of parallels in the aspirations of Mother Lewis and myself. Her move to the big city from a small town. Her drive to hit the ground running and storming the cabaret and Broadway theater scene like she had always dreamed.

And to think I could’ve robbed myself of all this inspiration and revelation.

There’s an influx of black women, and black people, in general, writing and I live for it. Jenifer Lewis, Issa Rae, Shonda Rhimes, Tiffany Haddish. These are the stories I needed as a youth.

But better late than never, I suppose.

 

 

 

 

Rumble in the Jungle

Today in Black History, I want to look at some documentary films.

All of these can be found on Hulu, Netflix, and/or YouTube and all of them focus on stories centering on people of color and their cultural influences. I love documentary films. In recent years, the ways in which a non fictional narrative can be portrayed on screen can make the subject seem larger than life and I think that can be said for all of these films. For all of these films, I can say that I am always left with the weight of their respective subjects and the ways that the narratives relate to my life and my own path.

I’ve numbered this sequence because in many ways, you can view these films chronologically and see the ways the spirit of a time trickled its way into the lives of real black and brown folks who were the unwitting scapegoats of bureaucratic miscondunct.

Rubble Kings

Made in 2015, this documentary is about the youth gang culture that exploded through the Bronx, most notably, and subsequently the rest of the boroughs of New York City.

This is the picture of New York City that my mom has when she thinks of the Big Apple. I told her I was planning on moving there after undergrad and she didn’t seem sold on the idea.

Of course, there’s always a small chance that shit can pop off, but that’s true anywhere. Even here in Mississippi, there are some places you just don’t go to. But there’s enough wy ppl there gentrifying the city that getting mugged at any given moment is significantly less likely.

Anyhoo… this film puts a lens on the crime ridden borough of the Bronx and the political plays that were made that resulted in the high crime rates and rise in youth gang activity.

In a nutshell, we can trace the causes of these social conditions back to the start of Ronal Reagan’s War on Drugs. Nixon took the presidency and breathed new life into Reagan’s crusade and the rest is history. The rise of “the rubble kings,” these adolescent gang boppers, begin organizing themselves between their neighborhoods and policing the streets with violence and vigilantism as a result of various new laws put in place that accelerated the rise of urban decay and neglect in which these kids were innocently born in to.

Fresh Dressed

Fresh Dressed, produced by Pharrell, picks up where Rubble Kings leaves off. After the turbulance of the the 70s and the onslaught of the War on Drugs, after the hundreds of resulting deaths, and after one reckoning moment, the tide of the times changes as hip hop forges on to the scene in the late 70s.

Fresh Dressed, as the title alludes, is about fashion. The film archives the change in fashion trends beginning in the late 70s as the prevailing gang culture subsides and from its ashes, hip hop culture arises.

Fresh Dressed is a culture study through the lens of fashion.

The Radiant Child

The Radiant Child is a personal favorite. Taking the bigger picture that Rubble Kings and Fresh Dressed painted and seeing how the issues discussed in those films ended up affecting a singular narrative.

Though Jean Michel Basquiat was one guy, his work has touched millions and he was a product of a very specific environment.

These three films overlap in the time periods that they cover, especially as it pertains to the late 70s and 80s in New York City. In fact, when watching, you might notice that some of the references and even the talking heads themselves are featured in two of the films, if not all three.

When I think about Black History, that is the history of Black people in America, I think it’s important to know just how we got to where we are at this moment in history. Existentially speaking, history has been building on itself, expressing itself through the stories in these films, and reaping itself accordingly.

Today in Black History, we must honor the process.

The turbulent 60s gave rise to the violent 70s which gave rise to the electric 80s, the iconic 90s, and so on and so forth. If we are to look to the future, we really have to come to terms with the now and realize that nothing happens in a vacuum.

If we wish to change the future, change has to begin now.

 

Give Em LaHelle

On this day in Black History, I’m honoring Patti LaHelle.

It’s impossible to talk about comedy without talking about black women. I’ll forgo waxing on the idea of the plight of the black woman and comedy sometimes coming from situations that aren’t funny at all andĀ  and all that and just say black women are funny as shit. They have been from jump.

If you haven’t seen the masterpiece that is the Got 2B Real series, stop what you’re doing.

 

Comedy gold. The style. The wit. The reads. Patti LaHelle truly created something for the culture when she created Got 2B Real.

G2bR, also known as the Diva Variety Show, is a spoof of a reality show that features some of the most legendary names in pop, soul, and r&b of our time. Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce are some of the cast members featured on the show. The women are all invited to Patti LaBelle’s house for dinner and the personalities that find their way to the dinner table make for two seasons (and a short film!!!) of piping hot tea.

Together they deliver some the shadiest reads, quickest comebacks, and most potent quotables ever caught on tape.

The brain child of Patti LaHelle has been a mainstay in my life since I discovered it sophomore year of college. I consider Ms. LaHelle a visionary for what she created. Though her Got 2B Real journey is over (allegedly), Patti LaHelle has proven herself to be a force on the internet and a lot of folks, including myself, want to see her create even more content. The day is on its way, I’m sure of it.

This black woman is a comedic genius.

If ever there is a dull moment in your day, take a moment, pull out your phone, and watch a couple episodes. That always makes me feel better.

Thank you, Ms. LaHelle for your contribution to the culture.