Photo Credit: Devin Allen
Let me tell you how fucked things are:
Three weeks ago, long before Freddie Gray was transformed from a living breathing human man into a #hashtag, my mom received a phone call from my great uncle. He’s 59, loves sour candy and lives in London. It was well past midnight his time, yet he had become so exasperated from what he had just witnessed he felt it imperative to contact my mother right away.
“Tell them to be careful I beg. If the boys ever come in contact with them please insist they not make any sudden movements, keep calm and remain composed no matter what,” my grandmother’s brother pleaded.
What had him so shook was footage of a black man in a green shirt sprinting away from an officer of the law as the cop callously pulls his weapon and fatally shoots him several times in the back.
My great uncle was terrified, disgusted but most importantly worried about his grand nephews – my three younger brothers and me.
The fact that he felt compelled a half a world away to reach out to my moms and emphasize that his kin, living in the first-world-greatest-country-on-the-whole-of-the-entire-earths, tread softly in the presence of law enforcement because we all fit the proverbial description is a far too chilling barometer read of the social/political climate we currently habitate.
Watching the events in Baltimore leaves me grappling with many emotions. Anger is the loudest. Not only am I upset over of the unnecessary loss of yet another black man at the hands of an agency sworn to protect him but too towards a certain collective response focusing primarily on property damage caused by the riots. It’s like I’m in film class all over again: while the rest of the class is baffled as to why Mookie threw the trashcan into Sal’s Famous, I’m still the only one screaming at the top of my lungs that they murdered Radio Raheem. Do The Right Thing was released over twenty five years ago and yet the very real American pattern of giving more importance to property than black life has never rang truer.
Post-racial society my mother fucking ass.
I’m frustrated. Rioting is not the answer. Violence is bad. I get that. I know that. No one argues the contrary. But it’s not the problem in and of itself. Dudes didn’t just wake up and decide, “Eh yo hit up all the homies fam. We finna set police cars and on fire and roast marshmallows and shit bruh.” No. As a famous ideological extremist once declared, “Riot is the language of the unheard.” It’s the last resort of a people who’ve felt so marginalized they believe no the tools exists for which to proclaim their grievances other than that of violence and destruction.
Here lies the real tragedy. We don’t all see ourselves as being on the same team. There is a very real portion of the United States that, subconsciously or not, don’t believe black men to be full-blooded Americans. Rather than brothers partaking in the wonderful political experiment we call democracy, we’re thugs, criminals, second-class animals that need to be controlled; not respected. It just so happens that some who think this way also just so happen to be cops. Yes years long decaying infrastructure, nonexistent opportunities for upward mobility and feelings of governmental abandonment are very real streams of fuel stoking the very real fires that burn hot in Maryland’s most populous city, but ignoring the role good old fashioned racism plays in these incidents we’ve become all too familiar with is a grave mistake.
I’m sad that people all over America are suffering. White, black, cop, civilian; I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I wish the madness will stop so we can constructively put our efforts into fixing injustices instead of fixing windows. James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time.” I have to be honest tho: rage is exhausting. I know. Trust. So I hope now instead. Because maybe one day we will wake up and realize the interconnectedness of our lives and treat each other accordingly. Maybe we’ll be kinder, more thoughtful and cease viewing each other as violent enemies but rather just people.
Maybe the time to start the conversation about race in America is over and the time to actually acting on these conversation for a better tomorrow will begin. Maybe.. I hope. Because man.. I’m tired. And I want better because I still have to get up tomorrow. So I hope.
I mean shit. It worked for Obama.
Black Mags by The Cool Kids
Blue Magic by Jay-Z
Brown Skin Lady by Black Star
Green Island by Redman
Orange Pineapple Juice by Common Sense
Purple Pills by D12
Red Velvet by Outkast
White Silk by Action Bronson & Statik Selektah
Black and Yellow by Wiz Khalifa
I had a hard time paying attention in grade school. I was too young to be an astronaut but I could space cadet with the best of em. The morning bell would ring and within minutes I’d be off in own planet, a world where little boys weren’t forced to sit still for seven hours a day and aliens had giant tits.
I was a weird kid.
Sometimes the teacher would catch me mid-space. She’d get mad at me for not paying attention. I’d try to get mad too so that my madness could out mad her madness into submission. “I am too paying attention,” I’d argue as I’d hurriedly flip my math book to a page on fractions while the rest of the class looked up state capitals for geography.
The worst though is when she’d call on me. She’d call on me during grammar. It was always during grammar. For some reason I could never just say “I don’t know” as an answer to question because in my lil’ head not having an answer for a question seemed rude.
I was a polite kid.
So I’d always just tell her what sounded right to me.
“… and now who can tell us what an onomatopoeia is? Let’s see.. wulu how about you..? wulu.. WULU!”
“Huh? Yeah. Me?”
“Do what an onomatopoeia is?”
“Ugh.. Oh.. yeah! My mom buys em at the grocery all time but I don’t really like em. I prefer cantaloupe.”
My class laughed. My teacher laughed. I was confused. And embarrassed. But then I pretended to laugh too because being apart of a joke is more fun than being it’s object. This episode in my life was surely traumatic but I’m grateful for it because it introduced me to my favorite rhetorical device.
Onomatopoeia is a funny ass word for funny ass words (like ‘clank’ and ‘boom’) that phonetically resemble sounds associated with the objects and actions they’re referring. Being a medium most dependent upon the successful conversion of message through rhythmic, linguistic manipulation, rapping musics are lyrically chalk full of em. They’re the easiest to
get stuck in your head forever spot when when placed prominently on a song’s hook like the ‘WOOP WOOP’ in KRS-One’s “Sound Of the Police” or the ‘BRRRRRRRRRR’ of Baby’s “What Happened To That Boy.”
When buried within the depths of a verse it’s usage is often self-referential and oddly self-congratulatory on that ‘wink wink see what I just did there’ type tip. For example, on “Sweatpants” Childish Gambino raps “Waking up broke, man, wouldn’t wanna be ya/ Friends with the dope man, help a nigga re-up/ Bring a girlfriend, man, trouble when I see her/ “Err-err-err-err”: onomatopoeia.” Now no hate zone. What Glover does here is clever times infinity but at the same time this has to do down as the nerdiest way to say you’re gonna fuck someone else’s bitch in the history of hip-hop. But at at least he uses the term correctly. Unlike Bun B..
Some rappers practically adopted/trademark onomatopoeias to the point where it’s impossible to hear a sound and not associate it with an artist. I straight up felt like Pavlov’s dog when Drake sampled Rick Ross’s ‘UGGH’ on “No Tellin” and no Rozay verse followed. Can you imagine an existence without Pusha T and his ‘EGHCK’ or a Gucci Mann with no ‘BURR’? I can’t.
Of all the ways rappers embrace the onomatopoeia my favorite implementer of the device is Kanye West. Hands down. Ever other story published about the man waxes exclusively on either his excessive amount of creativity or his excessive amount assholery but no one ever talks about his sense of humor. He’s funny as shit, especially when speaking on subjects he’s passionate about.
Speaking strictly lyrically, the reason I appreciate what Kanye does is because he uses the simplicity of onomatopoeias to to heighten his rap’s contextual absurdity by juxtaposing them against technically complicated wordplay.
Live Fast Die Young
Drivin’ me crazy, rock the beat baby!
Hop up out the rrrt, she beat up the payment
I don’t give a rrrt, baby he craazzy
Before I heard this I didn’t think it was possible to homonym an onomatopoeia. I was wrong. The screeching of car tires do sound kinda like needle scratching a record. Plus major points for Yeezy elongated enunciation.
Hell Of A Life
In your wildest
You could hear the loudest screams, comin’ from inside the screen
You a wild bitch
Tell me what I gotta do to be that guy
Said her price go down, she ever fuck a black guy
Or do anal, or do a gangbang
It’s kinda crazy that’s all considered the same thing
Well I guess alotta niggas do gang bang
And if we run trains, we all in the same gang
Runaway slaves all on a chain gang
Bang bang bang bang bang
More homonyms on homonyms. I’ve spoken at length about this particular verse for another reason. Actually do chains really go bang or do they go clang? I think I’m team clang but that may just be me.
If you ever held a title belt you would know how Michael felt
Tyson, Jackson, Jordan – Michael Phelps
Yeah, had to take it to another realm
Cause everything around me got me underwhelmed
Best way to describe my position is at the helm
Best way to describe my new whip – Yeeeaaaalmmp
Car sales men take note. I don’t wanna hear about a car’s milage or crash test safer ratings. If you really wanna make them commissions just tell me how the puppy sounds in one word – Yeeeaaaalmmp.
We blasting off just like a laser
Nigga pewoon, pewoon, pewoon,
Get me back, give me room, room, room
DB-9 like vroomm,vroomm, vroom
Y’all ho what we doing, doing, doing
Not only does he use two here but as Rap Genius points also throws in multiple epizeuxises – the consecutive repetition of a word three times in a row for good measure. My third grade teacher would be pleased.
G.O.M.D. stands for ‘Get Off My Dick’. When I saw J. Cole dropped a visual for the eighth track off his 2014 Forest Hills Drive today I was very much expecting whether or not Jermaine would actually say ‘dick’ to be the most controversial thing about the video. I was wrong. Jermaine playing a house slave is the most controversial thing about the video.
On so many levels ” G.O.M.D.”could have ended up being a colossal train wreck – it’s daunting depicting sensitive subjects successfully and tastefully in a five minute window. More often than not such attempts fall victim to feeling painfully forced. But not “G.O.M.D.” It wins because it’s subtle. Lawrence Lamont (who also directed Big Sean’s acronym heavy “IDFWU“) wisely chose to refrain from letting Jermaine go complete Django in this clip, allowing for the focus to be on the drama instead of the action.
J. Cole plays a house slave at odds with the field hands because of his privileged position and yet not being accepted either by the white folks whose house he takes care of because.. well he’s their slave. Awkward right? Refusing to accept his fate however, J. Cole’s character rebels and with the assistance of the slave master’s daughter, steals the keys to the gun cabinet, arms his peoples ands take over the plantation. Part of me can’t help but feel, especially after all the time Jermaine spent down in Ferguson, that this video is a bit allegorical, with the real life Jermaine being born to a black father and white mother and having struggled early on with his own racial identity only to overcome his demons, becoming the voice uniting a generation fed up with racial injustice and indifference.
And he’s gonna fuck massa’s daughter. So take that racism.
I vehemently applaud what J. Cole’s and Lamont accomplished here. It’s empowering. You can feel the music video’s climatic tension and the entire clip does a impeccable job of bringing to life the feeling of Branford Marsalis’s “Berta Berta” – the spiritual that Jermaine samples heavy here.
All in all, good shit.
A$AP Ferg dropped a visual for his “Dope Walk” this week.
The FaceTiming New York’s Fashion Week/how-many-famous-people-can-you-spot-who’s-first-name-isn’t-A$AP concept is plenty entertaining enough, but the real fun starts damn near the end at the 4:07 mark when a couple of the girls from Haim decide letting Ferg & Co. hog all the dope for themselves ain’t dope.
What ensues is the most mesmerizing seven seconds of footage. Admittedly, I gotta tell you that watching white girls dance to hip-hop has always been an exhilarating experience for me because like them fucking Harry Potter Jelly Beans you never know what you’re gonna get. The spectrum of talent is so vast. In this instance tho let it be known that these girls can get it. I vouch vehemently.
Hell I’ll vouch for anyone who’s willing to have a good time. Hip-hop is an inclusive sport – don’t need no hateration, holleration in this dancery. Get down Haim with your funky jungle-loving selves I say. Shucks you too Taylor Swift. Like can a girl live universe? She can gig out to Kanye all day if she want’s too.
This is the coolest fucking song I’ve heard all year. And yo given the fact that we’re only eight days deep into 2015’s sweet goodness I can say that without feeling like a hyperbolic tool not even one bit.
With all due respect I’m surprised Noah “40” Shebib produced this given how insanely unDrake it sounds. The track’s warped accordion, tormented keys and off kilter percussion are so seductive they personally got me feeling all kinds of Girl, Interrupted.
It’s mucho appropriate how satisfyingly Action Bronson looses his mind on this as he colorfully raps about eluding the cops in Broncos and the facial expressions he employes when counting cash. Favorite line: “All I do is eat oysters and speak six languages in three voices..”
Like straight up I wish I could put that on my resume..
Maybe one day.
If this track is any indication, Bronson’s full length album Mr. Wonderful is going to be an experience. Oh why oh why does March 24th have to be so far away?
Sidebar: I’m finishing up John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy Of Dunces and the thought of Ignatius J. Reilly rapping this as he’s pushing his hotdog cart down Burbon Street is too perfect. I’m smelling a great music video idea. Im finna have my people contact Bronson’s people like yesterday.