Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why TIME's 'Best Blogs of 2010' List Makes Me Sad

When I last plugged into the internet, only a couple days ago, I posted some comments on my fatigue with the "shocking!" race-story of how/why cable news is still mostly white. With my tsk-tsk sentiment duly noted I eagerly flew the coop to indulge the multicultural nightlife of Montreal, my eyes wowed by a rainbow of the most beautiful ladies our northern neighbors have to offer. To be fair, upon returning I may have had a little bit of a sexist-objectification hangover (I'm not trying to sell "perfect" here), but definitely no racism on the brain. All ready to talk about people, and pop culture, and music in non culturally-divisive terms! Only to check in today and see TIME Magazine list their "best" and "essential" blogs of 2010 and not include ONE that focuses primarily on issues/news/commentary from a race perspective, or even in lieu of that, "the hip hop generation". And now I'm sort of sad and I feel the sequence of: signing off on a somewhat-sad note of internet racism, then clearing the mind of racism, only to return and find, yup, still very racist here! gives the sadness more resonance.

i'm not big on quotas or inclusion for the sake of inclusion, but it's not like i'm suggesting the venerable Time Magazine shoehorn blacksonblondesdotcom into the mix. i'm quite certain YOU, the former Time person of the year, can rattle off at least a couple culture sites that serve as excellent melanin-supplements to your internet diet. Ta-Nehisi Coates over at the Atlantic has an informed and vibrant community, and sits right next to blog bigshot andrew sullivan (memo to Time: that's means win-win for substance and superficial traffic whoring). illdoctrine is a regular plug for me and does work for npr, another no-brainer. If you have Pitchfork present, you could consider Nah Right or their "cartel" of blogs who basically supply the internet with all their advance hip hop music and info. shit, even if you want to stay in the margins of MSM-type/sponsored blogs, you can give a nod to The Root and at least get on the board. And I skew black for my culture, but give me Angry Asian Man, or Aziz Ansari, or arroz con pollo, or really anything. Just. one. site. would make me not bummed out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Will Eminem's "Recovery" Bring On the "Death of Schtick"?

(ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TAN3000; but I'll be getting into this Death of Schtick more so we put it over here also)

On Eminem's "Recovery", Jon Caramanica offers another quality submission for his budding cachet as hip hop's GOAT journalist of the moment. (i extend the props to, one, note that GOAT debates in hip hop are somewhat silly, always of the moment, and, two, to point out that JC Manic's GOAT skills fall under an Obama-esque "The Bridge" rubric, which underscores that while others might be more pointedly pushing hip hop thought forward, the bridge is what allows everyone to get on the same island and build together. Hopefully with a more solid expansive foundation. It's why guys like Gladwell and Klosterman are celebrated as geniuses and then get backlash when everyone is on the island looking for somewhere new to go. There's two different types of pioneers at work here, both doing necessary-but-different work, but i digress...)

I'm still marinating with Eminem's latest work, so I'm just adding a couple extra nuggets/points of entry. But I do agree with Em being "one of the most crucial figures in pop culture in the last 20 years" and even more. So needless to say I'll be revisiting, probably often, but for now:

1. Eminem as genie in a bottle: Caramanica does a great job, and an important one, I think, in putting a bubble/walls around Eminem's early pop supernova success. Those albums, that time, and everything else is a case study in and of itself. Specifically because Eminem is still a freakishly genius manipulator of language and words, yet doesn't carry the same cachet/popularity. So we can discern that an ingredient in his radioactive success from before is no longer present, and has nothing to do with his actual human talents.

2. Slim Shady as one of the great "fictional characters": it might help us reconcile Em's artistry to look at those early albums like a series for a fictional character. Treat them as a "phillip rothian doppelganger gambit", like the latest from Brett Easton Ellis. That might not be a spot on analogy, but mostly I want to avoid these terrible NY Times interviews that feel inappropriate in a bad-meaning-bad way... better to err on the side of the wrong book than completely not appreciate how much of a writer-athlete Em is. (that last link should go to a facebook thread with hip hop bloggers discussing a bad NYTimes interview with em, if not friend/fan Jay Smooth/illdoctrine who should be a regular part of your cultural diet regiment anyways)

3. Eminem as David Foster Wallace:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Barber

Nice slideshow on an East Harlem "Clipper Master" in the NYT. I ended up skipping the 'Hair + Black People' agenda in my book. Chris Rock's Good Hair documentary is awesome, but even he doesn't really go in on the "black males and their intricately designed haircuts, wtf?" agenda; it's difficult! So 90% of his 90 minutes are spent in the female room, and probably rightfully so.

It's also tougher for me, personally, because I'm what black-people-in-barbershops call "tenderheaded", and have generally never been able to shirk off the prospect of cuts, pain, bleeding on a trip to shape the fade(RIP) up. Soo, yeah, if the NYTimes is starting to get on it, I'll be close behind picking up crumbs to see if they lead anywhere. Here's a few:

1. black males and their intricately designed haircuts, wtf? question for the fellas: is it for the ladies, or for yourself? we should all know by now it's NEVER for the ladies. in the 80s and 90s you could get confused by general Cross Colours-style bawdiness. But, uh, now ... I just don't get the aesthetic.

2. QUOTE:"Elvis Acevedo gets his hair styled by Mr. London for the first time. Mr. London says he freestyles haircuts and is inspired by clients' personalities." It's one thing if the ghost of Tupac (or even real Anthony Mason) sends you some divine vision of hair landscaping from the afterworld (or Queens) and you decide to make it happen. But just allowing a barber artiste to freestyle what your head is going to look like?  Am I overestimating the importance of how one's head looks in real-world-life today? In the Garden of Eden I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter, so maybe this impulse is natural? Have fun with your hair, it's yours! But is anyone ever better off with a 'cooler' hair design? Who is stoked by this? please encourage anyone like this you encounter to form a facebook group and invite me to it.

3. Gender question: Is the girl in the third picture, is she problematic for anyone in the business of defining feminism/what it is to be a female in 2010? I consider females to have a symbiotic connection with beauty... is that wrong? Ok, but is anything in consideration of the Hair Aesthetic Matrix a reflection of gender roles/issues?

4. one of the slides talks about the barber being the "Star of the show". Isn't this guy more "modern art" than Maria Abramovic? Not the respective careers, but in terms of a one-off exhibition sense: This guy's DAILY shop/gallery vs. "The Artist Is Present" at MOMA. How is that not a case of the location making all the difference?

see also: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Booty Dancer

Photos: robert caplin, Rico London

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Light Up Remix (TAN + Drake)

they call me t.a.
make you shake your t.a.
boogie to the bk
amped without a p.a.
connected like i'm prepaid
flex 'em in the pliƩ
catchin kitty
like i'm asspca
but yo, i gotta girl
she'll throw the flag e-zay
looking for possession
she don't need the instant replay
two minute warning
heads like: that's what she say
like if these jokes
sit down, i aint louis c.k.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lost & Found: 30 Years To Life

This is not Tracy Morgan doing standup, this is Tracy Morgan playing a standup in the 2001 film 30 Years To Life. The movie is sort of a revelation because:

1. it appears to be mostly overlooked despite Tracy Morgan now being a big tv and film star. to wit, this 2007 GQ profile/primer on Tracy Morgan covers a lot of ground but doesn't even mention it in passing. total blind spot. maybe Tracy doesn't like it and has put the muzzle on it...

2. it has Tracy Morgan *acting* like himself before he got the 30 Rock break. it's no Will Smith break out, but certainly the most leash I've seen him given in anything.

3. all-in-all it's actually pretty good. Not knocking Eternal Sunshine out my top spot, but as good as any rom-com sitcom-y type movie I've seen. Writer/director Vanessa Middleton sounds a little bitter-and-bruised in this interview, but she might have reason:

In the meantime the last five “black” films released are “All About the Benjamins” (New Line) starring Ice Cube, “State Property” (Lions Gate) starring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel, “How High” (Universal) starring Method Man and Redman, “The Wash” (Lions Gate) starring Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and “Bones” (New Line) starring Snoop Dogg. Each of these companies turned us down.

Unless there's a sleeper in that bunch I'm pretty sure it's much better than all those.

You should watch it (it's available streaming on Netflix), and see if you don't have your eyes opened a little. If you're an anti-sitcom person, like me, you might have to suppress some gagging in the first 15-20 minutes as it sets up and settles in, but the film works through that and the characters open up nicely as it goes on. a nice refreshing breeze of a film...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Ghost of Lauryn Hill

shit ain't been the same since lauryn said, nah
chappelle went, nah
a lot of TAN's saying, nah
badu and jay elec are on some partially, nah
even diddy's spazzing
kanye all capping
so while you clapping
at these smart n's rapping
any poor new yorkers in the new yorker?
they ain't look @whatyouselling
ain't hearing what you telling
that pop-rock ain't culture
i ain't cooking what you smelling
son, my fam is global
the universal local
the universe is loco
n's puff and look at coco
black people soul food
white people whole foods
asian peeps grabbing they chopsticks

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keep Your Spring-Summer TAN Fresh...

at TAN3000

still just laying cement down while I put books in cans, mixtapes on wax, shit in toilet bowls, etc. etc. before I Barack Ogaga the game, but YOU should just keep the good vibes playing over at TAN3000...

David Remnick, "Daddy leaves" in sweden, songs from Drake and Nneka, eminem gifs, parody-rap videos ... quick jabs on all that, more, etc, ...word


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Is Nancy Meyers a Spike Lee For Women?

I recently saw It's Complicated, a relatively pleasing movie watching experience: Compelling-enough storyline. Wonderful performances from the leads. Professionally directed....

I'm a believer in supporting the Artists and Talent. The human beings. If you impress me a couple times in a row, I'll support your evolving sensibility as an *artiste* and give the benefit of the doubt if you choose to experiment. I'm less likely to try an out-of-leftfield indie-arty-pretentious film festival, but if Charlie Kaufman decides to hold a gallery of experimental shorts, I'm in.

In my ideal world everyone would blindly pay, say, $5 for the combination of Nancy Meyers, Meryl Streep, and Alec Baldwin. And, oh yeah, Steve Martin. That's a can't-lose lineup, even if they're not on their A-game, because they have proven their dedication to the craft, which is to say, the grind. I mean if that trio doesn't trump your, uh, tripod(?) then you either hate old people, white people, or successful people. And that's not cool, man.

After reading this (late '09) NYTimes profile on Nancy Meyers carrying the mantle for women & hollywood, it made me think of a black director who for years was shouldering the load for blacks & hollywood: Spike Lee

See Spike Lee is all "god bless bougie black people". Nancy Meyers is all "god bless bougie (and middle-aged) white women" But they're both cinematic auteurs of their respective demographic. spike captures the texture of bougie brooklyn from the pounds/hand-greetings to the clumped-up parmesan in the pizza shop to the bright-but-not-too-twee color palette. Nancy is doing the same, and that NYT profile does the details better justice that I will here, but you know her steez, she would rap about ralph lauren furniture collections and cardigans and champagne flutes and ... (hmm, maybe she's actually Drake in disguise).

Anycomplicated, the name of the story was "Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women" and it explores women-issues through the prism of Nancy Meyers roles in Hollywood, and it all feels fairly symmetrical to "Can Anybody Make a Movie for (non-thug) Black People" pieces about Spike Lee when he was that dude. (next up: Nora Ephron/Tyler Perry?- actually they're not similar in this way at all)

So now maybe they'll both read this post and do a movie together - call it The Park Slope Compromise - and that project could be hot fire. that is all.

Can Anybody Make a Movie for Women [NYT]

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

With the Knowledge There's a Little Thug Blood In Me

A little while back I stumbled on this old 90s song, "Verbal Murder 2" featuring NORE, Big Pun (RIP), and Common. Off Pete Rock's Soul Survivor album. The Common verse, which I've clipped and posted here, has always been one of my favorites.

I like to talk about the intellectual DNA still embedded in hip hop lyrics that we need to recover, and this verse is a good example. The Common line I quote above gets right to the heart of some recent Bill Maher "real Black President" backlash. What Maher wants to say, and has said before, is that he wants his President to do the knowledge, but don't lose that thug sensibility, because Thugism is not all bad. Common nails the sentiment with room to spare should he choose to tweet it out.

"this stud bumped into me, beef there was 'fin to be, my appetite for destruction is finicky..."

Swap "BP CEO's" for "stud", and Obama doesn't even need to hold a press conference to share his state of mind.

Another awesome line is "he spiked his punchlines with current events". This is a nod to old school rhyme ciphers, where you got no points if you said something like, "i tear your ass down like the berlin wall" right after it happened for the name recognition of it (if you made it witty, all good). Or less dated, "I make the ladies go gaga". nah, son. don't go spiking your punchlines with current events.

Of course, if you think about the state of the news-aggregating blogosphere, most of them are just spiking their punchlines with current events. Headlines being the punchlines in a link-don't-tell culture. So, you see, Hip Hop had a sense of integrity about page views and SEO before the internet even existed (in a popular, functional sense). That's why I like to tout blogging as the new rapping whenever I can. Cause just like all the real bloggers out there, and real rappers, and Common in this verse,

"I can't take this fake shit ..."

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