Friday, June 22, 2007
So for the past couple of weeks I've really been thinking about my music consumption and how I seldom buy albums these days. I'll be real, I tend to "come up" on major industry stuff and just buy the underground or local stuff. Well today I thought I'd share with you a free, that's right, no cost, no emails from the RIAA, no bit-torrent necessary, mixtape so you have something to ride with this weekend. Follow the link for a tasty audio treat, enjoy!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
1) Am I the only one who gets offended when you here someone say Akon or Swizz Beatz is a rapper?
2) How come the more people who become interested in running for president, the less interested I become in the race?
3) Why are the people who know the least about religion/spirituality the first to proselytize?
4) Why does my defense date keep getting pushed back further than Montel Williams' hairline?
5) What would you do if your daughter acted like one of those little girls on My Super Sweet 16?
6) When was the last time you heard "be still" and listened?
7) Who told KRS he was the only one who determined the truth about Hip-Hop?
8) When was the last time you did something out of the kindness of your heart?
9) What if you went to prison for consensual oral sex?
Please take the time today to write, call, fax, and mail (do all of these!) your protests to Attorney General Baker’s and DA McDade’s offices. Make it clear that we will not sit idly as an injustice continues!
Thurbert E. Baker
8700 Hospital Drive
Main Floor, Douglas County Courthouse
Douglasville, Georgia 30134
10) It's a week later, you still haven't written or called, why?
Monday, June 18, 2007
About 2 months ago I was babbling on the phone about baseball to my boy and he said, "You know what, you have got to be the last black man left who cares about baseball." He made this comment in jest, really just to shut me up from inconsquential spewing about the Mets, but his point was pretty profound. As the MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson's breaking in, we're watching the role of African-Americans, pardon the pun, fade to Black. I've seen a couple of stories about this run on ESPN, I remember one particular segment on HBCUs and baseball that caught me off guard, since the team was predominantly Latino, rather than African-American. At the core of this transition are really the boundaries of race and ethnicity. For most folks in the United States, in common terms, there is Black and there is Latino. While we can acknowledge there are Black or Afro Latinos, seldom do we fully grapple with that dualness and what it means for race and race relations. This debate recently got resparked by the Tigers Gary Sheffield.
In the June GQ he said... well, I'll just excerpt from the article,
The percentage of African-American players in Major League Baseball has declined percipitously over the past three decades, from 27 percent in 1975 to 8.4 percent last year. Over the same period, the proportion of Latin Americans in the game has increased from 11 percent to 24 percent. "I called it years ago," says Sheffield. "What I called is that you're going to see more black faces, but there ain't no English going to be coming out."
Sheffield then unspools a curious theory about the trend in the game. It's about "being able to tell [Latin players] what to do," he says. "Being able to control them. Where I'm from, you can't control us. You mugh tget a guy to do it that way for a while because he wants to benefit, but in the end he is going to go back to being who he is. And that's a person that your'e going to talk to with respect, you're going to talk to him like a man. These are things my race demands. So if you're equally good as this Latin Player, guess who's going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys.
So when I read this in the magazine, I found it an interesting quote and kept reading. Didn't shake me to the core, didn't cause me to run to www.blackatmichigan.com to post (let's be honest few things cause me to run and post these days, but you know what I mean). I actually said to myself, "interesting." This is far from the reaction that others have had. ESPN decided to get some opinions from Latinos, I wonder how they picked who they interviewed. Lester Spence gives a really good analysis that talks about Black folks and sporting preferences (though Lord knows I loathe the word preferences, probably from all this affirmative action talk over the years)and the number of Black baseball players. But for me, the thing that is serious here is the color-line and particularly as it is interpretted in a post-colonial global sense. Translation: Who is Black, and where are they from?
Recently, I had a conversation with a dear friend who has been spending some time in Miami. She said to me, about a Cuban man she met, "If you were walking down the street, you would have thought he was Black. You know, not Cuban." I paused and responded, "You mean, you would have thought he was African-American, you mean, right?" As I finished my comment/question she said, "Yeah, I guess." It was at that moment that I was reminded again, even the most well-read and educated and arguably open folks, have trouble rectifying who is Black and what the boundaries between race and ethncity are.
Whether it's Debra Dickerson making assanine comments about Obama not being Black or my friends telling me Black folks from Latin America are "not really Black." We see Black all too often acts as a synonym for African-American. To some this is a symantic distinction, but I think it is really important. Now my point in bringing this up is not to create a "race-war" (mind you there can't be a race war over this, we're not talking about race) but to just make you think about who consitutes authentically Black folks?
Now for a long time I've subscribed to the "cousins theory" of the African/Black diaspora. This is my colloquial name for the theory that basically goes, "Well, we're all cousins, the boat (slave ship) just dropped us off in different places." Usually this gets some chuckles, but it makes sense. The global struggle of people of African descent in the Carribean and other locales is, in many ways, akin to that of people of African decent in the United States. Now we can catalog the differences in slavery and colonial subjecthood, but that's a much larger project with little meaning to my argument... oh that's right, I should be making an argument.
Sheffield basically brought the point front and center that in America, folks who look like you, may not be you. For him, and many others, the social spaces that are occupied by AfroLatinos today may have been occupied by African-Americans before. For me, I realize that I may not be like a lot of my friends who cringe at such a transition. Come to think of it, it may have been in part because of my socialization into Black Latino folks via growing up in New Haven or watching so much baseball. I'll never forget seeing a "George Bell" card from Topps that said "Jorge Bell" I immediately grabbed it thinking it was an "error card", it was an error, but the error was my own. I'll be honest, it's only recently that I started to realize how many Black athletes that I'd pronounced in the most Anglosized ways were AfroLatinos, not African-Americans. Sheffield's comments really crystallized this phenomenon and others have commented very well on the colonial relationship between MLB and Latin America, so I won't take that on. But Sheff's comments should serve to facilitate another level of discussion around culture, identity, and representation in the global Black community. For many, these tensions become talked about in a zero-sum manner. Translation: If you (Afrolatinos) get something, we (African-Americans) lose something. But that is way too simplistic. For some, this is a question of coalition building. Translation: Can't we all just get along. That too is too simplistic. The real question is: Am I the last African-American male who still watches baseball? ;)
Monday, June 11, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
So for the past few years nearly every time I hear Black men nearing a point of emotional intimacy two words quickly have haunted the moment, "no homo." Picture this Sicily... err, I mean, so picture this, you've mentored a brother for the past 5 years, talked him through some major life issues: college, divorce, depression, women, etc. and he's about to take off for a far off land. He takes a moment to express his thanks for the love that you've showed him over the years and how you've improved his life and he punctuates his statement with "no homo." Not only has it happened once, but it's happened multiple times with the brothas that I've worked with. But the reason it urks me so much, is that so many of these brothas are the "good brothas", the brothas who have attempted to push on issues of gender, inequality at large and sexuality... well maybe not so much the latter.
The "no homo" movement seems to have grown directly out of Hip-Hop's obsession with hyper-masculinity. As Hip-Hop has pushed the masculine through performance of actions, be they violent or non-violent, the realm of intragender intimacy has consistently been silent. Now of course there are songs for my crew, my niggas, even back in the day my posse, but these songs fall far from carving out a space to discuss close relationships between Black men (except when the subject of the song is dead, then you can talk freely). But this is nothing new to our community, as Black men at large, and those embedded within the Hip-Hop generation.
Now to be clear, I don't think Black men lack intimacy, I think we simply truncate it for the "sexuality safety." To me sexuality safety is about the maintenance of an image of heterosexuality (meaning: I'm a guy, I mess with women); and a by extension a vehement rejection of homosexuality (meaning: I'm a guy, I'm not for that gay shit). They are two sides of the same coin in our music. While some are already chomping at the bit to say, not all of Hip-Hop is like this, let me take this moment to pre-emptively strike like GWB and douse some of your righteous indignation and remind you that many of our favorite rappers follow this logic. Nas, Common, Andre 3000, the list goes on. Just search through their catalogs, it's there!
Hip-Hop's response has been to dodge or turn a blind eye to homoeroticism, but sometimes it comes full frontal. While rumors about rappers being homosexual have long directed Hip-Hop (check out Marc Lamont Hill's forthcoming book on more of this). In recent months, rumors have become specters. The Lil' Wayne and Baby kiss started a firestorm, that I hoped would have lead to a different discussion of male intimacy, but lord knows that fire burned out as quickly as it went ablaze, leaving most people with the same ideas of equating black male intimacy with sexuality. In recent days T-Pain has gained significant attention regarding his comments about Ray J's sex tape and endowment. After making multiple comments about penis size he attempts to absolve himself of homoerotic overtones by saying "no homo." See, no harm, no foul. No way in hell. Most folks who read his comments and reacted offered up their own theories of the boundaries of masculinity and appropriate references to another man's physique. The bottom line that could be taken from most comments that I could stomach was "a real man never even notices another man's penis", sure, right.
While the popular attention that Wayne and T-Pain garnered is important, it tells us little about how Black folks, and Black men in particular, understand the boundaries between intimacy and sexuality. I'm most concerned with the use of "no homo" when it comes to interpersonal intimacy. I know that we as Black men have historically bottled emotion, but punctuating our sharing with "no homo" is troubling. By using "no homo" are brothas saying the only men who share emotions are homosexual? Are brothas saying that sharing emotions will immediately lead to some form of sexual encounter? And more importantly, to myself I've asked and am asking, do I create an environment with my brothas where they think I'm so anti-gay that they need to qualify their emotions and distinguish them from sexuality?
P.s. Sorry I accidently had the comments turned off on this post, now they're on!
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Remember when Gangstarr was talking about that mass appeal? I've always felt there were some rappers that had that mass appeal, but never could quite put my finger on it. Now the folks I'm referring to are groups or individuals that you wouldn't suspect would end up on my musical rotation, but when they come around, they get burn, consistently. These are the groups that you see doing collaboration and go... wtf? Four groups/rappers quickly come to mind:
1) UGK - Undergroud Kingz
2) DJ Quik
3) MOP- Mash Out Posse
4) Too $hort
Real talk, why is it so hard to resist a UGK song? I was listening to that new Ear Drum and Talib's collabo with UGK immediately pulled me in. And it's not just me, one of my homegirls recently commented when she gets to the pearly gates they were gonna be like, "Wait, you're a feminist and you listen to UGK! They had a song call Pregnant Pussy." The fact is that no matter where most of our morals stand, there's something about these folks' music. I've never been a big Quik fan, but I know a lot of headwrapped, vegan, third-eye concentrating, backpack wearing, Quik fans. Why? I'm not sure at all. His and Short's music really fall in the clasical etymological definition of miscogyny. My favorite of them all is MOP. Since I first heard them, I've been down to rob the bodega and yap fools. Why, I don't know, but their material is so ill to me. For some their guilty pleasures, but to me they're as much a part of Hip-Hop as break beats and BDP. I guess this will help motivate me to retype my long post on Hip-Hop and Accountability that got lost in cyber space.
There is no true point to this post other than to say out loud that these groups are transcendent and wonder why. Why could they easily be categorized as exploitative and harmful, but still draw me and others in. Is it there content, their flow, or something beyond that. You feel me? And for the all the UGK Kast fans this is my joint!
Aight, first thing's first, I know there is already a Hip-Hop Appreciation Week, but I usually miss that and right now I don't really care. Just kind of been feeling like my last 5 posts or so, in the cue are Hip-Hop related. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to pop above water to post some things that have been on my mind. As Jay said, "Just my thoughts ladies and gentlemen, right or wrong, just how I'm feeling at the time."