All Articles Tagged "music"
Hip-Hop intellectual Eric Michael Dyson once said that “Whether along race, class, or generational lines, hip-hop music has been a source of controversy since the beats got too big and the voices too loud for the block parties that spawned them. America has condemned and commended this music and the culture that inspires it.” And hip-hop remains both controversial and a heavily divided genre. There’s the woke, incense-burning, reparations-demanding, “remember we are royalty” conscious visionaries like Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Yasiin Bey, Common, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. And then there are the trap kings and queens on the other side, stacking the money, moving that “white girl.” Rappers such as Young Jeezy, Chief Keef, Fetty Wap, Migos, 2 Chainz and, of course, Future.
As a culture, we celebrate the socially conscious rapper for using hip-hop to address political and racial injustice. We praise them for using their platform to give back to the communities in need. We place them on a pedestal as the messiahs who are going to once again redefine the culture of hip-hop and take it back to the days when it was a genre that meant something. To a time when rap told stories. Not just delusions of grandeur stories, but accounts of poverty, drug addiction, broken homes, shattered dreams, and redemption. It was a platform that shared the triumphs and failures of being Black, or Jewish (The Beastie Boys), or Latino (Immortal Technique), or a woman (Queen Latifah).
But in the early ’00s, hip-hop began to shift as rappers started to focus on braggadocio rap. Stories about lavish lifestyles and designer labels. Even Kanye West emerged on the scene as the new voice in conscious hip-hop before slowly transitioning to the top 1 percenter and leaving the rest of us behind. Things and artists changed.
I stumbled across an article from the Huffington Post written in 2012 that accused Jay Z and Nicki Minaj of being part of the problem in this shifting culture.
“What was once a music and culture for and about the struggles of young, urban rebels, who used music, dance and art to express themselves and fight against a system that had forgotten them, has become a culture that glorifies, defends and aspires to be the 1 percent that was once considered the oppressor.”
But after reading this, and hearing a coworker’s claim that NWA somehow broke hip-hop, I started to think, what is hip-hop? How do we define an entire genre based on social and political views and why don’t people do this with any other style of music? (Well, maybe jazz.) James Baldwin once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant stage of rage” and boy was he right. Us “woke” folk expect every Black entertainer in the industry in the spotlight to be political activists and criticize them if they’re not doing enough. But as much as us “conscious” Black folk love to talk about the system, political warfare and elevating our minds, I don’t think it makes us any less socially or culturally aware if we want to turn up and shake our rumps to some ratchet hip-hop. Variety is the spice of life.
In his article, “All You ‘Real’ Rap Fans Need to Stop Hating on ‘What a Time to Be Alive”, Complex writer Angel Diaz calls out hip-hop purists for their criticism of Drake and Future’s new collaborative album. He says that if we think that Future, Drake, and similar artists are going to rap about social issues in this day and age, we are idiots. But I don’t think he was prepared for the clapback he received from Talib Kweli, who claims he has been fighting to save hip-hop since it started to decline. Even Wes Jackson of Brooklyn Bodega shared his distaste for Diaz and the music he called “coonery”:
“And to your point that I should not expect Drake or Future to speak on social issues, I feel bad for you. You claim some sense of awareness of Hip Hop’s history in your piece but I fear that is a front. For if you did, you would realize that standing up for social issues is the very foundation of this culture. It was why Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation helped create this industry that pays your bills.”
Kweli and his supporters at Brooklyn Bodega shared some thought-provoking points on hip-hop’s history and why it is important that we preserve it with each new artist that emerges. But Diaz made some good points too:
You old head, super lyrical m*********rs need to get over yourselves. Every time some new rap drops you sound bitter. “This ain’t that real s**t,” you scream as you fix your two-toned durag and adjust your NT denim. We can’t enjoy the two hottest rappers in the game dropping a joint tape? What exactly is that “real” s**t then? Turn up music isn’t “real” hip-hop? How so? Was the genre not invented at a goddamn party? Isn’t music about having a good time? I’m dead tired of you cats, man. You make my head hurt. Can’t be listening to Talib Kweli rap off beat and Lupe Fiasco deep cuts at BBQs. I, too, was once like you, but come on, don’t nobody wanna hear that s**t all the f****g time.
He didn’t have to fire shots like that at the end of his statement, but all that aside, why do we try so hard to define “real” hip-hop? Why can’t we be okay with its diversity? Why can’t we go to the protest in our neighborhoods with our fists raised while listening to some of the rap visionaries telling us to “fight the power” and then go out on a Friday night to kick back and act a fool to some trap rap? As stated before, hip-hop is one of the only genres people expect so much from. So, with that being said, are we all a little too awake or are we sleeping a little too hard?
Have you ever noticed that most groups of people have a theme song? There’s “I’m Every Woman” for the ladies and “F*ck tha Police” for the anti-policemen crowd. Even dogs have “Who Let The Dogs Out?” Yes, every group is accounted for musically.
Except the “socially awkward” folks.
Who came up with the term “socially awkward” anyway? Who gave that person the authority? It’s basically saying that those of us who don’t blend in with the “accepted” crowd are abnormal while every other human being is deemed Grade A. Not cool. But that’s okay because the “socially awkward” introverted crew, the wallflowers, or what I like to call the socially-not-here-for-it-after-years-of-being-shaded folks, finally have a theme song of our own.
Socially Not Here For It finds herself tucked away in a corner. She doesn’t want to seem uninterested, antisocial, pessimistic, or standoffish, but she wonders “Why am I here?” However, she totally gets it. She isn’t knocking the Grade A idea of fun. It’s just not her cup of tea. She’d rather be chilling at home alone or listening to music that actually has a message, discussing plans for the future with her real friends. Instead, she’s in a room full of people who couldn’t care less about her well-being, and it’s uncomfortable. It eventually becomes too much for Socially Not Here For It, and she resorts to going outside to wait for her friends in the car.
Story of my life.
Born Alessia Caracciolo, the Canadian musician has been a popular fixture on YouTube for years. Her talent and followers would eventually get her signed to Def Jam Records, and her acoustic R&B is a rich, melodious sound. Her voice is not only pleasing to the ear but stimulates deep thoughts. Pure. Heartfelt. Meaningful music. “Here” magically popped up on my iTunes R&B station as I was putting on my makeup and mentally preparing myself to be social for a party I was dreading the idea of attending. After hearing it, I immediately downloaded the track and haven’t stopped listening to it yet. Finally, a song that liberates my innermost thoughts! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. So here’s to all my not-so-social butterflies who believe love can’t be found bent over in front of an aroused stranger. The ones who know that there’s more to life than chasing a high or staring down the bottom of your umpteenth red solo cup of jungle juice.
This song is for you.
Do you know what today is? It’s B’Day. Whether you’re a die-hard member of the BeyHive or a casual Beyoncé fan, there’s no denying that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter has broken major ground in a career spanning nearly two decades. What better time to celebrate Beyoncé than on the day that Ms. Tina brought her into the world? Happy 34th birthday, Bey! Let’s look at 20 Beyoncé performances that gave us life on her big day.
Many of us tuned into the 2015 VMAs in the hopes of seeing the way Nicki Minaj would respond to all the madness surrounding her controversial tweets about the inequity that Black women deal with in the entertainment business. Some tuned in to see if Minaj would blow up Miley Cyrus’ spot for basically calling her an angry Black woman last week. And she did. But that barely matters when you look at the bigger picture.
I think we all really just got duped by Taylor Swift.
Minaj opened the show with a performance of the catchy single “Trini Dem Girls” that led into “The Night is Still Young,” which culminated with Swift taking the stage in an act of pop solidarity. The performance ended with the formerly beefing pair singing Swift’s hit single, “Bad Blood.” What a well-orchestrated publicity stunt. Well done.
It was pretty odd that after all her pushback, Minaj decided to take the opening slot at a show that she claimed had done her wrong. So it should have come as no surprise that she would do so to wave a public white flag to Swift. I imagine that after Swift injected herself into Minaj’s tweets, the singer recognized damage control needed to be done and wasted no time getting Minaj on the phone to orchestrate a superficially huge water cooler and girl power moment for the 2015 VMAs.
Or, it’s possible that the entire beef was designed to give the music network ratings and relevance for its annual magnum opus. We mustn’t forget that the entertainment industry is all smoke and mirrors. Swift fans will welcome Minaj back into the fold while Minaj continues to dominate the pop-rap game, and all goes back to normal.
So who loses here? Everyone but Swift.
I suppose that at the end of the day, if it weren’t a stunt, Minaj couldn’t keep it really real even if she wanted to. She is a mainstream artist with a primarily White fanbase nowadays. But just as I started to come to terms with the whole publicity stunt thing, Minaj won Best Hip-Hop Video Award and things got even weirder. Minaj did her usual dance in her acceptance speech, thanking her fans and big upping independent boys and girls. Then she took a breath and thanked her pastor before launching into an assault on Miley Cyrus, the evening’s host, who was standing on the other side of the stage.
“And now back to the b***h who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?”
The petite singer barked at a visibly startled Miley Cyrus, who wasted no time in her rebuttal. Miley responded to the MC while asking viewers to vote for the Artist To Watch award.
“Hey, we’re all in this industry. We all do interviews and you know how they manipulate sh*t. Congratu-f***ing-lations.”
The camera cut to Minaj during Cyrus’ rebuttal, and she seemed to be popping off. She was nowhere near the microphone, but she definitely told Cyrus “don’t play with me, b***h.”
Now for all intents and purposes, this entire exchange seemed real, and MTV even issued a statement clarifying that the moment was not staged. But that’s not really saying much. Either way, Minaj loses. Cyrus merely comes off looking dismissive and ignorant, but she gets attention, which is her only goal. Minaj has now taken a major blow to her credibility, which is critical at the end of the day. Beefing with Cyrus is a means to an end; she’s a buffoon who is not taken seriously. But in a perfect world, Minaj would have used her acceptance speech to further address disparities and clarify her original tweets that Swift misconstrued and Cyrus brushed off. It would have been a standout moment in her career, an important turning point. But alas, Minaj didn’t have time for that.
There is only one clear winner in this trifecta of beef: Taylor Swift. She managed to take a moment of cultural interference and transform it into a showcase to serve her perpetual victimhood. She started the show with a moment of redemption. In the middle of the show, she presented Kanye West with the Video Vanguard award, and half of West’s speech was dedicated to her. And to top it all off, she won Video of the Year with Kendrick Lamar as her supporting act. She has successfully stolen moments from all these people, and it is completely unacceptable, but of course, nothing will be done about it.
Going forward, we can only hope that Swift’s reign will not run over any more of the artists we enjoy. But most importantly, going forward, we all have to embrace the fact that our pop stars are not going to end our societal ills and that they will often use major issues, even ones as important as racial disparities, simply for attention. We have to keep doing the work ourselves and remember not to let the Taylor Swifts in our lives, hijack our moments.
There’s always a special spark when two artists make love and art together. While the unions may not always last, the music lives on forever. Popular music is at its best when couples collaborate. Check out 15 artists who put their boos on the track and made beautiful (or at least decent) music together.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at a concert? Recently, someone threw a phone at J. Cole on stage, and he handled it like a pro, pocketing the phone soon after it bounced off his face. As crazy as it sounds, throwing things on stage is a fan tradition, but these ridiculous items were way too much.
Looking for the perfect music to play at the barbecue this 4th of July? We’ve got you covered with 2015’s hottest new singles.
If you watched the BET Awards on Sunday, then I’m sure you watched newcomer Jidenna perform his hit single “Classic Man.” With Janelle Monaé by his side, it was a performance that had everyone asking, “Who is that?!” With his signature look and sound, Jidenna is already making big waves as he introduces the world to his swanky style. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about hip-hop’s newest MC.
With the 2015 BET Awards going down this weekend, we decided to take a look at some of the best tributes, reunions, performances, and hilarious moments from the award show over the years. What’s your favorite moment?
Everyone loves a good comeback. And over the past year, we’ve been blessed with the return of D’Angelo and Janet Jackson. Check out these 15 musical acts who have had some of the greatest comebacks ever!