All Articles Tagged "pop culture"
For those of you who have been hoping the word “ratchet” would die soon, I wouldn’t count on it. In fact, I’m willing to bet it’s about to become an even larger part of mainstream culture, i.e., white folks are about to start using it, thanks to an exploratory piece on the term in NY Mag. Titled, “Ratchet: The Rap Insult That Became a Compliment,” the article by John Ortved seeks to uncover the origins of the word in a way that leaves me asking the (ratchet) question — although I’m not even sure that’s the correct use of the term now –what the f#&% for?!
As the piece goes:
Ratchet can be traced back to the neighborhood of Cedar Grove in Shreveport, Louisiana. “You talk to working class black people [down there],” says Dr. Brittney Cooper, a co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective. “Ratchedness comes out of that. And some of that particularity gets lost when it travels.”
You can certainly say that again. For an example of that lost particularity, see this entire article in NY Mag.
The first appearance of ratchet in a published song was in 1999, when Anthony Mandigo released “Do the Ratchet” on his Ratchet Fight in the Ghetto album….In 2004, Earl Williams, a producer known as Phunk Dawg, recorded a new version of the song, featuring the better-known Lil Boosie (currently incarcerated), from Baton Rouge, as well as Mandigo and another Shreveport rapper named Untamed Mayne…. In the liner notes of the CD, Phunk Dawg wrote a definition of ratchet: “n., pron., v, adv., 1. To be ghetto, real, gutter, narsty. 2. It’s whatever, bout it, etc.”
But the popularity of the song, and the adoption of ratchet by other, bigger names in the business — especially as rappers from the “Dirty South,” like Lil Wayne, T.I., and Juicy J came into vogue in the later 2000s — meant the definition of the word could not stay in the hands of Lava House Records. “It’s not necessarily negative. You could say ‘I’m ratchet’ to say ‘I’m real. I’m ghetto. I am what I am.’ It can be light, too,” Williams, the producer, explains. When ratchet is used in hip hop, it can also mean cool, sloppy, sleek, or flashy.
When I read these definitions of the term that black people have been using since the ’90s, I really question what service Ortved thinks he’s providing with this article. I guess it shouldn’t be all that hard for me to figure out considering NY Mag’s readership and the obvious understanding that people who have been using this word without needing an urban dictionary explanation of it already know what it means. So is Ortved trying to introduce this word to the mainstream so white people who want to be cool can add it to their vernacular? Or is he trying to shield them from some “underground” term that they have a right to know the meaning and connotation of to either avoid use of or use against us? Or my third explanation, which I personally believe is the case more than anything, is he wasting everyone’s time with much ado about nothing.
Michaela Angela Davis would likely disagree with that last point, as she seems to believe the term “ratchet” has far-reaching consequences for black women, telling NY Mag:
“There’s an emotional violence and meanness attached to being ratchet, particularly pertaining to women of color. We’re only seen through this narrow sliver, and right now that sliver is Ratchet. We don’t get to be quirky and fun and live in Williamsburg. Wolves don’t fall in love with us. The only interest that pop culture has in black women is this ratchet world.”
And the use of this term is to blame for that? Pop culture has only been interested in Black women’s failings since the beginning of time. Ratchet may be the catch-all phrase that captures the negativity those outside the black community may enjoy shedding a light on, but whether this word is here or not, the light won’t shine any brighter or dimmer. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve never thought about the term ratchet in any specificity to Black women. In my own personal use, I relate it to everything from behavior that is ignorant and suspect to the utmost level, as well as simply “turning up,” as one would say now (i.e. having a good time) I wonder if there will be an expose on that phrase next?
And I hate that this article even makes me think about what things I apply to this term because, frankly, it’s not that deep. Yes, you should absolutely be aware of the language you use and when, where, and why, but taking an urban slang term and turning it into something bigger than it needs to be is not just counterproductive, it’s a waste of time. I’m still trying to figure out what Ortved got out of his research and what he thinks his readers will get out of this piece other than a headache and a feeling that yet again African American culture is being set up to be misappropriated. Have we spent this much time exploring the origins of frenemy and what white women’s embracing of this term could mean for the future of female friendships as we know it? Or how the use of “fetch” further spurs the growth of mean girl culture? Of course not. Those are safe words, right? The people using them could never mean any ill intent. It’s only when Black people come up with slang terms that they have to have a covert negative meaning.
Since Beyonce was so heavily referenced in Ortved’s ratchet expository – which I don’t even have time to touch on — I’ll just take a page from her Instagram and ask: can we live?
A couple of months ago, I was watching an interview with Michaela Angela Davis. In it, she discussed the images of black women and how black women specifically, but black people in general advance the culture–as in pop culture. When you look at the history of American music, you need look no further than Jazz and then Hip Hop to see that this is true. But aside from music, blacks have contributed to the national lexicon as well. If you don’t believe me, check out the following words.
This word, referring to the way light hits flashy, often gaudy, jewelry, was first made popular in 1999 when BG and the Cash Money Millionaires released a song by the name of “Bling Bling.” When you think about it, that’s pretty clever. This ideophone, a word or sound(s) that describes a complete idea, undoubtedly led to the word’s popularity and staying power. Before you knew it every other rapper was using the phrase and then it really took off when mainstream artists started saying it. Eventually it was added to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 and the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006. Politician and two-time presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney even used it in 2008, at a campaign event.
In researching this story, I actually forgot how great “Bling Bling” was, so just in case you need a refresher course as well, here’s the video that started it all.
Advertising Week is happening here in New York. And, kind of crazy, Naomi Campbell sat in on panel discussion yesterday afternoon, “The Currency of Culture in Marketing.” Steve Stoute, the founder of marketing firm Translations moderated.
We tweeted a few snippets from the event yesterday afternoon, but as a whole, the point was to talk about how brands can leverage pop culture and current events as a branding tool. Paul Chibe, VP of US marketing at Anheuser-Busch, which just recently, through its Budweiser brand, was part of Jay-Z’s “Made in America” concert festival, said the key is being relevant at cultural “tension points.” So brands need to be mindful of what’s happening in music, in the news, and generally be aware of which way the cultural winds are blowing. And where their brands, products and services can participate, they should.
However, it has to be done in a way that’s natural. For example, Pam El, State Farm’s VP of marketing who was recently named to Ad Age‘s list of most influential women, talked about that company’s campaign with the animated film Cars. They’re an insurance company, it was a movie about cars, so it made sense. (State Farm is listed on the media alert we received as one of Translation’s clients. Budweiser and Coca-Cola, which was also repped on the panel by assistant VP of marketing Kimberly Page, are also among the firm’s clients.)
And then there was Luke Wood, president and COO at Beats by Dr. Dre, who talked about that company’s experience at the London Olympics. Technically, they weren’t a sponsor, Wood said. But Beats headphones were everywhere because the athletes all had them, courtesy of the company. “We were in the cultural waters,” said Wood. Rather than going the traditional route with the Olympics, which he called “stale,” he went to the younger, cooler athletes.
And what could a supermodel add to this discussion? An interesting twist actually. Campbell talked about how difficult it is for black models in the fashion industry. According to Campbell, she grew up without much talk of race, but became part of the conversation when she began her career. “With the help of designers, agents… and others behind me pushing, I made it through,” Campbell said. ”There are magazines that still won’t put a black model on the cover.” Vogue Italia and its special edition dedicated to black models is an exception. Campbell considers editor Franca Sozzani as an advocate for diversity. And ultimately, Campbell has become a pop culture icon despite the obstacles.
She also gave a couple of interesting and juicy tidbits from her 28 years in the industry. Looking back, she remembered the famous designer, now deceased, who helped her to become the first black model on the cover of French Vogue. Stoute, and many in the audience no doubt, thought she was talking about Gianni Versace. Actually, she was referring to Yves Saint Laurent. She also talked about bringing Jay Z and Diddy to Cannes for the first time years ago and the enthusiastic reception they received. “They couldn’t believe how they were treated,” she recalled. “People commented on how they brought glamour and that way of life. I want to put the best with the best.”
Oh, and also, she has a new show, The Face, a kind of America’s Next Top Model in which she’ll serve as a mentor to 24 contestants.
In a final bit, she echoed a sentiment by Chibe about the need to take risks. Earlier in the discussion, he made clear that there will be times when you try something that doesn’t work. But in the end, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t go out on a limb. Campbell also advised everyone to get in on the ground floor with talented people that you believe in.
“I first work with brands when they’re young, knowing that as they get bigger, they take you with them,” she said.
I was born in 1987, just three years away from the ’90s. When I tell people how the mindset of the ’90s babies is so radically different from my own, I’m met with all kinds of side eyes. Even my own parents have looked at me crazy. But really, those 90′s kids are a different breed and I can’t really identify with their kind. This fact was made more apparent by the recent Twitter activity of said ’90s babies.
You may have heard by now that James Cameron and his crew are re-releasing Titanic. I won’t even tell you how easily I see through this pocket padding ploy. My theory is if Jack doesn’t climb up on that door with Rose and live at the end, then I really don’t need to torture myself for another three hours. But I digress. The re-release has the kiddies doing a bit of research and their mind was blown with a bit of information. See what I mean below:
This comedic travesty got me thinking about the all the things the 90′s babies just don’t know. So in an olive-branch like gesture I’m sharing some of my 80′s baby knowledge with the young ones, with hopes for a better educated world. Check it.
1. The Titanic was a real ship.
That’s why your mom cries uncontrollably when she watches that movie on TNT; because although it’s a fictional story, it’s based on a historical event. Real people died.
2. A lot of Kanye’s (and other producer’s beats) are sampled.
If you’ve listened to his lyrics this should come as no surprise. “Don’t give me a beat that I can’t sample.” It didn’t just start with “Otis” either.
3. Back in the day, people, even intelligent, black people like Toni Morrison, used to refer to Bill Clinton as the “First Black President.”
Hard to believe, huh?
4. Box Braids, color blocking and any other style that you may be trying to emulate these days is not new.
It came from another decade and someone decided to revive it.
5. Back in the day, far more black actresses, for better or worse, wore their real hair.
6. J-Lo started as a dancer, not a singer, not an actress but a background dancer.
7. There was once a show called “The Mickey Mouse Club” that produced a great number of stars in the limelight.
i.e. Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and heartthrob Ryan Gosling.
Don’t believe me? Watch this adorable and slightly shocking video of some of the aforementioned people singing Jodeci’s “Cry for You” below. Your mind will be blown.
8. Before Megan Good was a sex symbol, she was the girl with bucked teeth on a show called “Cousin Skeeter.”
9. Roger Troutman and not T-Pain is the father of Auto Tune.
Roger’s device was called a synthesizer (or talk box) which he used masterfully and not obnoxiously. Google him; or if you’re lazy, check him out here.
What lessons are you sharing with the young ones?
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It was the mid 90’s and life was good. TGIF was in full effect on the ABC network, instead of Facebook, AOL instant messenger and chat rooms connected you more to complete strangers than friends and no one could tell me that I wasn’t going to marry Marques Houston, the lead singer of the popular boy band Immature who would later be known as IMX. At the most intense point of my fandom, you could find my walls literally wall-papered in posters of glistening boy pecs and the single “I Don’t Mind” from their first LP blasting faithfully from my room every morning before school. Whether it was Jodeci, Hi-Five, Shai, N’Sync, Boys II Men or Backstreet Boys we all had boy band or pop star crushes that captured our hearts, and lifted them up only to send them crashing. Don’t let your favorite one, whether it be the “The Quiet One” or “The Dangerous One” be pictured with the next hot, new starlet and suddenly you felt that you were in an emotional rollercoaster with someone you’d probably never meet.
Now in a time of Twitter and Tumblr, fans of today have one thing that the teen version of me didn’t: What seems to be a direct connection to the celebrities they either would love to be or love to be with. And more and more the fame monster is preying on the prepubescent, making the obsession with lifestyles of the rich and famous dangerously delusional.
We’ve got the Beliebers, Justin Bieber’s personal disciples who spread the written gospel of “Baby” and “Never Say Never.” Then there’s the Rihanna Navy who make sure everyone gets drenched in Rihanna’s reign of girl power and stand as the ultimate FU to demure unfashionable females everywhere. Chris Brown’s Team Breezy held it down for the boy through all of his ups and downs. Trey’s Angels make sure ladies everywhere can show their appreciation for the chisel chested Songz for a mere $30.00 a year membership fee. And if Drake should be proud of anyone it should be Team Drizzy for following him across the globe and making sure a fan book is always there waiting for him.
by Uju Asika
One way to rev my son up in the morning is to blast some LL Cool J on the iPod docked in our bathroom. I love the sight of my baby in his PJs, toothbrush as mic, yelling ‘Mama Said Knock You OUT!’ Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »