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i love the cocaine 80s movement. artists coming together to make good music. not for pop radio or to sell light beer. just for the “pursuit of dopeness.” here’s the latest offering from the crew ”congratulations.” on the song, common takes listeners through the story of his boy’s wedding. he’s backed up by vocals from jhene aiko & james fauntleroy as well as smooth production by no i.d. (spotted on his tumblr).
country music star brad paisley and rap icon james smith aka ll cool j created a buzz with their recent collabo “accidental racist” (listen to it below & check out the lyrics here):
the thing is most of the buzz that i’ve heard hasn’t been positive. some people view the song as a source of unintentional comedy; for others, it’s a source of shame and anger. while i think the two artists had good intentions in making the song, here are 4 lyrics from the track that symbolize where they went wrong:
“lookin’ like i got a lot to learn but from my point of view/i’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland” (brad paisley): paisley starts out fine in acknowledging that he has a lot to learn (we all do on some issues). his reasoning though for what he doesn’t know is problematic. the “i’m just a white man” line echoes the “i’m just a simple man” trope found throughout country music. however, paisley’s use of it here to explain his “accidentally racist” behavior doesn’t fly. it’s 2013 where many people, especially those with paisley’s financial means, have a wealth of knowledge literally at their fingertips if they want it. whatever his intentions were for wearing a dixie flag t-shirt in the song, even a so-called simple, white man from the south (and paisley’s west virginia barely qualifies) should be fully aware that the racist history associated with the flag (a history that even paisley acknowledges in the song that we can’t just rewrite) will make the shirt offensive to many people. choosing not to avail yourself of such knowledge or even worse, knowing better and not acting on it, isn’t an accident. it’s a failure (in this case, potentially a harmful one).
“i try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin/but it ain’t like i can walk a mile in someone else’s skin” (paisley): again, paisley starts off right by trying to put himself in another person’s shoes. however again, he downplays his capacity for change in the matter with the rest of the line. of course, you can’t literally walk in another person’s skin (unless you’re eddie murphy). still, pointing that out here makes it seem like the understanding he’s seeking is beyond his scope when in reality, it’s not. a good part about empathy is that it can allow us to feel/understand another person’s struggles without fully experiencing it for ourselves (if we open ourselves up to do so).
“dear mr. white man” (ll cool j): the start of uncle l’s verse might seem innocuous to some, but for me, it hearkens back to the forced one-way flow of respect given by blacks to whites dating back to american slavery times. sadly, this reading of the lyric actually fits the humble, subservient tone mr. smith takes with the rest of his verse (it’s ironic that he later equates himself to quentin tarantino’s django when throughout the song he sounds more like stephen, sam jackson’s character in the movie). smith’s flaccid approach is surprising coming from the same man who did this. worse though, he seems to place himself on unequal footing when in this particular dialogue, a widespread establishment of equal standing is needed to address our nation’s racial problems.
“if you don’t judge my gold chains/i’ll forget the iron chains” (ll cool j): here, smith tries to make a deal with his white counterparts where if they stop judging him based on stereotypes, he’ll forget their ancestral sin of slavery. while the rhyme might make it seem like an equal exchange, it’s far from it. the most troubling part about it is the premature concession to just forget the iron chains and many other atrocities associated with america’s enslavement of black people. the purpose of remembering slavery isn’t to hold a grudge. history, regardless of the pain/embarrassment it may stir up, provides us with proper context for how we became the individuals/society we are today. such context is important when discussing race and the socio-economic issues linked to it (without it, we might confuse the progress in things like affirmative action as a final solution to an ultimately more complex problem).
in the end, the biggest mistake made by the “accidental racist” singer & the “accidental uncle tom” rapper isn’t as much about racism as it is about ignorance. paisley tries to use an “aww, shucks” attitude to avoid the responsibility demanded of him by his access to knowledge but it doesn’t work. for ll, his overly accommodating approach + premature “let bygones be bygones” attitude undermines the time/effort needed to truly heal 200+ years’ worth of wounds.
there’s a great quote from malcolm x that comes to mind: “don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. there was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” i don’t think anyone should simply condemn paisley or smith for their missteps (especially when they might be attempting something that other mainstream artists don’t on the regular). nevertheless, i do hope that the different reactions to the track will help them know better and do better in the future.
i never got with the odd future wave. love what frank is doing on the r&b front, but most of what i heard/saw from their rappers (tyler, earl, hodgy, etc.) was mostly wack and/or weird. that said, i’m glad i gave tyler’s new video a shot. his song “ifhy” adds some color to the gray areas of love. visually, it reminds me of the imaginative stuff busta rhymes was doing out in the 90s (see here & here for examples & nostalgia). on both fronts, he does a good job negotiating that subjective line between weirdness and creativity. check it out and let me know what you think. also on the strength of this, i’m gonna give tyler’s new album wolf a run-through (will update ya on it when i do).
i checked out big boi’s vicious lies and dangerous rumors on a whim and i’m glad i did. with a mix of sounds and lyrics as colorful as the album cover, i’m guessing he had as much fun making it as i did listening to it. for a little taste, here’s “shoes for running” featuring b.o.b & san diego-based band wavves. find a way to get your hands on the full album. your ears deserve it.
in the past, life rewind was about recapping my favorite songs of the year. this time, i’m expanding it to a fuller blog review. more to come in the next few weeks.
in the meantime, we’ll start with my top 12 songs from twenty-twelve (not ranked) with a full playlist at the end. if some of your favorite songs aren’t on the list, let me know what i missed in the comments.
Fun. “We Are Young” f/ Janelle Monáe
first heard this on a super bowl commercial and was hooked ever since.
the cover polaroid of kendrick lamar’s good kid m.a.a.d city album dubs the cd as a film and for good reason. with storytelling, different flows, solid production, wordplay and soundplay, k-dot gives you something that you’ll wanna see as much as hear (in fact, he should flush it out into a real movie or broadway musical à la american idiot). won’t say that i’m a fan of all the “scenes” but the total package is impressive. ”sing about me” is a good preview of what i’m talking about. check it out and let me know what you think.
i’ve had this j. cole song on repeat since it dropped yesterday (cool that he released it by emailing it directly to a fan). even though the rapper is pretty successful right now, he doesn’t ignore his personal flaws and those within the things that helped shape him. cole also produced the track (as he often does), making great use of cee-lo’s “fool for you”.
when a 16 bar verse isn’t enough to say what’s on your mind, you get an extended slick track from rozay and 3k. dre dominates the mic on this one so it might be the closest thing you’ll get to a full song from the now professional feature rapper™. ross’s new album god forgives, i don’t
do much lyrically but i pick hot beats drops on tuesday.
another hot single from what’s shaping up to be a great album. i really had to post it though on the strength of the second verse (below), which embodies a lot of what i love about hip hop (bravado, honesty, wittiness, emotion, skill, etc.). make sure you see why nas’s life is so good on july 17th:
At seventeen I made seventeen thousand livin’ in public housin’
Integrity intact, reppin’ hard
They askin’ how he disappear and reappear back on top
Sayin’, “Nas must have naked pictures of God or somethin’”
To keep winnin’ is my way like Francis
As long as I’m breathin’, I’ll take chances
A soldier comin’ home, twenty years old with no legs
Sayin’ there’s no sense to cry and complain, just go ‘head
So much to write and say, yo I don’t know where to start
So I’ll begin with the basics and flow from the heart
I know you think my life is good cause my diamond piece
But my life been good since I started finding peace
I shouldn’t even be smilin’, I should be angry and depressed
I been rich longer than I been broke, I confess
I started out broke, got rich, lost paper then made it back
Like Trump bein’ up down up, play with cash
maybe the biggest criticism against hip hop is the mainstream disrespect of women found in some raunchy videos and misogynistic lyrics too often laced with “bitches” and ”hoes.” lupe fiasco addresses the issue in his latest single “bitch bad.” the song talks about how the images shown to children by music and adults can affect boys’ perceptions of women and girls’ perceptions of themselves.
the onus on cleaning things up isn’t just on the music industry (who at times chooses to promote trashy things), but also on parents and mentors (who at times choose to consume/support trashy things). whether it’s with music or in general, it’s important that we give our youth a consistent and proper example of how to respect themselves and others.
you can check out the song lyrics below via rapgenius (click on the words for explanations from the site). also, be on the lookout for lupe’s next album, which is scheduled to drop on september 25th:
Now imagine there’s a shorty, maybe five maybe four
Ridin’ ’round with his mama listening to the radio
And a song comes on and a not far off from being born
Doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong
Now I ain’t trying to make it too complex
But let’s just say shorty has an undeveloped context
About the perception of women these days
His mama sings along and this what she says
“Niggas, I’m a bad bitch, and I’m that bitch
Something that’s far above average”
And maybe other rhyming words like cabbage and savage
And baby carriage and other things that match it
Couple of things are happenin’ here
First he’s relatin’ the word “bitch” with his mama - comma
And because she’s relatin’ to herself, his most important source of help
And mental health, he may skew respect for dishonor
Yeah, now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve
On the internet watchin’ videos listenin’ to songs by themselves
It doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance
They understand the internet better than their parents
Now being the internet, the content’s probably uncensored
They’re young, so they’re malleable and probably unmentored
A complicated combination, maybe with no relevance
Until that intelligence meets their favorite singer’s preference
“Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches
That’s all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches, bad bitches”
Now let’s say that they less concerned with him
And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims
Ah, the plot thickens
High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim
Reality check, I’m not trippin’
They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch
Disclaimer: this rhymer, Lupe, is not usin’ “bitch” as a lesson
But as a psychological weapon
To set in your mind and really mess with your conceptions
Discretions, reflections, it’s clever misdirection
Cause, while I was rappin’ they was growin’ up fast
Nobody stepped in to ever slow ‘em up, gasp
Sure enough, in this little world
The little boy meets one of those little girls
And he thinks she a bad bitch and she thinks she a bad bitch
He thinks disrespectfully, she thinks of that sexually
She got the wrong idea, he don’t wanna fuck her
He think she’s bad at bein’ a bitch, like his mother
Momma never dressed like that, come out the house hot mess like that
Ass, titties, breasts like that, all out to impress like that
Just like that, you see the fruit of the confusion
He caught in a reality, she caught in an illusion
Bad mean good to her, she really nice and smart
But bad mean bad to him, bitch don’t play your part
But bitch still bad to her if you say it the wrong way
But she think she a bitch, what a double entendre
Bitch bad, woman good, lady better
You’re misunderstood (I’m killin’ these bitches)
Bitch bad, woman good, lady better
Greatest mother hoood (I’m killin’ these bitches)