Category Archives: Music

Straight Outta Compton: Perfectly Imperfect

O'shea Jackson, Jr. as Ice Cube in "Straight Outta Compton"

Love them or hate them…actually, do both.

I was never anywhere close to the man that N.W.A. portrayed themselves to be in their music, nor did I believe everything that they espoused, but from the first preview I saw, I knew that I was going to see Straight Outta Compton. On opening weekend I showed up to Harlem’s Magic Johnson Theater damned near giddy, in full N.W.A. themed regalia. Days later, even after reading commentators searing assessments of its purported failures, I felt as guiltless as an overly aggressive cop, confident that the movie’s whole is greater than the negation of its parts.

That negation has focused mostly on two conflicting ideas. The first is that the movie is so whitewashed compared to N.W.A.’s true history that it borders on Disney fare. On the other hand, you have the view that the film is unashamedly immoral in general, and unapologetically sexist in particular. If you’re particularly lucky, you might even find these criticisms in the same thinkpiece.

Since half of the producers are either former members of the group or the widow of one, certainly the motivation to tidy things up would be powerful. Many assume that that’s the only reason why Dre’s assaults on women, both confirmed and alleged, don’t appear, and I certainly agree that the Dee Barnes incident, a matter of public record, was conspicuous in its absence.

Personally, I hoped to see Dr. Dre’s run-in with Barnes depicted in order to learn what drove him to such a dark place. Done well, its appearance could’ve added further complexity to the film and to the public’s understanding of Dre as a person, not to mention cast further light on the issue of violence against women.

But even with that disappointingly gaping hole, I can’t believe that anyone who was previously unfamiliar with N.W.A. saw the movie and left thinking that those dudes were on the Vatican’s short list for beatification. After all, Dre was just one member of a five man squad, and there was enough bad behavior on display by all of them to get the idea that this crew was ready and willing to get plenty dirty.

No, they didn’t depict the infamous assault, but neither did they avoid the lyrics brazenly portraying violence against women and men. Eazy-E still bragged about his inclination to smother your moms and all that. There are numerous on-screen fights, threatened fights, guns, and threats with guns. Likewise, they didn’t hide the so-called homophobic and anti-Semitic lyrics, and definitely not the bootylicious pool and sex parties. (Mental Note #1: Throw a pool party. Mental Note #2: Get a pool.)

On the real, the negative side of N.W.A. was practically a supporting character in this film. In fact, for some people there was too much negativity on screen, especially as it relates to the role of women, who were either minor characters or sextras. For those feminists, the film not only failed to uplift women, it stuck a knee in their backs and held them face down on the floor.

This is normally the part where I acknowledge the truth in the contrasting POV while urgently opposing it, but in this case, all I can manage is a confused hell to the naw.

Now, I didn’t know any bitches or dirty-ass hoes during N.W.A.’s heyday, and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve met extremely few women worthy of those pointed sobriquets more than 20 years later. But make no mistake: like the truth, they’re out there, probably in equal proportion to the skeevy, manipulative, doggish males who are their natural counterweights. Still, though they were always careful to point out that not all women are bitches during interviews, N.W.A. seemed to be constantly besieged by wack ass females, forcing me to wonder if the United Queendom of Bitchland and Hodesia was some kind of micronation nestled in a cozy corner of Compton.

I mean, these dudes talked about bitches a lot. It’s a fact. Their scandalous parties were real. Also a fact. They were touring artists, which means that they had access to a lot of women willing to get…adventurous…on any given night. This is common sense. Misogyny it may be, but is there any wonder that this stuff showed up in the movie?

In a much less cited section of Selma director Ava DuVernay’s now famous Twitter commentary on Compton, she had this to say:

I saw @ComptonMovie last night w/ friends at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in South Central…And damn, they got it right…I saw the cavalier way that women were treated in hip hop spaces early on. Window dressing at most. Disposable at worst. Yep, that happened.”

If the ho-calling and womanizing hadn’t appeared, wouldn’t that be a prime example of the supposed sanitizing that so many are up in arms about?

The same thing goes for why there weren’t any females in starring roles. This film is about N.W.A. The last time I checked, N.W.A. was five dudes. Anyone else in the movie is there solely to give insight into or act as a foil to those characters. Period. So, if you want to see a movie with strong female leads about a group that skyrockets to stardom and then implodes, just rent fucking Dreamgirls.

With that said, the women who do get some shine in this movie play crucial roles in keeping the main characters grounded, while simultaneously moving them forward. Whether it’s Dre’s mom, or Ice Cube and Eazy-E’s wives (no doubt standing in for other women in some instances, such as Cube’s erstwhile manager and business partner Pat Charbonnet), each of them steps in at pivotal moments to exert powerful influences on these men’s emotional and even commercial lives, putting them back on track and keeping them rolling in the face of potentially catastrophic setbacks. I can’t help but see this as a deliberate attempt to acknowledge women’s behind-the-scenes contribution to the N.W.A. legacy.

And yes, those nods to the women in their lives does humanize them a bit, and I’m not going to sit here and pretend that you’re not supposed to walk out of the theater appreciating N.W.A. as highly gifted, driven visionaries. Hell, you better believe that if I have a hand in my biopic, you’ll come away believing in your tender heart of hearts that I founded Netflix, conceptualized summer Fridays, and invented yoga pants.

Real anti-heroes don't die.

Real anti-heroes don’t die.

Still, The World’s Most Dangerous Group and their heirs don’t want you hailing them as heroes, but as the ultimate anti-heroes. Their music and the exaggerated characters they played in it must be understood as standing in the same tradition as the gangster flicks from 30s down to the 80s, and especially the blaxploitation films of the 70s. They didn’t invent their content, they just brought it to a different medium and updated it to reflect the realities of the crack era.

The movie, like the music before it, reflects this thrilling, fucked-up aesthetic. Some of the people who made them did foul things before and during the production of this beautiful shit. But if you stopped consuming every piece of art, food, or clothing because someone involved with the production of said item did something bad, egregious, or vicious, then you’d be uncultured, hungry, and naked.

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Iggy and Azealia: Good and Evil In Black and White

The coin has two sides.

The coin has two sides. (Left: Revolve Clothing; Right: Jason Nocito/Spin Magazine)

I’ve spilled virtual ink on Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks, and their complicated relationship to each other and to music before. Twice in fact. But that was back in 2012, during this particular play’s first act. It looked like both were poised for big success and that we were destined to witness even more episodes of The Flora Wars because of it. But that was only half right.

Thus far, commercial competitiveness hasn’t been a defining element of the relationship between these two at all; it’s been the overwhelming unevenness of it. A month after Iggy’s debut album “The New Classic” dropped in April 2014, she was already standing toe-to-toe with the Beatles as the second artist in history to simultaneously occupy the #1 and #2 spots on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album itself wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, but it debuted at #3 and has gone on to sell over 420K units in the U.S. alone as of early December 2014 (and that’s before counting the “Reclassified” reissue). Meanwhile, Azealia’s first official album finally made a surprise landing on November 6, 2014 and lo, the critical acclaim rained down in buckets…but sales have not. It entered the Billboard 200 at #30, selling 11K or so albums in the U.S., and if its second week sales of about 4K were any clue, it won’t be setting any records unless Black Jesus decides to grant Ms. Banks a holiday miracle.

“Black Twitter” (whatever that means) would like you to believe that Azealia is a 21st century lovechild of Nina Simone and Moms Mabley, while Iggy is just a cultural appropriator, an interloper looking to make several million fast-twerking bucks off of hip-hop culture. On the other hand, there are those who cast Iggy as a beautifully enchanted, fat-bottomed elf (the Tolkien variety, not the Christmas variety) from the Outback, who made her mark in a highly competitive genre despite being the wrong race and sex, and despite torrents of venom spewed her way by a rabidly envious, tragically wasted talent in the form of the Great Serpent, Azealia Banks.

The truth is that they’re both wrong.

We all know that Vanilla Ice was a pretender who hid behind a papier-mâché street resume and hi-top fade, but can we really say the same thing about Iggy? I’ve never heard of her misrepresenting who she is or where she’s from, in any sense of the words, as an attempt to gain acceptance or recognition. If you want to argue that because Iggy raps in an accent that is uncharacteristic of her race or where she’s from that she’s faking the funk, I’ll kindly ask you to pop in a Dana Dane tape or stream some French Montana and have a sofa’s worth of seats. Iggy grew up listening to black American rappers, so she raps like a black American rapper. Simple mathematics.

Then there’s the unspoken implication that talent is the deciding factor for whether someone gets an unrestricted pass into the Halls of Blackness. J. Cole’s recent words aside, very few black folks have anything to say about Eminem or Justin Timberlake. Of course, Eminem and J.T. happen to be top-class artists, and I’m not suggesting that Iggy is in their league. With that said, let’s be real: as a professional rapper, the woman is at least average.

I enjoy the hell out of “Work” and even as far back as “Pu$$y,” her talent was obvious. If her tracks were movies, maybe they wouldn’t be “Mad Max” yet, but cats are trying desperately to throw her in the discount bin with “Crocodile Dundee II,” and dude, that’s just wrong. I can think of multiple currently hot rappers who I’d rank like 13.7 levels below Iggy. (Cough. Migos. Cough. Young Thug.) The fact that there are constant rumors swirling that her mentor T.I. writes most/all of her lyrics, despite any real proof, should be a strong testament to her skill. Yet the hate persists.

And Iggy’s biggest hater is her nemesis, Azealia. She certainly not lonely though, ‘cause over the years Ms. Banks has gotten into more beef than a top-class Wagyu stud. I mean, the woman is firece, fiery, and flamboyant, and woe to he who trips her wire. She’s bickered with what seems to be a never-ending cavalcade of other artists and industry insiders, most importantly Interscope—which had been her major label home since 2012—before they dropped her in the summer of 2014, prior to even releasing her album. The woman has burned more bridges than the Luftwaffe, and as I’ve said before, she just seems so damned mean.

Then, last week, Azealia did an interview on Hot 97 where she articulated the frustrations that led to her most recent attack against Iggy. During the conversation, she talked about the latter’s silence in the wake of recent police violence and her view that it reflects a general lack of true concern for black people on Iggy’s part, despite an avowed love for their cultural artifacts. Overall, she lent a powerful voice to the sense that despite a general consensus that she and other black women like her are tremendously talented, many seem happy to ignore their contributions to culture.

“When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is: ‘Oh yeah, you’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids: ‘You don’t have shit. You don’t own shit, not even the shit you created for yourself.’ And it makes me upset.”

Her teary emotional breakdown inadvertently exposed the depth of the wounds that she’s been nursing these last few years as a black woman in her early 20s, trying to navigate the landscape of an industry built on the immolation of your kind and the appropriation of its gifts. Despite being a thirtysomething black American man, I understood her plight in a deeply personal way, without ever having walked specifically in those mesh, platform wedge boots. There’s an undeniable truth to her recognition that there’s been a consistent effort to mine black cultural talent, refine and repackage it for white audiences, then enjoy the fruits of that appropriation.

Still, I wasn’t ready to lay the blame for that at Iggy’s feet…and Iggy wasn’t ready to accept it. Instead, she pointed at Azealia’s “piss poor attitude” as the cause for her inability to capitalize on critical success. With uncharacteristic bellicose gusto, she went on taunting Azealia: “Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won’t make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio.”

The truth is that they’re both right.

It’s easy to look at the two artists’ mismatched outcomes and see a classic good vs. evil struggle in progress. The simplicity of a story with a well-defined hero and villain can be seductive—it’s worked nicely as the foundation for mountains of myths, fairy tales, and movies, and it makes for effortless moralizing—but the best modern storytellers understand that real life isn’t always so simple. They know that the boundary separating hero and villain is often blurred, if it exists at all. And it’s actually there, in that moral no man’s land, that we find Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks, their allies, and their armies, engaged in a pop cultural proxy war for control of black identity in general and black female expression in particular. The ones funding the war on both sides are the millions of white fans who prop up an exploitative system, most of whom are just young, dumb teenagers, woefully and sometimes willfully ignorant of the real cost of the album that they just downloaded, even if they jacked it for free.

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In the Mix: The Top 5 Ways Deejaying Is Like Pushing Up

She's smiling now, but watch what happens when you stop playing Beyoncé.

She’s smiling now, but watch
what happens when Beyoncé stops playing.

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So, your boy has been spending a lot of time talking about and listening to DJs lately, not to mention spinning myself, and it’s got me thinking. Something about the whole process of manipulating the wheels of steel just seemed so familiar. All of the attention to detail, the tiny adjustments, the electric thrill of the perfect mix…I couldn’t help feeling that I’d been there before.

Then one day, staring down at my Technics’ hypnotic twin platters, it hit me. In what other situation does one commonly find themselves putting on a show for an audience that’s often tentative, skeptical, or completely disinterested? If you answered “teaching at a public school in the United States” you get partial credit, but that’s not the response that I wanted. On the other hand, if you said, “kicking it to a woman,” you are correct!

And yes, I’m a straight dude, so this is written from that perspective. You can either substitute your preference where applicable, or fucking relax and appreciate my genius in all of its temporarily gender insensitive, heteronormative glory. Your choice.

Now, without further ado, I proudly present the top five ways that deejaying is like pushing up.

5. Preparation Is Key – A former DMC champ told me that there’s always something that he could be doing to prep his next set. This means finding new songs, checking out the next venue, basically anything to make sure that his next gig is as smooth as an alpaca’s ass. The same is true if you’re trying to get that P.Y.T. on your team. If you’ve got friends in common, find out about her background and interests. If you’re out at a bar, notice who she’s with and how she acts. Any of this intel could mean the difference between keeping her dancing or sending her running for the exit.

4. Stay in the Groove The groove is an abstract concept that roughly means a coherent, consistent, rhythmic flow. Like the stream of a conversation, once it’s moving along a good DJ does everything in their power to keep it rolling. It’s the same way with you and your next lady love. If you’re talking about where she’s from and she’s opening up, stay on that track until you can blend in a topic on the next deck that’s complementary. Don’t be a dummy and throw out some crap about how you hate her hometown because the girls are such airheads. It sounds obvious, but left on your own some of you dudes couldn’t feel the groove if you were a needle on a record.

3. Hone Your Recovery Tactics – Even the best DJs face glitches. The record skips, you drop the next song off beat, or that new version of Seraktor freezes right in the middle of your set. Still, it’s not the glitch, but your response to it that can make or break you. You made a joke about the phrase “Christian Scientist” being a worse oxymoron than “compassionate conservative”…only to find out that she picks up the Monitor on the way back from her Young Republicans meeting every week. Don’t go cowering beneath your decks. Cue the next track and get that bad boy pumping. Put a wrinkle in your brow, lean in, and intensely whisper, “REALLY? Well, I’m always looking for smart people to challenge my assumptions. Let’s talk about it.” Oh. Shit. Hear that? That’s the sound of you taking the party to the next level.

This is either a party or the Zombie Apocalypse. I'm a glass half-full type, thus I included it here.

This is either a pic of a bangin’ party or the Zombie Apocalypse.
I’m a glass half-full type, thus its inclusion here.

2. Read the Audience – You’re throwing pure audio gold out the speakers. You’re a vessel of divine musical artistry, touched by Apollo himself. The problem is that the crowd thinks that you’re just plain touched. While there’s something to be said for challenging people with unique sounds, if you go too far off the deep end you just might drown. Things are no different with that young tender. Sure, discussing the finer points of critical race theory might cement you as an intellectual in her mind, but did you ever stop to think that she’s not interested in your brain at 1:15 AM…after her third vodka gimlet? With all due respect to Lupe, you gotta dumb it down, homey. There will be plenty of time for brain later. (See what I did there?)

1. Remember the Fundamentals – Sometimes showing off is entirely appropriate. If you’ve got a killer turntablism routine, by all means unleash the Kraken on them bitches. Case in point:

But what good is it to play records using only your eyebrows and right pinky toe when the songs aren’t beatmatched and the selection has no logical flow? Similarly, it’s great that you wowed babygirl on the dancefloor when you broke out that Matrix backbend move and held it for three minutes while simultaneously doing the Kid ‘N Play Kickstep with her…including the entwined leg hop thing at the end. Kudos. But see, you dropped the ball at dinner when all you could talk about for 30 minutes was you, you, and YOU. A DJ can play an entire three hour set without using a single effect or beaming videos directly into the crowd’s brains, but if the music is tight and the transitions are smooth, everyone will love it. And guess what? She’ll be closer to loving you if you just display some common courtesy, make her smile as much as possible, and let her know that you’re feeling her. In other words, keep the basics front and center.

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Bitches Still Ain’t Shit

Bad bitch or not, somebody tell me when they start making lifesize Nicki dolls.

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This just in.  Though bitches have been around since before the days of Delilah and Salome, they’ve recently evolved into a higher, more refined form.  These creatures are reverentially known as bad bitches (canis femina superior).

Whether geneticists recognize this phenomenon or not, we’ve got Nicki Minaj self-describing as a “bad bitch…a cunt” down to “kick that ho, punt,” newcomer Azealia Banks serving notice that she’s a “bad bitch…that supply what your girlfriend can’t supply,” and Iggy Azalea proclaiming that she’s a “white girl [with] a team full of bad bitches.”  Hell, Rick Ross has a bad bitch that resembles a tote filled with currency.  (She’s a shapeshifter, too!)  In short, there’s a lot of bad bitches runnin’ around.  I wonder if all the hoes are scared that they’re gonna get crowded outta the market.

Enter Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad.”  If you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out below.

Lupe Fiasco – Bitch Bad from Gil Green on Vimeo.

The thrust of the song is that when “bitch” is used as a compliment, especially when combined with the contronym “bad,” it undermines emotional understanding between men and women.  Seems pretty uncontroversial to me, but after reading a couple of articles where cats took Lupe to task on his position, especially this one, I had to speak on this a little bit.

In the aforementioned critique, Brandon Soderberg of SPIN goes the extra mile to tell us that this song and video are “moronic” attempts at preaching to the choir.  According to him, we don’t need Lupe to inform us that bitch is bad and that lady is better, because hip-hop has sufficiently addressed that question and is already yawning. We’re on to “cunt” now, thanks to Azealia Banks.  And besides, he writes, “does any female want to be called ‘a lady’?”

Bitch, please.

Soderberg’s argument that this song is evidence of Lupe’s severed connection with the heart of current rap music is patently laughable.  I’ve already given multiple examples of the exact term “bad bitch” being (over)used by some of the most influential names in the genre, and if I’d had the chance to hit the strip club before writing this I would’ve been able to come back with like, a hot 97 more.  No lie.  I ain’t never told no lie, I ain’t never told no lie.

So, it’s Soderberg that seems out of touch. He points to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” as an example of a track that “sensitively deconstructed” the use of the word “bitch,” but unless a sensitive deconstruction consists of using the word umpteen times, I don’t have a muthaeffin’ clue what he means.  But, in the spirit of generosity, I’ll assume that he meant to reference Jay’s “Bitches & Sisters” off The Blueprint 2.  “Unless you fucked a dude on his own merit and not the way he dribble a ball or draw lyrics you’re a BITCH!”  Preach.

Anyway, Hova in fact does a great job of contrasting sisters and bitches there. And yes, others have broached the topic over the years, too.  But what makes Lupe’s take interesting is the fact that he doesn’t explicitly tell us why being a bitch is bad, he shows us, via a nicely packaged fairy tale, that being a bitch must necessarily be a negative thing.  No matter how much attractiveness, independence and self-determination being a “bad bitch” might imply on a good day, it’s still associated with vampiric women possessed by a thirst for cash and attention.  That inherent dissonance is why the cats hollerin’ about bad bitches are the same ones screamin’ that they don’t love them.

When you tell a woman that a bad bitch essentially does all that a “basic” bitch does except maybe have sex with your homeys (unless you want her to do so, in which case she might be extra “bad”), you’re begging for a problem.  So, y’all keep sending and accepting those mixed signals.  Meanwhile, a generation of women are growing up believing that bad bitches are the shit…when they’re really just shitty.

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A Dream Come True: Robyn’s Song

We’re never all good…or all bad.

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Rihanna’s been on my mind a lot lately.  I mean, it’s been kinda hard to escape her during these last couple of months and…OK, it’s been hard to escape her during these last couple of YEARS, but lately it seems as if Robyn Fenty is one of only five celebrities that any media outlet wants to talk about.  And matter of fact, her name is still all up in the muphuckin’ mix when they’re talking about two of the other godsdamned four.  So yeah, currently 60% of all pop culture news (read: garbage) is about Rihanna.  Shit, a lot of regular news is about Rihanna right now.  On the real, I heard on NPR that if the Supreme Court had struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the president was gonna talk that talk, repackage the shit as RihannaCare, and push it right on through Congress.  Yep.

Now properly contextualized, it certainly should not come as a shock that the woman who dominates any media vehicle capable of showcasing an image would also be occupying a lot of real estate in my brain, even without me knowing it.  I mean, that’s the only explanation that I can think of for why she would show up in my dreams, engaged in a loving, committed, and playfully affectionate romance with yours truly.  Well, there’s the fact that she’s a terrifyingly fine ass woman with more sex appeal in her left nostril than most women have in the midst of their most powerful, self-induced orgasms (yep, I’m on to THAT shit), but that’s beside the point.  I am absolutely not a Rihanna stan.  I appreciate her as an artist, as a personality, and as a beauty, but I in no way suffer from the illusion that I possess some kind of personal relationship with Ms. Fenty.

Still, the mental experience of having said relationship felt AMAZESAUCE.  It seemed so real in fact that I decided to write a song about it…kinda.  Actually, “Robyn’s Song” is really a dedication to Rihanna from a dude who has the same experience that I did, but ends up affected in a fundamentally different way.  Instead of saying, “Wow, that was fantastic.  How sad that my real dating life is somewhat less interesting, but I should really get out of bed now,” he wakes up with a heavy heart and a profound longing for a lost love that never was.  He feels deeply for her, wishes nothing but the best for her, and in his heart and mind, he’s truly linked to this unattainable star.  Meanwhile, she’ll remain the object of his unrequited affection from now until Rihanna turns good again, AKA forever.  Ahhh, love: you gorgeous, horrible, heartbreaking thing.

Here’s hoping that you listen to this with the object of your stalking in mind.  Enjoy, and devil fingers salute!

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You Say Azealia, I Say Azalea: Part II

You missed a spot…

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OK, so I’m assuming that you read my last post, which served to introduce you to the actors in the drama known as the Azealia-Azalea War.  If you didn’t, catch up here.  I’ll wait.  (Next time, read that shit when I post it and stop playin’ so damn much.)

We all up to speed now?  Brilliant.

Now there are those who would say that this disagreement is all about Iggy being some kind of hipster racist.  They say that because, well, young Amethyst (her government name) had the gall to refer to herself as a “runaway slave…master” in a reshaping of a Kendrick Lamar lyric.  OK.  Shit, I’ll admit that was foul.  Foul like, you might get invited to speak at the Republican National Convention foul — but Iggs later admitted as much.  As she said in her apology, she was trying to walk the line, but ended up linecrossing like a muphucka.

Well, our friend Ms. Azealia Banks wasn’t trying to hear Iggy apologin’ though, and she let it be known via Twitter…but only AFTER Iggy made the 2012 XXL Freshman Class cover.  That brings us to the second theory about the origin of this here catfight: envy.  Here’s an in-depth look at Azealia Banks’ opening salvos:

“Iggy Azalea on the XXL freshman list is all wrong…How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’?
Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl…I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it. In any capacity. *kanye shrug*”

— @AZEALIABANKS

Look, I can’t say what the truth actually is.  I don’t know these women personally, and Banks is totally right about the slavemaster lyric.  No doubt about that.  But why did it take an industry tip of the hat to your fellow newcomer for you to open your exquisitely fashioned mouth and say something, love?  When you couple this with the fact that Banks has also been vocal about her issues with Nicki Minaj, and most recently Lil’ Kim, her credibility starts to falter.

Then throw in the fact that her most publicized fracas before the one with Iggy was with white, female rapper Kreayshawn, John the Baptist to Iggy’s Jesus.  From where I sit, Banks was just itchin’ for an excuse to throw some verbal bullets Kreay’s way — homegirl did absolutely nothing to deserve the Twitter poison that Banks poured all over her mentions.  After all of that, Azealia Banks starts to look an awful lot like a highly talented, beautiful, potentially groundbreaking woman with some serious bitch tendencies.

It’s hard being blonde and famous.

Meanwhile, almost everything Iggy says off-stage seems level-headed and wise.  For example:

“People expect me to drag [Kreayshawn] through the mud.  I don’t need to and I don’t want to do that.  I think there aren’t enough girls in hip-hop…I want to be the number-one person, but I don’t want to drag people through the mud when I know how hard it is to be a female rapper.  I want there to be other people out there.  I don’t want to win by default because there is no one else.”

— Iggy Azalea

On the real, it makes my ass itch to see a white woman reach that higher plane while the sister seems to still be stuck at the gate.  (I know that’s a different kinda plane, but I like the metaphor.  Sue me.)

I mean, black women have it hard, y’all.  Blah, blah, overblown stat about proportionately more young American sisters being single.  Blah, blah, stat about filling in the shoes of black men who are overly incarcerated, gay or no damned good.  And finally, blah, blah, blah, stat about the overall detrimental psychological, economic, and social implications of being a double minority.  Seriously, even if some of the above has been exaggerated to the extent of borderline stereotyping, they deal with a lot.  And I don’t think that possessing some of the world’s greatest asses assets makes up for the shortfall.

In a strange twist though, the rap world itself is like a parallel universe of our own.  It’s a grotesque distortion, with white women occupying the place usually reserved for black women, i.e. the bottom rung.  In that world, it is THEY who are the double minority, trying to find a voice, then yell loud enough so that they can be heard over the din of the doubts and suspicions pumpin’ out their neighbors’ ovaries speakers.

Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t worried about Iggy.  Regardless of whether she’s better than her contemporaries or not — and for the record I have to say that although Iggy’s certainly got some skills, Azealia Banks simply has a tighter flow — Iggy is gon’ be more than aight.  Why?  Because she’s got something that pop culture has been dying to see: the looks of a hyper-European runway model (I’ve seen glass doors darker than her), street cred courtesy of Grand Hustle and (her man?) A$AP Rocky, plus some undeniable talent thrown in for good measure.

So, while she’s endured the trials of double minority status thus far, I predict that she’ll break through rap’s obsidian ceiling very, very soon.  Finally, the man from 8 Mile will have a queen with whom to share the Throne of the Great White Hope.

And where does that leave Ms. Banks?  She’ll be fine, too.  Even if she stays on her Euro shit and drops an album with hella EDM tendencies, she’ll blow up in Europe and make some noise with cosmopolitan white folks in the States.  If she scales it back just a little, she’ll be massive here, too.  Hey, Nicki could use some company, and Banks has way too much potential to be ignored.

But don’t take my word for it. Read what one of Banks’ fans had to say in a comment they left about her “212” video on YouTube:

“this may sound stupid but you heard it from me first – she’s like a black, female, Eminem, what a GREAT track…”

— 79effo

Parallel universes, indeed.

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You Say Azealia, I Say Azalea: Part I

Said the Hip-Hop Florist: “Which one do you want?”  “Yes, please,” I replied.

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Beyond the weird similarity of their names,  Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks seem like versions of the same person, but from parallel universes.  This is a cool concept off top, ’cause it suggests that somewhere out there, there’s a white Scissorhands who makes indie pop tunes with old school hip-hop influences, writes about how utterly comprehensible women are…and is famous.

But, I digress.  These two have had a very public war of words going on for the last couple of months, and as as symbol of hip-hop’s race and gender conflicts I found the whole thing fascinating.  But, before I give you a war report, you need to be briefed on the combatants.

Banks is a 20 year-old native Harlemite who got the industry buzzing in 2011 when she released her single “212” (the area code for Manhattan).  The music for the track itself is a sample of a bouncy, playful, electro house song by producer Lazy Jay and sounds nothing like anything anyone might associate with Harlem…except for the ratchet-ass talk about “cunts gettin’ eaten.”  And when I say that, I don’t mean it the way I’d mean it if I were talking about the music of Houston-festishizing fellow Harlemite A$AP Rocky.  I’m talking ’bout the fact that this sounds like some straight-up fist-pumping, ecstasy-enhanced, White Folks ClubTM shit.  One listen tells you that this woman is a smart, artful rhymesayer in possession of an open mind that she’s filled with a buncha DIFFERENT shit.

When you think about it, that probably isn’t so surprising since she’s a product of New York City’s famed arts high school LaGuardia, alma mater of Isaac Mizrahi, Slick Rick, Liza Minnelli…and Nicki Minaj.  From an early age, she was prepped to draw inspiration from an outside world that was inaccessible to most black girls in NYC.  I mean, she spent time listening both to Interpol AND Lil’ Kim as a teenager…which was like, three fucking years ago, in case you forgot.

After a failed deal with label XL Recordings left her depressed and detached, she picked up and moved to Montreal to regain focus.  Since “212” went planetary in 2011, she’s been storming Europe, working with Adele producer Paul Epworth in London and performing for cultural bigwigs like the King of the Vampires Karl Lagerfeld in Paris.  C’est la vie, and her new life really began once she catapulted herself out of the hood and, importantly, out of America.

Iggy, on the other hand,  spent the better part of a decade trying to land her amazingly melanin-deficient, yet seemingly ample ass in pretty much the exact muthaeffin’ spot that Banks vacated.  Growing up in Mullumbimby, Austrailia, she was a lonely, shunned elementary schooler who was introduced to 2Pac at age 13 and never looked back.  A year later, she was getting booed off stage at rap battles and…

Wait a minute. I want to pause right here and take a moment to have y’all reflect on how bad you must be to get the Sandman treatment in Arsefucking, Austrailia.  Think about that, seriously.  That’s like showing a newly sighted, formerly blind woman a painting you did and having her be so unimpressed by it that she pulls up her dress, summons the requisite muscle control, and takes a piss on that bitch standing up.  Horrible.

But now imagine how big Iggy’s femballs must be, ’cause she didn’t give up.

No, she kept at it, and using money that she saved from her commercial cleaning business (hustle), she moved to Miami in 2006 at the age of six-fucking-teen.  She made ends meet by both working illegally and doing illegal work, the latter consisting of credit card scams (hustle hard). All the while she kept at the music thing though she knew no one in the industry, that is until she bounced to Houston, got mentored, and finally started sharpening her darts, as the Wu might say.  Moves to Atlanta and L.A. followed, and at the start of 2011 she uploaded the homemade and fragrantly titled “Pussy Two Times” video to YouTube.  By August of that same year it was easy to see that our favorite Aussie was on the come-up, as she released the still vaginally themed but MUCH more polished “PU$$Y” promo video to fuel interest in her first mixtape “Ignorant Art.”

Listening to Iggy would provide most people with no clue that she’s from the twangy-ass Land Down Under.  I mean, babygirl straight sounds like a New York chick who spent a few years visiting her peoples down south or some shit…which she halfway is.  And that’s interesting, because Azealia Banks often sounds like a Harlem chick who spent years raving with white girls in Brooklyn…which she absolutely is.  It’s scary how much these two seem to have in common, which makes it all the more sad that they’ve got enough beef between ’em to host a barbecue.  With shrimp, of course…so Iggy can skew it.  ‘Cause she’s Australian.

Now there are a couple thoughts as to why this beef popped off.  You know I got my opinion, but since I’m past my 800 word limit for you ignorant bastiches, you’ll have to read the rest in a couple days.  That’s right, I’m DOUBLE POSTING within a week.  Yay, for you!  And for anybody making cracks about me not having written the conclusion of “Beauty and the Beast” yet, close your mouth ’cause nobody cares about you or your life.  Beautiful art takes time to produce, and so does this shit.  So just wait.

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