Category Archives: Race

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.

Devil Fingers Salute!

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Fists and Fury: Chris Brown and the Limits of Rage

Love...in a hopeless place.

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What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?  Maybe you had one, two…maybe two more drinks than you shoulda had before whippin’ the front of daddy’s S-Class into the back of a K-Mart.  Perhaps Alex from Finance caught you fudging the numbers just a tad on that expense report from the last convention in Vegas.  You know, the one when you and Rick snuck away from the group to hit up Peppermint Hippo and he told you he left his corporate card back at the hotel…after ordering two bottles of Armand de Brignac and putting like 7.6 lap dances on credit.  Or maybe you did something that was a whole lot worse.  Maybe your biggest mistake was not only stupid, but also despicable.  If so, you’d be rolling in the deep with Breezy himself, Mr. Chris Brown.

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a dude sleeping under a rock in the Mariana Trench, you know that Chris was accused, plead guilty to, and was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.  For this offense he was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community service.  More importantly, he was rightly strung up by the public and the media and forced to endure a well-deserved gauntlet of castigation and ridicule.  Oh, and he was unofficially banned from the Grammys, which is widely touted as the biggest night in music.

That Grammy embargo was lifted this year along with the lid on Hell, apparently.  I mean, muthaphuckas was UPSET.  For many folks, dude’s appearance on that stage was like bringing a pork chop sandwich with melted cheese into the Holy of Holies…on a Saturday.  In their minds, Chris Brown should remain persona non grata for the remainder of his life, and anything less is a (gulp) smack in the face to women everywhere.  They would have us accept the view that the stain of domestic violence is one that cannot be erased from the abuser’s hands.

I believe in the primacy of justice in a good society.  Therefore, I cannot do that.

Think back again to that stupidest and/or darkest deed of yours.  Now imagine that instead of it being someone’s moderately embarrassing  joke on Thanksgiving, or a grimy spot blessedly obscured by the sands of time, it occupies a massive stage, leering at you beneath an ever-blaring spotlight.  While this description fits Chris’ situation perfectly, it also applies to those of hundreds of thousands of other African-Americans who made mistakes big enough to put them in the grasp of the grinder that is the American criminal justice system.

According to the Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment, up to 60% of the formerly incarcerated in New York State alone are still unemployed one year after they make it home.  On top of that, many states don’t allow those with felony convictions to vote, thereby denying these individuals of the very essence of citizenship.  Once you consider the fact that black males are incarcerated at a rate that’s seven times higher than white men, the Instagram I’m sending should be hittin’ the top of your goddamned feed.  One man described his utterly pitiful situation this way: “You can’t get a job. You can’t vote. You can’t do nothing even 10 or 20 years later. You don’t feel like a citizen. You don’t even feel human.”  This is changing, but not nearly fast enough.  Whether it’s due to a warped sense of morality or a willing indulgence in vengeance, too many people refuse to give these individuals a second chance, and that ain’t justice.  That’s just bigotry wearing a self-righteous mask.

I am in no way suggesting that we should just toss homeboy’s offense into the sea of forgetfulness and pretend that it never happened.  While none of us were there and as such cannot know exactly what went down, we know that Chris admitted to wrongdoing.  And since he’s a celebrity, what HE should know is that his personal life will always be somewhat public.  (Sorry, kid, but that’s the cost of doing business.)  As such, I have no problems with reporters asking him questions about the incident and its aftermath or comedians taking the piss out of him during routines.  But banning him from any public appearance?  Blowing up Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere with rants that suggest his Grammy appearance and win were like, the equivalent of Bull Connor hosting the BET Honors and winning an NAACP Image Award?  I think notly.

Dude is trying to pick up the pieces.  Keep in mind that he was 19 years old when this went down and that he’s still only 22, attempting to deal with the onslaught of a force that won’t take “I’m sorry” for an answer.  Take a second and reflect on how befuddled thou were in thine own mind at that age, then give Chris Brown a similar chance to learn from his mistakes and become a better man.  Yeah, he occasionally has verbal and electronic outbursts, or breaks a window or two, but this is to be expected from a still maturing human.  As long as he keeps his hands on a mic and not on a woman, we should let this man live.  Odin knows, none of us are without sin.  So back away from the stones, or don’t be surprised if that glass house of yours suddenly gets a little draftier.

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White Girls Have More Fun

Yeah, I know Maya Rudolph ain't white, but she passes better than Tim Tebow. So, whatever.

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Let me begin this missive by admitting that what follows is probably going to offend you.  I say that off top for two reasons.  First, I want you to know that I’m self aware enough to understand the delicate nature of the topic that I’m addressing.  Second, calling out the offensive nature of a piece semi-shields the writer from any subsequent fecal downpour.  It’s kind of like saying, “Hey, I told you that this one might make your ass itch.  Don’t blame me if you read it and got upset.  Matter of fact, I’m mad at YOU for reading it…inconsiderate bastard.”

Look, I can only expound on the truth as I see it.  And well, to be honest, lately I’ve been thinking that white women have a helluva lot of truth on offer.

Eh-hem.  Now that half of you have thrown your computers out of the window in fits of rage not seen since the CW cancelled “The Game,” I’ll continue.

When I say I’m seeing truth, I’m really talking about truth of being.  That is, living life in a way that is consistent with one’s authentic self, which leads to greater enjoyment, AKA fun.  I gotta say that in general, white women seem to be having more of it than their black counterparts.

OK, let me not overstate this.  I’m really talking about a specific part of living life, the part that has to do with love, sex, partying, and general good times.  Whether or not white girls are better at achieving positive work life balance or expressing their own political preferences vs. those of the patriarchy are for another writer to consider.  This is “Recognize & Realize,”  not “Feminism, Poetry, Pop-Culture, Sex.”  (Not that anything is wrong with that, in case the owner of that blog, Stephanie, actually reads this.  I mean, some of my best friends are feminists…)

I should also clarify things by saying that my comments are probably only applicable to educated women, too.  (Incidentally, educated in this context means having secured or on track to securing a college degree.)  Why?  Because those are the women with whom I’ve spent most of my time.  I’d be lying if I said that I could speak to the ins-and-outs (no pun intended) of blue-collar Beths and Bernices, ’cause well, I haven’t really gone there…that much.  All I know is that pound for pound, educated black women have way more stick up their butt, and like the late Bernie Mac said, “I don’t mean that in no nice way.”

A woman's body language can be so hard to read.

Beginning in high school, through grad school, and beyond, I’ve been amazed at the ease with which white women seem to live in their own sexual skins.  Hanky-panky doesn’t necessarily have a freakin’ timetable associated with it in Becky’s books.  It’s like you just say the right thing (or shut the eff up), pull the right levers, be there at there at the right time, and you’re off like a prom dress.  Ridiculously refreshing.  But dude, you could be trapped with a bougie black woman on an island after a zombie apocalypse has decimated 99.9% of the human population, and she’ll still make you wait ’til like the 4th date before she tosses off that grass skirt.  (Do y’all even realize how hard it is to make a coconut martini with REAL coconuts?)

I actually had a black woman tell me, after following up a very steamy initial encounter with a night full of nada in my bed, “You’re a great cuddler.  I wanted to do more, but I can’t go out like that.”  What the shit?!  Did the Great God of Blue Balls threaten to strike her down unless she sacrificed my testes on his nocturnal altar?  What kind of (un)fuckery is this?

Well, noted sociologist E. Franklin Frazier identified the roots of this problem back in the late 1950s.  In his seminal work, “Black Bourgeoisie,” Frazier let it be known that the black middle class was playing the assimilation game – hard.  Because they wanted so badly to be accepted by white folk, they actually tried to culturally OUT-white them.  This cut across multiple aspects of life, including the realm of morality.  As such, we developed the idea that a lady must never give in to desires of the flesh until – I’m guessing here – she can be reasonably certain that The People’s Slut Court would find her not guilty.  I’d argue that assimilation’s conservative grip on their panties is still quite robust and shit, 50 years later.

Meanwhile, white women found the pill in the 60s and never looked the fuck back.  I have to stop here and say that black men bear at least half of the fault for this, with all the “slut” this and “ho” that.  Dudes, if you continue with the double standards, you’re only gonna continue fucking yourself.  Literally.  But sistas, you gotta meet us half way.

Understand that no one is looking for the “Girls Gone Wild” experience.  OK, some people are, but those people are all named Colin and under the age of 25, or they’re over 35, named Eugene, and are registered sex offenders.  What is cool is the idea that folks can get together and feel free to let their hair down, do what they wanna do on their own terms, get it crackin’, or not.  ‘Cause by the way, the “not” can be cool too, sometimes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, somewhere out there somebody just let out The White Girl Yell.  Whooohooo!

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White Wednesdays

What if the shoe were on the other foot?

About a week ago, a friend of mine was telling me about somebody that was annoying the crap out of her at work. “Are you gonna say something to them?” I inquired.  She gave me that glare that African-American senior citizen ladies are prone to shoot you right before they’re about they’re about to say, “Chiiiild” and curtly responded, “Aw hell naw.  It might be a problem – I’m too black today. ”

I chuckled. “Wait.  Ain’t you black every day?” Again, she hit me with the Sojourner Truth look. “Oh, you didn’t know? Sheeeeit…I’m white on Wednesdays.”

The ensuing laughfest must have added several more lines of definition to my already well-sculpted abs.  Seriously, ladies.  My stomach looks like a close-up of Albert Einstein’s brain: I make The Situation look more like The Speculation.

But, I digress.

My friend left and I recovered, but I started to think.  What if, for just one day out of the week, non-whites got to see what it was like to be white? What if White Wednesdays were real?  The implications are tantalizing.

Eddie Murphy touched on a similar idea in one of his SNL sketches.  We’d see a surge of loan applications from erstwhile African-Americans and Latinos looking to finally start that business or buy that house.  No credit?  Bad credit?  You wanna open a shop selling furniture made of toenail clippings?  No problem, Mr. and Mrs. White!

Arrests would fall precipitously on Hump Day.  Government officials at all levels would celebrate as they declare it the safest day of the week.  European tourists could now enjoy their doe-eyed wanderings through the streets of Harlem during the middle of the week too!   No more waiting ’til Saturday in order to blend in with dredded Japanese hip-hoppers or Sundays when Jesus walks with them.

But AHEM…please note that I said not one word about crime dropping.  I said arrests.  With everybody looking the same, how would cops use their trusted “gut instincts”?  How could they exercise a decent stop-and-frisk?  Like Paul Mooney says, for one day, everybody would have the Complexion for the Protection.  Matter of fact…

Convictions would fall too.  Judges would be stricken with the same degree of paralyzing impartiality as police: “So what this is your third DUI arrest and you tried to trade a rub-and-tug for five bucks from the bailiff!  I can tell you’re a good kid, so I’m just gonna give you 60 days in rehab.  Want a little nose candy to celebrate?”

But White Wednesdays wouldn’t be a happy time for everybody.

The world over, white women in superficial interracial relationships would exhale a collective sigh of sadness as they were forced to see their prized black and Latino stallions as…well…human beings.  Meanwhile, non-white men who use ignorant sexual stereotypes (true though they may be…holla!) to generate interest from lusty white girls will notice their magic sticks emitting less pixie dust on those days.

Oh, and thank Sammy Davis, Jr. that most people don’t hit the club on Wednesdays.  In major cities all across the U.S.A., good colored folk would face unbearable frustration as they watched themselves lose control of their limbs on the dancefloor.  The concept of rhythm would suddenly hold no meaning as the steady beat of the drum somehow became confused with the steady stream of song lyrics.  Many would simply give up and start doing what white people do in the majority of social situations: stand around small-talking and get shitfaced.

But for most non-white people, Wednesdays would be the shit.  Yeah, you don’t have to go to that soul-crushing job on the weekend, but on Wednesdays you don’t have to DO any work anyway.  You can just talk a good game!  Or schmooze the holy cowboy stuffing out of your boss.  Or if you do work, you can work half as hard, i.e. at a normal level – you wouldn’t have to prove that you deserve to be there.  And when that dude in Operations calls you “bro,” you’ll know he means it and isn’t tryin’ to create some BS sense of connection based on his “love” for hip-hop.  (Which to him basically starts and ends with N.W.A.)

In other words, you’d have one day when you felt completely free to be you.  The assholiest part is that it would be the one day when that is so goddamn untrue.  Sigh…I guess even white people can’t have everything.

P.S.  I know that I never explicitly mentioned Asians in this post.  That wasn’t an oversight.  Y’all are basically honorary white people.  C’mon, son.  There’s no use in arguing.  As a group, y’all own more violins and pianos than all North American orchestras combined.  You make white people feel inferior at school and work.  Plus, your food is muthafuckin’ delicious, even when white people make it.  That shit is shady.

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