I should be more excited about Halloween. I really should. At 23, I’m still young enough to anticipate an excuse to dress ridiculous, drink, steal candy from unsuspecting children and hit on the one girl dressed as the sexy ventriloquist (or maybe one of the hundred sexy cats walking around). The truth is: I just don’t care anymore about this day anymore. You would think that after growing up never going trick or treating—well, maybe twice—I would live for this holiday once I got to college, but the opposite happened. Halloween came to be a reminder of not having enough good memories from childhood and a reminder that I’m always too broke to get a costume, so as a result I just stopped caring. I try to have a good time on this holiday but… meh, who gives a shit, just hand me candy already. I mean it’s cool for kids who go trick or treating from door to door but as an adult, unless you’re spending the night with good friends, you’re stuck going to bars and parties on what might be the douchiest night of the year. A night where alcohol, costumes and debauchery are used as excuses to out asshole each other, all in the name of having a “good time” and hooking up with sexy Dora The Explorer. Frankly I can do without it, I don’t need an excuse to drink and I’m not interested in almost getting into a fight with someone’s drunk bro just because I was staring at his girlfriend’s sexy hippopotamus costume a little bit too long; not to mention, I’m not looking to answer the “where’s your costume” question 50 million times in one night. Maybe, if I was in a relationship, I’d be willing to do the couple thing and be the Sherman to her sexy Mr. Peabody but until that day comes I’m just not interested in going out on this night. However, if you’re in DC, keep an eye out and you might see me circulating the streets. I’ll be in my sexy nuclear physicist costume, or maybe I’ll just pull an Adam Sandler move throughout the night.
Last weekend was Howard Homecoming so, as always, ratchetry was aplenty and there was a whole lot of frontin going on. Luckily for me, I got to spend the weekend not overpaying for parties with too many people in them by photographing for D’usse Cognac. For the uninformed, D’usse is a new dark liquor specialty spearheaded by Jay-Z; it’s strong, yet sweet and the bottle will make anyone look like they’re on some serious king shit. Case in point:
Thursday night was spent at The Park on Fourteenth. A four-story club that looks extravagant and parties without abandon. Over the top? Maybe, Bougie as hell? Definitely but fun all the same. I spent the entire night–from happy hour at 6, to last call at 1:50–behind the lens capturing the party, taking pictures for the D’usse brand and pushing my way into VIP where Wale and self-made mogul Ken Burns were located. By the way, in a city like DC, where you’re only as relevant in the black community as whatever status you hold, I definitely felt pretty damn gangster brand dropping anytime someone tried to check me about who I was photographing for–easily the best, subtle middle finger to people.
So many feelings come to mind when thinking about the Stadium gentleman’s club in DC. What should be a happy place intended to showcase the premier acrobatics of well-built clothes-averse glitter painted machines–seriously, they’re machines, machines designed for twerking–is usually ruined by large crowds and overpriced drinks. When it came to Saturday night during Howard Homecoming, just about everyone in the city tried their best to push their way in; this of courseled to shoving, pushing, arguments and the fire marshall making sure the huge parade of people still trying to get in were left out in the cold–including myself and the D’usse brand manager, Elaine. Sucks but I mean, you make the best of it, and with an outdoor tent filled with more drinks and performances from kings of hood music, Pastor Troy and Yo Gotti, how much can you really complain? Plus I got to meet Memphis fucking Bleek; my quest to meet the original rock-a-fella all-stars is now slightly more complete.
After the ordeal that was Saturday, I got to spend sunday brunching it up at “Eyes Wide Open”, an art + brunch affair sponsored by grey goose cherry noir. Full on D’usse promotion mode here, with me snapping away and pretending to be some sort of professional while secretly hoping that none of these pictures come out bad. (You know… everyday for me). The event also brought about a great opportunity to market the drink with a young up and coming Roc Nation artist by the name of Bridget Kelly (whose music you should check out by the way) and the forever awesome Anthony Hamilton. Lowkey, this was a big deal for me but I kept it cool… because you know… I’m a grown ass man and shit. Next stop after this was the day party at bar code, a nice little sports bar which, like a lot of places here, rented out the place to promoters wanting to throw parties. I don’t know what it is about day parties but they always seem more fun; it’s always more fun to party during the day–having some beautiful young ladies pass out free shots of D’usse to the crowd probably helped a lot too. The Howard alums turned up to an 11 of course and with appearances from Bridget and Anthony, Raheem Devaughn and, one of the new 106 & park hosts, Miss Mykie, the party turned out to be a stellar event… ratchet all the same but stellar.
The plight of the young black person, especially the male, is one that’s been documented heavily and, as time has gone on, the line between informative and sensationalist has been blurred almost beyond recognition. With the release of Kendrick Lamar’s proper debut album, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Kendrick has reminded us all that there is still a way to tell the story of the lost and hopeless youth properly.
Since Kendrick Lamar came on the scene, he’s been a force in hip-hop; telling gritty street tales about people who don’t get to see the storm clouds dissipate. Through Overly Dedicated, Section80 and now Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, Kendrick has painted vivid portraits of the ugliness, beauty and everything in between when it comes to being young, black and broke.
First of all, understand the subtitle “A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar” isn’t some cheeky title. It’s not him being like other rappers who swear up and down that whatever they do “IS A MOVIE MAN!!” No. Throughout the album little documentary-like snippets of “a day in the life” of young K. Dot in the hood tell a tragic yet hopeful story of young kids living in a warzone and learning to adapt. The music itself provide the soundtrack of that story. Songs like “Sherane AKA Master Splinter’s Daughter”, “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Good Kid”, “m.A.A.d City”, and “Sing about me/I’m Dying of Thirst” are showcases of perfected storytelling–“Sing about me” especially, with it’s dual perspectives including one from the sister of Keisha from “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)”.
With songs like, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Money Trees”, and “Backseat Freestyle”, Kendrick shows he can make songs that are all swagger and still have your brain working; and with “Poetic Justice”, Kendrick makes his standard vie for the mainstream without straining too hard to sound radio friendly or deviating from the vibe of the album (plus it’s just a good ass song, Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” sample? Yes please).
You don’t often get to hear albums that cause you to really go into deep contemplation about life and you’re place in it or the meaning behind it–hell, you don’t really get to hear “albums” anymore. In a A.D.D.-fueled time when music is released on a minute to minute basis and you’re only as relevant as when you released your last single, K. Dot made a true album to tell the story of his city. Time will tell, Where Good Kid, m.A.A.d City will be seen amongst the great Rap Albums of all time lists, but for now I’m just incredibly happy to feel this good about Hip-Hop again.
Photo credit: © WGBH Educational Foundation
If you’re like me than you wake up early every morning to go to your soul crushing job that you don’t openly complain about too much because you’re just happy to be working anywhere right now, and if you happened to stop by twitter perchance you might have soon Lupe Fiasco in the midst of one of his pseudo-intellectual rants on whatever he’s angry about now. This is nothing new but what made this particular one interesting to me is a short little convo between him and black hippy’s self-proclaimed “Haile Selassie of Hip-Hop” Ab-Soul about the Pyramids.
The classic debate that always takes place when the pyramids come up: who built them exactly. Lupe takes the rational argument that slaves built them over decades and decades whereas Ab-Soul takes the conspiracist stance that just maybe aliens or some other mystic force had something to do with it. Fine, I guess, as long as we agree that they’re not instruments of satan as stated by series of badly made youtube videos.
This is a touchy subject I think. On the one hand, the idea that the Africans who spent lifetimes going through abuse of every conceivable kind to make elaborate coffins for their overlords aren’t even getting the credit they deserve for it pisses me off. Yet, I am nothing but fair and I am willing to acknowledge te fact that there are a lot of questions left unanswered as to just how these estimated 20,000 people were able to pull this off in the amount of time they did. Fair enough, but the human tendency of going “it must be magic” when they don’t understand something doesn’t really seem like the way to solve the mystery. That being said though, I kind of believe it’s a little bit of both.
In an interview with NOVA, archeologist Mark Lehner, who lived in Egypt for 13 years, says himself that he’s questioned whether or not those workers had divine or super-intelligent inspiration. He says the biggest problem with the journey to find understanding of who built these pyramids is that there’s no record of them. They’ve been lost because they were nothing more than workers, but we do have inscriptions and graffiti art left by different tribes from that era (which naturally people call fake), so we’ll have to make do with that. Ab-Soul brought up the idea of ascension–the idea that you didn’t have to die to be brought up into heaven. Definitely an idea that existed in ancient egyptian culture and probably has something to do with the positioning of the pyramids and aligning them with the stars. There will always be skeptics, hell even I believe in some of the mystics behind the whole ordeal but the idea of discrediting the work of a generation of people rubs me the wrong way–and that includes the less out there theory that it must’ve been an older generation that built them and not the egyptians. For this though, I’ll end with a quote from Lehner:
“To some extent I think we feel the need to look for a lost civilization on time’s other horizon because we feel lost in our civilization, and somehow we don’t want to face the little man behind the curtain as you had in “The Wizard of Oz.” We want the great and powerful wizard with all the sound and fury. You know, go get me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We want that sound and fury. We always want more out of the past than it really is.”
My frustration with AMC’s The Walking Dead has always been that I wanted to like it more than I actually did. It had all the things that usually appeal to me: based on a graphic novel, zombies, apocalyptic situations, it’s on AMC; yet despite all this, it always seemed close (but not close enough) to a great show. It is still a decent show however, so I marathon’d the show and caught up on as much of series as I could before the season premiere last night.
All of that leads me to last night’s episode, “seed”, which opens with Rick, Daryl, T-Dog and Carl breaking into a house and clearing all the walkers out–desperately searching for any food and resources they can find. It’s a scene without much dialogue that finds the gang sitting around the living room trying to figure out where to go from here, then more walkers show up and it’s time to vacate the premises. It’s evident that time has passed within the world of the show; people are older, Lori is more pregnant and there’s a more mature sense of camaraderie amongst the group. The action and grit are heavy in this episode, as the group finds themselves trying to turn a prison into their safe haven. From either taking out or locking out all of the walkers in the vicinity (in a fantastic sequence of teamwork and marksmanship I might add) to going full-force into the prison, which leads to a gruesome sequence involving Rick having to hack off Hershel’s foot after he’s bitten, not to mention the episode ends with the group finding a whole other batch of survivors holing themselves up in the prison.
By all accounts it seems as though The Walking Dead is well on its way to being a better show; one that’s not stuck in on slow motion, but time will tell as the season goes on. For the time being, I finally find myself enjoying the show the way I always wished I had from the beginning.
Sidenote: Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne according to the closing credits, is so badass with the way she kills walkers. Their really isn’t much to say about her whole side story with Andrea yet but I just wanted to add that in there.
When it comes to spoofs and sending up tropes, few are as talented at it as Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The duo behind South Park, Baseketball, and Team America: World Police, are skilled at taking whatever society is praising or being warped by this week and completely shitting all over it. With Team America, the two of them, along with South Park writing partner Pam Brady, go after the post-9/11 landscape of a country trying to “police the world” and the critics and defenders these actions came with.
Released in 2004, Team America World Police is a marionette starring satire of big budget action movies and a reflection of the global politics taking place at the time. The story follows the escapades of a team of paramilitary policemen attempting to save the world from terrorist attacks and often causing more damage then preventing. When the team loses their fourth member, Carson, the team scrambles to replace him by hiring an actor named Gary to infiltrate the terrorist homebase and find out where they’re keeping WMDs.
Team America is quick-witted and sharp in its deconstruction of the action movie while poking fun at both the pro-America and peace & understanding rhetorics that were heavy at the time. From the fake music scores permeating throughout to the by-the-numbers action film structure it abides by, Team America tackles every joke it can make. The marionettes themselves, while carefully designed and structured, always make sure to never let you forget that they’re still puppets.
Revisiting the movie, I’m instantly reminded of America in 2004. While it is indeed a movie very much of its time (the appearance of Kim Jong-Il is dated enough already), for the most part it acts as a capsule of that time. I remember vividly how “controversial” it was because of the puppet-on-puppet sex scene and it’s amusing to watch it now and think that the MPAA had a stick up its ass over something as silly as that. What has stuck with me the most is the original music made by Matt and Trey, who have an uncanny ability to make great–and hilarious–music. “America: Fuck Yea!”, “What Would You Do?” or even the one about how Pearl Harbor sucked (which it did) are all just as good as some of the best songs to come out of South Park, and they’ll probably be stuck in my head for next month after this past rewatch of the film.
Team America: World Police works as a film because it never tries to take itself seriously, yet there is still love and affection given to its team of well-meaning yet sometimes counterproductive secret agency. In pure Matt & Trey fashion it, of course, comes with a lesson (a lesson expressed through a dick-pussy-asshole metaphor); is it the most agreeable thing in the world? Probably not. But that’s not what’s important, what is important is that Team America tries to make the case that those pro-war advocates are just as necessary as the anti-war brigade and that the two groups need each other. Team America is crue and ridiculous but most of all it is hilarious and well worth seeking out or enjoying again.
The new Raised By Wolves lookbook for Fall/Winter 2012 has arrived and I’d just like to take a moment to say goodbye to having money.
“Listen, it’s been a good run and we’ve had a lot of fun together but I think it’s time that we part ways. It’s not you… or me… I mean just look at these things–the crisp 5 panel hats, that pocket tee with the pendleton wool, the muttonhead crewneck–oh money, you never stood a chance. Now before you start crying understand that this hurts me to and… look stop yelling… listen you would’ve been spent on things like food and bills anyways so don’t get in my face alright. I didn’t want it to be like this but this is how it has to be, so goodbye”
That wasn’t so bad. At any rate, make sure to check out the entire lookbook on the Raised By Wolves site. All the items are officially on sale now, so head to the shop and prepare to break up with your money to.
Beautiful is rarely something that’s said about records these days. Flying Lotus’s Until The Quiet Comes is beautiful. From beginning to end, Quiet is a force that provides the swiftest kick in the most delicate manner. The fourth album from Mr. Steven Ellison a.k.a Flying Lotus, Quiet is bass-heavy, melodic, whimsical and intimate; it’s an album packed with ideas and, with guest vocals from Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, full of soul. If you haven’t already, make sure to grab a copy of Until The Quiet Comes. Easily a contender for album of the year and proof that only good things can come when you attend the school of J Dilla.
Over time, as I’ve watched society slowly try to cave in on itself, I’ve thought more and more about “Parable Of The Sower”. The gripping apocalyptic novel by Octavia Butler follows life in a futuristic, codeless hellscape through the eyes of a 16 year old black girl named Lauren. The book follows her day to day life in a world of ever increasing uncertainty; where none are sure whether today will be their last, and whatever innocence remains in the lives of her and the other children are slowly being shredded away. What really makes Sower worthwhile is how it handles the major themes of life that we grapple with daily: survival, strength, love, sex, family and, at the forefront, religion. Butler’s ruminations through the eyes of a young girl are engrossing, chilling and poetic–and the book itself is a magnetic deconstruction of the “comfortable” society built for us. Personally, I’ve thought about this book a lot as I’ve watched the world slowly eat itself, bit by bit, each day; finding the story it lays out even scarier. If you’re interested in finding a new book to read, this is definitely one to add to the list.
Why? has always been an interesting band. Johnathan “Yoni” Wolf’s blend of melodic harmonies and endearingly rough rap styles have made them intriguing and addictive but overtime, as the amateur scruffiness of their younger days have be scuffed and shined over time, it’s become much harder to embrace them. That’s not to say their latest album Mumps, etc. isn’t good, just moreso stating that it’s not what it could be. 2008’s Alopecia was an instant obsession; blasted on repeat for that entire summer. The next release, 2009’s Eskimo Snow, wasn’t the best follow-up but it grew on me and I respected its focus on songmanship. Now after a small hiatus, Why? returned with a solid EP and album, that continues on that path of crafting great pop songs. Commendable and definitely worthwhile, Yoni’s just as great with words as ever, but his raps are what’s truly missed. He, and maybe everyone else, may not think so but his rap skill was just as intricate and engaging as anyone else’s; without them being a strong factor it feels incomplete.