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Twitter killed its fave feature and joined the ranks of instagram and facebook in utilizing “likes”. So now, what was once a star is now a little heart and because the internet is deathly afraid of change, people were not happy.

I get it. Things that are new are scary. Starring tweets was comforting: like when your tweet put a gold star on your homework assignment because you did a good job. “Hey kid, that’s a good tweet. Here’s a gold star. I am proud of you.” That’s nice to receive when you’re working overtime to make people pay attention to you online. But I think a heart is even more encouraging: it’s the extra kick you need that encourages you to keep tweeting. The easiest argument against the heart is that it’s too forward. It’s called the like button but it doesn’t really feel like a “like”, it feels like a “love”; as in, you LOVE this tweet. You’re probably thinking to yourself that a tweet is fine, you may even like it… but do you love it, and if you don’t, are you prepared to lie just to keep that tweet around.

Well I say do it. Who cares if you don’t love that tweet? You at least like it enough to consider it so why not entertain this lie. As a bonus, it’ll make the tweet maker feel really good. Also, from an aesthetic perspective, the like button is wonderful. You press it and it explodes in this quick orgasmic burst that just gives you joy. I’ve been liking tweets I don’t even care about just to see it over and over again.

If there is a valid criticism to be had about it, it’s the potential increase in misunderstandings. Twitter is already full of people (let’s be honest, mostly men) who read too much into things such as a woman favoriting a bunch of their tweets. The like feature just complicates that more because now it feels like she LOVES your tweets. Does she love your tweets enough for you to slide in the DMs? Probably not, but you’ll convince yourself that the answer is yes anyways. It’s here that we enter into what I now dub “The Heart Eyes Conundrum”. I’ll explain: every so often, I actually post a selfie on my instagram and sometimes when I do a woman friend of mine will comment with “😍😍😍”. There are a number of ways one could take this: 1) maybe she’s just being nice 2) maybe she just appreciates the fact that I look gorgeous in my photo or 3) maybe she’s in love with me. There’s a good chance that the heart eyes under a pic from a friend doesn’t mean anything at all…. but what if it does. Hence, “The Heart Eyes Conundrum”. But on the other hand, if it is your intention to tell someone you love them in vague, indiscriminate ways, this is perfect. My friend Monique and I, have a recurring joke about the use of faving tweets to hint that you’re interested in someone and clearly someone at twitter was paying attention to us #influencers because now we have a less subtle tool to fire off those sublikes. “Hey great tweet, also I’m in love with you”, “wow I like the way you think, also I can’t live without you”, “haha that’s really fun, we should get married”; the new like button can allow you to say so many more words than ever before.

The other problem here is the use of the casual fave seems irresponsible now. I and many other others used to fave tweets purely as mere acknowledgements that your tweet was read. It was a read receipt that was silently understood. The heart seems excessive for that and could lead to misunderstandings you never planned for. This is what I refer to as “The Ralph Wiggum Paradox”. In the season 4 episode of The Simpsons titled “I Love Lisa”, Ralph is the only kid in class who didn’t get a Valentine’s Day card from the other kids. Lisa feels bad so she just takes one of her leftover cards and puts Ralph’s name on it and hands it to him out of pity. Ralph is understandably excited but he takes this purely nice gesture as genuine interest. The card said “I choo-choo-choose you” and Ralph believes it fully with no real evidence that Lisa has ever shown an interest in him before. Lisa did something to be nice and to let Ralph know that his existence is acknowledged but instead Ralph took the action literally and believed himself to be cho-cho-chose. On the surface it would seem silly that someone might read too much into a “like” for a response to a tweet about a good Jamaican restaurant in the city, but when you see that heart icon show up in your notifications it does something to you and causes you to believe things that make no sense. With great likes come great responsibility.

Of course, none of these genuine concerns are the real heart of the issue. It’s about exclusivity and the specialness of twitter over the instagrams and the facebooks. The star separated twitter and without it, it’s just a reminder that twitter is moving closer to the uncool zone and we’ll all soon be moving on to something else. I mean, I’m sure this is true but at least the hearts are nice to look at before we go.

Anthropologists talk about this idea of observers unduly influencing the subjects they observe. A child might behave differently if their parents are in the room with them. I might behave differently at Popeyes if there are judgmental white people around and any given person may act differently if they know they’re on TV. Deep down, most people are prone to performative behaviors if they know it brings attention, and the more attention that comes, the more amped up that performance may become.

Tonight, I watched a documentary on HBO titled Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart. It’s a documentary that came out over a year ago which captures the salacious story of a small-town woman accused of getting the teenage boy that she was sleeping with to murder her husband. The trial became famous due to media coverage of the entire affair from start-to-bottom and, as a result, her guilt by public opinion turned into guilt by the law. It was an almost perfectly gift-wrapped story: you had this woman, temptress if you will, who seemed to “love being a widow” as one talking head points in the beginning, who had an affair with a teenager and, worst of all, didn’t come off as warm or innocent enough. I don’t think it’s out of order to see that she did initially enjoy the attention of newscasters and reporters visiting her and putting a camera in her face allowing her to tell her story. Attention is addictive, no matter the context it comes in.

It’s 1990, the internet we know of doesn’t exist yet, there’s no social media and there’s no reality programs. When Pamela Smart went on TV for the first time to talk about her husband being murdered, this was the highest platform a woman like her from a New England town would ever get and she worked it. She tried to sell herself as a loving, caring wife; maybe this was because she didn’t want anyone to know about her affair, maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was an accomplice to murder or maybe she just genuinely liked the lights and the cameras and the reporters (one of the original reporters mentioned that she’d told him her dream of being a news anchor at one point), maybe she just liked the attention.

As a collective people like to be entertained more than anything else (except maybe loved but even love can be entertainment, but that’s another essay). Neither Donald Trump nor Ben Carson have any business in an American political race, yet they persevere because they’re “fun”. They get the blogs bloggin and let them churn out that sweet, sweet content. There’s a reality show/webseries about any subject under the sun because why not? Everyone wanted to be on The Real World right? This is your chance. True crime and Court TV specials have assembled an audience on onlookers mesmerized by horrific, psychotic actions who remove themselves from the fact that they’re watching real people in order to enjoy it as pulp. Every year, there’s guaranteed to be a “Trial of the Century”, where the court of public opinion can armchair quarterback a case instead of worrying themselves about reasonable doubt or the justice system. It is a wonder that we haven’t installed court side seats at these trials for Jack Nicholson or Rihanna to show up in or installed a kiss-cam to hover over the trial audience. The next big televised trial might even be sponsored by DraftKings.

The Pamela Smart case gained attention fast and as more and more info about it came out, the more people became enamored of it. For as much as Pamela was assumed to have enjoyed the cameras, as the story got a national audience, you suddenly had local news reporters, local police and eventual trial witnesses being invited to talk on national news programs and daytime talk shows and wherever Geraldo Rivera’s mustache was located at that moment. It’s easy to say that this holds no bearing on a criminal case but you have local players going on TV and maybe they’re being completely honest, but they’re also visibly getting into being on a platform and having people listen to them and watch them. You become cognizant of this and you start acting like it, you put on a performance. Maybe it’s an honest one but it’s an exaggerated one for an audience that’s eager to eat it up. Pamela Smart’s case became the first huge Trial of the Century: filled with TV cameras, reporters and onlookers, many of whom already forming a belief about what they think happened based on the sensationalist, exploitative nature of the news up until that point. By the time the trial started, there were already TV movies and books being written about this case and this woman and key witnesses were signing TV rights for this story. It’s easy to say what the media can and can’t do to influence public opinion, but to be a juror (or judge) and see so many people this captivated and entranced by a story will put pressure on you to make the “right” decision. Because you know that everyone is watching.

Today, we’re in the “age of social media”. The internet is evolving and with that comes ways for any person to reach a large audience. Twitter, i particular, has been in my life since 2009. What started as a silly platform to be an idiot on with friends during breaks between classes at my college, turned into my most honest public mouthpiece. I connected with people I never would’ve without it and it was cool. There were people who had more followers than me and whose tweets got more attention than mine, which was fine but like anyone else would, I wanted to say something that would garner similar attention for no other reason than the self-satisfaction of someone liking the things you say. I don’t know when exactly the first person who became famous because of twitter happened or even who it was; what I do know is that a shift happened where people realized that an online audience could translate to offline success. I saw people who never would have been given a chance without the internet prove that they could make something of themselves and build a loyal audience. In a lot of ways, it was beautiful but twitter/internet popularity is a lot like a popular TV show. Whatever persona you created to make yourself a more marketable personality becomes your calling card: if you’re a comic, you’re just the comic, if you’re a sports guy, you’re just the sports guy, if you’re a feminist, you’re just the feminist. People want all the old familiar beats from their old favorites and you can see people straining themselves to fulfill these roles. In the end, what you’re left with are characters rather than people and agendas over conversations. The worst byproduct of this is the need to be right on the internet. No learning, no growth for people who do this; the point is to look smart, worldly and perceptive in front of an audience. Admitting you’re wrong would make you human and being human isn’t marketable. Nobody wants to be the one who doesn’t say the “right” thing, even if that right thing is based on nothing but popular perception.

There’s a way in which you can become so invested in the news the way you are invested in a movie. It happened during Ferguson and Baltimore, it happened when Tonya Harding sent the goons after Nancy Kerrigan, it happened for the OJ car chase. As you watch these news stories, you invest in them the way you would characters in a movie and it becomes most dangerous when it’s time for the payoff.  When it was time for a verdict to be passed down regarding Pamela Smart, there had been days and days of content and rhetoric and opinionating done on her character. If you had access to a TV or to a newspaper, you knew who she was and a picture of her had been painted in your mind. Her guilt or innocence is almost an aside to the much more tantalizing story of a Hot-to-trot married psychopathic schoolteacher who seduced a teenager and got him to murder her husband. That’s a movie anyone would want to see but not if it doesn’t have the right ending. To pretend that the spotlight and wild narratives written had no bearing or influence on a jury is incredibly silly. Nobody is impervious to that shit. “Listen to the music. He’s evil!”. Perception isn’t the only thing but it’s a thing,

Attention is addictive. It might be more loved than money but the desire is supposed to be secret. It reveals our narcissism and that’s not proper etiquette. The Trayvon Martin case is one of the most heartbreaking public trials of my lifetime. One of the more poisonous, corrosive narratives that took place was that of George Zimmerman the folk hero who stood up to a scary black teenager. Whether or not the jury was influenced by outside media is unknown but what I do remember is rumors of a juror signing a book deal to recount her story of her time on the trial and going on the 24 hour newscycle to talk about how hard of a decision this was for her and her fellow jurors. Brave. What’s a good movie without a sequel right? The thing about the cameras is that they always leave and sometimes you’ll do what it takes to keep them around a little bit longer.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories because most of them are boring. The truth is always more fascinating than some overly wrought, Game of Thrones-style deception. By the end of Captivated, I didn’t know if Pam Smart was guilty or innocent but what I do know was that her trial was not objective and everyone deserves that. The main takeaway from watching this was getting to see the early road towards twitter/instagram, reality TV and 24 hour news, and getting to see how the promise of ratings, fame and even money could play a part in influencing behavior. Blogs write outrage-inducing headlines because it gets clicks, the news shows exploitative images because it keeps eyes glued and violent images are popular in our media because people love violence. You do what works until it stops working. To pretend that the media or even other people are expected to keep a moral code is a convenient way to ignore how culpable we are in helping engineer this ship. You get the culture you deserve and so far we’ve all decided we want to be entertained.

Ryan Adams released his promised remake of Taylor Swift’s 1989 this week. It’s a quiet, incredibly thought-out reinterpretation that feels as full of reverence for the original as nostalgia of the time period that album title refers. It’s also kind of a dadzbop record; an album that will appeal to people who don’t want to listen to Taylor Swift because she’s a pop artist and not a sensitive white dude strumming a guitar.

But it is lovely to listen to and it’s a pretty great gesture for an artist of Ryan Adam’s stature to not only embrace Swift’s album but want to make loving interpretation of it. It’s also a little disheartening how many push against the idea of it happening.

Album remakes in and of itself are a curious case. Using another’s art as inspiration to create a unique response to said art shouldn’t be a bad thing. In the 50s and 60s, Black artists would remake songs of their white counterparts and vice versa, but a lot of that was due to the segregation of radio. Music is a genre with a lot of political baggage and in the case of Ryan Adams and Taylor Swift (and also the business of writing about music on the internet), the politics are inescapable. In the age of poptimism and the sweeping popularity for non-white male centered music, a thing like Ryan Adam’s “1989” feels not only like stepping backwards but fuels (however unintentional) these ideas about authenticity and real artistry in music.

One need only to look at recent essays from both the NY Times and The Washington Post, to see dismissive and condescending attitudes towards pop music but especially the way in which pop music has become a critical darling as opposed to the butt of many a serious music writer’s jokes. As this pop adoration continues, the vocal dissenters continue to push back; part of this push back usually consists of speaking up in favor of rock music, which usually involves the idea that rock is the thing that is pure and real in a world of what they see as artificial, plastic music.

There is a classist attitude in all of this that Ryan Adams both benefits and earns demerits from. So when the album finally came out, on twitter, you could see people incredibly excited to listen to it and you could also see people who felt the need to protect the artistry of Taylor Swift. Divorcing the politics of music from the actual music is a difficult task and, in this scenario, is close to impossible to do.

It also should be noted that Taylor’s status as a woman in popular culture and Ryan Adam’s maleness and the maleness of his music are also at play. There’s certainly sexism on display if not because of this record than around it, but a great deal of it seems to be people reacting to sexism they assume is probably happening but haven’t seen. Does it exist? Probably, but for the most part the only people who are obsessing over “what this record means” are people who write for a living.

Cover songs at their best are love letters to our favorite songs or musical moments. At their worst, they’re cheap cash-ins and, at their worser, they are goofs or attempts at irony. This is the sword with which rap music has been the most speared, but a lot of pop and electronic music has been smited in this way. The acoustic song version of a pop song was once a popular pastime for going viral and has rarely ever been done with any sincerity or love for the original song. Sure, you might get an Afghan Whigs cover of an R&B song that actually feels well-arranged and performed by people who actually listen to those songs, but a good amount of these covers are goofs meant to poke fun at the silliness of a pop record while upholding the status quo of true artistry.

Ryan Adams’ “1989” works because it is both been blessed by Taylor Swift and is made by someone who loves her music. If you like this Ryan Adams record, it’s because you like Ryan Adams but it’s also because you like Taylor Swift’s music. You can’t divorce the two things because the album doesn’t allow you to, even if you would rather find comfort in the familiar blanket of quiet, emotionally charged Replacement-era vibes. You can run from poptimism if you’d like but pop music cannot be escaped or abandoned. All of your faves probably owe a lot to popular artists anyways, Ryan Adams just had the awareness to hat tip and show his appreciation.

Drake and Future have been teasing the idea of a joint mixtape for awhile but, like any promise of a joint tape, it was mostly disregarded as a fan service-y tease. Then it was announced that there was indeed a record that had been put together that was expected to be released soon. Despite this, there was a feeling that this album was just a troll and that it wouldn’t actually come out; there was even a countdown website for it that froze once it got to 6 seconds and never materialized into anything. It was starting to look like a sure bet that this record wasn’t going to happen and a not-insignificant number of people were pretty ok with that. But then Sunday night happened and Drake premiered songs from the album on his Beats1 radio show OVOsound. So now we have an album: What A Time To Be Alive; an album that I’ve listened to about 4 times now that I’m mostly pleased to announce is pretty good.

Part of this favorable feeling has to do with the fact that I came in with low expectations. Future is on a tear right now: since October 2014 he’s released 3 great mixtapes and a great album but better than that is he’s actually being appreciated for them while they are happening. He’s been the wave for 2015 and Drake, like his true mentor Jay Z, was absolutely guaranteed to find a way to surf along it. Drake is the biggest star in the game right now, possibly more so than Kanye, and (possibly as a result) is also the biggest opportunist. Jumping on hot songs or potentially hot songs or songs he wishes he had made first and “boosting” them with the Drake effect™. Who benefits more from the Drake effect is of great debate, a lot of the time though it feels like a platform to promote Drake as relevant while another artists gets as much shine as they can before the crowds disperse.

With that being said, the most pleasant surprise about this album is that this album is mostly on Future’s terms. Metro Boomin is a co-producer on all but one song and Future takes the lead on the majority of songs. On most Drake-featured songs, everyone is just an opening act for Drake but here Future gets to be Batman while Drake plays… well not Robin but, I don’t know Catwoman or something. The album is better for it and goes on to further prove that nobody is seeing Future and his reliable cast of producers, particularly Metro Boomin. So with that said, let’s rank these songs:

1   Jumpman

This is the one. This is the crash your car into a tree on purpose because the drugs made you do it record. CHICKEN WINGS AND FRIES, WE DON’T GO ON DATES; come on son. Fuck your candlelight dinner and your Netflix and chill, you better come get this 5 dollar box from Popeye’s with me. Future is the star of this tape sometimes, seemingly, by design and the album does its best to keep up with his energy and his sound. Metro Boomin showed out all over this record and on this song, Drake has his best “trying to keep up with Future’s energy” performance here. This is the soundtrack to Actavis suicide.

2.   Diamonds Dancing

This is probably my personal favorite song on the record and I’m kind of a little bit ashamed of this fact. Out of all the songs on this record, this feels the most on Drake’s terms –mostly, in that, this is his crocodile tears beta man song about whatever girl pissed him off by being independent this week. But, once again, Metro helps put together something really special for this record and Future is one of my favorites at melding introspective sensitivity and greasy aggression. The Drake tirade at the end should bump this down a few spots but somehow it doesn’t; this is his best performance on the album honestly. He’s in his comfort zone, plus him and Future get to harmonize on the chorus like fucking Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton on this shit. It can’t lose.

3.   I’m The Plug

“I’m The Plug” is such a good Future song and I wish Drake wasn’t on it. But sure go ahead Drizzy tell us about how you’re really the plug. Like really. I mean that’s what all those Paulie from Goodfellas tracksuits were about right?

4.   Scholarships

Drake probably paid for so many stripper’s degrees. I mean it’s a good thing; education is important. Speaking of which:

5.   Plastic Bag

Come on, you didn’t think you were getting a Drake and Future album without a strip club ballad. You know, something to serenade your favorite dancer with at the booty club of your choosing. Let her know it’s a good night to dance on you. You gonna go broke by the time this song is over and it’s only like 4 minutes long. It’s all good though, she deserves it. “Magic City on a Monday/We worship there like a Sunday” needs to be framed somewhere in your home immediately.

6.   Jersey

This is the solo Future joint and he’s in full-victory lap mode. “You do what you want when you poppin”, you damn right bruh! Talk yo shit! Future has had an incredible run this year and plenty has been said about the fact. I wasn’t in love with Honest but I felt like it’s outright dismissal was pretty unfair. This attitude served as solid motivation for him though and look where we’re at now. He really did catch the wave.

7.   Change Locations

“Me and my friends we got money to spend”

8.   Digital Dash

The albums hits the gas right from jump, making you already second guess your fear about this album coming to fruition. That’s hot takeish sure but we live in the age of the instant reaction, which, if it’s done nothing else good, it’s at least caused an influx of good album intros. “I might take Quentin to Follies” is peak-troll Drake by the way, that guy is adorable sometimes.

9.   Big Rings

I’m not a fan of Drake’s chorus but whatever. It’ll be fun to scream out whilst drunk in the club spending money you can’t afford to be spending. We blowing the whole rent check at the strip club for our tings. Sidenote: “You just a battle rapper, I’m an official trapper”, who’s that for Future? Because I know of a particular battle rapper right now who seems to be having a misunderstanding with your album partner  right now. Are you choosing sides bruh? Being a little bit of a shady boots or nah?

10.   Live From The Gutter

Honestly, this would be higher but I enjoy the Young Thug version of this Metro beat more.

Future’s good on it too though and also lol at Drake being on a song called “Live From The Gutter”. Get your authenticity points like Pokemon my guy.

11.   30 For 30

This is the Drake solo song. It’s fine. Drake does his Drake thing that he’s been doing for long enough that it barely even registers with me much anymore. It’s all just… fine. He’s the Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback of rap.

And that’s it. Something that could’ve been awful turned out alright. However you feel about these two artists, they provided for a fun night on the internet that will probably go on for at least the rest of the week. Thank God for Metro Boomin, and, despite all the players in this, somehow one of the biggest winners in this whole thing will probably be Ernest Baker. What a time to be alive indeed.

I am growing exhausted pretending Kanye West is a genius. It is tiring having to pretend that the reason I don’t like the things he’s doing is because I don’t “get” it. I genuinely like Yeezus a lot and just that fact alone is weighs heavy on my spirit because as interesting and purposefully off-putting as it is, it is drenched in bullshit. Most of it is a temper tantrum performed over a noisy, Eyes Wide Shut-style robot orgy and yet I stand by it as better than at least two other Ye albums.

But now this nigga is going too far. You wanna sell Mad Max outfits that cost an entire year’s pay to people that are dumb enough to max out credit cards for it then that’s your right, but let’s not pretend you’re revolutionizing anything in fashion. I get that you feel like the fashion world won’t take you serious because you’re a loudmouth nigga that comes from rap and I can also understand how frustrating it is to be pigeonholed and I know that Yeezus was partially a backlash for people constantly telling you to stick to music, but your campaign to get people on your side is contrived.

You wanna start of revolution only to advance your own interests. You say classism is bigger than racism but, ignoring the fact that that’s wrong, your thesis seems entirely based on the fact that you personally are being kicked out of a club you feel like you deserve to be in. For what it’s worth, I don’t even think your Bane takes over Gotham City fashion line is that bad. I know people are getting their jokes off about it right now and I know that it’s not even that original of an aesthetic but it’s decent. If I had some a couple gold bricks, I’d buy one or two pieces up off you, and if you want to make clothes full-time I would support you –mostly because I don’t think you know what you are even doing anymore outside of the fashion world.

That VMA speech you gave was entertaining and, at some points, even truly captivating, but it was also mostly nonsense. You hate the idea behind award shows yet your entire career has been based around promoting yourself and those you deem worthy as the only true winner of every award? You built your brand off of being the vocal supporter of yourself when you felt like he didn’t get the awards you deserved; that is, until you decided to bring your services over to the Beygency™. Now you wanna back away from that and instead argue a pseudo-existential diatribe against awards and the point of these shows. First of all, the point of award shows is to celebrate mediocrity and gather a large number of stars together in order to bring in a large audience of people who are willing to sit through liquor and acne scrub ads just for the sake of firing off tweets. Secondly, this again feels like you thinking about how something affects you and then reacting. Only when you’re at the point of your career where MTV can give you a mostly meaningless honor for everything you’ve done that you can decide “eh, I don’t really get the point”.

Acceptance has never worked for Kanye West. He thrives most when he’s being dismissed or unacknowledged. Being treated like he belongs or like the genius he considers himself in his brain gets boring to him; he wants to be in those areas where he’s hated or ignored. It’s his best quality and also something that is aggravating to witness. It’s clear that he’s been bored with music for a long time: this was obvious on Yeezus when he tried to give himself the challenge of making purposefully alienating music (easily his most Lou Reed move), it’s apparent in how dismissive he’s grown of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy despite it being his most praised work to date and it’s especially apparent in the manner with which this new album cycle is going.

And that gets us to what’s really bugging me about Kanye lately. I honestly believe SWISH is a false flag operation; something to keep his brand afloat while he goes deeper into realizing his dream of being Steve Jobs. There is no album and honestly it’s better that way because what we’ve heard so far is mostly bullshit. The whole working with Paul McCartney thing was interesting and when “Only One” dropped, I thought: fine, I can get with The Freewheelin’ Kanye West if that’s what he wants. Then he performed “Wolves” in full on SNL with SIA and Vic Mensa who now looks like one of Akasha’s slaves from Queen Of The Damned since he linked with Ye, which was fine I guess but we never got the CDQ and it took forever to get the CDQ of “All Day” and now it’s been out so long that the people who were excited about it don’t even bother pretending to still like it anymore.

This brings us to today where during Kanye’s latest show at New York Fashion Week where, in the midst of the remake of Dawn Of The Dead that seemed to be happening on the runway, Kanye premiered a new song titled “Fade” featuring Ty dolla $ign and Post Malone. That’s right, Lyor Cohen’s latest lab experiment indistinguishable soundcloud rapper, Post Malone is the latest to get the Kanye co-sign. A co-sign which, let’s be honest, doesn’t mean anything anymore –not in a world where Travi$ Scott gets to thrive; a co-sign nonetheless, which is annoying mostly because we were all doing so well at not pretending Post Malone was a real thing and allowing his 15 minutes to expire.

This reeks of a desperation to keep up with whatever you think the kids are into. The only silver lining is that maybe when Kanye sticks his fangs in his neck to drain him of everything he’s got, we’ll never hear from him again like Mr. Hudson. It shouldn’t be too hard since he’s not actually talented –just like, well, Mr. Hudson. More than this egregiousness is just the fact that this song isn’t very good. I get that it was part of a show and maybe that’s not the best context to judge it in but this is really bad Abercrombie & Fitch store music put over a slightly better drum kit. It’s also a boilerplate 2015 Kanye record and it feels like he’s not even trying anymore, and I mean if you don’t wanna make music, you shouldn’t feel like you have to and if you do, you could try a little harder than this.

I genuinely want you to be happy Kanye and if fashion does that great; and if you wanna lure Vic and Travi$ out of their doghouses or caves with Hood By Air clothes in order to get them to make the music you don’t feel like doing yourself, then you know what, go for it. Just do what makes you happy Kanye or really do anything that will spare us from making more industry plant white dudes a thing.

I know you think you’re bound for better things but you aren’t. This is it for you. You’ve achieved the most success you will ever achieve in your life.

Congratulations I guess? It’s sort of an accomplishment. The next time will be going through the five stages of grief. In a misguided use of your energy, you’re going to work hard to convince yourself that the tiny voice in your head that tells you to give up on your dreams and give in to the desire to eat Rice Krispie Treats shirtless on your couch is wrong. You’ll spend a lot of time in the Denial and Bargaining stage, you’ll tell yourself that you’re one step away, one song away, one good game away, one job application away, whatever; the truth is: this is it. You are already the best that you will ever be.

You will beg God or The Universe or whoever for guidance, a blessing, a miracle or anything but it will not come. The Universe will instead tell you that you should be happy where you are. Because this is your peak.

Is it shitty? Sure. A reality check is not here to coddle you like a newborn baby, it’s here to drop you on your head and blame you for falling. Knowing that you’ve peaked is not a good feeling because you’re never happy with wherever you peaked. We’re all full of ourselves and think that we deserve better than whatever we have going on at the moment.We don’t get what we want though: we reach our ceiling and then we gather ourselves together and build a life for ourselves while we wait to die. I think it’s the waiting that kills me most.

This is your peak: late nights spent in the fetal position, condescending supervisors, a family you only kinda like and so, so much alcohol. All the liquor and drugs you will consume just to disguise the pain that comes with reaching your peak will almost certainly be the highlight of the rest of your time here. In time, you might even get married and have children; children that you can use as the totems for all of your broken dreams and wishes. You will beat them down and crush their spirit all in the hopes that they can accomplish what you never could and maybe get a house out of the deal or whatever.

I’ll be honest, I don’t feel like finishing this essay. I got no fight in my left. I’ve already peaked and none of this matters.

Sorry I’ve been staring at you awkwardly and with such intensity, it’s just that I’m in love with you.

I know we don’t know each other and you’ve never actually met me, but I know love when it hits.

I’m sorry I keep staring and examining your fingers, it’s just that I want to marry you and I need to know your ring size.

I’m sorry this is a lot and it’s way too creepy, it’s just that I want you to have my children.

Look I know this is very uncomfortable, you don’t know me and our only interaction is me staring at you on the metro train extensively, but I want to spend a couple of forevers with you.

Are you running late? I’d like to make an appointment to be your lover.

Is there anything I can do for you? I’m basically your boyfriend now.

Sorry, I don’t want to scare you away, it’s just that I can’t live without you.

That came out wrong. I don’t mean I literally cannot live without you, it’s just that I want to be around you every day for the rest of the days that I am alive.

I don’t mean to be rude or psychotic, it’s just that I need you in my life.

What are listening to? Is it R&B? I hope it’s Luther –or maybe the Isley Brothers. Sorry, I just want our song to be something special.

I don’t even know your name. I really only need the first one. I’d rather you take my last name.

I know I said I would leave you alone, it’s just that you’re my everything.

I’m sorry, I keep babbling on and on while you look terrified. This is so us.

I don’t mean to take up so much of your time, it’s just that you complete me.

I’m not trying to be forward, it’s just that I think we should grow old together.

I know this is “our first meeting”, but I would follow you to hell and back.

I’m really not trying to be this way, it’s just that I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind since I saw you a few minutes ago.

You look nice today by the way. You always look perfect. I assume at least.

I’m doing too much right now, it’s just that you’re the one that I want.

Get it? Like in Grease. That would be a super cute costume idea for us to try this Halloween, wouldn’t it.

I’m sorry, this is horrifying. It’s just that when you look at me I feel like anything is possible.

This is all a lot to take in , I know this. I’m sorry. I won’t take up anymore of your time. Just know that I love you. That’s a lot, I shouldn’t have gone that far but you do make me wanna be a better man. I’ll stop bothering you. Ok. Please Marry Me. Bye. I’m sorry. Love you like XO. Ok that was too much. Bye. Love you. Bye.

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You should be allowed to tell the people you love to get a divorce. That should be something that is deemed ok if the situation calls for it. But you can’t. Society says your goal in life is ultimately to get married and spawn children, and if you’re a woman, that’s pretty much all you’re supposed to want in life. So people get married and just try their best to tolerate each other until the sweet release of death. Hopefully you get some good anniversary cake in the meantime.

The first time I knew something was wrong with my parent’s marriage, I was a junior in college. In hindsight, I should’ve known the whole time but then again I am a goddamn scholar when it comes to looking at things in hindsight. It was one of the many fights my parents were having in which my mom was really intensely focused on her shop and traveling back and forth to Nigeria to maintain it and make more money on the side and my dad was being a control freak that doesn’t know how to handle not being in the loop of things or being supportive even when things are inconvenient for him. This is what a lot of their fights are like and honestly, most of the time, they’re really just fighting the same fight they’ve been having since I was a kid. But does time my dad was particularly pissed off over everything and was having such a bad attitude that they had stopped speaking while she was in Nigeria and when she came back, I was the one who picked her up from the airport and as we drove back to her shop, she just let it out. Everything she’s been holding onto for years, she unleashed on to me in this vulnerable moment that I’d never seen from her. It was heartbreaking and I couldn’t handle it.

I couldn’t handle it, ME; even in this moment of my mom’s testimony of grief, like a true child, I couldn’t help but make this about me. I didn’t say anything out loud of course but internally I was so distraught: my mom was tired and done and I just recoiled into a 7 year old who just realized that he didn’t want his parents to get a divorce. “Just realized” of course because when I was young I thought it might be cool to have divorced parents. My best friend James’ parents were divorced and my only thought process about the whole thing was “how cool, he’s got two houses and two christmases”. I was the type of kid that prided himself on not being emotionally attached to my parents. It was bullshit and I would learn that both in that moment with my mom and the first time I lived in a new city without my family, but as a kid I thought, because I was a latch key kid and because I was grateful that my parents didn’t try to accompany me on field trips or participate in PTA, that I was especially self-reliant. Yet there I was, a 21 year old turned into an emotional wreck because mommy and daddy might get a divorce, life makes fools out of all of us.

That moment passed, they didn’t get a divorce and everything stayed the same. My parent’s increasing exhaustion of each other could not be trumped by their comfort with the routine they’ve kept going. My sisters knew more about what was going on with my mom before I ever did, mostly by virtue of being women and my mom feeling that it’s more appropriate to have these discussions with them in order to prepare/warn them about the world they are entering as women. I don’t really get let in like that because it is considered not my place a lot of times, my only job is to not have the bad habits of my father. I wish I could be let in, I wish we had a home where things were more transparent, instead we hold everything inside until it boils over in a tirade. Our family crest should be: keep it on the inside until it explodes.

My parent have had intense, one-off fights since I can remember. They’ve gone to war over seemingly mundane issues but were really sparring battles over power and control. My father cannot handle not being in control; it fills him with fear and insecurity and he releases those emotions under the guise of anger. He does this to everyone. He acts aggressive and pretends to intentionally push people away but really he doesn’t know any other way to express himself and he also hates being alone. In my 26 years, me and my father have never had a personal, vulnerable, honest conversation. His culture and upbringing is not founded on that: he is a man and every decision he’s ever made, no matter how much he hates it , he’s done because it’s a man’s job to do these things. My mom also wants to be in control all the time but she’s more open about when she feels fear or insecurity. She is a fiercely Christian woman woman, both my parents are but my dad treats church like comfort food and my mom treats church like it’s water and like it’s her escape.

Church is also another factor in why both my parents are here. Divorce is still stigmatized and the other Christians will convince you of every reason why you should endure being miserable to fulfill God’s will or something. “Don’t get a divorce! It’s against God. Just endure it; curl up in a tiny ball for multiple hours a day if you need to. The bright side is you’ll be dead sooner than you think and you can find peace with God n them.”

The last time I went home it dawned on me that my parents probably shouldn’t be together anymore. They have run this marriage through its course and now they seem to be hanging in because it’s easier. I’m hard on my dad but honestly, I think this would be good for him too. Embracing and confronting loneliness will make anyone a more stable person. More than likely though, this passive-aggressive march to the grave will continue and all I can do is hope they find a ray of sunshine in their life of drab grey.

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I am in a room in my parent’s house. For brevity purposes, I’ll call it my room but it is not really mine and it was imperative of my parents to remind me of this at opportune times. This room is my home and my prison; a safe space at one moment and hell in another. It is fall, school has been in session for a few weeks and it is a dry, humid night in Tallahassee, Florida. I am writing in a composition notebook furiously, illegibly and incoherently: it is all earnest, dramatic emotion and self-indulgence in the way only teenagers can be. The world was out to get me and my only weapon were my words and my only support was the loud, fast, aggressively emotional emocore music that I’d been obsessed with.

When you’re a kid all you want is escape. Everyone and everything around you is dismissive towards you and ultimately interested in teaching you how to comply and how to follow orders. I grew up in a town that alternated between too humid and raining, where hanging out in an empty parking lot with friends was a reasonably good Saturday night and where the only thing that will ever matter in this life is what was happening at that very moment as far as we were concerned. I listened to a lot of rap but for all of rap’s brutal honesty, nothing I was exposed to identified with my embarrassing, navel-gazing immature ideas of being heartbroken as a teenager. At least not yet, that would come later, but at first it was all white sensitive males making power pop and punk-lite records about nostalgia, past mistakes and Salinger.

Emo is full-stop white dude tunnel vision and self-aggrandizement. It is almost comically open about feeling every kind of feeling and treating them all like scripture. It is self-involved in a way that is irresistible to a teenager that cannot see outside of themselves and to an adult that wants to remind themselves of those self-involved days every so often. You never forget the records you first obsessed over. The CDs you wear out until they can’t be played anymore, the lyrics you memorized like it was bible study, the way they made you feel every time they came one. I feel no shame in being obsessed with any of it. It all served a purpose. I knew every cringeworthy word on those Taking Back Sunday songs, I had my mental dictionary updated for every new Dashboard Confessional song I heard and I gleefully jumped into The Cure wormhole and wrapped myself in its esoteric grandiose.

A popular theme in a lot of this music (and music in general) is death. The ultimate go-to for every pedestrian poet: death is a game in this context and an excuse to bloviate in hyperbolic terms the tragedy of one’s own existence. Not to say that everyone is doing it for that purpose: depression is rampant in art and death is a valid focus and is capable of being used for genuine introspection. It’s also so tried and true that every artist thinks they can make death sound revolutionary. The ultimate protest to an unjust, ugly world. Sunny Day Real Estate made it sound like such a seductive choice and Nirvana made it feel like a sweet relief.

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: A man stops and yells at officers as they make their way through the crowd to help a person who needed medical attention near the intersection of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue as protestors walk for Freddie Gray on West North Avenue and protest around the city in Baltimore, MD on Tuesday April 28, 2015. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

BALTIMORE, MD – APRIL 28: A man stops and yells at officers as they make their way through the crowd to help a person who needed medical attention near the intersection of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue as protestors walk for Freddie Gray on West North Avenue and protest around the city in Baltimore, MD on Tuesday April 28, 2015. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The romanticization of death is a luxury and a privilege. It’s easy to fetishize and create a fantasy out of death when it’s not a real part of your life. In rap music, death is either expressed through hopelessness about the situation and life that you’ve been cursed with or it’s a tool used to shield the fear you walk with every day. What’s more gangster than convincing people you aren’t scared to die? It’s a lie of course, but you hold that front in the face of an unforgiving world. Death is at your front door and it can consume you or you can use it against others. The bands I obsessed over in that room didn’t know death in that way. Some of them were depressed and some knew what loss was, but by and large, death was foreign. It was foreign to me too: as a black kid in the suburbs, I got the sane luxury of finding the romance in death, using my depression not to search inward, but to make myself the hero of my own tragedy.

The past couple of years have been a hard one for this country and for Black people especially. There is news of black people being murdered by the state, by self-proclaimed vigilantes and by each other at a constant rate. A couple years ago, a gunmen unloaded at an elementary school and we as a country decided this was a price worth paying if it meant no regulation on our guns. A couple months back, 9 people lost their lives inside of a church; it was supposed to be their safe space and under the protection of God. There have been too many deaths to name and many more will probably come.

In the midst of this, one of the things making my skin crawl is the casualness with which we share videos of Black men, women and children being murdered on camera as though it’s the latest viral cat video. The news of murdered Americans is already becoming numbing to us and now we’re trying to make ourselves numb to the actual sight of their death. When this is not happening then the lives and bodies of these once alive, loved human beings are being used as mascots for the agendas of various people for both good and bad reasons. Whether it was intended, their death is now romanticized in service to something bigger. So it goes.

There is no romance in death: there is only the fact of it and the inevitability that we will all be there. As I’ve gotten older my thought process has grown but so has my depression. I look back and reflect on the boy in that room who couldn’t wait to escape from it all with fondness and I roll my eyes at his self-obsession and his fixation on death as being beautiful and poetic. He doesn’t know better; that’s usually how all the best romances happen.

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There are people who celebrate Christmas in order to remember the love, mercy and sacrifice bestowed by the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, my Christmas is the day new pictures of Rihanna at a Carnival emerge. I sit by the lights of my macbook with gleeful anticipation for said pictures because unlike actual Christmas, Rihanna will never let me down and will always give me more than I deserve.

Fun fact: those “I met God, she’s black” shirts were created after the designer saw a picture of Rihanna in a Carnival outfit. It’s true. You just read it on the internet.

I like to imagine Carnival Rihanna as a specialty version of regular Rihanna: like when characters in Dragon Ball Z do the fusion dance to combine into one character, or like Mecha-Godzilla or Jem. If Rihanna had happy meal toys, Carnival Rihanna would be one of the toys and it would be the one that everyone had to keep eating over and over to get.

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What is it like to be in Rihanna’s presence during Carnival? You’re breathing her air and seeing a woman does is giving me heart palpitations through a computer screen in real life. What do you do? Would you panic? I’m pretty sure I would panic. What do you do when she starts whining? Do you call yourself an ambulance? I would literally have to walk around with an IV in my arm the whole time. What if she decided to whine on you? I’m pretty sure you would combust into pieces like Malfunctioning Eddie from Futurama. I saw a photo where Rihanna whined on a gentleman and it looked like HE WAS ON HIS PHONE. THAT IS THE MOST BLATANTLY DISRESPECTFUL THING I’VE EVER HEARD OF. DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING TO YOU RIGHT NOW. ENJOY IT. PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND EXPERIENCE A THING THAT’S HAPPENING TO YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW.

What happens to a penis that’s been twerked on by Rihanna? Does it grow like the seeds buried in the ground? Is it like the sunrise or the brightest glow from the moon but in your penis? Is it more powerful than it’s ever been? Is it like a baptism but for a penis? Would your penis be eligible for submission to the Smithsonian? Do you think people can sense that something has changed about you post-twerk? For example, let’s say Rihanna twerked on me and I went to a bar the next day: would I become a magnet now? Would I just be the center of attention for some unexplainable reason anytime I enter the room? If Rihanna twerks on you (man or woman), I’m pretty sure you could just use that line to hit on anyone. I mean really think to yourself and question whether you would turn down someone who was good enough for Rihanna to whine up against. Don’t deny yourself that adjacent glow, treat yourself.

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The possibilities are endless with Carnival Rihanna and for that she is due all praise.

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