The Music Video Sartorialist is a new column in which I will review the fashion of various music videos. First up: the 2000 masterpiece “Country Grammar” by Nelly.

Before we even get into this, let me just say that the music video for “Country Grammar” is pure love. There is not one bad thing I can say about it. It’s a celebration of everyday people and it is joyful, which is way better than being cool or weird for the sake of weird. Also, as a nigga from Tallahassee, FL, it absolutely appeals to my heart to see country and ratchet folks taking part in a celebratory occasion. Nelly put on for his city here and, if you from the country or really the south period, you can’t help but see your own home in this video.

Now on to the fashion:

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You’re gonna see Nelly put on a lot for his city through jerseys in the video because throwback jerseys were everything in the 2000s. You got the biggest sizes that were still attuned to your body and you got the matching hat and shoes and you were the dopest nigga at whatever party you went to. One thing about this I don’t want you to lose sight of though is that behind Nelly is a plethora of grade-A, quality birds. I mean the type of birds that are specific to your city and were always dressed in a way that was just trashy enough. It is a true high-wire act pulling off a quality hoefit and these women were scientists. God bless them.

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I mean look at em: Charlie’s Hoodrats ready to save the day. The Hoochie Justice League. The woman up front is especially noteworthy because she’s wearing a dinner napkin as a shirt and it is fantastic. The gold is shimmering against her body and she’s got the shades to go with it because she ain’t checking for you, nigga.

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Nelly is committed to showing out for every St. Louis sport in this video. Here he has an immaculate St. Louis Blues hockey sweater with the matching hat that has his name on the back which, again, so perfect for that time period. The video girl in this scene keeps it simple with the tank and the bandana round her head like she 2pac. She seems to be waring a collar around her neck. The accessories here are pretty great: Nelly’s wrist is covered in an almost irresponsible amount of diamonds and this woman’s collar gives off a hint of danger to her, like she might be down for some wild shit and you will have no say in the manner. Of course that could just be me revealing more about myself than necessary. And don’t think I don’t notice that this is happening in a rims shop, one of my favorite former set pieces of old music videos.

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Everything I could say about these jeans have already been said: https://twitter.com/Sixfever/status/634062109953888256

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The fellas to the left are wearing Vashon jerseys, as in Vashon High School in St. Louis, Missouri. That’s some real deal representing. That’s on some 2015 hypebeast kid at a music festival streetwear moves. “Country Grammar” really is ahead of its time.

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This guy is just everything. This is who I wanna be: the older dude who brings the grill to the block parties and the HBCU tailgates. He’s dressed like a Que that pledged 20 years ago. He’s got the pink apron, the baggy, military-like coat with the “hata blocka” shades on and, my nigga, look at all that damn hot sauce. Everything is lit.

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Speaking of life goals, here are some fatherhood goals. Not only is my mans shining with the Big Daddy Kane jewelry but he got himself a championship belt and a tiny championship belt for his son which is THE GODDAMN CUTEST THING EVER AND I WANT IT. BOTH THE CHILD AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP BELT FOR SAID CHILD. This is incredible parenting; as the bible says, train up a child in the way they should go.

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Here is your introduction to Vokal. If you didn’t know, Vokal was started in 97 by Nelly, his cousin Yomi Martin and Nick Loftis. Like any other fashion brand you and your friends start, they used to sell the shirts around town, particularly at concerts for Nelly’s rap group The St. Lunatics. Vokal had success because Nelly had success, which is good for them since the clothes weren’t that good. Nelly, if nothing else, was a visionary about his career and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he blew up the way he did.

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More jerseys! Nelly’s gotta be a real sport’s nerd to rock a jersey of offensive lineman Orlando Pace. That’s some serious football fandom. Also I love that he’s wearing the jersey backwards. Football jerseys will be back in style eventually and when they are, I’ll be rocking all of mine backwards I can promise you that. And don’t think I forgot about you bruh with the Kurt Warner joint and the golden durag flyin’ high in the friendly sky, ready to save the world and get ya waves.

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My dog in the back got on picasso on the shirt with the matching durag. Jesus wept.

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Boy, that’s a shiny, shimmy ass jean jacket. That shit might blind me more than the jewelry my guy. Does your durag say “SQUAD” because I might forgive the jacket if it does.

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Is that Sean John? I bet that’s Sean John. Sean John used to make them hot ass, living carpet plush track suits like they were bout to kill the game. They did kill the game though, from dehydration from wearing those shits for too long.

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You can’t tell from this picture but if you watch the video you’ll see that dude is hitting a jig while he cuts hair, which, no. You stand perfectly still while you line my fade up fam. I’m not trying to look fucked up just because your giddy ass wanna “bounce to the beat” in front of cameras. I don’t play that shit. Another red flag, he’s get the Ne-yo fedora on. I don’t trust barbers who’s haircut I can’t see, that feels too much like a setup. Look at lil homie’s face –see the stress in his whole demeanor. He know and I’m so sorry it had to be him.

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I want this woman’s shirt on the right. It is dope, It’s colorful but not too gross or busy. So many wigs in the back by the way. I’m pretty certain I can pull off at least 3 of them.

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She got the African print turban and this orange scrambled porn pantsuit. She was tumblr before tumblr was around to appreciate her style. Please retroactively give this woman 500 million reblogs.

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Oh man here to begin. I’m almost certain homie in the middle got a burner on him. That’s the official jacket of niggas holding a piece. Homie on the left fit so big he can’t even fit his left hand through –nigga looking like hood mega man. And my dog got the fitted cap barely holding onto his bandana-covered head. T.I. stole his whole swag and I’m inconsolable. My brother on the right with the heavy jean jacket reppin one time for FUBU. YOUR RE-RENNAISSANCE WILL SOON RETURN FUBU I PROMISE.

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In the black version of “Where’s Waldo”, everybody feels like Waldo can stay wherever the fuck he at :(.

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A fanciful scarf and a Jason hockey mask even though he’s not a deranged psychopathic killer (assumedly), this is our one hipster for this music video. Also, I see you in the back with the ultimate urban fashion marker, the negro cartoon shirt.

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More urban fashion markers: the combination Jeans and Jean skirts. And they’re even ripped to immaculate perfection. We’re so fucking innovative, I can’t stand it.

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I don;t know why I’m so drawn to this woman. Something about her sequin hand towel disguised as a shirt has set off all my internal alarms and I’m turned on by it in a way that makes me ashamed of myself. The hood girl fashions in this video are all wonderful in different ways and I just know I would see this outfit on someone at the local hole in the wall club and I’d probably be drawn to her all night. Something must be matter with me. Something isn’t the matter with this video though. It is perfect and we don’t appreciate it enough.

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.

I was 24 the first time it dawned on me that I will never be cool. I don’t mean cool in a general sense of course, but cool in the way that all people want to secretly believe themselves to be: in a way that says I exude attitude and mystery everywhere I go and you can’t help but want to follow. When I was a kid, I knew that when I grew up I was going to Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Denzel Washington and Andre 3000 rolled up into one human being–it was going to be against the law to be me.

No matter how old I got, I always clinged to the belief that at some point I would pull it off eventually. My arms just needed to be a little bigger, I just needed to be a little taller, my beard just needed to connect a little better, my walk had to be just a little more evocative, my one-liners had to be just a little cleaner and sharper; I just needed to be a little more believable. At 24, I accepted that I was who I was and I could be bummed about that or I could embrace it and make it work for me in any way possible: I’ve been trapped somewhere in between these two options for the past two years. Nobody wants to believe they aren’t cool in that old-fashioned Hollywood way but the majority of us just aren’t and, for me, the internet was the first thing to let me know this harsh truth.

When I was a junior in high school, I joined Myspace and my entire reality would shatter before my feet. Before social media, I had no real perspective on my self or my place in people’s lives: I got along with most people and as a result, I considered them all to be close friends of mine. I can look back at this and see how stupid it was but I fancied myself important purely out of my commitment to being incredibly friendly. Then Myspace and the “top 8” came into my life and nothing was the same. The top 8 became my judge and jury, the only authority that could tell me my fate; more than the fact that I was in nobody’s top 8 at first, I was mad at myself for how much power I gave it over me. It meant everything, it dictated my behavior for the rest of high school–be it trying to hard to be friends with people or living with even more resentment–and it was my nightly obsession.

My one saving grace was message boards: more specifically the Simpson’s message boards I was a member of. They ultimately became the friends I always wanted by giving me a safe space to be a true dork, while also putting me onto music, movies and books that would change my life. I had finally achieved a comfortable online existence and tried to use my new knowledge and online confidence in my actual life. I don’t know how successful it truly was but I felt cool and maybe that’s good enough, or it was at least.

Someday we’ll tell our kids that twitter used to be really fun. They’ll laugh and laugh and laugh and you’ll laugh with them because it sounds just as ridiculous to you, even though you know it was fun. Twitter was the heir apparent to the internet message board in a way neither myspace nor facebook ever tried to be; it was fun, goofy, insightful and full of community in a way that was inviting. But then attention became the new preferred currency and being right on the internet was the best high you could get without actually using drugs. Either you were doing the “reading” or you the one being “read” or “blooped” or “dragged for filth”. Corporations took advantage of our lust for attention and used our own hashtags to sell shit to us and then people started getting famous for their tweets which made a whole bunch more people try to get famous for their tweets the same way. Suddenly, this place full of flawed but personable people became a shark pit and what’s most annoying about the whole thing is: nobody actually cares about learning or growing on here. The idea of being the smartest, loudest, funniest, most correct person all the time is so intoxicating for a lot of people that they don’t even bother actually trying to be any of those things. They just declare themselves as such and move on.

I’ve been trapped in this web myself from time to time and I’ve broken out because honestly fuck all of it. Whatever good comes out of it seems to be more of an outlier than the standard. I came to be obsessed with the internet because I was a lonely, uncool kid trying to find some self-confidence and knowledge; ultimately, it turned into all the things I was running from: high school, parental figures, the real world, jobs and people who’d never love me.

In a way, I feel like we let the internet down. This was supposed to be a place for the real people to express themselves and seek a refuge from the depression of real life but where there are enough people, there’s enough confrontation and brands there to sell you shit and turn you into a product for consumption. The internet is not your friend, it doesn’t love you and to be honest, it has no reason to. We take everything wonderful and turn it into trash. Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like to destroy this thing and build something new and better, but then I remember that that would just be another excuse to destroy something beautiful by indulging in our worser selves.

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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.

Bosco – Boy

Initially, my impression when committing to listening to this record was that I was in store for more whispery Alt-R&B tumblr music. In some ways that’s what this is but the saving grace is that Bosco has a really good voice that is used in really effective ways most of the time on this record. That’s always been the saving grace for these sorts of records: you can pack with all the neat sound effects and echoes you want, but it always comes down to whether or not the voice of the singer can make a big enough impression on the listener. More than that, my biggest issue with this genre is that it is not nearly interesting enough to get away with being all attitude/image with very little introspection if any at all. The songs are all good and in the end that wins out over any cynicism I have about the style of music; my hope is that as she releases more music, we get more of an idea of the singer is behind the persona.

 

Janine And The Mixtape – XXEP

I didn’t care for the last JATM record: it was fine enough but wasn’t anything that stood out in any real way. I found much more satisfaction in this one. XXEP feels more fully fleshed out and worked on. The sound is reminiscent of 90s-early 00s R&B/pop and her earnestness is endearing in a way that tugs at the emotional teenager inside of you. I don’t know that I can ever get behind a tender, love ballad version of DMX’s “Up In Here” but aside from that jarring moment, this is a small, lovely record that’s easy to get through and embrace.

 

Grace – Memo

This is a really traditional soul record in a lot of ways. Grace has a powerful voice that she belts out to full power and versatility with a production aesthetic that is junkier, busier and, in a lot of ways, outdated for what is popular in the genre now. Yet it works for what it is: Grace is a really good singer bringing a matter-of-fact confidence and attitude about womanhood and sex to old school aesthetics. It’s a “Love & Hip-Hop” soundtrack of a EP and, yes, I mean that in a very good way. There’s something freeing about a blunt singer like Grace and as comforting as the music is here, I’d be interested in hearing if there are other more original sounds that can work in her favor.

 

Rico Love – Turn The Lights On

I did not think this record would be good at all. Maybe that’s unfair to Rico Love–who’s made good music for other good artists–but my expectations were considerably low after being either disappointed or turned off by every single he’s released (ugh, let’s all forget “Bitches Be Like”). Needless to say, I was presently surprised by it. Another case of a strong songwriter making mainstream R&B that isn’t hopelessly shallow or derivative. This record is passionate, lust-filled and introspective in a way I wasn’t prepared for and it triumphs because of it.

 

Miss Ester Dean – Self-Titled

This was my favorite of the R&B records I listened to for this post. It’s twice the “Love & Hip-hop”-esque ruminations on relationships and sex that Grace’s record was. Dean is confrontational, aggressive and self-assured even when she’s lifting the curtain on personal insecurity. It sounds like every rap record being played in clubs and parties at the moment but they suit her. It feels akin to Dream’s latest EP from April in both tone and sound; Dean’s voice has strength and character–you want to go along with the ride she’s taking you on. I even liked the Mustard produced one… mostly. SN: I hope records like this will signal the start of Keyshiacore because music influenced by Keyshia Cole would be a great thing.

 

MNEK – Small Talk

This is my second favorite of the group. This is also sort of a cheat because MNEK is more in line with Dance music and homages to the 90’s Techno-wave then it is with R&B, MNEK sings with all the character and conviction of a kid who grew up listening to Boys II Men records. The songs ooze the musicality of a Luther Vandross but over the synth keyboard and bass of songs that sound like funkier versions “Like The Desert Miss The Rain”. In a lot of ways, it’s most reminiscent of the Whitney Houston record “It’s Not Right, But It’s Ok” or last year’s MJB record. More than anything else, it’s a good record that makes people who don’t like dancing want to dance. It’s either the soundtrack to start the party or the one that ends it, just dependent on how you feel that night.

 

George Miller made a movie that looks like a bump of the finest cocaine. It’s visually aggressive, it’s incredibly fast and extremely chaotic despite being a laser-focused story and production. Mad Max: Fury Road is extremely unique in the current Summer blockbuster climate: it’s fast, the story is thin yet fully formed, it allows women to be the focus and heroes in a way that feels genuine and not purely as bait to appeal to PC culture and most importantly, it’s just a fun ride. There’s nothing quite like it right now and it doesn’t seem to want to do any of the things that other summer movies/sequels/reboots want to do which is, namely, to sell toys and set up for the next 7 movies in line.

Mad Max: Fury Road brings back the titular Road Warrior, now played by Tom Hardy, into a depleted yet still technically thriving desert landscape known as the Citadel, where a ghastly beast-man kept alive by a makeshift breathing apparatus by the name of Immortan Joe, rules over the entire fortress: from the scarce supplies of water released from a sewage system at the top of his fortress based on his whims to the manufacturing of women’s breastmilk to the use of women’s bodies for the purposes of making more children to fight in his wars in the name of their God.

The movie starts with Max’s kidnapping at the hands of Immortan Joe’s soldiers where he is turned into a blood bank for the weakest yet most energetic of the soldiers, Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When a one-armed tank driver named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads a band of rebels tired of being used by Immortan Joe for reproduction on an escape through the Wasteland in search of a new home, she’s hunted down by every soldier and bloodthirsty, war-mongering lunatic in the Citadel. 

In the midst of their escape, Furiosa and the women are joined by Max and forced into working together in order for the both of them to escape their dire straits. I worry about whether this description functions properly to state what this movie is about since so much of the movie simply moves without feeling the need to explain itself. Truthfully, it doesn’t need to: There’s a group of dictators, warlords and sheep and there’s a group of underdogs trying to escape them is enough to sustain a movie whose primary goal is action, excitement and visual spectacle.

The dialogue isn’t scant necessarily but it is small, you learn just enough to know that Furiosa is seeking to make something right from her past and that she cares about protecting the women. You learn enough about the Citadel and Immortan Joe to know that this a man who wants an endless supply of soldiers to work under his hand, that the Citadel is full of people who know to worship him as a God and that children, and as a result women, are tools in keeping this order. You also learn what drives a character like Nux and that Max is ultimately still trying to atone for the family he lost in the original Mad Max.

Much has been by critics and cultural writers about the feminist agenda of the film–a thought that hadn’t crossed my mind until I heard a lot of commotion about complaints from meninist groups and internet trolls. I suppose the film is feminist in a broad sense. Despite the title, the real star of this film is Charlize Theron and her band of women who are running away from patriarchy essentially. The phrase “who destroyed the world” comes up a few times and it’s pretty safe to assume that the answer is men (that’s certainly the answer in real life). There’s a lot of very clear ideas about toxic masculinity: Immortan Joe’s soldier’s are deviants obsessed with sacrificing themselves in the name of their Lord, they are brutish in the way they speak  and both the violence and the vehicles are cartoonishly excessive. I mean there’s a guy whose job it is to play a garish axe guitar over a giant bass system on the top of a monster truck like vehicle while flamethrowers go off behind him; it is a winking parody of everything about masculinity.

At its core though, it is a movie about underdogs and people who just want peace and hope. You could equally use the film as a referendum on religion or with capitalism. Immortan Joe has an army of sacrificial lambs excited to die for a cause they assume is meaningful in the name of their God so that they can be welcomed into heaven. The Citadel is a society with a clear upper class and lower class that are treated terribly and children are bred to bulk up the armies that make sure the Citadel continues to have gas and water from other enemy territories. These are the foundations of most apocalyptic action films. The Have-Nots vs The Haves and the influence of religion in our wars.

That’s not to say the feminist coding of Mad Max: Fury Road is unfounded. This is still a movie with a female heroine and a band of women at the forefront of the action who either fight side-by-side with Max or utilize Max as a partner to fight for them. Max is never the leader; he’s the muscle at times and he even comes up with a plan in the movie but nobody thinks to look to him for what they should do. There’s no superhero movie trope of the woman who has to prove that she’s just as tough as a man and there’s no backstory or desire to sort of showcase the femininity of the women even though they’re extremely tough as some sort of misguided attempt at nuance. It’s feminist in the way it lets the women be human beings stuck in the same grim world as Max and surviving in the exact same way.

Speaking of superhero movie, in a Marvel run world, this movie really does feel like a bottle of cold water after days spent walking in the desert.  Watching the latest Avengers’ film is a lot to take in: it’s noisy, cluttered, all over the place, full of CGI, full of story, full of backstory and full of pounds and pounds of exposition. Everything happens and yet at the end it all feels disposable; I can’t imagine that’s completely accidental. The thing about these movies is that they’re one long commercial for the next seven movies. Nothing feels essential or valuable because nothing in these movies is essential or valuable. They’re all based on comics that have existed for years and hell, characters have died and come back so, does any of this really matter.

Mad Max, despite being the fourth movie in a series, is fresh in the sense that it has a straightforward story and it’s not particularly concerned with the how of all of this. There’s no backstory explanation and there’s no side story or extra baggage tacked on. This is a movie celebrating spectacle and insanity. There’s nothing like it right now and that’s both a positive and a sad reality.

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