philosofunk

what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin


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Atomic Turtle (Graffiti #24)

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“Whenever he walked on the street it turned glass
On his lucky rat’s paw in the crap drawer
All the world’s a stage, where’s the trap door, slackjaw
Logic, to keep your mind in the project”

-MF Doom, Trap Door

Binghamton is full of juxtapositions and paradoxes. In this piece, “Atomic Turtle”, the gray Binghamton sky and urban decrepit rawness make for the perfect apocalyptic environment. But, what is that there? A turtle. Yes, a turtle. This piece speaks to me for two reasons. First, the representation of an atomic explosion is much harder than one would think to capture, and this artist captured it successfully. Secondly, the turtle’s expression is up to interpretation. Is he a separate piece, or is he watching the explosion? His face grimaces a bit. He is a tough turtle.

In Going to Dangerous Areas in Pursuit of Art, I explained why I am willing to put my personal safety at risk to capture obscure works of art in hardcore urban areas. Most of these places have been abandoned for good reasons, its not uncommon for me to find needles, crack pipes, and condoms strewn throughout the places I frequent to monitor any new pieces. I’ve developed a demeanor that others on the street recognize as legitimate; I have indeed spent some time in colorful places and for a time lived a wild lifestyle. Some of us live dangerously because there is beauty in danger, the unknowing and the darkness of places that are beyond the bounds of humanity. There is beauty in the decrepit.

The turtle walks to the atomic explosion, unclear if he sees it or not.

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Favorite Rapper Series #2: Ol’ Dirty Bastard [Part 1]

Ol Dirty Bastard was probably the first rapper I should have done, but instead I did Lil’ Kim. I was debating if I should do someone recent (ASAP ROCKY will be next) but Ol’ Dirty is my first foray into love for hip-hop, his style something I didn’t understand but craved. I first saw him on BET (Black Entertainment Channel) at aged twelve, in 2000, with this video:

Like the reaction I talk about in the post about Lil’ Kim, I distinctly remember that I did not know how to interpret it but instantly loved it. At age twelve for a young white girl in the white suburbs in a school district noted for elitism, I had little to no experience with Blaxploitation movies or the frank adult themes that the video explored. It would be several more years until I could understand the narrative he was presenting. But I loved it.

I knew Ol’ Dirty was making a commentary on what it was to be Black. I knew that he was making fun of something (Blaxploitation films, in this case). I knew that it had to do with sexuality (ODB fathered thirteen children, for one, for two Blaxploitation’s association with titillating themes such as prostitution and nudity) and acts of criminality (in this video, drugs, violence, and generally wild lifestyles which was widely mirrored by “Dirt McGirt”‘s long-term associations with criminality). All of themes, raw sexuality coupled with acts association with outcasted peoples such as violence, drugs, wildness were common in ODB’s work. He was a thoroughly self aware artist while refusing to give up the lifestyle that made him famous.
If you listened to “Baby Got Your Money” you can hear him rap about knowing the feds were watching him.

Indeed, in my own hometown, it is the legend that he used to come up to Bing and sell crack in the ‘hood even after the Wu Tang has made in mainstream music.

Ol Dirty was from Brooklyn, New York, and was a part of the Wu Tang Clan who mostly originated from Staten Island. He died in 2004 from a drug overdose. Primarily active in the 1990s but still recording up until he died, Dirty’s is considered an original gangster (OG) of rap music. His music is realistic within the experience of growing up Black and in New York City with dire economic experience. The auditory experience of Ol Dirty is one that recreates the places that made the composite of his life. In “Harlem World” he brings you into what is presumably Harlem during the 1980’s, a time of AIDS and violence,

Ol Dirty often has beats that are haunting and eerie. This is a creation of sound that carries into modern rap, in Drill music for example. The recreation of the chaos of the urban atmosphere is palpable and fills your head. It should be noted that Ol Dirty Bastard is the first of his kind within the sphere of his rapping style (extremely eccentric, bizarre, and outside what was typically heard of the era), and has an extremely distinctive sound. He got his name from the kung-fu movie “Ol’ Dirty and the Bastard” but Method Man has also been quoted as saying his name is significant to the fact that “there is no father to his style”. Indeed, he is considered something of a mythical Wu Tang member.

Often misunderstood for the constant recurrences of bouts of mental illness that manifested in bizarre behavior, frequent crack cocaine and other drug use, and occasional stints in jail, Ol Dirty is also the most misunderstood member of the Wu. A recent New Yorker Magazine article that chronicled the most significant figures in New York hip-hop ever (of which Jay-Z was featured on…how oddly capitalistic of you, Hov), dissed him with smugness. He is amongst the most irresponsible a citizen as a citizen can get, yet he is a respectable figure for the way he lived his life and his refusal to give up authenticity within the context of an artist being a manifestation of his art.

It wasn’t like he didn’t know his life was a mess. He mocks himself in “Drug Free”

He starts the song with “Don’t get High” and them immediately “Cocained-the fuck up/paranoid as a motha…yo I’m paranoid as a fucka!” followed by “nigga I’m tired of gettin’ high like that/stop fuckin’ with me”. Like what he was doing in the video for “Baby Got Your Money”, he reflected reality back at itself and then mocked it for the absurdity of it’s existence. Perhaps this is why he is so misunderstood; he is so advanced as an artist that there are truly so few artists that pursue his way of creating. The song ends with the lyric “Kids! Don’t! Do! Drugs!/drug free! drug free! drug free!” which ends with the infamous goodness of Dirty’s singing. He is entertaining in his insanity while also reflecting the duality of his reality; utter sadness and ecstatic energy.

As I get older I am more able to relate to Dirty and understand what he is mocking about life. I knew what he was doing when I was twelve, but (thankfully), had not had enough of life’s absurdity to understand what he was portraying. He has my heart ever since.


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Consciousness of Segregation

The other morning I was watching Morning Joe sipping my coffee, and he featured a segment discussing which state is the most segregated in modern day America. What do you think it would be, somewhere in the South? Somewhere in the Mid-West?

Wait for it….
It’s New York. My home state, the place I love, where I come from and the place that made me me. I’m from upstate New York, a place of freezing winters (but gorgeous springs, summers, and falls), small towns, rolling hills, and delicious craft beers.  New York City, the worlds greatest city, is a wonderful place to visit and I always have a great time whenever I’m there (Second on Second gay bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn all day holla, even Staten Island shanenigans). I really do love New York. While the culture of New York is rich, but apparently, also, one of unprecedented racial segregation.

I know that downstate New York is a place unlike any other, specifically Long Island, New York. For those of you unfamiliar with the geology of New York, Long Island is basically the conglomerate of rock matter formed from the glaciers that cut through upstate New York to that created my beloved rolling hills. It is basically what happened as the result of the glaciers taking a dump, something us upstaters like to point out to often times self-righteous Long Islanders who think that upstate New York is one great bumblefuck. New York City is very racially segregated, but Long Island is the section of the state that is primarily responsible for the massive segregation. Indeed, it is the pattern in Long Island that one town is white, the other non-white, one town is white, the next town is non-white. The non-whites often work in the white towns, and the people in the white towns usually work in the city.

This pattern of racial segregation has allowed low-income socioeconomic status of non-whites to continue and has created a racial barrier to equal education due to the way the tax-code funds schools. If you even think of trying to have a conversation with a white Long-Islander about redistribution of the tax-code with regards to schools, you will get a long-winded denial to the legitimacy of this idea (I know this from attempting to have the conversation with several Long Island white people during my college years). The idea simply does not hold clout amongst the most segregated part of America.

There is a lot of talk about how “races” “naturally” “want” to live amongst each other. Personally, some of my most favorite moments have been with groups of people where racial diversity was the operating factor within the context of the social interaction. While it is true that it is “easier” to identify people with similar thoughts and beliefs, this does not have to boil down to race. Social phenomenon such as youth culture, sub-cultures, or alternative ways of living can bring people together regardless of previous ways up upbringing. I know this personally from experience, having lived a fringe and alternative lifestyle for many years. My experience was multi-racial and my ability to relate to others transcended my whiteness because I was aware of my privilege, and as a result of willingness to give it up, I was able to take and heed criticism that I believe other white people would not be able to tolerate. A lot of white people accuse people of color of not wanting to interact with us, but my rebuttal to that is that in the majority of white people, there is a willful ignorance while paradoxical embrace of the social workings of white privilege. And who would want to hang out with people who are actively committed to denying your equality while denying that that is their intention? It has been my experience that beecause I am willing to give these social workings up, people of color have remarked to me that it is easier to interact with me than most people of my race. I take this as a huge compliment.

It is a conscious, calculated move to structure a society where inter-racial interactions are limited and depersonalized. Downstate New York has mastered this consciousness, to the detriment of embracing an outlook on life where interactions with others who are not completely like ones self are valued.

While writing this post, I’ve been listening to Reem’s newly dropped ill track titled “Chicago Conscious (Remix” featuring Lil Herb, King Louie, and Spenzo. Like most drill rap, the beat is haunting and invigorating.

The rappers talk about a uniquely Black experience in this country, that of having no other options but to conform to a gangsta lifestyle in order to put food on the table. Reem raps “comin’ from where I’m comin’ from/you’d probably loose it”, “to my niggas is my brothers/and I treat ’em like my brothers/to my brothers is my niggas/so I treat ’em like my brothers”, Lil’ Herb raps “dropped out of school cuz I knew I wouldn’t be shit” and “my niggas either in the streets sellin’ drugs/or they sleepin'”, King Louis raps “don’t talk to the police/no talk” and “touch me you die/no worries/lyin’ niggas no stories”, and finally Spenzo raps “nigga I’ve been self-made since twelfth grade”. These men talk about reliance on your squad, your niggas, your brothers, while remarking “lookin’ in the mirror only nigga that can relate”. The juxtaposition of having close friends, “my niggas”, while remarking the omnipresent feeling of isolation is stark and disarming to the listener. If this song does not illustrate the effects of a social situation engineered and executed to cause isolation of a racial group, I do not know what song possibly could. These rappers come from Chiraq which I have wrote about a few times, a Black neighborhood of Chicago completely segregated as a stronghold for intra-racial violence, murder and mayhem.

The rappers also make it a point to show that they dropped out of school, or simply disregarded it, for lack of personal benefit. This is also a phenemeon shown in New York where only 58% of Black and Latino students graduate from high school in the New York City area. If you click the link, the article is a New York Post piece titled “An Unconscionable Silence”. I very much would like to dispute this. This is a very deliberate and calculated effort on the part of White America, to be silent about the interworking’s to deny equality of opportunity, achievement, and advancement to non-whites.

While towns on Long Island do not have the violence problem that Chiraq has, but there are markedly more economic opportunities for everyone in that area. This does not stop the downstate drug trade, of which has historically ripped Black sections of Brooklyn with gun violence and gang vendettas.

The typical white experience simply does not include the knowledge of illegal activities as a normal way of life to make money. Most white people I know who have gotten into the drug trade have done so out of desire for excitement, though obviously lower income whites do participate in illegal activity for economic gain. However, social phenomenon such as racialized segregation cause these racial disparities in what is considered normative life to continue for lack of active social acceptance of the underpinnings and causes of the criminalization of being Black. It can more than definitely be read that historically and in modern times it is a crime to be Black, and white structures have done and continue to ensure this is a lived truth.

I unfortunately do not see New York changing any time soon. With denial of white privilege and its interworking’s, it will probably only get stronger. In New York, you go hard. I encourage my fellow whites to go hard in the other direction, to embracing racial diversity, and looking at their experience of privilege to the detriment of their fellow New York citizens.


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Favorite Rapper Series #1: Lil Kim

When I was twelve, I was at my cousin’s house who was about seven years older than me, and on the living room table was the album N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S K.I.M with this album cover

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I remember thinking something along the lines of “holy crap”. It cracked my brain open, made me feel a little funny, and excited me. I listened to “How Many Licks”, saw the video, and knew that this Lil Kim chick was a bitch I wanted to roll with. Ever since then, she has had my unyielding loyalty.

Why did I respond to Lil Kim in such an intense way? Several reasons. First, though she has had her share of criticism for not always maintaining the high standard she is able to achieve with her music, she is a very unique artist. Her blatant sexuality is so palpable and explosive and she is so unashamed about it. During the 1990s, male machismo in rap music often caused commentaries relating to the fuckability of a female. I enjoy most of this music without annoyance to the subject matter I could find offensive because my love of hip-hop overpowers the negativity I could experience as a female listening to music that often referring to women as bitches and hos. I don’t mind being called a bitch, in fact I embrace it, but I’m not excited about being called a ho. But I get over this. I would be unable to listen to some of my favorite rappers if I was to get too into self-righteous oppositional feminism about rap music. Many of the white girls I grew up with scolded me for liking rap because “its sooooo misogynistic”. I thought they were lame and needed a little exposure to real life. But when I listened to Kim, I didn’t need to worry about that dynamic. Me and Lil’ Kim knew that there was misogyny everywhere in the world, and it didn’t stop us from loving Biggie who once wrote, “But you was my bitch, the one who’d never snitch/Love me when I’m broke or when I’m filthy fuckin rich/And I admit, when the time is right, the wine is right/I treat you right, you talk slick, I beat you right in a song titled “Me and my Bitch” which is speculated to be about Kim herself.

Second, Lil’ Kim keeps her attitude and doesn’t back down. When Nicki Minaj decided to be a dumbass and not show respect to her elders, Kim came out with an absolutely ill diss song,

This song is epic. Nicki Minaj decided in her original diss song against Kim to sample Biggie’s “Warning”, a truely disrespectful and unforgivably rude move considering that she is attempting to make fun of Kim while using Kim’s dead lover’s song as background beats. Nicki, you’re an amateur and not very intelligent for that. Indeed, Nicki Minaj has little to no actual street cred. Lil’ Kim has done time in prison as a result of legal defiance for refusing to roll on her co-conspirators in addition to being one of the loves of one of the greatest rappers of all time. Kim spits ” I seen ‘em come, I seen’ em go, still I remain./Sweetie, you goin’ on your 14th minute of fame,
I’m over 10 years strong still running the game/Cut the comparisons I’m in the legendary lane./Fighting for a spot? Child please, I’m solidified./With my hands tied, you couldn’t beat me if you bitches tried.” In my opinion, Nicki needs to sit down and go back to school. Kim talks in this song about not being afraid to call your enemies on their bullshit, “Thermometer in hand and I’m comin’ for your ass.
Who you think you gettin’ past?/‘I see right through you,’ your whole shit is made of glass.”. This is perhaps one of her best songs ever recorded because she just does not stop until Minaj’s ass is shredded, and that’s one big ass (ain’t nothing wrong with that, I’m just sayin’). As a hip-hop scholar, I took notes on this song and how to be a full fledged unyielding bitch. Thanks Kim.

Third, Lil’ Kim showed me that it was okay to be a freak. Be a freak in the bed, be a freak in the street, don’t apologize for your freakiness, and when people don’t get you, get even freakier because why the fuck not? Its fun to be a freak because you can’t stop us, and when you try, we laugh at you and walk away. We also know that you secretly envy us for our ability to not give a fuck about your opinion. She showed me that it was alright to be sexually assertive, something White feminism has talked a big talk about but hasn’t really demonstrated with tremendous success. I don’t know what Kim’s thoughts are on feminism, but I have a suspicion that she is beyond that shit. She know shes an equal to these males, shes proved it and and doesn’t need to talk about it, its her actions that show us shes got the bark, the bite, the talk and the motherfuckin’ walk. Dress how you want, fuck how you want, and be what you want.

Thank you Kim, Queen Bitch Supreme Bitch, and congratulations on expecting a little princess.


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Can White People Rap?

My father is an avid blues and jazz fan, and growing up these were the musical genres most heard in the house. Famously, there is an essentialist question within blues, that being,

“Can White people sing the blues?”

For those crying “racism!” or “reverse racism!”, please relax. In previous posts I discussed why I as a White person see it necessary for my people to participate in the destruction of a system of privilege that wholesale benefits us (a later post I am planning will hopefully demonstrate the mechanics of superficial white privilege benefit for Whites while actually causing large scale harm to the entire society). I am not trying to attack White identity in this post, but pose a question about how our identity works.

The essential nature of the blues is human despair translated into haunting music, beautiful sounds evoking the ultimate sadness the conditions of human misery can cause. Listening to the blues is a wonderful experience because of the richness of the music but also an ongoing understanding of how people can create in the face of adversity and despair. The blues is based on the causes and conditions of Black Southern life; poverty, hatred, barriers to advancement, general terror and the threat of rape/murder. Black Southerners faced constant degradation, and in many instances had to participate in their own degradation in order to economically survive, which is reflected in Blues. While there were certainly poor Whites who endured conditions of poverty and misery, it should be noted that the experience was not the same. Without this extra layer of despair, White Blues performers have often been noted to lack a certain intrinsic musical quality that is found in all Black music performers.  

There is some debate as to the origin of rap/hip hop music. Some assert that rap music started in the Bronx during the 1970s as a direct result of Black political power. However, the Watts Prophets are widely credited with being the first hip hop group, formed out of the disarray of the Watts Riots, a race riot that took place in Los Angeles in 1965. In any event, this music is directly tied to Black political power and has roots in its story-telling quality of Black life and philosophy standing in contrast to ruling White privilege and power. Like the Blues, classic hip/hop and much of later hip hop takes the subject matter of what Black life consisted of. As I argued in Chiraq, that tradition still continues though it is often misunderstood because the lyrics may not be understood as political, intellectual, or significant.

Two of the most significant rap/hip hop figures in history, Tupac and the Wu Tang Clan, are collectively the most significant lyricists in the history of hip hop. Tupac was born to a Black Panther who months before his birth faced a three-hundred federal prison sentence. The Wu Tang Clan are a group of Staten Islander gangstas (and Brooklyn, holla Ol Dirty Bastard) who could be described as enlightened warriors.

From the Wu, “I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies/and hypothesis can’t define how I be droppin these/
mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery/Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me/Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits/tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics” a song called “Triumph”. If you don’t think that is pure poetry, you have clearly never been very literate.

From Tupac, “This time the truth’s gettin told, heard enough lies/I told em fight back, attack on society/If this is violence, then violent’s what I gotta be/If you investigate you’ll find out where it’s comin from/Look through our history, America’s the violent one/Unlock my brain, break the chains of your misery/This time the payback for evil shit you did to me/They call me militant, racist cause I will resist/You wanna censor somethin, motherfucker censor this!/My words are weapons, and I’m steppin to the silent/Wakin up the masses, but you, claim that I’m violent” a song called “Violent”.

Both the Wu Tang and Tupac can be viewed as warriors. Both are regarded in the classic gangsta rap genre, but they are more than “gangstas”. They are poets who reflect the situation Black people have faced in the reality of the complete destruction of Black political power that was engineered by COINTELPRO, a government counter-intelligence program that is worth researching to understand the politick of White supremacy within American policies. Without legitimate power, lack of economic opportunities, and an unequal education system, rap music took the place to tell the dire story.

As a footnote, I exempt Eminem from this question about “Can White People Rap”? Eminem cut his teeth in Detroit and is a skilled lyricist and recognized as a legitimate rap talent within the hip-hop community. While lacking the experience of Blackness, he was raised in poverty, crime, and by his own acknowledgment participated in illegal activity in order to survive. I believe that like myself, Eminem calls bullshit on the White privilege system, “surely hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem, only in Boston,/After it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom” from the song “White America”.

The White rappers I’m talking about are people like Macklemore and Iggy Azalea. They both make me want to vomit. Macklemore, for his righteous co-op of the problems of marginalized peoples and Iggy because she is ear-meltingly without talent, admonishing how she is a “bad bitch” while coming nowhere close to the likes of Lil’ Kim (the queen bitch, the supreme bitch, and the mistress of Notorious BIG and a skilled lyricist herself) or her contemporary Rihanna, who really is only considered a “bad bitch” for loving blunts. Iggy just seems to like to show off her beauty, and uses Black people as props in her videos. So edgy.

Kendrick Lamar and Azalea Banks, both of whom are Black, could be considered their counterparts. I am not going to link to Iggy or Macklemore, but here is Kendrick and Azalea

Kendrick Lamar lost to Macklemore at this past years Grammy’s. As Ol’ Dirty Bastard had historically pointed out (Wu Tang is for the Children!) the Grammy’s know shit about hip/hop when they chose Puff Duddy (sorry, Daddy) over Wu Tang. It was insulting and irritating in both instances. Iggy Azalea and Azalea Banks are compared mostly for sharing a name, but also because they came out at roughly the same time. Azalea Banks has had trouble releasing another album because, in her words, old white men don’t understand her music, a statement that may have a fair amount of merit to it. Banks historically has been through much hardship, spending some of her young adulthood as a stripper, and Lamar is from Compton and grew up in relative poverty. On the contrary, the White artists do not appear to have grown up under much hardship. It appears the greatest hardship Iggy endured was being rejected as a model for having a fat ass. Macklemore seems to have grown up in complete and total privilege.

Azalea Banks and Kendrick Lamar are not Wu Tang Clan or Tupac. Their music is without much political influence and they are not as lyrically talented. But such is that current state of hip hop. It appears that the glory days of early ’90s hip hop have been gutted commercially which started to take place in the late ’90s. There is still talent here; for example I am a big fan of ASAP Rocky, an artist who almost comes close to the glory days because he is funky and his lyrics are well crafted, but again he is no Tupac.

I titled this post “Can White People Rap” to be provocative. I’m sure many will find it offensive. I find it a little offensive myself, honestly, that I am positing that there is something intrinsic about a person’s race that enables them to do certain things better than other people of a different race. However, I’d like to get a little bit beyond that and conclude with the question of, what part of experience of identity of race causes a genre like hip-hop to be dominated by people with a common identity experience? What causes the dominant people within the racial dynamic to lack oomph within this genre? Is it because of hip-hop’s starting point was out of the Black political movements of the 1960s and 1970s and hopeful empowerment of Black people, that then turned into poetic witnessing of Black life, and then was commercialized by White record label owners? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I do know that Macklemore should not have won that Grammy, and that if ASAP Rocky wanted to ride with a fine bad white bitch, he should’ve called me and not Iggy Azalea.

Wu Tang Forever!


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Imma Let You Finish…

For anyone who doesn’t understand the reference this posts title is referring to, please google “Kayne West Taylor Swift VMAs”. For the rest of you, imma let you finish your point, Gawker.com, but I’ve really got to call you on it this time.

Errrrybody in a fuss about the hot mess Donald Sterling made with his racist remarks that were privately made to his girlfriend over the phone. Apparently he is also known as a bigot and this is not his first foray into offensive speech. Does he deserve to be fired? I do not know. Apparently the NBA constitution is secretive and it is not necessarily a fire-able offense to make racist remarks. Perhaps he should be strong armed into resigning or publicly disgraced to such a degree that he cannot reasonably continue a public life where his wealth is garnished from the labors of people who he does not want his girlfriend to be publicly associated with. I’m more comfortable with that route because then maybe he can see the surmountable damage he did to himself instead of throwing the pity party bigots like to throw when their self recognized “politically incorrect” remarks are consequentially reprimanded for their offensive nature. Oh cry for me, white America, I cannot be politically incorrect. I’d like to not see that happen.

Gawker published an interesting commentary from a black male perspective on this matter. The author, Homeboy Sandman, feels that the Clippers players did not go far enough in their protest, thus being “cowards”, while also criticizing Black culture for selling out the integrity of the Civil Rights Movement, a movement based on purposefully bearing the brunt of making ones own life uncomfortable as a result of protesting he status quo, by instead opting for the more comfortable route of “getting paid”. It is a struggle to get through he article because of the angry tone and the lack of insight as to what got us here (as previously noted I am White, but I am using “us” as a more general term for people interested in racial power dynamics). Homeboy Sandman felt that the Clippers should have wholesale refused to play on the basis that profits from their team would be going to their teams owner, and that their protest of refusing to wear their jerseys was instead a light weight cop out. If you are able to stay with the article long enough he eventually admonishes everybody for being a coward since most of us humans will forsake bravery for comfort.

Now, back to why I chose this articles title in making a reference to the Kayne West/Taylor Swift incident. West interrupted Swift to call MTV out for its mass suckage when doling out awards. Everyone with ears knows Beyoncé is the queen (sorry Bay but I can’t bow for anybody but the real Queen Bitch, the Supreme Bitch, Lil Kim). He was right but also drunk and it was a little embarrassing. In this instance, everyone with a political conscious knows that Sterling’s remarks were offensive. But to turn around and call the players for this team cowards is going too far. I’m a White lady with all my white lady privileges going for me in my white lady life. It could be embarrassing for some to watch a White lady call out a Black man on a race issue. But here I go (without Hennessy, fortunately/unfortunately).

I agree with Homeboy Sandman that shit doesn’t get done enough because people opt for comfort over challenging society. But this is where I wander on the stage during his speech. The actions taken by the people of the Civil Rights Movement were brave and remarkable and heroic because they refused to let the unnecessary hardships of institutional racism continue with a blind eye from comfortable White America. The actions were symbolic that Black people have rights equal to White people and all the other shades of people to have a level of comfort that is the quality of life we expect here in America. Homeboy Sandman is right that many burdens are still here, but his accusations that the players are cowards for not violating their contracts so they “can get paid” are offensive. In part, the Civil Rights Movement could be read as a movement so Black people could get paid, something which still hasn’t even been achieved due to educational barriers, unequal opportunity for middle class/upper class jobs as a result of these educational barriers, and discrepancies between White wealth and Black wealth. The players did what they could do to protest their bigot of an owner while not jeopardizing their careers or violating their contracts, something which could have long-term negative consequences for them and their families. In my opinion, do I think those in the Civil Rights Movement would have wanted the players to point blank walk off the court, giving Sterling a bit “Fuck you”? I cannot speak for those people, but I am going to take an educated guess that those brave people would have wanted the players to preserve their standard of living for themselves and their families, something which those brave people were working toward Black people having the ability to do (in that there was not a high enough standard of living to preserve, thus why they opted to make their sacrifice any consistency in their lives for a time in order to achieve a higher level of comfort for Black people down the line). I think that if the players had walked off the court point blank they may have left themselves open to attack from bigots for acting immature (an attitude I do not share, I am just speculating what the bigots would say) and violating their contracts.

Am I oversimplifying the issue? Yes! This is a blog, not an academic book. Is Homeboy Sandman oversimplifying the issue? Yes! But I don’t think he can hear me from his soap box.

From the article, “Let’s step it up. If every NBA player who wanted to stand up against racism vowed not to play until the Clippers’ owner resigned, it would be announced that he resigned before you were finished reading this. If he didn’t want to, someone would make him. If we boycotted every night spot that spins music about how much we love killing each other and taking and selling drugs, every single one of them would have new DJs by next week” as I have already noted, Chief Keef is a rapper Homeboy Sandman would clearly take issue with. My mother gave me some unique insight on Chief Keef and what he is doing after she read my article; he is reporting from the front lines. Rap and hip hop can be read as story telling, accounting what one knows about one’s surroundings and the stories of others in one’s life. Do the kids in Chiraq “love killing each other”? I can’t speak to what they love or do not love. They are killing each other, over the weekend four people died and thirty five people were injured. Is that an action people love to do? Imma let you finish Homeboy Sandman…but I think your statements are inaccurate and grandiose.


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Chiraq

Apparently this blog has become something of a study in violence. One of my favorite morning routines is to listen to NPR, which featured a story today that over this past weekend forty five people were shot dead in the Chiraq area.

Vice.com recently did a news podcast titled “Welcome to Chiraq” which was focused partly on the drill rapper Chief Keef and partly on the violence of the neighborhood known in Chicago as “Chiraq” due to the epidemic of unprecedented violence in the neighborhood. Additionally, CNN featured a mini-documentary series about the ills of Chicago last month. Chicago has become a kind of dystopian obsession for the American media recently. Certainly, for good reason. This is an incredible amount of violence, and a greater show of violence than areas of Los Angelos noted for gang activity or destitute cities such as Detroit. Chicago has a history of sordid affairs, noted political corruption, and racial tension, but this spasm of violence is alarming to say the least.

Which brings me to one of my passions, rap and hip-hop. Classic gangsta rap has been dead since ’94 with the deaths of our lords and saviors Biggie and Tupac, but in all seriousness the genre has not been particularly relevant for about twenty years. All hail Chief Keef, the once youtube sensation at sixteen who caused a bidding war within the widely speculated dead-in-the-water music industry all while being too young to legally purchase alcohol. In fact, Chiefy as I affectionately call him, is STILL to young to legally buy alcohol yet is widely noted as a successful heroin dealer and member of the 3hunna gang, a reference to their block, compromised of a group of fierce young men who are a part of the drill rap scene.

Drill rap is Chicago gangsta rap about guns, drugs, pussy, cash, weed, loyalty to your crew, and murder. It is hardcore and unapologetic. The recent slang words of “turnt” and “ratchet” originate from drill rap of which many white people have appropriated with ignorance to the genre. With a long catalogue of enjoyable tracks, my favorite Chief Keef song is “Everyday”

Young Chop, a fellow Chiraq resident but unaffiliated with the 3hunna crew, is the master of the beats behind Chief Keef’s tracks. The beats invoke an haunting auditory experience, very dystopian and dark. Chief Keef’s work as a whole can be read as a perspective that is uniquely a product of the dystopian reality many Black Americans have been forced into living due to institutional racism, the causes/products of which include poor schools (stemming from our tax code giving areas of wealth better public schools while wasting the minds of lower income peoples), massive violence resulting from the drug war, mass incarceration of able bodied young Black men also resulting from the drug war), and the purposeful destruction of Black families (which is evidenced in the documentary “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” if you are interested) amongst other problems. Denial of the dystopian reality perpetrated by institutional racism and white privilege are common defense tropes of white people uncomfortable with the violent reality many Black Americans live with.

A common criticism of Chief Keef is that his work is redundant, irrelevant, unintellectual and lyrics that are no more significant than “BANG BANG” (a common refrain in Chiefy’s songs). I wholeheartedly disagree with this, and not just because of my crush on Keef. However, the criticisms are not without merit. In “Kobe” he compares his alter ego, Sosa, to Kobe Bryant in enormity, a show of ego. Another song “White Bitches Love to Party”, an ode to us white women and our love of getting turnt, is not particularly profound. Taking one song by itself would be difficult to find enough substance to warrant an intellectual analysis of Keef’s work and there are enough of these tracks where it would be easy to dismiss Keef as “just another rapper”. However, if you listen to enough of his songs, I would argue that he is the Black, gangsta rap equivalent of Philip K. Dick. If you are thinking “What is this bitch smoking” I’ll answer you that I am stone cold sober in my analysis.

Chief Keef is not a stupid man. What teenager do you know who could not only survive but THRIVE in the heroin trade while living in one of the most violent, terrifying areas of America, and then come through it all with a multi-million music deal all while smoking shit tons of weed and drinking Sizzurp (a mix of codeine and Sprite)? Could YOU have pulled that off as a minor? I seriously doubt it. I am not trying to undermine Keef with his drug use, it has been studied and proven that more intelligent people are more prone to drug use/experimentation, only pointing to the fact that he is not six feet under or in prison but instead chillin’ in a Chicago suburban mansion despite his love for getting stoned while dealing with an incredibly stressful and very potentially lethal situation. Considering that he survived drug dealing during his adolescence, a period of time where the brain is not fully developed to comprehend long-term consequences, became a top dog in the drill rap scene, and was fought over by several record companies, he unarguably is of an intelligent mind.

So what do Keef’s songs say? What does Chief Keef want the world to know, aside from the fact that he loves no thotties (slang for ho)? The delivery of his songs show a world that is fraught with so much violence, so little options, and a short life expectancy that there is no room for things other than guns, getting
“high as fuck”, and fucking your brains out. The men in Keef’s crew and ‘hood live fast, short lives. There are no jobs that pay livable wages, for many the only feasible option to eat and feed one’s family is to participate in the multi-billion dollar drug industry, of which America has criminalized as a cheap cop-out to re-enslave Black men and further the degradation and abandonment Black people have suffered in this country. That the institutional racism America has perpetrated against Black people since before America was a sovereign nation is an affront to the dignity, intelligence, ability of Black Americans who have created not one not two not three but FOUR genres of music (jazz, the blues, rock’n’roll which was stolen by Whites, and rap/hip-hop). Keef’s music shows through an auditory experience the feeling of living in a harrowing situation, where there is nothing other than guns and drugs and no relief other than pussy and getting high.

He might not be spelling it out for the audience in words as eloquent as Philip K. Dick, but he is doing something smarter. Music has been conclusively shown to alter a person’s mood and perception of emotions. Listening to Chief Keef causes the vicarious experience of living in the Chiraq world propounded by Young Chop’s beats. You can feel the adrenaline of dealing when listening to

my second favorite Chief Keef song. Indeed, this song is about losing friends to the inner-city Chiraq violence, “I lost so many niggas/turned into a savage” and noting the importance of loyalty within one’s squad, “my niggas shoot for free/they’ll let you have it/my niggas do for me/no way around it”. Still want to say Keef has nothing to say?

Chief Keef has been attacked for being an indication of what is wrong with Chicago, rap music, young Black men. To those critics I say, you are missing the fucking point. There was no choice. There was no option. There was only the ability to become the fiercest warrior he could be. Was it right? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can really answer that.

So, what can we take away from drill rap and what is going on in Chicago? In short, we got each others backs because America for so long, in so many devastating ways, has completely turned its back on us. Even if we’re fucking killing each other out here, at least the boys I run with will kill for me. I myself cannot answer for sure why this is happening now. But I suspect this is the sort of thing that results from long term degradation and purposeful ignorance of the violence White America has perpetrated against Black Americans for too long.