Friday, October 4, 2013

What's the Matter With Miley: How Miley Cyrus Represents a Bigger Problem

Ever since her awkward “twerking” at the VMA’s all I’ve seen all over the blogs, on facebook and instagram is Miley, Miley, Miley and honestly I feel like that younger sister on the Brady Bunch, I’m tired of hearing it.  What annoys me isn’t the fact that twerking, a very old creation is now a phenomenon because a white former Disney star has decided to do it everywhere she goes, or the fact that she’s shaped like a lower case “I” ( just head and a straight body no curves), I can live with all that.  What bothers me is the fact that her oversexualized behavior, rebellious attitude, and overt drug references are somehow being portrayed as her trying to emulate black and hip hop cultures.

Since her first twerking video critics and fans alike have said that Miley is trying to “black” or part of “black culture”.  Apparently being “in the club high off purp” and dancing provocatively is what being black is all about, according to Miley and the media at least.  What Miley and some of the rappers co signing her don’t seem to be aware of or acknowledge is the fact that black women in particular have historically been portrayed as overtly sexual and promiscuous.  The Jezebel stereotype has it’s origins in slavery but has continued to be prevalent in America. From 1970’s movies about amazingly skilled black prostitutes to films like Monster’s Ball, black women in popular American culture has often been depicted as sexual deviants.   So when Miley brings a horde of black dancers to gyrate on stage while she slaps their behinds and people refer to that as acting black or copying black culture, I can’t help but to find it offensive and eerily similar to “ghetto parties” (pictured above)  hosted by college students on campus’ of universities like University of California San Diego where white students attend the party in their “black costumes”.

Twerking and drug use is not representative of black culture just like taking meth and the KKK are not representative of white culture, and it’s offensive to me to see some suburban Disney teen queen attempt to break her child star image by acting out and calling it acting black.  Furthermore now when other critics look at her behavior they are directly associating her wildness (and eventual downfall) with blackness.  All the negativity she exudes is simply a product of her new found blackness and adoption of Hip Hop.  Artists like Kanye West approving her actions as part of the hip hop culture only goes to prove what many white Americans believe, black people are wild and Hip Hop is all about sex, drugs and trouble.

Miley also brings up a bigger issue within Hip Hop, musical capitalism.  A handful of rappers have cosigned for Miley and her ratchet ways which makes any Hip Hop purist ask why?  The answer seems pretty, money.  If for no other reason than sheer controversy Miley is generating a lot of buzz so being featured on a track of hers or having her jump on yours can mean more exposure and more money.  At the end of the day Miley equals money and for a lot of artists that’s all that matters.  It seems as though too many MCs have been concerned with making a million and not speaking or representing something of substance.  Collectives like the Native Tongues have been replaced with YMCMB and a reactionary music that was rooted in lyricism and storytelling has transformed into a profit driven machine with Miley as its poster child.  The rapper Danny Brown states it best,

 I think anybody doing that just trying to eat. Ain't no nigga worried about their own music worried about her. Kendrick Lamar is not trying to do no song with Miley Cyrus. It's just like this, man. It's like the little white girl in the hood that might get you a plug on some pills or some shit. You gonna be nice to her to get your plug or whatever you need to get. They trying to eat,".

Back At It Again: Azealia Banks sturs up more controversy


The government might have been shut down but I’m back! Yeah I know it’s not as exciting as hearing that congress has magically decided to get along and scores of people can get back to work but hey, it’s the best I can do.

 As I was combing through the internet to read something that wasn’t about partisan politics for a change I stumbled across a bit of controversy from no other than the queen of twitter beefs herself Azealia Banks.  In case you’ve missed the hype, Banks is a 22 year old, pretty popular up and coming rapper from Harlem whose impressive skills are often overshadowed by her penchant for drama.  Recently she took to twitter to enlighten the masses on some little known black history facts.  Banks writes,

“Like black American culture is ESSENTIALLY some adapted version of British culture, Because American culture is bastardized English culture”

And then

“So strange... Santigold can sing indie rock songs and no one accuses her of wanting to be white..but white women twerking is the new evil.”

“Why is Black Culture such an exclusive club??? ... I'm asking myself this question as well. I'm guilty of this.”

And these gems

“struggle remembered and rehashed like as if we need some kind of fucking medal for being oppressed”

“lots of people have been enslaved throughout the course of history. THAT'S HUMANITY”

 From there she began to argue with a couple of followers and then eventually retreat stating that she was “bored”
I’m not sure if Ms. Banks got her education from the David Duke School of African American studies or if this is what New York public schools are teaching these day but honestly I’m a little confused. 

For starts if anything black American culture is adapted from African culture more so than the British.  Our mannerisms, communalism, music and even the ways in which we worship in the black church are very African in nature.  The cultures of Caribbean islands like Jamaica are more culturally similar to the British due to colonialism and even that is a slight stretch.

Now as far as the whole white women tweaking twerking Miley, black culture BS I’ll get to that in a different post.

The most upsetting tweet to me was the last one.  Apparently Banks feels like black people talk about being oppressed too much and we should just get over it because after all enslavement, cultural genocide, de facto and de jure segregation, oppression, systematic discrimination, terrorism and intimidation among other things are just “HUMANITY”.  This logic is exactly why discussing the struggle of blacks in America is necessary.  It seems as though many people my age are so busy thinking we’ve overcome we don’t want to even remember what we’ve overcome to begin with.   Or they’ve adopted this “post racial” notion that if you mention race or racism your somehow the racist whose stuck in the past. 

 The fact that black people have been resilient, determined and triumphant in the face of insurmountable odds is beyond impressive.  The struggle and fight of people like Denmark Vesey, Marcus Garvey, Fannie Lou Hammer, John Lewis, Stokely Charmical, Bobby Seale, James Farmer, Andrew Young, Harry Moore, and countless others should never be forgotten.  Not one person would dare say the US should forget about Pearl Harbor, Jewish Americans should disregard the holocaust or Native Americans should simply forget everything that has happened to them so suggesting blacks should seems slightly preposterous.  And in fact we do deserve a medal not for BEING oppressed but for SURVIVING and THRIVING.
All this being said, I  think Azealia Banks is a very talented MC who is often overlooked but comments like and constant twitters beefs kind of turns me off. Long story short leave the social commentary to someone else and work on an album

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New year Same Blog: Are You Feeling Django Unchained?

As the ball dropped and Syfy aired a Twilight Zone marathon, I made a New Years resolution to be a little more consistent with my blogging so I'M BACK!  And this first post of the year is dedicated to Quentin Tarrintino's latest bit of historical fiction Django Unchained.

If for some reason you happened to completely miss the buzz around this movie and have no clue what a Django is just follow the link above and come right back!

While this movie has received a lot of critical acclaim it also has been subject to intense criticism by several prominent black figures and historian, and for good reason.  The film itself is riddled with historical flaws and it seems as though Tarantino goes to great lengths to entertain his audience with humor and imagined events (Mandingo fights) as though slavery is something that needs to be exaggerated or made over the top to be believed.

What is also very striking is Tarantino's use of "the N word" and his justification of it.  In the film the word nigger is used over 100 times, more than in films like  Roots, Beloved or Sankofa all powerful films that deal with slavery or racism in the American south.  Tarantino defends this by saying whites in the south during that time period probably used the word nigger more than that therefore it is historically justified.  This to me is a little perplexing since Mandingo fighting is a central theme in this film and there is absolutely no solid historical evidence that indicates Mandingo fighting ever existed.  In fact it would make little to no logical sense for slave owners to have their slaves engage in battles to the death since they were seen a cattle and mere sources of income.  It'd be like setting money on fire.  So basically historical accuracy is okay when you need to say nigger but it doesn't really matter when you want to make something up for the sake of shock value.

What's really upsetting about all this is the fact that many people in my age group (20 somethings and late teens) are running out and treating this like the Roots of the decade but won't sit and watch Rosewood or Amistad films that are actually about true events because they're "boring" or "don't seem as real". 

That being said I actually think Django is probably very well acted and a good movie for what it is. A fantasy, spaghetti western, love story about a super hero negro who takes his revenge, all thought up by a friendly white man who says nigger (or nigga) a lot in his movies. 

So, its clear that as always I'm biased but I do want to hear from others! How are you feeling about Django?  Are you on board, on the fence or over it?  Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Blaxploitation 101: Trinidad James & The One Bright Side

Well well well, first let me say it is a good day to be Jamaican, because if this young man's name was Jamaican Jones or something I might have had to hide my flag and put all my Rasta accessories in storage.  But I digress.

For a little while now I had been running on a post election high.  My people turned out in numbers to vote, Barack Obama was still my president and all might not have been right with the world but it was alright with me, that was until I watched Trinidad James' All Gold Everything video.

Yes I know bigger things could have shocked me out of my post election euphoria but for some reason Trinidad James did it.  For me it was like he single handedly massacred any progress or positive images Black people had created over the past however many years with one song.  And the proverbial salt in the wound was Def Jam providing James with a 2 million dollar record deal!

Now for those who haven't heard this track it might sound like I'm being a little extra but trust me, check out the video right below this before you finish reading this and you'll see what I mean.

*SPOILER*  This video is filled with struggle and ratchetness and I'm pretty much convinced that if Super Fly and Ike Turner magically had a baby and let Khia raise it this would be the result.  All shade this buffoonery is just depressing.  Now I do enjoy the occasional ratchet song and sometimes I can't help but to blast some 2Chainz and act hood rich (IN MY HOME) but there has to be a limit.  I'd like to blame the artist for this foolishness but he wouldn't have gotten a deal and had this much buzz if there wasn't a market.  So I guess it makes me wonder whose the biggest sell out Trinidad James, the ever opportunistic Def Jam, or us the consumers. 

One good thing to come from this however is a parody entitled "Belizean James- No Gold Nothing" created by Lamorne Morris (Winston from the TV show The New Girl).  This is probably the most hilarious thing I've seen all year.  Thank you Lamorne for this silver lining.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gone For a Minute Now I'm Back: Mini MInaj Rant

So I promise I'll be back in a wee bit with something more substantial but because we all know I am not here for Nicki Minaj so I must quickly say this.


That is all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012: Live State by State Election Results Tonight!

So just in case you want to stay abreast of the 2012 Election results you can feel free to head to twitter and follow @urbanaffairsdly.  I'll be providing live updates all night long!  And remember if you haven't voted yet GO OUT AND DO IT! Most polls don't close for a while so you still have time, no excuses!

Happy election night!

Friday, November 2, 2012

He's Not Heavy He's My Brother: My Support for President Barack Obama

As the 2012 election draws to a close I wanted to dedicate my final campaign post to the candidate I've been endorsing for months, the current Commander-in-Chief, Barack H. Obama.

Admittedly it's been a rough 4 years, the economy is in the toilette, college is more expensive than ever, jobs are scant and just in case republicans haven't said it enough, the was an attack in Libya.  But when looking at the hand Obama was dealt I find it disingenuous for anyone to say he hasn't performed admirably and with grace.

When Obama came into office he inherited a massive debt accrued by former President Bush.  With limited help from republicans the President has been trying his best to fix the economy but it is not an easy job.  how can one honestly expect a person to fix something in four years that it took eight years to break?  It is just not that simple.

The President has also been working tirelessly to make student loans more manageable and to increase funding for community colleges.  He understands that higher education is not a privilege it is a right.  In 1954 The Supreme Court declared that separate but equal is inherently unequal and it seems as though republicans have forgotten this history lesson.  The separation today may not be De Jure but it is most definitely De Facto, with people of lower socio-economic classes being left out or left behind.  Mitt Romney and his fellow republicans believe that the answer to improve the education problems in the U.S is to have more charter schools, to impose more benchmark tests and to limit if not remove federal college aid, and of course if you need money for school you can always borrow from your parents because they MUST be wealthy.  None of these solutions would do anything but worsen the state of education in this country.  We don't need more tests, or to ships students out of their neighborhoods to attend school, we need equality of opportunity.  If the local public schools are damaged the should be fixed the not outsourced because no child should have to travel outside their own neighborhoods to receive a quality education and our President understands that.

Anytime foreign policy is discussed republicans love to fear monger and ignore the fact that Obama did in three years what Bush couldn't do in eight, capture Osama Bin Laden.  They claim that we are in greater danger than ever before and that the President has made the United States look weak.  In a sense maybe they are right, anytime a nation goes from being a diplomatic bully or a global police officer to a calmer, less "rough and ready" force than I'm sure War Hawks would see this as weak, and I'm okay with that.  This world doesn't always need soldiers ready to annihilate anyone they perceive may eventually be a threat, sometimes we just need peace or at least not active conflict. Because where have these bulldog tactics gotten us?  Millions of lives lost and damaged in Vietnam, death and destruction in South East Asia, an unwinnable war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more enemies than ever before, clearly brute force is not the answer.

Mitt Romney will tell you that government is the problem and that the power should lay with the states  but historical we know that is a falsehood.  The federal government got us out of the Great Depression not localities, government creates jobs and provides aid to the people who need it most when states cannot.  The federal government passed laws to end segregation and voter intimidation in the south when the states either did nothing or encourages it.  In fact states like South Carolina still must have changes to their voting laws approved by the federal government because of their history of discrimination so it is clear states don't always get it right.

Nobody told us the road was going to be easy, in fact the road has been rough and the going has been tough, and the hills have been hard to climb, but we must hold on because that is life. There is no such thing as a quick fix to a major problem and to expect one you are only doing yourself a disservice. That being said, at the end of the day the choice is all of ours. Do we want a President who knows that our problems our his problems, that the wealthiest among us should pay their fair share and that the poorest among us need the most help, that equality should not be a dream but a reality, and that it IS in fact the Government's responsibility to serve the people. Because if they are not serving the ones who elected them, if they are not here to aid the ones who have put them in office who are they here for?

I took the title of this post "He's not heavy he's my brother he can not encumber me" from a Donny Hathaway song because it perfectly exemplified my feelings about this election and Barack Obama.  I know these past couple of years have not been perfect, there have been mistakes and pitfalls but despite the political baggage the president has accumulated (just or unjust) I honestly believe that he is the best choice for the the nation and I will continue to support him and I hope that all of you will as well.