Black American Dad Story


Live review: Clean Slate Fest, Neighborhood Theatre (8/9/2014)

I’m gonna let that little auto headline stay. Key! was pretty awful and so were a number of earlier acts. But shout out to Frais who appeared the to be the happiest guy on stage all Saturday, also there was a rapper named Jerry because SEO is an enemy that must be defeated. 

Chicago rapper Vic Mensa’s video for “Down on My Luck” captures something dumb about being social that I just kind of love. The video have him reliving a night out after he gets drugged, hit by a truck and arrested for graffiti, only to eventually figures out the right combo for a good night out. Ignore the woman at the bar, say fuck it to all texts and barely give dap to the bros. Just dance and making sure you have a good time.

Back at school, there was an always an early AM or late AM next day string of complaints out of people about going to a party or to the bar and not meeting or getting with someone, which dampened the quality of a night. Tapered expectations might be soften by expectation, but it’s was rare to think that I didn’t have a good night. Was the music good? Did I laugh? Was it worth whatever money spent or the hangover I have right now? Did I laugh?

My own internal expectations for nearly everything are very tepid, so when I always laugh when people say “Did you have a good night?” or “I’m sorry you had to drive us around last night.” Nah, it’s all good. Though I’ve only recently internalized when is the right time to peace out for an evening and just sleep. (Self-awareness something I’ve never lacked, but any value in the trait is something I’ve only recently discovered.)  

A couple months back I think I had a perfect day. I was home till 3pm watching TV, answering emails and allowing the process of making food to take as long as possible. I went to an afternoon rap show, interviewed one the guys performing and got hit by a mini-pool of water. After the show and slowly drying, a friend and I went to dinner, got in an evening walk and just kind of wondered about the neighborhood. I didn’t feel like doing much else, so I went back home and was off to bed by 11. I fucking loved it. It was super uneventful, but it was full of the right events. Maybe I should have talked to a few more people at the concert or maybe my friend and I could have stopped by a bar before going our separate ways, but not doing so didn’t linger in my mind. 

A lot of my own “fear of missing out” has wilted into the ground. The video for “Down on My Luck” bops to the left and to the right on top of those deflated feelings, which makes it being a great club track even sweeter. Vic doesn’t need his crew or take someone home from the club; he ends his evening with a puff of smoke and a fade to black. Isn’t that how every night ends. 

David Turner | The FADER

I said I’d do weekly updates, but lol don’t we know at this point not to trust me planning anything. Anyway here are my 80+ posts at the Fader so far, if you’re ever wondering what I’m listening to, when I’m not in my ALL APHEX TWIN ALL THE TIME mindset.  

Aux Out: Are Jay Z's Best Days In His Golden Years?

I do argue that! I have a feeling anyone over than me would disagree pretty vehemently about this, but eh. Youth gotta youth and rewrite canons. 

Just Another Black Experience

Why can I write about rap? The reasoning I’ve been working with the last four years is simple: I can. There is no standardized rap test I needed to pass in order to start a Tumblr and—I hope I’m not revealing too much here—nor was there a rap literacy test qualifying me to write for professional publications (Complex, Pitchfork, Spin, etc). I remain thankful there were no requirements because I certainly would not have gotten my ‘blogging license’ at 18 and I’m not even sure that at 22 I’d stand up to the harsh scrutiny of old rap heads. 

The conversation around who is allowed to speak on rap culture has been discussed amongst critics for years. The issue flared up during the rise of teenaged Chicago rapper Chief Keef and an overly positive review given to his debut album Finally Rich by Jordan Sargent for Spin. Chief Keef, who before the age of 18 had already been on house-arrested on charges of shooting at cop, in 2012 ,moved from a Chicago phenomenon to getting remixed by Kanye West. The accusation, by way of Rap Radar’s B. Dot Miller, was that Sargent was commenting on a culture that was not his own and, in doing so, was promoting Chief Keef and his tragic circumstances (or something like this) with an ironic, unauthentic appreciation of the actual music. At that time in my career, I had only written for Pitchfork and did not feel right stating my case in this discussion. I was felt too green to enter into this hip-hop culture war.

An over-considered sense of self has me often wondering where I fit within today’s hip-hop culture. Right now, the number one song in the United States’ “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea, an Australian woman, who raps with an atrocious southern American accent; and last year, white rapper Macklemore scored a number of hits that were predicated on scolding his perception of “failings” within hip-hop culture. Still, rap music is seen as belonging to black culture: it operates as a cultural community that is for us and by us. And it that remains where I derive my claim to the subject matter.

The critical conversations around who is and isn’t allowed to participate in discussions on rap music often refer back to Amiri’s Baraka’s essay Jazz and the White Critic. The focus usually centers on his arguments about the role of whites in usurping the voice of prominent black critics and—what Baraka felt was—the resultant incorrect telling of jazz history. Frankly I’m perturbed but not terribly surprised that the opening remarks of the essay are often ignored because that idea centers on a group easily forgotten in rap discourse. Baraka observes that the first cultural outsider that turned its back on jazz was the Negro middle class. 

Jazz was collected among the numerous skeletons the middle-class black man kept locked in the closet of his psyche, along with watermelons and gin, and whose rattling caused him no end of misery and self-hatred…the Negroes who were responsible for the best of the music were always aware of their identities as black Americans and really did not, themselves, desire to become vague, featureless Americans as is usually the case with the Negro middle class.

The idea of a Negro middle class that can speak but is, in a way, ashamed by its other brothers and sisters whose actions do not seek racial assimilation is something that never leaves my head. This is part because I’ve sat in that middle class seat my entire life, have known little else, and do not like projecting too much of my black experience onto others who’ve sat in different seats. To be honest, it makes me feel uncomfortable and is a reason I give far more consideration when writing about artists whose lives and backgrounds differ from my own, even if we share a similar complexion.

I never want to misrepresent my brothers and sisters, but I also don’t want to gloss over issues I see within their music that are similar to issues I see within myself. It is a hard line to walk because when so many voices writing about the same topic are overwhelmingly white and male I selfishly, and occasionally unproductively, want to make sure the reader knows that that is not who I am or what I look like. I want readers to know I am not of that majority and that I stand on the inside of the culture with the performer whilst reminding other writers, and perhaps white readers themselves, not to forget that they stand on the outside.

Because there is a real lack of black rap critics given ample space to express these thoughts, I constantly look back on @Judnikki’s tweets from over a year ago to understand this better. Andrew Noz’s following the discussion around Chief Keef offered his own reasoning for posting music that for black listeners raises deeper concerns than if it simply “bangs” or is “unique.” Judnikki in her tweets elaborated that for all black people it is frightening to realize that one person from your community can become a reflection of how your entire people are perceived by the outside world. Suddenly, each member of the community becomes one that you must answer for. She correctly pointed out the privilege on display for those writing about black artists without worry about that sense of judgment from the rest of their community members. No matter the amount of consideration one gives to the subject, an author that does not share the same cultural pressures can’t fully understand what the artist is putting out there in the world. They don’t.

I’ve sat in the middle of college classes without another black face in a crowd and all of sudden I represent: the athlete, the gangster, the rapper and any other faceless characterization of a black male. A couple weeks ago, I looked up a song from an artist and thought it was pretty good and sounded like another rapper from that city. I did a quick Google search and saw the rappers had gotten into a physical altercation, so after reading tweets and seeing photos from their altercation I trashed posting the song altogether. Critics can claim that they aren’t explicitly promoting the ideas in the music they are covering, but that stance is easy to assume when there is no worry that society will assume, and expect, one to act like the latest and most outrageous media representation. I could have posted that song—that I am not mentioning it here is not unintentional—but, weighing my options, I could not even justify it to myself. At that moment the song’s quality did not matter, because I thought of their violent actions and what would be my own complicity in projecting that for all to see.

Yet I write every day, still unsure of what to make of all this. I constantly worry if I can stomach having what I am signaling receive broader attention than what I am saying, and that being reflected, and twisted, back at me; or if I am even properly presenting and contextualizing the artists and music that I cover. It becomes a day-to-day test, with no way of knowing that I make the grade. 

Round 2: Songs I Love from 2014—or 2013 don’t care—So Far

No order. Happy 4th of July Americans and Happy First Weekend of July. 

1. Rae Sremmurd - No Flex Zone

2. Que - O.G. Bobby Johnson

3. It Looks Sad. - Radical 

4. Snootie Wild - Yayo

5. K. Camp - Cut Her Off

6. Migos - Fight Night

7. Drake - Trophies 

8. Young Thug - Danny Glover

9. Shy Glizzy - Catch A Body

10. Casino - Killing Shit

11. Future - How Can I Not

12. 2 Chainz - Crib in My Closet 

13. Ty$ - Or Nah

14. Tinashe - 2 On

15. Beyonce - Drunk in Love 

16. YG - When I Was Gone

17. King Mez - Reggie Miller

18. Low Pros - Frankie Lymon

19. Isaiah Rashad - Heavenly Father

20. Adrian Marcel - 2 Am (Young California Remix)

21. Flo Rida - Rear Mirror

22. Travis Porter - The Money 

23. Kid Ink - Main Chick 

24. Ab-Soul - Just Have Fun

25. Iggy Azalea  - Fancy

26. Trey Songz - Na Na

27. Stunt Taylor - Fefe on the Block 

dalatu @ Pitchfork Music Festival

Wanted to say that on the off chance you follow me and don’t already know: I’ll be at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago in a few weeks. And just saying if you want to say hey let me know or something. I should mention this again, but next week is the 4th of July and knowing me something will come up the following weekend (edit: a band I like has a show that weekend and that’s the last weekend of the World Cup…lol) and I won’t remember to post a follow-up (see: those weekly Fader posts I said I’d be doing).

I looked at my phone and this is music from 2014 I liked.

1. Low Pros - EP1: “I used to think I was in love / But now I see it was just lust.”

2. Isaiah Rashad - Cilvia Demo: I love his accent, it sounds like cheese grits and dry cornbread. 

3. DJ Juwan - Club For the Streets: “Butt Naked Butt Naked Butt Naked”

4. 2 Chainz - FreeBase: He called a song “Crib In My Closet” because 2 Chainz loves black men and their pension for designer shit. 

5. DJ Angelbaby - Get Pumped Vol. 2: The Terio remixes here are too much. Thank you Black Jesus for Club Music.

6. Various Artists - Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997: “Ghetto Shout Out!!” inspires a disgusting amount of neighborhood pride I should not have.

7. King Mez - Long Live the King: This is North Carolina. <3

8. YG - My Krazy Life: Meet the MU-FUCKIN-FLOCKERS. 

9. Future - No Sleep: This is from 2013, but HOW CAN I NOT. 

10. Ab-Soul - These Days…: Find your drug of choice, except sodas, and ~vibe~. 

11. Various Artists - We Invented The Bop: I am not saying “Fiesta” is the best song ever, but it probably is. 

12. Doughboyz Cashout - We Run The City 4: Nu-Cash Money hotter than 500 degreez. 

13. Shy Glizzy - Young Jefe: “Catch A Body” is a nursery rhyme. Shy Glizzy you a god and devil for that one.  

Wondering Sound: Ab-Soul, These Days…

I like this album A LOT. Kind of giving me some Graduation vibes, so my feelings might cool off, but at least right now listen! And yes, this is way better than a lot of the shit Ab was putting out last year. 

Creative Loafing Charlotte: Live review: Deniro Farrar, Tremont Music Hall (6/13/2014)

Do you know how many no-name opening acts there were at this thing? A LOT. And all of them seemed to play on beats that sounded like “Shabba,” but weren’t the Ferg song. Whatever.

I thought Farrar was eh, not a bad performer, it was just that his set needed some rethinking. Well$, another Charlotte rapper dude, but still only 19—YOUTH—was good. He had a lot of energy and seemed happy to be on stage. Again YOUTH.