Black American Dad Story


Staff Lists: The 200 Best Tracks of the Decade So Far (2010-2014)

Pitchfork put to together its list of best songs from 2010-2014. Again part of me thinks it’s a bit fucked to ask to ya’ll to read all of these blurbs done by myself, friends and people I’ve looked to writing since before Tumblr even existed, as last night was another night of constantly refreshing Twitter and watching the news coverage of Ferguson and holding back feelings of wanting to vomit. But, personally I wrote my blurbs in a swell of too many emotions after watching Chance the Rapper’s Lollapalooza livestream sitting alone in my room wishing that ANYONE I call my friend could be with me, maybe we could use a breather. I know as another week is about to beginning, I could.

I specifically wrote about “Started from the Bottom,” “I’m On one,” “Danny Glover” and “Streetz Tonight.” I just wanted to say that “I’m On One” more or less was sparked from leaving the Pitchfork Music Festival alone heading back to Crystal’s place and seeing kids drinking a 4loko on the Blue line and me feeling oddly so old and young. And the serendipity of that particular blurb being a couple page scrolls above Jordan Sargent’s “We Can’t Stop” write-up makes me smile because I don’t know if the AM blurbs that were college weekends could be better summarized than those two songs. 

If ya’ll didn’t know, “Started from the Bottom” remains my own personal motto. It connects to why I never stop listening to Acid RapThe College Dropout or why “Look What You’ve Done” never stops calming and aching my heart. They capture their own middle class privilege, but realize that one leg up isn’t enough and keep their black feet running forward to bigger dreams, which is what I honestly tell myself everyday even doing the most minor of things. 

And finally I don’t NEED a reminder of the disgust for those blessed to be YOUNG, BLACK and American, but goddamn if it doesn’t hurt seeing all of this reflected back through a never ending media feed. One grows harden to shifty looks white people give you walking on the street, but being kicked in the head every night and morning that such mistrust can lead this has been too much even if my last twenty-two years didn’t already let me know this to be the case. Part of his might be defeatist, but waking up and pretending the new day isn’t smack us down isn’t reasonable. But we always get back up and that isn’t going to change. 

The Wondrous Speculative Dalatu Fall Tour

I must put a disclaimer here that all of these plans are subject to change because I’m pretty sure the only thing I’ve gotten right about this summer was going to Pitchfork Festival, which itself was more amazing than I even imagined. But here are some general thoughts/places I may be before the end of this year and when I try to double down and maybe figure out a life path (lol). 

- Charlotte (!): I live here. If any of ya’ll are here, let me know. No promises we’ll hangout or I’ll show you a good time, but couldn’t hurt to ask. 

- The Triad or Triangle: I went to school at Elon so I’m kiiiiiiiind of familiar with those areas and probably gonna be back there sporadically, so you know wouldn’t be against learning more about my fair state. 

- New York City: I’ve been pretty set since graduation to go up to New York City in October to meet my friend who’s up there. That plan is still more or less on and I have a few people I’d like to see, but the whole never having been to New York makes me pretty open. I’ll probably mention this again, but just sayin. 

- Chicago: Yo, I want to go here again. 

- I also want want to go the Atlanta Fool’s Gold show at the top of November. But anyway, most of my small family lives down there, so you know probably gonna be there many many times over these years. 

But again, knowing me none of this will happen because something will happen I didn’t see coming and I’ll be stuck at home or apartment hunting in some cold weather unforgiving city. The best laid schemes of such…lol. 

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.