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While You Were Sleeping, Lil B Made the Song of The Year

Admittedly I’m late to the Lil B party. However, as trite as it may sound, better late than never. My first introduction to Lil B was via Instagram. Scrolling through a series of photos, as one usually does when they are beyond bored, I stopped on a group of twenty something year old men in the middle of a dancefloor. With hands gestured awkwardly in the air, they were holding what looked to be imaginary pots and cutlery, with the caption, “Cookin”, #lilb #basedgod. To say I was befuddled would be an understatement. Slightly amused, I liked the photo and stored it under “things to google in the future.” The picture warranted further investigation, but at the time I had zero energy for drug euphemism laced trap beats. I’m not the biggest fan of this genre of music anyway. So I ignored.

Over and over, the basedgod as Lil B has coined himself, continued to show up in my peripherals. My bias against trap music was winning the internal battle I was having on whether or not Lil B was worth my time, and I had all but decided that he wasn’t my cup of tea when I was stopped in my social media tracks a couple of weeks ago. A musician friend posted Lil B’s music video to, “No Black Person is Ugly” on Facebook and I was forced to pay attention. The title, an obviously controversial one, caught all of my attention. I immediately clicked the link and listened as Lil B, in the best way he could, described his take on the effects of racism and colorism in the black community. The nostalgic beat is what drew me in. But the lyrics are what made me stay.

At times, sounding awkward and unsure, Lil B offers up his opinion on everything from rape, working for “the man”, the politics of complexion, to recycling. In the second verse of the song he attempts to dissect the conundrum that is black beauty in the context of whiteness. For those of you who are lost, I refer you to Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Or better yet, Youtube “The Doll Test”, an experiment given to both white and black children to determine how our little people view themselves and other races of people through asking them a series of questions in reference to the race of the dolls in front of them. The results will break your heart, but they are a necessary reminder of how different races of people view each other, in particularly how they view black folks. Now, Lil B is no Lupe, but thats okay. We don’t need him to be and he admits this himself saying, “My English not perfect, I’m not the best at school.” However, we understand what he means when he says that “propaganda slandered black beauty”.  Unless you are living under a rock of obtuseness, you understand that the media makes the decision for the masses in regards to what is hot, sexy, beautiful and worthy of praise. I mean it aint called programming for nothing. We may argue that we don’t listen to mainstream media, we make our own decisions, we are above the fray. That does not change the fact that we live in a society dominated by European standards of beauty, and those ideals reign supreme. Lil B is calling this out saying, “I’m not stupid, I see it everyday.” Heard that? The basedgod sees through the tomfoolery. In the video, Lil B goes to a store and demonstrates a perfect example of this by having the cameraman focus on a magazine rack full of lily white faces plastered on the covers of various magazine publications to further drive this point home.

Lil B then goes on to argue that black people are not shown in the media. I initially disagreed with this statement. However, Lil B goes on to explain himself by saying that certain features of black people are not celebrated a la big noses, afro textured hair, big lips. And you won’t see that in the media. The things that make one undeniably physically black, or the things that make us drastically physically different from our white brethren are the things that people deem unnattractive. And then there’s the hook, which rings more as a call to action than anything else. Simple, yet profound, Lil B states matter of factly, “No black person is ugly don’t say it one time.”

To further understand the significance of this song, one must comprehend the African American communities relationship to the word “ugly”. We talked about what white people by and large deem beautiful, it is in fact themselves. Unfortunately, because of racism, both overt and covert, that standard of beauty has become the apex for a large part of the black community as well. One can see how this can be problematic. For a population to idolize a standard of beauty that is foreign from their own, in turn creates an insidious cycle of self hate. Which in turn creates instances where black people who don’t fit this palatable standard are shunned, ostracized, or referred to as ugly. Lil B is aware of the use of the word ugly and the context in which it is thrown around. With the assistance of a laid back beat and a smile Lil B urges black folks to stop using the term to describe each other. Genius. Gold star in my book.

No Black Person is Ugly is asking for people to see black people as human beings, even if they look different from you. It is asking you to not insult black people who have features that are natural to the DNA that flows through their veins. Say what you want about Lil B, but while some of the hip hop heavyweights of our time are busy buying Basquiat paintings or going on rants about the fashion industry, Lil B made the decision to make a song because he felt something was askew in the way that blackness has and continues to be ridiculed and misrepresented. And in retrospect I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that a song like this was even made.

As seen on OogeeWoogee

The Destruction of the Robot

By Morgan Jerkins

For those of you who are not math or science-inclined—myself included—let me start by telling you how robots are made.  An engineer brainstorms the robot’s purpose and what it should do.  After that, the engineer designs the robot down to the last bolts and wires.  With all the planning, designing, and reconfigurations, one thing must be kept in mind at all times:  the robot is to serve the engineer and that person’s needs. Replace the word “robot” with “woman”.  Sounds bizarre, right?  Because it is.  In light of the Ray Rice controversy, many men, such as Dr. Boyce Watkins, Floyd Mayweather, and a string of others have come out in support of the renowned football player and now his battered wife, Janay.  All of these criticisms push the stereotype of the “inimitable, strong, Black, woman”.

The strong Black woman is one who endures all wrongdoings against herself for the sake of others, such as her husband and children. She does not show vulnerability and God forbid if she exhibits any sort of flaw.  Her way of life exudes selflessness, humility, modesty, grace, and all that times.  This type of woman is not real. Yet for hundreds of years, we have fooled ourselves into this ideal for our young Black women to withstand any and everything for the preservation of the family.

The Black family is always under pressure.  We are constantly reminded that the majority of Black children are born out of wedlock.  Women from religious families are told not to shack up with their significant others, fearing that they’ll never get married.  And reality television shows feature long-suffering women who’ll put up with their men cheating just to say that they have someone. We’ve seen it all before.  Irrespective of your views on the nuclear family, there is a question that needs to be asked:  What is lost in the midst of it all?  In other words, does something need to be lost in order to be gained?  Sometimes this deficit falls on the woman’s shoulders. There is a dangerous narrative that women should discard self-preservation even if their lives are at risk and that needs to end because the message states that women are of no value unless they are within a familial unit.

Even aside from abuse, think about how many articles, books, and television segments are centered on the women having to reconfigure themselves in order to attract life partners?  We’re too slutty, too forceful, too intelligent, too ambitious, or talkative.  We have to be perfect selves, not people with flaws who someone else will ideally love and tolerate while helping us become our best selves.  Name one piece that tells men to fix their behavior to catch worthy women without the using the Google search engine.  That’s not to say that these discussions do not exist, but they are not nearly on the same scale.  Men are allowed to be accepted for their potential while women have to already be “ready”, whatever that means.

This is the culture that we’re in, folks.  This culture also keeps rape culture afloat; it is the idea that men are entitled to do whatever they want to women, and we have to deal with the harsh end of the consequences.  We’re taught to protect ourselves at all costs.  If something happens, we should have done something to prevent the situation.  Frankly, women are in somewhat of a paradoxical situation: we’re susceptible to harsh criticism that is based on us being the weaker sex yet expected to miraculously rise above it.

When our culture creates these impossible paradigms for women, the impression one gets is that maybe women aren’t desired at all, but robots or balls of clay to mold into whatever shape someone wants.  If our intricacies are that dangerous to acknowledge then the problem is not us at all. It’s the fact that day-to-day, women around the world are tearing down these “normalcies” and restructuring the narrative that is dangerous. And in that case, I say, let have.

Jazmine Sullivan Debuts ‘Forever Don’t Last’

Jazmine Sullivan is back with a new single, “Forever Don’t Last.” Raw guitar strings, painful lyrics, and Jazmine’s soulful, raspy voice give the song its power.

The release of the single follows Jazmine’s recent candid appearance in a New Orleans barber shop. The songstress performed “Stupid Girls,” another intense single about love and pain.

Could this be the beginning of Jazmine’s comback?

“Forever Don’t Last” is featured on Jazmine Sullivan’s Soundcloud page here.

 

FKA Twigs Stuns New York Crowd

Last week, British singer FKA TWIGS rocked the stage at New York City’s Webster Hall, wowing avid fans and newcomers with some pretty fierce dance moves.

Sporting a pair of sheer black panty hose and a matching top, high heels and her intricately designed baby hairs, TWIGS seductively vogued and sashayed during her performance of “Give Up” — a song off her debut album, LP1.

FKA kicked off her world tour on August 12, 2014, first stopping in the sunny city of Los Angeles. She’s set to perform in several major North American cities starting November 6th.

Click here for a list of tour dates.

A Paradigm Shift; Shit Ain’t Sweet

It never was sweet
It never was kosher
It never was halal
It was always just shit

The ingredients were written in languages
We had no real understanding of
A medium we couldn’t quite see
But they told us it meant something
So we thought it did

&we drank it
&fed it to our kids
&put it in our bathwater
&washed our clothes in it
We dabbled it behind our ears before dates
We sprinkled it on fried chicken
Blended it into our green juices

But shit ain’t sweet
And it’s not supposed to be
Shit is supposed to be rancid
Shit is the accumulation of organisms
That serve no purpose for the body
It must be pushed out
No one eats’ shit if they can help it
No one would eat shit if they could smell it
So they made their shit seem sweet.
Served it on college diplomas
And civil rights legislation
Served it in 90’s cartoons with “diverse” characters
&we dined.

And a few days ago another black boy died.
And all the shit we have been taking is stirring up
Whole cities are cramping from the crap in their lower intestines
Cotton mouths give way to bile that was force fed
Down the throats of our ancestors
On their journey across the Atlantic
I call on Oya to stir our souls like she stirs the seas
We need a massive regurgitation of all the bullshit
I call on Oya to bring the lightning needed to see
Wipe that sleep out of your eyes
Lose the shit eating grin

This is not a problem that is past tense.
When I call on the ancestors it is not to invoke
Sentiment or an atheistic
It is a genuine cry for help because this a war
That must be fought on all planes
With all weaponry
And not just the ones the enemy gave to us to
Kill our selves.

A wise buddafly once said we are losing cause we aren’t
Fighting with our own weapons.
We better find em’ quick
Can’t afford to keep taking this shit
We are fighting for a paradigm shift.
Cause shit ain’t sweet.
And it never has been.

 

*originally posted at http://extraordinaryjones.tumblr.com/*

iftheygunnedmikebrown

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown: Twitter Responds to The Chilling Effects of Media

By Qubilah Huddleston

The media has never been kind to people of African descent. Uneducated, violent, angry, and hypersexual are just a few of the ways in which black men and women are often portrayed throughout television shows, series and films. The far-and-few presence of diverse (read: positive) images of black people in the media has made such narrow portrayals of blackness so accepted that the idea of an educated, non-violent black man or a happy black woman seems inconceivable.

The effects of these limited portrayals reach all the way into the lives of black men and women, and even black children. Black men are followed around department stores. Black women with multiple children are assumed to be on welfare and unmarried. A seven-year old black boy’s temper tantrum is viewed as an early sign of a deviant lifestyle. Black people who are articulate and well-read are told they aren’t like other black people.

The recent fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, precipitated an unfortunate, but necessary response to the ongoing partiality of the media when portraying black victims of crime. Since Sunday, the powerful hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown has taken over Twitterfeeds and Facebook timelines. Coupled with this hashtag are images of young black men and women, evoking a chilling reminder of the way the media chooses to portray black people.

iftheygunnedme4

 

iftheygunnedme

The juxtaposition of a less respectable image to a more respectable image highlights the duality of a person’s being. People are complex. We can be just as bad as we are good. Unfortunately, history has shown us that black individuals are not given the same leeway. Either a black man is a thug or he isn’t. Either a black woman is angry or she isn’t. Black men and women don’t get to make mistakes. We are either fully criminal or fully lawful. The media doesn’t wonder about the mental health of young black men involved in violent crimes. It doesn’t worry about the burdens of single motherhood on a black woman who allows her child to play in a park nearby while she works because she can’t afford daycare.

The rapid response to the media’s posthumous portrayal of Brown speaks volumes. #IfTheyGunnedMeDown isn’t just about Michael Brown. It’s about Oscar Grant. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. Marissa Alexander. Renisha McBride. It’s about all of the young black men and women who died at the hands of racist, prejudice vigilantes or police officers. It’s about all of the young black men and women and other people of color whose deaths or imprisonments are seen as unequivocally justified. It’s about addressing a problem that has gone on entirely too long.

 

JOIN THE TEAM

GVTurWe’re looking for content producers who have a unique opinion on social issues. Are you a creative journalist? Or a creative with a well kept journal? Do you think the personal is political and that politics contain some of the greatest stories ever told? We want to hear from you!  email hampton.nia (at) gmail (dot) com

 

karynwashington

Keeping Our Sisters: Karyn Washington’s Death and The Reality of Black Suicide

by Qubilah Huddleston

We contemplate suicide, too.

The news of her death hit me like a ton of bricks. At first, I didn’t know what to say or feel. All I could do was think about the thoughts running through her head when she made the final decision to end her life.

Karyn Washington, founder and creator of For Brown Girls – an online community space dedicated to dark skin girls and committed to the promotion of self-love — died recently at the young age of 22 from an apparent suicide. Her death is both shocking and devastating to those who knew her personally and those who knew her because of her presence in the black blogosphere. What makes Washington’s death so shocking is that many viewed her as a positive, cheery, and most importantly strong black woman. In a society that continuously values European standards of beauty, For Brown Girls represents the voices of black and brown girls with darker skin complexions who are told everyday by family members, friends, and the media that they aren’t pretty. If they are pretty, they are “pretty for a dark skin girl.” Through FBG, Washington helped thousands of girls and women overcome their insecurities and find value in their God-given beauty.

Washington’s death reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother a few months ago. “You know what I dislike most about black families?” I asked her. “It’s the fact that we don’t really deal with our issues. Someone is always telling us to pray about it. Telling us that God will take care of it. But you know what, sometimes prayer and God aren’t enough! We have real issues that we are suffering from, and we need to do more than pray and talk to God about them.”

Because of Karyn, I stand behind these words. I don’t doubt that someone told her to pray, read her Bible and go to church. While these things may help (temporarily), they don’t address the issues that sit deep within our spirits. We need ways to talk about what we’ve been through. We need to figure out how to talk to the people who have hurt us the most; the people whose actions may be the primary source of our pain and sorrow. But most importantly, we need ways to change the way our community views the inability to effectively cope. Being unable to mentally and emotionally deal with all the things we’ve experienced isn’t a sign of weakness. It doesn’t make us any less strong than we already are. Instead, it makes us simply human.

When I was 11 years old, I lost my father to suicide. Twelve years later, I am not so sure that I have comprehended nor coped with his untimely death. It does not help that the conversation around mental health issues in the black community is often avoided or dismissed. Right after my dad took his own life, I remember being teased. I remember other black kids teasing me by saying, “that’s why your dad killed himself,” or  “your dad was crazy”. Thinking about these comments hurts not only because they were damaging, but because they revealed the lack of understanding mental health issues within the black community.

Black girls are constantly told that they have to be strong. Not for themselves, but for those around them. Unfortunately, many of these black girls grow up into black women who sacrifice their mental health in order to be the backbone and rock of their families. There are black women who carry the emotional burdens of their families, but neglect their own. This can be extremely difficult and lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. This can lead to a suicide realized.

The reactions to Karyn’s apparent suicide have been on both sides of the spectrum. While many of her supporters have expressed empathy and devastation over the loss, there are those who find her death an act of selfishness and can’t seem to understand why a young woman — who appeared to be strong — would take her own life. The reality surrounding Washington’s unexpected suicide is this – black girls and women are suffering. No matter how strong we appear to be. No matter how many obstacles we overcome. We have struggles too. We cry real tears. We feel real depression.

Now that I’ve begun to process my dad’s suicide a little more, I don’t see his decision as necessarily selfish. While I may find myself angry and confused as to why he did what he did, I understand him. I understand the pain and darkness he must have felt in his last hours. I miss him, but if he was truly unhappy and saw no light at the end of his tunnel, how could I possibly ask him to keep living a life unfulfilled?

Karyn Washington’s death scares me. It scares me because I know so many black girls and women like her. I’m one of them. I have friends who are just like her. Trying to be that strong black woman our community expects us to be. Seeing our inability to solve our problems through prayer, Bible verses, and our pastor as a sign of weakness, not strength.

We, the black community, have to do a better job of talking about our problems. We have to change the stigma surrounding mental stress, anxiety, and depression. Even more, we black women have to continue to support each other. We have to let each other know that it’s okay to feel what we feel. It’s okay to want other ways to deal with our mental health besides prayer and bible study.

It’s okay to be human.

*this post was originally posted by Qubilah Huddleston at theeblackcorner.wordpress.com

 

When We Get Tired of Eating Cake

We live in a capitalist society, for most of us, it is all we have ever known. As a result, the saying, money makes the world go round becomes terrifyingly accurate as we leave childhood behind and enter into adulthood. It’s no secret that most of us twenty somethings have graduated into one of the worst economies the country has ever seen, and I have frequent conversations with other creatives about how difficult it is to see others, by others I mean those who have chosen more traditional paths of occupation, transition into adulthood, by having kids, buying houses and cars, as we live paycheck to paycheck trying to get our next film made or buying brushes for a painting we hope we can sell, you get the gist. I swear this won’t be another “woe is me” millenial article. However, I just read an article on Salon.com called Too Poor For Pop Culture (see below for the link), which I think everyone should read. It follows a man, a young adjunct professor, with three degrees, and his friends, all poor, some who have struggled with addiction, or the prison industrial complex, on a regular night of card playing. Its not so much what happens during the course of the night that gets you, its the backstories of these people that is truly eye opening.

It seems that the system has closed its doors, or perhaps the door was never opened in the first place. If you need any further proof that the system is fucked, I direct you to that article. It’s also telling how far removed they are from pop culture, I won’t ruin it for you, but in a world where people are struggling to survive, the everyday catchphrases society has grown to love/hate are meaningless. I’m a young woman who grew up with a very large safety net. Albeit I do complain, I know I can go off and chase my dreams (as I am currently doing) because I have family to fall back on. I am lucky and I am grateful. And after reading this article I, like many in my generation are reminded that often times an education and good intentions can not save you. As my man Capital Steez would say,

This is America. Not a miracle.

What will happen when the masses get tired of eating cake? I don’t know if we will ever see the day. After all this is the U.S. of A., and we have a penchant for sweets.

http://www.salon.com/2014/02/05/too_poor_for_pop_culture/

With love and light,

AA

’93 till Infinity

Beautiful Boy

” And I quote: we came like them niggas in boats

Still think it’s a joke? Your third eye vision is broke

We lifted from smoke and floatin’, that’s how I got my aura open

Check the horoscopes, though – you could say I’m horror scopin’

You catch me floatin’ on a four leaf clover

That’s the pot of gold, so we sonnin’ ‘em like Maury Povich

We gon’ need paternity tests, I guess

‘Cause them vets ain’t learnin’ it’s step-by step

It’s Beast Coast, we the murderous set

We rain and fired, and I don’t mean the burners and teks

You gotta love it… all 47 of us

You ain’t got a number then I guess we gotta get you covered

I’m connectin’ to my brethren with the Westside Connection

‘cause he say he got the best in

We got the birds like 2-4-7, so I’mma hit you back in a second

‘Cause we already lifted ” – Capital Steez

 

Where do I begin? This past weekend a friend of mine, posted a status on the book of faces, about Capital Steez’s suicide last year. I heard about it through the web, but I knew nothing about Pro Era, and hadn’t really listened to their music. But for some reason, I decided to take a venture. To say I am surprised, inspired, and lifted is an understatement. I have never heard an artist make music about astral projection,s auras, chakras, and the third eye. If you don’t know what these terms mean, I suggest you google, and gain some self awareness. It’s a beautiful thing. The Pro Era crew, which includes the now deceased Capital Steez ( Jamal Dewar), are teens, young men, born in the early to mid 90s, rapping about concepts that go above the heads of most adults. In a society, and music industry that is saturated with sex, materialism, and more sex, they are not a breath of fresh air, they are a long awaited gasp of oxygen, after you’ve been submerged underwater for a decade. I am not simply tooting their horns. These young men are beyond talented, and enlightened beings, far ahead of their time. I read an article about them, that stated that they used to meditate in Prospect Park, as a group! I fell in love after that, and have been downloading and listening to their music ever since.

I became an even bigger fan after I watched the video for Capital Steez’s song 135. Capital Steez – 135 The song is a mix of an ode, lamentation, and flattery to a girl Capital Steez has been pursuing for quite some time. When you watch the video you see a hint of happiness, sadness, wisdom, love, and hopefulness in the eyes of Steez. I felt him. I don’t know how to explain it. I felt his spirit. And I cried. The only artist I ever cried over was Amy Winehouse, she helped me get through many a break up. But with this kid, it was something about his steelo that spoke to me. Ironically, it’s a name he was also referred to. I won’t go into detail about why he killed himself, the meaning of 47, and his beliefs. But I will say we lost a talented young man, whose intelligence and self awareness might have been too much for him to handle. I don’t know. One can only speculate. He was a great one, I hear it when I listen to his music, I see it when I watch his interviews. His eyes were not only beautiful but very telling, and intense. Just watch some of his videos.

When I first heard of Joey Badass and Pro Era a couple years ago, I dismissed them with the quickness, as another Hip Hop group, addicted to materialism, spouting bitch this and hoe that. Mind you, I had never listened to their music. I was just having a very internal war with Hip Hop at the time, and its degradation and blatant colorism towards women. I did myself a great disservice by judging a book by its cover, and not giving these young man a chance on my Itunes playlist. If I hadn’t been so quick to dismiss, I might have been able to catch Steez live, maybe even shake his hand. I truly hope he found whatever it was he was looking for. And a part of me thinks that he did. #93tillinfinity #resteasycapsteezy #longlivesteelo #beastcoast #proera

With love and infinite light,

AA