Was Anything The Same? Why, Yes. It Was.

Drake-NWTSDrake’s third studio album, Nothing Was The Same, leaked like Panama Jackson in the bushes of Centennial Park in 2009 on Sunday night. I’ve listened to this album no less than 20 times. Partly because I love my mother. Partly because I have to fulfill my lightskinneded duty.

Believe it or not, there is a lightskinneded duty. It’s this secret oath we take when we’re like 13 that states we will blindly support any and all endeavors created and performed by lightskint people as long as they don’t bring shame to our crest. Yes, all light skint people have a crest. Falcon’s. Toothpaste. One could say that when a light skint person trips, we’re crestfallen. Yes, that happened.

Point is, Drizzy’s album crestfell and I felt an obligation to listen to it. In short, it sounds like every other Drake album which means its a solidly produced album full of discussions about women he’s known, women he’s f*cking now, his triumphs and trappings of success and the humility it brings. Drake’s pretty human despite telling us how rich he is. Like even though he’s got more money than I’ll likely ever see, he makes me feel like I can relate. I mean, I used to argue with my mama too. “Started From The Bottom” is kind of ingeniuous if you think about it. He never defines “here”. So you can literally repeat that hook and never be lying, unlike “Tom Ford” which…well, how many of you actually rock Tom Ford. I say that hook all the time. I’m always lying. Jay-Z made me a liar.

That’s why Beyonce’s ass got snatched off that stage the other night. I can’t prove that but you probably can’t disprove it either.

Back to NWTS…have you ever listened to an album only to realize that you’re not paying attention to anything that’s being said but you feel like hey this sounds good. It’s like the opposite of listening to say, Eminem, nowadays, where you listen to everything he’s saying and its like totally sucking ass. Regardless of opinion, Drake is a good rapper. He murders most of his guest spots. And in truth, the only rapper worthy of addressing Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse was Drake.

Briefly, I know the world loved that verse, but if he never “called out names” I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I think this says more about our need for anything remotely feeling non-emo in hip-hop. I don’t know where the shift happened but huzzah, ya know?

So let’s talk songs, mmkay, pumpkin? There’s a two song stretch – or as much of a stretch that two songs can be – of “305 To My City” and “Too Much” that are absolutely killing the game. The album intro “Tuscan Leather” also cracks like Chris Rock in New Jack City after he got the job at The Carter. Speaking of Lil Wayne (get it? The Carter?) he’s not on the album. That feels odd though Young Emo addresses the fact that he and Lil Wheeziana are all good on the intro. I really think they need to make a “HYFR” Part 2 though. Do you agree? Hell yeah? F*cking right? I think so.

The rest of the songs all kind of sound the same to me. This isn’t a bad thing at all since they sound decent, but they all sound like Drake songs on a Drake album. Jay is on the album and he sounds like current Jay. He’s still rich. And he namechecks everybody he made rich. You know, make another Hov and stuff.

While I know every body is excited about this, here’s some food for thought: people hate on Drake for talking about his feelings. But if he doesn’t talk about his feelings and talks hardcore, folks hate him then too. So we basically want Drake to stay in the “Fancy”, “Over”, bottle poppin’ life of excess lane…except, Drake actually reads good and probably listens to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer in the morning so he’s working on his growth and addressing his insecurities and feelings…which, considering how much we think Black men never actually get in touch with the feelings should be a good thing.

But when Drake does it, ees a problem. And I’m no different, I’ve accused many a person of Drakeing and driving. And don’t let a ninja get all caught up on some feelings for an ex he can’t let go…I’m blaming Drake. In fact, I’d like Congress to commission an experiment via NIH to see what happens when you only allow Black men to listen to Drake albums…does he become the man women want? Does he murder an oxen? Does he hate love and love love, ultimately ending up at tainted love while stopping the love he saved because it can’t be his own?

Anyway…here’s a real question: Drake is clearly here to stay…he’s three (successful) albums into a career where folks are flaming out a few singles in. He’s here to stay. Do we ever think there will be a time when he’ll transcend the ridiculous image we assign to him? This album isn’t a foray into any new terrirtory…it’s old hat with new jeans and socks territory.

I know nobody here cares – or at least that’s what I expect to read – but have you heard it? Where are we in the makings of what will actually be a real rap career of Drake? Is Drake gonna Jay-Z the game? Can he?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka lower.case.p aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

That Ain’t The Harlem Shake, B

That's Harlem. And this is G.Dep. If he wasn't in jail for being an idiot, he'd be really upset about this.

That’s Harlem. And this is G.Dep. If he wasn’t in jail for being an idiot, he’d be really upset about this.

The “Harlem Shake” is not a story. It’s just not. But it still annoys the hell out of me all the same. And by “Harlem Shake”, I mean this trendy meme of 30 second videos where the first 15 seconds involves somebody standing there gyrating by themselves and the last 15 seconds are full of pelvic-thrusting, jumping on sh*t and basically going berserk to the backdrop of some song that I can only assume is called “The Harlem Shake.”

Again, I get it. It’s not a story.

But you know what? That ain’t the Harlem Shake, b. It’s just not. And for that reason I’m irritated.

Let’s nutshell this.

Reason Panama Is Irritated: This is yet another example of people, namely Black folk, creating something that gets jacked by other groups of people, bastardized, and then turned into some viral sensation, while the only people who remember the original are the ones bitching that the new one ain’t legit.

And you know what, this is fair. It’s a small scale thing and in the grand scheme it is nothing like jazz being bastardized and turned into elevator music (see G, Kenny; Coz, Dave, etc) or hip-hop being turned into the minstrel show it is today (yeah, we’ve had this convo…I do blame Black folks for this though…can’t lie), or hip-hop culture. I know, its the circle of life, Simba sh*t (btw, shouts to Mufasa who been dead like 18 years now…RIP my n*gga), once something gets more followers, its bound to get turned into a less pure version of itself. Then you add business and woosah.

But there’s something a bit more seedy at work here. Not just with the “Harlem Shake” thought I’ll get back to that. Let’s just call a spade a spade, other cultures, namely white America – as it were – comes in and makes things more palatable for itself. Jazz got watered down like a motherf*cker to the point where now its not even a truly viable art form. And I know, some of the greatest jazz artists are white. There was a respect for the art that existed that I feel flew out the window in later iterations. The same can be said for current hip-hop and the culture.

It’s like that great hip-hop dance video featuring the soccer mom trying to teach those kids how to be “hip-hop”. Add attitude and certain finger movements and you’ve got it. It’s like “the cool”.

Being cool is something you have or something you don’t. Everybody ain’t supposed to be cool. If everybody was, then nobody would be cool. The point is, you have to let what got you there be what keeps you there. And that’s the crux of why so many folks get irritated by bastardizations of the culture. Any culture. Which is where this “Harlem Shake” sh*t comes in. In the grand scheme of things, does this matter?

No.

Unless you’re from Harlem, where this all started from. I remember driving thru NYC and Harlem specifically by the Taft Houses in like 2000. I laughed so hard when I saw a bunch of dudes on the corner of 112th and 5th doing the Harlem Shake. It was like a scene out of a McDonald’s commercial. It was a stereotype gone live. And I loved it. It was authentic. It was real.

It was Harlem.

This “Harlem Shake” isn’t Harlem. It’s a bunch of folks doing something with a name for something that already exists. Except this is famous in mainstream America. Main Street knows what the “Harlem Shake” is now. To them Harlem is just part of the name of the dance. But that’s not all there is to it.

If I’m from Harlem. I’m annoyed. I’m pissed. They turned what was mine into some Kenny G sh*t. Wack, weak, unfamiliar at all to the original, and baselessly whitewashed. And I don’t care if Black folks are in on it too now. My father owns Kenny G albums and I still get upset about it.

The “Harlem Shake” is not a story. Naw. It’s just more of the same…old song, with a different meaning since you’ve been gone.

First “The Harlem Shake”. Next, Atlanta.

Stay woke, dog.

Wake up.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka THEY CAN’T BANKHEAD BOUNCE, THO aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

What Does Hip-Hop Look Like To You?

A couple of days ago I got a text message from one of my homies from way back. Somebody she knew read the recent profile of Jay-Z by Zadie Smith in the New York Times that read an awful lot like any other profile of Jay-Z talking about being Jay-Z. You know the one, where the interviewer goes into total fanboy mode – no judgement, I’ve never met anybody of Jay’s stature so perhaps I’ll be starstruck too – and their excitement jumps off the page a little too much? Anyway, somebody that the homey knows who wasn’t that up on Jay or much of hip-hop asked her for some hip-hop songs that he should check out.

You know, this is the moment that most fans of hip-hop wait for in life. See, most folks you come across already have an opinion on hip-hop, either good or bad. If they’re upwardly mobile and white, chances are that they view rap as the devil spawn of what happens when Nikki Sixx meets cocaine meets Harlem meets blaxploitation. But every now and then, you come across that person who is open-minded enough to still be willing to form a new opinion. And thus you get the opportunity to introduce this person to the art form you love and help to shape their impression. Basically you get to point them to your own personal version of what hip-hop looks like. You know, not Chief Keef and whatever is going on with the Chicago Public Schools. And no Soulja Boy. And you can take them to a place where people named Lil Reese and Lil Scrappy are more irrelevant than they currently are.

Yes. You get to create a Hip-Hop Utopia and introduce this individual to the good sh*t. So the homey and I went back and forth on songs that she should present to her friend. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of pressure involved here. So I figured, I’d bring the pressure to you all. But first, if I was given the opportunity to represent hip-hop to somebody who was open enough to believe that my version of the genre was the one to believe in, and I could only share ten songs, here are the songs I’d offer up:

1. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – T.R.O.Y.

Pretty self-explanatory here, plus it’s my favorite song in hip-hop and one of my favorite songs period. I get to pretend like all hiphop is beautifully produced full of verses about something and nothing AT THE SAME DAMN TIME (and get to use played out statments like that one…which makes no sense because I wouldn’t actually say that…the Ravens put up 41).

2. Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me

For one, it samples Isaac Hayes and I just got finished watching the Stax documentary for the umpteenth time. For two, it’s a song about paranoia and it proves that hip-hop can actually discuss mental health issues. Mmhmm. I said it. Obama is fighting for the right for songs like this. Dr. King marched for this song. Plus, it’s just a great hiphop song.

3. Eminem – Lose Yourself

Probably the best song in his catalog and the perfect description of what it feels like to step on stage. Plus, it describes the essence of hip-hop. It’s not a slow burn type of sport, it’s about taking in the moment, rising to the occasion, and leaving no doubt. It’s like Remember The Titans, except not at all.

4. Queen Latifah – Ladies First

Mostly because I actually think King La went off on this joint and Monie Love repped for the ladies quite properly.

5. Nas – One Mic

This song is pure hip-hop from one of the purest representations of hip-hop, you know, when he’s not channeling his Rick Ross aspirations.

6. Notorious B.I.G. – either Juicy or Kick In The Door

“Juicy” is probably the most logical choice because it’s the story every rapper wishes they had. Minus the phone bill being about $2000 flat. Luckily, most people have unlimited plans now. ‘Pac and Big died before that happened though.”Kick In The Door” on the other hand is so perfect to me. I’d marry it if it wasn’t probably already married to “Unbelievable”.

 

7. Outkast  – Bombs Over Baghdad

This isn’t even remotely my favorite song by the group, however, it’s such a dope record that shows how different hip-hop could take it, I’m all in. Oh, and by the way, ATLiens is my favorite ‘Kast album though Aquemini is totally worthy of its praise.

8. Jay – Z – Can’t narrow this down…Reasonable Doubt

I know this is cheating, but I can’t do it. I can’t pick just one.

9. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Thuggish Ruggish Bone

It’s just a dope ass song. Sue me. Worthy of being included for diversity of sound’s sake.

10. Tupac – Keep Ya Head Up

Self explanatory again.

Okay, there are so many songs and artists I didn’t include for various reasons but could easily deserve a spot on this list. However, I will bring it to you, the people…and for those that hate hip-hop, I’m gonna throw you a bone here…list some of the songs you think are the worst representation as evidence of the terribleness. Equal opportunity, plus I’m curious as to what songs folks who hate hip-hop really know and view as proof positive of the negativity within.

So creep with me folks…what does hip-hop really look like to you?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. HIP HOP SAVED MY LIFE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow night to www.blis.fm/theblaqoutshow from 8-10pm to check out The Blaqout Show as we discuss what’s going on in the world of politics, love, and fashion! Holla if ya hear me!

You Know How We Do It?

911 Emergency. Reconnect The Community.

I’ve made a lot of interesting discoveries since I became a parent. I’ve learned that the Disney Channel has a lot of cool shows. I know who Selena Gomez AND Demi Lovato are and could identify them on sight…in public. I also learned that Phineas and Ferb f*ckin’ rocks and there are some very very good children’s albums.

I’ve also learned extreme patience and the importance of clearly explaining myself for the most effective results.

Which brings me to yesterday and the most interesting lesson I learned: birthday parties do seem to differ by race.

Okay, that might not be completely accurate, as my sample size seems rather small, however, I’ve never let facts get in the way of a perfectly good sociological discovery and analysis, so why start now.

My daughter is a toddler. She’s *this* many years old. So at this point, I’ve been to my fair share of birthday parties. But until yesterday, I hadn’t thought about the fact that, for the most part, nearly all of the party goers were of the ninja persuasion. You see, for the first time, I took my daughter to a birthday party where I was the only ninja participant. My daughter goes to a very diverse daycare/pre-school and has taken a particular liking to a certain Caucasian classmate who is the same age. They *heart* each other. It’s actually cute.

Being the professional observationist that I am, I noticed so many interesting tidbits. For instance, I had to be the youngest parent there. Which struck me as odd since I’m fairly sure that I looked like a teenage parent compared to the other parents. And it wasn’t just my spirit. I think I really just looked that young compared to the rest. That was very different since, well, whenever I go to a bday party of color for my daughter, everybody is pretty much the same age or a little younger than I am. I don’t feel young is the main bullet point.

The next thing that jumped out to me is that all of the parents kept talking about work and travel plans. Literally, I heard more conversations that involved taking a dog overseas than I’ve ever heard in my life. It was all, “my proposal” this or ” this week in July” that. It was interesting because at all of the colored parties I’ve been to, I can’t remember anybody having an in-depth conversation about those things. Not that they don’t happen, I’ve just never heard that.

Most of the birthday parties I’ve been to are full of life conversations as well, but I suppose since most of us know each other very well, they don’t come across as “professional” so to speak. It’s like a regular party with your homeboys or homegirls. But I did know for a fact that these folks all lived very near each other. Hmmm….perhaps its the age thing. Maybe me and my friends are just ignant and the rest of the world is having meaningful and substantive conversations at toddler birthday parties. Maybe…just maybe…Hennessy ISN’T part of the toddler birthday party experience.

That last line is a joke.

No really. I don’t even drink when I have my daughter nor will I ever around her. She moves too quickly for me to have any type of impaired athletic abilities.

Even though they either didn’t realize it or wouldn’t think anything of it, I felt like I got a cultural experience just from going to an upwardly mobile white toddler birthday party. (The white parents at the school where my daughter goes are largely well-to-do hippy, earthy-crunchy, tree huggers with money that affords the ability to be novelists and random artisans). And I immediately thought about how interesting it would be to invite a few of those parents to my daughter’s bday party with a bunch of ninjas with kids the same age as theirs but likely 10 years younger that featured music that included the clean version of “Cashin’ Out” and the catalog of the seminal talent, 2 Chainz. (I actually really mean that, like, how can anybody NOT like 2 Chainz? He entertains me. SIMILAC! Oh, and that Ca$h Out ninja is one ugly motherlover. Like Cash Money Records 1998 ugly.)

Granted, this was just one party. And it was at a park. So alcohol was prohibited. But this seemed very natural. And it was cool. I enjoyed the learning that took place even thought it wasn’t intentional. So I assume that there must be other areas where folks have had similar experiences, right? Doing one thing with your peoples and the same thing with other folks peoples and immediate differences (good and bad) surface?

It’s Monday, let’s be cultural…what experiences have you folks have that mirror mine? Learn me something. Learn us something

-VSB P aka MR. BDAY EXTRAVAGANZA aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

I Do This For (Your) Culture?

That's the same thing I did Mr. Benjamin.

I saw the movie Marci X this past weekend. My random movie game is not to be trifled with. Not a bad movie, but not exactly one I’d recommend anybody spend time watching. Of course, if you’re bored and don’t have anything else to do, there are much worse movies you can watch than Marci X like say Who Made The Potato Salad?

Well, in the movie, Lisa Kudrow stars as the billionaire heiress to a music company mogul who is trying to get Damon Wayans (his name is Dr. S in the movie) to apologize for some of his brash lyrics. Well, they end up dating and the plan is for him to go and apologize for his lyrics at the MTV Music awards.

Well, as Damon Wayans date to the awards show, Lisa Kudrow’s character does what any white woman dating a thugged out Black man would do…

…she dresses like an Erykah Badu knockoff.

Say heffa say what???

Oh no she didn’t.

She was fully garbed in a headwrap, a kinte cloth wrap dress, some beads, and I could have sworn I saw an African medallion somewhere. Pure and utter non-sense. And it wasn’t offensive or anything, just overdone. Totally overdone.

It got me to thinking about the asstastic mess of a job people do when they’re trying to emulate another culture in attempts to assimilate or show support. And yes, we do a horrible job, regardless of race. This means Black people too. This isn’t just a white thing…this spans ALL cultures.

For the life of me, I don’t understand how people can really be so oblivious to the fact that in our attempts to show support or “understanding” of another culture, we completely turn ourselves into caricatures. For instance, when white people try to emulate Black culture, have you noticed that they pick the most extreme examples of Black culture to embrace? I’m talking gold or platinum chains that hang down to their ankles, doo-rags when they have straight hair, hiphop gear that nobody even remotely attached to Black culture would wear. Hell, sometimes I think that most companies make “hiphop” clothing specifically for the leagues of white people who want to be cool between the ages of 13-24 and think that “Black” culture is the way to go.

And it isn’t like everything is off. It just seems like people take that one extra step that would normally have you falling off a cliff and getting caught by your toenails on a broken bottle of Absolut Vodka hanging out of the side of a mountain.

Let’s not just stop with white people though. Let’s talk about Black folks. Yes, Black folks who think they are doing a service to Africa by wearing sh*t Africans wouldn’t be caught dead in. Have you ever noticed how ridiculous a lot of Black folks look when they are paying tribute to “mother Africa”?

Me too.

Hell, it offends me sometimes. Throwing on some kinte clothe pants some slippers exposing your flour-powered toes and putting on an “African” hat you purchased from an Arab guy in your local mall doesn’t exhibit support. It exhibits an exhibit of what not to do when trying to show support to your African brothers and sisters, most of whom you’ll never actually meet.

Hmm…I wonder. Has anybody ever thought to ask an African what they would wear at some sort of traditional ceremony in their home country?? It seems as if the biggest problem we have is that none of us ever ASKS a person of the culture we’re attempting to copy what THEY would wear.

And that includes Africans too.

I’m not sure whose worse in this case, white people or Africans. See, it would seem that Africans get their Black fashion ideas from the same place white people do.

Television and other white people.

And I’m just not quite sure which shows either of them are watching.

Hmmm…

Africans that try to dress like Black Americans miss the mark so hard you have to wonder where they were shooting. It’s the same problem white people have, and its the same problem Black Americans have when trying to be more “African.”

Just makes you want to slap everybody.

For some reason, in our attempts to show support we end up mocking the very thing we want to support. How dumb is that? Thats why I don’t wear anything traditionally African now. Hell, I don’t want to walk outside and offend an African. Some years ago I bought a shirt that said “I (Heart) Afrikan People.”

Hmmm…

It was a good idea when I bought it. Then I thought about it, even wore it once, and felt a whole lot of weird because I’m not African. Well, not in the traditional sense. I’m clearly of African descent.

But the fact is, wearing a shirt that says I Love African People isn’t exactly showing love, it feels more like a mockery. I can wear a shirt talking about I love Black people because well…I’m a Black dude. I associate with Black people. (Allegedly) African people view me as Black. Basically, its like a white person wearing a shirt that says I Love Black People. The right sentiments might be there, but truth be told, it almost looks like a slap in the face. That’s some shit you say after you say something ignorant to attempt to cover your tracks.

And I’m ignorant…so I know what you say when trying to cover your tracks.

I keed I keed.

Back to the point here…it’s interesting how in our attempts to show support we often end up mocking other cultures, openly.

What makes it even more f*cked up is this. In the movie, Lisa Kudrow dressed up as a stereotypic “down-to-earth soul” sistah, kind of chick. Damon Wayans…was a gansta rapper. That shit doesn’t match. Which highlights another problem. Not only do folks not know what they’re doing…they don’t even know WHEN to not know what they’re doing!

So the next time you see a white chick in a headwrap with some Ankh earrings or a Black guy wearing a kinte cloth dashiki with a map of the middle passage adorning the front…

…slap the living shit out of them then tell them the good news.

You just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to Geico.

Seriously though, why do you think that we people, as a rule, generally do such a terrible job of emulating and/or supporting other cultures?

Inquiring minds would like to know?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. LET’S PLAY NICE TODAY aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

PS: VSB recently teamed up with Coliseum Apparel to do a limited run of VSB branded crewneck sweaters. These joints are dope and I’ve already been rocking them about town. It’s still perfect weather for them as well. #teamVSB. Go on over to Coliseum Apparel’s site to check them out and cop you one! They’re going to go fast!!!!