Monthly Archives: November 2010

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

 

**Before we begin, understand that I have no intentions of debating Kanye’s greatness.  This is an exercise in pure crushery — no more, no less.**

I love Kanye. Like, love him, love him. I loved him when folks initially castigated him for celebrating the non-college route to success, and when he was pissy because he didn’t win that MTV award that one year.  I loved him when he reminded me of “Roscoe” from Martin as he declared — without any shred of jest at all — that “George Bush.  Doesn’t Care.  About Black People.”  *sniff* *wipes dirty lil nose*  I loved him when he grew that Black man mullet a couple years back,

808s and Hair Mistakes

and when he snatched that mic outta Taylor Swift’s hands, and then *himshrugged* at his own audaciousness.  I even loved him when I saw on Mediatakeout was told that he had emailed somebody pics of his stick … … .  He may be better acquainted with douchey moments than most, but he’s still golden in my eyes.

Although I fell head over heels for Kanye, I didn’t follow his rise to stardom in stalker fashion.  So no, I don’t really know any obscure before-he-was-famous-facts.  What I was sure of, however, after I listening to that first album, was the special place he’d always have with me.  On ”Through the Wire,’ I was like, word!?  Homie’s rappin through a jaw that’s wired shut?? If he’da ever asked me, I’da been his girl.  “she a delta, so she been thowin’ that dynasty sign” I loved that.

You see, that he is absolutely beautiful to me, and dresses his mother fucking ass off notwithstanding, I imagine Kanye smells like good leather and some kind of warm, masculine spice.  But what’s most importantly, is that he straddles the bitchass line so comfortably, and so recklessly.  You didn’t happen to catch that Matt Lauer interview, didya?  And c’mon,  “Runaway” has emo written all over it.  Kanye wears his feelings on his finely tailored sleeves, suggesting that his heart, unlike many rappers’,  might actually pump real, warm-blooded  emotion as opposed to 9mm shells and threats on cats’ lives.  I think the risk Kanye takes as a rapper is in being one who uses his weakness as armor, and strength.  Sure, he’s a rapper with all of the pomp and circumstance and frivolity and nonchalance that title accords in 2010.  But he’s also a guy.  A guy who feels shit.  And so he mills about, spilling his lil feelins in the air. It’s refreshing.  I respect him for being so artful about it.

Now, one could argue that Kanye isn’t the first to do what he does, nor is he the “best” at it.  And to he or she who might open his or her mouth spew such ridiculousness, I’d say:  fuck that.  He is the best because I love him, and in spite of it.  Indeed, his presence is a present.  And so you, naysayer, can kiss my ass…so to speak.

But don’t take my word for it.  This is “Blame Game” — among my favorites so far.

XOXO, Kanye.


For Girls.

I haven’t been a big fan of Tyler Perry in the last few years. In fact, I was kind of on the ‘you may be doing more harm than good, homie” bandwagon. Despite basking in the blessings of luminary figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Cicely Stretchedmouth Tyson, I’ve always felt that Perry’s movies severely lacked depth. His characters, while sensational, were often static and flat, saved by some religious proclamation or an ‘i’m too blessed to be stressed” type rhetoric.   It was simple, formulaic, and sub-par.

Still, what I’ve liked about Tyler Perry is his steadfast allegiance to the life he knows. As a born and bred southerner with a family full of matriarchs, I get Madea; I get the Black ass life that Perry often seeks to portray; it’s sincere than a mug. I just always thought he could and should do it better.  Inasmuch as we appreciate a humble beginning, the big screen is a long way away from the chitlin’ circuit. And as much as I respect the brother’s craft, I’m kinda good on a bunch of shuckin’ and jivin’ and signifyin all over my AMC theater. Not that such content is incapable of making for a decent movie.  It’s just that the listlessness of Tyler Perry scripts to date simply couldn’t be overlooked — no matter how much I could “relate” to the characters, nor how marginally funny they were.

I’m happy to say, however, that I didn’t walk away from ‘For Colored Girls’ feeling like I wanted my money back. Although I suspect that the depth of story and dialogue in the film is mostly attributed to Ntozake Shange’s brilliant original work, Perry certainly held his own. I mean, Tyler Perry is kinda gay Tyler Perry, and so there is always that element of over-the-top-ness. Remember when he had them black ass angels suspended in the air playing harps in Madea’s Family Reunion? No? Trust me, they was there. In any case, in the context of ‘For Colored Girls,’ the shock of what you see does help to make the overarching point. Which is embodied in one of the last lines of Shange’s work and Perry’s movie: “i found god in myself. & i loved her/ i loved her fiercely.”

Before we proceed, please spend a lil time with my disclaimer:

I acknowledge, without reservation, the legions of great men in great relationships, who take care of their women and their children. We know you’re out there, and we support you. And we love you, and we believe in you.  In other words, if you aint fuckin up or haven’t fucked up some woman’s head, then this aint about you.

That being said, I’ve heard the same complaint over and over about how, once again, Tyler Perry has skewered black men.  I disagree completely.  ‘For Colored Girls’ is probably the first film since ‘The Color Purple’ to address Black women’s issues, and indeed women’s issues in general, from a Black woman’s perspective.    And so, while I praise men who do the right thing, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge also that a great many have made life as a woman difficult to bear.  For centuries, men have controlled the means of production, and thus, the message which was produced and distributed.

The mainstream conception of femininty pits beauty and desirability against intelligence/ambition/independence.  Thus, our worth is often determined by our measurements, our attractiveness, our degree of assertiveness–wherein much is too much, and little can be just right. Cats like the idea of a Michelle Obama, but may prefer Laura Bush in reality. They like a strong woman in theory, but like to be “the man”, too. And in the absence of common sense, at some point those two concepts become incompatible, equating the “independent woman” with the slippery slope to the emasculated man.

Moreover, I believe there exists a kind of continuum which describes the schizophrenia of male behaviors. It’s an interplay between masculinity and predation. The masculinity is what we love — the opening of the doors, walking and talking real strong, lifting the heavy shit, and defending our honor. Predation, on the other hand, is masculinity gone horribly awry. It’s the feeling of being stared at and whistled at by a group of men you don’t know, and then being called a “bitch” when you fail to swoon at their ineloquent advances. It’s that moment when you’re engaged in the freaky deaky with the dude from the dance, and you realize that he realizes just how much stronger he is than you. And then uses it to his advantage.  It’s Uncle so-and-so being a little too chummy in too weird a way with his niece — or nephew.  It’s embedded in the questions, “well, did you lead him on? was your dress that short?” It’s even evident in the snide shit that men say about the intelligence of women, intimating that our emotions make us incapable of exercising reason and logic — long considered male/masculine traits.

Adding credibility to this last piece though, is how we go equally as batshit over attention from dudes who treat us right, and dudes who don’t. You ever seen two men fight over a woman who’s playing them both? Chances are, no. Because women have been led to believe that it’s all about having the guy. No matter if you’re successful in all other aspects of life, you aint shit unless you got a man.

But at what cost? Do you forego the full breadth of your ambition to snag or keep the guy? Some of us do. Because the statistics dictate that the higher up the socioeconomic ladder we climb, the more likely we are to remain single. Why should we settle, though? Of course, all men aren’t shitty men. However, a lot more of ’em could be doing a hell of a lot better.  While the statistics are what they are, with gradations and explanations for why they are, the fact remains that many men are being outpaced. And for women’s attempts at self-empowerment, they are rewarded with “I mean, yeah, but you aint got no man. You can’t keep no man. And so…”

For me, ‘For Colored Girls’ filled in that blank. “So…what!? Although I’m only a woman, I am still enough. By. My. Self.’ This is the message that most women, regardless of race, frequently miss. Worth is not determined by who or how many “want” you, or how attractive they think you are.  Nor is it defined by the perfect breast-to-waist-to-ass ratio. I mean, do you really want a dude who wants a bobble head doll with a bangin body? What does that say about him?   More importantly, what does it say about you?  He merely stated his choice; you chose to be his bobble head doll.

What I mean is, I think men and women have to figure out what our roles are in this new millennium.     Somehow, it’s gotten all screwed up.  Because women can pay for shit, and don’t necessarily need a man for stability or security, then men don’t seem to know what to do with themselves, and in turn, women seem to have the damnedest time dropping dead weight.  In other words, the quality of being male isn’t enough to seal the deal anymore.  We don’t need you to validate us.  Rather, understand and acknowledge that it is possible both to complement and to lead, as the partnership is the very essence of the relationship.

In this regard, I suppose the first step is ours — women’s.  It is looking in the mirror and loving and respecting the reflection that glares back — in all its glory, with all its flaws.  It lies in affirming the God in us, and never, ever allowing anyone the power to sever that relationship.  The second step is to read Ntozake Shange’s poem, or see Tyler Perry’s movie.  Tragedy is triumph on deck — and the message, in my opinion, of both works is that loving yourself enough makes you strong enough to weather any storm.  No matter how cute, or charming he appears is.


“Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Black life in America has historically been defined within the context of a set of uniquely diverse experiences, some beautiful, and some others fucked up incredibly difficult.  To that end, the relationship of Blacks to the United States of America is a contentious one, as African slaves and their American descendants became the omnipresent “other” – the “them” to their “us”; the opposite of normal, an impossible-to-pacify minority.  Updated for contemporary times, the “other” is now further defined as one who happens not to be male, or culturally white, or straight.

The formal abolition of slavery and subsequent efforts during the first Reconstruction signaled that Americans had a conscience.   However, the establishment of American apartheid south of the Mason Dixon line shortly thereafter, coupled with a general policy of no hablo negroes bein lynched with respect to it, clearly signaled that said conscience had holes in it.  And was negotiable if circumstances merited it.  Still, advances made in the name of equality and respect for person-hood during the Civil Rights Movement further alluded to Americans’ attempts at fulfilling our lofty founding ideals.  And thus, political, social, and economic gains made by minority populations thereafter followed an exceptional model.

And so, I suppose what’s most disheartening about discussions of equality are those that happen among minorities within minorities — who often fail to realize that their issues are the same.  The Bishop Eddie Long scandal gift-wrapped for us an opportunity to see just how fucked up some of us can be about our conceptions of “rights” — who deserves em’ and who don’t.  Bishop Long’s towering influence over Black opposition to gay marriage, in addition to his alleged affinity for Atlanta’s God-fearing Christian boys was just weird — to say nothing of those photos.  Those muscle shirts.  That hairstyle.

No matter what happens in this case, I hope the truth prevails; the truth, of course, should also bear an asterisk that reads:  *dude was still pretty gross, though.


Remember those first few days?  It felt like somebody had slapped church-going Black America with a healthy dose of reality.  Not the kind that puts the Black church on dirty-old-man par with the Catholic church; the more obvious one — that if the inimitable “Bishop” Eddie Long could be feelin on young mens’ booties, then perhaps Antoine from the church choir might be more than just a little different.  And finally, that Antoine’s limp wrists and cherry-flavored lip chap probably indicate that he, like millions of other Americans, is as gay as…well…as gay as Bishop Eddie Long might be.

But that’s the kicker.  Bishop Long said he was like David, except that he hadn’t “thowed” no stones back at the effusive accusations of gay inappropriate behavior.  Funny as the Bishop’s antics before and during the scandal may have been (in an irreverent anti-gay-gets-called-out-on-some-shady-gay-shit kind of way), the damage to the black psyche about what it is to be gay ain’t funny at all and had already been done.

I know my mother’s homophobia is mostly informed by both how and when she grew up in Alabama, but so, too, is her identity as a Black woman. What’s different in her case is that her community would likely rally to oppose discrimination as long as it was framed in racial terms.  But, did Bishop Long and his ilk realize that when they marched in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, that they were restricting individuals’ rights to equal treatment?  Moreover, did they realize that they had operationalized the MLK approach to equality in order to protect the Jim Crow approach to marriage?

I remember that the 2004 elections swung in Republicans’ favor largely because of social issues — and by that, I mean because of gay issues.  You ever heard of Gregory Daniels?  If not, you need only know that the brother is a pastor from Chicago who declared in the New York Times in February 2004 that “If the K.K.K. opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”  Word, Pastor?

I wonder if Bishop Long and Reverend King realized that it took a Supreme Court decision (in 1967, no less) to disavow the notion that Blacks and Whites shouldn’t be miscegenating — mixin’ the races all up.  But, to that end, that the ban (although unenforceable) wasn’t removed from the Alabama state constitution until 2000, although nearly 40% of voters thought the document was perfectly fine just the way it was.  Similarly, with regard to the ban on the open integration of gay and lesbian soldiers in the United States military, maintaining “group cohesion” was part of the exact same rhetoric which justified a racially segregated armed forces.  Seriously, folks don’t see these parallels?

The concept of civil rights and the correlative struggle for equality is not one limited to racial discrimination and/or Black issues.  Rather, it is rooted in the notion that an injustice anywhere is indeed a threat to justice everywhere.  Thus, allowing folks to vote on whether or not two consenting adults can marry is absurd.  And justifying said absurdity by intimating that the “people spoke” is the quintessential insult to injury.  Equality isn’t defined differently for different people; that’s part and parcel of being equal.  Additionally, the similarities between black and gay equal rights movements are about as obvious as the lengths to which many Black Americans (both liberal and conservative) go to prove them different.  Fuck the religious piece; it’s not about that.  Black heterosexuals don’t own the conception of civil rights, and the protections they accord.

Lastly, victimization at the hands of a tyrannical majority is dangerous in any regard. Faith and all that is one thing.  A personal thing.  Which we respect in its various forms.  But, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that pointing the finger at “them” isn’t also pointing the finger at us.  Black unemployment being what it is, for instance, includes gay people too, y’know.