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I’ve Listened to Views Several Times and I Still Don’t Know…

12 May

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…if Drake has lost his damn mind.  Drake, the Six God, as he calls himself, is having a moment. Views, the highly anticipated studio album from the hip-hop/R&B artist is long, with twenty tracks completing the work.  Usually, when I see an album with twenty tracks, I think that the artist had a crisis of conscience.  However, I am unsure as to what Drake tried to accomplish with this album.  The fact that it was released less than a week after Beyonce’s obvious masterpiece Lemonade makes it even more difficult to appreciate.

One of the problems I think Drake has with this album is the release of “Hotline Bling” as the lead single ultimately molded its expectations. “Hotline Bling,” obviously one of the biggest songs of 2015 and its accompanying video making Drake a sweater-wearing, goofy-dancing icon, set Drake’s fans up for disappointment.

One of my favorite tracks on Views include “Child’s Play,” which narrates a lopsided relationship in which a woman continues sleeping with Drake in order to get him to continue buying her clothes.  Drake, of course, is using her for sex.  He references a fight taking place at Cheesecake Factory (a place that I could never imagine someone like Drake eating) and making up with luxury gifts: “I give out Chanel like a hug”.  Drake also expresses fear that his apparently high sex number will be exposed: “How many girls have slept in this bed – say a different number than the one in my head.” Drake also samples the New Orleans bounce hit “She Rode Dat Dick Like a Soldier”.  Drake sings, “She rode it like a soldier, She rode it like a jungle soldier” in the refrain, in an effort to bring some edge to the album.

Another great song is “Controlla,” a song with an island vibe and that sees Drake adopting Jamaican slang: “My last girl would tear me apart, but she’d never wanna split a ting with me”.  In the hook to the song, Drake decries the power this woman has over him: “I think I’d lie for you / I think I’d die for you / Jodeci “Cry For You” / Do things when you want me to /  Like controlla, controlla”.

“Controlla” is immediately followed by one of the album’s singles, “OneDance,” which maintains a fast-paced Afrobeat.   In the hook, Drake paints a scene of his infamous dancing, but in this case, he has a glass of Hennessy in his hand: “That’s why I need a one dance / Got a Hennessy in my hand / One more time ‘fore I go / Higher powers taking a hold on me”.  Another single from the album, “Pop Style,” contains more humblebrags: “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”.

In the next track, “Grammys,” featuring everyone’s favorite mumbling rapper Future, Drake sends a clear message to his haters, who he reminds have not won Grammys like he has: “Tell me how you really feel, tell me how you really feel / I would ask you what’s the deal but y’all don’t even got a deal / Most niggas with a deal couldn’t make a greatest hits / Y’all a whole lot of things but you still ain’t this”.

There’s also a collaboration with Rihanna, Drake’s rumored girlfriend, called “Too Good,” which also has some Caribbean influence.  This song pales in comparison to Rihanna’s “Work,” on which Drake also appears.  To be honest, “Too Good” is pretty boring.  “Last night, I lost my patience,” sings Drake. “I’m too good to you,” he continues, perhaps singing to Rihanna, who chimes in with “I don’t know how to talk to you.”  These people seem really confused for more than one reason.

Throughout the album, Drake certainly seems pleased with himself.  Overall, the album is growing on me, but I truly think that twenty tracks is simply out of hand, and that perhaps some of the songs that appeared on Drake’s 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late should have been on Views to make a more sensible album. But is this as good as it will get for Drake creatively? He’s only 29 so I think there’s still some room for him to grow. I’m still waiting for Drake’s equivalent of Lemonade. 

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News Alert: Beyonce Was Always Black; Women Have Bodies

14 Feb

Last night, Saturday Night Live nailed a parody film trailer for The Day Beyonce Turned Black, poking fun at some of the ridiculous reactions to Beyonce’s SuperBowl 50 halftime performance last Sunday.  Here is the sketch:

What is ultimately so amazing about this parody is that it is hardly a parody at all.  If you were on Facebook or Twitter last Sunday, you know that people were pissed.  Not just any people – white people.  It’s astonishing to me that a woman who has always been black is receiving backlash for releasing a song and video that embraces her heritage.  People are outraged over a good pop song with the video that goes with it.  These are the times we live in, and I am terrified.

The video for “Formation” is not something that should terrify people in 2016.  I’m not sure exactly of how to explain this, but I feel that as time goes on, our culture is becoming more afraid of otherness, and less welcoming to diversity.  Look at the types of shows that are popular now.  Shows like Undateable, anything in the Chuck Lorre canon, or my personal non-favorite, 2 Broke Girls, the last of which that many could deem racist.  These shows are meant to be fluffy and filled with inoffensive humor, but compared to the shows that were popular almost forty years ago – All in the Family, Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons – they are weak in subject matter.  The mastermind behind the shows of the 1970s that attacked issues of race, class, gender, and more was Norman Lear.  Judging from the content of today’s television and entertainment, the next Norman Lear is not yet here.

Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance was exactly what one would expect from the superstar – it featured high-powered dance moves and the queen herself flanked by dozens of black-beret-wearing dancers.  Beyonce wore a black and gold military jacket in tribute to Michael Jackson, who made the look famous on his Dangerous tour.  Many who decried this performance accused Beyonce of imitating the Black Panthers.  However, anyone with half a brain would know that this was a work of art – a performance crafted by Beyonce and her choreographers, in perfect pop style.

Beyonce also came under fire for having a female body – with, god forbid – thighs that move when she dances.  I even saw one girl make a comment on Facebook saying that “Beyonce looked fat as hell”.  Let’s dissect that for a moment.  BeyonceLooked. Fat. As. Hell.  If Beyonce is fat, then I am the marshmallow Stay Puft man from Ghostbusters II in woman form.  Beyonce is not fat.  She is an other-worldly creature who has a body that women envy and a figure about which men fantasize.  She is almost not human.

The song Beyonce performed – her new single “Formation,” is nothing more than a celebration of black culture and heritage.  This apparently shocked many people who forgot that Beyonce, in fact, has always been black.  The video, featuring references to socio-political issues such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the killings of Trayvon Martin and other young black men – is not offensive at all.

Beyonce sings in tribute to the things that make her Beyonce: “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana / You mix that negro with that creole make a Texas bama / I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros / I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils”.  Here. Beyonce refers to her heritage as the daughter of a man from Alabama and the daughter of a woman descended from French creoles in Louisiana.  The last part of the lyric references rumors that Beyonce had undergone a nose job in order to look less black.  Beyonce also asserts her undeniable swagger: “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it / I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it” is an obvious affront to her haters, and another lyric that slams the idea that she was bleaching her skin. (Yellow-bone is a slang term for being light-skinned).  Some may believe that because Beyonce is light-skinned and marketed to the masses, that she is not black.  Guess what?  Beyonce has always been black.  She’s always been a woman.  She’s always had a body.

It is often said that we fear the things that we do not understand.  It is clear to me now that too many white Americans are afraid of what is unlike them.  Beyonce, as an empowered, feminist, black, hugely successful, and talented woman, is simply too much for people to handle.

All hail Queen Bey.

Beyonce - Braids Car.png

Dance Shot - Pool

Beyonce Southern Ladies

Beyonce - Formation

Beyonce on Police Car

I Know When that Hotline Bling, That Can Only Mean One Thing

21 Oct

Ugh, I love Drake. I love his face and his new, more muscular build, plus that beard.

“Hotline Bling,” for those of you who do not have access to the radio, television, or other mediums of entertainment communication, is the hottest song of the moment.  Even though the lyrics are being criticized as anti-feminist by numerous bloggers, the song is really little more than an ode to a hookup lost – something that anyone, man or woman, can easily relate to.

The line where Drake laments the fact that his former lover is now “Bendin’ over backwards for someone else…Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else” is perhaps the most poignant, because who hasn’t wondered about the current sexcapades of a former lover?  Ugh, Drake just needs to dance this off!!!

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Look how upset Drake is as he sings the following: ” Cause ever since I left the city, you / started wearing less and goin’ out more / Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor / Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before”!!

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Gah, the pain!!! He just has to dance!!!

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The video features Drake dancing in several vibrantly-colored tableaus, and while most are calling Drake’s dancing, “dorky,” I find it totally endearing and indicative that he has a real personality. I mean, look at this cha-cha:

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Drake also does this funny move with his knees:

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Not to mention that this happens, laaaddiieeesss!!!:

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You can watch the full video for “Hotline Bling” here.  10 out of 10.

Because the Internet: In Defense of Childish Gambino

7 Jan

A few weeks ago, Gawker featured an essay by Kyla Marshell as part of their ongoing “True Stories” series published every Saturday morning.  Ms. Marshell’s choice of topic was glaringly irrelevant, ill-researched, and all-around unnecessary.  With the anticipation of the release of Because the Internet, the third album by actor-writer-rapper Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, Ms. Marshell found it an appropriate time to attack the character of Glover, calling him a “sad black boy”.

The majority of her critique of Glover is admittedly ill-informed.  Marshell notes that hip-hop is not something she knows too much about:

I don’t know much about rap, so I’m not sure who the reigning emperor of pussy and bitches (what’s the difference?) is, but whoever claims the throne, they don’t need any more subjects. Which is funny, because he should make Donald their jester.

Marshell goes on to say that she saw Glover’s picture and thought he was cute, and that’s how she eventually ended up at one of his shows.  Clearly this is a poor measurement of a rapper’s worth. Then, Ms. Marshell takes a real jab at Glover:

Donald is just so awkward, so uncomfortable in his own skin. In addition to his posture problems and unwillingness to blink is the fact that he’s so caught up on his childhood. Childish Gambino could be fudged into simpler terms to mean Babyish Baby, and that’s apt. Donald’s childhood, I glean, was very similar to mine: an ethnically black child who grew up culturally white because of the surrounding school system and neighborhood. The difference between him and me, however, is that I found something else to say besides Ow.

This seemingly endless personal attack on Glover does nothing to substantiate any legitimate claims about his music.  Instead, the focus simply becomes how “awkward” and uncomfortable” Glover appears onstage.

I am well-aware of my minimal connection to Glover, but I somehow find the need to defend him and his work.  I first saw Donald Glover live onstage in a Hammerkatz sketch performance at NYU in 2006.  I was a freshman, and he was either a senior or just graduated, and already employed by 30 Rock.  I’ve always had aspirations in comedy, which I am currently pursuing, and I was thoroughly impressed to see someone who was making a similar dream and goals a reality for himself.  To young aspiring writers, especially those in comedy, Donald Glover is a model of perseverance and hard work and where it takes you when it pays off.  Not to mention that he is one of the most gifted people around today.  A lot of people try comedy, try to write, and try to act.  And many of them fail.  the fact that Glover does all of those things professionally and on a high level of success is something to admire.

Marshell’s observation that Glover’s stage performance overflowed with nervousness and tension is nearly irrelevant.  Given that Donald Glover is a seasoned performer, primarily in sketch and improv, perhaps it is natural for him to show tension in his nascent music career.  Because the Internet is a diary of contemporary disposable culture, wrapped in pretty rhymes and inverted wordplay.  This album is the birth of a truly great rap artist, and displays much more maturity than the previous Gambino effort, Camp.  Perhaps Glover is nervous onstage for a reason; not everyone finds their way in every art form the first time.  The progression of his lyricism speaks volumes about how seriously Glover is taking his work.

Gambino’s new album is a nonstop confessional of a fast come-up and the tangled mess of love and loss that typically makes up the experience of someone in their mid to late 20’s.  “Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)” is probably my favorite track on the album.  Gambino moves between singing and rapping a la Drake, but with what feels like a more genuine sense of depth.  Gambino is a more nuanced version of Drake, less about the platinum on his wrist, and more about the feelings he gets from his big come up.  There are flourishes of humor throughout the album, and it feels as though Gambino is purposefully twisting around some of the tropes of rap and making them all his own and inherently intellectual.

On “Sweatpants,” Gambino chants “don’t be mad cause I’m doing me better than you doing you,” reminding his haters that his grind is all about him, even if he is trying to be ironic.  Gambino also displays some fun wordplay on this track: “I’ve got a penthouse on both coasts, pH balance;” “I got more tail than that PetCo, you faker than some Sweet ‘N Low”.

On the final track, the most appropriately named “Life: The Biggest Troll,”  Glover makes the most important observation of the album: “Because the internet, mistakes are forever”.  This is essentially the new motto of the millenial generation.  In an age where everything is tweeted, blogged, Instagrammed, and Facebooked to death, our past remains in this odd little capsule, and anything we say can be used against us, especially the dumb things we say. Perhaps Kyla Marshell did not get this memo.

Because the Internet: 8.5/10

Ray J’s “I Hit It First”: An Analysis of the Worst Thing Ever Created

29 Apr

Can you name a song by Ray J? Do you remember who Ray J is? Perhaps you recall Brandy, Ray J’s more successful and older sister. She was the one who sang “The Boy is Mine” with Monica back in the 90’s. Unfortunately for Ray J, many people do not know him for his music, but for his parlaying into reality television when he “looked for love” on the VH1 show For the Love of Ray J. He also had a song a couple years back that was sort of a hit (“Sexy Can I”).

This album cover. Blah.

This album cover. Blah.

The thing Ray J is most famous for is his sex tape with Kin Kardashian, and boy, does he want us to remember that.  Ray J’s latest song, “I Hit it First” is a simple tune that allows him to brag about banging out Kim before she ended up with Kris Humphries of the Brooklyn Nets and Kanye West, of well, being Kanye West.

This song is so mind-blowingly awful that it bends all rules of awfulness and really just leaves anyone listening to it to want to be deaf. The lyrics are the work of a true imbecile. Here, a sampling:

She might move on to rappers and ballplayers
But we all know I hit it first
I hop in the club and boppers show love, and I don’t even put in work
I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it first
I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it first

Yikes. Hold on, it gets much worse. I give you the first verse:
I had her head going north and her ass going south
But now baby chose to go West
We deep in the building she know that I kill ’em
I know that I hit it the best
Candles lit with that wine, money still on my mind
And I gave her that really bomb sex
No matter where she goes or who she knows
She still belongs in my bed
Going hard in the streets, mobbin with my homies
Sippin’ on good, blowin’ on OG
Me and ghost sittin’ clean with the matching rollie
I did that first so everybody know me

Hmm. “her head going north and her ass going south”? This could mean so many things.  Ray J is a true poet.

You can listen to the full song on SoundCloud:

“No matter where she goes or who she knows / She still belongs in my bed”. Ray J wants Kim back in his bed. Let’s be honest – he wants to be famous for something again. The only thing that ever made him slightly famous at all. Doing Kim Kardashian. Yawn.

The fact that Ray J thinks this an appropriate song to release as a single is just weird. Plus, the album cover is a lame attempt at referencing the cover of Kanye West’s masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  It’s a blurred photo of Kim Kardashian in her bikini, strolling down the beach.

Ray J has always been a mediocre singer and this song cements this fact. “I Hit It First” – the worst thing ever created.

Amy Winehouse & the Poeticism of “The 27 Club”

31 Jul

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

There’s some place in the universe where fallen rock stars and actors congregate, a place mere mortals will never get the chance to see. The fascination with dying young and talented once again surfaced in the news this past weekend when Amy Winehouse left our world last weekend. She left through the portal of London, but there’s no doubt that she’d be allowed entrance into the post-mortem clubhouse occupied by the likes of Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin.

When I first heard the news, it was over the radio. The disc jockey made a tasteless joke about Amy’s hit song “Rehab,” and her famous declaration that “no, no, no,” she would not be going. There’s a stigma against addicts that exists constantly but seems to become more strong when a famous addict dies. Amy Winehouse’s rebellion song against something that is expected to help her (And she attempted rehabilitation several times, only to seem to have to return again.) came back to haunt her as she faced the death that many tragic figures meet.

There is no glory in dying slowly from the abuse of alcohol and drugs. There are people in my life I fear will one day succumb to years of abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the thought of having to find them after everyone else leaves them to die truly scares me. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can do for people suffering from addiction until they themselves realize how they are hurting themselves and others.

The night of Ms. Winehouse’s death, I listened to Back to Black  for the first time in years. The album, of course known for its huge hit “Rehab,” is a multi-layered journey capturing the heartbreak of life and love. One of the songs I identify with is “You Know I’m No Good,” displays the conflicted feelings Amy Winehouse had about loving men who she knew sucked, but she just could not seem to help to stop. This is often the case with many women, and it seems that Amy allowed several of her relationships, especially her marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil, affect her in ways that only the use of alcohol and drugs could soften. Perhaps my favorite song on the album is “Tears Dry On Their Own,” a tragic song disguised by fast beats and a chorus of women in the background. Amy sings, “I fucked myself in the head with stupid men.” Unfortunately, I identify with this, as I suspect many women do.

The pain displayed in her voice gives Winehouse a place in the kingdom of female singer-songwriters suffering over men, loneliness, and struggles with sadness. Without Amy Winehouse, there would be no Duffy, no Adele, and likely no interest at all in female singers pouring out their hearts about things that matter.

The 27 Club now has a new member, though it’s still unclear what impact Winehouse’s music will continue to have in the years to come. Winehouse did not likely peak artistically, but the art she left behind will serve as a reminder of the pain and struggle that comes with genius. She is perhaps not a Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison in terms of artistry, but she stands alongside them as another example of what dying young can do for one’s talent. It seems as though no one truly appreciates anyone until they’ve died, and Ms. Winehouse appears as yet another recruit for post-mortem legend status. Pour one out for Amy Winehouse.

All Hail Nicki Minaj

28 Nov

I’ve long wanted to write a piece praising Nick Minaj, who is quite possibly the best female rapper to break out since Lil’ Kim.  Minaj, whose real name is Onika Maraj, is bursting with creative talent and a flow unlike many rappers (both and male and female) who receive a fair amount of radio play. Minaj originally hails from Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago, but grew up in Queens, New York. As a student at the Laguardia High School for the Performing Arts, Minaj studied drama, which I believe has a clear influence on her rapping style and use of alter egos, such as “Roman Zolanski” and “Nicki Teresa”.  Her incorporation of singing with rapping mirrors the style of fellow Young Money artist Drake, with whom Minaj collaborates on occasion, though I am not afraid to state that Minaj is more talented than her male Young Money counterparts.

Minaj, who is signed with Young Money Entertainment (Lil’ Wayne’s record label) first gained attention with the release of several mixtapes during the second half of the last decade.  At this time, Minaj relied on a sexy image that she thought would be necessary to giant the sort of success she hoped for.  In one interview, Minaj discussed the sex appeal expected of female rappers: “the female rappers of my day spoke about sex a lot… and I thought that to have the success they got, I would have to represent the same thing. When in fact I didn’t have to represent the same thing.”

It’s a good thing that Minaj chose to clear away expectations of her becoming the next Lil’ Kim, because the first press on Minaj resulted in classy pictures like this one:

In 2010, Minaj moved away from her over-the-top sex-drenched image and introduced her Barbie-influenced alter-ego, complete with a “Barbie” logo diamond chain and doll-like dance moves she started to incorporate into her performances.

Minaj appeared on several very successful singles throughout the year, the most notable of which are “My Chick Bad,” by Ludacris, “Lil Freak,” by Usher, “Letting Go,” by Sean Kingston, and my personal favorite, “Bottoms Up,” by Trey Songz.  Minaj appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 fourteen times in 2010, and her single “Your Love” hit #1 on the Billboard rap chart. Minaj’s flow could best be described as violent, somewhat over-the-top and punctuated by the strange faces Minaj likes to make while rapping.

By far one of the best verses Minaj put out this year was on Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up,” though Minaj claims this verse is not Minaj herself rapping, but is instead the work of her alter ego, Roman Zolanksi:

Yo, could I get that ‘Tron?
Could I get that Remmy?
Could I get that Coke?
Could I get that Henny?
Could I get that margarita on the rock rock rocks?
Could I get that salt all around that rim rim rim rim?
Trey, I was like “Yo Trey”
Do you think you could buy me a bottle of Rose’?
Okay, lets get it now
I’m with a bad bitch he’s with his friends
I don’t say “Hi”, I say “Keys to the Benz”
Keys to the Benz? Keys to the Benz!
Muhfuckin right yeah, weed to the 10
If a bitch try to get cute Imma sock her
Throw a lotta money at her then yell fucka, fucka, fucka,
Then yell fucka.
Then Imma go get my Louisville Slugger
Excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m really such a lady
I rep Young Money
You know Slim, Baby?
And we be doin’ donuts while we wavin’ the .380
We give a lotta money to the babies out in Haiti
Yellin all around the world,
Do you hear me? Do you like my body?
Anna Nicki
Rest in peace to Anna Nicole Smith
Yes, my dear, you’re so explosive
Say hi to Mary, Mary and Joseph
Now bottoms up and double my dosage.

Minaj’s first album, Pink Friday, debuted last Tuesday and features the singles “Your Love,” Right Thru Me,” and “Check It Out.” I strongly believe that Minaj is perhaps just as talented or even more talented than Lil’ Kim. Additionally, the world-positive spin Minaj places on her verses is in opposition to the hard female rapper persona that Kim and her contemporaries (Foxy Brown, Trina, Eve) worked hard to establish at the tail-end of the 90’s.  Minaj’s album is crisp and fresh and incorporates pop, hip-hop, and R&B into a style that has yet to be named.  Minaj is the new standard for female rappers. I take that back. Not just for female rappers, but for rappers, period.

Cash, Cars, and Ho’s: How A Feminist Can Love Hip-Hop

21 Oct

Like Jigga, I am also addicted to the game.

I am completely enamored with the world of what I like to call the “theater of hip-hop”. Most women who identify themselves as feminists would not dare admit any lingering love for rap and hip-hop. The genre earned the reputation for objectifying women during the Gangsta rap era, which began in late 1980s Los Angeles. Hip-hop and rap that developed before Gangsta rap embodied a carefree, party-focused mindset; artists like The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa are some of the first to popularize the rap genre at the tail-end of the Disco era. However, when the Original Gangsta himself entered the scene, hip-hop became a multi-layered genre with a niche for every fan. Ice-T released what many believe is the first Gangsta rap song in 1986: “6 in the Mornin'”.

Gangsta rap focuses on exactly what its name implies; artists of the genre focus on what they know best: the danger-tainted lives of black youths on the hard streets of L.A. Many people love to whine about what a horrible influence gangsta rap is on American youth, but it’s best to give young people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will not get hold of AK-47s and run China White in the suburbs. At an early age I was exposed to the “My god! What about the children!?!” mentality that is strangely prevalent among square adults – however, I learned to take the words of gangsta rap with a huge grain of salt. My theory on “the theater of hip-hop” helps me to defend my love of rap to those who hate on the genre, especially my fellow feminists. I see hip-hop and rap as a large playhouse in which the artists are players on a grand stage. In this world, anything goes, and that may include referring to women as “bitches,” but the most important things to emphasize are making cash, driving fancy cars, and popping endless bottles of Champagne.

Listening to rap and hip-hop is nothing more than pure fun to me. There’s nothing more entertaining than turning up Ludacris’s “Move Bitch” and going for a ride through the suburbs. It may surprise some that hip-hop is as popular as it is among young, upper middle class suburbanites, but that is exactly who buys everything moguls like Jay-Z and P. Diddy deign to sell to young people. Dancing to rap and hip-hop is also endless fun; I cannot stand women (or even men) who refuse to dance to such music. This is usually the sign of a square and/or someone who cannot be trusted. Rap also gives me the opportunity for me to pretend that I am a much bigger baller than my reality may show. Therefore, I do not find it contradictory for me to call myself a feminist and a fan of hip-hop. Hip-hop is an art form that suffers due to endless witch hunts. Good hip-hop (of which there is an endless supply) is not demeaning to women, and the songs that do mention “bitches” and “hos” should not be taken so seriously. My advice to anyone questioning the importance of hip-hop in our culture is to buy a copy of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 and then try to argue their points. Rap and hip-hop are American cultural institutions not to be dismissed, but saluted. Now pour one out for your homies.

Here are three rap songs that currently make me want to stay on my grind, if you will:

1. “Toot It and Boot It,” YG

As a proud feminist I should hate this song. It’s a young man’s anthem about how he loves to fuck chicks and leave them, but I figure it can also be utilized by women regarding their personal lives. Plus, the video is pretty good and features one of my favorite rap video clichés: thick women dancing in the rain.

2. “My Chick Bad,” Ludacris ft. Nicki Minaj

Ludacris has long been the greatest Southern rapper. My childhood is peppered with memories of his fantastic little ditty, “Move Bitch (Get Out the Way).” For his most recent album, Luda focused on beats that make you want to shake your ass, and “My Chick Bad” is my go-to song for getting pumped up for a night on the town. It also features the hottest female MC of the moment – Nicki Minaj (an upcoming piece on Fixed Air will sing the praises of Minaj.)

3. “Successful,” Drake ft. Trey Songz

Drake is the second hottest thing on the rap scene now, right after Nicki Minaj. This song says it all: “I want the money, money and the cars, cars and the clothes, and the hos, I suppose…I just wanna be successful.” I give mad credit to Drake, who is of course best known for playing Jimmy on the Canadian teen soap opera, Degrassi: The Next Generation. Little Jimmy is all grown up. Tear.

Live in Concert: John Mayer at Red Rocks

4 Sep

I’m completely unsure of how many times I’ve seen John Mayer live, but September 1st’s show at Red Rocks was my latest Mayer adventure. The Battle Studies tour consisted of a winter American tour, which included the Pepsi Center show in March. The set list for the March show had a much more layered feeling, while this Red Rocks show consisted of a lot of older hits that amateur Mayer fans would certainly be familiar with. These songs, “No Such Thing,” “Your Body is A Wonderland,” and “Why Georgia,” could have easily been replaced with more recent songs either from Continuum or Battle Studies. Some songs I would have loved to have heard are “Assassin,” “Friends, Lovers, or Nothing,” “I’m Gonna Find Another You,” and the ever-elusive but personal all-time favorite “St. Patrick’s Day.”

The set list from the other night consisted of these songs:

Chest Fever > Vultures
No Such Thing
Beast of Burden > Perfectly Lonely
Ain’t No Sunshine
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
Bigger Than My Body
Love Soon > My Stupid Mouth > Comfortable > 3×5
Your Body is a Wonderland
Heartbreak Warfare
Voodoo Child
Who Says
Gravity
Do You Know Me
Why Georgia
Half of My Heart > Don’t Stop Believing

Encore:

Edge of Desire

I honestly think that playing only one song for an encore was a load of shit. Unless the law was forbidding that he play another song, John usually closes out with one full-band encore song and a pairing of acoustic solo songs. I’ve never seen him play ONE song at an encore. What’s up with that?

I also thought that the songs he chose to jam on were interesting, but standard. I did enjoy the “Ain’t No Sunshine” jam but could have done without “Voodoo Child”. He could have pulled out some “Covered in Rain,” but I’m sure mostly everyone in that audience would be confused by the 11 minutes of genius that would have followed.

The best part of the show was when he played what he called “rarities.” I’m not sure if I would call “Love Soon” and “Comfortable” rarities, but if you haven’t followed John since 2001 or so, you might not know any of the words, which is exactly what happened on Wednesday night. During this acoustic medley, John included “Love Soon,” and at one point, when he paused to let the crowd fill in the blank, I was literally the only person in the first ten rows or so who completed the lyric. I screamed “I’m calling it love soon,” and John raised his gorgeously tattooed left arm to point at me. “Ah!” he exclaimed, in awe of my lyrical knowledge. Thus, I was acknowledged (at least in my own crazy mind) by a rock legend in training. Even though I didn’t party on his tour bus like I did last time, this show was a welcome end to a mostly shitty summer (Is it just me or was the summer of 2010 pretty miserable?).

Overall, the Battle Studies tour was really unpredictable in terms of set list choices, but it’s also been the most solid set of performances by John’s band. John and his band are playing at a level completely off the charts. David Ryan Harris, a favorite and an original member of John’s band, joined on the summer leg, though was conspicuously absent in the winter.

John seemed especially chatty on Wednesday night, not to mention he appeared to be very grateful that anyone had shown up to hear him play at all. He thanked the crowd at length and inquired about whether we had had a good summer. Summer was a little blah this year, in my opinion. Last February, John received a lot of heat for some unsavory comments he made about Jessica Simpson and black women in Playboy. I feel as though everyone has nearly forgotten about his verbal missteps, and John’s retreat into the recesses from tabloid celebrity served him well. John is once again all about his music. His music should stand alone as a testament to his resilience as an artist. After nine years, Mayer still moves me. I can’t explain how he does it – he’s John Fucking Mayer, and that’s all I need to know.

I was lucky enough to catch John twice this year, which likely means that he’ll be doing a few special shows next year, in major cities like LA and New York. I’ll be in LA soon enough to be able to catch him if this happens. I’m also hoping for a Mayercraft Carrier 3 next year – that’s John Mayer’s 3-day cruise that consists of live acoustic shows and general hilarity. Until next time, Mr. Mayer.

John Mayer’s Battle Studies: A Reason to End A Committed Relationship

11 Jan

John Mayer is partly to blame for the end of a nearly two-and-a-half year relationship. Yes, I am speaking of my relationship with a man I will refer to as Bobert* from this point on.  I thought Bobert was a great man – I likely would have said yes if he had proposed marriage and we had discussed names for our children. Little did I know that Bobert was secretly unhappy and waiting for any little excuse to pull the plug on our relationship. That reason turned out to be directly related to John Mayer. I have been a serious John mayer fan for quite a while (nearly 9 years), and Bobert was well aware of this – we even attended a John Mayer show together in the summer of 2008, and only two weeks before our breakup, Bobert went Dutch with me on a set of third row tickets for a March Mayer show.

On a cold December evening, I called my Bobert for help with completing an email for a John Mayer contest. The prize: two tickets to a secret John Mayer/VH1 show to celebrate the release of his latest album, Battle Studies, at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn.  Just hours before this fateful phone call, Bobert had declared that he missed me, was excited to see me, etc. (This was a long distance relationship.) Yet it all came to a halt due to John Mayer. You see, Bobert got annoyed with me. So annoyed, in fact, that when he asked what exactly I needed help with (I wanted to know how to put a photo in an email), he said, “You’re wasting my time.” This did not sit well with me; in fact, I responded with a hearty “Fuck you!” and hung up the phone. The next day is when everything went to hell. I’ll leave out the gory details, but I will let you know that dear Bobert threatened to cancel my phone number and rescinded a promise to help me move 2,000 miles across the country only 15 days before it was set to happen. Yes, Bobert is a bad man.

Ironically, the last remnants of that relationship are two third row tickets to John Mayer’s Winter Tour at the Pepsi Center in March. I have not yet decided whether I will sell those tickets, but keeping them will be very bittersweet. A great thanks to John Mayer for revealing the true colors of Bobert. They are dark colors indeed. Goodbye, Bobert. Hello, southern California and the possibility of non-committal sex with John Mayer.

*Name has been changed to arbitrarily protect a moron.