There is A Good Chance Kendrick Lamar’s Releasing Another Album, Here’s Why

Okay, so hear me out people: We need to bow down to the gods for this new K. Dot joint. Anyone who knows me knows that my Kendrick fandom knows no limits. Your boy been putting people on the king kunta ship since Section.80 days. So please don’t ever question my loyalties, because a nigga is about to go hard right now and say some shit that might be hard to hear. 

DAMN. is dope. In the future, when we look back on this album, it will most definitely go on the classic’s shelf. We can’t say Kendrick is slowing down even a little bit. This ain’t  a nonesense Drake project, where all you’re hearing is a dude who’s been running out of shit to say for 3 albums too many. Kendrick is still dropping gems, and we still need to hear him out.  But brace yourself for what I’m about to say: As dope as DAMN. is, it’s incomplete.  I know Kendrick is holding out on some serious fire, and I’m going to need him to stop fucking with my emotions like this. I haven’t slept in days. 

How do I know this? Because this isn’t a new Kendrick sound. It’s on a G.K.M.C vibe, which is lit af, and I’ll definitely bump it until my neck crack back, but Kendrick is a man who pushes musical boundaries. And if you heard T.P.A.B, then you know that whatever comes next has to be some serious fire that will make you question everything about reality, and that will also push a whole new sound and move Hip Hop forward.  However amazing we are all saying this album is, I don’t think it’s K. Dot’s final product.

I did some research. When Kendrick was discussing his latest album to New York Style magazine, he said, “We’re in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God,” he went on and said, “Nobody speaks on it because it’s almost in conflict with what’s going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system.” So when you hear what he’s saying in this interview, and then listen to the album, it feels like he still has something to say, and a different sound to build upon from T.P.A.B

A lot folks are out here on the internet putting some intense theories together, and I ain’t mad at them for it. The main being that DAMN. is part 1 of a 2 part album. That makes sense. It came out on Good Friday, to which Christians observe the crucifiction of Jesus, and it would seem logical that he would maybe drop another one tomorrow, on Easter, Resurrection Sunday

Here is one person taking the theoretical game to another level: 

Also, to take this theory home, a bunch of folks on K. Dot’s team were on social media alluding to something bigger than what we’re seeing and hearing right now. 

Like here:

And this:

And…:

We’re in a period of artists pulling crazy surprises. And Kendrick is leading that front. We didn’t know when T.B.A.B was going to drop, or The Heart part 4, or Humble.  I can see him announcing an album, making us feel all cozy in our seats, and then slapping us with some next-level-shit. That would be the Kendrick we all know, and it would make this the greatest Easter ever–mainly because I’ve never had a reason to celebrate before. 

So I’m just going to sip my tea, sit by my phone, and keep hiting refresh on Kendrick’s Instagram. 

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Double Bass Ep. 3: Beverage Snobber; Get That Pepsi Outcha Mouth

Your boy decided to embark on a new journey: podcasting. Here is Episode 3 of Double Bass with Wynton St. Claire. We talk about all the things we hate about pepsi, Dave Chappelle’s problematic Netflix Special, and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.”

 

On Dave Chappelle’s Return: I Ain’t For It

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Before I go in, let me make it clear: I have always loved Dave Chappelle. I mean, I made a whole post dedicated to him way back when–in the early days of this blog. I’ve seen every episode of Chappelle’s Show multple times. I watched his stand up. Correction–I memorized his stand up. I’ve studied his ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ interview and his Oprah interview. I watched him interview Maya Angelou before her death. For Dave’s whole career, I have been all in on “team Chappelle”. I’ve had nothing but love, respect and admiration for this brother.

…Until last month.

Since they were announced, I was anticipating his two Netflix specials, because I knew that what Dave has always said to be powerful and truth-seeking, and that now more than ever could we use his words to speak truth to power. The first special starts out smooth. As I’m watching, I’m thinking maybe the long-lost black prince has returned to claim his throne as the king of comedy.

But after about 15 minutes, it starts to get problematic real quick. I don’t know which came first–the rape jokes, the homophobia, or the transphobia. Either way, one thing is for sure: This new Chappelle, I ain’t for it.

Here are some of the jokes that made me turn in my seat from discomfort: 

On Gay Rights:

“Y’all always have some kind of gay political argument; the last one was about a petition in federal court to take the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ out of the law, and I said “Why would you want those words out the law?” He said “Because it discriminates against same-sex couples,” I was like “N****a please save me the semantics, take your chips out of the casino you’re about to crap out. Go outside, talk it over amongst yourselves, and whichever one of you is gayer, that’s the wife [audience laughs].””

On Caitlyn Jenner coming out as Trans:

“Whenever I see one of them Ts on the street I’m like “I don’t mind them but man I miss Bruce. [audience laughs]

“I knew before you guys knew. I heard things on the street in Hollywood, you know you used to be out, see people: “Hey what’s up Kanye, why the long face?” [audience laugh] “N***a you’ll see, I’ve got two mother in-laws now.”

On Trans Rights:

“I was shocked. Is this happening? Wait a minute, is this a time in American history when an American can make a decision for themselves, and even though other Americans don’t understand it they’ll support it, and let this person live a happy life? Is this what’s happening? If it is then good for America. [audience cheers] That’s Dave Chappelle, the American.

“Although Dave Chappelle the black American, he was a little jealous, I was like “How the fuck are transgender people beating black people in the discrimination Olympics? If the police shot half as many transgenders as they did n****s last year there’d be a fucking war in L.A. I know black dudes in Brooklyn, hard, street motherfuckers, who wear high heels just to feel safe.”

There are a lot of things to be critical over during the two specials. On my own end, it really hurts knowing how many parts that are cringe worthy, and the fact that it’s coming from someone who I’ve idolized since I was 14. But I kept watching regardless, because I was hoping maybe my hero would turn things around. And at moments I really thought he would, but it just never happened. What was  most alarming was how he centered one of the whole specials around the justification of rape. This is important. It is important because it was brought up in order for him to reconcile his inner conflict with the Bill Cosby rape allegations. He compares it to a super hero who can only activate his powers by rubbing a woman’s vagina. So in the event of a crisis, the only way he can save people, is by raping a woman. Chappelle’s words: “He rapes women. But he saves more than he rapes.” The audience laughs. 

To Chappelle, Bill Cosby more than likely raped these women, but even still, he was his idol. His conclusion–not mine–is that even if he did rape these women, he did a lot of good for the black community, and somehow that should absolve him from the trauma he instilled on these women.  With this in mind, everything else he says make sense. It’s an age-old dilemma, or not really a dilemma, but a plague within the black community. And it’s one that has always been reinforced: Black cis straight men, are really only here for other black cis straight men.

The Bill Cosby debate showed not just how  little we value women’s voices, or black women’s voices, but also their trauma. Dave also displays how much black men don’t value the trauma of LGBTQ and Trans folk, especially within black communities. He can only stand for his own oppression as a black man, and everyone else’s oppression needs to get to the side. Regardless if the same violence that has plagued black men also plagues LGBTQ folk and women, even in–especially in–the black community.

So I ain’t for it for a lot of reasons, but mainly because he has claimed before to be on a platform of social responsibility. Ten Years ago, when Dave came back from Africa, he told Oprah why he left Chappelle’s Show in an interview. He explains how he felt that he didn’t feel he was making white people question their racism, but rather enabling it. 

Chappelle’s Show was great for a lot reasons, mainly because of how he confronted the racism we see all around us. Chappelle’s Show took the reality of racism, and put a humorous spin onto it. In doing so, Chappelle was able to make the viewer stop and think, “maybe we need to stop normalizing all these things that are racist AF, and do better.”

But at some point in making the third season, Chappelle noticed a white dude laughing at his jokes behind the set. He discusses this in an Oprah interview. It was a different type of laughing, Chappelle notes, as if the racial stereotypes he was attempting to dismantle were actually being reinforced instead. As in this dude wasn’t laughing at the irony of Chappelle’s joke, he was laughing because he was probably racist AF. Chappelle felt that being on such a platform, meant understanding the social responsibility he had, and that maybe he wasn’t using his heightened visibility responsibly. That’s real. This is important, because ten years later, he has finally returned to the stage, but he appears to have abandoned any sense of “responsibility” when he chooses to discuss LGBTQ issues or rape culture. 

Dave Chappelle could have made a nuanced conversation around rape culture, homophobia, and transphobia. He could have highlighted the bigoted statements, and then brought it home by pointing out how ridiculous it is to hold these stigmas against these marginalized people. In short: he could have given their struggle the same level of respect he gives the struggle for black men, but he didn’t. He was lazy. And I ain’t for it.

I think comedy can be used as an amazing weapon. I do agree that maybe we shouldn’t hold comedians to the same standards of everyday conversations. That maybe we shouldn’t have such soft skin, as well, and be able to take a laugh. But this new Chappelle feels different, and it has dangerous implications. You watch Chappelle’s Show, and when Dave tackles race, no matter how you see it, there is nuance to it. At face value, it can make you cringe. But the more you dig, the more you see how profound the message is that he is getting to.

But in his new special, there is nothing deep about how he tackles homosexuality,  trans folk, or rape culture. It’s all surface level. What’s worse is he never actually challenges these phobias, but rather just reinforces it.  

Some people say comedy should be exempt from the rules, but I see comedy as art, and art as protest. It ain’t just laughs when people are dying for the same shit Dave is saying in these specials. We can choose to fall back into the patterns of a dangerous culture that says its okay to spit out whatever hate we want to so long as it makes people laugh in the name of comedy, and reinforce centuries old hate; or we can challenge ourselves to think differently, to do better, and be better human-beings.  

Whatever helps y’all sleep at night, I guess….

In The Case For Alton Sterling, Excuses Are For White Supremacy

Alton-Sterling-Hollywood-ReactionsAround 12 A.M. Tuesday, Alton Sterling was selling CDs outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was around the same time that the Baton Rouge Police Department received a call that an African-American male in a red shirt was seen pointing a gun at someone outside of the same convenience store. Police showed up, and found Alton Sterling, in a red shirt, selling CDs. He fit the description–if only partially.

The video above shows what happened next. Two officers pinning Sterling to the ground, at which point one of them realizes he may be armed. One of the officers proceeds to pull out his gun, even though Sterling is clearly immobile, and shoots him 6 times. He died shortly after.

People will make justifications in this case. Yes, Sterling was armed, was selling CDs illegally, and had a list of prior convictions extending back 20 years. However, there is no debating this case. It was wrong. When we put into account his prior mistakes to justify his death, not only is it misleading, it’s irrelevant.

I have trouble believing one’s criminal past can justify the error in judgement by the police officer, but I have never held America to a standard that would make it so justice could be carried out with clear judgement. Sterling’s plight comes from a legacy of injustice that traces itself back to the origins of this country, through the lynchings in antebellum south, Jim Crow, up to this past Tuesday morning.

No matter how disheartening it is to see this video, it will never be surprising to me. The era of lynchings  has never escaped us, and that is what this movement is telling the world. That from the days of Ida B. Wells, up until today, in 2016, black folk are still living “Without Sanctuary.”

This video is all the evidence we need to know that Black Lives are still not valued in this country.  In my mind and heart, there is no debate. Alton Sterling deserved better. Freddy Gray deserved better. Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Sandra Day–they all deserved better. Black lives have always deserved better. Excuses are for white supremacy.

Why We Have Always Needed a Movie Like “Creed”

creedJust by knowing the plot alone to this “Rocky” spin-off, for anyone who was already a “Rocky” fan, then you were already sold by the premise of “Creed”: the rival-turned-friend of Rocky, Apollo Creed, has been dead for almost 30 years when his son, Adonis Johnson, decides to follow his father’s footsteps, and pursue a boxing career. After going 15-0 in underground fights in Mexico, he quits his high-paying day job in California, and moves to Philly in an attempt to be trained by the man who his father fought and trained for: Rocky Balboa. 

Adonis was the son of Apollo’s extramarital affair, born shortly after his father died in the ring, and not soon after his mother passed away, too. He spent his early life in and out of foster homes and juvenile detention centers, until the actual widow of Creed takes Adonis in. The whole movie Adonis makes references to those early years, where he learned to fight–by himself, and by surviving extreme conditions.

Even if Creed never overtly mentions race, it is always present. From the opening scene to where Adonis is 10-years-old, in chains with other black youth in a juvy, the film is rooted in black reality. A world that many black youth face, or are destined to face: the incarceration state.

When he packs his bags and moves to Philly, it is not the Italian neighborhoods that dominated the early Rocky films, it is the black Philly we are familiar with, because that is what comprises Philly, a majority black city. The boxers he encounters are black and brown, his love interest is black, and all of his trainers, other than Rocky, are black.

Fictional boxing movies have never been reflective of reality, but rather what Hollywood has perceived the public wants to see. When the first Rocky movie came out, there had not been a white heavyweight champion since Rocky Marciano in 1956. Even still, the most well-known and critically acclaimed boxing movies have revolved around white protagonists. Movies like Rocky I-VI, Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull”, and then to real life biopics like “Cinderella Man”, and “Fighter,” to name a few, have all featured white leads. With the exception of Denzel Washington’s performance in “The Hurricane,” and Will Smith in “Ali,” the black narrative has never been taken seriously. Even if the images you see when you turn on actual boxing are black faces, that has never been the case for the big screen.

What these boxing films have represented was a longing to a time when a character like Rocky could have been the world’s greatest. Ever since Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, proclaimed himself as the world’s greatest–with his dating white women, and driving expensive cars, and choosing not to prescribe to what the world expected from black athletes–has the media placed the few white heavyweight contenders as “the White Hope.” For what they were hoping for was more than a boxing champ, but an ability to identify with that champion, and the only way the public could do so is if that athlete looked like them: white.

Adonis Johnson may be a fictional character, but perhaps that is what makes him so significant. Perhaps it is not the heroes we already have, but the heroes we chose to envision–and what they may look like, in contrast to how they have looked like in the past–that says something more. The black radicalism of “Creed” isn’t anything overt, but rather just in Adonis’s existence do we see this film for what is :”The Black Hope” we have always had in the ring, but never had the privilege of seeing on the screen–until now.

 

Star Wars and Liberating the Imagination of What Can Be

finn star warsMy nerd-meter went out of control on Sunday when I saw the poster for Star Wars: Episode VII finally be unveiled, and then later that night when the trailer was released. I won’t say how many times I watched the dang thing, but I can say I’m not sure there is an amount of Star Wars media you can consume until you become tired of it. At least for me, the limit did not exist.

We all have our relationship to Star Wars. I was 6 years old when my dad took me and my cousin to see the original trilogy as it was being shown in the local movie theaters. My mind was  blown by the remastered visual effects, but also by the world it was envisioning. Of course, I was drawn to Lando Calrissian, played by Billy D. Williams, because he happened to be black. At an early age, when black representation was still minimal, any chance I had of seeing someone who looked like me, I was drawn to them. But Lando wasn’t enough. Why couldn’t we have a black Jedi? Two years later I would see Samuel L. Jackson play Mace Windu, head of the Jedi Council. 

It would have been great to see more than just simple tokenism, but to witness a Jedi whose story took center stage and who also happened to look like me. When I would play Star Wars with my toys as a kid (a little embarrassing to admit, right now), I would imagine that world–a world where a black Jedi could be the main protagonist–because at that time, no such world existed. It was my way of coping with the lack of black representation in Hollywood and the world of science fiction. But for a moment, using that imagination could hurt, because actively envisioning such a world meant also acknowledging that a leading black Jedi would most likely never happen. It reminded me of what my own limitations in life would be. I didn’t know all the ways racism could manifest itself, but at 9 years old, all I needed to do was watch some of my most beloved movies to know my skin made me a sideline player.

When I watched the trailer, and when John Boyega, the black storm trooper turned Jedi, raised his blue light saber, it meant more than a nerding-out moment to me, it meant a childhood fantasy–one I never deemed could be a reality–transforming into something tangible.

That following morning I was awoken by the #BoycottStarWars tweets trending around the world. At this point, we all know it was trolls doing what trolls do best–riling up the masses–but when it comes to anti-black sentiments, it can never be just satirical. The damage has been done, once again, whether a joke or not, it shows us how cruel society can be. The idea that  black childhood dreams should be mocked, and our–black people’s–aspirations are somehow deemed deserving to be teased by online trends is enough to know we still aren’t there yet. We still haven’t reached a point where we don’t have to prove the merit of the leading protagonist because the world seems to think he got the gig due to tokenism.

But I will rest in the fact that I am not alone in welcoming new dreams. I will rest in the fact that an overwhelming defense shows that we are all attempting to envision my childhood world. I know there is a 9 year boy somewhere who looks like me who will see a Jedi who looks like him, and so he will imagine himself saving a galaxy far far away without attempting to think too hard, because it will be right in front of him.

Maybe we’ll get to a point where black kids will never have to realize and appreciate how science fiction should be a place to offer alternate realities freed from the oppressive forces their lives have perhaps been restrained to. But maybe I am thinking too wishful, and–for now–should just appreciate a black Jedi with a blue light saber on one of the biggest Hollywood franchises.

Emma Watson, Feminism, and Spirituality

Emma WatsonEarlier this week, Emma Watson spoke as a Goodwill Ambassador at the UN for a new campaign, HeForShe, a righteous attempt to make gender equality a universal dialogue by bringing men into the discourse.

For many reasons, we could break down that speech for  the so many ways it was problematic. I don’t agree that Emma should have called out women for man-hating, and put the solution on women to be more open to men coming into the circle of feminist dialogue.

I also think for many of the reasons people praise it, we can also criticize it–like when she acknowledged her own privilege as being one of the few women in this world who can appreciate that level of economic, social, and professional success because of the resources she had readily available to her, claiming that the forces of sexism were never present in her life. And yes, we could make the case that that would have been an amazing moment to highlight all the women in the world who make far less than 78% of men, of women who have to rely on being sex workers to survive while privileged women criticize their choices, of a world of feminism that continually marginalize the experiences of black, brown, and poor voices.

All of these points can be debated to great lengths. But I also think that when you only focus on these points, you’re missing how beautiful the speech really is. It wasn’t until  the end of her speech that it really hit home with me:

“Men, I would like to give this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue, too….Men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are. When they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”

Being a member of the Baha’i Faith, the concept of true Gender equality has never been a foreign topic, but rather one of the cores of my religious beliefs. There was a spiritual component that resonated with me when I heard this, and that is what made this so refreshing. As I was listening to her speak, I was reminded of the Baha’i Writings:

“ The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.”

When we speak about eliminating patriarchy, we aren’t just talking about getting rid of prejudices, ending rape culture, or tearing down the walls of misogyny. we are talking about humanity’s–particularly men’s–spiritual salvation.

The older I get, and the more speeches like these I hear, the more I am becoming aware of the role that I have–as a man–in fostering the world that I want to live in, as well as a better understanding towards these Baha’i Principles I hold so close to me. It was men who made patriarchy what it is today, and so men play a crucial role in breaking down those barriers. Currently, the stakes are too high to do nothing and to sit idly.

When we allow ourselves to live in a world that lets patriarchy go unquestioned, we aren’t doing anyone any favors. We aren’t giving men the chance to be great, to raise them up as compassionate role models, to see women as equals, to go against the norms of what is or isn’t masculinity–of what makes a man a man. What we are doing is crippling their souls. Materially, patriarchy puts men ahead of women, but because of this, it puts us behind spiritually, and it makes us monsters because of it.

In an ideal world where women and men were equals, there are a lot things we wouldn’t see. We probably wouldn’t see Ray Rice dragging his fiance out of an elevator, or an institution like the NFL deem it a sufficient punishment to only suspend him for two games. We wouldn’t see men killing innocent people because they felt entitled to women’s bodies. We wouldn’t see a culture of rape dominate every sphere of our lives, and that sympathizes the perpetrators. Maybe Chris Brown would never have hit Rihanna . But even if he did, maybe we wouldn’t continue to support his music. We wouldn’t accept a government run almost entirely by men, and then allow them to dictate what women could, or could not, do to their bodies. In a world where women and men were equals, this post would be have been obsolete, because there would be no need.

Emma may not be the first to say what she is saying, but she is saying it. And for that, thank you.