I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

Lupe Fiasco and the Radical Messiness of Black Male Feeling

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I wonder if people – black people especially – really appreciate how beautiful it is to live at a time when black men are allowing themselves to feel so openly, to be emotional in public.

Lupe Fiasco articulates something that black men have been saying for a long time: that black men are dying, killing themselves and each other, that we live in a society where black male life is disposable. And he’s eloquent on the substance of what you see in this clip.

But what is truly remarkable is that he lets himself feel something more than just frustration and anger at the plight of black men. This is a display of profound, deep sadness. It’s love. Pure. Messy.

It takes Lupe Fiasco a minute to find the words. Those precious, awkward moments before he starts to find the words are wonderous, awe-inspiring, and deeply affecting.

And yet, when I watched this I was uncomfortable because I still don’t really know how to respond. This is not my vernacular.┬áMy reference is the 90s’ cold, hard grip on “keepin it real,” even as I never felt fully a part of that. My language is 2pac’s righteous indignation and anger, even it left me in so many ways illiterate.

I struggle with deep emotion. Still.

Artists like Drake, J. Cole, Frank Ocean, Kanye West and others are playing in space that is quite new. And while I think they often confuse narcissism for reflection and miss the mark in communicating what they are genuinely feeling, I appreciate so very much that the range of emotion that black men can feel publicly – and be successful and lauded – is so much broader now than it has been in the past.

Millennials have so many more colors to play with than previous generations allowed themselves. We should celebrate that.

Posted on July 28th, 2012 - Filed under Culture,Music,Self-reflection
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From the great Alyssa:

"But I do wonder about what happens to our popular culture in a world where everyone contracts artistic schizophrenia. There's a virtue to concentrating on what you're best at, refining your skills and deepening your vision. If everyone has to go out and prove they can do anything, what works of art aren't going to get made?"

I thought about this quote when my ipod got around to playing Jamie Foxx' new album and I sat through Foxx's best Drake emo singer impression on "Fall For Your Type:"

And my thought is: What happens to our art when a multitalented artist treats one of his gifts with contempt?

Read All »

Posted on January 17th, 2011 - Filed under Film,Music
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Best Albums and Songs of 2010 – Explanation

This was an exceptionally strong year for Black music so I chose to expand both lists to 30 just so I could have the opportunity to extol the virtues of a lot of worthy music. This was such a strong year that most of the albums at the top of this list are either flawless or within a song or two of being flawless (though it needs to be stated that emcees would probably make stronger albums if they limited themselves to 10 or 11 tracks).

Compiling this list took considerably longer than it has in years past because the order started becoming a hassle. I'm not entirely pleased with the order of much of this, excluding the top 10 or so…maybe. But I do think it is important to give you some sense of the relative quality of all of these albums, so I stuck with the ordering format. Imperfect though it may be.

As always, my list is a total reflection of my tastes, nothing more. So if you think Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne are somewhere on this list, you will be disappointed. I am not in the habit of conflating cultural impact with artistic merit…you know, unless an artist of superb quality happens to break into the mainstream. Which is exceedingly rare in this historical moment for the industry with respect to Black music. 

Also – I do not make distinctions between official releases and mixtapes, or between singles, album tracks, or leaked songs. I just don't much care about that unless I can make a point about the kinds of songs that end up being left off of official albums that shouldn't have been (for instance, listening to mixtapes by Chrisette Michele and Raheem DeVaughn prove that they would be better served if the label just let them do whatever they want).

I usually do this as one big post, but I have decided to break this up into increments of 6. I will be publishing each installment – one post of singles and one post of albums – every weekday this week.


Monday – Best Songs of 2010 (30-25) / Best Albums of 2010 (30-25)

Tuesday – Best Songs of 2010 (24-19) / Best Albums of 2010 (24-19)

Wednesday – Best Songs of 2010 (18-13) / Best Albums of 2010 (18-13)

Thursday – Best Songs of 2010 (12-7) / Best Albums of 2010 (12-7)

Friday – Best Songs of 2010 (6-1) / Best Albums of 2010 (6-1)

Posted on December 27th, 2010 - Filed under Best of 2010 - Albums,Best of 2010 - Songs,Music
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