Crap on the Radio

Cultural appropriation, Igloo Australia, Latinos, some other stuff

ahhh, going back to a topic I’ve been over dozens of times already.  I got started thinking about it after listening to this interview:

A short background- Azealia Banks is currently beefing with Iggy Azalea.  I haven’t followed all the reasons why, but I gather it has something to do with Azealia taking issue with Iggy having a similar name, having success in rap despite having dubious ability and Iggy’s history of racist statements.  And Iggy appears to be just goading Azealia and accusing her of being a whiner about not having Iggy’s level of success:

“Special msg for banks: There are many black artists succeeding in all genres. The reason you haven’t is because of your piss poor attitude. Your inability to be responsible for your own mistakes, bullying others, the inability to be humble or self control. It’s YOU! You created your own unfortunate situation by being a bigot and don’t have the mental capacity to realize yet. Probably never will. Now! rant, Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won’t make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio.”

Make rap racial?  Make it political?  Uh, Hip-hop has always been both.  You couldn’t take those two out of hip-hop anymore than you could take rural identity out of Country or class politics out of punk rock.  That’s pretty stupid on Iggy’s part.

But anyway, the interview with Azealia is fascinating, and it’s kind of put some of the things I believe in perspective.  I’m a bit older and maybe I’m too detached to be thinking about this constructively- no one is trying to take anything from me culturally. I’ve been back and forth on the concept of cultural appropriation before, but in the end, I kind of think that if you’re upsetting a lot of people, then maybe you shouldn’t do it.  Or just be careful, because not every white rapper gets the same treatment that Iggy Azalea and Macklemore get.  But I’m about to embark on a tangent.

Latinos and Cultural Appropriation

So far I’ve mostly been thinking about cultural appropriation in regards to black culture, and I think that’s useful, because black people in America get a different experience than any other group.  Yes, people can be racist and mean to other minorities, but there’s a special level of hatred that is directed at black people.  But I don’t want to start an oppression ranking system here, so let’s move on.

I had a question that I may be able to answer, or maybe not, let’s see what you think.

Why is Latino music so appropriation proof?

I mean, sure, people do it every now and then:

But listening to Mr Cash, I hear someone who’s probably heard some Mexican music and wants to pay tribute.  What I can’t imagine is some white dude even taking over Latino music as its heard on pop radio and especially not becoming the guy you always hear on Spanish radio.  Maybe it’s happened already and I’m too lazy to find out, but I doubt it.

One reason I suspect is that Latino music has its origins in other countries.  Hip-Hop is American music.  I suspect that makes some people angry- both because they don’t like Americans making music that calls into question a lot of what Americans believe, and because the makers of said music are explicitly reserving it for a certain type of people, based on color*.  People like to insist that all opportunities be available to everyone, even if they’re willing to ignore that some opportunities are not actually available to everyone.

But Sambas or Corridos or whatever do not belong to Americans, and so we can borrow them, but no one is going to claim a right to play them.

There’s also the obstacle of learning another language, which is going to deter an awful lot of American musicians.

I wrote this post like a week ago.  I’m not sure it’s all that great, but I was starting to get that feeling like I have to post something or I’ll just quit entirely.  I have some other stuff coming.

 

*Again, I don’t really have a problem with this.  Black people have had to deal with so much bullshit in this country that we can allow them to have a few things to themselves.  It’s literally the least we can do.

 

 

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Random Thoughts

I’ve been doing a lot of writing at work, so lately it’s hard to get excited to write stuff.

..

I know lots of people hate Creed, and I’m not going to try to convince anyone not to, because I only heard them a few times and thought they were bad enough that my mind blocked their music forever, and I couldn’t even tell you what their songs are.  You could play Nickelback and I’d be like “oh, OK.”  I actually don’t know Nickelback’s songs either.  I do recognize the Foo Fighters.

At any rate, singer Scott Stapp seems to be on a very bad path either on account of addiction or mental illness and that’s not funny.  I hope he gets better.  In general, it’s fucked up to laugh at the misery of people who make music you don’t like.  Seriously, it’s just music.  The only artists that deserve condemnation for their art are propagandists.  Leni Riefenstahl, for instance.  Or really racist ones.  But there’s no reason to hate someone for putting out cheesy music.  I would say that even if I weren’t someone who makes cheesy music.

I haven’t heard anything from Kesha lately and since she’s fighting with Dr Luke, a guy who is behind a ridiculous number of pop hits, maybe we won’t again.  This makes me very sad, because Kesha is my favorite pop singer.  And there’s no one to replace her yet.  I am bummed about this.

This song is so good and the video is great.  Super lo-fi.

I love how Kendrick just wanders into the shot like a lurker and starts rapping- you wanna see a dead body?  Where does that voice come from?  He’s amazing

Self-Referencing

How soon is too soon?

My ears perked up at a line in this song when came on the radio this morning

 

I gave you bass

 

This is the All About That Bass girl.  I was just talking about that girl a month ago!  She has one hit and is already self referencing!

I don’t know what to think about this.  Maybe she just doesn’t have a ton of ideas, but more likely this is intentional.  From a brand new singer that’s either guts or some amazing hubris.  Either way I admire it.

I don’t know have any particular thoughts on artists that self-reference.  Sometimes it’s a fun way of rewarding your audience for paying attention.  Like when the Beatles did it, it was cute.  I suppose it could be sometimes just lazy recycling of old ideas.  Then again, you don’t have to self-reference to do that

What’s on Pop Radio right now?

This song is kind of nuts.

I’m not sure I like it so much- the hook isn’t exactly a real good one to sing along, probably because it’s too hard.  But wow.  It’s amazing that it works, because these kind of group songs usually end up tragically unbalanced.

I heard about Bang Bang and when I heard who was singing the song, but before I heard the song itself, this song came to mind-

This Lady Marmalade remake doesn’t even approach balance, and it’s a shame because Lil Kim’s verse is solid, and Pink is pretty good as well.  But if I had to break down the impact each singer has by percentage I would say it’s something like:

Mya- 2%

Pink 10%

Lil Kim 20%

Christina Aguilera- 1000%

I get it that everyone’s supposed to get a part, but even before it’s Christina’s turn she’s in the video lurking there in the back, just waiting to jump out and stomp on the rest of the group.  And when it gets to her part it’s like the volume jumps up several notches.  It must have been in her contract that all the levels would be set before anyone recorded, and she just went in and sang like three times louder than everyone else.  I’m not mocking her performance on the song, but if I were any of the other three, I’d be considering requesting that my tracks be deleted before the song was released.

But anyway, Bang Bang actually works- maybe the producer told everyone to go into the recording studio and hold nothing back.  Because the producer doesn’t hold anything back either- the arrangement is over the top too.

I’ve been following Jessie J’s career since she came out with Price Tag.  I knew she could sing, but she takes it to another level on this song.  She’s got some crazy charisma too- B.o.B. called her “colorful”- she’s someone who’s not afraid to look a little bit silly.  I’m looking forward to see what she does next.  Maybe she’ll be my new Kesha (hehe remember what I said in my last post about entertainers not being able to relax, because someone else will come along and take their place?)

I admit it, this song is kind of cute

Boy are some people upset with this song

Probably the usual gang of internet dummies, but people are getting way too uptight about this one.  Yeah, it’s not a great work of art, but it’s funny and kind of catchy.  But I tend to like most things Nicki does- the way she jumps back and forth between a brainless pop voice and her rapid-fire rap delivery on this song is particularly awesome.    I thought Noah Berlatsky had a good take on it- maybe the video isn’t made for men, it’s directed at women who like big butts.  I don’t know if that’s true, but Nicki is definitely trolling men with this.  The kitchen scene with the banana that she tosses aside and then the lap dance with Drake being left bummed out both point to the idea that she’s toying with mens’ expectations.

Beyonce and the meaning of not wearing pants

I was kind of laughing about this:

Beyonce’s feminist VMA message prompts some eye rolls

What does it really mean to be a feminist in Hollywood these days?

Others chimed in with opinions such as “an excellent night for women not wearing pants,”

(my emphasis)

OK, so Beyonce did a pretty epic performance at the VMA’s- 15 minutes, most of her album.  And she did so without pants and flashed FEMINIST across the screen at one point.

I didn’t really see a problem.  Feminism includes the idea that women should be allowed to wear what they want and not get judged on it.  But then I remembered this Kathleen Hanna interview from a while back:

CNN: What do you make of singers like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha who are seemingly touching on themes of gay empowerment in their music, but for some reason it doesn’t quite resonate?

Hanna: I mean, is it really that different when it’s a skinny white woman in a bathing suit singing these things? None of these women ever wear pants, first of all. Second of all, just because you’re wearing a goofy hat doesn’t make it performance art.

(again, my emphasis)

PANTS!  WHAT ARE THE POLITICS OF WEARING OR NOT WEARING PANTS?

I don’t know.  I think this pants thing is silly, and Kathleen Hanna came off as an angry old person in that interview.

On the subject of pants, I will firmly state that I do not consider pants (or lack thereof) to be a reason to discriminate against someone or not listen to their opinion.  Provided they wear something that covers their genitals.

Some awesome people not wearing pants:

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Wait, who was that last one?  Kathleen Hanna.  With no pants on.  In her defense, I’m sure I can find photos of her wearing pants back then.

For the record, I have never appeared at a show in anything that looked like underwear or a swimsuit, and the world is probably a better place for it.  But I don’t want to rule it out either.  Keeping my options open.  Just in case.

What is Kanye West trying to say? George Bush doesn’t care about black people

Sometimes the universe is perfect.  It does exactly what we think it will.  As possibly the two of this century’s most struggled to be understood public figures, George W Bush and Kanye West had to come into conflict with each other.  It just had to happen.

The definitive take on the whole issue, for me, was Amanda Marcotte‘s:

His accusation was that Bush’s animus wasn’t active, but passive. He “doesn’t care”. West wasn’t suggesting that Bush pushed the levies down or anything. And not caring about black people, I will restate, doesn’t preclude not caring about others. There’s a lot of not caring in Bush. Singling out black people was perhaps a little off the mark, since Bush does care about a handful of black people. But he was wound up. I’m not going to stomp him on a technicality.

I mean, was it really such a bad thing to say?  Do we really believe that Bush cared a lot about people?  That was part of his charm!  His not-caringness!

It’s pretty obvious from the video that Kanye was really upset and it just kind of came out, but again, oh well.

Bush apparently called the statement the worse thing about his presidency.  Err, OK.

But enough about Bush and Kanye.  I want to close out this defense of Kanye West with some parting thoughts:

Kanye West has written a ton of great tunes, and I don’t get why people expect him to be humble about that.  I know we like our stars that way, but I don’t get why.  It’s stupid.  Hugely talented musicians are not normal people.

He’s also a cautionary tale about why fame is probably a curse.  It seems like at this point, very people even have a concrete reason for disliking Kanye- they just remember they’re not supposed to like him.  And then it becomes a big deal that he’s rude to Jimmy Kimmel or something.

When did people start caring about talk show hosts?  Those people are media.  Media people are lame.

This song is awesome

As is this one

And I have nothing more I want to say on the subject.

What is Jay Z trying to say? Takeover

Taking a brief break from Kanye West hagiography- I’ve got one more left, it’s coming- to talk about a song that Kanye produced.

Takeover is my favorite diss song, not because it’s the harshest or the best, but because it’s a perfect example of how to argue.  This isn’t a style that guarantees a win, but if you want to argue and walk away with your dignity intact, this is how it’s done.

Takeover was on of the high points in a long-running feud between Nas and Jay Z and since I’m not sure about all the reasons for it, I’m just going to make note that one of the sticking points was Jay Z’s use of a line from Nas’ classic album Illmatic.

Mobb Deep was also apparently feuding with Jay Z, because Mobb Deep seemed to be involved in every major feud back then.

Four rules on how to argue and guarantee you won’t look like a fool:

Don’t argue with fools

Give your opponent credit

Stick to the facts

Don’t get angry

Don’t argue with fools

Jay Z says exactly this in the song, with a line probably borrowed from Mark Twain

A wise man told me, don’t with fools, cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who

This was a hard lesson to learn, and I still sometimes ignore it, especially on the internet.  You know who looks stupid in an argument with trolls?  EVERYONE.

Give your opponent credit

This actually dovetails nicely with the previous one.  Jay says “don’t argue with fools” almost at the end of the song.  We can look at that two ways- either he’s not taking his own advice or he doesn’t think Nas and Mobb Deep are fools.  I lean toward the latter.  Because regardless of their personal histories, Jay has some respect for at least some of their work.

Had a spark when you started but now you’re just garbage
Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all

You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song

You said you been in this ten
I’ve been in it five – smarten up Nas
Four albums in ten years nigga? I could divide
That’s one every let’s say two, two of them shits was due
One was – NAHHH, the other was “Illmatic”
That’s a one hot album every ten year average

Jay isn’t trying to deny that Nas was a good rapper at the start of his career.  How could he?  Pretty much everyone agrees that Illmatic was a landmark album, easily one of the best of the 90s.  He’s just pointing out that by the time Takeover came out, Nas had fallen off.  None of which was particularly controversial.

But it’s important to give your opponent credit, not only because it may just diffuse some tension, but because it’s just petty not to.  I don’t want to look petty, I just want to be right.

Stick to the facts

This is what I like about Jay Z.  He’s got the facts, he’s going to lay them out, fairly dispassionately.  Some of the highlights:

And you ain’t get a corn nigga you was gettin fucked and
I know who I paid God, Serchlite Publishing

Ouch.  Nas didn’t even get a check for the line that Jay used.  He didn’t have control of his own publishing rights for Illmatic.  That to me is the harshest line in the song.

No, you’re not on my level get your brakes tweaked
I sold what ya whole album sold in my first week


I showed you your first tec on tour with Large Professor
(Me, that’s who!) Then I heard your album bout your tec on your dresser

Nas isn’t selling records.  Nas is a fake gangster who hadn’t handled a gun before Jay showed him one.

When I was pushin weight, back in eighty-eight
you was a ballerina I got your pictures I seen ya

This is out of the Eazy E “Dr Dre wore makeup!” playbook.  It’s kind of a lame diss, but this is hip hop.

At any rate, sticking to what you know and to the facts is pretty key.  One, getting caught in a lie is pretty much an automatic loss of an argument.  Two, name-calling is just petty.  Jay Z does a lot of that on here too- calling Prodigy a “little fuck” (Prodigy of Mobb Deep isn’t a big dude)- I suppose some degree of that is unavoidable.

Don’t get angry

This is maybe the most important point.  When you get angry and start yelling, you look like a fool.  This is why I can kind of enjoy diss songs like Ether, Nas response to Takeover, or Tupac’s over-the-top Biggie Smalls diss Hit Em Up.  They’re OK.  But you can tell that the person they’re responding to really got under their skin.  That’s not a good place to be.  In Biggie and Tupac’s case, that led to tragedy.  Nas and Jay, on the other hand, were able to put it behind them.

Which is good.  One benefit of keeping your dignity after an argument is that you won’t want to shoot someone later.