Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My God... There's Another One

I do think this is the definitive "tribute" clip...

The trio is Purple Haze: Darius Crenshaw, Grasan Kingsberry, and Brian Brooks.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt: January 17, 1927 - December 25, 2008

A wonderful 1997 interview with Eartha is right here.

Friday, December 19, 2008


      Where to begin? With so many folks coming from opposing camps and ideologies as part of his crew (see the choices of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a longtime free trader, as U.S. trade representative, and Rep. Hilda Solis, a free-trade opponent, as labor secretary; article here), either Barack Obama’s presidency will be one of extraordinary forward motion, or it’ll be the equivalent of that old, crude joke about the kid walking around and around in circles ‘cause one of his feet is nailed to the floor. Or it may be something else altogether. Speculation on what it all means, what the next four years will be – all amidst much moaning and hand wringing across the political spectrum – has already become tedious as fuck and the man ain’t even in office yet. And it’s pointless. Until he is in office, until he and his assembled team are writing policy and putting it in effect, until we see what he does (or even can do) to undo not only eight years of colossal fuck-up after colossal fuck-up, not to mention all the last minute lame duck giveaways and coffer pillaging currently taking place, everyone should just shut the fuck up. Everybody’s Miss Cleo, claiming to see the future based on – nothing substantial yet.
      Full disclaimer (and broken, scratchy record repeating the same refrain) here: I have little faith in any politician, especially one who could actually become president of this country within the current set up of our political apparatus, to really effect “change,” to really be a “visionary.” Many of my friends of all hues, accents and genders look at me aghast and appalled when I say that because, yes, I do include Barack Obama in that statement. I feel the same about any woman, LGBT person, or other person of any other color who might attain the office. As a person, based on what I have seen and read, I like Barack Obama a lot, would love to hang out with him. (If for no other reason than to hang out with Michelle.) As a person, I think he’s cool. And I voted for him. But he’s also a politician, one whose policies and record were / are / were not really all that different from Hilary’s – and his is certainly not really the record of a “progressive.” But without question he was a far better – simply human and humane – choice than McCain.
      All that to say, the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at Obama’s inauguration is a big, bitter disappointment. It would be under almost any circumstance. Warren is anti-gay, anti-choice and does not believe in evolution. Backwards than a mug, the very face of the very “America” that lots of folks worked tirelessly to root out and replace. The fact that he actively and with much political currency campaigned to help pass Prop. 8 dumps a lot of salt in a bloody cultural & political wound. Yes, I know – keep your enemies close; this is part of Obama’s vision to hold conversations with folks whose opinions he might not fully share; it’s a way to show those folks who did not vote for him that they are welcome at the table anyway. And so on. And with that line of reasoning, given the red-in-the-face racists that howled and ran to stock up on guns and ammunition when it became clear he was going to win, Obama should extend a speaking invitation to… well, you see where this is going.
      It’s unfortunate that all the hoopla over Warren has overshadowed the fact that the inaugural benediction will be delivered by Joseph Lowery, a man who according to the media and racist white gays and lesbians is the equivalent of a unicorn – he doesn’t actually exist: He’s Negro, a longtime and iconic Civil Rights activist, devout Christian, and pro-gay and pro-gay-marriage. Negro counter-part to white homophobia. I predict he’ll be amazing. But I don’t buy the argument that having Lowery close what Warren opens is “balance” or “fairness,” though in theory, in its on-paper symmetry and racial dynamic, it is head-spinning in its poetry. Still, that argument suggests an equivalence of value for the ideas the two men espouse and the ideals they stand for. Lowery is a futurist, a visionary. Warren is ass-backwards. He shouldn’t be speaking at any American presidential inauguration, but especially not this one. Why inject more cancer cells into a cancer-riddled body when you’re claiming to be bringing chemo? The one possible silver lining in all this is the fact that hardcore right-wingers are in a possibly base-fracturing tizzy, denouncing Warren as a sell-out and condemning him for legitimizing a “baby-killer,” a “terrorist.” If this potential right-wing fallout is part of some brilliant diabolical plan on Obama's part, I tip my hat to him. It would be a layered political manipulation of the inauguration that pushes the proceedings out of pageantry and feel-good rhetoric into sharp, longterm effects-yielding tool. We shall see.

Different Topic
You must read this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blow Pop 3: December 19 @ Fais Do Do

Lost a few billion in the recent meltdown of the global market? Yeah, that sucks. But you still have your Ninjas. Come celebrate the holiday season & leave the stress of the world behind with New Ninjas on December 19 at the next BLOW POP, the house-party style club thrown by New Ninjas Kim Blackwell (actor & writer), Jason Van Veen ("Boondocks" writer & film maker), Ernest Hardy (film critic, poet and author) and Kim Hill (profiler.)

The night kicks off with some cool short films and a classic episode from one of your favorite vintage Negro sitcoms, and then the Two Kims hit the decks to spin hip-hop, indie r&B, classic soul, disco, and rare groove.

Doors open @ 9pm and there's a $5 cover. The club menu includes catfish, red beans and rice w/ sangria, and more.

Club Fais Do Do is located at 5257 West Adams Blvd. / Los Angeles, CA 90016

Obama's Inaugural Poet: Elizabeth Alexander


Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskeegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he travelled without his white wife to visit his siblings —
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA — just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.

Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their tell-tale spouses.
What a strange thing is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.
-- Elizabeth Alexander

Monday, December 15, 2008


This post should be titled Late Pass, as it’s filled with stuff I’ve been meaning to post about for several weeks, if not longer. And it’s a long one. It also kind of serves as my year-end film & music wrap-up but it’s not really about Top 10 lists or anything. It’s just a quick freestyle of shit that I, while typing this post, can remember liking a lot or being moved by. It’s a cluster-fuck of rambling ideas. "Original programming (posting)" continues after the "station break."


      I devoted a lot of time this year to thinking about cultural legends (across the strata of culture/subcultures), trying to figure what about them was instructive beyond nostalgia, and what was instructive within nostalgia. Etta James, Grace Jones, Q-Tip… Thoughts on the matter tumbled around my head as I worked this year on a Flaunt magazine piece about the Hollywood Bowl, attending a lot of concerts at the venue, including those by such relative newbies as Feist (to whom I really hadn’t paid much attention before) and Paulo Nutini. I became converts for both. At her concert, Feist was an art-school visualist, opening her show from behind a scrim, backlit, her shadow singing a cappella. As the concert progressed, hypnotically surreal images were projected onto the backdrop while she sang her heart out, jammed mightily with her band, and bantered (true wit style) with the crowd. Here’s a clip of her performing in Paris. For his show, Nutini and his band walked onstage in the standard-issue uniform of the day, ‘70s thrift-store garb and dirtily tousled hair, with Nutini clearly already wasted. What is that contrived, over-calculated, alterna-sheep sartorial indifference even meant to convey anymore? (The clip below is from a UK television performance.)

      I was ready to dismiss him outright. But the Scot-born singer of Italian descent and his band proceeded to blast through their show with such genuine folk, rock & soul power, and undeniable stage presence that I was on my feet for most of their set. Imagine a son of Otis Redding fronting a rowdy but technically on-point pub band and you have some idea of their live show. Then there was Gnarls Barkley. Goddamn. Fried my brain from the wattage of Cee-Lo (easy candidate for best male singer on the planet, and far beyond the confines of any genre), whose cocksure, big-belly-led stroll onto the fabled stage was validated by vocals he peed – operatic blues / soul / rock wails and arias that transformed the amphitheater into a revival tent spectacle, something that pushed far past the hype and cleverly (and wonderfully) stylized “otherness” of the duo (who are queer in non-sexual but beautiful, powerful senses of the word) into a realm of emotional truth wrapped in jaw-dropping theatricality. (I tend to gush when I'm happy.)

      But it was Etta James who literally made my jaw drop. Her show was far from the best I saw this year, her voice having been ravaged by time (giving it a grainier bluesiness), which often made her control of her celebrated instrument unsteady. She frequently lost the audience by doing lesser known (and lackluster renditions of) tunes from her repertoire while sabotaging arrangements of the familiar classics. That’s not to say that there weren’t some lovely moments, some powerful bits of singing. But what I most remember was the high-raunch content. For almost every song, no mater how mournful or reflective, Etta pantomimed sucking dick. She shaped her hand like she was holding a penis of massive girth (hey, if you’re gonna dream, dream big) and then proceeded to lick the imaginary shaft and head over and over. And over again. She repeatedly spread her thighs to furiously stroke her crotch. She exaggeratedly fondled her breasts. Fans of Etta know this behavior is not new but I just assumed (ageist on my part, I guess) that someone creeping up on 300 years old (though she looks amazing; slim and fit; beautiful face; hair laid) would tone it down a bit. I shuddered when she introduced the band with, These are my two sons…
      Now, Etta “Jamesetta Hawkins” James, how you just gon’ suck invisible dick in front of your own offspring?
      This concert was long before the film Cadillac Records was anywhere close to being in a theater but I remember thinking even then that there was no way the sexless Beyonce, who portrays Etta in the film, would have the ovaries to play this aspect of Etta. It’s not just Yonce who lacked those ovaries, however, but the film’s weak script. Here is an extended version of my review that ran in the LA Weekly:

      Although the real-life based but fact-challenged Cadillac Records stars heavyweights Jeffrey Wright (typically fantastic in his portrayal of Muddy Waters), Oz’s Eammon Walker (as a gruffly commanding Howlin’ Wolf), Mos Def (whose Chuck Berry nearly walks away with the film), Columbus Short (who easily steals the scenes Mos doesn’t) and Adrien Brody (all moist-eyed empathy as Chess Records founder Leonard Chess), the hovering question was always how well Beyonce would do as Etta James. She’s adequate. In this film about the rise and fall of legendary music label Chess Records and its stars, Yonce cusses up a storm, wields her lushly voluptuous body (still all wrong for the roundness of Etta) like a WMD, and navigates an emotional drug OD scene without embarrassing herself. But when she performs James classics “At Last” and a well-placed “I'd Rather Go Blind,” her limitations and the film’s snap into focus. Beyonce’s pop-soul voice lacks the earthy, evocative carnality and gritty pathos of James, and when Yonce tosses her signature yodel-riffing in one classic tune your ears die a little. Similarly, director Darnell Martin (I Like it Like That) races through the script’s sometimes painfully true but over-familiar bullet points – R&B is built on the dreams of white immigrant sons and Black sharecropper descendents; white appropriation of Negro creativity is played out in boardrooms and in the thievery of style and ideas; soul music and the blues are sounds of Negro self-affirmation – with a brisk superficiality that leaves crucial plot points unresolved, and refuses to engage the dark side of Leonard Chess’ paternalism. The film is frustrating because it’s filled with loaded symbolism, imagery and actions that it leaves hanging, leeching the embedded emotion without fully earning the dramatics it’s going for. Take the scene where one of Muddy’s side-pieces drops their infant daughter with his “wife,” who oh-so-gently (saintly, even) weeps while it slowly dawns on a drunken Muddy what has happened. We never again see the girlchild, never learn if her mom came back for her, if she was simply absorbed into the family or how her presence affected the dynamic of the household. Cadillac’s screenplay tries so hard to squeeze in so much with its quick-sketch approach to history and character that it’s filled with such dropped balls, seemingly unaware that its half-baked treatment of Negro lives makes it guilty of some of what it claims to critique. Only the acting prowess of Wright, Mos Def and Columbus Short makes the film watchable, makes some of those quick sketches actually resonate.

      The product Beyonce (is that redundant?) and the film Cadillac Records share the same basic flaw. They possess no depth. Each is a tapestry of assorted cultural signifiers draped over a void, and whose makers & bean counters bank on (or pray for) the audience thinking something significant is being signified; the audience's hoped for and frequently triggered Pavlovian assumption is the loophole out of anyone actually doing the work of coming up with meaning or something thoughtful. It’s a way to avoid making a statement for fear someone might be offended, some potential shopper might not shop. Cadillac’s racial outrage is remedial (Racism bad!) though hilariously pungent in Mos Def’s line-readings, which threaten to nudge the film into substance but are reined in to settle for laughter; the film's depicted clashes of black masculinities – the various Negro male wounds, survival techniques, strengths and weaknesses – give the film some heft but they’re too underdeveloped to really throw the punch they could and should. Instead, you all but feel the film contort itself to make Leonard Chess some sort of hero even as a more complicated truth keeps edging forth and being shoved back. (As has been pointed put elsewhere, his brother Phil – crucial to the label’s existence and success – is nowhere to be found in the film, reportedly because he wouldn’t sell the rights to his life story.) Similarly, Beyonce’s legendarily substance-free press interviews are anchored in the determination to not possibly turn off any demographic in her quest for a spot on pop's Mt. Olympus. Having made it clear that she hungers for and is determined to achieve icon status, she's repeatedly riffed on (sorry, paid homage to) all the greats to whom she nakedly desires comparison: Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand. She wants to be a triple-threat (singer/actress/dancer), longs to be a fashion icon, curries favor with the kids… she has lusted to walk a ballroom floor. The most interesting thing about her (and this positions her as a daughter of Madonna) is that she is a Borg – effortlessly absorbing affect / gestures / poses from assorted cultural terrains and assimilating them into her steely efficient being. The single “If I Were a Boy,” is her pulling on sensitive-white-girl-singer-songwriter drag, intoning the words as though they were written in some foreign language she’s mastered phonetically, and then confusing (as do so many of her peers) volume for emotion. She has no connection to the song save for the fact that it’s a market-calculated move intended to convey her musical range and inner complexity; in fact, it underscores the converse. When the “Single Ladies” video first dropped, sharp-eyed mainstream fans noted it was a “tribute” to the choreography of Bob Fosse. But “the children” lovingly and admiringly noted that Miss B was replicating some very specific subculture moves – theirs. Like Madonna with her own highly profitable appropriation of colored faggot innovation in “Vogue,” Beyonce is doing a masterful fusion of “high” culture and “low,” of mainstream and margin, and the drag-queen-centric “Single Ladies” video quickly outpaced the actual single as a cultural phenomenon.

The 10 Best “Single Ladies” Clips (in random order)...

10) Beyonce’s original clip. Highlights: the stretch from :53-1:00, and the 2:58 mark, where the camera is focused on Be’s upper body but there’s the suggestion of a funky breakdown taking place just below. Be sure to check out the very end, after the trio finishes dancing and Yonce's heavy breathing from the strenuous routine suggests that she’s human after all... until you realize that’s exactly what the robot wants you to think.

9) Beyonce shows she has a sense of humor and can actually be quite charming in this Saturday Night Live spoof of the video, featuring Justin Timberlake.

8) The OG tribute clip. Shane Mercado was, I think, the first and certainly still one of the best to do his take on the clip. Damn near flawless. He gains points for the way he fills in editing bay blackout moments in Beyonce’s clip. He loses a few points because he did that shit barefoot. Beyonce was in heels.

7) This clip of Mercado performing “Single Ladies” on the Bonnie Hunt show has him spliced in with the original video. I love the audience’s enthusiasm and support for him.

6) “Single Ladies” gospel edition. This bit is far too long but very funny.

5) Proof that Beyonce fans are insane. The Alaska edition.

4) I was beginning to wonder if heterosexual women actually listened to Beyonce anymore. This version cleared that up. If I were actually ranking the clips, this one would actually be lower on the list. But I felt sorry for them; there’s so little hetero / biologically female being repped on here. And of course black girls ain't gonna be denied a chance to get that hair toss & flip in…

3) Who says there’s no support for faggotry in the Negro community? Makael’s flaming ass is joined by Ray-Ray, BeBe, NeNe and a random thug from down the block who just wandered into the living room while this version was being shot. Nothing but love.

2) Husky Ladies. It’s all about the split…

1) Your version…

STATION BREAK: Christmas Gift Suggestion

If you don’t yet have my book(s), or haven’t yet done all your Christmas shopping, the two Blood Beats volumes would make great stocking stuffers. Check it:

Book excerpts:


Ernest Hardy has long been the culture critics’ critic, a rare writer whose every opinion we read and debated and measured our own against. Blood Beats: Vol. 2 shows why: the expansive mind, the humanistic ear, the timely question, the passionately committed voice. There may be no better guide through pop’s image-storm of identities than Mr. Hardy.
—Jeff Chang, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop;" editor of "Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop"

I’m not sure whether Ernest Hardy is a pen name or not but his writing is everything his name implies. His dissections of pop culture are neatly carved into well-thought proportions over which he pours a tangy, sometimes biting, down-home styled gravy. To read his work is to think twice. He raises the question that only someone who truly believes in the power of art would seek to answer.
—Saul Williams

Ernest Hardy’s gift as a cultural critic is his ability to listen. Whether it be in an interview with a filmmaker, the songs on a pop album, or literary prose and poetry floating off the page, Mr. Hardy hears, feels, and then filters through his own heart and mind the stuff of possibility. His words are not the answer, but the beginnings of deep questions. His analysis bubbles above mediocrity like spring water quenching the thirst of those of us who are parched for a way to understand what it means to create and what it means to consume from the slipstream that is our contemporary culture.
—Cauleen Smith, director of "Drylongso" and professor of film at Massachusetts College of Art

Ernest Hardy’s talent and reputation as one of the preeminent critics working today are beyond reproach, but with Blood Beats: Vol. 2, he establishes himself as a singular force in contemporary cultural criticism.
—Mark Anthony Neal, author of "Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic"

For anyone interested in the historical significance of Black cultural production, from commercial to indie, Ernest Hardy’s "Blood Beats: Vol. 2" is a must read. Witty as hell, an erudite critic, the brotha knows his shit. Whether it’s cinema or music, his prose makes you want to grab your iPod and experience the visceral connections between art, love, sexuality, politics and the sacrosanct role of blackness in the entertainment industry. OK, this academic lesbian fell in love with the gay boy journalist.
—Phyllis J. Jackson, Ph.D, filmmaker, "Comrade Sister: Voices of Women in the Black Panther Party"

Buy Blood Beats Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 at Amazon: click here

Buy either Blood Beats book directly from my publisher Redbone Press, and you are supporting an indie, black-owned publishing house. You can:

1) Mail your order and a money order or cashier’s check to:
Redbone Press
PO Box 15571
Washington, D.C 2003

2) Phone in your order at: 202.667.0392 (Fax is 301.559.5239)
3) Redbone email is: info@redbonepress.com

If you didn’t watch the entire Grace Jones clip that opened this post, go back and check it out, and stay on till the end. The moment when the 60-year-old iconoclast lifts her skirt and starts thrashing it around is pure Grace – uncalculated calculation, a dash of madness in the performance mix, something dangerously human being slipped through a persona that has always been larger than life, fearlessly self-possessed and completely unconcerned with chart position or mainstream acceptance. True legend; earned status without shameless campaigning for the position. Her Hurricane album was one of my favorites of the year. Other highlights for me:

1) Erykah Badu / New Amerykah. What more can I say? I love this woman. I’m too far gone to be objective. She could belch over a sub-par old Dilla track and I’d buy it. But this CD speaks so much to the state of Blackness in America right now. It’s a prayer, hymn, chant, plea, patient caress for a people for whom there is not much patience. (Oh, that’s right, Obama’s the president…) “Soldier” shoulda been a single. “Master Teacher,” “That Hump,” and “My People” resonate more and more everyday. Special thanks to Alex Demyanenko for the DVD hook-up.
2) Raphael Saadiq / The Way I See It. This shoulda been a huge hit. Huge. Great songwriting, career-best impassioned singing, Saadiq channeled so many soul man greats (Cooke, Gaye, Mayfield) without succumbing to mere karaoke posturing, with lyrics encompassing aches ranging from those of the heart to those wrought by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
3) Jamie Lidell / Jim.
4) Sam Sparro / Sam Sparro.
5) Estelle / Shine.
6) TV on the Radio / Dear Science.
7) Amos Lee / Last Days at the Lodge.
8) Q-Tip / Renaissance.

9-10) The various Philly International re-issues and anthologies put out by Sony Legacy this year: O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, LaBelle, the Jacksons.

Video of the Day

Oh, yeah...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It Hapened in Vegas...

Q-Tip at the House of Blues. Surprise guest appearance by the Purple One himself. Given how thorough the Purple One is about scouring his presence from YouTube, I'm not sure how long this will be up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Props to MURK

I still recall the very, very first House track I heard. It was some lil' cheaply done thing, a generic tune badly pressed on really shitty vinyl, the music coming through the aging speakers of a friend's old home stereo system. I was unimpressed. I actually thought I hated House music based on that. Flash forward a little bit and I'm at a club with friends, a familiar bass-thump wafts out to greet us as we stand in line to get in the club. We stepped inside and... life began. Where you hear the music, and how you hear it, makes all the difference in the world... House ain't my first love. That would be real r&b music, the stuff made up until maybe the late '70s. But House is my drug. It was the transformation. The music that utterly changed how I see the world, how I process and manifest my politics, my aesthetics. As I prepare to cocoon & hibernate and write my next book, pulling in the cultural reserves I'll feast on while in the cave, I find myself stockpiling the House. I don't want contemporary ironic recreations. I want the real shit, sincere, vulnerable, soulful, exquisitely laid out even as some of the elements (a singer's off-key singing; a cheap ass keyboard) underscore that this is very much a human undertaking.

Some huge blasts from the MURKy past that I'm (re)feeling at the moment:

Poppified Bonus

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Tribute to Caron Wheeler

My fumes are running on fumes and I can't seem to get ahead of the demands of the too many projects on which I'm working. So of course I've been wasting a lot of time surfing back-down-memory-lane on YouTube, revisiting one of my first female video crushes. It was Caron Wheeler who, in the snippets of her dancing, lip-synching to her backing vocals, and just being Caron, caught my eye. She, as part of the duo Afrodiziak along with her partner Claudia Fontaine, added much presence and flavor to these two mid-late '80s videos from two of my favorite artists, Aztec Camera and Elvis Costello. Enjoy. And I hope to get back onboard with a fresh new post by Tuesday. Or Wednesday.

BONUS live performance

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sight + Sound of the Day

What If There Were No Niggas, Only Master Teachers?

Erykah Badu's New Amerykah is one of my favorite albums of the year. It just speaks to the issues and struggles of contemporary Black America in a way that resonates powerfully for me. Specific and transcendent. Here's a clip of her performing it live from earlier this year, followed by the lyrics to the album/studio version of the song. I'll be upping a new post soon. Still transcribing and racing to meet some deadlines. Be well...

"Master Teacher"

(dreams, dreams, dreams)

I am known to stay awake
(a beautiful world im trying to find)
A beautiful world im trying to find
(a beautiful world, im trying to find)
Ive been in search of myself
(a beautiful world) a beautiful world
Its just too hard for me to find
(dreams, dreams)
Said its just too hard for me to find
(dreams, dreams)
I am in the search of something new
(a beautiful world im trying to find)
Searchin' me,
Searching inside of you
And thats fo' real

What if it were no niccas
Only master teachers?
I stay woke (dreams dreams)
What if there was no niccas
Only master teachers?
I stay woke (dreams dreams)
What if it was no niccas only master teachers now?
I stay woke (dreams dreams)
(what if there was no niccas only master teachers now?)
I stay woke (dreams dreams)

Even if yo baby aint got no money
To support ya baby, you
(I stay woke)
Even when the preacher tell you some lies
And cheatin on ya mama, you stay woke
(I stay woke)
Even though you go through struggle and strife
To keep a healthy life, I stay woke
(I stay woke)
Everybody knows a black or white, there's
Creatures in every shape and size
(I stay woke)

(I stay woke)
Everybody, stay
(I stay woke)
Get everybody
(I stay woke)
Everybody body baby
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world) (dreams, dreams)
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world) (dreams, dreams)
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world) im trying to find
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world) im trying to find
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world) im trying to find

I have lone to stay awake
A beautiful world im trying to find
(a beautiful world im trying to find)
See, I am insearch of myself
(a beautiful world, im trying to find)
Ooh its just too hard for me to find
(a beautiful world, a beautiful world)
Said it just too hard for me to find
(dreams, dreams, dreams)
Cuz i'm in the search of something new
(a beautiful world im trying to find)
Search inside me
Searching inside you
And thats the trill

What if there was no niccas
Only master teachers?
(I stay woke)
What if there was no niccas
Only master teacher?
I stay woke)
What if there was no niccas
Only master teachers now?
(I stay woke)
What if there was no niccas
Only master teacher?
(I stay woke)
Noo, what if there was no niccas
Only master teachers?

What if there was niccas
Only master teachers now

Teach us, teach us teach us [fade]

What if there was niccas only master teachers now [fade]

I stay woke [fade]

I stay woke
Mmmm, hey
I stay woke


Baby sleepy time
To put her down now
Ill be standin' round
Till da sun down

I stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke

Congregation knod they head
And say amen
The deacon fell alseep again and

I stay woke
But i stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke

Lovers holding hands
And falling deep in love
And sleeping and
Passing conversation

Ooh, i stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke

Pretty rings and pretty thieves
With shiny lights and little
Pieces of tomorrow

I stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke
I stay woke

Oh ah, oh ah
I stay woke
Oh ah, oh ah
I stay woke
Oh ah, oh ah
I stay
Oh ah, oh ah
Ohh i stay
Oh ah, oh ah
Oh ah, oh ah

Baby sleepy time
To put her down and
I'll be standin round
Until sun down, hey

Oh ah, oh ah
Oh ah, oh ah
Oooooh, ooooh, ooooh
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay woke
(oh ah, oh ah)
Mmmm stay woke
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay woke, i
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay woke, yes i do
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay woke
(oh ah, oh ah)
Mmmmm, mmmmmmm yea
(oh ah, oh ah)
Stay woke
(oh ah, oh ah)
I stay woke

Friday, December 05, 2008

Toshi Reagon Chats with Odetta

Odetta speaks with Toshi from j. bob alotta on Vimeo.
Toshi visits with Odetta after they both play a fundraiser for Clearwater, the festival & environmental movement spearheaded by Pete & Toshi Seeger. topics include: raising children, toshi's mom (bernice johnson reagon) and staying inside the song. Spring 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Odetta: R.I.P 1930-2008

"If only one could be sure that every 50 years a voice and a soul like Odetta's would come along, the centuries would pass so quickly and painlessly we would hardly recognize time"
– Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate

From a 2005 NPR story:

Odetta Holmes Felious Gordon has shaped American folk music for more than 50 years. Born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1930, Odetta lost her father at a young age. Her mother remarried and gave the children their stepfather's name, Felious.

At age 6, Odetta moved to Los Angeles, where she began to study music seriously at age 13. While studying opera at Los Angeles City College, she discovered folk music.

For the rest, including a live interview and performances, click here.

December 3, 2008

      I haven’t yet had a chance to check out the current Spin magazine cover story on M.I.A., which was penned by my good friend Lorraine Ali. But seeing the rag on newsstands jarred my memory about a conversation I had at DePaul recently with a student who asked what I thought of M.I.A. I told him I thought she was a poseur but it was okay because I like the pose. When pressed to elaborate, I explained that I like the fact that she places political content front & center of her multi-culti soundwave mash-ups. I hear her music and feel like I’m in a paradoxically gritty, idealized/hyper-stylized underground club or impromptu house-party that could be taking place in a Brazilian favela, a slum in India, or some divey spot in Baltimore. Her music is timely and prescient, foreshadowing and obvious. Still, I tend to like it more in theory than execution. Much of it lacks… something I can’t put my finger on. I almost want to say that her shit is absent soulfulness but that term has a certain connotation I don’t mean. There’s something almost too mathematical about her overall package of music, lyrics and image. And yet, isolated tracks grab me whole.
      I very much appreciate how she capitalizes on the grating, reflexive and retarding pop culture impulses and mandates that have the machine and its consumers of pre-fabricated culture always foraging for the new, the hip, the next. A musical daughter of Neneh Cherry and Joe Strummer, she capsizes the pirate ship of “globalization” that pulls into ports around the globe, spilling forth trend-chasers that fuck & fuck-over the indigenous, exploit children, rip off cultural traditions and smashes it all into a stew of cool-kid product tagged with the labels “color-blind” and “post-race,” but that actually maintains an age-old status quo. Against musical beds of beats and rhythms pulled from assorted underdog club cultures, she spits lyrics about social struggle and consciousness. As Lorraine wrote me a few days ago, “I love her for stepping out and representing the rest of the world – the ones who make Nike gear for 2 cents an hour.”
      What’s interesting to me is her shrewd marketing savvy and the tensions said savvy once buzzed around her political and artistic “authenticity.” In the beginning, she let the press run with the stories of her being the daughter of a controversial Sri Lankan revolutionary. She was initially less vocal about having been an art student in London. That omission / shrouding is quite telling, and though I think it’s foolish to dismiss her or her work outright because of it, it does speak to her own anxieties about both the perceived and real privilege of that specific educational background. On the flipside, when you read her press, she definitely knows how to pander to and flatter the “outcasts” for whom she’s been positioned as heroine and role model. She pulls all of that into the mix of her aesthetic, her persona and her carefully set-designed politics. I also find it hilarious and somehow very fitting that her fiancé / the father of her soon-to-be-born baby is Benjamin Brewer, son of Warner Music Chairman Edgar Bronfman – who is a very wealthy, very powerful man. It’s those kinds of layers of irony that I love, and that make me curious to see what she (with her own fledgling record label and clothing line) does next, how she will navigate being the daughter of a revolutionary, the daughter-in-law of a captain of industry, a fashionista label honcho, and the mother of a child born with a silver spoon in its mouth.


      Quite a few people have sent me this link to the November 29, 2008 op-ed in the New York Times, titled “Gay Marriage and a Moral Minority,” penned by the Negro writer Charles M. Blow. What an apt surname for a column that blew. Actually, I have to be fair. I didn’t read the whole thing. I couldn’t. I stopped a few paragraphs in. It’s yet another editorial theorizing about why darkies of African descent voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8. The thing is, in the very first sentence, Sir Blow owns up to and even provides a link explaining that black folk “probably didn’t tip the balance” for the proposition’s passing, but then he proceeds to quote and base his whole column on the same widely discredited CNN exit poll that claimed black folks did tip the balance. You can’t have it both ways. This is precisely the kind of sloppy writing and analysis that the NY Times (and they are far from alone) frequently employs when it comes to dealing with Black folks. How can I take you seriously when the very foundation of your thesis is tainted – and your black ass knows it?

I've been been remiss (CP-Time) in putting up photos from the last installment of Blow Pop, the monthly club that I and my fellow New Ninjas throw once a month at Club Fais Do Do here in LA. Here are just a few images from that night. Click the link below to go to our Facebook photo album and see the whole set. The next Blow Pop is December 19th. You should come.
New Ninja Kizzy (singer Kim Hill) moves and grooves with singer Rahsaan Patterson. Kizzy was channeling her inner Kara Walker when she handmade her earrings.

New Ninja Ninjette (Kim Blackwell), in the back, and her girl Mica Camacho (in front) surrounded by some Nuyorican Dreams, including the Legendary Luis Camacho in the upper right corner.

Blow Poppers workin' it out...

Lynette and Tony

Adolpha, Jeanie and New Ninja Field Ninja J

For more images click Blow Pop: The Second Time Around

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rough Day...

It's only morning and the day has already been too long. New post soon come...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving, NPR and Movies

      Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) check out NPR's News & Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya. I taped an interview for them two days ago during which I was asked to provide commentary on movies that families could watch over the holidays. When approached, I was given a list of Black American cinema classics (Cabin in the Sky, Imitation of Life, etc.) to choose from. I kept a few of those titles but tweaked the concept of "classic" a bit in order encompass films across genre, decades and generations. Check your local listings for the broadcast times. Meanwhile, here are the films with brief write-ups that explain my choices:

Imitation of Life (1959) – The great Douglas Sirk melodrama, adapted from the Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, which was first made into a film in 1934. In this version, fair-skinned African American Sarah Jane (played by Susan Kohner, who was not African American) tries to pass for white, with disastrous and sometimes violent results. Her mother is cocoa-skinned, saintly, long-suffering Annie (played by Juanita Moore), who works as a maid for Lana Turner’s character, Lora. Annie makes the ultimate sacrifice by agreeing to stay out of Sarah Jane’s life so as to not blow her daughter’s racial cover but in doing so, Annie’s heart is so broken that she falls ill. The film has a lush score, lavish gowns and unbridled emotionalism – the most famous example being the scene in which Mahalia Jackson sings the gospel standard, “Trouble of the World.” I chose this film because it’s a classic weepie, an almost guaranteed tearjerker. The film’s commentary on race is still very potent – as film historian Donald Bogle points out, Sarah Jane doesn’t want to be white so much as she wants “white opportunities” and that’s a crucial distinction to make so that she’s not simply cast as a villain – but the film’s emotional power lies in the way it shrewdly pushes buttons of guilt and grief around maternal love and sacrifice, and the way children can be oblivious to those sacrifices until it’s too late. This is fantastic film to stoke catharsis, to provide a letting of tensions that can spring up around holiday stress. Annie is really the idealized, fetishized black mother and the film masterfully manipulates that archetype to tap into something of longing, connection and reconciliation in that powerful bond between mother and child that transcends even death.

Claudine (1974) – Claudine is a fiercely devoted, hardworking mother of a different stripe, of a different era. In this 1974 film, Claudine, played by Diahann Carroll, is a single mom to six children, working secretly as a maid so as to not jeopardize the welfare she receives. When she falls in love with a garbage man (played by James Earl Jones), it not only complicates her own emotional life but reshapes the dynamic of her household, as well as putting her government assistance at risk. The film insightfully captures all those layers. I chose it because it’s smart, well-written, well-acted and shows the resilience of the black family even as terms of family are being redefined. And it takes two figures who continue to be much maligned and misunderstood – the single black mother and the black male – and gives you a nuanced, layered look at the fullness of them, their struggles, victories, defeats – their full humanity. Diahann Carroll was playing against type in this film and there was real doubt that she could play this poor, put-upon single mom. But the very qualities that people thought would work against her in the role – her regal bearing, the elegant aloofness – really made the performance because you got to see this character in a way she hadn’t been presented before and, unfortunately, is rarely shown in mainstream media today: she has great pride and dignity, she has class. She works hard. Although Claudine is tough and hardened, she’s not simply hard. She’s not anybody’s gangsta bitch and she’s not trying to be. She’s still incredibly feminine and loving, and she finds her strength and toughness in those qualities. It has to be noted that the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack is a fully realized character itself. It’s one of his most perfect creations, which is saying a lot. The songs he wrote and that Gladys Knight performs so beautifully (“The Makings of You,” “To Be Invisible,” “Mr. Welfare,”) all comment on the story, illuminate the characters, and lift the film into the realm of emotional truth. You just feel good after watching it.

Breakin’ (1984) – Breakin’ is an interesting film because it was one of Hollywood’s first attempts to cash in on hip-hop, which was then still thought to be a passing fad in many quarters. The script is formulaic and full of cliché’s, and the acting is incredibly uneven (putting it mildly.) But couched inside the flaws are some radical elements. The basic story is one that Hollywood has trotted out in some form over and over: a privileged white girl studying formal dance runs across a dance crew comprised of black and brown boys from the ‘hood and she’s so taken with their moves – and maybe with one of them – that her own art is transformed and revitalized. (Flashdance employed a bit of that formula; the wretched Save the Last Dance used it wholesale.) But what makes Breakin’ both important and enjoyable is the way it inadvertently moves beyond cliché: It’s a valentine to the West Coast and its contributions to hip-hop, specifically popping and locking; you see a brotherhood amongst black & brown folk that then circles out to encompass others; when you listen closely to the soundtrack and pay attention to what the characters are dancing to, you’re reminded that hip-hop has roots in soulful r&b, German electronic music, funk and disco; the dance sequences are still some of the most spectacular and influential of any Hollywood musical; the camaraderie between the men is playful and brotherly without the exaggerated, tired machismo that is so often deployed to squelch any whisper of queerness; in fact, one of the main characters is a flaming, combustible queen but the film doesn’t identify him as that and none of the other characters trip on his lack of hardness or street posturing because at this point a one-note, static, overly macho ‘hood pose wasn’t yet the badge of hip-hop authenticity that it would later become. Mainly, the film is unabashedly charming.

Antwone Fisher (2002) – Just as Breakin’ transcended the clichés of its script, Antwone Fisher moves beyond its overly familiar template – troubled youth goes under a doctor’s care and as he heals, provides a window for the physician to heal himself. This is a big-budget Hollywood holiday film, and those films tend to center on family, domestic strife and resolution that affirms family and ends on a note of uplift. Fisher does all of that as it tracks the course of its violent, rage-filled, self-destructive title character, who reluctantly goes into counseling with a therapist played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the film. When this movie was first released (Christmas season of 2002), a lot of mainstream critics dismissed it as old-hat, said that it was saying nothing new. They didn’t see beyond the script’s blueprint. How many big budget, mainstream Hollywood films tweak template in order to show how depression and despair are at the root of so much of the violent behavior exhibited by a certain subset of black youth, specifically black males? How many Hollywood films address the sexual and emotional abuse experienced by so many black boys? How many make note of the sadness that is often beneath the commodified and fetishized swagger? The film Antwone Fisher does. But what’s most moving and important about it is that it moves toward a final note of redemption, saying that even those who are deeply damaged, those who are spiritually wounded, can be saved and embraced as family. That they are family.

Buy Blood Beats Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 at Amazon:
click here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Update, PT. 2 / Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

Really sorry I didn't update yesterday as planned. It's been crazier than I thought it'd be. I'm prepping to interview Cheryl Dunye and Jeffrey Wright (separately) for profiles in Flaunt, and I just did an interview with singer-songwriter Jay Brannan, who is truly fantastic. I will blog about these folks and some other items this Saturday. In the meantime, I am doing last minute stuff to ensure that tonight's Blow Pop (please click that link) is as great as last month's. If you are in LA, come out and join us.

BLOW POP is a chill, house-party style club thrown by New Ninjas, a collective of LA artists that includes Kim Blackwell (actor & writer), Jason Van Veen ("Boondocks" writer & film maker), Ernest Hardy (film critic, poet and author) and Kim Hill (profiler).

The night kicks off with a short film and a classic episode from one of your favorite vintage Negro sitcoms. Then the two Kims hit the decks to spin hip-hop, indie r&B, classic soul, the coolest disco, rare groove and some shit we can't categorize.

Doors open @ 9pm and there's a $5 cover. The club menu includes catfish, red beans and rice w/ sangria, and more. PLUS there will be giveaways.

Address: Club Fais Do Do / 5257 West Adams Blvd. / Los Angeles, 90016

Here's a mini-YouTube playlist of Blow Pop-esque fare:

And these are especially for Mica, Monica and the 2 Kims:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I will try to put up a new post either later today (or this evening), or in the morning. Deadlines are calling. In the meantime, enjoy the humor of the clip above.


Monday, November 17, 2008

California Wildfires... Newscast by the Onion

Californians Gather To Celebrate Annual Wildfire Tradition

Soup With Prince

     In my essay, "James Brown: Portal of Possibility," which was published in Flaunt magazine earlier this year and which I excerpted here in mid-October (click here for the excerpt), I mused late in the essay on three of Brown's artistic children: Prince, Michael Jackson and MeShell NdegeOcello. The excerpt I posted didn't include what I'd written about those "children." Here's what I said about Prince:

Prince. A man who in his early years worked enduring, ever-magnetic-in-the-American-imagination tropes of the tragic mulatto (so much for proud blackness), all while rocking Speedos, stilettos and trench coats. The bastard spawn of Little Richard and James Brown, already an artistically incestuous coupling, Prince is so clearly a child of Brown that it forced me to go back and check how much queerness was already packed into the iconography of Brown himself. The same way that Brown blasted open options of expression and black male sexuality for an earlier generation, Prince became for me a god. His androgyny, his promiscuity with genre, the undeniable strength and confidence that played out beneath his choreographed quirks, his feigned shyness and feyness – he was a New Black Man much the way Brown had been for a previous generation. But he was flipping much of the Brown template on its processed head even as he celebrated, riffed on and in many ways reinforced it. And the ambivalence with which so many black folk once and still regard(ed) him and his manifestation of black male sexuality resonated deeply with me. His multi-racial, multi-gendered band (as much Sly as James), the way he worked with female artists in his camp, his own use of conked hair…

     In the current issue of the New Yorker, there's a new interview with the Purple One. For many of us who embraced him early in his career and our lives, it is confirmation of what we already knew to be true the moment we heard that he'd become a Jehovah's Witness. The Prince of stilettos and bikini briefs, who sang of a utopia in which sexual freedom and fluidity were on par with racial equality as things to be pursued and celebrated... that Prince is gone. Retreated behind the securely locked iron gates of religious judgment and narrow-mindedness. Two excerpts:

1) Prince padded into the kitchen, a small fifty-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha.

2) Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”
     When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

For the rest of the interview, click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wanda Sykes Comes Outta the Closet

Classic Wanda...

I mean, I guess there's somebody out there that, that...
Well, how very, very, especially slow does one have to be to have not figured that out? Wanda's humor has always been drawn from a very distinct strain of droll, biting, hilarious, no-bullshit dyke energy. Even when she was talking about her ex-husband. Much respect to her for making her sexuality public, though. Her doing so works on both a literal and metaphorical level, illustrating that the battle for equality always comes down to simply stating the obvious: I'm a dyke. Women are not second-class citizens and they deserve full rights and full & equal protection under the law; Black people / Latinos / the LGBT community / immigrants... are not second class citizens, and they deserve full rights, and full & equal protection under the law. It's the tedium & banality of repeating the mantra, of even having to state the obvious, that drains and infuriates.

Wanda comes out, here...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check myself

I wasn't gonna blog a new post till Saturday, Nov. 15. I am now in Chicago, where I just had a really great time conversing with students and talking about everything from the globalization of hip-hop conformity, to Prop 8, to the issues around downloading music. Smart kids. Gives me hope. But I was just checking email here at DePaul's library when I received a couple of heads-up letting me know Dan Savage had blogged one of my columns. I went over to his site and saw that he'd blogged about NOT the one in which he was called to the carpet for his part in fanning the flames of racial tension, but this one, in which the controversial symbolism of the KKK in full drag was used to critique the racist blow-back from Prop 8. Dan's commentary on the issue was simplistic and predictable and allows him to shout outrageous indignation while side-steeping introspection on his own bullshit. (Click here for the column.) I'd have completely ignored it all except for one thing, which made me jot the following as I was eating lunch a few minutes ago:

Well, if I'm going to be calling people out they name and holding folks accountable, I have to hold my own feet to the fire.

I fucked up.

Prologue: As someone who is both Negro and homosexual, I often use in my writing the terms of degradation that have been assigned to both those groups. I use them with humor, irony, adolescent flippancy. But I trust the intelligence of readers to "get" the words in the contexts in which I use them. And there is always context. And I make it clear in my writing that I am unapologetically and proudly both Black and gay, committed to fighting racism, homophobia, misogyny, the whole inter-related nine.

This is often (and understandably) misunderstood by some of the same folks with whom and for whom I am fighting.

My fellow Negroes often chastise me for using words like... well, Negro. Colored. Jigaboo.

My fellow faggots often chastise me for using words like... well, faggot. Cocksucker. Butt-pirate.

Folks who are neither gay nor Black will sometimes whine, "Why do you get to use those words and I don't?" (Answer: 1. Don't believe the hype. Ain't nobody stopping you from using 'em. Just know that there may be kunsuhkwinces an' rehpuh'rayshuns for using 'em when you ain't part of the group. 2. Why do you even want to use them?)

Ealier this week, when I came across the Quincy LeNear drawing used here, I jacked it and saved it to my hard-drive until I could blog about it. I saved the jpg under the title White Faggot Racism. I didn't even think about it, anymore than I would have if I'd found an image that I thought illustrated or critiqued black homophobia and might label it Jigaboo Homophobia. (I also needed to differentiate the pic from others in my folder under the series of Brazilian Faggot Orgy photos.) I bring this all up because when Savage right-click-saved the image from my blog onto his, it was the title I gave which came up on his computer. He made a pointed point of mentioning the jpg's label when he posted his column, and as a result I know I need to issue a couple of apologies.

1) To Quincy, who's publicly stated that he used the image he did precisely because it is controversial and he wanted to use the tweaked symbolic imagery of the KKK in hoods to critique the twined racism/privilege of many players (bloggers and posters) in the white gay blogosphere following the Prop 8 debacle. But he didn't label the jpg, I did, and he doesn't deserve any beef thrown his way because of what I did.

2) Anyone (gay, straight, male, female, whatever) who came across the image and commentary on Dan's page and processed it without being privy to any sort of context of either my politics or biography, and who came away thinking or feeling that I was anti-white or anti-gay. Neither is true. I don't expect everyone to co-sign the way I use this language and I completely understand that. But I do hope and trust that a provision and fleshing out of context would at least help you understand where I am coming from.

When Black folk have conversations about racial identity, what the terms are, what the language is, who gets to set the terms and control the language, it's often just presumed that there are no gay or lesbian folk in the mix.

When terms and conversations are held about LGBT identities, what the terms are, what the language is, who gets to set the terms and control the language, it's often just presumed that there are no people of color in the mix. (It's really telling to me that Savage omitted any context of me, my writing, or the conversation and comments on my blog about the image when he posted a link to my blog and then wrote his own commentary. Straight-up bitch move.)

Both the African American and LGBT communities have folks in them who have championed the notion (either as conscious act or unconscious) of flipping the bird to history's bigotry by reclaiming and using historically degrading terms as a way of disempowering them or reconfiguring meaning. It is, to say the least, a controversial tack. Still. Being in both camps, I use both sets of words. I have friends of other races, and friends who are women, who similarly flip the terms that have been applied to their respective groups; I don't use those terms 'cause... it's not my place. Membership has its privileges.

I'm kicking myself for giving Savage Palin an easy out. (But he would have found one anyway.) I'm also kicking myself for not being more careful and thoughtful (I see you, Topher...) about the ways my own shorthand may be used to fan the flames of current controversies. It was stupid. Straight up.