Saturday, March 28, 2009

Outta Town for a Few Days...

See post just below ("Slammed") for my itinerary. Back in LA on April 7th. Will update the blog then...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Slammed




      Years ago, I owned the 2-disc CD set Our Souls Have Grown Deep Like The Rivers: Black Poets Read Their Work. (It mysteriously “vanished” from my collection a while back, and I’ve never gotten around to replacing it.) One of the things I really dug about Our Souls was the way it outlined the evolution of the Negro poet’s public speaking style. (It’s not only poets who constitute the discs’ line-up but they do dominate.) The collection kicks off with folks like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Countee Cullen, Margaret Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks, and ends with Carl Hancock Rux, Saul Williams and Public Enemy. But it’s the bridge of the ‘60s (Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka) that fascinated me. That’s when shit took a crucial turn and the template was set. While I love(d) listening to the performances from that Black Pride / Revolution Now! era, I loathe what they spawned, that god-awful spoken-word cadence (you know what I’m talking about) and all its accompanying clichés – the uniformity and conformity of body language, facial expressions and stage demeanor. The way almost any topic tackled is funneled down a path of crowd-pandering predictability. There are glorious exceptions, of course, but they are (to my mind and ear) rare. So it was with some [much] trepidation that I popped in the screeners for the first three episodes of Russell Simmons Presents: Brave New Voices, the HBO documentary mini-series that was executive produced by Stan Lathan and James Kass. (Queen Latifah narrates.) I’m hooked.
      The show follows teams of young slam performers that have been gathered from across the U.S. (Hawaii; San Francisco, Philly; New York; Ann Arbor; Florida) as they prepare for a national competition. Initially, all my preconceptions were confirmed as those familiar rhythms (and yelling) started to unfold. Early in my notes, I jotted that many of these kids ooze a weariness / wariness / soul-exhaustion that is clearly real and deeply felt, but that is filtered through hack signifiers and dictates of "performed realness." I felt that was unfortunate because they’re addressing topics ranging from serious health issues (sickle cell; bi-polar disorder) to the pain of absent fathers (surprise: it ain’t just a colored folks issue), to sex and sexuality (there’s a harrowing real-life tale of a foiled kidnapping that was meant to include rape and murder) to the erasure of native cultures (Hawaiian and Native American).
      It’s humbling and horrifying to realize (or be reminded, because it’s not news) of the range of “fucked-up” that is standard-issue for so many of these kids. (One young Negro is almost apologetic that he actually comes from a pretty stable family and safe neighborhood; while the largely white, middle-class kids from Ann Arbor have to battle preconceptions of privilege.) But as you settle into the unfolding narratives, the charm / self-possession and insecurities / and sharp intellect of the kids completely wins you over. The battles between forging ahead and self-sabotage are sometimes painful to watch, especially as folks who most need a win almost go out of their way to cheat themselves of it. As the cameras swung between rehearsals, performances and the home lives of these fledgling (and in a few cases, already scarily mature) poets, I even fell under the sway of some of the work. A line or phrase would leap out, causing an “oh, shit” response that was genuinely earned. There are a couple of whole pieces that blew me away; the alchemic process of turning auto-bio into art dazzled.
      Still, questions nagged at me as I watched the arduous preparations, the internal battles that were placed center-stage, and the youth being upped by OGs like Ursula Rucker. The questions stuck because for all my preconceptions that were shattered, and that I happily surrendered, there were just as many that were confirmed. The questions: Is anyone going to have a conversation about the assembly-line aspect of all this, the process by which so many of these young folk and their work are being put on a conveyor-belt of cookie-cutter personas and mannerisms, encouraged to slip into already threadbare performance drag, or not challenged when they do? How do we draw a distinction between education and the teaching of standards, the mastery of form, and the enforcement of discipline, without it all dove-tailing into sludgey formula? Would these kids have a shot at “visibility” if they did step outside the familiar grooves, if instead of being reborn manifestations of the tried & true, they slipped the ropes of an already commodified, prepackaged expression of creativity and lay claim to some freestyle freshness? I’m hoping (but very, very doubtful) that some of that will be addressed in future episodes. Either way, I am completely hooked on these kids and their efforts to become artists. The series starts this weekend; check your local listings.

Check out this Sylvia Plath interview. Especially hold on till the end, where she talks about the necessity of poets elevating the autobiographical into the “historical” in order to create meaningful, relevant art:


      I am dashing off to get a haircut as soon as I post this update, getting ready to fly to New York to speak at CUNY on Monday, March 30th. Then I’m headed over to Brown University for this amazing conference, and where on April 3rd I will be participating on the panel, "Production, Performance, Product: The politics of writing and performing Blackness/Queerness." Staceyann Chin and Andre Lancaster (Freedom Train Productions) are scheduled to be on the panel with me. I’m also geeked (I’m bringing it back) to see performances by Chin; Brian Freeman, formerly of Pomo Afro Homos; my Redbone Press sister, Sharon Bridgforth; and Daniel Alexander Jones.
      This past week has been insanely busy, as I finished an arts essay for a monograph being published later this year, edited the intro to War Diaries, and interviewed Bruce LaBruce and Vaginal Davis for a profile I’m writing on LaBruce for Flaunt magazine. All were/are due before I head back east. Those last two, the interviews, were like crack, reminding me why I do what I do and how much I love writing. Via email, LaBruce (who is working in Berlin) and I talked about the politics of his zombie film Otto, the potential for radical cultural critique via porn, the possibility of a reborn counterculture in the wake of global economic meltdown, and the parallels between punk and hip-hop cultures. Here is just a snippet from the LaBruce Q&A, followed by a quick quote from the interview with Ms. Davis (who now lives in Berlin), which is going to be a sidebar to the LaBruce piece.

EH: Building a bit on punk, its homoeroticism and counter-culture position, you’ve also long been interested in hip-hop and have been quite vocal in your critique of “corporate hip-hop.” I’m wondering if you can speak a bit about the parallels as you might see them between punk and hip-hop – in terms of their large-scale “queerness” (i.e., being “outsider” art or expression) but also their undercurrents of homoeroticism; their trajectories of co-option by & voluntary subservience to the status quo; and what it even means anymore to be an anti-corporate culture, or anti-corporate artist.

BL: Whew Ernest! Those are all big questions. But to try to be succinct about it, you only have to go back to the roots of the black, gay and feminist movements in the late sixties and seventies to recognize the parallels and common goals of all three movements, which were all, at that time, militant Marxist-influenced movements in opposition to the dominant white patriarchal elite class. It’s well documented that Huey P. Newton of the Black Panthers reached out to his gay and feminist brothers and sisters in the struggle against the white bourgeoisie ruling class! Genet famously supported the Black Panthers, solidifying the connection between gay and black outsider opposition to the dominant order, and Angela Davis’ strong revolutionary voice dovetailed nicely with feminist radicalism.
      The point is that all three movements shared anti-capitalist values, and the abandonment of that platform is what has killed counterculture and true opposition in the modern Western world. Corporate black hip-hop learned far too well at the feet of their capitalist white masters, and the same can be said for the gays. Even feminism was largely dismantled by misguided post-feminist capitulation to corporate values. The oppressed became the oppressors, and, incidentally, became more than happily complicit with the unbridled corporate greed and malfeasance that ushered in the current economic calamity. The only people left to complain or protest these days are the French Revolution-style peasants who are crying for the blood of the financial barons and CEOs. There’s no organized, anti-capitalist intellectual resistance, it seems. Anyway, I digress, but for me personally, and as an artist, I’ve always fetishized militant resistance to all kinds of brutal dictatorships, corporate, capitalist overlords, and other assorted hegemonies. I even extend it to a literal sexual fetish because each of these radical movements started out with very strong resistance against sexual orthodoxy and repression. Each movement had a strong component of sexual revolution, and an overtly sexualized style. I’ve always been attracted to that.

Here’s a bit from Vag, who calls Bruce “Judy”:

EH: And what is it like collaborating on a professional level [with Bruce], given that you are also friends?

VD: I work well with Judy but she can be problematic. She’s selfish, egotistical and bratty. Those are her good qualities. We butt heads quite a bit. She has a husband now, this Afro-Cuban Santeria priest that she gay-married – yuck – and talks about non stop. The guy has a 14-inch penis. I am an old-fashioned loner type who is basically unboyfriendable, so of course I hate people who are coupled. That is natural for me to resent domesticity in my friends.

And here is a filmed bit from the Bruce / Vag 2007 stage collaboration (in Berlin), “Cheap Blacky”:



Finally, my weekend play-list:





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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Church

This is an oldie but goodie, perfect for Sunday morning self ministering. Reminds me of my southern childhood, going to church and absolutely loathing the sermons but feeling spirit and being so lifted by the music... Click here.

Late Pass: Best in Korea

How dope is she?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Lord

Except for those times I can snag a few hours of relaxation and catch up on TV shows in DVD box-set form, I no longer watch much television (not for snobbish reasons... I just don't,) thus I tend to be out of the loop on a lot of current pop culture conversations. So I didn't see this staggeringly offensive ad when it first ran:



Harry Allen breaks it all the way down, and quite wonderfully, right here.

Classic

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Steele's Rap Battle Response
comedycentral.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mark Your Calendar


The Way You Look Tonight/What’s Goin’ On
A conversation with artist Barkley Hendricks about the roles that culture, politics, and music play in his creative process. Moderated by cultural critic Ernest Hardy. May 19, 2009 @ 7pm. Santa Monica Museum of Art: 2525 Michigan Ave. / Santa Monica, CA 90404

HIV Statistics in Washington DC

The Washington Post's article from a few days ago in which it was reported that at least 3% of D.C. is HIV positive or has AIDS continues to cause shockwaves across the blogosphere -- including from some folks who think the figure is too conservative. You can read the whole article by clicking here. Then check in at Rod2.0 not only for his commentary but for the comments of his readers. Sobering stuff, to put it mildly. I don't know what to say except, there's nothing new to say. All the info about preventing transmission of HIV is at our fingertips; it's everywhere. Activists and educators may just have to resign themselves to being broken records, singing the same song(s) they've been singing for over 20 years... and realizing that old news may well be new news to some. A crucial fact to keep in mind while sighing in understandable exasperation, a fact that is in plain sight but bears repeating, is the deeply ingrained emotional and psychological distress/despair (passed on like family heirlooms and reinforced by myriad external factors) that is at the core of many Black folks / gay folks / poor folks / straight women / all-of-the-above not valuing their own lives. The reasons, both conscious and unexamined, that folks fuck ain't always romantic or even lustful. Sometimes the impulse of self-destructive escapism is the spark in the libidinal hook-up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flashback

Just a Coupla Black Girls Sittin' Around Singin'



After dinner with friends, these girls had an impromptu session singing/playing music. Emmanuel Harrison is on the guitar, Anhayla Rene and Jade Jorarni are singing, and A.Shant'e gives the introduction.

Original version

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Twitter-esque Revelation

Sitting here with writer's block (while way behind on deadline... and procrastinating), listening to songs that bored me as a boy... being blown away at the layers of wisdom and truth pouring from my speakers.

In Praise of Jonte

Love and Marriage




From the newswire:

A Florida man wearing an "I [heart] My Marriage" t-shirt was arrested last night for allegedly choking his wife during an argument in their Tampa-area home. Bradley Gellert, a 32-year-old financial consultant, was busted by Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies and booked into jail on a felony domestic battery by strangulation charge.... The "I [heart] My Marriage" shirt was a promotional item tied to the 2008 movie "Fireproof," a Christian-themed film starring Kirk Cameron. The movie, a hit in evangelical circles, centers on a fireman's religious awakening and his simultaneous effort to save a failing marriage.

Book excerpt:

"...Marriage is the most difficult state in which to live with another person. It destroys the enigmas of the relationship between two people, it joins together that which perhaps should never have been joined, things are shared that perhaps should never be shared. Subtly, the partners begin to fall into silence because words lose their luster; that which once seemed like an original idea begins to feel like an idea that has been repeated a million times, dull, tiresome. Over the years, people stop really seeing each other; they no longer rub each other the wrong way, but neither do they provoke passion or fury, there is no reason to make peace. There are no more goodbyes at the door, or departures at dawn, or furtive kisses on the stairs, or dreamy nocturnal wonderings. From marriage forward, kisses become more familiar and less wet, and what comes after the nighttime is more of the same; mad, romantic, magical love comes to an end, and a routine of toilet paper and bills begins. You make love -- the horror! -- while thinking about the next day's shopping list because your husband doesn't eat this, and that other thing hurts his stomach..."

From Elizabeth Subercaseaux's novel, A Week in October

Monday, March 16, 2009

Check this out...


MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Julian Bond Speaks


Speech given March 14, 2009

Detroit



I love Detroit more than I can say. I think of it as one of my geographical co-parents. A harsh, hard, beautiful, soulful place, it is the most American of cities -- a lost blue-collar industrial stronghold where folks who had little formal education but lots of gumption could provide (and well) for their families; a one-time magnet for Negroes looking for their slice of the American dream; a former cultural oasis, from the visual arts to a vibrant theater culture, to its multiple musical streams (jazz, blues, Motown, rock & roll, hip-hop) that enriched American culture as a whole. Within its brutal disintegration is pointed commentary on the underbelly of America -- police brutality; unbelievable political corruption and indifference; the true cost of white-flight; the true cost of Negro self-defeatism. Mind boggling violence. Detroit has been a metaphor for the best and worst of this country. Last week saw the media shine a light on my hometown in ways that both broke my heart and made me proud. First up, Time magazine ran a photo-essay by the French photography duo Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, who have been documenting the city's decline for the last several years by taking photos of abandoned buildings, many of them once-gorgeous landmarks. After the images hit, blogs across the net opined that the fall of Detroit was symbolic of the decline of the American empire. That sounds grandiose and hyperbolic as fuck, but I think there's more than a little truth in it. Click here to see the Time magazine layout (it gives a lot of detailed background on the buildings that were photographed) but be sure to check out Marchand & Meffre's website (a link is provided on Time's site) for additional photos and to see other projects of theirs. It's all well worth your time.

Then the New York Times ran this amazing Detroit related music story.

The Youtube clips above and below are for one of my favorite living musical artists, Moodymann, the Detroit-based electronic music maestro whose stated and often controversial artistic goal is to remind folks that Techno and House are Black American musics, and to inject as much transcendent Blackness in his grooves as possible. His music is gritty, hypnotic, funky, experimental... Detroit.



Flashback

A great, great Pointer Sisters clip...

Re-posted and Revised

This post was lost from my blog earlier today. Server issues or something. I'm too techno indifferent to grasp it. My friend James was able to retrieve it for me (thank you), plus he sent me some notes on revising it before I posted it again (double thanks). So here it is, re-posted:

      If we were to wake up tomorrow and find the world had been abandoned by those Siamese twins of bigotry and oppression, misogyny and homophobia, the greatest change wouldn’t be in the lives of gays, lesbians, straight women and our transgender brothers and sisters (though they’d benefit most obviously.) The most profound shift at a root level, of course, would ultimately be in the lives of heterosexual men – the fathers, brothers, uncles, and so on, whose attitudes and real-life practices spin out to shape culture, politics, beliefs and lives. They’d be able to breathe. They could take off the girdles of socially prescribed masculinity and let their natural selves hang out. They’d be forced to create new tools of co-existence, new definitions of power, but that would be their liberation. They could stop furiously policing themselves and other men, and then stop demanding simplistic renderings of womanhood and femininity to harmonize with their simplistic (but complicatedly, complexly damaging) renderings of manhood. The first-tap energy they put into molding themselves, their children, their churches, businesses, large and small scale cultures, would be radically altered. And of course, those who trip the gender light fantastic would not be so brutalized for their border crossings. Maybe it’s a mistake to say who’d benefit more. Maybe it’s better just to say that hetero men have as much to gain as queer folk, albeit in different ways, in throwing off the golden shackles of their hetero “privilege.” Too many, of course, driven by fear, only see what might be lost or taken from them. It’s a soul-dividend that’ll be paid. (Ironic: How many use religion and terms of spiritual warfare to justify their beliefs and tactics of oppression.) We see some of that happening now in the world – shifts and changes, the dismantling of hate and the tossing out of its fruit. But as things fall apart, there are many rushing in to reupholster the status quo.
      Those thoughts, a remedial breakdown of basic gender and queer politics, flashed through my head as I debated self about posting the following news report from Peru. (I first saw it on Pam Spaulding’s blog late last week.) It’s about Techi, a transgender woman and alleged prostitute, who was hunted and then forcibly “returned” to maleness by a pack of laughing, bullying, souls-deficient men. I worried that even posting the news clip would make me complicit in her humiliation. That humiliation was doled out not only by the hands of the assholes who attacked her after first alerting a local news station of their plans and inviting a crew and camera to document their assault, it was also doled out by the news station whose sensationalistic editing and repetition of certain images and moments from the attack – and whose generally sloppy construction of the piece – only served the purpose of cheap titillation. (Side note: What does it tell us about the comfort zones of social/cultural privilege and entitlement inhabited by the “real men” who waged the attack that they would not only alert the media of their plans, but laugh and boast on-camera as they do their foul deeds?) You don’t need to speak Spanish to grasp what is happening in the clip:



      I think it’s important that any conversations about this incident don’t collapse into rote, static condemnation of Latino culture(s) and “machismo,” which fall too easily into racist rants but also make it easy to be blind to the universality of this kind of bigotry. I read several queer-oriented news blogs a day, and a seemingly endless barrage of queer bashings and killings pours in daily from around the globe – on every continent, in countless countries, across race, across cultures and across religious beliefs.
      Irony: So many of those who think they are enforcing age-old cultural dictates on manhood are actually ignorant of their own history, of the dynamic culturally and spiritually significant gender-play they are dishonoring in their practices of hate. Check out the following clip. It’s wonderful because it opens up conversations around religion and spiritual practice, putting them in the context of the creation of art and culture. It roots spirituality and various worldwide practices of spiritual enlightenment, and in options of boundless human expression and creativity – including the creation of self. Especially pay attention to speaker Wade Davis starting just before the 7 minute mark, when he drops his audience into Peru and drops knowledge that truly shames the attackers in the Youtube clip:



Bonus:

Lorraine Hansberry

WTF?!?

My most recent post (from last night) and some older ones have strangely just vanished. I'll try to put up the videos from the last update; they were actually more "the point" than what I wrote. Then I'll try to figure out what's causing posts to disappear.

EH

Friday, March 13, 2009

F-ck the Past / History Lesson


The shuffling house-shoes kill me… Language may not be work-safe.

       “… ‘F’ the past. Let’s deal in now.” That comment was left on my blog this week for a post that’s well over a year old. The person who left it was annoyed with this post, in which I compared the careers and performing styles of the old guard – Piaf, Garland, Holiday – to the reigning (and in one case, fast-falling) pop divas/icons – Beyonce, Madonna, Janet. Actually, there is some validity to the sentiment. Too many of us – whether it’s in realms of politics or culture, or just the personal relationships in our lives – get stuck in the past, mired in shit that thwarts forward motion. Narrowing the focus, too many folks who do what I do for a living can get snagged in the whine of “the old days were better / this new shit sucks,” without fully acknowledging what is new and innovative and just good. (Yep, I can admit my guilt there as well.) But given how ahistorical and scarily amnesiac so many Americans are, the reflex to say “fuck history,” is often less about justified exasperation than it is toddler-like narcissism, the belief that the world didn’t exist until you opened your eyes and ears. Saying “fuck history,” especially in conversations about art and culture is like the body saying, “fuck a heart,” “fuck the blood coursing through my veins,” or perhaps more precisely for these particular conversations, “motherfuck a spine, son.”
      That point was especially and ironically driven home for me this week as two documentary films I reviewed just opened. Both have as their subject matter Negroes and their art, though both (as Negro art does) spiral out into the universal, barreling over lines of race, class, national borders, etc.

Here is the first review, from the Village Voice:

      Co-directors Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob open their exquisite documentary Carmen & Geoffrey with a black-and-white clip of a 1950s dance performance by their title subjects, Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder. The husband-and-wife duo, roughly in their mid-twenties at the time, are gorgeous. Ridiculously sexy. While the tall, muscular Holder plays the smitten prey, de Lavallade is a smoldering vixen, cigarette holder between her lips and liquid motion in her hips. Holding her upper body almost still, she does a lower-body swivel and slow slide downward that is one of the sexiest things ever caught on film. And that's before the opening credits even roll.
      Holder is best known to mainstream audiences for his long-running 7-Up commercials and for his role as Nelson, the risqué ad man in 1992’s Boomerang, both of which prominently feature his trademark deep laugh. His wife—artistic partner and muse, de Lavallade—is deservedly revered in the world of dance but is nowhere near as widely known as her talent and accomplishments merit. Atkinson and Doob's film is a multilayered corrective. It aims to retrieve Holder, a true renaissance artist, from the amusing but one-note public character into which his larger-than-life persona has been whittled, and to shine a light on de Lavallade's own dazzling career. It does all that time and again, while making the very strong argument that pop culture as we know it would be markedly poorer had these two not broken the many grounds they did. (Their friends and professional collaborators include folks like Alvin Ailey, Josephine Baker, Truman Capote, and Duke Ellington.) But what really propels the film is the love story between its subjects. Cynics and romance pessimists beware: These are fairy-tale tropes played out in real-life dimensions.
      While Atkinson and Doob are nothing more than straightforward, point-and-shoot craftsmen in their filming of de Lavallade, Holder, and talking heads—including the couple's son, Judith Jamison, and New York Times dance critic Jennifer Dunning—the film (sometimes pointedly, but often in just a few spoken lines or seemingly offhand observations) captures a range of complex histories and dynamics: the still-potent sibling rivalry that courses through the love between Holder and his older brother, who wrote the templates for Holder's own creative expression; de Lavallade's laughing remark that girls from “nice families” (which hers was) didn't go into the entertainment profession; the rage that cracks Holder's otherwise serene and jovial demeanor when he speaks of the colonialist school system in which he learned as a boy in his home of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Those moments are interspersed with rare performance footage from film, theater, and TV that will make you drool not only for the images but for the seemingly endless depth and breadth of the couple's talent. Carmen & Geoffrey is an unabashed love letter to its subject. It fawns and gushes. But it also makes a convincing case for its own adoration—it's hard to not get caught up in the swoon.


Click here for a clip of the young Carmen dancing with her great friend and collaborator, Alvin Ailey.

Here is the second review, from the LA Weekly:


      Ava Duvernay’s documentary This Is the Life is so immediately and fully engrossing that it meets its ambitious goals for the viewer — to illuminate a brief, paradoxically undervalued but globally influential L.A.-based music scene while broadening the accepted parameters of hip-hop — and without feeling lectured to. It’s rare that being schooled so deeply is so pleasurable. The Good Life hip-hop scene started in the early ’90s in South-Central L.A.’s Good Life health-food store, run by neighborhood stalwart Bea Hall and her son. The duo wanted to create a venue for local (soon citywide) youth to express their musical creativity in a safe, positive atmosphere. Their most famous rule: No profanity allowed. Soon, a movement was afoot that spawned hip-hop iconoclasts like Pigeon John, Abstract Rude, Medusa, Volume 10 and the venerated Freestyle Fellowship, all making some of the most artful, experimental rap music ever. Duvernay’s film also persuasively argues that mainstream artists such as Ice Cube lifted more than a little from the ground being broken. This Is the Life vaults into the upper echelons of must-see hip-hop documentaries: It’s smart, informative, and hugely important historically, filled with rare performance footage that still crackles. The underground-icon talking heads (shot in their homes, against freeway backdrops) wax poetic, philosophical and enthusiastic. “Something like that couldn’t happen in any other city, in any other part of the world, at any other time,” says Cut Chemist. “It was perfect.”


Back to Blood Beats blog commentary:

      It’s very sad to me that each film is only getting a limited theatrical run, and that those runs are pegged (even if somewhat fittingly) to New York in the case of Carmen & Geoffrey, and LA in the case of This is the Life. (Note: While I strongly recommend that you see Life on the big-screen, with an audience, if possible – it’s playing at the Downtown Independent – it’s also already on DVD. Don’t be an asshole and download it for free. Support indie filmmaking, indie artists and truly indie culture. Buy it.) These two films are very important cultural artifacts precisely because they don’t say, “fuck the past.” They rectify the detrimental short memory and indifference we have to that which has gone before. If Duvernay hadn’t picked up her camera to tell the tale of the Good Life hip-hop scene, it’d be easy for a lot of folks to forget or never know that LA rap (specifically) and West Coast rap (in general) were and are a much more dynamic and influential item than mainstream official history would let on. The film goes a long way toward expanding the notions and realities of hip-hop, of contemporary urban blackness, and the racial dynamics (check the cross-colors representation in the film) and gender equity in the culture.

      Carmen & Geoffrey was very moving to me because while it is a deserved and long overdue celebration/simple acknowledgment of two massive talents and their parts in kicking down doors and re-shaping American pop culture (fuck the past, right?), it ultimately proves to be a much larger life lesson from the elders. The film powerfully illustrates how its two subjects made and make everyday life be their ultimate work(s) of art. The keen consciousness with which they shape their lives, interact with each other and the world; the ways they don’t compartmentalize their creativity as a separate component from their day-to-day existence, instead utilizing it in everything from creating new work to nurturing friendships to sustaining their decades-long romance. The last is what is most impressive. It’s like something out of a novel, the kind of relationship that is rooted in genuine friendship and mutual admiration, a connection of spirit. It’s a relationship model that sets the bar high but by its very existence lets you know it ain’t impossible to achieve.


Youtube Clips of the Week:



The clip above may not be work safe… from the name of the dancer (Mr. Hit Dat Ho) to the frequency with which the word “nigga” is dropped. But you can watch it on mute. I love it because the past few weeks have seen a lot of folks across the ‘net (including yours truly) become introduced to the Texas dance “the stanky leg.” My Negro hetero brethren have cried foul, bemoaning the fallen and degraded state of the Black male as young hetero males swivel hips, shake ass and loosen backsides. The clip below is included mainly for the fuzzy slippers worn by ol’ boy on the far right, and for the dancing little boy who keeps dipping into shadow, looking like a demonic cartoon.


Women do it too:



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