Monthly Archives: August 2010

on the latest viral smash hit: cee lo green and fuck you

dear readers,

so i’m on my ex’s facebook page, not to stalk just to care, and i see a link to cee lo green’s new song and video called, “fuck you.” it’s rapidly approaching 4 million hits, and just got written up in a rather precious article in yesterday’s new york times. cee lo became known to the pop world through his last hit, “crazy,” with the duo gnarls barkley. instead of giving cee lo his props for continuing to vanguard, the article gives a shallow background on the artist and an in-depth take on the video. but mainly the article takes cee lo to task for using the cuss word, fuck. this from a largely non-investigative national paper of record who places blase articles about the death of millions next to urgent ads for fur coats. this from a paper which is still feeding us the bp line on the deepwater horizon oil spill. anyway, i watched “fuck you” with glee. i can relate. plus i’ve liked cee lo since his days with the dungeon family and he’s always been an innovator, one of the lights from within the depths. here’s a link to the lyrics and the viral sensation itself:

fuck you is an endearing song, catchy, and self-reflexive in an almost broadway like fashion. in it, he addresses class from the vantage point of a working class fellow watching the girl he loves go off with some rich dude. his vocals soar when he laments, “if i was richer, i’d still be with her.” the video, with its karaoke-like lyrically based graphics, is fun and easy on the eyes. cee lo continues to push the envelope of a tightening cultural society by eschewing corporatized hip hop rapping/talking points, namely “i’m rich,” “i’m sexy,” “i’m dangerous to myself and others.” now, i’m not saying i mind these reductionist messages, i’m out here bobbing my head with the rest, getting into heated debates at the beach over the genius of wayne carter.

but let’s be real about the power of the landscape we’re dealing with. hip hop is one of america’s largest exports, its cultural influence alone is untold. reducing hip hop to just a few messages is part of the same tragedy that lifted all real news out of all black radio stations. so songs like young money’s newest, “up all night,” while badass, alienate a largely working class world with their new money mogul mantras. but hey, let’s all pretend we’re popping bottles while we wonder and worry, la lucha continuar, for surely. props to cee lo, and all courageous artists.

stay tuned for more,
politicalpoet

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a lesson on music from james baldwin

dear readers,

for all my music heads, check out this one passage from baldwin’s work of art, the novel, “just above my head,”

“music don’t begin like a song, forget all that bullshit you hear. music can get to be a song, but it starts with a cry. that’s all. it might be the cry of a newborn baby, or the sound of a hog being slaughtered, or a man when they put the knife to his balls. and that sound is everywhere. people spend their whole lives trying to drown out that sound.”

and so it is.

a few years ago, i mc’d a show called artists against rape at the brava theater in the mission district of san francisco. mc’s are like grease, we keep the gears of the show flowing, keep everyones hair slicked nice, lubricate the friction of the love that is such a show. i remember i talked about baldiwn and his book, just above my head, which i am re-reading now. it is ramadan after all, till september 10 when eid falls, and one is taught to retreat, fast, turn to the holy books and grow, from the inside out. so i am reading baldiwn, who writes about childhood sexual abuse as though it is a horrifically normal part of life, which it is. james baldwin bears witness so well, and he knew that incest isn’t the be all and end all of a person, of a human life, of a community. no, it is but one part. a tragic part, a flood of a part. but still, just one part. thank goodness.

summer is not over, i repeat, summer is not over.

stay tuned for more,
roopa

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news round-up: it’s 2010, better look at your life again, epic times call for epic lines.

dear readers,

here’s my quick and dirty on a number of issues. shout out to anirvan and barnali, this amazing couple just did a year of traveling together without flying, check their blog: www.yearofnoflying.com.

1. on the floods, pakistan and new orleans, a call for connection: spike lee just did an interview with the new york times about his latest film on new orleans, five years after the flood. in the interview and in the film, he addresses the impact of the bp oil spill, warning people against believing the oil company when it says that most of the oil has been cleared. but what was not brought up were the floods in pakistan. there seems to me to be a clear connection between two nation states failing their underserved, overworked populations in times of flood catastrophe. america is seething with rage and ignorance, much of this energy is being funneled into virulent rivers of racism against muslims. so the obvious connection is missed. the opportunity for globalization to seep through into brotherhood and sisterhood is missed. why would a comparison be important? perhaps because placing pakistan and new orleans alongside each other could illuminate the illusory promise of nation state citizenship in general, and of military dictatorships (whether shoddily or slickly elected) specifically. perhaps the comparison could resurrect the term refugee as a potential global connector. but again, why connect with the people of pakistan when you are the people of new orleans? i believe we have something to learn from each other, i really do.

2. on wyclef’s stymied bid for the haitian presidency: hip hop meets politics head on again and again. in this instance, former fugee member wyclef jean’s bid for the haitian presidency ends with a haiti provisional electoral council ruling of ineligibility based on jean’s inability to meet the residency requirement. i’m hoping wyclef sticks to his guns and tries again. because who better than a person who moves the people to move the people? fascinating to me, throughout the run of his bid, has been the media coverage of “rapper running for president.” condescending, demeaning, flabbergasted coverage, as though there is a prescription for leadership and certainly hip hop does not fit the bill. what qualifies a person for presidency? elite degrees, elite connections, perfection? have the qualifications we hold dear protected us from shirking politicians? no. so let’s think about leadership again and again, in new and improved ways, each layer a new day.

3. a rapping professor david takes on a corporate goliath: in other news, uc berkeley biology professor tyrone hayes has been challenged for the way in which he writes emails to former employer, the syngenta corporation. but really, he’s been challenged because he dares to challenge a “monsanto wannabe.” professor hayes used to work for syngenta, a biochemical conglomeration, until his refusal to doctor data had him leave the scene. see, hayes had found that a syngenta herbicide (aka weedkiller), had horrible side effects on animals tested. syngenta continues to deny the validity of professor hayes’s research. but not only that, syngenta has it out for hayes, professionally throwing shade at hayes’s lectures, talks, with hayes’s current employers at uc berkeley, etc. the funny part is, hayes’s hasn’t been taking the shade quietly, instead he’s been responding with regular emails, written in verse/rhyme/flow. emails like: “”so go’head, bring “your boys” / cuz i’m bringing the noise / i told ya, you can’t stop the rage / you been braggin / but we’ll see who’s tea baggin / when TDawg hits the stage.” i like this cat. he has syngenta whining about how they feel intimidated by his “aggressive” mannerisms. professor hayes is supported by his superiors at uc berkeley, who say hayes has the right to free speech like everyone else. campus paper, the daily cal, reported that hayes said, “”[f]or anyone to tell me that, by virtue of expressing myself in a way that is consistent with my culture, I am unprofessional is offensive.” i hear that. nothing wrong with slipping into the language of hip hop. languages are meant to be used, meant to be learned. maybe syngenta should learn to speak it too. thanks anirvan, for the inspiration!

keep dancing readers, and i mean that. i know i’m dancing, join me.

stay tuned,
roopa
politicalpoet

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