Tag Archives: new york times

spectacle and hate: the hearings, the hype

dear readers,

its so brooklyn right now. npr is abuzz with news about the unprecedented earthquakes in japan, the sun is back out, and through my brick building window, wafting up over my fire escape, the islamic call to prayer is being sung, the baby downstairs is crying, the west indians upstairs are playing reggae classics, a crow is cawing, utensils are clinking, a moment of peace amidst the storms, and i am writing this post to you.  here’s some laughter, esp for my nyc heads.

this clip of mine references the public atmosphere of post-9/11 nyc, where subways are plastered with “if you see something, say something” signs.  it’s a little tense out here for the muslim diaspora the house hearing on american muslims aren’t exactly lightening the mood, smh.

gone are the days of public lynchings, yet still we are obsessed with the spectacle of hate. in fact, the lead article in the times on the hearings (linked above) was a television review.  though there were others articles on the hearings, i take this lead article to literally mean that the value of the hearings was more for culture war show and swagger than for substance, safety, nation building.  reminds me of all the pomp that surrounded the koran burning preacher from down south, who garnered mad media attention, despite being a non-issue, a non-leader, because truth be told he had a negligible following at best.  the culture war is being won on the backs of actors, stand in’s for leaders though it is clear we need real leadership.  but just now, in this climate, i’m wondering what real leadership really looks like.

i am gearing up for a couple weeks of intense study, but i’ll be blogging again on monday.  stay tuned in.  ear to the streets, heart to the beat.



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lil kim vs. nicki minaj: what do you mean by battle?

dear readers,

hope you not only made it through the holiday weekend but were blessed by all kinds of wealth, love, courage, that priceless gold called courage.

today on hot 97, people’s choice countdown, angie martinez show, featured lil kim’s diss rap, black friday, aimed high and aimed low but aimed for sure at nicki minaj.  black friday is supposedly as a rejoinder to minaj’s, no entry.  now we got the youtube phenom of drake at a concert saying nicki don’t stop you the bestest, calling out kim on stage.  as a hip hop writer i hesitate to enter this melee, if only because i loathe to be complicit in this battle.  battles are a part and parcel of the genre, true, but yet a plague on hip hop these battles are.  because it goes beyond inspiring artists to create, and it overflows into slave master’s kicking back a cold moonshine while the slaves fight to the death for massah’s viewing pleasure.  what, there’s not enough shine to go around?  really?  i guess not, because when i was coming up we had way more female mc’s than now, all of them could hold their own, none of this best ever, only one type shit.  nah, just everybody express yourself.  we all need to.

Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

but i digress.  for there is actual news for all of us, even the most under exposed, to wrap our minds around.  because in the times today king pins are getting taken in around the world, mexican leader of los aztecas gang takes the fall for the ciudad juarez women killings, and brazil’s favelas in rio getting infiltrated for better and worse by the swat teams which precede the world stage of the olympics and the world cup.  now it’s him and his boy in swim trunks getting taken in by the full armor and uzis.  and what about the diplomatic gaffe that’s set to fill up ink in newspapers for weeks to come.  you know, the one about how u.s. state departments let their documents get leaked by the thousands.  so now we have hard evidence that each outpost is an intelligence base.  sloppy.  and isn’t it so ironic that the sexual exploits of male leaders of the world are spoken about so cavalierly, so long as it’s not fodder for u.s. soil scandal.  the kind that could take down a golf career, or a presidency.  can hypocrisy reach new levels?  or is it only our understanding of the hypocrisy that climbs to new depths?

stay tuned,


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it’s that slumdog millionaire bollywood flow

dear readers,

when the dudes around the way say they got a weakness for women, they mean they like their women weak, got a different girl every day of the weak, lies in every word that they speak, robbing souls cuz inside they so meek, but still so sweet, so i keep my distance like offshore ships, those fleets, this heart got cargos of peace.

female mc’s, the topic is sure to spark the students in my hip hop politics class, shout to zaidy and danychel for their multi-media presentation on the barbification of the female mc, and for the textual analysis of mary j. blige lyrics and videos.  today i opened the arts section of the times to see caramanica’s adept take on nicki minaj.  i think though that the juxtaposition with kesha detracts rather than adds to the analysis.  i mean, there is only one main female mc right now by design.  so pairing nicki, a woman with a sick flow and visible nuanced relationship with streotypical and label dictated female imagery, with kesha just contributes to the lack of abundance that characterizes the current strata of women and hip hop.  the pairing reminds me of the dudes around the way, who talk to their women about their other women, because that’s the way they know how to exert power.  kesha and nicki are barely sonic foils of each other, each deserves their own review.  i like caramanica’s ice smooth writing style, i just feel this article suffers from putting too much weight on the word “female” in the term, “female mc.”

i’m reprinting the article in it’s entirety here.  don’t hate on the times! 🙂


Gaining an Edge in Female Rap Race

It’s virtually impossible to think of Kesha as anything other than a star manqué. At the American Music Awards on Sunday night, her affect was a lot of Lady Gaga, a little bit of Rihanna, maybe some Lita Ford. Her performance of “Take It Off” and “We R Who We R” was Daft Punk by way of Mad Max.
Chad Batka for The New York Times

For more than a year Nicki Minaj has made her name on a series of scene-stealing collaborations.

Andrea Comas/Reuters

Kesha continues her move away from pop singer with her new EP, “Cannibal.”

Nicki Minaj was there too — with two-tone hair and spiky dress — though only as a presenter. “Don’t we all wish we could have green hair and make it look good, like Nicki?” asked Rihanna, who won the award Nicki Minaj was presenting and later slapped her derrière as the two walked off stage. Somewhere off camera, Kesha was probably scribbling down a shopping list: Manic Panic, gluteal implants.

At this time last year Nicki Minaj had established herself as the most important new female voice in hip-hop since Missy Elliott and was on her way to becoming one of the most ubiquitous artists in pop, thanks to a series of scene-stealing collaborations, high on character, technique and energy. For more than a year now, she has been a rejoinder to an endless stream of lovermen, narcissists, tough guys and lyrical monsters, besting them all, from Trey Songz toKanye West.

So it’s odd that upon the release of her proper debut album, “Pink Friday” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal), she has been bested in some ways by Kesha, who at this time last year was just beginning to figure out how to rap. Kesha released “Cannibal” (Kemosabe/RCA) this week, an EP that continues her move away from pop singer headlong into the sort of bubblegum-snapping slick talk that she has all but cornered the market on. Compared to her debut, “Animal,” which was released in January, “Cannibal” is riskier, narrower and more successful.

Nicki Minaj, on the other hand, has attempted to expand her palette — emotional and lyrical — on “Pink Friday,” with sometimes numbing results. She has spent so much time and effort dismantling traditional female rap archetypes — the vixen, the tough broad — that it’s disheartening to hear her crawl into another box — of self-help-minded introspect — in the interest of maturity. Gone is much of the attitude and exuberance of her guest appearances, replaced with what can only be described as a sense of purpose, something she has never before been burdened by.

And as is clear from this album, maturity is overrated. The first two singles — both huge radio hits, it should be said — have been shocking in the only way still possible with Nicki Minaj: their straightforwardness. “Your Love” and “Right Thru Me” are love songs through and through, and make for some of her least imaginative music. (“Massive Attack,” which was released before them, was a fiasco of overambition and didn’t even make the album.) After a year of unrelenting inventiveness, these are cold songs that deny Nicki Minaj the full range of her skill.

More frustrating are the emotionally fraught numbers here, which are plenty: “Pink Friday” has more in common with a Mary J. Blige album than any hip-hop record. The mode is most convincing on the truly sad “Dear Old Nicki” and the album opener, “I’m the Best,” on which she says, “I’m fighting for the girls that never thought they could win.” But too often — “Fly,” “Save Me,” “Here I Am” — she turns maudlin, as if in search of anOprah couch. Worse, these songs don’t take advantage of her natural gifts as a vocalist: there’s no element of surprise, no unusual vocal tics, no sense of theater, only melodrama.

“Roman’s Revenge” is her most Nicki Minaj-like vocal performance on the album, and it features the rapper with whom she has the most in common: not her mentor Lil Wayne or her labelmate Drake, but another category-killing character-actor outsider, Eminem. Here, she’s invigorated, using space and structure in her trademark way, dropping words in between pregnant pauses:


I hear the mumbling
I hear the cackling
I got ’em scared
You at a stand

These are the expectation-bending rhymes that have made Nicki Minaj the most dangerous rapper to share a song with, and here, even Eminem sounds hungry, wanting to keep up. But that attitude is too scarce on this album, as if now, no longer having to make an impression loudly, she’s unsure of what to say, and how to say it.

Still, even at her dullest, Nicki Minaj is more technically gifted, more thoughtful and more radical than Kesha, which makes it somewhat maddening that, with “Cannibal,” Kesha threatens to become the most influential female rapper of the day, or at least the most popular.

Pretending Kesha isn’t a rapper is no longer feasible. She’s primarily singing on only two songs here, “The Harold Song” and “C U Next Tuesday.” In the past she was accused of appropriating the style of the white-girl hipster-rap curio Uffie, but here, on songs like “Carnival” and “Crazy Beautiful Life,” she might be channeling Kid Sister, or more to the point, they’re both channeling L’Trimm, all sneering saucy talk.

Nevertheless, Kesha’s album has the sound of an artist loosening up to fully inhabit a new creative space, while Nicki Minaj’s reflects the pressure — self-imposed or otherwise — associated with the weight of expectation and moral authority. And while Nicki Minaj frets, Kesha feels more unbound then ever, free to do stupid things, smartly.

“Cannibal” is in every way a slicker and prettier album than her debut “Animal.” She sounds confident in her lyrics, which remain mired in filthy-night-out-soundtrack mode. “I don’t want to go places where all my ladies can’t get in/Just grab a bottle, some boys, and let’s take it back to my basement,” she raps on “Sleazy.”

That song is produced in part by Bangladesh, the Atlanta hip-hop producer, and it’s gargantuan, with reverb-thick marching drums, the type of song any number of more talented rappers would want to have their way with. By contrast, the beat he contributed to “Pink Friday,” for “Did It On’em,” is needling and synthy, more pop-oriented. And Nicki Minaj uses it for some of her familiar gender-twisting. “All these bitches is my sons,” she raps. “And I’ma go and get some bibs for ’em/A couple formulas, little pretty lids on ’em.” Playful and provocative, it’s one of the album’s best insults. Kesha has lower aims, and even less idea of how to achieve them. You hear it on “Grow a Pear,” on which Kesha proclaims, “I just can’t date a dude with a vag.” For her, gender roles are fixed. Her transgressions aren’t subversive, just familiar frat humor coming from a woman’s mouth.

Nicki Minaj’s and Kesha’s audiences couldn’t be more different. Same goes for their styles. That there’s overlap between the two turns out to be the biggest surprise. There’s one outright Kesha-like song on Nicki Minaj’s album: “Check It Out,” produced by will.i.am, on which her vocals are run through a tinny Auto-Tune-like effect. “Competition/Why, yes/I would love some,” she says. Of course she has none in hip-hop — maybe she should be looking elsewhere anyhow.


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