Saturday, September 28, 2013

Music for Little Girls Part 2

I'm back at work after four months off. What did my daughter and I listen to for most of the summer? Black Sabbath and a lot of it. Not "Black Sabbath" or "Iron Man" or any of the scarier songs, but most of their early stuff was basically heavy blues.

I finally bought Sleep's "Dopesmoker," after listening to it on Spotify. It's definitely a headphone album, and one you need to sit with. It's an hour long and all built around the same riff, but it gets heavier and heavier as it goes along. It's a well-deserved classic and has made my commute more bearable/deafening. The lyrics are friggin ridiculous - all about science fiction stoner stuff, like marijuanauts. Whatever, dude.

As part of my metal kick, I got Windhand's latest album. They are a Virginia doom metal band who are very, very heavy.

I've also been listening to Juicy J's Stay Trippy. Every song is about paying strippers money to strip and fuck. EVERY. SINGLE. SONG. Except for the two about robbing and killing. It's ignorant as all hell, sexist as shit, and yet I kind of love it. I can you not like a guy who'll rap "you're baby mama ain't a ten but when I'm drunk she's close enough?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Other F Word

I watched Andrea Blaugrund's documentary The Other F Word last night.

I had a lot of hope for the movie, a documentary about punk rock fathers. It ended up bumming me out. For one thing, it is really hyperbolic and myopic in its description of punk. It acts like punks were the first and only rebellious youth movement, totally ignoring jazz, the beats, and rock n' roll. How did those guys become fathers? How did Pete Townsend or Miles Davis make the transition to adulthood?
I also am not a huge fan of most of the bands profiled. They are almost all Epitaph bands whose idea of punk is very different than mine. Their idea is much more rooted in suburban rebellion, getting fucked up and saying fuck the system. For me, punk was less about nihilism and more about a progressive alternative to America's shift towards conservatism in the 80s. It was about being anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, and pro-women and gay rights. It was about trying to find an alternative to commercial culture. That punk ethos isn't really analyzed at all in the movie. Instead, it's basically about how hard it is to be a dad when you tour constantly in a rock band. That is interesting, but it's not really about punk rock dads per se. And they aren't really very rebellious. Jim Lindberg, the guy from Pennywise, acts like it is the height of rebellion to get his daughter's name tattooed on him. Newsflash: tattoos are no longer rebellious. Every square-ass in finance under 40 has a tattoo. Every frat boy has their greek letters tattooed on them. It is more rebellious to not have tattoos, or go Lars Frederiksen's route and get "Skunx" tattooed on your forehead in shitty prison style. Lars drove me nuts, because he was so self-marginalized. He dressed like an anachronistic clown, and then acted put out that people looked at him funny. You are dressed like a punk extra from an 80s action movie: of course people are going to look at you funny. Bondage pants have been out of style for at least two decades.

That's the thing: punk isn't really rebellious anymore. You look at a Total Chaos video and they are basically like a hair metal band, with more power chords.

The women's voices are also pretty silent. Sure, it's hard to be on tour 200 days a year when you have three kids, but what is it like trying to take care of three little girls by yourself while your husband is gone?

I could definitely relate to some aspects of the movie. I was never really a punker, but there is a part of me that identifies with punk, and it's hard to reconcile that with being a parent. There's a part where Lindberg describes how he used to be against the system, and now he is part of it. I struggle with that too. I have the house and the mortgage and a gardner and a cleaning service, and all of these trappings of upper-middle class life that I used to scoff at. I had a realization a few years ago that you can't fuck the system, the system fucks you. The best path forward is to try to play within the rules of the game while hanging on to your decency and integrity by what Buddhists call right livelihood and right action. I try to treat other people with respect and not get addicted to money and stuff.  So I went back to school for management, and I worry about my earning potential, and how I can best provide for my family. It's a weird shift to have to make, and there are times when I become painfully aware that I have become what so many kids mock: safe, suburban, middle-class. But I don't think living hand to mouth in squalor sounds like a great idea. I'd rather be boring than irresponsible at this point.

But I'm rambling. My main point is, The Other F Word is disappointing. Lindberg wrote a book on being a parent that I might check out. I also recommend reading Rad Dad, which is about how radical and activist dads. It's often a little too lefty for my tastes, but it is still an interesting take on alternative approaches to fatherhood.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

When Rich White People Imitate Poor People of Color

I want to chime in real quick about the reaction to Miley Cyrus's twerking on the VMAs. I've read a few articles written by black women about their reaction to Miley, and the general tone is: Fuck Miley and her cultural appropriation bullshit. People are pissed that she is using blackness to be cool, using black people as props, and

As Jacqui Germain wrote on Racialicious, "expressing your sexuality at my expense isn’t okay. You don’t get to claim sexual freedom while simultaneously perpetuating the oppression of another body. When you feel the need to express your sexuality by turning my body into an accessory, the black feminist in me—two identities which I refuse to separate—can’t have your back anymore."

On Jezebel, Dodai Stewart wrote "Miley and her ilk need to be reminded that the stuff they think is cool, the accoutrements they're borrowing, have been birthed in an environment where people are underprivileged, undereducated, oppressed, underrepresented, disenfranchised, systemically discriminated against and struggling in a system set up to insure that they fail."

(Rush Limbaugh said that the media wouldn't have cared had she twerked on a woman, since evidently the media hates heterosexual sex but loves teh gays. "Obama might have called Miley to praise her for her heroism had she twerked with another woman" he opined, ignoring the fact that she was being sexual with women in the act as well as Robin Thicke. Also, fuck Rush Limbaugh).

First off, let me say that the opinions of actual women of color about Miley's co-opting of black culture and how it makes them feel should be weighed much more heavily than my opinion. But there was something about those responses that rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe they sounded too much like the pearl-clutching outrage of an old white person: "Well, I NEVER!" Maybe it's that they were defending twerking as if it were some sort of high art that Miley was sullying, when it's more like the cultural equivalent of two sorority girls making out to turn on their frat brothers. 

There's also the fact that I think Miley was the one who looked the fool on stage, not her backup dancers. She's also been co-signed with a number of African-American rappers and producers, who are all too happy to work with this crazy white girl in order to have a chance at some of her money and exposure. I think the Juicy J's, Mike Will's, and backup dancers Miley works with are smart enough to know what they are doing. I don't think they are being played. Yes, Miley is slumming it in order to get cred, rebel against her goody-two-shoes past, and prove that she is a sophisticated young lady. But I'm guessing if you go to most clubs in the U.S., they will be full of white girls shaking their asses to hip-hop.

The debate around Miley twerking is part of a larger story that has been going on for years with African-American culture: blacks get shit on, they make art as a release and/or reflection of the pain of being shit on, and then the people indirectly or directly responsible for shitting on them consume that art as being authentic, unlike their privileged lives. Because shitting on people offers much less opportunity to make great art than being shit on. 

In my review of Chief Keef's Finally Rich, I wrote, "there is something inherently sad about the fact that Keef has gotten huge by celebrating the traumatic, disfunctional world he comes from. Half his fans love his music because it reflects the world they know, and the other half love it because it shows them the edgy, "real" world that exists outside the safety of their parents' suburban homes. I don't know which is more depressing. Equally depressing is the fact that there is a high possibility that Keef will fall victim to the violence he came up in, and an almost certainty that he'll end up in jail for parole violations."

Benjamin Nugents book American Nerd noted that one thing that separates most white nerds from the popular crowd is the fact that they don't use hip-hop slang or embrace hip-hop culture. Their hyperwhiteness separated them from the rest of society. Young privileged white people are all about calling their friends "homie," bumping hip-hop, and safely embracing elements of a culture that they would never want to interact with face to face. The same kids dancing to Juicy J at a club in San Francisco's wealthy Marina district stay far, far away from Hunters Point or the Bayview, where the actual poor blacks live. 

In other words, the racial problems that plague society are reflected in our pop culture, and years of black coolness hasn't done a lot to make African-Americans more equal in society. Black music may dominate the pop charts, but black men are still disproportionally represented in the prison systems. I think it is a step in the right direction that music is no longer as segregated as it was in the 1980s, but it is worth reminding ourselves that liking hip-hop or R&B doesn't cure racism.

(image from Getty, stolen from the Huffington Post)

Lee Bannon and Steve Arrington and Dam Funk

I reviewed Lee Bannon's instrumental ep this week on RapReviews. It's a hip-hop take on British electronic production, yet another example of hip-hop producers embracing ambient music.

I also reviewed Steve Arrington and Dam Funk's album Higher. It's an interesting slab of 80s funk, but is a bit unpolished.

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