Category Archives: Music

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On Shia LaBeouf And Appropriation: This Is What Happens When Nobody Knows Your Name

By Guest Contributor DJ Kuttin Kandi

Nearly 20 years after the film Nobody Knows My Name by documentarian Rachel Raimist many of us can still relate to the many stories of the wom*n in Hip Hop that were told in the film. We, the Anomolies crew can most definitely relate as we are just a few of the thousands upon thousands of names you never knew existed.

Anomolies originally started off as an “all female Hip Hop” collective back in 1995 with over 26 members. In the last few years, we have evolved to be inclusive to being a gender justice collective. So, we don’t appreciate the assumptions and the misgendering of any of our crew members. We came together to create a safe space for ourselves within Hip Hop so that we can be all that we are and do what we love without having to worry about ridicule, judgement and overall oppression that many of us so often receive within many patriarchal-dominated Hip Hop spaces. Anomolies’ intentional goal was to support one another and to offer our support to many of us within Hip Hop who are so often marginalized and underrepresented. We started Anomolies because we knew that we had to be our own agents of change because if we didn’t, who else would?

The dictionary definition of the name aNoMoLIES is 1. To deviate from the norm. or 2. Something that occurs once in a lifetime. When you break down the name it spells out No Mo Lies (no more lies). Anomolies dispels myths about our identities in Hip Hop culture. We are proud to deviate from the “norm”, we are proud to question and to challenge myths.

Beyond our own Hip Hop crew, so many of us are Anomolies — trying to break gender norms, defying myths and trying to use Hip Hop as a platform to be heard.

So many of us are local to global wom*n-identified, wom*n of color, black and brown bodies, indigenous, queer, trans, two-spirited, gender non-conforming, disabled, adoptees, (im)migrants, non-working to working class Hip Hop artists and communities that you never knew had skills. So many are the voices that many have never heard of because either they are pretending we don’t exist or they are pretending to be us. We’re either the ones many want to “rachelize” or we’re the ones they want to call “old skool” b*tches and not give us our due props. We’re the ones you would never know about until an actor like Shia LaBeouf shows up on video footage somewhere in the woods reciting some of our verses from one of our songs and “fake the funk” like he was actually freestyling.
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A Quick Guide To Five Of The Cambodian Artists Featured In Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten

By Arturo R. Garcia

While a lot of rock documentaries focus on the “rise and fall” or coming and going of a particular artist or genre, John Pirozzi’s Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll largely fulfills a more daunting — and ultimately more haunting — assignment: chronicling the blossoming and annihilation of Cambodia’s entire musical identity, all within a 15-year period.

Pirozzi himself is invisible throughout the proceedings; instead, artists and officials who survived the period narrate the tale oral history-style, with film footage and recordings filling in the blanks and showing how vibrant the country’s musical scene became as it adapted not just North American rock but Afro-Cuban influences with its own traditions.

Under the cut, we’ll take a look at some of the more notable acts spotlighted in the documentary.
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New Netflix Documentary Could Have Nina Simone Fans Feelin’ Good

By Arturo R. García

Nina Simone fans who are leery of the Zoe Saldana biopic Nina take heart: Netflix quietly posted the trailer for What Happened, Miss Simone?, a documentary that has the support of the singer’s estate and features her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.

“People think that when she went out on stage, she became Nina Simone,” Kelly says. “My mother was Nina Simone 24-7. And that’s where it became a problem.”

Directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, the film — which is coming off an appearance at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — promises to feature rare and never-before-seen footage and tapes as part of a comprehensive look at not only Simone’s professional life, but her activism.

“I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself,” Simone says, amid chillingly-timely footage of police brutality and Black activists marching. “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?”

The trailer, as posted late last week, can be seen below.

[h/t Paper]

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The Ghost of Bigger Thomas Surfaces in Kayne West’s Monster [The Throwback]

With Kanye West in seemingly another controversy this week following a mid-concert rant, it’s a good time to revisit Latoya’s look at the furor surrounding his 2011 single, “Monster.”

By Latoya Peterson

Kanye has officially overdosed on artistic symbolism.

After his 35 minute debut of "Runaway" in back in October 2010, it difficult to figure out how Kanye would top a video that incorporated references to modern performance art, ballet, couture, mythology, and Fellini.

And yet, I don't think anyone counted on Kanye deciding to deck the halls with dead white women in "Monster".
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[Open Thread] The 2014 Grammy Awards

by Kendra James

While I was less than impressed with the whole broadcast, here are a few stray observations from last night’s Grammy Awards.

*Last night Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won three Grammys for their achievements in Rap and Hip-Hop that, we are to believe, surpassed the efforts of other nominees like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West. So whether or not we think the Grammys actually mean anything, this is a fact we’re going to have to live with as a society.

*Justin Timberlake also did his part for white artists in the urban markets, winning Best R&B song for ‘Pusher Love Girl’ against other nominees Anthony Hamilton, Tamar Braxton, Kelly Rowland, and Stevie Wonder. This is a good time to remind everyone that both Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke are nominated for NAACP Image Awards this year as well.

Madonna and her son David

*Madonna walked the red carpet with David, her adopted son who happens to be Black. I have never seen this child before (note: I know what each and every Jolie-Pitt kid looks like; I couldn’t pick one of Madonna’s kids out of a crowd), and I doubt we would have seen this child in such a prominent place had Madonna not been in such hot water for calling her other, white, child “#disnigga” on instagram the other day.  I’m a cynical creature.

*Personally, I thought the broadcast played their hand early by having Beyonce and Jay-Z open the show with Drunk in Love, but Twitter  seemed to be very much in love with the Imagine Dragons/Kendrick Lamar collaboration that followed later in the show.

*Speaking of Jay-z, he threw in his hat for Father of the Year during his acceptance speech for best rap song collaboration.  Turning the award to the side he said, “And I want to tell Blue, ‘Look! Daddy’s got a gold sippy cup for you.'” I have no doubt that that is exactly what happened to that award and that there will be pictures of the entire thing on Beyonce’s tumblr no less than twelve hours from now.

*Macklemore may have swept the rap categories, but when it came to producing, album of the year, record of the year, and duo/group performance,  it was the year of Pharrell Williams (and Daft Punk, but since I still don’t know what they actually do, and since ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ carried that entire album, I’m giving most of the credit to Pharrell and Nile Rodgers). Pharrell, who’s been doing this since the early 90s despite appearing to have been born during the Regan administration,  is also nominated for an Oscar this year for the song ‘Happy’.

*The entire affair ended with a wedding (of gay and straight couples) officiated by Queen Latifah with a soundtrack by Macklemore, Mary Lambert, and Madonna. This was appropriate, because I imagine wedding and bar/bat mitzvah dance floors are the only places where Macklemore’s songs are played in earnest. It’s hard to be cynical about this blatant PR stunt (okay, maybe it’s not so hard) due to Mary Lambert and Queen Latifah’s participation, but it is a great time to revisit Hel Gebreamlak‘s post on Macklemore’s straight white privilege!  

That’s all from us, but remember this is an open thread. What did you think of last night’s show? Let us know in the comments!

Quoted: On Beyonce and Feminism

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I can’t believe that, as someone who a year ago could scarcely quote a Beyonce song, save “Bootylicious,” I am spending so much time defending the artist these days. But the surprise release of her “visual album,” Beyonce, has sparked a fresh round of broken criticism of the star, freighted with gender and race bias.  Understand, it is not that Beyonce, for all her power-belting, catchy hook-writing and effortless dancing, is above reproach. Once we finish getting down to “Drunk in Love,” we need to analyze the hell out of Mr. Knowles-Carter’s wack ass, Ike Turner-worshipping, violence-fetishizing contribution to the “love” track:

 

Catch a charge, I might, beat the box up like Mike…

I’m like Ike Turner

Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake Annie Mae

Said, eat the cake, Annie Mae

 

This, right here, is all kinds of problematic and the sort of contradiction a public feminist needs to be called to task for. But, as yet, I haven’t seen many people questioning why Bey let Jay spit some nasty, misogynist shit on an album that includes the feminist brilliance of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Instead, folks are still carping about whether one can flaunt dat ass, be conventionally attractive, launch a world tour using a married moniker or be rich and successful and still be feminist.

Just so we can move the analysis along: The answer to that question is “Yes,” as I outlined in an article in Bitch magazine earlier this year:

A popular star willing to talk about gender inequity, as Beyoncé has, is depressingly rare. But Freeman insists flashes of underboob and feminist critique don’t mix. Petersen concurs, calling the thigh-baring, lace-meets-leather outfit Beyoncé wore during her Super Bowl XLVII halftime show an “outfit that basically taught my lesson on the way that the male gaze objectifies and fetishizes the otherwise powerful female body.” A commenter on Jezebel summed up the charge: “That’s pretty much the Beyoncé contradiction right there. Lip service for female fans, fan service for the guys.”

These appraisals are perplexing amid a wave of feminist ideology rooted in the idea that women own their bodies. It is the feminism of SlutWalk, the anti-rape movement that proclaims a skimpy skirt does not equal a desire for male attention or sexual availability. Why, then, are cultural critics like Freeman and Petersen convinced that when Beyoncé pops a leather-clad pelvis on stage, it is solely for the benefit of men? Why do others think her acknowledgment of how patriarchy influences our understanding of what’s sexy is mere “lip service”?

Dr. Sarah Jackson, a race and media scholar at Boston’s Northeastern University, says, “The idea that Beyoncé being sexy is only her performing for male viewers assumes that embracing sexuality isn’t also for women.” Jackson adds that the criticism also ignores “the limited choices available to women in the entertainment industry and the limited ways Beyoncé is allowed to express her sexuality, because of her gender and her race.”

Her confounding mainstream persona, Jackson points out, is one key to the entertainer’s success as a black artist. “You don’t see black versions of Lady Gaga crossing over to the extent that Beyoncé has or reaching her levels of success. Black artists rarely have the same privilege of not conforming to dominant image expectations.”

Solange, Beyoncé’s sister, who has gone for a natural-haired, boho, less sexified approach to her music, remains a niche artist, as do Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, and Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, like so many black female artists before them. Grace Jones, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, Meshell Ndegeocello—talented all, but quirky black girls, especially androgynous ones, don’t sell pop music, perform at the Super Bowl, or get starring roles in Hollywood films.

Black women (and girls) have also historically battled the stereotype of innate and uncontrolled lasciviousness, which may explain why Beyoncé’s sexuality is viewed differently from that of white artists like Madonna, who is lauded for performing in very similar ways.  Read more…

Open Thread: Beyocalypsé Now

By Arturo R. García

While we were sleeping, Beyoncé was not. Gaga may have Artpop, but B just made an art of the drop.

In case you missed it or just checked your Twitter feed, Beyoncé released an entire album out of the blue (Ivy), though it’s only available on iTunes until Dec. 21.

But the self-titled album was also accompanied by a “visual album” — basically, she went out and shot videos for every track and released snippets of those on YouTube. For my money, “Pretty Hurts” is already the best dramatic trailer we’re not going to see in theaters this Christmas, “Blow” is a spot-on disco homage/future mashup favorite and somebody’s already seizing on “Partition” to write a think-piece about how Miley Cyrus is MOAR FEMINIST than Beyoncé.

We’ll put some more of the video clips up under the cut and invite you to give your thoughts on those or the album as a whole under the cut.

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Open Thread: The American Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez performs at the 2013 American Music Awards

Pitbull hosted, 39 year old rap star of my childhood Nelly proclaimed his love for 19 and 21 year old girls while performing Ride Wit’ Me, TLC continued to make me sad by insisting on continuing to perform sans Left Eye, and Jennifer Lopez gave a killer Celia Cruz tribute, but the American Music Awards were still plagued with overt racism, troubling moments, and a grim glimpse into what this year’s Grammys are going to look like.

The show opened with this gem of a performance from Katy Perry:


A quick check with Twitter confirmed that I was indeed seeing what I thought I was seeing (Katy Perry performing a song that has nothing to do with Japan, it’s people or their culture, while wearing a kimono and possible yellow face surrounded by others doing the same? Check.) and that it was, yes, as problematic as I thought it was. Unfortunate, but not entirely unsurprising given the legacy handed down by other pop artists like our friend Gwen Stefani.

The shtick is doubly creepy when you consider how Perry’s supposed love of Japanese people manifested itself during an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel show back in 2012:

“I am obsessed with Japanese people, I love everything about them and they are so wonderful as human beings. I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace.”

By any means necessary, eh Katy?

The second biggest “Yikes.” of the night came when Macklemore beat out a slew of Black artists in the favourite rap/hip-hop album category and proceeded to make a Very Special Comment about Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin and racial profiling. A comment that I might have found more sincere had he mentioned the names or cases of any of the numerous other cases since Trayvon Martin’s; Renisha McBride, perchance?

It may have also been more meaningful coming out of the mouths of one of the other nominees in the category (Kendrick Lemar or Jay-Z), but that could just be my own cynicism. In a year filled with the Macklemores, Lordes, Justin Timberlakes (he picked up two televised AMA wins), and Robin Thickes of the world it looks like Black artists will have to continue fighting for wins in the hip-hop, rap, and RnB categories as we move into Grammy season.

I tuned in and out of the show (because 11pm is late for anything to be ending, I just started a Charmed rewatch on Netflix, and it’s not like these are the Oscar Awards of music or anything), so I invite y’all to discuss  anything I may have missed (and/or the sad state of popular music) in the comments below.