“Hip-Hop’s New New York”: What I’ve been reading this week

photo by Jessica Lehrman, via NYTimes.com – see below

In the New York Times, Jessica Lehrman’s photo essay “Hip-Hop’s New New York” 

In the Zinn Education Project blog, Sudie Hoffman’s “Rethinking Cinco de Mayo”

In io9, Annalee Newitz’s “How Iran Became One of the World’s Most Futuristic Countries,” on reproductive health freedom and education in Iran

In Buzzfeed, Anne Helen Peterson’s “Zac Efron Bros Down to Grow Up”

In Grantland, Molly Lambert’s “The Visor and the Beret”

In Elle, “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” – Tavi Gevinson interviews Miley Cyrus

In The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “This Town Needs a Better Class of Racist

And some listening for ya: tracks from Music Band’s “Can I Live”

Literacy in “Awkward Black Girl”

[this is an excerpt from a final-paper-in-progress called “'Write the story yourself': Literacy as Social Practice in Hiphop Feminist Art, Scholarship, and Activism"]

In her “Hip Hop and the Black Ratchet Imagination,” L. H. Stallings points to the way that Issa Rae, the creator and star of the web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, has her protagonist J “strap on hip hop” as an outlet for her righteous anger (136). Stallings is referring to those moments when, in fits of frustration, J sits down on her bed and writes furious, explicit, gangsta-inflected rhymes. In her text, Stallings focuses on J’s male-oriented gender performance to explore the queerness of what she calls the “Black Ratchet Imagination.” But we might also see J’s scenes writing raps, one of which appears in the series’s first episode, as a complex literacy event* that not only queers J’s gender identity (a theme brought up in other parts of the episode) but also queers, or questions, her middle-class status, her participation in the information economy, and professional rappers’ processes when writing ridiculous, shallow, expletive-laced lyrics. (more…)

“Not exactly hollow, but a little haunted”: what I’m reading this week

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In Noisey, Questlove’s “When The People Cheer: How Hip-Hop Failed Black America”

In The Nation, Alexandra Hootnick’s “Teachers Are Losing Their Jobs, But Teach for America is Expanding. What’s Wrong With That?”

OnBuzzfeed, Syreeta McFadden’s “Teaching the Camera to See My Skin” and Jarett Wieselman’s “How Judy Grier Became Americas Most In-Demand Best Friend”

In Citypages, Jessica Lussenhop’s “Inside the multi-million dollar essay-scoring business

In The Jerusalem Post, Jacob Magid’s “Occupation – That word makes me uncomfortable, too”

On Sounding Out!, Regina Bradley’s “‘Take Em to Chuch’: OutKast and the Sounds of the Southern Black Church”

In The Chronicle, John Fraire’s “Why Your College Should Dump the SAT”

…and everything about Donald Sterling

iDialogues: on racism, the Clippers, and what to do now

[like you, I've been obsessively following this story for the last two days. what follows is a text message conversation I just had with a friend and major sports fan, supplemented with some of the texts we reference. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments. -TB]

Embedded image permalink

via @BuzzFeedNews: “Clippers Turn Warmups Inside Out Before Playoff Game After Owner’s Racism Controversy”

https://twitter.com/tessalaprofessa/status/460492328541511680 https://twitter.com/tessalaprofessa/status/460492482136924162 photo1

(more…)

What I’m reading this week

 

From Salon, “Gentrification’s Insidious Violence: the Truth About American Cities,” by Daniel Jose Older, and Brittney Cooper’s “It’s not about you, white liberals: Why attacks on radical people of color are so misguided”

From Colorlines, “Gentrification Report: Black and Latino Displacement is remaking the Bay Area” by Julianne Hing, and

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed, “The Moral Panic in Literary Studies,” by Marc Bousquet, about how growing numbers of English department jobs are in comp/rhet and media studies, verses literature.

From The New York Times, “10 Courses With a Twist,” by Laura Pappano, a list of popular college classes each with a long enough explanation to enlighten.

From GQ: “Ryan McGinley: Naked and Famous,” by Alice Gregory

From Dissent, “The University and the Company Man,” by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Veronica Mars and the Bummer Patriarchy

Last night I watched the first episode of Veronica Mars and it blew my mind. I have never felt a need to write an episode recap so badly as I did watching that pilot last night. I mean, holy shit, one of the first shots of the episode is of Veronica cutting a black classmate down from a flagpole to which he’s been duct-taped, naked, her face at about waist-height.

Granted I’ve been studying lynching, but these are loaded opening shots for a girls’ after-school special. (more…)

On Ethos (or, White Woman Writing Kanye West)

I recently published an essay in The American Reader, “Yeezy Rising,” which related mainstream media’s persistent mockery of Kanye West to historical discourses around lynching, a public media spectacle which celebrated the dehumanization and murder of outspoken, upwardly mobile black men. The piece was generally well-received, especially, I noticed, by other white academics. Despite my promotion of the piece and my social media connections with scholars of color, however, I also noted that writers and thinkers of color generally didn’t seem interested in my article. I found myself wondering if I had mishandled my subject or if it was somehow offensive or distasteful to a more sensitive and discerning crowd.
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One comment at the end of the piece offered some insight. (more…)

A Tough Love: “Beyoncé,” Mutuality, and the Dirty South

In a previous post, I discussed some of the lyrics on R. Kelly’s new album, “Black Panties,” alongside the words of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his essay “The Body’s Grace.” Looking at the lyrics to “Marry the Pussy” alongside similar lyrics in songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miguel’s “How Many Drinks,” I noticed a similar ability to disguise male desire and male need in the trappings of celebrating women. Each of these three songs is about what a male agent wants, and each of these three songs denies or obscures the agency of the women they’re sung about or to. But in making women (or women’s body parts) the objects of desire, these songs lull critics into thinking they are pro women, so that Jezebel calls “Marry the Pussy” a “magnificent ode to pussy,” and another source I can’t find calls rapist R. Kelly’s album “sex-positive.”

still from "No Angel" -- Bey's homage to  Houston

still from “No Angel” — Bey’s homage to Houston

(more…)

“We are pleased because we are pleasing”: Black Panties and The Body’s Grace

Image

via Pitchfork.com

Last weekend, in the car with two besties from Chicago, I asked a really buzzkill question when one of them started talking about R. Kelly’s new musical proposal, “Marry the Pussy.” Echoing the kind of infamous celebration of the new album that appeared in feminist publication Jezebel a few weeks ago, my friend insisted that “Marry the Pussy” was a celebration, what Jezebel writer Isha Aran called “a magnificent ode to pussy.”

“But,” I asked, the mood dying around me already, “…does the pussy have any agency?” (more…)

#WeCantStop Appropriating Blackness: A Bibliography

Y’all, it is a bull market out there for appropriating Black culture. Sell, sell, sell, ’cause folks are buying. You got twerkers on hand? Set them around a white lady and open the auction. Miley was just the beginning. It’s a bonanza out there.

a still from Miley's video "We Can't Stop," via vimeo.com

a still from Miley’s video “We Can’t Stop,” via vimeo.com

For a few months now people have been asking me when I’m gonna blog about Miley Cyrus–her VMAs performance, her recent music videos, her appropriation of ratchet cultural signifiers–it all seemed so in my cultural wheelhouse. There was only one thing standing in my way: I don’t like Miley Cyrus, and I don’t like her music. No special offense, really, to Miley. It’s just, I’m a busy lady, so when I blog about something it’s because, even if I find it problematic, I am attracted to the music or the star enough to spend my free time researching, listening, and writing around them. (more…)

Grades, Schmades

Last week I started to have this funny feeling, a feeling I had never had before. My students were e-mailing each other the first drafts of their Unit 1 Blog Posts, and I was reading with such glee how much this whole literacy-based inquiry had captured their interest. Every Single One of them engaged their personal literacies in the service of some kind of argument about what literacy means or how we teach reading and writing today. Every Single One of them challenged a traditional portrait of literacy that only values alphabetic, academic reading and writing. That is to say, every single on of them did, to some extent, what I asked them to do on their assignment sheet, and what I really wanted them to do. They engaged.

Zen, Motorcycle Maintenance, and a Crashed Crop Duster in the Background

Zen, Motorcycle Maintenance, and a Crashed Crop Duster in the Background

And for the first time ever I had this crazy little feeling like, I didn’t want to give them grades. (more…)

A Holiday D’Var Torah for Syria

On Thursday morning I attended Rosh Hashana services at a Conservative synagogue in Dewitt, NY, neighbor to my new home of Syracuse. While it was odd to attend a new synagogue by myself, I appreciated this congregation’s open services policy and far preferred it to the option of visiting the Hillel on the University campus where I am a graduate student.

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a still from Emad Burnat and Guy David’s “5 Broken Cameras”

Before the Torah reading, the woman who would be reading gave a short d’var Torah, or commentary, on that morning’s reading: Genesis 21 through—27? 28?–, which covered the birth and binding of Isaac. In her short speech, the woman reflected on the moment when the matriarch Sarah, finally a mother, tells her husband Abraham to cast out his slave Hagar and their son Ishmael. She compared this moment to those columns in magazines which proclaim, “Stars: They’re just like us!” According to this shul’s Torah reader, it was reassuring to see the stars of the Torah behaving in imperfect ways. As a mother, this woman said, she understood Sarah’s selfish desire to save all her husband’s wealth for her own son, and send her husband’s first son and son’s mother, their slave, packing into an unforgiving desert.

As the woman chanted this fundamental story from the Torah, I read through the passage in English. And I was struck, not by Sarah’s relatability, but to her cruelty at a time of family celebration. (more…)

SCHOOLED [the first three pages of my imaginary Comp/Rhet book]

[for the first meeting of CCR 611, history of composition, we were asked to write the first three pages of our future first book in the field-- pure whimsy, of course, since we're all first and second years. Here's what I came up with.]

Rap is a referendum on America’s failed schools. In a moment too reminiscent of our own, urban youths stood outside the walls of schools with no budget for art class and made a whole culture out of the detritus of the society which had discarded them. From spoken language the rapper spat verse; the DJ scratched the break beat into vinyl; writers painted reclaimed language on subway cars; postmodern dancers fashioned studios out of cardboard; all of these children, artists and intellectuals, dropping the sweet science of hiphop. (more…)

I spent 900 days in TA orientation and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post Idea

Q: Why, oh, why do we blog?
A: So that the Internet will remember all the ephemera that otherwise get written in notebooks, lovingly stored and transported around the country with every move, and never opened again!

Here is what I learned in six days of TA orientation. (more…)

My 100th Post!

In honor of my 100th post on Hiphopocracy, I would like to throw down the gauntlet and say that so far the best thing about Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience has been the increased radio play of the better songs from all of his other albums. I also would like to place my bet now that, out of both volumes of this album (we hear a second part is to be expected), “Mirrors” will be the only really good song, with two additional decent singles of “Seniorita” quality.

via People.com

via People.com

(Have you noticed how all of these songs are about falling in love, but JT doesn’t sound like he’s fallen in love? Just like how those People magazine wedding photos look so staged? Paging Anne Helen Petersen. What happens when a million-dollar star image doesn’t *stick*?  ) (more…)

Part II, Chapter 2

Lakewood Park, ca 1952, by William A. Garnet. via designobserver.com

Lakewood Park, ca 1952, by William A. Garnet. via designobserver.com

I am shouldering my way through this discombobulating book of essays by Joan Didion, Where I Was From, reading it with a dedication dedicated to trying to understand this discombobulated place I moved to, California (which is, incidentally, Where She Was From), when finally, in Part II, Chapter 2, it all clicks in: Lakewood. Lakewood, a planned city of 17,500 homes south of Orange County, surrounded by defense contractors on all sides, a town built around a mall, supported by income flowing from the military-industrial complex, a happy town which as the defense jobs shuttered in the early 90s found itself on the national media stage for the vagrancy and alleged rapes committed by a clique of its post-adolescent males, the Spurs.

And I think, this essay is so good. (more…)

The Word You’re Looking for is “Excoriated”…Or, In Which I Win at Bad Ally Bingo

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via @NanticokeNDN

Yesterday I got schooled by two feminists of color on twitter, @NanticokeNDN and @thetrudz. It was kind of like being workshopped at life. You get a ton of criticism really fast, and it stings going down, and some of it’s useful and some of it’s not. Thinking through that critique, and implementing it, is helpful and important. (more…)

“That’s Retarded, Sir” : Miley Cyrus v. Rachel Jeantel

via popdirt.com

via popdirt.com

Jezebel had a nice piece on Miley’s twerking and cultural appropriation: On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but the idea is that Cyrus’s new video and general new ‘tude are a disrespectful appropriation of black southern culture, a move rooted in Cyrus’s privilege to “accessorise” with minority accoutrements but still move in privileged spaces with money and clout. (more…)

Rapping About Rapping: Remembering Writing Studies

via BedfordStMartins.com

via BedfordStMartins.com

A month from today I will leave the house I share with my partner in Sunnyvale and I will fly from San Jose to Chicago to spend two days catching up with family and friends. On the 11th, I will pick up my UHaul and drive it to Michigan, collect my belongings from my boyfriend’s basement in Ann Arbor, hitch my much-missed Honda Civic to the back of the truck, and drive along the great lakes to Syracuse. TA orientation starts on August 14.  (more…)

Brief Notes on the BET Awards as I Watch Whatever Video the Website Queues Up Next

Gotta be the weirdest part of the BET Awards: 2 Chainz, A$AP ROCKY and Kendrick Lamar rap “Bad Bitches” along with Drake and Rick Ross’s bleeped-out, disembodied voices. #FAIL

2 Chainz Causing Problems With A$AP Rocky | Videos | BET.

Contrast that–and I mean both the awkward on-stage antics (Rocky’s name sans Rocky is one) and the weird audience posturing/slash/singalong–with the unbridled audience joy that broke out when the homage to Jamaican music started. I mean, who doesn’t smile when “Murder She Wrote” comes on? Shit, mane, India.Arie was singing along!

http://www.bet.com/video/betawards/2013/performances/happy-hour.html

(more…)

Yeeziography: raw beats, but the lyrics are half-baked

"New Slaves" on SNL, via fistintheair.com

“New Slaves” on SNL, via fistintheair.com

So Yeezus gives us a new Kanye: minimalist, “black new wave,” hyper-fragmented, stripped down. Well, I’ve been listening and I’ve been reading reviews, and here’s my final answer:

The MUSIC is tight: surprising, eclectic, unfulfilling, jagged, intelligent. I am thinking of “Bound 2,” the album’s closing track and my favorite song, the one I keep replaying. Yes, the samples are titillating but shift before your heartbeat finds the record’s groove. The album curates a huge swath of American music, from Nina Simone to breezy 70s disco to early, obscure rap to a rising Caribbean influence. West has perfected DJ Kool Herc’s originary hiphopvention of cueing up the best moment on a record–but unlike Herc, West doesn’t loop it: he gives us just a taste, then pulls away. It’s up to us to loop. Loop Yeezus.

The reason I don’t keep playing the whole album, though, is that the LYRICS are banal. (more…)