Rachel Views: Vince Staples ‘Big Fish Theory’

Image result for big fish theory

 

Promoting his album, “Big Fish Theory,” which was released Friday, rapper Vince Staples appeared on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” to discuss the project’s themes. When asked about the role of Afrofuturism in the album, Vince, in his typical deadpan manner, replies, “I like saying stuff about black people to white people.”

“So it doesn’t mean anything?” Trevor asks.

“Of course not,” Vince says, to raucous audience laughter. 

I had this interview in mind while listening to the Long Beach rapper’s second studio album. After all, he’s not the type of artist to embed hidden messages or intricate themes in his work. He might even side-eye me writing this review, as if to say,

Regardless, fam, I will be writing a long-ass review, because that’s what I do. And even if Vince doesn’t intend for the album to be Afrofuturistic or artsy-fartsy, I think it’s still conceptually interesting enough to examine. So read on for my full thoughts on “Big Fish Theory,” my favorite and least favorite tracks and my final rating. Thanks for reading, as always!


BIG TAKEAWAYS

1. Aquatic imagery

The big fish theory refers to the idea that a fish can only grow as big as the bowl it’s contained in. Likewise, people’s futures can be limited to what their environment allows. Throughout the album, there are songs that touch on various shades of this theory and this imagery; the first two tracks, “Crabs in a Bucket” and “Big Fish,” tackle “the black man” being brought down and “swimming upstream,” respectively. The album also ends with “BagBak,” which references the dangers of deep-sea exploration, and “Rain Come Down,” which sets up a comparison between rain and bullets. 

I find the exploration of water in hip-hop really interesting (Ugly God’s “Water” notwithstanding). Mick Jenkins literally dedicates two records delving into the theme, and his song “Drowning” discusses white people’s oppression of African Americans through slavery. On “Crabs in a Bucket,” Vince similarly raps, “Nails in the black man’s hands and feet/Put him on a cross so we put him on a chain.”

Although water might be associated with purity and hope (think The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and Springsteen’s “The River”), for Vince, it also evokes danger and struggle. I like that Vince is challenging the traditional interpretations of water — H2O has had it good for too long; it’s about time someone took it down a peg, I say!

fukuwater.png

i made this on MS Paint, if u couldn’t tell

2. The intersection of love and violence

For the most part, Vince appears to reject romance and love on the album, by pairing lyrics about women with lines evoking violence and physical pain. On “Love Can Be …”, he says getting involved with women leads to “Alimony money for the nails and weave/Nail me to the cross like that boy JC.” Women may literally be the death of Vince, and Staple him to the cross.*

In the second verse of “745,” Vince is similarly unenthusiastic about love, saying, “I tread light each time we speak/Play too rough might break ya heart.” He’s depicting love as a fragile idea that can be lost at any moment, and in the final part of the verse, he takes the religious imagery up a notch, to state that love is holy, it’s “a God to me,” but it’s also “real hard for me.” He’s wondering, Is love attainable, or is it just this unreachable, idyllic concept for only God to know?

The future isn’t all bleak for Vince, though. There are hints of promise in the penultimate “BagBak,” which he opens with, “This is for my future baby mama/Hope your skin is black as midnight.” Maybe someday, when Vince finds the right person, his perception of love will be rosier. However, “Rain Come Down,” the album’s final song, is less clear. After each verse, which paints gritty images of “blood on the leaves” (S/O Kanye) and “[getting] JFK’d,” there’s the chorus of “When the sun goes down … Rain come down.” Whether the rain signifies bullets and brutality, or a cleansing of the bloodshed, is up in the air.  

STRENGTHS

1. Great production

With help from the likes of Zack Sekoff and Ray Brady, the album remains sonically cohesive and dark. There’s booming bass, drums and even some techno-reminiscent beats, throughout the project. The most exciting sound comes from Sekoff and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame on “Crabs in a Bucket,” where the two infuse the piece with vibes New Age-y enough to be fit for Bon Iver’s own experimental and electronic “22, A Million” album from last year. 

2. Sleek rhymes

Vince spits slick bar after slick bar on this record, and his verses feel effortless and smooth. Especially on “BagBak,” a slapper of a tune, his confidence carries the song through to its energetic end, as he raps, “Tell the president to suck a dick, because we on now.” Preach. 

WEAKNESSES

1. Uneven features

Kilo Kish is featured so much here it may as well be a collab album. I’m not complaining though — time and time again, Kilo and Vince have shown that they make a fantastic duo (e.g. “Loco” off last year’s “Prima Donna” EP), and here is no exception. Kendrick, as well, brings much-needed vigor to “Yeah Right,” although outshining Vince in the process.

At the same time, the album squanders features by a slew of artists; Kučka is a distraction on “Yeah Right,” Ray J barely appears on “Love Can Be …”, and A$AP Rocky gets lost in the mix in a group chorus on “SAMO.” Why get someone when you’re not going to give them a verse of their own? Don’t do Lord Flacko dirty like that.

Vince definitely hasn’t been shy about praising Ray J in the past

2. SAMO, SAMO

“Samo,” a.k.a “same old shit,” encapsulates one of my critiques of the album. There’s not enough versatility on the project, as every tune has the same dark and moody vibe that Vince has been constructing in past works. I’m not asking for a self-love anthem à la “i,” or a smiley jam like “Caroline,” but something tonally different would be nice. The experimental “Crabs in a Bucket” is the closest we get, and the rest, while good tracks on their own, don’t touch the bar of originality the first piece sets up. Further, on tracks like “745,” Vince’s effortless, smooth rhymes occasionally dip into lazy territory, and I wish he would switch up his flow or infuse more aggression into it. 

3. Thematically incomplete

The aquatic theme only appears in four songs, and the rest tangentially seem to fit within the world (or I guess fish tank) that Vince has built for the listener. But beyond that, there’s not sufficient connection between all the songs for any concept or theme to really land. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

SCALE: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

RATING: 7.5 (like Wise brand chips — they taste fine, but people aren’t reppin’ them over Lay’s, my guy)

“Big Fish Theory” will give existing fans what they already like about his music: moody bangers, confident delivery and entrancing production, albeit not adding too much new stuff to the mix, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

Thematically and comparatively, the album is neither profound enough nor more exceptional than Vince’s previous records: the bold “Prima Donna” EP and “Summertime 06,” which remains one of my favorite albums of 2015. In fact, his EP may remain Vince’s most ambitious and distinctive endeavor yet. So for now, I’m suggesting he keeps swimming to find his sonic Nemo. 

 

HOTTEST TRACKS

  1. “BagBak”
  2. “Yeah Right” ft. Kučka & Kendrick Lamar
  3. “Homage” ft. Kilo Kish

COLDEST TRACKS

  1. “Love Can Be …”ft. Ray J, Kilo Kish & Damon Albarn
  2. “745”
  3. “Party People”

* Too soon?

64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’

damn cover


Boy, am I glad I decided to write down my first impressions of this album, because it was nothing like what I expected, based off what I heard from “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “untitled unmastered.” And I have a LOT of feelings about it.

I’ll have a full review out of “DAMN.” whenever I’m able to calm down from this first listen and can compose real, coherent sentences again. But rumor has it Kendrick will be releasing another album tomorrow (technically later today), so we’ll see if there’s even time to breathe before there’s something new to listen to again.

So here it is … 64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick’s “DAMN.”


“BLOOD.”

1. I’m so excited for the album but I still can’t get over the cover. It looks likes Kendrick just got off a 12-hour shift at Waffle House where he witnessed at least two people attempt to urinate on the floor (and one who successfully did).

2. Intro to “BLOOD.” is giving me “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibes.

3. The old woman replies, “You have lost something. You’ve lost your life.” Savage, lady. He was just tryna help you pick something from the street.

4. Also, I lost 3 years off my life hearing the white Fox News man say “fo sho.”

“DNA.”

5. Damn it’s 0 to 60 going from “BLOOD.” to “DNA.” This. Beat. Bangs.

6. “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA” is a much cooler slogan than Northwestern’s “AND is in our DNA.” Goddamn overachievers.

7. Although every white girl will probably be changing her Insta bio to “royalty inside my DNA” soon. Don’t say I didn’t warn y’all.

8. I got heart palpitations from Kendrick’s second verse. God DAMN.

9. Literally had to pause before the next song because I’m still recuperating.

10. Alyssa is me right now. 

“YAH.”

11. Okay, I got some water in me. Ready for “YAH.”

12. Is Kendrick singing?? I’m into it.

13. I love that he’s dragging Fox News and Geraldo Rivera for three songs straight.

14. It’s in these moments where I wish I knew more about Christianity. References to things like “Deuteronomy” just go over my head.

15. Seriously, it was like 10th grade when I figured out that Jesus and God are kinda the same dude. Actually, are they?

“ELEMENT.”

16. LOL @ “Kung Fu Kenny.” I’m imagining a skinny white child trying to split a brick into two but breaking his hands in the process.

17. I can’t hear “element” without thinking of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I wonder what kind of bender Kendrick would be. Probably fire?

18. Thus far, the album sounds more commercial than TPAB, but not in a bad way. The beat on “ELEMENT.” for example, is more mainstream and catchy than his previous stuff.

avatar fire

just like when kendrick dropped this HOT album !!

“FEEL.”

19. Loving the production on “FEEL.” Moody but energetic at the same time.

“LOYALTY.”

20. Also can’t believe “LOYALTY.” is the first collaboration between Rihanna and Kendrick.

21. Maybe he waited until she wasn’t with Drake to do something?

22. Speaking of commercial hits, I’m thinking this and “HUMBLE.” will be the breakouts from the album.

23. His flow is effortless, and Riri’s verse fits well with his vibe.

24. So “geeked up” means getting high off meth, cocaine or ecstasy. Interesting. Although if I used it I doubt people would think I was referring to anything besides getting a new calculator :/

25. Don’t kill me for saying this, but I’m much more into this album’s production than TPAB’s (at least initially).

“PRIDE.”

26. The parts in “PRIDE.” where Kendrick’s voice is pitched up make me imagine him taking helium from a balloon, which might not be the intention.

27. Apparently Steve Lacy recorded this beat on an iPhone? And when he found out Kendrick included it on the album, he “screamed with joy.” That’s actually adorable.

28. I can barely take a non-blurry photo on the first try with my phone, and this dude is recording beats on it.

29. That probably says more about me than him though, huh?

30. Anna Wise is the best. Never let her go, Kendrick.

“HUMBLE.”

31. Speaking of Grey Poupon, Vox has an interesting video about why rappers have referenced this mustard SO much in the past.

32. Props to Kenny though, for not rhyming it with “coupon.”

33. I wonder if Instagram “comedians” are going to use “sit down, be humble” in their next 100 videos. And I wonder if it’ll be lowkey misogynistic (hint: probably).

“LUST.”

34. Here, they’re sampling a song by an artist named Rat Boy.

35. Just imagine: “Everyone, meet Batman’s new sidekick: ‘Rat Boy.’”

36. “Wake up in the mornin’/Thinkin’ ’bout money, kick your feet up/Watch you a comedy, take a shit” …

37. Wow Kendrick, how did you know my Saturday routine?

38. Was that TMI?

39. Whatever, girls poop. Grow up.  

“LOVE.”

40. Zacari’s voice is so smoooooth.

41. Tory Lanez is probably crying himself to sleep over not getting on this track.

42. Funny enough, Tory has a song called “LUV.”

43. This track is nothing like what I’ve heard from Kendrick before. It’s kinda awesome.

44. It’s a great blend of hip-hop and alternative R&B.

“XXX.”

45. There’s a U2 feature ????? Whaaaattttt.

46. Kendrick keepin us on our toes with these unexpected guests.

47. The flow switch, when it goes from “You know we all love him” to “Yesterday I got a call,” is insane. 

“FEAR.”

48. Whereas “XXX.” is overtly political, “FEAR.” is deeply personal.   

49. Here, he references the titles of some previous tracks on the album: “Fear of losin’ loyalty from pride,” “fear that my humbleness is gone,” etc.  

50. This song is almost 8 minutes longgggg. My attention span is half of that.

51. Am I the worst?

52. Thematically, the song is really interesting, but I probably won’t be listening to it on a regular basis (see: #51).

“GOD.”

53. “GOD.” also starts off totally unlike what I expected from Kendrick.

54. If you would’ve told me a year ago that this is what the new Kendrick album would sound like, I’d be 

shooketh

55. I’m shooketh at the moment, actually.

56. At first I thought “work it JT” was a reference to Justin Timberlake, but evidently it’s from the film “The Five Heartbeats.” #themoreyouknow

57. But I guessing “I’m sellin’ verses, Jay Z, watch me work it, JT” is actually referring to the former ramen-noodle-headed, NYSNC heartthrob? 

58. Yoooo some Genius commenter said this sounds like a Drake song. I kinda … agree? Is it intentional though? What if Kendrick is deliberately imitating Drake’s flow and his habit of calling himself “6 God” ? Hmmm …

“DUCKWORTH.”

59. The manipulation of Ted Taylor’s “Be Ever Wonderful” is amazing.

60. HA, apparently “DUCKWORTH.” tells the true story of how Top Dawg (founder of TDE, Kendrick’s label) almost killed Kendrick’s dad, Ducky, who worked at KFC.

61. And Top Dawg was nice to Ducky because Ducky would give him free chicken and biscuits when he went to KFC.

62. Now that’s what I call conflict prevention.  

63. The song (and thus album) ends with Kendrick’s first line from the first song, “BLOOD.”: “So, I was takin a walk the other day …”

64. I need to lie down.


 

The Top 4 Unexpected Bangers of 2016

 

hot-pot-rae-sremmurd

 

 

As it’s been said before, 2016 turned out to be like the worst movie ever with the best soundtrack. It seemed every big name in the game came out with great music this year, from Beyoncé and Rihanna, to Drake and Chance. They made us think about important things like celebrating blackness and positivity, as well as gave us plenty of fun moments such as quoting “Hot sauce in my bag, swag” endlessly and photoshopping tiny Drakes onto various pictures.

 

Although I love seeing established artists continuing to do dope work, what’s just as cool for me are the artists and songs that no one expected to pop off in the ways they did. They keep the music game exciting and unpredictable. Who knows who will get big in 2017 and spur the next round of memes and twitter hashtags? I have no clue, and that’s the best part.

 

So continue reading for my picks of the top four unexpected bangers of 2016, and feel free to add yours! Have a great New Years and a great 2017 (or at least one better than 2016).


 

4. 1 NIGHT – Lil Yachty *

 

 

I don’t really know how to classify Lil Yachty and his unique sound. Lullaby trap? Video game hip-hop? He himself calls it “bubblegum trap,” which feels as accurate as it can get.

The fact that it’s so hard to categorize the rapper’s music is his exact appeal for me. While countless other aspiring MCs are out there imitating styles in their quest to be the next Nas or whoever, Yachty instead exudes individuality and irreverence. Just take one look at his red dreads, and you’ll see a man who does not give a fuck about normalcy.

“1 NIGHT,” which currently has 64 million views on YouTube, got a boost from Caleon Fox’s popular comedy video, “When Bae Hits You With That “So What Are We?”, which is the most 2016-thing to type ever. Both the song and the video are excellent showcases for what Yachty a.k.a. Lil Boat has to offer. The track features a unique combination of trap beats and a melody straight out of a children’s song, and the video must be seen to be believed as it’s colorful and busy to the point of insanity.

Although Lil Yachty’s rise might seem surprising to some, given that he is the personification of a Molly-induced fever dream James Franco might have at Burning Man, the rapper’s ascendance actually makes sense. His weirdness is his biggest strength, since people are tired of songs that resemble one another, so when a track like “1 NIGHT” comes along, such oddity is welcomed. No, Yachty might not tackle racial inequality or the ephemeral quality of time in his music, but he’s having fun and doing his own thing, so I’m not complaining.

hot-pot-1-night

An actual still from the video so you know I’m not tripping

 

 

3. Dat $tick – Rich Chigga

This is the track that no one saw coming and made people collectively drop their jaws and ask, “This kid is how old??” and “He’s from where??”.

Rich Chigga, a.k.a. Brian Imanuel, a rapper and Viner (r.i.p. Vine) from Indonesia, blew up after he dropped “Dat $tick” early this year when he was just 16. The music video has amassed 31 million views and a remix from THE Ghostface Killah, as well as sparked necessary conversations about non-African Americans using the n-word, but most importantly, it made many people see that even a nerdy-looking Asian kid armed with a fanny pack and pink polo shirt (buttoned all the way up) can still spit straight heat.

hot-pot-dat-stick

Tbh the only thing they’re shooting is racial stereotypes

 

 

2. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd with Gucci Mane

 

Although Rae Sremmurd already solidified their place in hip-hop with hits like “No Flex Zone” and “No Type,” the duo’s song “Black Beatles,” while catchy, didn’t have the immediate earworm quality that the two former tracks had. Its popularity, much like “1 NIGHT,” was thanks to virality, in this case the massive Mannequin Challenge video trend, where moving cameras captured people frozen in action while the song played in the background.

Everyone from high school sports teams, Blac Chyna in the delivery room, to Michelle Obama and the Cleveland Cavaliers (albeit in that case with a different song) have participated in the trend. And of course, Rae Sremmurd themselves did it with the audience at a concert and it is pure joy to watch.

This phenomenon is quite unexpected since I’m not totally sure why this particular song was chosen as the soundtrack for the videos, but regardless, it’s always fun to see music and social media come together for such an entertaining and lighthearted purpose.

1. Alaska – Maggie Rogers

 

 

The origin story for how this song became famous is probably the most serendipitous of this year. Singer Maggie Rogers was an NYU student participating in a master class at the university’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music with Pharrell, where the legendary rapper and producer listened to the students’ original projects and gave them feedback. In the video, which came out in March and has nearly 2.5 million views, Pharrell tells her that her song “Alaska,” which she wrote and produced, is “singular” in the way the Wu-Tang Clan was, and the rest is history.

Following the success of the master class, as well as the overwhelming support she received from online commenters, Rogers released an official music video for the song this October, which has racked up 2.2 million views as of now.

I feel kind of speechless reflecting on these events. I mean seriously, what are the chances that an artist would be discovered in this way on such a platform, and by Pharrell no less? Insane. But her fast ascent isn’t undeserved, and is in fact a testament to how captivating “Alaska” really is. Rogers describes it as a mix of folk and dance, and it’s exactly that. It has the soulfulness of folk mixed with dance music’s signature vivacity. The song is beautiful and lush and although the music video pales in views compared to the numbers of previously mentioned tunes, it’s definitely worth a listen (or two … or 200). It’ll make you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, which is exactly how I want to leave 2016 behind.


*Okay okay so technically the actual song came out in 2015, but the official video was released in 2016 and became popular this year. Let me live!

 

A Buddhist Meditation on the Election: Get Your Act Together, Marginalized People!

meditation-pic

via Flickr

In many Buddhist traditions, there is a type of meditation called loving-kindness, which involves wishing happiness and peace for not only yourself but also your loved ones as well as those you find difficult. In the spirit of this practice, I will create a loving-kindness meditation specially tailored for the presidential election and everyone it’s affected. This should be fun.

For Self

First, may I have the restraint and not insult Donald Trump and call him names such as an Oompa Loompa with a suit on and/or a Jack-o-Lantern that had botched surgery and then was jizzed in. Starting now though. That didn’t count before.

May I have the courage to fight for others whose lives and identities are at stake in ways that mine are not. And may I take that courage further than liking a few #NoDAPL statuses on Facebook and then promptly returning to taking a BuzzFeed quiz titled, “We know which former US president you want to have sex with based on your favorite Thanksgiving side dish.”

May I speak out against people’s racism, especially old white men’s, instead of making that weird noise that’s halfway between a cough and an awkward laugh, and going, “Well, they’re just the product of their times,” especially since I grew up in the era of  Jersey Shore and managed not to become a guido. If I can do it, they can too.

For Trump

May Trump develop compassion for those who look differently and love differently than him. That would include Muslims, Mexicans, people from LGBTQ+ communities, blacks, Native Americans, people whose skin tones are lighter than those safety cones students use to learn driving with, those who don’t actively yearn to have sex with their own daughters, and anyone who has gotten married fewer than three times.

For Trump voters:

May people who voted for Trump know that many of their troubles are valid and that economic difficulties are not a laughing matter.

But also, may they know that other people’s suffering are similarly valid, and that by supporting Trump even if they didn’t agree with some of his ideas, they are still to blame if he ends up actually enacting them.

For others:

May people of color be unafraid and learn how to work with whites to create a better America, because it’s not like we haven’t done enough to improve this country under the threat of discrimination and for some, death, while mayonnaise-lovers did the bare minimum like acknowledging we were human and wearing safety pins on their sweatshop-produced Forever 21 jackets.

May LGBTQ+ people finally realize that cis-gendered folks want to cooperate and achieve landmark accomplishments like adding rainbow filters to their Facebook profiles and attending Pride parades.

640px-ica_flag-svg

It’s time to pull your weight, disenfranchised communities!

Finally, may the rest of the world … just like, turn the other cheek, please? This is extremely embarrassing for us. If you do us this solid, we’ll pretend Brexit wasn’t a thing and Marine Le Pen is just a new Chanel perfume. Alright, cool.

Love,

Rachel

What the rise of Trump means for me as an introvert

INNER VOICE

I’ve often told myself that although I am an introvert living in a country full of extroverts, it does not mean I can’t still succeed. I’ll just do it my own way. Where I lack in networking skills, I will make up for in my strong writing and work ethic, and where I fall short in outspokenness, I will remedy with my initiative and enthusiasm. And not to mention, I’m constantly working on being more assertive and more confident in my own ideas.

That’s my inner voice telling me I can forge on and make it in this world by following my own path of dedication and creativity, alongside talented and driven people using gregariousness as one of their own tools.

Being introverted isn’t inherently better, and being outgoing isn’t bad at all — it’s just when it’s amplified 1000 times in the wrong direction, while simultaneously ridding itself of qualities like basic human decency that it becomes toxic. This election cycle has certainly shown that the cult of personality¹ can dominate real abilities and integrity.

THE CULT OF “PERSONALITY”

It’s true, many people hate Donald Trump and see through his false promises and bravado for what he truly is: a bully who has no original ideas and who has succeeded by exploiting people around him.

However, plenty of others have fallen for his tricks. Even if he loses this election (crossing my fingers here!), the fact that he managed to reach the stage of Republican nominee for president is a testament to how far just coasting on personality can go.

Even if he loses, his followers and many others are still going to value slander, histrionics and frankly, talking out of your ass, as valuable assets needed by an employee, a friend, even a government official.

And even if he loses, we are still reminded of the reality that our new president is somehow just as unpopular as he is. Trump, a man with little feasible ideas managed to get into the final rounds of the election, while a smart woman who has worked her ass off for decades had to claw her way through inane scandals to get to the same place. I know Hillary Clinton is deeply imperfect, and I’ve never been her biggest fan, but it is clear she at least has real policies in her mind and she is diplomatic, hard working and will do whatever she can to fix her previous mistakes.²

NOT TO TOOT MY OWN HORN OR ANYTHING…

I’m not saying I am the perfect person or the perfect employee. Like Clinton, I am flawed, although I will say I have had far fewer email scandals (the most extreme thing I’ve done is forgetting to attach a file to my emails). But as someone trying to keep my head down, do my own thing and work on being better than I was yesterday, I can’t help but feel defeated by this festering crap bag of an election season. It makes me think even if I bring everything I can to the table — good ideas, commitment, willingness to compromise, ability to take action — the person with the loudest mouth will get the attention.

If there’s anything I want people to remember, it’s that the rise of Trump is not singular. Sure, he may seem like an anomaly to a lot of Americans who wonder to themselves, most people aren’t that pompous, that ineffective or that ignorant, right? Right??

But don’t we all know that loudmouth who skated by in a presentation, group project or even a career just by talking the most and taking credit for other people’s work? They may not be as noxious as Trump,  but such gasbags do exist and take opportunities from those who actually show up to do the work, even if they’re not as flashy about it.

SO BE LIKE SPIKE LEE AND…

 

dotherightthing

Vote. Please please please vote. Vote for who is clearly the right choice. But going forward, regardless of the outcome, I hope we can take lessons from this year, and remind ourselves it’s important to be careful about what we stand for and who we support. Don’t be fooled by vague promises or tremendous³ emotion. Don’t just vote or support someone because they’re relatable or they seem fun to have a beer with. Do your research. Listen more than you talk. Give attention to those who are smart and have actual consciences, not just those who brag and talk about themselves. The world does not need another Donald Trump.


¹ If you can even call what Trump has a “personality.”

² e.g. her changed stances on same-sex marriage and the Iraq War.

³ tremendous: also known as the only advanced word Trump knows and doesn’t hesitate to repeat 200 times in every debate

Hot and Cold: Month of July 2016

ririwilliams

Art by Jeff Dekal. (Marvel Comics)


After last week’s post about #BlackLivesMatter, we are back to regularly-scheduled programming for July’s “Hot and Cold” roundup. I was aiming for this to be a weekly series before, but because of end-of-school shit and my summer internship, I just didn’t have time to write something that regularly. Also, it’s summer and hot as balls. Don’t blame a bitch for wanting to just Netflix and chill (literally).

The month of July proved to be eventful, for better or for worse, so read ahead for the awesome news and then … for humanity to disappoint you. What else is new?

HOT

  1. Superhero news

I don’t even care about superhero shit and I’m still pumped about all the developments happening in the Marvel universe. First, Time magazine announced that a black teenage girl is set to take over the role of Iron Man from Tony Stark in the comic-book event series “Civil War II.” Riri Williams, a 15-year-old science genius who enrolls in MIT, gets Stark’s attention after building her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room.

On the flip side though, Cameron Glover pointed out that none of the writers who created Riri were black women, a demographic that’s consistently kept out of the comic world even though they  are often huge fans of it. It’s an interesting take on something that is seemingly a slam dunk, so check out the full Ebony article for more.

The second noteworthy superhero news is that a teaser for Netflix’s upcoming “Luke Cage” premiered at San Diego Comic-Con, and the series will debut on Sept. 30., making it Marvel’s first black superhero film or series. For many such as Isaac Rouse, an African-American writer, this is a Big Fucking Deal, especially in the wake of recent police shootings of black individuals:

“Cage deals with the same profiling and negative connotations of being a black man in America, the same any African American has the misgivings to deal with, and yet he still does good. … Luke Cage can be that symbolic hero for young black men and women during these scary times in the African American community.” (Huffington Post)

2016-07-22-1469207364-6025634-cage

Mike Colter stars as the titular character in “Luke Cage”

2. Leslie Jones

I wasn’t sure if I was going to put this in the “COLD” or “HOT” category at first (I’m sure you were losing sleep over this too!), but I decided instead of focusing on the assholes who threw racist slurs at Leslie Jones (although Head Asshole has since been banned from Twitter), I wanted to let Leslie’s greatness be the bigger emphasis.

Even if you’re like me and haven’t seen the new Ghostbusters movie yet, it’s still important to acknowledge how much this film will mean to countless girls and how much Leslie has done to raise awareness for double standards some women face in Hollywood. She’s not only been subjected to unfair treatment from Internet trolls, but even from fashion designers who aren’t willing to dress her. Kudos to Christian Siriano for reaching out and designing her a kick-ass dress to wear at the premiere:

leslie-jones-600x800

Michael Tran/FilmMagic

FYI: The mark of a truly talented designer is the ability to make beautiful clothes for everyone, not just size 2 models.

3. Gilmore Girls trailer

We’ve known about the “Gilmore Girls” Netflix revival for a while, but it wasn’t until July 27 that the trailer for the upcoming “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” premiered online.

I started watching the original series in middle school, so references to The Clash and “Saved by the Bell,” while appreciated, weren’t that current to my 12-year-old self. Hearing them discuss Amy Schumer and whether or not Jon Oliver would find Lorelai hot (he does, in case anyone’s wondering) is both extremely weird and incredibly awesome. I can’t wait for Nov. 25. Also, I wonder if the girls love Beyoncé as much as the rest of the world. They have to, right? For goodness sake, Rory went to Yale! #importantquestions

4. Kimye vs. Taylor Swift

big

I saved the best and pettiest for last, obviously. By now, everyone and their mother have heard about the beef between Kimye (can Merriam-Webster put that in the dictionary already?) and Taylor Swift. I feel like words such as “beef” or “feud” don’t truly capture the magnitude of this whole situation, so instead, why not take the title of almost any famous apocalypse movie and taylor (get it?) it to fit this debacle?

For example:

“This Is the End (for Taylor Swift’s career)”

“Terminator 2: Judgment Tay”

“Tay of the Dead”

“These Final Hours (of Taylor’s career)” (okay, that one is a bit repetitive).

You get my point.

To be honest, I don’t really like the recent trend of celebrating pettiness online. But, considering how Taylor has made such a Big Production of acting like the victim, it’s only fair to point out that it’s a bit shady she’d be fine with “I think that me and Taylor might still have sex” in Kanye’s song “Famous,” but object to the line calling her a bitch, and give a whole Grammy speech about him undercutting her fame.

Also, to be clear, I don’t have a stake in this drama. Yes, Kanye is a musical genius, but that doesn’t mean I will blindly support him when he does questionable shit like slut shaming Amber Rose. And although I don’t like Taylor’s music and think she was being sketchy in this situation, I’m not praying for her career to end. I’m just sitting back and enjoying this drama, far away from Hollywood. What sandy beaches and margaritas do for the regular vacationer, pop-culture drama (and margaritas) does for me.

¿NOT SURE WHAT TO THINK ?

 

  1. Frank Ocean to “release” new album … sure … 

Sure, Frank, you weren’t the source of my trust issues but you definitely didn’t help them either. I’m tired of getting my hopes up, only to have you shatter my dreams. So while I’m praying to Jesus, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and The Holy Trinity (Bey, Nicki and Rihanna, obviously) that you will come through and release “Boys Don’t Cry” tomorrow like you say you will, I feel like there is a definite chance this will turn out to be another round of “Rachel Always Cry (Feat. Frank Ocean’s false promises).”  

  1. “The Great Wall” trailer

I have very, very conflicted thoughts on this upcoming film, and may write more about this later. But for now, all I can say is, even though it is worrisome that a film related to Chinese history stars a white guy, there are many famous Chinese actors in it and the director is Chinese. Plus, a lot of the backlash has been from Asians Americans as opposed to Chinese people in China. It’s a complicated issue and I don’t know exactly where I stand yet.

COLD

  1. Shootings across the nation

There’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t already been said. #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackLivesWillAlwaysMatter. Remember Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and remember Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd and countless others. 

There are many, many things we can do to help the cause, and there are many things I know I can do better. Here are just a few suggestions:

 

So that’s it for July! For people who stumbled upon this blog while looking for hot-pot recipes, my bad. This is probably less exciting.

But if there’s someone who did read the post, I have some questions: What is something that happened in July that I missed? What other things can we do to raise awareness about police brutality and support #BlackLivesMatter?

See you in the next post!


Why Asian Americans Should Support #BlackLivesMatter

One night about a week ago, I decided on a whim to go to Wegmans. It was late, but I didn’t know when I would have time to shop for groceries. After exiting the parking lot, with my bags of spoils in the trunk of my car, I turned on the radio to listen to one of those adult contemporary hit stations. Not my usual jam, but it did the job. As I sang along passionately (albeit very off-key) to some ballad or other, I saw, in the rear-view mirror, flashing blue and red lights.

Oh shitttttt, I thought to myself. Was I speeding? Or maybe I was swerving a little and he thought I was drunk? Perhaps he saw me gesturing wildly with my hands and assumed I was insane?

Then it hit me.

Ohhh, my headlights aren’t on. Immediately I turned them on, but the damage was done. I pulled over on the side of the road, put the gear to park and started tapping nervously on my steering wheel.

The officer took his sweet time to walk to my car door, and informed me that yes indeed, I was driving without my headlights on. I gave him my license and he went back to his car. Within five minutes, he returned and handed back the license, then told me in a jovial tone that he would let me off with a warning but in the future I should remember to have my lights on at night.

My first emotion was obviously relief. Thank goodness I didn’t get a ticket. My money should be reserved for useful things like grocery shopping at 10 p.m. and buying McDonald’s fries!

But my second thought was, I wonder how that exchange would have gone if I didn’t look like, well, me? Maybe the officer is a fair person all-around, but maybe not. Would he have been as cordial as he was with me if I weren’t a tiny, Asian girl, and instead a 6-feet-tall Black man or woman? Would he have felt threatened? Would he have shot me while I was reaching for my license and registration?

Those have been the thoughts ruminating in my head recently, as we mourn the loss of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and as we remember Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and countless other Black Americans.

I don’t think that just because I’m a woman of color, I am obligated to talk about race-related issues. Why can’t white people be forced to discuss race? They’re the ones who colonized half the world.

But I sometimes forget that not all minorities experience racism the same way and we have different struggles. As a Chinese woman, I’ve been called a ‘chink,’ I commonly see sexualized and stereotypical images of Asian women on the screen and I have to live with the fact that America calls itself a cultural melting pot yet once barred Chinese people from entering its shores.

And as a minority, it can be exhausting to talk about race. It is frustrating to hear people deny that racism still exists in 2016 or that reverse racism against white people is a problem. It is frustrating to experience discrimination firsthand, but then be told that my experiences are invalid, that I’m overreacting or too focused on race.

But as an Asian American, I do not have to deal with police brutality. I’ve never had to worry about wearing a hoodie in public and being seen as a gangster or a thug. I’ve never had people feel threatened by me for just walking around. I don’t ever have to panic that even if I comply with orders, I can still be killed.

I wouldn’t have to worry that if I reach in my pocket to retrieve my ID, a police officer would assume I was grabbing for my gun and shoot me multiple times. I wouldn’t have to fear that other police officers would leave me to die of my injuries while consoling the officer who had shot me instead.

My headlight “incident” goes to show that if I were to ever find myself at a police station for some reason, it would be highly likely that I would be treated to a cup of warm coffee, a jacket draped over my shoulders and an officer calling me “sweetie” to console me.

And that’s why as an Asian-American woman, I feel like I need to discuss the recent shootings. I am still privileged in a way that black people in the United States are not, even if I am also a minority.

To not acknowledge that privilege, to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in the world, to act that because I am a fellow person of color I get a free pass on discussing racial matters, is to do what many white people do and be ignorant. It means I am not acknowledging that there is a deep-rooted issue in our justice system and our society in general, where Latinx, black and dark-skinned individuals, especially those in LGBTQ communities, are unfairly targeted for their appearances and identities.

If it seems I’m sharing this opinion too late (and I probably am), it’s because I’ve held out on discussing this issue on the blog on purpose. I thought it was a strange platform to talk about police brutality, but then I realized, it’s actually not. This is a place where I share my thoughts on hip-hop and rap, genres created and dominated by African Americans. And I love hip-hop and R&B, and I love rap. It gives me joy to dissect Kendrick lyrics, to talk to anyone who will listen about the genius of Kanye West and to discuss underrated artists such as Vince Staples and Kali Uchis.

But the songs I listen to often talk about very, very real things: America’s anti-blackness, the degradation of black women, the history of this country being built on slave labor. What kind of person would I be if I listened and rapped mumbled along to these songs, yet refuse to acknowledge it when the contents of these tracks manifest themselves in real life?

It would mean I am the type of person who only cares about black people when they’re entertaining me, but when they are suffering and need support, it is no longer convenient for me. It would mean I benefit from blackness while giving nothing back to it. It would mean that while I lambaste Iggy Azalea for exploiting slavery in her lyrics while ignoring black issues, I am stooping to her level.

Sure, I am a woman of color, but that is not a valid excuse. “I suffer from racism too” is not a valid excuse. Asian Americans who face discrimination can still contribute to anti-blackness. We do it by making black jokes, touting #AllLivesMatter instead of #BlackLivesMatter and by refusing to discuss race. As Asians, we can still contribute to ignorance toward black issues in the United States. I know I’ve done things in the past, and may unknowingly continue to do things, that contribute to it.

But as Asians, we can do our part to support #BlackLivesMatter and raise awareness of police brutality and anti-blackness in this country. We can start conversations in our families about race and discrimination toward black people. We can donate to funds supporting the family of victims of senseless, race-fueled shootings. We can educate ourselves about so-called “black on black” crime, #AllLivesMatter and privilege. We can apologize and correct ourselves when we say or do hurtful things. We can do better.

Links:

Video: “‘But What About Black On Black Crime?’ #AltonSterling”

https://lettersforblacklives.com: How to explain #BlackLivesMatter to parents, relatives from different cultures

Blacklivesmatter.com: Find out info about how to donate, where your local branch is, etc.

Follow: @deray, @iJesseWiliams, @ShaunKing, @Nettaaaaaaaa & many more


P.S. Although I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who reads my own blog (typical), but if you’re here: 1) Thanks! 2) Let me know of  links or things I can add to be more inclusive!

Hot and Cold: Week of 4/9

johnchoposters

Want to know what I think about the “Queen of Katwe” trailer, Becky with the good hair, Justin Bieber and more? Of course you do! My opinions are just like Kevin Hart movies — the world doesn’t necessarily need them, but they’re at least mildly entertaining. Or so I hope. 


 

HOT

 

1. #StarringJohnCho

So y’all know that the lack of Asian-American representation is a big issue for me (and should be, for everyone), so of course I was ecstatic to hear about William Yu’s campaign to raise awareness about the lack of diversity in film today. Yu noticed that so many films and their posters often only showed white people, so instead he decided to replace actor John Cho, of “Harold and Kumar” and “Stark Trek” fame on posters for films like “The Martian” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

He says that he wanted to show people evidence that “having an Asian-American star in a leader role wasn’t quite so crazy or outrageous,” and I think he did a damn good job of that. Cho is relatively well-known, attractive, a good actor — why wouldn’t it be fitting for him to play a leading role? I’m tired of seeing Asians not represented, or only shown as stereotypical characters, so this whole campaign gets a two thumbs-up from me.

It’s got me thinking though, what other famous films could we see with Cho substituted in? “Charlie and the CHOcolate Factory”? “CHOcolat”? “The Truman CHO”? The possibilities are endless.

 

2. “Queen of Katwe” trailer

The trailer for the upcoming Disney film, “Queen of Katwe,” came out on Tuesday, and I started crying 30 seconds into it. Going by that sign, I think my tear ducts will be permanently emptied by the end of the actual film. It’s awesome to see a story about black people that isn’t about slavery or child soldiers (not that there aren’t great films about those subjects), and is about black kids seeing the power in themselves and taking initiative to make their goals happen, without the help of the Nice White People that we so often see. Also, Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo are in it, so it should be a great time.

queenofkatwe

3. Rachel Roy and Rachael Ray have each other’s backs

I can’t believe this is an actual thing that exists in the world. This entire situation is so messy, I have to break it down step-by-step to convey how hilarious the whole ordeal is.

Phase 1. Beyoncé implies Jay cheated on her with “Becky with the good hair” in one of her songs from “Lemonade.”

Phase 2. Rumors spread that Rachel Roy is Becky. 

Phase 3. Some people mistake Rachael Ray for Roy, because obviously they are the same person.

Phase 4. People start attacking Ray on her Instagram.

Phase 5. Rachel Roy sends Rachael Ray flowers and Ray gifts Roy with “a big bottle of wine and a straw.” 

Phase 5. Rachel Yang is confused as hell. But good for them, girls lookin’ out for girls. 

 

COLD

1. Justin bieber’s new face tattoo

When I first saw the Instagram picture of him with the new tattoo he got this week, I spent about 3 minutes trying to locate exactly where it was since it’s so small it might as well be a smudge. Look Justin, if you’re trying to convey that you’re a badass who doesn’t give a fuck, instead of a Canadian pop sensation who got famous from YouTube, make the tattoo at least bigger than an atom. Go big or go home, Justin. When Gucci Mane’s ice-cream tattoo is more intimidating, there’s a problem.

 

biebstattoo

Not to pull a Perez Hilton or anything, but come on Justin, really?

2. Azealia Banks’ Twitter tirade 

Where to begin? Azealia Banks’ Rant of Terror on Twitter was almost impressive in the breadth it covered — in just one day, she managed to sling derogatory statements about Zayn Malik, Skai Jackson, the Desi community, the LGBT community and women in general. Her account was (rightfully) suspended and she was pulled from the Born & Bred music festival, but these actions have spurred even more conversation about the fact that while her account was suspended, others who are spewing hate on Twitter have gone unpunished. That’s definitely a dialogue that should be happening, but for now, I’m glad to be free of Azealia Banks-related news.


 

Catch you later!

 

Rachel Reviews: French Montana’s ‘Figure it Out’ ft. Kanye West, Nas

figureitout

 

Although the announcement of the song neither surprised nor excited me, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the music video for French Montana’s “Figure it Out,” which just dropped today.

Here are some of my random thoughts while watching it:

  • hate to say it, but Kanye’s auto-tuned singing is kinda the best part of the song
  • enjoying the motocross x private jet aesthetic
  • I can’t stop laughing at the unsubtle Ciroc product placement in the background
  • why is French wearing all white while being surrounded by bikers driving around in dirt??
  • French still remains my least favorite rapper, although his verse here is a huge improvement from his part in A$AP Ferg’s “Work (Remix)” (which includes lines like “Her ass fat, you could park ten Tahoes on it”)
  • Kanye is only a featured artist, but it’s basically Ye’s song at this point
  • the entire vibe changes when Nas comes in and reminds everyone who’s the real rapper here

 

 

figureitoutplane

 

Overall, the song is pretty catchy but slightly forgettable. I also really wish Nas’ part was longer .

Rating: 7.5

 

BREAKING: Is this Chance the Rapper’s album cover for ‘Chance 3’?

chance3

 

On April 30, Chance the Rapper tweeted a picture of what seemed like an album cover, as well as a link to his site where fans could buy the poster version of the picture.

The cover features an illustration of Chance, wearing a baseball cap, in front of a hazy, orange-reddish celestial backdrop. Since it resembles the style of artwork from his acclaimed mixtape, “Acid Rap,” it had the likes of Vibe writer Jessica McKinney wondering if we’re due for “Chance 3,” the Chicagoland rapper’s next project.

 

acidrap

 

For me, “SURF” was an eclectic and unique album, but nothing can top Chance’s 2013 mixtape, so if “Chance 3” is anything like “Acid Rap,” I’ll be a happy camper. For now, the only thing to do is wait … and listen to “Acid Rain,” for the umpteenth time.