On No Homo

I’m sure you’ve heard this “No Homo” phrase for the last several years from Hip-hop artists and now regular people on the street, as a way to break the normal social mores around same-sex interaction, and still assure the person to whom you’re speaking that you’re not actually gay. I know, a mess. But Hip-hop blogger and radio host Jay-Smooth over at his blog Ill Doctrine (that has me jealous on the style/layout tip), made a pretty funny video spoofing and explaining the “No Homo” foolishness.

Nas’ NIGGER Video

So the controversial new song from Nas’ highly anticipated album is out–called “Be A Nigger.” I haven’t really formulated my analysis on this one, but I would love to know what you think about the video and/or the song.

Shock of The Week: Remy Ma Gets 8 Years

The hip-hop world had better get it together. Fame and celebrity will not protect your ass from the prison if you’re Black. Wesley Snipes just learned that lesson (OK so he’s not a hip-hop star, but he’s Black and he’s famous, so stay with me!), and Lil Kim and Foxy Brown have as well, and Snoop Dogg seems to get pulled over by the cops every time he leaves his driveway. The list could go on.

The latest hip-hop star to face prison time is Remy “I look too good to be fcukin’ you” Ma for shooting her homegirl in the gut over $3000 and fleeing the club in the meatpacking district of Manhattan where the incident took place. She was sentenced to 8 long years in prison. The details from E-Online:

In March, a jury convicted her on four counts, including assault, weapons possession and attempted coercion, for shooting Makeda Barnes-Joseph in the gut last July in a dispute over $3,000. She faced more than 25 years behind bars.

After State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller handed down the punishment, Ma’s fiancé, fellow hip-hopster Papoose, sparked a melee as he screamed invective at the victim, who took the stand earlier asking for a harsh sentence.

“Get the f–k off me. F–k y’all. F–k jail,” the performer [Papoose] yelled as the hearing ended and bailiffs escorted him out of the Manhattan court. “I don’t care. Lock me up. Lock me up. Take me to jail. Arrest me. It’s all about money.”

Papoose was caught by Rikers Island corrections officers last week allegedly trying to smuggle his betrothed a handcuff key as the two were about to tie the knot in a jailhouse wedding. He wasn’t charged, but the nuptials were nixed.

That key smuggling bit is so sad I can’t even laugh at it–obviously an act of desperation, if in fact it’s true. I do feel bad for her. I don’t think prison will solve anything–and I am not big on punishment as a form of social redress more generally. But can we just not shoot people?

Come on, people!

Just kidding.

But really. It’s been very clear that hip-hop stars are being widely surveilled (sp?) over the last several years, and the police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are clearly sending the message that if you’re associated with hip-hop and do some shit out of the bounds of “law,” you’re going to prison. Besides that, I find myself in between a rock and a hard place. I know the systemic issues at play that creat accessibility to guns and the kinds of urban poverty (in the face of gluttonous and violent wealth accumulation) that drives the kinds of acts of violence that seem senseless. I am from the same kind of community. I get the fact that I only made it “out”(not that I, as a Black gay man, escape the scrutiny, disgust, and violence of the state) because of the push of family, friends and some teachers who decided I was the one worth giving a damn about.

But sometimes I am at a loss for defending or even trying to put to words this kind of foolishness. What is the language for critiquing institutional racism, sexism and capitalism while also critiquing the fact that these systems support and drive individuals to be alienated, disaffected, and violent? I want to see a way out of this mess, but I sometimes come up short.

Music You (and I) Slept On…

I like to think I’m cutting edge. There’s no new music worth hearing that escapes Kenyon Farrow, no-sir-ee! Whether overground or underground, my finger is on the pulse.

But even I miss some things sometimes. And the older I get, the more new music slips through the cracks. But I recently came upon three recordings that have come out over the last few years that I knew about, but just slept on. But I got em now, and you should too!

Ray Ray, Raphael Saadiq. Saadiq, one of the most successful music producers of our time (and former frontman for Tony, Toni, Tone, & Lucy Pearl) release this, his second album, in 2004. It was on his own label, Pookie Entertainment, and was the follow-up to 2002’s Instant Vintage. The disc is both funky and slickly produced at the same time. Saadiq’s production here is like a reigned-in late Parliament/Funkadelic sound–rubbery bass lines, spaced-out synthesizers, but with much more pop-sensibility. He’s jouned by guests artists including Joi, Teedra Moses, Allie Baba, Babyface, Dwayne Wiggins (Tony, Toni, Tone) and Dawn Robinson (Lucy Pearl). Standout tracks are “Detroit Girl,” “Chic,” and “Ray Ray Theme.” It’s not groundbreaking, but its a really good record!

Trip the Light Fantastic, Ladybug Mecca. Ladybug was the woman MC in the the group Digable Planets. She stepped out in 2005 to release this really interesting and sonically diverse record that spans hip-hop, rock, pop and bossa nova. In addition to showcasing her skills as an MC (which are still impressive), she also reveals a raspy rock/pop singing voice on this album (Think RES/Nelly Furtado/Imani Coppola). The standout tracks are “Don’t Disturb The Peace,” “LadyBug Come Outside,” and “Suicidethol.”

The Hollywood Recordings, Sa-Ra Creative Partners. This CD can be called nothing short of brilliant. Sa-Ra consists of three (really hot) nerdy producer types from Detroit, Michigan who show us why the Motor City has become the vanguard of electronic music of the last 20 years. The CD’s production is hip-hop in it’s orientation (think Pete-Rock, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & the late J Dilla), but they trio also lays down some really nice baritone vocals with with interesting lyrics to boot. Guest stars include Dilla himself, Erykah Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Bilal, Talib Kweli and Capone-n-Noreaga. The biggest disappointment of this disc is it’s sinking to typical dude-ish misogyny, even on tracks I like (admittedly). Standouts (and it’s hard to pick just a few here) are “Glorious,” “Fly Away,” and “Fish Fillet.”

Bill Cosby on Meet the Press

Bill Cosby has caught hell in recent years for his controversial speeches about the hip-hop, poor black people, and the state of Black folks in American in general.

Today, Tim Russert’s Meet the Press hosted Cosby and his longtime collaborator Alvin Poussaint, MD., to talk about their new book, Come On People–a treatise on the state of African-Americans and what they think needs to shift. He doesn’t seem to be saying anythign that isn’t knew or innovative, but another hand-wringing book about the lack of Black fathers in the lives of their children, Black women have “made it” while men suffer in prison, that AIDS is the result of our “behaviors,” etc. I guess I have to say I am glad that there is at least a conversation happening in the Black community about what we need to be doing poltiically and socially, but I hate that the conversation never seems to evolve past the “we need the strong black man to take his rightful place” type of foolishness.

I guess it’s too easy to make fun of him as some doddering old fogey–I think the sentiment of his fears is sincere. I share his basic concerns. I do think something has to be done to improve the conditions of young Black men. But I don’t think that the people who currently hold the mic on the discussion, have much in the way of useful answers.

MSNBC.com has posted the entire first chapter of the book, and you can read it here.

50 Cent Threatens Retirement: I Support That!

50 Cent has announced that he will retire if Kanye West outsells him when both of their CD’s are released on 9-11-07. Sohh.com reports

Despite holding a more successful track record, skeptics are questioning whether 50 Cent’s Curtis will outsell Kanye West’s Graduation come September 11. Ask 50 and he’ll tell you there’s no way he’ll come in second. In fact, he’s ready to wager his career on it.

“They would like to see Kanye West give me a problem because I’ve worked myself into a space where I’ve become the favorite,” Fif told SOHH exclusively. “Everybody roots for the underdog when he goes against the favorite.

“Put it like this,” 50 told SOHH. “Let’s raise the stakes. If Kanye West sells more records than 50 Cent on September 11, I’ll no longer write music. I’ll write music and work with my other artists, but I won’t put out any more solo albums.

“And I bet this, when Kanye West’s sales come in, he’s gonna have a 70% decrease [the second week] ’cause Def Jam is gonna buy records to keep him closer to 50 Cent,” the Queens rapper added. “So watch the first week and then watch the second week. Watch his @#* drop off the planet. We keep our angles covered before we make a decent bet.”

This weekend I was hanging out with my special friend and one of his friends said “50 Cent sells Black death.”

Damn. It was so powerful a statement, we had to ask her a second time. And she said it again. 50 Cent sells Black death. His whole reason for success is about how many times he been shot, how much he’ll shoot you, and big his guns are. 50 Cent sells Black death.

I agree. Now Kanye doesn’t sell Black death but he sometimes irks me with his “look at me, I’m so ironic” bullshit. It is one thing to recognize one’s own contradictions—saying hip-hop is homophobic and needs to stop with the “f****t” word, but then you’re using it in your next single. Then talking about how women get treated in hip-hop, but then referring to multi-racial women (who are mostly part Black, mind you) as “mutts.” Wearing bling but making a song about Sierra Leone conflict diamonds.

But if I gotta take the lesser of two evils, I guess I choose Kanye. 50—you gotta go. If 50 Cent wants to retire, well, I say let’s help him get out of the game!

BUY KANYE’S GRADUATION ON 9-11!!!

(Don’t want to support either of these jokers? Here are some other folks with music comin out on the same day—in THIS particular order.)

Me’shell Ndegeocello, Pete Rock, Bernie Worrell, Ani DiFranco, Elvis Costello, will.i.am, Sounds of Backness, Zap Mama, David Bowie, Eve, Siouxsie, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Crowded House, McCoy Tyner Quartet.

Also this fall! Angie Stone, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and CHAKA KHAN!!!