jeudi, mai 03, 2007


Betty Mabry/Davis pic swiped from here.

+I like good TV criticism and Law & Order: SVU so I loved this incredibly well-written John Leonard piece in this week's New York Magazine:
I am sorry to say that John Munch (Richard Belzer) and Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice-T) have no part to play in either of these hours, although it’s easy enough to imagine what they’d do and say if called upon, since both of them are so frozen into temperamental tics—the Ramsey Clark conspiracy rant, Miles Davis mercury-cooled—that they might as well be Popsicle shticks. I’m also sorry to say that Dr. George Huang (B. D. Wong) does have a part, opening his mouth to explain to Stabler that “family annihilators are the ultimate narcissists.” Thanks, Doc. It’s always been hard to decide whether Wong’s Huang is more insulting to Asians or to psychiatrists. And some other time we will ask ourselves just why so many television medical examiners, like Tamara Tunie on L&O: SVU and Khandi Alexander on CSI: Miami, happen to be gorgeous black women. Angels of death? The morgue as Bat Cave?
+I, like many, am intrigued by Betty Mabry/Betty Davis. The Seattle Weekly looks at her career on the occasion of Light in the Attic's upcoming reissues of Betty Davis (1973) and They Say I'm Different (1974). I don't understand why--other than Davis--it seems the author only quoted men in the article with the exception of one descriptive quote by Jennifer Herrema. I really don't care what Saul Williams thinks of Davis or even Santana, for that matter, if the latter's voice is not paired with those of knowledgeable female musicians. What does Joi think? What did/do her background singers, the Pointer Sisters, think (June's passed but I believe Anita's still alive)? What did her female contemporaries think? Aren't there female music critics, historians, ethnomusicologists that could have chimed in? It was great to read about her but it was disconcerting how she, of all people, was approached from a wholly male purview. Also, bootleg psychologist that I am, I am wondering if it would be more productive to not approach her with assumptions about who she is/was ("I'm surprised...") and what is normal behavior for a musician who had her sphere of influence. That way of thinking and talking to people doesn't elucidate much. I try not to act surprised in professional interviews or personal conversations. I've had people tell me a lot of so-called jaw dropping things but I remain serene because just the act of being shocked is judgement and judgement often stifles and silences.

Also I thought this was an interesting exchange:

Q: Do your songs today sound like your old ones, or has your approach changed?

A: I don't know really.

Q: Are they...

A: They're sex-oriented.

Q: They're about sex?

A: Yeah. All my songs are about sex.

As a reader, it's unclear if she's being sarcastic or not but what is clear is that she knows where this interviewer is going. I'd argue that she immediately knew what the author meant by "approach" but just blew it off. I'm sure many of us have ignored a question a poser was too timid to articulate. Obviously, she quickly decides to just fill in the prescribed blank without elaboration, "They're sex-oriented." The act of withholding can be quite transgressive. So what if we read her narrative not as the behavior of a crazy or traumatized woman but as a lucid empowered woman? If as bell hooks long ago wrote, looking is power, then so is refusing to be looked at.

+I have got a Google Alert for Black Middle Class since it's an area of study, which is how I stumbled upon this piece by Wendy Cook of Accuracy in Media, a conservative and incredibly suspect organization. In an article titled, "Rosie O’Donnell Misses Big With Her Rap on Rap" Cook called into question Rosie's comments on rap music in the wake of the Imus' broadcast of racist/sexist repartee:
She claimed, "There’s something different about young black artists living their reality…and using the clay of their life to form the art that becomes their vessel."

But Rosie didn’t do her research. Not all rappers are “living their reality” that their music portrays. For example, T-Pain, a popular rapper, was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, to a regular middle-class family. His parents own a chain of local seafood restaurants.

Rich Boy (born Maurice Richards), who uses defamatory or racist remarks, was a student enrolled as a mechanical engineering major at Tuskegee University before he caught the eye of Interscope Records. His song, “Throw Some D’s,” includes the following lyrics:

"Rich Boy sellin' crack f- n- wanna jack S- tight no slack just bought a Cadillac Took it to the chop shop Got the top dropped two colored flip flopped Candy red lollipop There’s hoes in the parking lot.”
I don't listen to T-Pain so I don't know to what extent he engages in 'hood rhetoric and Rich Boy's college enrollment doesn't speak to his childhood environment (if in fact the article got the facts right on both). Moreover, Mary Pattillo-McCoy's Black Picket Fences evidenced that some black middle class neighborhoods (in her study's case, a middle class haunt in the Chi) are often in close proximity to blighted black neighborhoods making for a more complex classed experience than is often assumed. Still, I am very much interested in commercial rappers' backgrounds, to what extent these backgrounds inform their music or are obfuscated in it, and to what end(s). Also, I just think that the whole concept of reality rap is inutile. I'm not even sure if it ever served much of a function (but my vision could be hazed by time) since what is understood and received as real, is so fucking limited not to mention the host of artists who self-designate as reality rappers, in order to better hustle fans and critics.

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