songs in the key of black life-mark anthony neal

“act your age not your shoe size…”

the weeknd covers ‘dirty diana‘ on his latest joint. i actually like it-the darkness of the instrumentation, the angst of it all-it works. other than that, i’m really not sure that the whining is all that necessary. but then, they said the same thing about maxwell. in 1996, i was on team maxwell all the way, not understanding why the lump with d’angelo, because while they did occupy the same sub-genre, they had completely different works. i was sixteen. ten years later, on a midnight bus back to montrill from nyc, i fell in love with brown sugar-i got it. what was different? well, a lot of things, but the biggest one was that i had had sex in that decade, and more specifically-i had become familiar with orgasm. one of the things i have learned about music commentary is how to manage, own, and analyze subject position, and how to produce the most authentic writing that still has staying power. i guess we all keep learning that. i recently drew the parallel between the weeknd, bilal, and anthony hamilton as the one dood that doods are not ashamed to admit (and tweet loudly) that they bump. mark anthony neal gets me with his breakdown on bilal, because he also manages to simultaneously shoutout some of my very favorite albums of all time:

“‘Second Child’ suggests that there is a significant upside to being a twentysomethin’ artist. No doubt Bilal has only scratched the surface of his talents. More accomplished than Prince’s For You and D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar and on par with Terence Trent Darby’s Introducing the Hardline, Dionne Farris’s Wild Seed Wild Flower, and the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, in my mind 1st Born Second is one of the most significant debuts in black pop of the past twenty-five years-all done with a pimp’s flair.” (53)

and so, i suppose this is as good a time as any to lend my unsolicited opinion on the common/drake bizness. in truth, the whole thing is as relevant as ice-t calling out souljah boy. these artists do not share a target demographic, span decades of life experience, and may have shared a skirt-so if it all comes down to serena-man, come on.


6 thoughts on “songs in the key of black life-mark anthony neal

  1. ladyface:

    “To these ends they have enlisted the service of the blunted one (Red Man) and Tweet (the fluid one) on the Rockwilder-Missy Elliot-produced remix of the lead single, ‘Pocketbook.’ Upon its release to radio, the track was added to the playlist of more than sixty ‘urban’ stations in a few weeks’ time. But by mid-July the disc was all but forgotten. One can only hope that we won’t have to wait thirty more years for bootlegs of /Cookie/ to appear before this ‘revolutionary mixtape’ and the ‘revolutionary soul singa’ who inspired it get their deserved props.” (20-21)

    “…it was not surprising that Clive’s shortie won out over Kedar’s. Alicia versus India? It was a non-issue. The reality is that boy Keys and Arie are postmillennial exotics-Keys playing off a ‘post-race’ America and Arie a naturalized Afro-essentialism. True indeed, Keys is always gonna sell more records, ‘cause she the ‘light’ one, but that is hardly the point.” (24)

    “In either case, whether ‘Oops (Oh My)’ is about the act of masturbation or a same-sex sexual encounter, the song is a powerful articulation of self-defined black female sexuality. In this regard, Tweet represents something distinct from other figures like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, who may push the envelope on self-defined sexuality, but do so in a context that is stridently heterosexual (which self-pleasuring is not) and one that easily slips into a space where they still remain little more than sexual objects (see Lil’ Kim’s disturbing ‘How Many Licks’ from her /Notorious K.I.M. for a reference). Given the discomfort in black communities with both frank discussions about masturbation and sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, it is not surprising that versions of the song made available to radio and clubs featured what I call the ‘heterosexual’ mix. Employing the services of Fabolous (the second coming of Mase), the ‘heterosexual’ version attempts to recenter ‘Oops’ in a distinctly heterosexual context. But most disturbing in Fabolous’s verse in the remix is the line ‘Oops, there goes my kids on your face’ (what they call ‘facials’ in the industry). With one simple shift, the song is transformed from a celebration of autonomous female sexuality into a vulgar, demeaning moment of black female objectification. Unfortunately, for far too many people this is more acceptable that the possibility that black women could satisfy their sexual desires without the presence of men.” (68)

    “Meanwhile, a host of important women artists-Sarah McLachlan, Res, Tracy Chapman, and Ursula Rucker, to name a few-will never have the kind of access to audiences and consumers that the Pinks, Eves, and Gwen Stefanis regularly have on /TRL/ or /106th and Park/. And while smart tracks like the recent collaboration by Stefani and Eve, ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ are promising, the real apartheid conditions within the music industry go against the kind of groundbreaking collaboration that Nyro and La Belle realized three decades ago with /Gonna Take a Miracle/. Somewhere, Nyro, Ester Phillips, and Janis Joplin dream of the day that Shelby Lynne walks into a studio with Jill Scott.” (99)

    “This Jones’s attempt to ‘cockblock’ hip-hop’s misogyny was deemed more ‘offensive’ than the misogyny itself. At the axis where big business and the FCC meet, perhaps it is clear that ‘Your Revolution’ was a challenge not only to sexist ‘lyrical flow’ but also to the flow of capitalism, as companies like Viacom, Time Warner, and Sony regularly trade in the kinds of sexist and misogynist images of women of color that Jones’s song brilliantly critiques. Frankly, it seemed like a blatant case of censorship.” (145)

  2. high school politics continue on:

    “In retrospect, it seems as though Smiley would only invite thinkers who were already accepted by his audiences as being smarter than he was. This reading is supported by the fact that Smiley often-and dramatically-genuflected to the likes of Dyson and West, admitting that he didn’t quite understand what they were saying. On other occasions, when Smiley was forced to deal with issues of popular culture, particularly hip-hop, he seemed terribly out of touch. Granted, he was forced to so such shows so that the network could attract younger audiences, but he rarely seemed to come up to speed with the issues germane to those audiences and noticeably tried to protect his inadequacies by framing the conversation in very specific terms. On a show that featured Common, Dead Prez, and writer Kevin Powell (check /Step Into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature/), Smiley spent more than twenty minutes asking /all/ of the panelists individually how they defined ‘conscious’ hip-hop, even as they simply stated that they were in agreement with the previous answers, wasting a unique opportunity to have a more serious conversation with some of the more progressive voices in hip-hop (Common’s homophobia notwithstanding). The reality is that it is hard to come up to speed with your guests if you are on one seemingly continuous fifty-city book tour-just ask Diddy when was the last time he was behind the boards.” (157)

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