Jay-Z with Zane Lowe: Making of MCHG Part 1

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Only in Detroit.

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Photo Courtesy Beyoncé Tumblr

“Candles In the Sun”

Image“Elephant in the Room” by Banksy

From his 2006 “Barely Legal” Exhibition

Photo Courtesy of NYTimes.com

A pertinent and apparent truth, to which everyone present is aware of but which is not discussed, such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable: elephant in the room.  Racism has become or has been the obvious issue for some time now however, such has transmuted into not existing at all.  We have elephants in the room.  America has elephants.

I have heard this metaphorical idiom tossed about when conversing about the Trayvon Martin trial/tragedy.  This drives me to believe that we have ignored the elephant for so long, endured it and become so complacent, that we can no longer see the elephant.  A male elephant can weigh up to 15,000 pounds.  A baby elephant weighs 250 pounds upon birth.  We are blind.  Racism will continue to choke us as long as we keep the foot on our throats.

Prejudice has become so innate, so inbred, native, congenital and inherent.  It’s a practice that is no longer taught through experience, it now originates in the mind.  Yes, I know everyone believes and preached that racism is taught but at this point in history; it’s reality.  Thus children pick up on it implicitly and explicitly as the way of life.  “Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms for the word black. It’s always something degrading, low, and sinister.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. added “look up the word white. It’s always something pure, high, and clean.”  Zimmerman is not so much a racist as he is American.

The elucidations that King speak of made way for racial profiling, and mostly likely have Zimmerman confused as to what exactly he did wrong.  The nature of this country also gives him reason not to worry.  Generalizations of any kind are crimes against humanity.  This case has the world in such an uproar because the world hates to face the fruits of its labor.  Man’s need for dominance has sullied humanity.  The power construct has made is so that right and wrong has become battles of wits.

“The Purge” has it all wrong.  One day of excused savagery will not bring forth total peace in the world.  If you change the socio-economic makeup of society the crime rate will decrease.  Currently, many African Americans live below poverty lines.  The framework of these communities is survival.  One must desensitize early in order to subsist.  These communities are the brothels of oppression: poor education, meager healthcare, no mental health facilities, no love, few resources and barely any employment.  Such a structure creates a no way in, no way out; kill or be killed mentality.  Our children grow up in these broken homes and rarely develop respect for life and often view kindness as a sign of weakness.  There are many aware of these harsh realities, who manage to dream beyond the despair and go on to accomplish much more. Success is the best type of redemption.
Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict has many fathers, mothers, black men, women, and children feeling more hopeless and valueless than yesterday.  We all hope for the day, Martin Luther Kings and Malcolm Xs are not needed to prove we rightfully deserve humanity.  Sadly, today is not that day.  Jay Smooth, founder of New York’s longest running Hip Hop radio program, WBAI’s “Underground Railroad” has declared that “the fundamental danger of an acquittal is not more riots, it’s more George Zimmermans.”   Changing the flow of money is a hard pill to swallow but it’s feasible.  But how do you change hardened souls and encrypted minds to love?  With practicality, you make the lives of children priceless.  You guard the innocence of children like the Holy Grail. Children are our most prized possessions.  Man has completely miscalculated the value of human life.

If you do the crime, do the time is clearly an outdated slogan considering the number of innocent men and women in prison versus the guilty running free.  In moments like these, the value of spiritual retribution versus distinguishable consequences is hard to measure.  When are we going to get the language right? I question.

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By Stanley Squirewell

The Bombay Sapphire Artisan Art Exhibit 2010 Winner

In Partnership with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation

Photo Courtesy of Examiner.com

God’s Paintbrush: “Dark Girls”

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On June 24, 2013, Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s documentary, “Dark Girls,” made its debut on OWN Network.  I recently, watched the documentary with ultimate apprehension.  I feel as if I didn’t earn this badge of struggle.  I’m not as black as of coffee or fair as coffee with an entire dollop of cream in it.  My complexion is the color of milk chocolate with caramel smoothly mixed completely in.

In my eyes, the darker the hue the more time God spent on you.  Let me clarify: The various skin tones of people of African descent are to be admired.  But the darkest tones have always made me ponder about the finite ability God has to see beauty; to construct pulchritude.

So, as I watched the documentary unfold, I fought back the crocodile tears as I listened to these sistas’ stories.  I had to keep my anger at bay given the utterance of a post-racial society; to even think that the effects of slavery and racism are, were one dimensional as opposed to being generationally complex.

I had the privilege of being cultivated in a community that acknowledged and adored African greatness and beauty.  Pride is something I preached and practiced on the daily, at a very young age.  By the way, pride in this case is self love.  Thus, today, “no weapons formed against me shall prosper.”

I abhor the notion that self esteem is something one creates solely as an individual.  As an adult, you attempt to maintain your esteem but our respective circles play a part in lifting and leveling our spirits.  Children depend on the adults around them for protection of every kind, period.  The documentary showcased young and older, women of African descent alike.  The participants easily could have been elementary girls; which is to say we are failing.  Learning has become so orthodox that we have forgotten love is a lesson—love must be taught.  Love can be taught.

I hope that the documentary is an ongoing venture that we’ll delve deeper into the psychosis of complexion with all women of African descent.  Conversations regarding the issues that affect women of color across the spectrum, not just their darker tones but their medium and lighter tones must be acknowledged.  Most importantly, the vignette of sistas who were able to be unmoved by demeaning comments and society’s blue-eyed definition of beauty needs to be discussed.  These women’s mantras, affirmations and practices to build and maintain their esteems about their appearances need to be illustrated to provide possible solutions for little girls, yet to discovery how cruel the world can be about the color of their skin. 

We try not to define ourselves by others but often we are bombarded with opinions dressed up as facts.  I want to go back in time and befriend these girls, these women. Simply to tell them they are beautiful and intelligent.  Furthermore, that God made you just the way She wanted you to be.  BE fly, my sistas! Fly high!

 

holy grail. she.

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Photo Courtesy of C&A

Who better to invoke when discussing the ills and glitz of celebrity than Kurt Cobain. “And we all just/Entertainers/And we’re stupid/And contagious.”  “Smell like Teen Spirit” is the opening track to Nirvana’s Nevermind.  Thus, rightfully so, it assist in opening the curtains to MCHG.  Holy Grail is not as “guttural, nonsensical or slurred” but it’s melodic and has a sort of drawl to it—as if a spell it being cast.

Fans are fickle, the industry lushes after anything with dollars attached to it but if you present yourself as altruistic as possible your “cup will runneth over (Psalms 23:5).”

Jay-Z starts off with telling us what Blue told him to remind us about, then he jumps into the d’evils of fame.  He discusses how heavy hitters amassed millions in one night but how when “the money blows/all pigeons take flight/f the fame, keep cheating on me.”  We all know to well the crevices of crotches, lines in the bathrooms, domestic violence, violence, despair, insecurities and suicidal thoughts of our favorite and most hated celebrities alike because of the extravagant compensation of gossip and photos obtained by intrusive, proficient folks with cameras.  When your craziest desires are excruciatingly accessible, priorities can easily be misplaced and boundaries may become nonexistent.

But you can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water,” quite analogous to the cover of Nevermind. Next, he frankly states “you got the shit that —-die for, dry yours.”  This is Jay telling himself to quit crying (IRIS).  With having a wife and now a child, Jay-Z has new pressures.  Yes, Beyoncé has her own prominence to boast about, but there are these things.  These things called pride, breadwinning and “vanilla wafers in a villa.” If you take away the family life, pressure, fakes and peeping Toms (the icing and cherries), Jay-Z has few reasons not to rap.  As an artist, Jay-Z has not experienced too many instances of retrogression.  Why not keep coming back for more?

It could be argued that the ruthless, competitive nature of the rap game is what keeps him alive, figuratively speaking.   The technique and stamina required to be a lyrical giant requires consistent “exercise.”  I’m not suggesting that he should rap until he’s 100 years old but he did say “longevity until I’m 70.” And ladies and gentleman, words are nothing if not affirmations.

The actual meaning of “Teen Spirit,” is lost in translation, literally, deep in the sea of questions due to its “incomprehensibility.”  I always gathered that Cobain wailed about how the irony and clashes of revolution oftentimes drives you to embrace its perplexity, thus relishing in the invincibility (teen spirit) that comes along with that acceptance.  Jay-Z was once an impoverished boy who graduated to street mathematics and science who studied the dictionary, which paved the way for numerous other business ventures which now includes being a sports agent for the NBA and MLB.  How’s that for breaking glass ceilings and kicking in the door.

“Why [couldn’t] you just enjoy it?” Rest peacefully, KC.

“WE WAITING FOR THE FIREWORKS LIKE JULY 4TH”

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Magna Carta Holy Grail (MCHG) sounds like freedom.

I’ve been wrecking my brain for the appropriate word to describe this musical masterpiece.  In the way that a devoted Jay-Z fan, long before critics had to eat their words and call “Reasonable Doubt” a classic, can.  The album is weightless and more succinct than “American Gangster.”  It’s chiism in verse.

I’m the girl that spent her last $15 dollars in credit to cop the “Black Album.” Smart? Maybe not, but it was worth it.  I preorder Jay-Z albums and often have more than one copy of the same album.  MCHG is the holy grail of making it out the hood but on a sicka note securing legacy.  When I say legacy, I am not referring to rather or not Jay is the G.O.A.T.—because I already know the answer to that but the point at which the sky is now your foundation not ground.

There is no titillation here.  Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this album for six years.  The boy who grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn, specifically the Marcy Projects is happy.  “Happiness for a gangsta ain’t no love in these streets/Conspiracy theorists screaming/Illuminati/They can’t believe this much skills in the human body.”  I truly wish not to speculate that the birth of Blue Ivy was the prelude to a more immaculate Hov, from cautionary tales to pursuits of happiness to always sportin’ a smile type of peace.

And it dropped on Independence Day.

After I heard, “Open Letter,” my brain froze, the cursor would not move.  I had to reboot.   I had no idea that an album was in the near future or even a thought for him. Hell, he was still riding the celebratory wave of “Watch the Throne.”  It’s revolutionary, but not just black fist in the air.  Every compilation is like a prayer and in between release dates Jay-Z puts in the work to guarantee the fruition of his aspirations (action).

“Own boss, own your masters, slaves…”

These are my initial thoughts.

Let the dissection begin.

To be continued.

Shining Bright.

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Photo Courtesy of Golden Globes 2009, GettyImages, Instagram (baddiebey), H&M, Dazed, HBO, Vibe Vixen, Sandra Rose, JustJared, Thelifefiles.com, Popsugar

With all the proof we have that perfection does not exist, time and time again we create pedestals of aptness knowing such can not be achieved.  I am rendered speechless at the level of shock most endure when flaws are made apparent or rather the nonchalance one has toward living freely, null of judgment or inhibitions.  These pedestals are mostly molded for the people who we live vicariously through yet we stick our noses up at them when it is realized that they bleed red also.

I have become intrigued by the onslaught of criticism that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter receives.  Is it just envy? Or does she appear to be perfect, thus many hate her for it?

I must add that I can not particularly call myself a fan, but I am aware of her supreme talent, diligence and ambition.  I began to listen more closely to her music upon her 2004 Grammy performance of “Dangerously in Love.”  To be honest, her more mature and solo material struck my interest.  Her presence can not be denied.

On April 22, 2013, Rakhi Kumar wrote a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama to inform her that Beyoncé is not a role model.  The first sentence was “I’m addressing this to you because I admire you.” I can’t help but to sense a condescending tone.  It conveys that because of her admiration for the First Lady it gives her the right to dictate and presumably correct her parenting decisions for her daughters.  Michelle Obama deemed Beyoncé a role model.  The author refers to the misogynistic nature of the music industry and the revealing embroidered nipple outfit that Beyoncé wore to kick off her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.  The problem with this argument is that it often clashes with how any woman chooses to define her femininity.

I love the title of Beyoncé’s tour; she’s parading her marriage around the world, like a never-ending honeymoon.  The promotional art, commercials and marketing is also something that I believe is clever.  If your understanding of royalty and/or the crown is that it is something reserved for only those of powdery hue, then I completely understand your disdain and declarations of whitewashing.  However, no alterations can remove the “oil wells pumping in [B’s] living room.”  The images conjure Queen Elizabeth; “the virgin queen.” Beyoncé story is quite parallel to Queen Elizabeth considering they are two women in history who accomplished unprecedented goals in both of their worlds respectively.

In my eyes, Beyoncé became legendary when she started performing and touring with an all female band.  I have this high respect for female bands and Rock-N-Rollers.  This solidified her as a contender without competition.  Such as a statement alone is inspiring and affirming that women are forces to be reckoned with.

I am also a black love, black is beautiful connoisseur.  Any and everything the factually promotes either of these mantras, I support strongly.  Furthermore, upon watching her documentary, “Life is But a Dream,” I understood that she too was a woman, just like me.  Of course, we do not share the familiarities of wealth and fame but emotionally and spiritually we are all interconnected through our shared experiences.  Although it may seem silly and trivial, the scene that resonated most with me is when Solange, Beyoncé and Kelly were singing The Cardigans “Lovefool.” My sisters and I, there are three of us, would swoon this hit record to the top of our lungs, randomly throughout our childhood.

Particularly, America encourages individualism, thus it simultaneously fuels envy; mostly due to the dynamic of the pursuit of happiness, who can be the better American?  This country’s ideology of all men are created equal in many facets is a façade.  Thus, our hearts have habits to condemn, crucify and contemn while secretly desiring the prestige and freedom in question. Society has a random, spin the bottle target ready morality when it comes to discerning piety, decadence and indecorousness.  America has a culture of bringing people up only to break them down.

Our true age of enlightenment will be the moment we become completely adept to love others for who they are, not for who we want them to be (our differences)—and to accept the complexity of this concept by simply being.

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