Cultural Relevance. Royal Timing. Heal. Elevate. Triumph.


The year was 1997. (Insert laugh here). And I am cleaning the basement of my childhood home. My mom owned a daycare at the time and it was my turn to disinfect it, in its entirety. I was just about finished but I still had to mop. It was about two or three o’clock in the morning. That’s when the good, lyrical shit would play on the radio; at least in Detroit. Method Man’s “All I Need” just went off and the deejay said check out this new Jay-Z.

Full disclosure, I was originally a Nas fan. “The Message” off of “It Was Written” can still send me into a melodic, introspective trip. The line “a thug changes, and love changes and best friends become strangers” is always at the back of my mind when I interact with people. “It Was Written” taught me that change is inevitable; that it’s nature’s way. How “Street Dreams” drops next is supreme. I had seen the Reasonable Doubt videos, but I was the daughter of a middle class mother, whose father’s ambitions were a mystery; so I couldn’t relate.

Back to the basement, the beat dropped. I stopped mopping, long enough to listen—to feel it. The song was “A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More.” I became a fanatic instantly. I sat in one of the yellow toddler chairs. I was just impressed with the word play. The thing about rap for me is that it lets you know that the King’s English is bastardly. It reaffirms that the things that we create as people whose hue is darker is sweeter. Worth stealing is what they could argue. Then, the beat switched mid song. And that was it for me. I’ve purchased every album since.

That break is also why I love me some Kendrick, reference “DNA” and “The Heart Part IV.” Furthermore, this idea that DJ Premier is somehow not succinctly sonic is the most asinine thought I’ve ever heard.

I have been waiting for this album since then. Jay-Z has since created valid songs but I’ve always felt like he was holding back. It’s not easy being vulnerable or speaking freely politically once you reach a certain status. On Magna Carta Holy Grail, I could hear Shawn seeping through and I definitely heard it on Jay Electronica’s “We Made It.” It was a long journey for true fans. We had to endure through two best of both worlds. [Disclaimer: I did not buy these albums. I abhor the Pied Piper and individuals like him]. His crossover status meant not hearing B-side records at concerts. Honesty is probably the most lyrical way to approach any song. We ask for responsible, conscious artist; what is better than rapping about the importance of family, wealth and the necessity of maturity.

I won’t critique this album like I have others, because it’s much too precious. Each song has something to offer. Each song left my soul full. I will say this (insert laugh here too). I can appreciate that he didn’t just have Damian Marley on the chorus of the song.

Now, back to my all day listening party.

holy grail. she.



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.



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.

A Wonderful World.


The executive producers of “The Great Gatsby,” Jay-Z and Baz Luhrmann were charged with recreating the momentous era of the Jazz Age for the score.  I can hear the snickering and lip smacking in the background at the idea of a rapper creating a score for a flick with so many obviously white characters.  I commend Luhrmann for acknowledging that jazz is a musical genre with origins in the African American community.

It took roughly 80 years before Jazz or blues were considered American music, other than just jungle music.  From the hard streets of New Orleans, an art form was birthed.  On September 23, 1987, introduced by the honorable John Conyers, Jr. a house resolution was passed by the 100th Congress of the United States of America.  The resolution “proclaimed that jazz “is a unifying force, bridging cultural, religious, ethnic and age difference in our diverse society.”  Interesting, right?  Right!

“100$ Bill” by Jay-Z sets the stage.  Yes, we know he’s pushing 50—nonetheless his eloquence perdures.  You start seeing green, purple and gold: envy, hope and wealth.  Mr. Carter’s braggadocio embodies the sumptuousness of the Jazz Age; he utters the women, the lack of morality as well as the obscure upward mobility.

It was ingenious of Jay and Baz to meticulously have contemporary classics that have already graciously captured the spirit of jazz to be covered by other talented artist.  Andre 3000 and Beyoncé’s duet of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” immediately transports you front row at the juke joint.  “Crazy in Love” is already a brickhouse record; Emeli Sandé coupled with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra gives the song certain versatility that easily makes it a signature tune, sort of like “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”  If you are to infuse Jazz and Hip Hop and make the correlation that these musical genres are twisted sisters; of course, Q the Abstract makes the cut.  Lana Del Rey hypnotizes you with her boisterous pipes on “Young and Beautiful,” which suits her and her forte for bad boys and their short attention spans.  Sia (“Kill and Run”) and Florence’s voices are like the ocean.  Their unique, hold no bars range allows them to depict blue emotions and love succinctly.  “Over the Love” has blasted from my speakers ad infinitum consecutively since the very moment the credits ran down the screen.  AIN’T no party like a party!  Other notables are Jack White, Gotye, Coco O. of Quadron, The xx, Nero and Fergie.

Unfortunately for the naysayers, the execution is immaculate.

A Man Scorned: Fitzgerald is the great Gatsby


Photo Courtesy of The Great Gatsby 2013

The green light is significant.  Its location is intelligent.  It begs you to realize, life is not about reaching the green light. As long as you can see the light, life is definitely about the journey—the forks in the road.

Such a phrase is most likely attractive to those who have both ambition and determination, which yields you the opportunity to not only succeed but also garner the lessons from failures.

There are many life lessons you can learn from Fitzgerald, as you read/watch “The Great Gatsby.”  It can be said that these particularly lessons became the motifs to his writing, subsequently, his life, to no avail.

It’s more important to know that the forks may lead you beyond the green light, and mostly likely nowhere near that “destined” destination and to be content with this.

“I felt married to her.”

This retrospection is erotic and intoxicating.  As a reader, as a film aficionado you begin to reflect and connect with Gatsby’s propensity to please Daisy Buchanan and his desire for splendor.  You intrinsically understand that his heart will be broken, simply because he changed himself for someone else.

“My life has got to be like this.  It has to keep going on.”

Love is drug and if taken on an empty stomach, you can end up dead at the bottom of a fancy pool.

What was it about the mind of an author in 1925 that could describe love so quaintly?  Fitzgerald aroused the senses.  You could feel, taste and fantasize about the era’s decadence and destitution; love and lust; hope and despair.

This evening I watched “The Great Gatsby,” I read the actual novel years, maybe a decade ago.  Upon learning that the score would be created by Jay-Z, I was instantly intrigued.  I needed to hear him musically not just in prose per se.  Carey Mulligan is dope.  After watching “An Education,” I just knew she was an actress whose body of work would be something to pay attention to.  I find myself rooting for her incessantly, without thought; no matter the role. No matter the character.

Director, Baz Luhrmann, manages to capture Fitzgerald’s classic novel in 3D.  The thought of Luhrmann using this type of photography instead of sepia or black and white shots, could be compared to someone adding shiny rims to a Rolls-Royce Corniche.  However, it brought to life the roaring twenties, the new lifestyles of flappers and the black market wealth of Gatsby.  Like Kanye says “I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign’ant,” Gatsby was not born rich; something Tom Buchanan does not allow him to forget.

There are so many layers to “The Great Gatsby” as well as ample space for interpretation.  For whatever reason, the movie conjured the love legend of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”  I’ve only seen the movie with Winona Ryder.  So this explication may seem shallow and inaccurate.  But apparently, love dies.  The Count dies. Gatsby dies.  A flame can be rekindled yet sometimes the wick is too short to light a flame once more.

Dracula zaps Mina back into recalling his love, their love, the love between Elizabeta and Dracula.  After five years, when Daisy hears just the name of Gatsby her heartbeat quickens.  If you’ve never read the book you wonder does she still love him? Did she ever love Tom?  Although, I’ve read “Gatsby,” I fell in love decades after seeing Stoker’s “Dracula” and then later seeing Fitzgerald’s words come to life in film again; I thought, does Gatsby really know Daisy? A lot can happen in five years, and an affluent first eighteen years of life affords you a certain mentality.

If you’re a purist, the 3D imagery and music (it was the Jazz Age) is without a doubt sacrilegious, but watching this rendition was like reading the book all over again.  This time I felt as if I was Fitzgerald’s friend.  I was no longer engulfed in literature; I became a resident of West Egg and maybe a fly on the wall in Gatsby’s great castle.  It’s as if you wanted something else to happen.  You didn’t want George to shoot Gatsby, especially since Tom was the adulterer.  You hoped that the image of Myrtle dying was some sort of reverse love potion number nine,  Gatsby remains blissful because Carraway is a man of few words.

I am a hopeless romantic.  Daisy Buchannan in panoramic view halted all of my usual hopeful ideals to even begin to whisper.  You hate to see a man or woman fight tooth and nail to win over someone who is not worthy of such persistence.  You love to see the on screen chemistry of Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook.” The movie allowed Daisy’s childish, gullible nature and lack of morality to shine true.

Nick learns that there’s a particular, if not peculiar heighten level of humanity that can develop in the mist of dearth.  The understanding that opulence corrodes decency; creates class division; and prompts corruption is embedded deep into his psyche. He discovers that the pursuit of the American dream coerces you to run faster and stretch your arms farther” and with orgastic vehemence the ebb and flow pulls you backwards.  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

It’s like that first sniff (that I know nothing about), you chase it forever in spite of potential death.

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