entertainment

Eric Andre's Criticisms Of Hip-Hop Are Needed, And Here's Why...

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Recently Adult Swim comedian Eric Andre came out with a series of tweets that criticized hip-hop for openly embracing and promoting rap artists Kodak Black and XXXtentacion. Just so we're clear on what he said, here's what he said:

i was just looking at World Star Hip Hop on my IG and they’re always promoting XXX and Kodak Black. and i got upset.

i was also mad at myself for promoting XXXTentacion’s music the other day. my friend was like, “that dude beats up pregnant women” :(

1 out of 3 women are beat, raped, or murdered in their lifetime. that’s 1 billion women. Shits got to stop. No more apathy or indifference.

racism, sexism, homophobia - it's all bigotry. it is all part of the same systemic evil that keeps people subservient and disenfranchised.

Alot of supporters of said rappers on the Twittersphere have come out against Eric Andre with the same predictable defenses of their adored idols- in so many words: "She lied to get all his money!" and "They couldn't prove it court!" and "Innocent til' proven guilty, bruh!" And let's not forget the standard "Stick to comedy, bruh" which Eric Andre pointed out himself is just code for "Stick to apathy." and don't criticize anyone in our community.

But I for one believe we should demand some sorts of standards and accountability from our more visible hip-hop artists. There's nothing wrong with that. We don't have to celebrate negativity, violence, and misogyny. And I don't want to hear that "It's all just entertainment." cop-out. He singled these particular artists for a reason. That reason being their criminal records or alleged acts seem to be some pretty reprehensible stuff. They don't appear to be just talking the talk, they're actually walking the walk.

Another reason I agree with his criticisms is because if we don't question, challenge, and police our own culture and those who represent it, then those who are outsiders to our culture will begin to do so and often through a misinformed, uninformed, and biased prism. A lot of the current hip-hop audience (especially those who are fans of Kodak Black & XXXtentacion) are probably not old enough to remember when Fox News' Bill O'Reilly went on a crusade against rappers Nas and Ludacris (even causing Luda to get endorsements pulled from him) for their "vile, obscence" lyrics when in their personal lives, they were clearly normal, law-abiding citizens. And maybe they don't remember the days of C. Delores Tucker, VP Dan Quayle, Senator Bob Dole, and countless other high profile white folks who tried their best to put an end to "gangster rap" by taking the lyrics of songs totally out context to prove rap was responsible for cop-killing and every social ill of the inner-city in the early 90s.

So if they weren't around for days, maybe they don't understand the need for those within hip-hop culture to hold certain ones' feet to the fire for committing heinous acts in real life. It's like when we want Republicans and conservatives to denounce people who are racists and white supremacists and claim to be under that Republican/conservative umbrella. We should likewise denounce, or at the very least criticize those who are members of the hip hop community who seem to embody all those negative things (specifically misogyny & violence) that hip-hop's critics claim is synonymous with hip-hop music and culture itself.

Its waaay better for someone like Eric Andre (who's clearly a fan of hip-hop) to come out with these criticisms than some out-of-touch, but dangerously influential Trump disciples to come out against certain rappers. Because when that happens, the focus goes from a few bad apples to hip-hop as a whole genre because bigots and xenophobes don't have the capacity to distinguish between the good examples and bad examples and will paint all rap with same brush. And when that happens, record company execs and sponsors who pay artists for promotion will get shook from the political pressure and pull support from artists. When comedians, young black actors, or even other rappers criticize the culture, it's from an honest desire to want to see the culture reach it's potential and not go backwards or destroy itself. And it sparks discussions like these where we ask ourselves "Why aren't we giving more of a listening ear to rappers who are socially conscious in their content and personal lives??!"

We live in bizarre times where the media can villainize pretty much anyone. A movement started to stop police killing unarmed black people has been equated to the Ku Klux Klan. And I would hate to see hip-hop be made into the boogieman. Again.    

Detroit Is An Excellent, Must-See Film, But There's One Thing That Bothered Me...

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Minor spoilers ahead...

So the other day, I was able indulge in the rare treat of catching a movie. By myself. In the morning. When the theater first opens. Which is the best time to catch a movie if you haven't tried go at this time. I decided on seeing Detroit, a movie that caught my attention when I first saw the trailer about 6 months ago. My wife and none of my friends wanted to see this movie due to being squirmy, sensitive types who were put off by the film's reputation for containing what is being labeled as torture porn. And while I do understand not wanting to view black people being beaten, abused, & psychologically tortured at the hands of white people, it is a story I felt needed to be told.

This is not a movie review exactly. I cannot break down a film's strengths and weaknesses the way a true film critic could, but I can tell you that I thought this was an exceptionally excellent movie. The atmosphere feels palpable and transports you back in time to the world where the story takes place, and you're emotionally invested in all three acts that the movie is broken down in. You care about the characters. Nothing feels forced or crow-barred in just to shock the audience. The overall storytelling was well crafted and the acting was on point!!!

But one thing kind of bothered me, and this is no reflection on the quality of Detroit as a movie. What bothered me was that while viewing this racially charged story and all the injustice surrounding it and after it, there were times I forgot what I was watching actually took place in the 60s. 1967 to be exact. The events in Detroit felt so current despite going down 50 years ago, reinforcing in my mind just how little has changed since then. I'm not saying to short change the achievements and progress that we as African Americans have made, I'm saying that in reference to deeply entrenched ideologies and practices that keep white supremacy alive.

Every few minutes in the film, there was something being said or done that frankly just happened in the current news cycle. Black communities were being policed by a predominately white police force. Black men were shot in the back by police despite posing no threat to law enforcement. The shooting of black men in the back was either ignored or justified. White policeman told themselves and their partners that they had nothing against black people right before calling them 'niggers' and physically brutalizing them to the point that they never would a member of their own community. White officers got butt hurt over the mere appearance of white women dating/sleeping with young, black men (much like the racists who vent over interracial scenes in the comments section on YouPorn- or so I've been told). White police officers made up and corroborated stories with their co-workers to explain away dead, black bodies. Evidence was planted (much like we recently saw from the body cam footage from the police officers in Baltimore). White officers were acquitted of murder charges by an all-white jury of their peers. Dead and brutalized victims were discredited and demeaned because of their own alleged criminal pasts despite the fact they weren't the ones on trial (much like Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Alton Sterling). One black character identified himself as a veteran and was accused of outright lying about it (much like the black veteran last year who was denied a free meal from Chili's because some white man didn't want to believe he served and was wearing a stolen military hat in an effort to get a free meal). And even on a lighter note, black people back then floated theories about how the government killed certain black musicians because they "knew too much" and blamed it on drug overdoses (much like black people today put out theories on any deceased or shamed black celebrity who "was about to buy NBC" or was talking crap publicly about the Illuminati).

It just puzzles me how movies like Detroit get the "hard to watch" label when everything in it is based on realities that are still in effect today. We live in a world where people will make the argument to keep up statues of seditionist, racist, murderous Confederate soldiers and generals in an effort to "learn from our history" (pick up a history book, jackasses!!) when clearly American society has learned nothing at all from its past and continues to keep up the status quo of white supremacy and defend the legal, sanctioned murders of black people.

I guess that's why they have to be told "black lives matter".

This Black Panther Trailer Tho'....

So the other day I'm watching game 4 of the NBA Finals (hoping Golden State finally puts Cleveland out of their misery) and a teaser trailer comes on for Marvel Studio's upcoming Black Panther movie. It starts off with an interrogation scene with two white guys discussing the fictional nation of Wukanda, and I'm thinking I'm in there store for a typical run of the mill movie trailer, but once it got past the introduction and got to the meat of the sandwich, consider my wig totally flipped!!  This was hands down, the most impressive trailer for a superhero movie I have ever seen. And I've watched alot of superhero movies and trailers. I totally hope that the overall mood of the final cut of the film was captured in that trailer. The colors, the action, the acting, the atmosphere, the conflict, and overall feel of this movie teaser had me screaming at the TV "Shut up and take my money, Marvel!!" And this wasn't just because I'm some comic book nerd/man-boy. What I potentially see with this film, or what I think I'm seeing with this film, I just have never seen done before: a superhero movie with a  black  hero,  black  supporting cast, set in a  black  country, but designed for a  mainstream  audience.  Sure, we've seen movies with black superheroes before ( Spawn, Blade  and  Hancock  come to mind), but with those films, the heroes still existed and operated in a majority white world, and in most cases had a white love interest playing opposite to the main character. I don't know what will be laid out in the Black Panther movie, but in the comics he marries Storm. We've also seen black superheroes in superhero movies, but they've often been relegated to sidekicks and background characters (See: Falcon in  Captain America , Bishop in  X-Men Days of Future Past , or the ill-fated Darwin in  X-Men: First Class ) who bite the dust early or are an afterthought. We've also seen movies with black protagonists and black supporting casts, but these films could be classified as blaxpoitation films in their earliest stages in the 60s and 70s and even though modern films with those descriptors have shed the "blaxpoitation" label, it is pretty clear that they were made with the intent of only (or at least a majority) black people seeing these movies (See:  Meteor Man, Black Superman, Shaft, Dolemite ). They also fell victim to being creatively and artistically lazy and falling back on stereotypical characters of what white mainstream audiences assumed black people acted like and talked like.  With this  Black Panther  movie, what I assume I'm seeing is a movie with a strong, super intelligent, super rich, black protagonist operating in a black setting in the world, interacting with other strong, black characters both good and bad. I also assume I'm seeing black African culture being embraced and featured in a positive and progressive light as opposed to the usual image of a bunch of poor, culturally bankrupt savages who need a white savior or saviors to elevate them out of the stone age. This is what I think I'm seeing. For all I know T'Challa's love interest in the movie may be a Kardashian or a Jenner and the studio is doing their best to keep that mess a secret until the movie drops, but if what I see in this teaser is any indication of how awesome the film will be (or the soundtrack, I peeped that Run The Jewels playing in the commercial), then my expectations are super high. Look out Meteor Man, black America may have a new official superhero sitting on your throne soon!

So the other day I'm watching game 4 of the NBA Finals (hoping Golden State finally puts Cleveland out of their misery) and a teaser trailer comes on for Marvel Studio's upcoming Black Panther movie. It starts off with an interrogation scene with two white guys discussing the fictional nation of Wukanda, and I'm thinking I'm in there store for a typical run of the mill movie trailer, but once it got past the introduction and got to the meat of the sandwich, consider my wig totally flipped!!

This was hands down, the most impressive trailer for a superhero movie I have ever seen. And I've watched alot of superhero movies and trailers. I totally hope that the overall mood of the final cut of the film was captured in that trailer. The colors, the action, the acting, the atmosphere, the conflict, and overall feel of this movie teaser had me screaming at the TV "Shut up and take my money, Marvel!!" And this wasn't just because I'm some comic book nerd/man-boy. What I potentially see with this film, or what I think I'm seeing with this film, I just have never seen done before: a superhero movie with a black hero, black supporting cast, set in a black country, but designed for a mainstream audience.

Sure, we've seen movies with black superheroes before (Spawn, Blade and Hancock come to mind), but with those films, the heroes still existed and operated in a majority white world, and in most cases had a white love interest playing opposite to the main character. I don't know what will be laid out in the Black Panther movie, but in the comics he marries Storm. We've also seen black superheroes in superhero movies, but they've often been relegated to sidekicks and background characters (See: Falcon in Captain America, Bishop in X-Men Days of Future Past, or the ill-fated Darwin in X-Men: First Class) who bite the dust early or are an afterthought. We've also seen movies with black protagonists and black supporting casts, but these films could be classified as blaxpoitation films in their earliest stages in the 60s and 70s and even though modern films with those descriptors have shed the "blaxpoitation" label, it is pretty clear that they were made with the intent of only (or at least a majority) black people seeing these movies (See: Meteor Man, Black Superman, Shaft, Dolemite). They also fell victim to being creatively and artistically lazy and falling back on stereotypical characters of what white mainstream audiences assumed black people acted like and talked like.

With this Black Panther movie, what I assume I'm seeing is a movie with a strong, super intelligent, super rich, black protagonist operating in a black setting in the world, interacting with other strong, black characters both good and bad. I also assume I'm seeing black African culture being embraced and featured in a positive and progressive light as opposed to the usual image of a bunch of poor, culturally bankrupt savages who need a white savior or saviors to elevate them out of the stone age. This is what I think I'm seeing. For all I know T'Challa's love interest in the movie may be a Kardashian or a Jenner and the studio is doing their best to keep that mess a secret until the movie drops, but if what I see in this teaser is any indication of how awesome the film will be (or the soundtrack, I peeped that Run The Jewels playing in the commercial), then my expectations are super high. Look out Meteor Man, black America may have a new official superhero sitting on your throne soon!