“SOME DUDE—AN ASPIRING MC, NO LESS—FOLLOWED HIM OUT OF THE MIXTAPE EMPORIUM. HE WAS FROM BALTIMORE. HIS NAME WAS MAD HOT BARS OR SOME SHIT. I REMEMBER NOTICING HIS WHITE AND BLACK POLKA-DOT COAT. IT LOOKED LIKE HE’D JUST TACKLED A FUCKING DALMATIAN. I DOUBTED THE LONG-TERM VIABILITY OF HIS RAP CAREER.”—I miss Chris Ryan’s rap writing so much.
I know you're a big fan of Ty Dolla $ign (at least "Beach House 2"), but I haven't been able to find anything you've written about him. I also love Ty as a songwriter, but the misogyny does bother me a bit sometimes. Can you maybe share a bit about what you like about him?
Amazingly, you sent me this ask as I was midway through writing a long reported piece on Ty Dolla $ign, and couldn’t answer it then cause, you know, still writing. But now that it’s been out: many of my thoughts are in this cover story for the FADER, which is a profile but also delves into the essential conundrum of his person, his persona, and his lyrics. For a long time, right after Beach House 2 dropped, I imagined the women in “Paranoid” colluding with one another, both understanding Ty’s freak-out but also knowing each other, maybe friends nodding across the club at one another like… “yeah, we’re playing you, too.” I think this is something he has considered, but I do think that he is savvy, and that he has distilled his lyrics to the most basic relatable-at-a-party concepts that he can imagine, for reasons I detail in my story. Also, for what it’s worth, I generally don’t think he is singing the words “bitches” and “hoes” with any malicious intent other than he grew up on West Coast gangsta music and that is the slang—obviously they are not respectful terms but I don’t think he means them to be necessarily *dis*respectful—anyway, we talked about respect and women, much of the rest is here.
***OH BUT ADDENDUM, before I wrote this story, I’ve loved Ty for his insane musical talent and also for the puzzling wtfitude of his lyrics, see above
“It just blasted my mind open! You can be free!”—I had the opportunity to interview Janet Mock for Rookie. The above is the pull quote, but she emanated gems: on girlhood, on teenhood, on writing, on reading, on Bey and Clair Huxtable and on Zora Neale Hurston. I say this a lot when I’m inspired by interviews, but I will reiterate it: we are so lucky to be living in this time, in this now, in this moment, when Janet Mock exists. No hyperbole.
justin timberlake aint a good dancer..he counts his steps like raatid mathematician
it isn’t natural to him
and it translates
or whatever he is called
can’t ever nail what he’s trying
because its assimilated
”—Second semester in a row I’m assigning my students this Dean Blunt interview because it is a classic. Amazing subjugation of interviewer/throws banality of interviews into question/reads as poetry. I kinda want to interview Dean Blunt if only because I am slightly scared of interviewing Dean Blunt.
“Wearing gold earrings shaped like marijuana leaves and a necklace with a gun medallion, Laganja looks sort of like a hip-hop version of Uma Thurman playing D.C. Comics’ Poison Ivy. Beautiful, but dangerous. Absolutely no filter. As she finished her tenth cigarette of the day, she promises, “Once weed is legal, I won’t smoke cigarettes any more.” As she downs a mysterious drink the bartender handed her, she guesses at its contents. “Something fruity and sour and strong,” she says. “I let them surprise me.””—HAHA LAGANJA. “”Once weed is legal, I won’t smoke cigarettes any more.” YOU LIVE IN CALIFORNIA!!! Dying.
I am part of this feminist listserv (LISTSERV) slash community called WAM (women, action, and the media) and tomorrow I will be the guest speaker for WAMENTORING, which is, basically: come hang out, drink wine, and I shall attempt to impart knowledge jewels about feminism in the cultural criticism SPHERE. It is $5 because they need to pay for the wine and renting the space but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Come through if you want! I don’t even know what I will be talking about but I will attempt to be funny and hopefully have visuals, but not a powerpoint. INFO IS HERE.
First off, just wanna say I love your writing. I wanted to get hear your thoughts on Queen Bey's Flawless vid. It starts with Bow Down, which is her pretty much her talking shit to her Keri Hilson-esque lessors, but then switches to Flawless, which is on some real female empowerment/unity shit. I felt it was kind of confusing. Maybe I'm looking too much into it, but how do you feel about it?
HI, thank you so much for the compliment! God I get so behind with answering these things. Well, I didn’t really see “Bow Down” as her talking shit to people like Keri Hilson (or any one of her peers or “lessers”), but more as a general statement of bossitude—something that any chica who is feeling herself could relate to, sing along to, and apply to her own life. (I don’t interpret her using the word “bitches” as directed towards any specific person or even women at all—it seemed pretty amorphous to me in this application.) And in the video, it felt very symbolic to me that she included the footage of Girls Tyme losing Star Search to that metal band, just to show that she’s been through it, too. (At NINE.) I didn’t think it was incongruous with the Flawless part—I thought the “Bow Down” sentiment was actually strengthened with the Adichie speech, that Bey was saying she was going to boss up and own her power without shrinking into herself like society teaches girls that we should. I found the whole thing super liberating actually! Sorry this is dumb old, you’ve probably sussed out how you feel by now.
Hey Jawnita (or Julianne, I never know how to address people on the internet), are you open to being a mentor?
HI! ALSO SORRY THIS TOOK A MINUTE TOO. Yes! I mean, I try to mentor people as much as possible, not even really as a “I’M GONNA BE YR MENTOR NOW” steez but it ends up happening by rights of me trying to be helpful when I can and also overthrow the patriarchy. I also teach a class at NYU which I guess is a form of mentoring. I’m all about each one teach one nahmean.
Hi Julianne! I read your piece for Rookie, The Great Wide Open, & I really understand how you described the emotions that you felt when you became a teenager. At the moment, I'm being forced to live in my stupid hometown where I frequently feel unhappy. I'm kind of scared that when I move away, I'll still be unhappy so I just want to ask, when you left your hometown, did you still feel a sense of depression or did your life totally change? Thank u & I hope this doesn't sound rly stupid! Sasha 17
Hi Sasha! Sorry it took a minute to get back to you. OH MY GOSH, so I feel you so hard on this. So for me, it took awhile to get to a TRULY HAPPY point. When I first left Cheyenne I was still depressed, partly because I didn’t immediately go where I wanted to live—I followed my then-boyfriend into the midwest when really I wanted to go to one of the coasts. It took about a year before I was like “forget this” and then I moved where I wanted to—to Portland, Oregon, and then to NYC—where I eventually found MY PEOPLE. (I was also depressed clinically, which eventually was mostly overcome through working with therapists and getting on the right medication.) But generally, when you move anywhere, there is a period of transition you go through that might feel like it’s piling on your initial depression. Things are new, and it might take a little while to make friends, and you might not automatically like where you’ve moved. Even if your hometown now is the WORST, there’s probably still a familiarity about it that can be scary to shed when you move somewhere else, even when you’re moving to your dream city. So don’t feel bad if you move somewhere and don’t IMMEDIATELY feel cured of sadness (and/or boredom, ugh). Moving to a new place can be hard, but once you get through the initial adjustment period, it will definitely get better. (And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too! I have plenty of friends who left their hometown for somewhere they thought they’d be happier—LA, or NY, or the Bay, or even smaller places like Portland or Austin or Denver—and realized they hated it and wanted to go back home. There’s no shame in going back home!) So yes, remember manage your expectations, cause there’s no magical overnight happiness, unfortunately. (Also if you keep feeling depressed and it feels unmanageable, definitely seek out a counselor or therapist or equivalent to talk to, because that can totally be helped.) ALL THAT SAID: I’ve been in NYC for 10 years and I have never been happier! You will totally find your place, too, it just might take a minute! (PS THIS DOES NOT SOUND EVEN THE LEAST BIT STUPID, THIS STUFF IS SO HARD. HOPE THAT HELPED!) xo Julianne
“Seattle’s not-insignificant social justice community (you know, the people concerned with things like appropriation and representation) overlaps tremendously with its personal-friends-of-Macklemore community. And our music community, it turns out, overlaps quite a bit with our clueless-white-insularity community. Everyone is tearfully happy for their friends and angry at the “haters” and defensive about their politics and wounded by guilt-by-association.”—AHAHAHAHA. Lindy West meditating Seattle’s “climate" right now is so real.
Post-going-viral foreword: I’d love to link to blog/longform pieces by trans women about the Grantland article (here, at the top, above my words). I am searching, but plz send links to @handler on Twitter, or email michael/at\grendel/dot\net or contact via Tumblr. Thanks. -mh
Dear Caleb Hannan & the editors of Grantland:
I’m not a habitual reader of Grantland, because I’m not much into the work-a-day issues and discussions of the sports world. I do love long-form journalism about specific people, and culture, and pop culture issues, and the works that I’ve read on Grantland have been satisfying enough that I kept on wondering why I wasn’t making it part of my regular reading rounds. The other week, I stumbled across Chuck Klosterman’s article about Royce White and mental health, and I shared it with my SO, and she shared it with her family, and we had a deep and connecting discussion about it which I am still appreciating.
Despite my lack of regular connection to Grantland, I am compelled to write in to you about Caleb Hannan’s article about Dr. V, which I read today, mostly in openmouthed disgust, and with increasing horror as it built to its conclusion.
There’s no question that the design, origin, and performance of a new golf club of mysterious provenance, from outside the historical establishment of equipment design, is a compelling and interesting story on many levels. There’s no question that the behavior and history of an erratic and inconsistent inventor, whose claimed superlative credentials persistently cannot be verified, is also compelling and relevant to the narrative.
There’s also no question that the way that Dr. V’s existence as a trans woman was researched, outed, and used in the narrative of the story was monstrous, stereotypical, transphobic, hurtful, and wrong.
I’ve been thinking a whole fuckton about heroin recently, mostly because a very close member of my family—someone who is essentially my little sister—is going through it and my heart is fucking broken. But it’s nothing new to me; I’ve had dope addicts in my family and among my friends since I was nine years old and my older cousin had a “seizure” (what I would later figure out was an overdose, which she thankfully survived [and kicked]). I’ve had friends die from the drug since I was 17 years old, ongoing, including this year. I still can’t believe I’ve been seeing this drug devastate people for essentially TWEEEENTY. YEARS. So I feel like I have at least a decent cursory understanding of the struggle that is getting off heroin, a drug that is increasingly prevalent in both cities and small towns (I just did some research into this very fact, first because of my baby sis and broken heart, second because it turned into part of a larger report [not a personal one], TBA). I understand that it is a drug that will devastate you and make you do crazy shit you would never do under non-addicted circumstances and turn you into a shell. The addiction always, always eclipses whatever problems you were trying to cover up in the first place.
So, respect to David Ford for putting it out there like that in his Noisey piece. I found the personal addiction anecdotes, like selling off everything to score, incredibly brave and emotional. My heart wrenched when he wrote about building up his tolerance and wanting to end it. Especially at that part: the detached resignation in his tone was pretty fucking familiar.
But I have to say, I also found the piece to be incredibly problematic. My main question is about his dealers, contacts he made (or peripherally discovered) while working on a documentary. (?) I was left wondering if he at any point told them he was a journalist, or that he was going to write about them, or asked for their permission post-facto. That’s the first major problem to me: that it’s unclear in the story, even whether or not it was made clear to community activist Arnetha Habeel (I’m assuming it was, since she can google herself and has been written about plenty—at any rate, the story would have been more credible if she had been quoted rather than paraphrased).
And if the dealers weren’t told they’d be written about, even despite the name-changes, could there be other identifying details, like the cross-streets where he copped or the reason Little Man wasn’t there to deliver? As Ford points out, this is a life-or-death situation, and all of that affects the way I read it, despite his acknowledgments (more than one) that he is operating from a completely different situation (not just white and in grad school: when *his* Southside Chicago situation became deadly, he didn’t have to decamp to Skokie; his dad drove cross-country to extract him).
I fundamentally agree with the points that Ford was trying to make in this piece—that we should “de-totemize” Chief Keef, still just a kid in a devastating environment; that the cops aren’t helping and god knows neither is the government in a city that’s been corrupt basically since its inception. I also fundamentally believe that music can be, and is, a lens to political and sociocultural issues, whether Keef or Beyoncé or MIA or Brad Paisley. But I think the way it was executed was irresponsible at best, unethical at worst, and while the writing can be great at times, I hope that people do not take this as the way to do court reporting, police reporting, or street reporting. Cultural tourism is never great reporting, and sweeping pronouncements about the negligence of the Chicago PD based on two incidents helps no one, even if they’re (and they probably are) 100% correct. (Even the link to the CPD torture reporting dates back to 2007. While I doubt much has changed since then, the piece could have been boosted with more recent statistics and reporting. Again, not doubting the presence of the hip-hop cops—there’s a good amount of reporting out there proving that they exist from coast to coast—but this kind of reporting needs to be airtight, if you want the credibility of your premise to be unflappable.)
We got a lot of educated white men feeling entitled to tell other peoples’ stories, especially stories afflicting poor people of color, from that dude who got himself arrested to “report on what the prison system is REALLY like” or that story where the white American guy who went to Cuba and ate on the median income/rations that the average Cuban has for a month. (I tried to find it and couldn’t, it’s from a few years back and was, I think, also in the Atlantic.) Or that dude who pretended to be gay for a year and got a book deal. (This topic was, incidentally, discussedonTwitter today by @bad_dominicana, whose TL inspired this paragraph.) It’s stunt journalism to them, it’s life to everyone else, and yet who gets to narrate the stories? Not saying these issues shouldn’t be reported on more, by everyone. But stunt pieces by privileged white folks often get way way way more leverage than the voices of, or pieces by, those who are actually affected.
Anyway, if I was assigning this piece, it would have been a Q&A between Ford (as an addict) and one of his pushers. Or just an as told to with Earvin or Little Man.
Here are two more pieces I found today after googling the Chicago heroin trade (both by white dudes but good reporting and good for context in tandem with Ford’s piece):
When I meet a white person in a casual space there is a good chance the white person will touch my hair. White women touch my hair way more frequently than white men. White men pretty much exclusively touch my hair when they’re drunk. Of the white women who touch my hair, a…
MySpace put up their underrated singles of 2013 today. I contributed but my choices got AXED because they weren’t on proper albums (to which I countered: IT IS 2013!!). The lovely edit staff offered me another chance but I didn’t have time, however. HERE ARE MY ORIGINAL BLURBS.
Para One f. Irfane, Teki Latex & Cam’ron, “Every Little Thing”
In a year when Cam’ron revealed a softer, gentler, more in-love side of himself (via Vine and Instagram, no less), he foreshadowed his romanticism by hopping on a sex-funk track made by three crooning Parisians. There’s no Juju shout-out, but you can hear her influence, and even Irfane and Teki seem mesmerized by the thought of her visage. Cam sings too, obvs: “I usually tell the girl to blow this…but you that deal for real.” THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS AFTER SATURN RETURNS, LADIES; KEEP YA HEADS UP.
"The bitches throw shade cause they just can’t take": Azealia Banks tweeted the chorus earlier this year to one of her many adversaries, but it went over most peoples’ heads. Tigga Calore has been quietly running New York in low-key stealth mode for years, an underground boss who deserves wider acclaim; this MikeQ-and-Brenmar-produced house banger was essentially her sole release this year, but heavy enough to be bumped for ten straight months. Rooted in ballroom culture and spat with the most-unbothered of tones, "Beads" ("Bitches Everywhere Always Desire Shade") precedes a future when the boroughs will be Calore’s undisputed kingdom; bow down while you still can.
Motherfuckers I cut my teeth in the ’90s and I will be the first person to tell you that, other than perhaps Sassy Magazine and certain rap albums/racial consciousness and the women’s march on Washington/certain feminist advances, THAT SHIT FUCKING SUCKED.
all right, i wish i could somehow ask Dap this, but here it goes... isn't he a little embarrassed to be dating a fashionista like yourself? i mean, hipster blahblah whateverwhatever, you can deny it all you want, but it's clear that you fit in with the Noisey/Vice/RookieMag/various 90's-nostalgia-bullshitters crowd, and it just seems a little embarrassing. i mean, do you "blog"? and isn't your twitter a little ridiculous? just seems like a cool guy that kinda exists a little above it. maybe not
Haha. This actually amazing and I suppose in theory I should feel offended because… what kind of asshole asks something like this, like are you seriously asking me to justify my existence/TELL YOU, BRAVE ANONYMOUS, WHAT MY BOYFRIEND OF FOUR YEARS SEES IN ME?! But also it is so completely off base about who I am/what I do/where I come from that I read this aloud to Dap just now and we just laughed. Seriously, just Google me.
Nguzunguzu, comprised of two of the most uncompromising, creative producers out, and proudly repping #laraza, makes the crucial link between “mecha” (robots controlled by humans inside them) and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán). Cyborg feminism is cool, but I’m all about forging Cyborg Xicanisma (en la discoteca). LET’S GET IT.
ok, god damnit. First of all — these ‘stereogum takedowns’ are really stupid. Like, one of these happened to me when Visions first came out. Not only was it terrible…
Hi. I’m Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, the person who wrote “Deconstructing: Grimes,” and the person who Grimes accuses, in this Tumblr post, of “bas[ing] [my] criticism on attacking my refusal to sexualize myself which is so immensely fucked like”
So, as a lifelong feminist/Xicanista, I obviously take accusations of sexism incredibly seriously, and I would NEVER attack anyone for refusing to sexualize herself—that’s something to admire. I reread my piece, which I haven’t done in about a year and a half since it went up. I want to say honestly that was not my intent at all. This is the paragraph in question:
It’s not just that I feel the music is basically thin and charmless — there are sweet spots, as in the melody of single “Genesis,” or the rickety bass hits on “Be a Body” — but because it is also so infantilized. Grimes has a host of recent-vintage contemporaries who approach their music with a similar concept, like Lykke Li and Fever Ray and Bat For Lashes and even fellow blog star Charli XCX, all of whom do similarly conceptualized music but tap into their womanhood and sexuality as a source of power, some might say THE DARK ARTS OF WOMANNESS.
I was actually trying to lambaste the way that writers and bloggers—male writers in particular—were reacting to her, and writing about her as an infantilized person, therefore putting her on the type of pedestal that they were. (As evidenced by that last line, THE DARK ARTS OF WOMANNESS, which should actually read WOMANHOOD [post-facto grammar check]). At the time, Grimes was being written about as infantile, something I tried to lob home later in the piece with this sentence:
Of course, Grimes’ cyborg unicorn stance is an updated ideal on the continuum of the asexuality that a certain strain of indie rock values, up to and including twee.
Which was an indictment of the weird expectations of sexuality and asexuality in indie rock. I was actually trying to indict the criticism, not Grimes, for how she was being perceived and pedestalized in weird ways, which maybe one or two more sentences in the prior paragraph would have clarified, or maybe it got lost in my tepid feelings about the actual music. Either way, it was absolutely not my intent, and I’m very sorry to Grimes and anyone else who read it that way, and especially if it made Grimes feel uncomfortable in any personal and gendered way beyond the standard music-critical conversation. I honestly really admire that Grimes has refused to sacrifice her principles, and while I’m still not the biggest fan of her music, I’m glad that a woman like her is popular. I especially admire the fact that she apologized for wearing a bindi (something that I have written about)—it takes a lot of character to accept and own up to something you’ve done that was culturally insensitive. To that end, again, it was not my intent to lambaste Grimes for refusing to sexualize herself, but to lambaste the weird and ooky and gendered way people were talking about her at the time. Obviously as her popularity has grown it happens much less, but if you’ll recall in those early days of Grimes blogfanaticism, shit was dark.