SZA’s In Ctrl

So, apparently, bougie Black chicks love SZA.  Well, so do big bosses because that album is fire.  SZA set the internet ablaze with her new album Ctrl, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart.

I had a startling moment with Ctrl while I was getting dressed in my room one day.  I was entranced by her record “Broken Clocks,” I was playing it on repeat, when I noticed it was 12:34 p.m.   I looked up 1234 in numerology and it said that means change is coming, which is ironic because I had been struggling getting over my ex.  I know.  Sad.  But, this omen gave me hope.  So, if not for anything else, thanks SZA.

Otherwise, throughout the album, her raspy and smooth melodic voice is enchanting.  There’s an edginess and a mysterious, sultry tone and a realness to it as if she were a siren beckoning one to either tremendous pleasure or eternal damnation.  Musically, on Ctrl, I’ll go with the former.

This album is intensely personal and, on the first track, “Supermodel,” SZA brings you right into her insecurities right off the gate.  She lamented her ex-boyfriend “left her lonely for prettier women” and took a trip to Vegas without her on Valentine’s Day.  So, she “banged his homeboy” out of spite.  For shame.  I thought you were a good girl SZA.

On “The Weekend” she romanticizes being the side chick.  And, she expresses her urge to revel in love which she finally found on “Love Galore” opposite the rapping of Travis Scott.

Overall the album paints a concise picture of overcoming insecurities to the triumph of self-esteem.  And demonstrates the power of being vulnerable as a woman.

G.O.A.T.

With his thirteenth studio album, once again, Jay-Z changed the game.  As he did with his previous LP, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Hov set new rules.

4:44 is what grown man hip-hop sounds like.  To hell with ignorance and debauchery.  Jay-Z had an intimate conversation with his listeners.

The most amazing accomplishment of the album was on “The Story of O.J.” which is a critique of the hip-hop community’s fiscal responsibility and an instruction manual for accumulating wealth.  My highlight of the record is “You know what’s more important than throwing money away in the strip club?  Credit.”

This preaching is necessary for our hip-hop community which currently tends to value the appearance of having money over actually having money, which is backwards and ludicrous.  My father is a banker and taught me the value of money at an early age.  Yet, I still couldn’t resist the urge to pop bottles in the club during my youth due to the hip-hop narrative.  Somehow, blowing money equates to balling instead of saving it.  It doesn’t make sense.  I’ve been saying this for years and I’m ecstactic that our rap god, almighty Hov, proclaimed it from his mountain top.

Maybe now Blacks in the hip-hop community will think twice about blowing money and more about making their money grow, which will ultimately increase our stake in the marketplace and the power schematics.  That conversation and that narrative switch was so necessary.  And, it had long been overdue.

Aside from Jay-Z’s references to money and wealth, the most glaring content of the album is undoubtedly him admitting to cheating on Beyoncé on the title track “4:44.”  I don’t have much to say about it except that no matter how rich and powerful he is, as we’ve seen time and time again, a man is still a man.

Jay-Z is a mogul, but in his heart he is still a true artist, which is what made him successful in the first place and part of what sustains him.  My guess is, as an artist, he couldn’t resist the urge to bare his soul on the record.  For every true artist their work is their therapy.  It was probably cathartic for him confess his infidelity.  I’m not judging him for cheating or Beyoncé for staying with him.  Those issues are solely between them as a couple.

In terms of the production on the album, No I.D. totally hit the nail on the head.  His jazzy samples were so pleasing to the ear that they made Jay-Z’s baritone voice flow smoothly on the beat in a remarkably unified fashion.  I delighted in Jay-Z’s decision to forego singles in favor of a purely soulful concise presentation like a soundtrack to the educated and successful Black man’s life.  Jay-Z’s choice to use the legendary No I.D. as the only producer for the album proved to be an excellent decision.

A highlight of 4:44 was Jay-Z’s song “Bam,” which sampled the reggae classic, “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy.  “Bam Bam” is one of the most sampled reggae songs of all time in hip-hop.  Released in 1982, a timeless record, “Bam Bam” still gets played in hip-hop and reggae clubs to this day.  No I.D. and Jay-Z’s use of the sample is my favorite utilization of “Bam Bam” by a hip-hop record thus far.  And, that’s quite a feat because there’s at least 29 other songs that sampled it.  On the track, the looping of the horns jumps out of the speakers with high energy.  It’s as if you can feel the “bam” from creation that Sister Nancy spoke of in her original record.  Jay-Z’s braggadocios baritone let it be known that his and his team’s ambition would not be denied, as it came from within as well as without.

With this album, Jay-Z earned my selection as G.O.A.T., Greatest Rapper Of All Time.  Really, the title should have already been his.  How is it fair to compare his actual body of work to Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.’s hypothetical albums had they been alive?  They’re not.  And the fact is Jay-Z has done it time and time again.  And, this is, yet again, another number one album.

Jay-Z’s ability to set trends and change the narrative and the conversation is unparalleled.  That’s power.  Guys out here quote Jigga lines like the Bible.  Forget hip-hop, who else do you know in any arena with that type of influence?  Not many.  Aside from all the categories of lyrics, flow, delivery, wordplay, hooks, content, beat selection and authenticity in all of which Jay-Z is ranked near the top, if not at the top, it’s that je ne sais quoi that something you can’t describe that makes Jay-Z the G.O.A.T.  Like Jay-Z said a while back, “It’s just different.”

And, with 4:44, Jay-Z completely switched up his content to something more positive and beneficial to the Black community, as opposed to usual trap drug dealing, shoot ’em up, banged your girl records.  It had a jazzy and mature feel.  Yet, it still appealed to the mainstream, which so desperately needed a popular voice in hip-hop saying the right things.  Content-wise mainstream rap music had become so lopsided in terms of negativity.  Jay-Z’s album 4:44 was food for the soul.

With this album, we saw the evolution of Jay-Z from the smooth hustler getting re-upped on his first album in 1996 called Reasonable Doubt to the grown man talking about his legacy with his children in beyond.  It is Jay-Z’s longevity, versatility and growth that has made him the G.O.A.T.  You can argue whether or not he is a better rapper than the Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac.  What you can’t debate is that he outlived them to make better music.

How Did this A**hole Win the Freaking Presidency?

President Trump seems to be following the tyrant’s playbook to a T.  I always thought it was interesting how people voted for him against their own self interests.  It’s mind boggling.  But, after reading up on it a lot and having many conversations about it, I think I understand why.  And the reasons might surprise you.

The reasons are multifaceted and multidimensional.  It comes down to his base, which constitutes a huge portion of the population of America.  And, his base exists far away from Hollywood, New York, Washington and big cities like them, which are highly represented in the media, who told us Hilary was going to win and Trump didn’t have a shot.

Outside of the big cities, in the rural areas in America’s heartland, people were suffering. People were losing jobs in their factories due to outsourcing and other factors. People were living in poverty and losing hope due to the recession.

Then, along came then Presidential candidate Trump, who gave them hope. He promised them he would get their jobs back and improve the economy. He capitalized on their racism and made them feel like they would regain their position of White supremacy. “Make America Great Again” was his slogan, which really meant restore White power. Trump’s supporters were angry and frustrated with their position in America’s apparent hierarchy and representation in the media. Trump gave a figurative middle finger to Washington and all its stuck up politicians.  His base was tired of the status quo and its bullshit and with his off the cuff simple remarks, Trump seemed like a breath of fresh air.

All of that would seem great to a Trump supporter except for a few things, the most glaring one being TRUMP IS A LIAR.  He didn’t plan on doing anything he promised, except maybe restoring White supremacy.  There will be no jobs.  There will be no wall between the USA and Mexico.  In fact, he is currently trying to take away healthcare that a lot of his supporters need.  He’s going to take away some of their social services too and give tax breaks to the rich.  He doesn’t even care about the very people who got him into the highest office in the World.  He didn’t outline any of these policies on his campaign.  In fact he didn’t outline any policies at all.  Yet, he still won.

The majority of Trump’s voters didn’t use logic in their decision making process for voting for him.  They responded to him on a visceral level.  And, that is a sad commentary on a lot of America’s citizens.  And, even worse, a sobering reminder of humanity’s level of ignorance.

Land of the Free?

My Aunt Loretta posted on her Facebook Robert Reich’s “15 Warning Signs of Impending Tyranny.”  Here they are:

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1. Exaggerate their mandate to govern – claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2. Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3. Call anyone who opposes them “enemies.”

4. Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them “deceitful” and “scum.”

5. Hold few if any press conferences, preferring to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements.

6. Tell the public big lies, causing them to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.

7. Blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and even violence against them.

8. Attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within,” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.

9. Threaten mass deportations, registries of religious minorities, and the banning of refugees.

10. Seek to eliminate or reduce the influence of competing centers of power, such as labor unions and opposition parties.

11. Appoint family members to high positions of authority

12. Surround themselves with their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public.

13. Put generals into top civilian posts

14. Make personal alliances with foreign dictators.

15. Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

Consider yourself warned.

 

President Trump is sticking to the tyrant’s script.  I like freedom and democracy.  We need to get this guy out of office before we become the UST– United States of Trump.

No Justice, No Peace

I’m sickened, saddened and angered by the jury returning a not guilty verdict for officer Jeronimo Yanez in the MURDER of Philando Castile in Minnesota.

The system of racism in the USA that began when Africans were shackled as slaves across the Atlantic and were counted as 3/5 of a person in the Constitution devalues African Americans. I believe there is no greater sin than denying someone’s humanity and the actions and words that result from that denial. We’ve seen its consequences.

Look at the history of this country. There’s been so much pain and suffering, especially for minorities in this country. The madness must stop. It’s time for America to live up to its credo: “All men are created equal.”

God said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This case and COUNTLESS others prove we have fallen far short of that mark. I don’t care what your race is. Imagine if Philando Castile was your brother, son, boyfriend or husband. Better yet, imagine if he was YOU. The sad fact is it could have been me as a young Black male, especially because HE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG.

Once again, we African Americans are left feeling the pain and deep sorrow of injustice. I pray that anyone who approves of cops killing unarmed Black men gets the karma they deserve.

The Black community is beyond sick and tired of being treated like our lives do not matter.  From Rodney King to Amadou Diallo to Oscar Grant to Mike Brown to now Philando Castile and, tragically, far too many more, we Blacks are forced to come to grips with the fact that we are considered inferior by the very government which claims to rule the land of equality.

But, this country is not equal.  These cases prove that.  If those men killed were White, those juries would have came back with different verdicts.  Truthfully, if those men were White, they probably wouldn’t have even been shot.  In many cases it was the juries which let those cops off, which shows racism is still very strong within the American public, not just the legal system.  Racism in America is strong enough that it doesn’t even value the most precious thing in the world, a human life, just because it belongs to a Black man.