March 27th, Billboard announced that the viral country-trap hit ‘Old Town Road’ would be removed from it’s Hot Country Songs chart. Citing the reason as not embracing enough elements of today’s country music, fans of Lil Nas X were quick to remind Billboard of their hypocrisy.
“Upon further review, it was determined that ‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboard’s country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While ‘Old Town Road’ incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.”
Tried to Steal Our Bit…
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Lil Nas X rose to stardom from creating the ambitious crossover track ‘Old Town Road.’ Released December 2nd, 2018, the song reached 32 on the Billboard Hot 100, 19 on their Hot Country Songs list, and 13 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. However, Billboard recently had a distressing change of heart. This has resulted in the removal of Lil Nas X’s independent hit being stricken from their Country charts, wholly stifling the rapper-singer’s progress in the genre, which I will remind you is Black.
When Black artists who are limited to “urban” categories attempt to make the crossover to country, the first things to be attacked are the lyrical content and composition of the song. Comparisons like these are always comical because when reduced to just what the song is about, popular country hits are no different than trap.
Country is lyrically identical to Pop and Rap
Lovesick Blues, popularized by Hank Williams, is literally about a woman who was throwing it back to everyone but the singer. But if you let country purists tell it trap is vulgar. Country girl, Shake it for me is lyrically identical to Back Dat Ass Up, but you’ll hear it in every honky-tonk south of the Mason-Dixon line. As several of Lil Nas X’s fans have pointed out, nothing could be more country than a man singing about his love of the open road and a horse.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of their action, the history of Billboard’s decisions regarding Country crossover tracks reveals qwhite the bias. In recent years, the popularity of Country Pop has blurred the lines of the Country genre. As new and old artists continuously borrow elements from Hip-Hop, nee Black culture entirely, to give their tired tracks a boost, many are wondering why their decision to remove non-traditional songs began with ‘Old Town Road’ and not with “Cruise”.
Country Purism is Exclusionary
The Florida Georgia Line hit with Nelly sat at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 24 weeks from 2012-13. Despite it’s critical reception and description as “the death of modern country music”, it remained on Country charts without an asterisk, without a qualifier, and is, in my opinion, a current standard for the genre. Surpassing George Strait with the most cumulative weeks at number one, it is clear that the marriage of Country with Rap, Hip-Hop, or Pop is the blueprint for song production at this point. Right now, the country duo is sitting at the number 3 spot on a song with Bebe Rexha. Despite it’s composition as a song that is clearly pop, ‘Meant To Be’ has been on the Hot Country Songs chart for 69 weeks.
Looking beyond male country artists who copy-paste Black elements into their tracks, there’s Taylor Swift. When Taylor Swift began to incorporate pop elements into her music, she was not moved from Country charts either. In fact, her song “I Knew You Were Trouble” garnered several unsolicited plays and gained her a debut on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. The song does not stand alone in it’s composition as a pop track and was not rejected from Country stations. However, traditional country songs when performed by artists who are limited to Pop or R&B are contained within those respective categories, i.e. Daddy Lessons.
You Can’t Gatekeep Borrowed Content
What is continuing through Billboard’s removal of ‘Old Town Road’ is the whitewashing of country. For more than a century, songs that were written by Black artists have been performed by White artists only to receive critical acclaim as something innovative. The genre has maintained it’s exclusivity by gatekeeping what is and is not Country while simultaneously stealing content and techniques from the very originators of the genre. If Billboard wants to define Country exclusively by song composition, no artist who debuted after 1980 belongs on their current chart.
ICE Raids Set Country on Edge
Donald Trump has recently tweeted ICE’s plans to carry out raids across the country. Aiming for the seizure of 2,000 immigrants who have court orders to be removed, ICE officers will flood 10 cities.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers plan includes the detainment of “immigrants who happened to be on the scene,” whether they are targets of the raid or not. Set to take place Sunday, the massive deportation effort has spurred politicians against the raid to encourage potential targets to educate themselves. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is reminding those at risk that without a judicial warrant, it is illegal for an officer to enter their home. As citizens watch from the sidelines, it is the surest sign that some Americans have forgotten our history.
Recalling the 10 Stages of Genocide, Americans against the forced removal of immigrants recognize we are at stage seven, preparation. For several years, the polarization of Muslims, Hispanic, and Latinx peoples between North Americans has mirrored the slow, but devastating vilification Jews faced in Germany. Mainstream news media outlets flood those susceptible to propaganda with lies regarding the theft of employment opportunities and skew crime rates statistics. Even now, as the mistreatment of detained immigrants is downplayed by government officials, it parallels the increase in violence against subject populations between 1933 and 1941.
“Those six years are a very particular phase of development of the Nazi project where a lot of steps were taken inside Germany to isolate German Jews from the rest of the population, to start measures sterilizing, isolating, and eventually even to start killing, to rearm Germany to prepare for the war of conquest, but also to cover up that rearmament by talking peaceful intentions publicly so that people elsewhere in the world wouldn’t be too alarmed.”Doris Bergen
As explained by Professor Doris Bergen, the attempt of Jewish extermination did not begin with gas chambers. So, Wednesday Trump delayed the action to see if Congress could work out a legislative solution. However, ICE director Ken Cuccinelli says the raids are “absolutely going to happen.” He continued, “There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders. And of course that isn’t what ICE will go after in this, but that’s the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain.”
If you are at risk of detainment, visit https://www.wehaverights.us/ to learn how to handle potential encounters in multiple languages.
Pose Has A Colorism Problem
Critically acclaimed FX series, Pose, drew attention last night to the vicious and dishearteningly overlooked murders of Black trans women and other women of color. While it’s important to highlight the stories, both real and fictional, of trans people that move through society with little protection, fans are calling out the show for missing the opportunity to discuss colorism as well.
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
Watchers of the FX series, Pose, are mourning the loss of the beloved character, Candy Johnson-Ferocity. But for Black viewers, Candy’s departure left them feeling slighted. As one of the only two dark skinned characters on the show, Candy’s experience was harsh. She was depicted as catty, a product of her mistreatment by those around her, and seemed to exist without a storyline. Candy was given every trope they refused to assign to Angel, another trans woman of color. However, Angel possesses lighter skin.
In the past, writers and showrunners have been careful to avoid depicting acts of violence against trans women of color in a predictable fashion. So, the choice to show Angel in a seemingly stable situationship with Stan was well received. But why couldn’t Candy have a moment in the sun? The experiences of trans women are not separated by skin color, making it entirely possible for her to be loved out loud by others and herself. Presenting her as a damaged trans woman who lived dangerously as a sex worker without the knowledge of what threats she faced makes her death incomplete. And to use a dark skin trans woman to convey the message in a world that does not value dark skin lives felt excessive.
Candy left us without definition, shapeless as a character whose story would never take form. Her moments of glory went uncelebrated as she was frequently the butt of the joke, spoken of highly only in her passing. And for many, her death felt like a forced but necessary reminder to protect Black trans women. Yet, as some have pointed out on Twitter, LuLu’s passing would have hit just as hard and the message would still have been received. But here we stand, with only one dark skin character left in a series promising representation for all. Let’s hope Elektra is used for more than tragedy.
How did you feel about the most recent episode of Pose? Will you continue to watch?
Do We Really Need Making The Band 5?
Feeling nostalgic, Wale requested Diddy resumes the MTV series Making the Band. But knowing Diddy’s problematic history regarding artist treatment and alleged lack of compensation, do we really need the show to return?
Harlem native Sean “Diddy” Combs got his start in the music industry in the early 90s as an intern at Uptown Records. Although he was fired from the company, Diddy went on to lay the foundation for Bad Boy Records in 1993. The label built itself on the shoulders of Biggie, securing other notable acts like 112, Mase, Total, and Faith Evans along the way. However, the untimely passing of Notorious B.I.G., following the East-West rap beef, came at an immeasurable cost. Along with losing a close friend, Diddy’s label struggled to maintain relevance. Then, came Making the Band.
Hardly remembered, the first three seasons of the series were not actually about Diddy’s unique requests and consistent studio shutdowns. It initially focused on the time-tested formula of boy bands. Looking to recreate the magical hold the Backstreet Boys or NSYNC had over our teenage years, Lou Pearlman spearheaded the first iteration of the show. Conducting a nationwide talent search, he selected 25 singers before dwindling down to the final five that would later become O-Town. The three-season run focused on the grooming of the boy band, initially signed to Transcontinental Records, their transfer to Clive Davis’ label J Records, and their subsequent split. All rising to and falling from stardom in the span of just three years, the series that birthed a boy band was pressured to continue. But how? In came Diddy.
“Bring Me Some Cheesecake”
Attempting to season the show, Making the Band 2 began airing October 2002 and suffered the same fate as it’s marshmallow version. The series focused on Diddy’s search for talented rappers and singers to form a hip-hop super group. But it all came crashing down in April 2004 by Diddy’s own hand. The first season of the new series centered on the selection process, but season 2 was where the content was. As we then laughed at the hilarious and over the top demands of his new artists, to see a man worth $820 million degrade lower class Black people for amusement now would be sick. Diddy subjected his artists to strange and arbitrary tasks, all to appease himself. As they dredged through the stop-start mud of production, Too Hot For TV, the debut album of Da Band would sell fewer than 1 million copies. Now, Da Band exists only in obscurity and memes, but that wouldn’t stop Diddy from continuing the show.
It would be fair to say Making the Band 3 was influenced by the popularity of Destiny’s Child, given the shift to creating a girl group in 2005. Diddy joined forces with Laurie Ann “Boom Kack” Gibson to form a successful group that would assume the name Danity Kane. However, problems plagued the members and were chronicled in a special titled “The Rise and Fall of Danity Kane”, which aired in 2009. As Diddy was working to form the girl group, his relationship with Cassie, who was also signed to Bad Boy, became public knowledge. He also had other artists whose careers he’d simply abandoned.
Diddy signed a rapper named Aasim in 2004, whose debut through Bad Boy was never released. He’d also picked up Yung Joc, who along with Cassie helped Bad Boy Records chart with top five singles. However, Joc only released two albums with Bad Boy before being relegated to self-released mixtapes for most of his career. In fact, Diddy has lost 47 artists over the 26 years of Bad Boy’s existence. At this moment, out of the nine acts currently signed to Bad Boy, only five of them have no familial relation. Several of the artists once signed to Bad Boy alleged that Diddy crafted contracts that made them glorified work horses, making him millions and leaving them destitute. Although he vehemently denies any wrongdoing, do we really need to risk another instance of Making the Band when Diddy has no recent history of successfully leading an artist to stardom?
At any rate, Diddy and MTV are testing the waters to see if you want your MTB. Do you want Making the Band 5?
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