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To Codeswitch or not to Codeswitch – That is the Question

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Whenever I hear critiques (from Black people specifically) of celebrities like Leslie Jones, Tiffany Haddish, or Cardi B, my anti-black senses start to vibrate. Some of the critiques of them are fair; however, there is one type of critique in particular that bothers my spirit. It is those critiques that start with the word ‘too’ – too loud, too ghetto, too hood, curses too much or dances too often – that feel like a dog whistle.

We can all agree that all three women share one major attribute – they are their authentic selves all the time, regardless of the audience. We love authenticity, right? So, why are we (not all, but some of us) so uncomfortable with their particular brand of authenticity?

Here is what I think: Most Black people, before we knew what it was called, learned to speak two languages. We learned to speak the relaxed, Black vernacular of our neighborhoods – Ebonics, if you will, or African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), if you prefer – that signals our inclusion within Black culture and acts as a marker of our Blackness. Then, there is our job-interview-school-apple-care-fine-dining language – the language we use when White people are present. We raise our tone, slow our speech, smile, clip the ends of our words, make sure our verbs and subjects align, you know, we speak ‘Proper’ or ‘Standard’ English.

W.E.B. Dubois calls this double consciousness or the notion that as a Black person, your identity is always split; you become a chameleon, shifting and changing to fit the circumstances. You may also have heard this referred to as codeswitching, or the practice of changing one’s language and language pattern to fit the conversation/audience. The act of codeswitching is not necessarily a bad thing; the reason for codeswitching is.  

The act of codeswitching is not necessarily a bad thing; the reason for codeswitching is. Click To Tweet

We have accepted for so long that everything about Blackness, including the way we speak among each other, is inferior. And that’s not our fault, it’s the message we received from our parents and grandparents (who bless their hearts, didn’t know any better, they thought respectability would save us from a lynching). We receive it from media, we receive it from our teachers, from our community, and from our leaders. Anti-blackness isn’t just a standpoint, it’s a way of life.

Think of all the times that some non-Black person takes on a Black persona, almost always they take on a Black-cent, or a mockingly over-emphasized Black vernacular – linguistic minstrelsy at its finest. Think Iggy Azalea, think Steve Martin in Queen Latifah’s movie Bringing Down the House, think Miley Cyrus’ foray into Blackness.

Now back to Leslie, Tiffany, and Belcalis. When Leslie Jones was performing on Comicview and in predominantly Black spaces, we loved her, but when she transitioned to Saturday Night Live and was introduced to broader White audiences, something shifted. When Tiffany Haddish made guest appearances on Real House Husbands of Hollywood, she was our favorite hood star, but now that Tiffany Haddish is starting to grace the couches of Jimmy Fallon and Ellen, something shifted. When Belcalis was a stripper making funny videos on IG, we loved her, but now that she is THE Cardi B, on national commercials as the voice of Alexa, something has shifted. Our support feels apprehensive.

And we all know that feeling, don’t we? That feeling when you are in racially mixed company and your one filter-less friend proceeds to be her or his full filter-less self and then you sort of secretly shrink, you feel a little, embarrassed, maybe? (And if you don’t know that feeling, you might be the filter-less friend.) Or, maybe it’s just me. I mean, all those pesky stereotypes are still floating around, shaming us and shit.

Anyway, I think its brave for these women to be unapologetically who they are all the time. I would really like for Black people en masse to just let them live and stop worrying about the stereotypes. We should protect them at all costs.

Do you codeswitch? Why or why not?

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Black Panther Does it For The Culture

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Not only is Black Panther poised to have the highest opening weekend of all time for a Marvel movie, it’s teaching as it entertains!

I love a movie with a message and Black Panther has plenty. This film does a wonderful job of discussing some complex political issues while being sensitive to how nuanced topics are. Womanism, the importance of youth in STEM, the relationship dynamics between Black men and women, transgenerational trauma from the carnage of the African diaspora, community accountability, and even a crash course on how to be a White ally permeated the film. Ryan Coogler and his production team did *that*! The importance of a film in an era like this is not just limited to the impact it has among adults.

Children, for the first time, have a mainstream movie where the main and ensemble cast are predominantly Black. The only White actors of the film serve as plot devices to further the complex emotional development of the main characters. Wakanda is a visual representation of the respectful amalgamation of African culture and the results were inspiring. Nakia, Shuri, Okoye, and the rest of the Dora Milaje are now idolized by a generation that is being raised to know their worth and walk in the pride of their heritage. Wakanda is a heartwarming view of Africa that could have been. Or is it? The dream of a prosperous homeland may be closer than you think.

 

Diverse landscape of Abuja, Capital of Nigeria

Abuja, Capital of Nigeria Wikimedia Commons

Africa is home to three of the 5 fastest growing economies in the world — Ethiopia, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast). The economies of Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa are the top three in the continent. While each nation has their own issues, its important for us now more than ever to change the narrative that paints Africa as a struggling nation. Wakanda is beautiful because Africa is beautiful and we mustn’t forget that.

Now we can be our own media, so get used to seeing Africa wholistically, we will show you the whole of the African story, not just the problems, but also the solutions and the beauty of the motherland… @ghanapeople Why Ghana? If you are looking for a cultural adventure in Africa or a safe English-speaking country in West Africa, it is difficult to argue for a different destination than Ghana. While we do not have a central wonder like the Pyramids in Egypt, or the density of wildlife as in eastern Africa, we do have many varied regions and cultures. This gives you the ability to have many different experiences within only one country – saving you on flights and visa applications. There are many reasons to visit Ghana! Friendly People Ghana is certainly the most welcoming country in the region, and according to Forbes magazine, was ranked the 11th friendliest country on earth. There is no other country in Africa that is so welcoming and hospitable. Her people are truly the #1 attraction of Ghana. Natural Scenic Beauty You will not believe what your eyes will see! Beautiful beaches, lakes, rivers, lagoons, waterfalls, highlands, virgin forests, sacred rock formations, and sahelian bush and desert. Safety Ghana is also one of the safest countries in Africa. While crime may be rampant in some other tourism destinations in Africa, it is an uncommon occurrence in Ghana, and visitors rarely have any problems regardless of where they travel. Guns are illegal in Ghana, so gun violence is almost nonexistent. The sense of being Ghanaian first is strong in Ghana, which gives our country a sense of identity unique to many countries in Africa. There are very few instances of inter-tribal or religious conflicts that plague so many of our neighbors. • • 📸: @rajazakhour ✍: @s0nofmercy •

A post shared by @chakabars here for the people (@chakabars) on

Adults and children alike have a new sense of confidence after seeing such a long overdue of the celebration of our culture presented on the big screen. I hope it motivates us to invest in ourselves like never before, to encourage one another, and to be present emotionally for each other in the years to come.

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Debate: Is Bruno Mars’ Album for the Culture or Nah?

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BrunoMars.com

Although Bruno Mars’ album, XXIV was released in late 2016, it is still very much a hot topic discussion. Especially since Bruno (whose government name is Peter Gene Hernandez) swept the Grammy Awards, beating out other record breakers such as Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. There is an ongoing debate about if it’s for the culture or not. Was it appropriation, appreciation or was Bruno just being himself?

Over the past few weeks, I have spent my time listening to XXIV very slowly. I eased into it like a tub of hot water. I soaked in it, steeped myself into it just to immerse my brain and body into it fully. Yes, I’m a part-time poet, too.

The album only has 9 tracks and is a little over 30 minutes long. So it doesn’t take long to get through the entire album without skipping a song. I love the album! Every track is unique and the influences behind them are quite obvious. People argue that black male singers have been doing this for years and they have not been rewarded in the same way that Bruno has. I agree, but is that technically his fault?

Can you imagine Trey Songz, August Alsina, Tory Lanez, or Bryson Tiller doing a song like 24K Magic, Perm, Chunky, or Finesse? Click To Tweet

Yes, Bruno does not look like the typical male R&B singer, so that does have a lot to do with his success. One could also argue that most mainstream R&B sounds like singing hip-hop. As Quincy Jones said, the artists of today don’t study the past. In addition to this, I think the style of XXIV is something only Bruno could have pulled off successfully. Imagine Trey Songz, August Alsina, Tory Lanez, or Bryson Tiller doing a song like 24K Magic, Perm, Chunky, or Finesse. Their fanbase probably would have said that it was super corny and lame. I feel like there’s a discussion about masculinity here, but that’s definitely not my realm of expertise, so I’ll be quiet. To be honest, when 24K Magic came out, I thought it was extremely lame/dated, but it grew on me.

For those of you who follow L&HH Miami, on the latest episode there was a situation in regards to colorism and appropriation. (Check out Justin’s Review HERE.) Veronica Vega is a Latina who is rather fair skinned and believes that she has the right to use the “N” word. She grew up around a lot of blacks and latinxs, who have always said the word without a problem. She believes that when she is out and about in the world, people don’t care that she has a light complexion. They will still look at her the same way they would look at a darker skinned person and judge/stereotype her accordingly. Bruno Mars isn’t light skinned and physically he looks very much Hispanic/Filipino. Can he successfully benefit from privilege due to his appearance alone? I would argue no.

Lastly, but not least, over the past few years celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have co-opted black culture. Once they got tired of twerking and “having a thang for black women”, they “cleaned up” their image and turned back into the innocent boy/girl next door. After the hype and success of this album dies down, can Bruno transform into the boy next door?

We all understand the fact of the matter that Bruno is not black and I don’t think he identifies as black. He made a really good album and the target audience was black. The proof is in the pudding: In “Chunky”, he says he’s looking for the girls with the big ol’ hoops. In “Perm” he says “Put some perm on your attitude, girl you gotta relax”, “Finesse” was in the style of Teddy Riley/Babyface & New Jack Swing, and “Too Good to Say Goodbye” was obviously a nod to the Jackson 5. All of those are things mostly black people would understand and appreciate. In my opinion, I think it was an appreciation for the past. And to boot, every song on the album was written and produced by men of color. Mars also publicly thanked Babyface (who sings background vocals on the album) as well Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

What are your thoughts? Was it appreciation or appropriation?

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Do Instagram Models Have a Place in Hip-Hop?

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From left to right: Dreamdoll, India Love, Danielle Bregoli

 

India love just dropped a video for her single “Loco” and it was not met with good reviews. She was a trending topic for the better half of the day and there wasn’t a positive tweet in sight.

 

 

 

With the rise of Instagram models becoming rappers is this the direction rap is going? Rap is being seen as another hustle to get put on instead of something that’s respected and held to a high standard. I’m all for anyone who wants to be a rapper and follow their dreams, but it doesn’t seem authentic. We have people coming in with Dr. Seuss rhymes and claiming to be budding rappers now.

Dreamdoll is another example of this trend. The former bad girl is now a rapper and cast member on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop. Her latest single “We All Love Dream” currently has 8k likes and 12k dislikes on Youtube. Most of the comments under the video are saying the song is trash and making fun of the way she says “horny.” When watching Dreamdoll on Love & Hip Hop she seems more concerned with fighting and fake relationships than her music. We never hear her talk about her music unless she’s throwing her success in her label mate, Mariahlynn’s face. Whereas, with Cardi B she mostly talked about her music and how she wants people to take her seriously.

Cardi B is the most successful Instagram personality-turned-rapper out today. She continues to have hits on the Top Ten Billboard charts. Cardi B is successful because she’s all about her music. On Love & Hip Hop we’ve seen her talk about her struggles breaking into the industry. We’ve seen the progress on her Instagram. Her first two mixtapes were very enjoyable and we were happy to see her win because she deserved it. Cardi proved that she has a passion for music and she will do whatever it takes to make it. You don’t have to be the best rapper alive just act like you give a damn about the art.

Instagram is a great platform to promote yourself and your music. You are able to give visuals to your sound and your fanbase can get a sense of who you are. The artist can control their brand and vision all from their phone. Soundcloud is known as the major underground music source but Instagram could be slowly taking it’s placed, at least for women. Let’s face it. Sex sells. For women, unfortunately, looks are a huge part of your success. Creating a core fanbase on Instagram strictly based on how you look and then slowly converting that into showing off your ventures in music is brilliant. Unfortunately, most of the music we hear from these models aren’t that good.

Today it seems like all you have to do is be pretty and suddenly you have a record deal. If you’re a guy, just have colorful dreads and rap about Xanax and lean and you’ll get a bunch of listens on Soundcloud. Now I’m not one of those rap fans where you have to know every rapper from the 90s and rap as good as Biggie and 2pac, but at least have some talent. India Love & Dreamdoll are both very beautiful women, but rapping is not their strong suit. If it’s just for fun then cool, but to make a career off of it is not preferred.

There are many talented women that can be put on instead. With upcoming rappers like Megan Thee Stallion, Saweetie, Renni Rucci, etc. there’s a plethora of skilled MCs that should pop right now. These women have the whole package yet aren’t getting the same attention as India Love and Dreamdoll. Hell, even the Cash Me Outside girl is a rapper now and honestly isn’t even that bad. With all of these women coming up, I feel like rap music is going to be in good hands. We just have to weed out the insufferable.

 

Thoughts?

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