Charlamagne Tha God vs. Kanye West

Charlamagne Tha God had some words to say about Kanye West‘s latest performance on SNL, and the messages that seemed to reverberate throughout West’s new album, Yeezus.

[Charlamagne: Kanye’s A Walking Contradiction Now]

Charlamagne says, “I just think it’s b******t when you get on Saturday Night Live and you have a sign behind you that says ‘Not For Sale’… You can’t denounce corporations when you’re in business with corporations! You’re in business with Nike, and you’re helping them sell sneakers. You’re in business with Def Jam… What exactly isn’t for sale Kanye?”

I normally disregard what Charlamagne has to say about… well, anything, but this is an interesting argument (that I disagree with) because it’s way more complicated than Charlamagne is making it out to be.

Yes, Kanye sells sneakers and records and he’s in the media even more now that he and his girlfriend Kim Kardashian has had a baby girl. But who is to say that Kanye cannot criticize the culture we live in without actively being a part of it? Charlamagne’s argument reminds me of people who are trapped in their circumstance… like people who buy from Walmart, knowing the evils that Walmart perpetuates, but cannot shop at alternative places because of cost, gas, lack of transportation or what have you. The system of capitalism (which I won’t get into right now in detail) is so intricate, that you cannot really partake in something that isn’t at least slightly problematic.

Kanye West

Kanye West

Of course, Kanye could refuse to sell sneakers and not make records and be a starving artist like he originally intended, but let’s be clear here- Kanye West, the brand, and Kanye Omari West, the person, are two completely different things. And the brand, not the person, is what is for sale.

I had the privilege of reading a fantastic article on FlavorWire by Tom Hawking about how Kanye West’s persona can be read as a caricature of what is expected of him as an infamous, rich, Black rapper. I happen to agree with the author: One could easily surmise from listening to Kanye’s lyrics in each of his albums that he has opinions on culture, religion, politics, racism, self-discovery and self-love. Examples include:

“So here go my single, dog, radio needs this / They think they can rap about anything except for Jesus / that means sex, guns, lies, videotapes / but if I rap about God, my record won’t get played, huh?” – Jesus Walks, The College Dropout

“They want her to live, and she’s trying / I’m arguing what kind of doctor can we fly in? / you know the best medicine goes to people that’s paid / if Magic Johnson had a cure for AIDS / and all the broke mother*****s passed away / you’re telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / right now she would be okay?” – Roses, Late Registration

“The system’s broken / the school’s closed, the prison’s open / we ain’t got nothing to lose / mother****** we rollin.” – Power, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

A huge flaw in Charlamagne’s thinking is that he doesn’t think Kanye can be critical and yet enjoy materialistic things. Kanye himself says he doesn’t come from the projects, but he didn’t always have money the way he does now. What exactly is the problem with enjoying the money you’ve earned yourself? Or enjoying a career that you’ve worked hard and consistently for, while also criticizing the industry and the things other people will do for said money? How come any musician that raps about women, money, nice cars and materialistic things have “sold out” cannot also rap about politics, racism or self?

Not all rap music is going to be about coming from the projects and selling drugs, just the way not all rap music is not going to be about platinum chains and product endorsements. The problem comes in when you automatically categorize certain topics under “good music” and “bad music.” There is a pretentiousness in “conscious” hip-hop that argues that “gangsta” rap or rapping about partaking in materialism has “killed” hip-hop and every rapper is apparently supposed to be like Common or Talib Kweli. Not every rapper wants to stick to that formula, and people say they’ve “sold out”. People become very invested in person’s character, not realizing that people change and grow. Producer of Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” Kanye West is not the same as “808s and Heartbreak” Kanye West, who is not the same as “Yeezus” Kanye West. Rapping about the same thing all the time would eventually get boring, and I personally would argue one of the best things about Kanye West is his adaptability. Kanye’s albums all sound different, yet you can tell each one is Kanye West. His style and influence is undeniable.

Let me stop while I’m ahead… What are your thoughts on Charlamagne’s comments?

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On A$AP Rocky, Lipstick Shades, and Colorism in Hip-Hop

But for real, for me, I feel like with the red lipstick thing it all depends on the pair of complexion. I’m just being for real. You have to be fair skinned to get away with that… what do dark skin girls have that you know fair skinned girls cant do… Purple lipstick? Naw, that looks stupid on all girls!

A$AP Rocky, for the Coveteur

A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky

Yes, I know this is just someone’s opinion, and it probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not depending on A$AP Rocky for fashion advice.

I think it has more to do with the fact that I know from personal experience that dark-skinned Black women are constantly told that things don’t look good on them, that they are ugly, or that they are not as desired as much as light-skinned or White women. And rap & hip-hop is a reflection of society, so of course this is reflected in song lyrics and interviews. Here are some examples:

“That’s why I like chilling with women who like women
Light-skinned Asians, Jamaicans, and white women
Indians, Italians, Haitians and Puerto Ricans,
They be itchin’ for they chance and waiting on me to freak ’em.”

– T.I., “Let’s Get Away”

“Chocolate is her skin-tone,
Make a n***a say, “f**k a red bone!”

-Lil’ Kee feat. Javon Black, “My Baby”

“Used to be black girls was the baddest s**t, you know what I mean? Spanish, J-Lo be poppin’ … white women are poppin’ right now, man. They f*****g poppin’. Imma just be real.”

-Wacka Flocka Flame, in an interview with SOHH.com.

There is plenty more where that came from. Check out this documentary (I haven’t watched it yet, but will hopefully this weekend), Complexion Obsession, about the abundance of light-skinned women in rap videos and as the objects of desire in rap lyrics.

Now, A$AP didn’t straight up say he preferred light-skinned women, so I’m not pinning that on him. But telling dark-skinned women that they can’t get away with something that light-skinned women can’t get away with? Assuming that dark-skinned women care what A$AP Rocky or any other man think about their lipstick? Assuming that dark-skinned women (or any women at all, really) make all of their fashion decisions based on men? I’m not here for that. And I definitely believe there is a connection between A$AP’s advice and hip-hop’s preference for light-skinned women.

And I’m not the only one! Click here, here, and here to see Azealia Banks’ feelings on the matter. By the way, Banks released a signature lipstick with M.A.C. last September called ‘Yung Rapunxel.” She’s infamous for purple lipstick in particular.

Lol @ asap rockys lipstick advice.

Lol @ asap rockys lipstick advice.

That comment was so hurtful. Like hurtful beyond measure.

That comment was so hurtful. Like hurtful beyond measure.

Also, he’s just straight up wrong. When it comes to red lipstick, you just have to find the right shade. Check out this blog post on how to pick the right lipstick shade.

Colorism is complicated though. How much of this obsession with light-skinned Women is rooted in self-hatred?

There will be more on the colorism in hip-hop later on the blog, so stay tuned!

You Should Know About: Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks

Photo Courtesy of ListenNewMusics.com.

WHO: There’s a new female rapper/singer in the game and she’s spitting her way into the hearts of today’s hip-hop fiends. Azealia Banks, a newbie from Harlem, is the new up-and-comer in the music industry. With the exception of her Youtube tracks “Seventeen” and “Gimme A Chance” under the moniker Miss Bank$, she dropped her first official single, “212” last year featuring a beat from Lazy Jay. After that came “Liquorice,” a catchy tune with a spanking-fresh music video where Banks boasts about attracting White boys despite having dark skin. Banks sings on the hook:” Can I catch your eye sir / Can I be what you like? Yeah… / I can be the right girl / Tell me if you like your / lady in my, my color / can I be your type? Yeah…”

Banks’ debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, is due in September on Interscope/Polydor Records. Although many people refer to her as a rapper, she prefers the term “lyricist.” She wrote on her blog:

“I never was…. and as soon as I started paying attention to b******t urban media, I started getting myself in trouble. From now on I’m a vocalist, and will not be associating myself with the “rap game”… or whatever the f**k that means…”

WHY: The quote above may be referring to her highly-publicized confrontations with White female rapper Iggy Azalea. XXL reports that in April, Banks tweeted, “How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’? Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.”

Unfortunately for Banks, race is always going to play a part in her career. A Google search of Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea will bring up plenty of interviews with Iggy about her beef with Banks, and her word is backed up even more by her rap mentor T.I., who signed her to Grand Hustle Records in early March of this year. But Banks doesn’t shy away from the controversy. Racialicious’ write up of Azealia Banks as the Crush of the Week points out, “Sexual braggadicio? Check? And hold on…did she just check Diplo and his I’m-not-an-cultural-appropriator-because-I-date-the-women-of-color-I-take-credit-for a** (and any other white person who thinks they get a Racism Pass because they sex it up with folks outside their race)? Totes check.”

WHEN: Banks’ album is due in September, but if you can’t wait that long, stay tuned for her mixtape Fantasea, to be released on July 4, and check out her 1991 EP, released May 29.

WHAT ELSE?:

Azealia Banks – “Slow Hands (Interpol Cover)”

Theophilus London Review

Imagine the pop-ridden love child of Kid Cudi and Prince made an album. That love child is Theophilus London and that album is Timez Are Weird These Days.

Theophilus London Review.

Review of The Cool Kids’ new album

Review of The Cool Kids’ new album.

Kid Sister – Kiss Kiss Kiss Mixtape | College Magazine Blog

By Keir Bristol

Hey, remember Kid Sister? She came out with “Pro Nails” in 2007 and then it was reissued in 2008 because Kanye West put a guest verse on it (his presence is a present…)?

Watch the video for Pro Nails here! – Kid Sister – Pro Nails (Video)

Well, whether you remember her or not, she came out with a great mixtape on January 11, called Kiss Kiss Kiss. It’s mixed by DJ Nick Catchdubs and presented by Fool’s GoldYou can download the mixtape here.

Read more at: Kid Sister – Kiss Kiss Kiss Mixtape | College Magazine Blog.

Lil Wayne – I Am Not A Human Being (Album Review)

By Keir Bristol

On Monday, September 27, Lil Wayne released his latest album, I Am Not A Human Being. I’m currently studying in London, so I forgot for a little while. But I remembered as I was writing my College Magazine column this week, so I decided to write a review as a bonus. There will be more of those in the future. Thank me later.

For the most part, I Am Not A Human Being is a hip-hop album, with the exception of the rock-influenced title track. The first single off of the album is “I’m Single,” which has been playing on the radio since the summer. I’m not a big fan of the rhyming in the song but the beat is solid and smooth. Definitely a slower summer banger. Mr. Carter also recently released his video for “I Am Not A Human Being” (watch it here). It’s one of the more interesting tracks on the album, because again, it’s the only rock influenced track. It sounds like a leftover from the controversial “Rebirth” album and certainly lives up to its name.

Lil Wayne recruited the Young Money crew on the album of course, so expect some hooks from Nicki Minaj (“What’s Wrong With Them”, “YM Anthem”) and raps and choruses from Drake (“With You”, “Right Above It”, “I’m Single”). Note: my favorite song off the album is “With You.” Producer StreetRunner samples a beautiful track by Valerie Simpson and Drake’s vocals on the track sound fantastic.

Also, look out for Jay Sean, the newest signee to Young Money Records on “That Ain’t Me;” does he rival Drake’s hooks? You be the judge. “Popular” featuring Lil Twist gets points off for opening with the infamous signature lines, “She got that good good, she’s Michael Jackson bad, I’m attracted to her, with her attractive ass.” Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the opening to “Every Girl (In The World)” off of the We Are Young Money compilation.

It seems to me that as Lil Wayne becomes more established as the “best rapper alive” (rivaled by Eminem, Jay-Z, and the ever-modest Kanye West) he gets lazier with his raps. His metaphors are what makes him stand out, but can also sometimes be his downfall. Sometimes he takes it too far. Example: “Shawty bad like a three-year-old. Keep playing and I’mma eat her like a pita roll.” Pita roll? That’s the best you’ve got, Weezy?

I know he can do better than what he offers on I Am Not A Human Being. And Wayne is hard-working, so I don’t think this has anything to do with his current jail-sentence. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good album. Just don’t expect it to be in the ranks with Tha Carter trilogy, although it might hold you over until the fourth installment is released. I will be interested to see what he does when he gets out (Free Weezy!)