An essay. Read.
An essay. Read.
“But unlike his earlier solo efforts, Sign “O” the Times wasn’t a record by an ambitious kid trying to make impression. At 28, Prince had already made himself into a pop superstar (and movie star too), and he easily sold out arenas. In one sense, he had nothing to prove. Yet Sign “O” the Times is the most varied, accomplished record of his prime 1980s period, a testament to the range of his gifts and the bold artistic ambition that gave his music shape.” ~ Pitchfork
The reason why it’s not STARBOY is because Drake isn’t sounding like Michael Jackson in the future, he’s sounding like Drake in the future. The reason why it’s not The Life of Pablo is because Views is easier to listen to. The reason why it’s not LEMONADE is because Views is easier to listen to. Drake is, if you want to listen to it that way, furious throughout for sure. Just like Pablo and Bey, Drake is terrified and at the end of his rope and fighting for his fucking life and the lives of his family and friends.
But he never screams his heart out or has a multi-part breakdown. He and his collaborators stay ice cold~ even the warmest, most bounciest beats have a grim determination undergirding them. There’s an unshakeable momentum to the music, a timely airtight-ness. VIEWS is the album that got humanity through this year, it’s the sound of the biggest star in the world on the eve of revolution.
The reason why it’s not Coloring Book is Drake doesn’t sound like Kanye anymore. I mean, everybody sounds like Kanye but Chance the Rapper REALLY sounds like Kanye; he sanded the edges off Graduation and brought it to the present. However, candy-coated Christianity can only take one so far in the real world and Lord knows it’s taken us far enough, thank you but please no thank you! Drake keeps it real. Chance’s “Blessings” aren’t actually coming for you: you’re not as handsome as he is and your dad isn’t friends with Obama. You’re not going to blow up without a record deal! But you might be able to get your ex back if you can grit your teeth for long enough through all of life’s beat changes and let da riddim guide you through the God-less, gunshotted summer. Better yet, you might even find someone new. Imagine that.
The reason why it’s not Solange is because that album is too slow. The reason why it’s not Blonde is because that album is too sad! The reason why it’s not your album is because your album isn’t this sexy or well-produced and it doesn’t have “Hotline Bling” as a bonus track.
More Life is on the way.
This piece originally appeared in Side by Side Magazine.
I quit my job this week. This is why:
I wake up at four, angry, dark as the sky. I lay in bed a few seconds, then throw my upper half up. I change the music on my laptop and start working out. Around 4:20 I alternate between making lunch and working out. I’m making spaghetti. At 4:55 I take a shower. I start wrapping up the odds and ends of my morning: snacks, keys, decide what I’ll be listening to as I leave out the front door. It’s old jazz. It’s February so I’m on the 30s in my jazz discovery program. Next month it’ll be the 40s.
It’s cold, I’m still angry. The walk soothes me, somewhere deep inside. I’m still smiling on the bus, on the train. “Good morning. Thank you!” We huddle.
I brush my teeth at work. I look in the mirror. I look good. I go out to the floor.
There’s always something. There’s always something not right when I get to the unit, something to compensate for, to ask a supervisor for, to restock, to reorganize, that just isn’t there but should be. I’m angry and I’m moving fast. There is no trickling in for me, I am the bowl.
I am the Expediter.
That means I have patience, discipline, balance, speed, strength, empathy, and hopefully, eight hours of sleep. It means I am everything I was not growing up. It means that when I f*ck up, or when someone tells me I f*ck up, it soaks me deep. It means I’m angry. It means I’m grinding my teeth. It means there’s nowhere else in this building I’d rather be. I only started grinding my teeth after I started expediting. I started expediting around the same time I got back in school. The employees who were doing it before me all quit. An employee and her friend, the supervisor, got me to do it one day, two days, three days, weeks, and now they’re both gone and it’s my job. Time flies when you don’t have enough of it, and I have mail falling always. Always containers getting full, always containers to pull out and dispatch, always containers full of mail designated for a flight that’s leaving in 30 minutes 20 minutes 10 minutes right now it’s late, always people asking me to make a new container, always something late, always something they can’t find, always homework to do, always lover, always lonely, always independent, always an attitude, bury the attitude with love. By noon I’ll be fine. I’m just underrating the day because I’m grumpy. But this is my life, this is all I have, this is work, this is production, this is beautiful. Look at all these people. I love them. And I am the expediter. They depend on me. Always never knew I’d be here.
Written summer, 2014
One of the last things Bruce told me was “Don’t Panic.” He told Benjamin I had a good heart. He told me I was a kid, that he was in high school in 1992, a year after I was born. Bruce was working 7 days a week, 4 hours overtime. Bruce was in the Marines eight years, was a sergeant. Bruce got there an hour early every day, at six, to get paid, but also to clean. “I hate chaos,” he couldn’t work in an unclean area.
I’ve been trying to reorganize myself. Make this writing thing happen, make healthy veganism happen, make being a weed smoking genius artist happen, befriend everybody everywhere. Watching Bruce, talking to, working with Bruce is the most fruitful work relationship I’ve ever had.
It happened fast. I was asking him and Marcus to stop making fun of me, they had taken to calling me “MIGOS!” I don’t know why, and chuckling to themselves. I’d been “experimenting” with sticking up for my self. I asked them, in front of another guy, to stop calling me “Migos,” I had asked Marquez if he was making fun of me for my pink hat. Both experiments changed their attitudes toward me, toward one of quiet respect and deference, both confrontations rattled my bones and made me anxious as hell.
Then, the holidays started again. I started telling Barbara I was going to need help expediting. For a while last holiday season every day someone or multiple someones told me I needed help. Expediters from other shifts, people in my unit, the military people watching the mail. This past November, I got Bruce.
I had just started listening to Dr. Dre’s 2001. While playing some from his speakers, Bruce looked at me “Best producer of all-time” I said “I dunno. Maybe Pharrell” he winced skeptically. The few days Bruce and I worked together before the speakers shorted out, every day at 2:45 PM, 15 minutes before closing time he would put on “Still D.R.E.” I loved it. One time after the speakers shorted, I played it on my phone and showed Bruce my screen from far away. It’s been very hard for me to connect to black men, to feel comfortable to love. To feel worthy as a friend. Everyone at my job was my friend.
My job was rife with prostitution, illicit drug use, fat black women, tired mothers, nepotism, abrupt and unexplained regime changes, corrupt supervisors, an easily manipulated justice system, a corrupt and cantankerous union, white people in button-ups with power, brown people covered in dust, in-fighting, gossip, repression, oppression, safety hazards, sharp and drastic personnel changes (Firing/hiring hundreds of people in months), failures of command, gambling, sexist men, sexual harassment, fights, unsafe driving, and deaths on the workroom floor. I quit because that’s fucked up, and hopefully I can make it as an artist or at least a human being out here.
Oh, and it matters because these are these are the people in the system handling your mail.
Carl Nadig is a conductor of positivity in Dekalb, IL. He awesomely invited me to
perform at November’s Majakka Monthly Music Marathon, a benefit he helps
organize for the Dekalb Area Women’s Center. Carl lives life as a dedicated journalist, generous thinker, and he plays music in the duo The Pleasant Street Players and Human Drag.
Who is your favorite athlete?
You have to hear them.
Album 19: Pay what you want/DL/Free. Credits forthcoming.
An album about being in love and a chill ass individual.
This speech was given at Hostel Earphoria on October 8, 2016. (VIDEO)
I would like to start by taking a moment of silence for the life of Corvus Humphries aka Chrono. ~~ Chrono, you are loved.
In two days, I am leading a communication and conflict resolution workshop for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative at Northern Illinois University. In the following months I will continue to lead workshops, conduct mediations, facilitations, and lead and be led in trainings based around community engagement, education, and communication. Also I am a rapper.
I’m all about the call and response. And I hear you. I hear you Nicollete trying to bring conflict resolution to your Inglewood students. I hear all of you in my facebook message requests (when i can remember to check them), asking what’s up with FASN because your venue really is committed to having support liasons at your shows. I hear you Jamila, trying to work on checking in with your fam.
I will move through this world with purpose and clarity, on the straight edge of sobriety, making this world safer for people of types who want to go to shows and not have to suffer through scary conversation and constant inebriation. With thoughtful partners, I will subvert and enhance these spaces, make workshops out of wastelands and invent choruses out of dischord.
There are several big issues on our mind as a planet. The foremost, of course, being the climate crisis. How can we, as humans, restructure our communities and resources in ways that are sustainable. How can we exist ethically, healthily, while staying true to the promise of forward progress? And how should we, the people of the future, police ourselves?
The Cooperation Operation rose from the ashes of the Occupy movement. We were an intentionally leaderless organization of young people that came together to transform a vacant lot on the Southside of Chicago into a little slice of paradise. There were moments, our ribbon cutting ceremony, summer talks on the back porch, the first time the sunflowers bloomed on what was once a toxic wasteland, where utopia was ours.
Though that same flame still burns, we have grown up. We are not intentionally leaderless anymore. We are leaders of a new world and we recognize that the next phase of the Coop Op is to take greater responsibility for meaningfully involving the community around us in building that world, right from the center of the universe on the Southside of Chicago. Here, we protect the environment while we feeding those today who otherwise would not have been fed yesterday.
As President of the World, I pledge to extend the work my partners at The Coop Op have cultivated these past growing seasons throughout Chicago and the world and provide opportunities for artists and organizers like myself to transform fallow wastelands into creative utopias. To give little black boys and girls tiny little shovels and knowledge of our most sacred cycles. To cut down emissions from food traveling across the world while/by giving people everything they need to grow everything they need right down the street from where they live. Let me know what you need to get involved in the gardens across Chicago reversing the tide, quite literally, of our rising seas and dying trees.
They don’t want us to win. They want us broke. They want us miserable.
THEY don’t want us to win because of capitalism, where dollar signs hide food, water, and knowledge. Where life is conditional, where love comes after violence. We all know it. In a world where we call for alternatives while struggling to stop the violence that seems to come from every direction.
I, the president of the world, am an anarchist and an ardent advocate and practitioner of transformative justice. In the Cooperation Operation, in my home life, and elsewhere, I believe in forgiveness and communication above all else. That’s why I need Feminist Action Support Network. That’s why i believe we need it. The past year we, at FASN, experimented with responses to sexual violence in our arts community. Many of my closest friends have been affected and continue to be affected by this societal disease.
We failed. A lot. We cried, people did not heal, and yet the feeling deep down is good. Because we tried. And there were serious positive impacts. With the advice and support of our friends and peers we shifted the current culture of our DIY community using the tools granted to us by punks in Philly, by the femme black activists over at Project NIA, and indigenous people from hundreds of years ago. We are able to synthesize this information into better & more inclusive practices and resist the oppression of capitalism to get free from this culture of violence.
I want you to be the mediators & Support Liasons. I’m just a door.
We are a rising alternative to this police state, a rising where communities of people are trained in understanding the causes and effects of violence and can contain and heal that violence without resorting to guns and handcuffs, electric chairs and prison cells.
Round the city round the clock, everybody needs you. And we need everybody. In the following months, I pledge to do my part to revitalize and stabilize the Feminist Action Support Network. We play an essential part in the movement and the artists, as ever, are on the vanguard of this very necessary stuff.
I love you and I’ll see you in six months.
THE SICK MUSE is a semi-monthly zine featuring lyrics, paintings, poetry, and musings from the underground scene in Chicago. Find them in stock at Quimby’s Bookstore, Permanent Records, Bucket O’Blood Records, Saki Records, Reckless Records, ECO, and a (not) DIY show near you!!
This is +’s essay from The Sick Muse vol. 5, released this week, accompanying a revolutionary sticker collection, part of +’s ongoing a life of meaning multimedia project.
U.S. Presidents have said a lot of nice things about art over the years~ perhaps most famous is John F. Kennedy’s speech at Amherst College in 1963, a partial eulogy for the poet Robert Frost, where Kennedy says “I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.” In 2014, current president Barack Obama stated that “the arts are central to who we are as a people.” And a few years ago, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wrote to Vanity Fair:
“In my line of work, we often talk about the art of diplomacy as we try to make people’s lives a little better around the world. But, in fact, art is also a tool of diplomacy. It reaches beyond governments, past the conference rooms and presidential palaces, to help us connect with more people in more places. It is a universal language in our search for common ground, an expression of our shared humanity.”
She’s kind of talking about art as “soft power”: a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of economic or cultural influence. However, I’ve been fascinated lately with thinking of what art might be like as “hard” power. What if we could, to paraphrase singer Frank Ocean, actually draw on fantasy to make things hyperreal? When I watched Hillary’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, talk about her political career during a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, a major theme was her existence as a Change Maker. She would pick up a phone or go to someone’s office building or sign off on a bill and suddenly thousands of parents would be able to take their child to preschool or a hundred clinics would stay open. It made me think of how I can’t do that; no matter what I put in a song, my words are just words that you’ll soon forget.
The purpose of a life of meaning is to empower a new connection between real life and popular art ~*~*~*
There’s an imaginary land of freedom and peace that music often refers to- think John Lennon’s “Imagine,” or The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There.” I believe that place exists as a physical reality right on the other side of the political condition that we live in. The Staples family can’t actually take you through that looking glass the way a politician can but placing these stickers on plants, walls, on bedroom doors and bathroom stalls works to realize the potential of our greatest art and our purest selves.
In past writing, I’ve defined love as “a state of mutual vulnerability.” I meant it both emotionally and as a political definition. That’s how it appears, too, in Beyoncé’s new visual album LEMONADE as the personal reconciliation of Bey x Jay gives way to images of mothers of young black men killed by law enforcement. Beyoncé’s happy ending for these mothers – their “Freedom” – portrays black women growing food together in a boundary-less community. Here, class isn’t a factor: literally everyone has a seat at the table. There are no prisons. I feel like it’s my responsibility to state without ambiguity that there is only one political concept that encompasses LEMONADE’s perfect reality. It’s already championed by millions of people all over the world and it’s called Anarchism.