And I’ll never let my son have an ego
He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go.
I mean, I might even make him be Republican
Just so everybody know he love white people.
Kanye West, “New Day,” Watch the Throne (2011)
Jay-Z’s adoption of all black everything is seemingly at odds with “Off That.”
“In my Tribeca loft, wit’ my highbrow art and my high yellow broad / Aw, and my dark-skinned sis / And my best white mates, say what’s up to Chris / How’s that for a mix? Got a black President, got green presidents.” He later says “It’s a Benetton ad.” Jay can do whatever he wants, obviously, but him moving in both the richest, whitest echelon of society and sweeping the very black streets will always make for conflict that he can’t quite articulate. (Kanye is much better at that.)
My only judgment on Watch the Throne thus far is “surprisingly competent,” and I’ll refrain from saying more until I have more to say. I will say, though, that it’s an unexpectedly political album in that it’s obsessed with what it’s like not just to be black in America, but to be extraordinarily successful and black in America. This is more Kanye’s milieu than Jay’s, going back to “Self Conscious” and “Even if you in a Benz/You still a nigga in a coupe.” (Now, though, they both seem to be rhetorically inquiring whether there’s any level of stupid-richness they need to reach before they stop having to put up with racist bullshit.) It makes more sense for Kanye, I suppose; being raised middle class, he’s occupied all his life the semipermeable membrane between America’s black underclass and its white mainstream and so is able to more acutely articulate the contradictions to which it gives rise. (As I’ve said before, America stuggles particularly when it has to talk about the interaction between race and class.) Jay, being from the streets, knows he’s never been welcome in the wealthier echelons of society and has throughout his career relied on a simpler but no less resonant narrative of forcing his way into places he wasn’t wanted.
Except Jay hasn’t been from the streets artistically since he retired to hook up with corporate America. (Just imagine him doing a song like “Threat” now. You wouldn’t believe it.) So the conflicts he does want to talk about are ones Kanye is better at talking about, which may be why Hov has been leaning so heavily on lil bro lately. Jay still gives Kanye something as well: A realm of wealth and celebrity that, until recently, even Kanye couldn’t access.
jrichmanesq answered your question: Have I ever told you guys what Los Angeles smells like?
antifreeze / coolant smells like sugar. car on top of car.
elyon-puffskein answered your question: Have I ever told you guys what Los Angeles smells like?
for me it smells like freedom! im sorry for u
Dude, look at Jesse’s response. L.A. smells like cars on cars on cars. It absolutely smells like freedom!
douglasmartini replied to your post: Bill O’Reilly you only rilin’ me up
I’m so glad we have the same viewpoint on these things. I never understood white people making fun of other white people for their “whiteness”. White people come up with cool shit pretty often. Punk rock! Cheese graters! All pretty cool!
I mean I totally reserve the right to make fun of white people, but the whole white people=hipsters thing is just lame. There are so many stereotypes about cracker-ass crackers that are much more fun. Like the way we love grated cheese! Man, have you ever seen a white person around grated cheese? We go nuts!*
*Just go with it. I’m trying to make “White people love cheese graters” into A Thing.
Rather than thoughtfully discussing race, Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It’s the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities.
“I’ve had a conversation [about privilege with someone] like once a week for a while now,” [Seattle sculptor Sean] Johnson says. “It’s a denial that’s almost more offensive than somebody just coming out and saying a racist word to us. I’ve been arguing about this in a bar and been thrown against the coals like I don’t know what I’m talking about—that there’s no way Seattle’s racist, there’s no way Seattle’s segregated—yet I’m the only black person in the room. Yeah, it is.”
He goes on, “I have this friend from Mississippi, and we were both saying that we’ve never encountered anything like it before. There’s a collective thought that it’s a progressive place, so that everything has been done to make things equal, and any form of ‘No, it’s not enough’ is either greeted with passive-aggressiveness or ‘No, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
Jen Graves, “Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk About Race,” The Stranger, August 30, 2011
So the interesting thing about this article is that lots of its discussion about race is Seattle-specific. If race is a cultural thing, and cities have their own distinct cultures (it is and they do), then the racial dynamics of any city are going to be worth examining individually. That tends not to happen as often with cities in the Northwest, except for observations of how white they are. (Jay-Z: “I’m at Portland, Oregon trying to slip you these raps: The first black in the suburbs.”)
Anyway, same article, more awkward white people:
At the two [Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites] meetings I attend, nobody tells anybody that anything’s not cool. But people vary in how much experience they have in talking and thinking about race. A very experienced turquoise-eyed lady who lives on Beacon Hill tells a story from her neighborhood: She’d been looking forward to meeting her nonwhite neighbors at a block party, but only the white neighbors showed up, talking about how they wished a Trader Joe’s would move in. “Not a Trader Joe’s!” she gasped as she told the story, laughing. “That is the definition of gentrification in Stuff White People Like.”
My experience living in Seattle was that nowhere was better for groceries than Trader Joe’s. (Well, apart from produce and fresh meat/fish.) It was both cheap and good quality — and all its locations were frustratingly distant from my rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Belltown, particularly for folks like me who didn’t drive. (Being permitted to drive was difficult because I wasn’t American.) In fact, the grocery stores in walking distance were typically skeezy, expensive, and frequented by the poorer, less white parts of the community. I’m all about making Trader Joe’s Is So White jokes, but if you don’t earn a lot of money, having a grocery store that sells cheap, good-quality food open up in your neighborhood sounds like a good deal, regardless of your color.
Were it that we could come to the same agreement about Herman Cain’s sense of humor. Unfortunately, when he says that his Secret Service handle could be “Cornbread,” or greets an enthusiastic audience with the theatrically humble expression “Shucky ducky,” commentators get their hackles up. Read the op-ed written by Brown University’s Ulli Ryder last week in the New York Daily News and you would think that Cain is himself a racist, encouraging insulting “stereotypes”.
The truth is much simpler—namely, he is exposing (in some cases, introducing) the country to an authentic thread of black culture. Cain isn’t a self-hating minstrel. Quite the opposite: He’s a black man from the South actually comfortable enough to be himself on the national stage.
The fact is Cain is a black person from the state of Georgia: Why shouldn’t he have a right to invoke vernacular Southern black culture, including a fondness for cornbread? Cain’s saying “shucky ducky” is no different—no more anti-black—than when President Obama says “goin” instead of “going.” It is Cain’s critics, with their deep-seated ambivalence about the value of black culture, who deserve to face the charge of self-hatred. Where Cain is proud to display his blackness—from its physical characteristics (he has openly said he finds the color of his own skin to be beautiful) to its more subtle and humble cultural components—his detractors would seem to wish he would not be so black where white people can see it.
Certainly, some of Cain’s rhetoric needs to be contextualized to be properly understood. More than anything, Cain shows an affinity and comfort with the particular sense of humor rooted in black American experience. However questionable it is as a political trope, Cain has been regularly employing on the campaign trail a particularly black rhetorical comic style, one that involves a certain cartoonish, and fantastic treatment of violence. This is the tradition he was drawing on, for example, when he called for a border fence that would electrocute Mexicans.
John McWhorter, “Stop Accusing Herman Cain of Minstrelsy,” The New Republic, October 25, 2011
I can’t usefully comment on this, but: interesting.
One black linguist, Arthur Spears, who I am sure has no love for Cain, did a masterful job of explaining this trope in his academic research. When I watched him deliver a talk in 1998, the blacks in the audience agreed vigorously with his assessment:
African American English speakers have a broad kind of semantic license – to mean and not to mean; to use language in a relatively literal way or not to do so; to make words mean whatever they want them to mean, often, but not always, in cooperation with their audience. This is why speech that may appear to outsiders to be abusive or insulting is not necessarily intended to be nor is it taken that way by audiences and addressees.
Spears was referring to, among other things, mock threats of violence. The term one uses for this among the academic set is African-American “directness.” It explains why so many smart black people have become accustomed to defending the violence in many rap lyrics as metaphorical.