MIXTAPE: Fall Into It

It’s officially fall (is it official? Fall, are you ready for this sort of commitment??) and my feet are starting to get cold. It’s weird because I feel like this could work metaphorically but I mean it in the most literal sense.

Fall Into It by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

 

Tracklist:

1) Hot Sugar – Leverage feat. Kool AD, LAKUTIS, and Nasty Nigel
2) Earl Sweatshirt – Hive feat. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies
3) Jean Grae – Trouble Man
4) Psalm One – Macaroni & Cheese
5) Janelle Monae – Electric Lady (Remix) feat. Cee-Lo and Big Boi
6) Spank Rock – Car Song feat. Santigold
7) Rye Rye – Sunshine feat. M.I.A.
8) The Cool Kids – Gas Station feat. Bun B
9) THEESatisfaction – Bitch
10) J. Cole – Power Trip feat. Miguel

 

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Blurred Lines of Consent

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I’ve been reading what I can about Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines”, and part of why I feel the need to put my two cents in is because I actually really like the song. It’s fun and catchy and I always turn up the volume to yell “YOU DA HOTTEST BITCH IN THIS PLACE.” But my enjoyment of it doesn’t really negate the fact that it’s sketchy, to put it nicely.

The video isn’t really worth my time discussing because it seems like it’s mostly calculated view-bait. Videos that are banned from YouTube are typically part of the marketing strategy, a sort of salacious invitation that most (including myself) can’t resist. But when you actually watch it, it’s mostly topless models cavorting. Not too interesting, except at some parts their hair isn’t covering their breasts. (“Like a stupid fashion magazine, right?” -Bob’s Burgers)

The fact that the song is called “Blurred Lines” itself is just so ooomph. “I know you want it” itself isn’t too bad, because the song kind of implies that he’s talking to a girl who’s too shy or too much of a “good girl” to express her sexual desires. But if the lines are blurred, how do you know she wants it?

(videos is NSFW)

I remember a few think pieces about consent in R&B and I think that that’s an important thing to talk about, as long as it doesn’t blame R&B for the rape culture that makes the problems in this song go relatively unnoticed. Problems in the genre are actually problems in music and the culture at large, which is why when Two Door Cinema Club uses one of the most misogynistic album covers that I’ve seen in a long time, it’s not an indictment on all babyfaced Irish dweebs. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we shouldn’t be talking about “Blurred Lines”, Miguel’s hugely creepy “How Many Drinks?”, or the Weeknd’s lyrics that verge on date rape. But that’s a small part of a bigger picture, and R&B is actually packed with women right now who are singing not only about consensual sex, but female enjoyment and revelation in it.

Right now you can’t turn on a hip-hop station without hearing Kelly Rowland’s “Kisses Down Low” or Ciara’s “Body Party”. “Kisses Down Low” is one of the few songs in recent memory that is instructive about cunnilingus (meaning the lady is describing how she wants it MUCH LIKE A MAN WOULD DO), and “Body Party” is so enthusiastically consensual (“You can’t keep your hands off me” followed by “I can’t keep my hands of you”) that Ciara cast her current partner, Future, in the video.

A few years back Latoya Peterson was interviewed by Spin about the supposed maturation of hip-hop with the moral decline of R&B, and she had some pretty interesting things to say about how music isn’t catered to women.

“Generally speaking, pop culture is not interested in the desires of women. Every industry has this problem. There’s no Bechdel Test for records, but generally what women are doing isn’t considered noteworthy unless it’s tailored for male consumption. Trey Songz may get to be eye candy and Kanye gets to have a few reflective moments, but that doesn’t mean society suddenly has started caring more about what women want.”

He might “know you want it” but Robin Thicke’s type of leering, gauche fantasy of a woman who is too shy to voice her desire (or even worse, doesn’t desire it at all), is very far from this world where women write and control their own narratives.

Banned Love

I’m calling this post “banned love” because this video was insta-banned from YouTube (to be fair, unsurprisingly), but itis thoroughly NSFW NSFW NSFW NSFW so if you are in a public space I suggest you bookmark the video and watch it when you’re away from eyeballs that don’t belong to you.

“Mindfuck” is the first single released from Brooklyn R&B artist Ian Isiah’s upcoming LP, and the video is certainly a mindfuck if gender normativity is something that’s really important to you (Not a Neophyte is firmly in the “roll your own” category when it comes to gender, for what it’s worth). The video is overtly sexual, watching two lovers engage in extremely intimate moments – so much so that it almost feels invasive on the part of the viewer.

Ian Isiah is bejeweled and wearing false eyelashes on a bed with a sheer canopy, getting close with boychild, a gender non-conforming performance artist. boychild’s gender identity is purposely and famously ambiguous, but Isiah appropriates feminine signifiers (like the jewelery and makeup) to muddy his own as well. The result is what could be your typical love scene in a romance movie, with the exception that the roles of man and woman (or man and man/ woman and woman) are indefinable.

When it’s important and when it’s not important

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I have mixed feelings about this quote from Miguel in Vibe Magazine that I discovered today:

“I don’t know if the word is eclipsed. [Long pause] That’s a really tough question to answer, man. In all reality, Frank Ocean took a big chance the way that artists are supposed to. I mean, even his album doesn’t sound like mine or anyone else’s. So sonically and how he writes and what he’s writing about and how he chooses to express himself vocally, all his choices are very unique, and I appreciate that about him. Not only did his announcement overshadow my music, but it overshadowed his as well. The general public was in awe and championing him for being brave enough to make that announcement publicly. I congratulate him for his successes. I would love to hear more of his music. He’s one of those artists that’s being himself and pushing boundaries. I gotta celebrate that.”

I think this was a poor choice of words on Miguel’s part more than anything else. That’s what I hope, anyways. Nonetheless, saying “his announcement overshadow[ed] my music” reads as a thinly veiled accusation of a publicity stunt. There’s a narrative about how Frank chose to “come out” (come out as… not straight? because he certainly does not identify as either gay or bisexual), right before his album dropped to gain publicity. But revealing that you are not heterosexual is not really an act that is rewarded enough to be a publicity stunt — in fact, a lot of people pay a heavy price for that. The shift towards acceptance of gay artists was not firmly established in Franks genre (and to be honest, I don’t think it’s firmly established in any mainstream genre), r&b, which is one that heavily (and graphically) celebrates and depicts heterosexual relationships. His album didn’t perform so well because he revealed that he’s loved a man in the past, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge (as Miguel did, although it was ill-advised), that Frank’s sexuality is an uncomfortable point of conversation.

It’s important because he serves as an example of the what the rest of us could be– comfortable with who we are and feeling confident without labels. At the same time, the stress on sexuality can detract from the person and the content, as I’ve talked about in my post about Le1f. There’s a line somewhere between example and novelty, and when Frank becomes the beacon of our acceptance of non-heterosexual relationships, what, exactly, does that mean for other artists of the same caliber? What does that mean for Frank?