Literary Cage Match: “Open City” vs. “My Korean Deli”

Smackdown

The saying goes that when you assume, you make an ass of u and me. Well call me Minaj because the theories I had prior to reading Teju Cole’s “Open City” and Ben Ryder Howe’s “My Korean Deli” were wrong and ended up blowing my whole head.

Reading Cole’s “Open City” was kind of like giving someone the black person head nod, and the other person staring back at you like you’re crazy. That’s basically what I felt in struggling to finish this book. I bought the novel as an act of solidarity, because he is a young black writer writing about young black experiences. Now, I won’t stop supporting writers in general and young black ones in particular, but I will keep it real if the work is not engaging. I didn’t recognize myself (or people I know) in the story.

“City” is Cole’s first novel, and details the daily life of Julius, a Nigerian-German psychiatry student in his last year of residency in a New York hospital. The story follows him as he wanders Manhattan and thinks. Cole’s prose is beautiful and reflective and the book is incredibly written. However, the minimal plot and Julius’ general douchiness (a symptom of his privileges – male, socioeconomic, doctoral) left me not really caring about anything happening in the protagonist’s life. Like at all. I don’t care that he walked down to Wall Street to reflect, I don’t care that he hates his white mother, and I don’t care that he goes to Belgium and screws a cougar. I had literary constipation, because I literally did not give a give a shit. Continue reading

Music Monday: Interview with Carolyn Malachi

Words don’t adequately describe Carolyn Malachi’s talent. Her voice is expansive, and could tempt you to slap someone because it just sounds that good. Her lyrics are intensely intelligent and her style is fierce. Simply put, she is crushing the game right now. The 26-year-old DC native recently received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Alternative Performance for the song “Orion” from her EP Lions, Fires and Squares, and has already released two albums (Revenge of the Smart Chicks & Revenge of the Smart Chicks II). I had the opportunity to interview Carolyn about her path to singing and what she has lined up next. Check out the video for “Orion” and see what Carolyn says keeps her motivated:

You have an absolutely amazing voice. When did you know for certain that you had to be a singer? You are so talented (singer, dancer, poet, songwriter, philanthropist), so how did you settle on music?

Thank you for the compliment! I am still in the process of discovering my voice. It grows and develops as I do. I knew in college that I wanted to sing and the fear of criticism was my only obstacle. I am sort of a free spirit, and artistic expression entices me. I treasure each opportunity to write and perform music and spoken word. For me, this is the best catharsis. Continue reading

Rebuke The Devil: How Hampton Already Won

Shake deez

Today I am sending up a Lenten prayer  and three Hail Marys to sweet baby Jesus in the manger in preparation for my alma mater’s NCAA debut tonight against Dook. This game has given me one more reason to despise all that the Blue Devils stand for (thanks Jalen Rose) , and while  the talking heads at ESPN  and amateur bracket jockeys have statistically stacked the cards against Hampton, one thing they  underestimate is how much the Pirates win just off the strength of who they are. And while I’d be willing to wager that HU would really, really like to win this game tonight, I know I can name at least 25 things that  make Hamptonians winners regardless:

1. Sunday Brunch with the cafe ladies, “hey baaaby”

2. Holland Jams

3. 12-2 in the Stu

4. Getting it in at the Waterfront

5. Waterfront, the band

6. Walking across Ogden and not giving a f*ck

7. Being besieged by beautiful people (be they beige, brown or black)

8. Bowties instead of neckties

9. Stilettos to class

10. Bullet Continue reading

RIP Nate Dogg

Reports are circulating that Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Hale) passed away Tuesday at the age of 41. He suffered from a number of health issues in recent years.

Nate Dogg had a way of making a rap song feel jazzy and gangsta at the same time. I know ‘Regulate’ will be playing across the hip-hop nation today, that song went so hard. RIP Nate.

So Fly.

XO

NE

Music Monday: Your First Song

this sh*t right here

The other day I reminisced with my brother from another mother about the first rap song he ever learned all the words to. It was Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See”, and he wrote down the words just so he could get all the words right. Something about the thought of a young black boy furiously transcribing Busta’s gobbledygook made me laugh inside, and I quickly realized how much my first rap song meant to me.

For me, it was Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm” (the original), with its ominous thunderstorm beat and lyrics that made me feel like Armageddon was lurking. My younger brother and I became enthralled with the song when we played it on our “Source Hip Hop Hits” compilation CD, and played it until we had committed the entire song to memory. The first line of the first verse, “I write my lifetime/in between the papers lines”, spoke to my 14-year-old catholic school girl heart, striking me as insanely poetic and particularly strange given the thuggery that ensues immediately after that statement. That first line validated my love of writing as something that was respected by not only my teachers and librarians, but also by sensitive thugs. The entire song was beautiful and perfect, equal parts introspective and gangsta. Like a stripper doing pole stunts, it had really good balance, which I think is hard to come by nowadays. Continue reading

Pass the Flamingyoung: The Beef with Poor Word Choice

As a twitter fiend enthusiast, I couldn’t help but be genuinely amused and completely baffled by the #flamingyoung twitter meme from a few weeks back. What I thought was the name of an indie rock back actually turned out to be the declaration of @BobbyBucks that: “sidechicks get McDonalds, mainchicks get flamingyoung.” Now there are a few things wrong with this statement; the fact that he has a coterie of young women at his disposal, the fact that he actually considers McDonald’s a viable date location, but most importantly the fact that he spelled filet mignon exactly how he heard it. The black twitterverse had fun at this young man’s expense, but honestly the word lover in me couldn’t be mad at his struggle with spelling because what he did was actually normal.

What happened in that guys tweet, according Merriam Webster, was a form of folk etymology:

Folk etymology, also known as popular etymology, is the process whereby a word is altered so as to resemble at least partially a more familiar word or words. Sometimes the process seems intended to “make sense of” a borrowed foreign word using native resources… Continue reading

Mathematical Proof that “Martin” is Better than The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

I have been a fan of the show “Martin” since it’s 1992 debut. Martin is watched at every one of my holiday family gatherings. Instead of talking to each other, we speak in Martin quotes.  As an owner of all the available Martin DVDs, I came up with this mathematical hypothesis that I believe explains the greatness of this show:

If: “Martin” = ∑(Good Times ÷ Sanford & Son) x (√ House Party 1,2&3)³

And: “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” = Cosby Show + Will Smith

Then: “Martin” > “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”

Actually:  “Martin” > “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”> “Jamie Foxx Show”> “Malcolm & Eddie” > “Homeboys from Outer Space”

As proven above, Martin just holds far more comical complexity than the Fresh Prince, which is easily represented with nothing more than a simple addition equation. Although FPOBA may have won more awards and garnered a larger and more diverse following, Martin was actually far funnier because of the following elements:

Characters

Martin Lawrence had an incredible knack for creating original characters. Mama Payne, the infamous Sheneneh, Jerome, Dragon Fly Jones, Ole Otis, the list goes on. The great thing about all of his made up characters were that they were all genuinely funny by themselves.  For the longest time I didn’t know that all of these characters were actually Martin himself, which is a testament to how good he was at becoming someone else completely, something I doubt Will Smith is able to do (since he is the same person in all his movies).

The cast of Martin was great for a completely different reason – because they represent ‘normal’ black people – people who worked hard, who went to college, not rich but not poor, young, in loving and functional relationships. Where in television had that ever been showcased? People might point to the Cosby Show, but the Cosby’s were an upper middle class family with kids.  Good Times was in the hood, and A Different World was a little square (sorry, it’s true).  FPOBA’s characters were wack and wooden; mean Uncle Phil, ditzy Hilary, cornball Carlton (with that stupid dance), and a sassy male butler. Nothing about that is funny, it’s actually insulting. And, how do you change Aunt Viv from a dark brown woman to a lite skint chick in the middle of the show like we wouldn’t notice?!!?. Smh. Continue reading