I finally took some time to give a few serious spins to Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Bad on me. Really bad on me. Good Kid is not simply one the best hip-hop albums I've ever heard, but one of the most moving pieces of art I've seen/heard in a long, long, long time. I sort of initially bristled at the notion of comparison to Illmatic--my personal favorite ever--but it is exactly the right comparison. Nas was able to do was conjure the chaos of inner city black America in the late '80s and '90s. Now Kendrick Lamar summons it nearly 20 years later (with more focus, by the way) and virtually nothing has changed.
Good Kid chronicles a 17-year-old's effort to visit a romantic interest, and the kind of violence that haunts such a pedestrian effort. This scenario is right out of my young Baltimore city life. I used to love The Wonder Years. But Kevin Arnold didn't have to roll five deep to go see Winnie Cooper. That was the street law when I young man, and it's depressing to hear that it still is today. But it shows how violence warps the most ordinary routine.
Lamar's album is, in part, about the consequences of forgetting that law. But more than that it's also about the people who enforce it. Everyone should listen to "The Art Of Peer Pressure." It is commentary on everything from Chicago to Steubenville. Everyone should listen to "Black Boy Fly." All I can tell you is the feeling behind "Two niggas making it had never sounded logical" mirrors my own feelings as a child.
A word on "bitch." I initially felt that the album was a beautifully produced work of misogyny. That mostly came from me giving a quick, inattentive listen. Good Kid deserves a lot better. It is that rare rap record that actually abandons triumphalism, invulnerability, and wears the mask. Rappers like to claim to be broadcasters, not endorsers. Except it's usually clear that they think, say, guns are pretty cool. This was that rare rap record where I thought the reflection to endorsement ratio was roughly 20 to one.
This is a great album--one that I wish had been around when I was 13. Non-rap fans should give this a listen. it is some of the best word-smithing, sentence-crafting, and beat production that hip-hop has to offer. And it is how it feels to be a black boy in the mad city. Hip-hop is obsessed with soldiers. This may be the first great record I've heard by someone obsessed with speaking as a civilian. And there have always been more of us than them.
MORE: Another quick note. Hip-hop has long been obsessed with "confessionals" and showing that gangstas have sensitive sides too. Usually this just comes off as whining. Puffy's "No Way Out" is a classic of Whine-Rap, as is almost everything Kanye West does. Rappers who whine tend to talk about Jesus a lot.
Of course not all rappers who talk about Jesus are whining. Kendrick Lamar is the MC that every other whine-rapper thinks he is. Their idea of making sensitive art is to cut a track say "HEY THIS IS ME BEING SENSITIVE. THUGS CRY TO GIRL. AND IT IS WRONG THAT I AM OBSESSED WITH WHITE WOMAN. BUT BLACK GIRLS BE BITCHEZ (DON'T JUDGE ME. JUST SAYIN.)"
Whereas Good Kid doesn't talk. It just kinda is. As great art always is.
The stability of American society depends on conservatives finding a way forward from the Trump dead end.
Election 2016 looked on paper like the most sweeping Republican victory since the Jazz Age. Yet there was a hollowness to the Trump Republicans’ seeming ascendancy over the federal government and in so many of the states. The Republicans of the 1920s had drawn their strength from the country’s most economically and culturally dynamic places. In 1924, Calvin Coolidge won almost 56 percent of the vote in cosmopolitan New York State, 65 percent in mighty industrial Pennsylvania, 75 percent in Michigan, the hub of the new automotive economy.
Not so in 2016. Where technologies were invented and where styles were set, where diseases cured and innovations launched, where songs were composed and patents registered—there the GOP was weakest. Donald Trump won vast swathes of the nation’s landmass. Hillary Clinton won the counties that produced 64 percent of the nation’s wealth. Even in Trump states, Clinton won the knowledge centers, places like the Research Triangle of North Carolina.
Stories of gray areas are exactly what more men need to hear.
The story of Aziz Ansari and “Grace” is playing out as a sort of Rorschach test.
One night in the lives of two young people with vintage cameras is crystallizing debate over an entire movement. Depending on how readers were primed to see the ink blot, it can be taken as evidence that the ongoing cultural audit is exactly on track—getting more granular in challenging unhealthy sex-related power dynamics—or that it has gone off the rails, and innocent men are now suffering, and we are collectively on the brink of a sex panic.
Since the story’s publication on Saturday (on the website Babe, without comment from Ansari, and attributed to a single anonymous source), some readers have seen justice in Ansari’s humiliation. Some said they would no longer support his work. They saw in this story yet another case of a man who persisted despite literal and implied cues that sex was not what a woman wanted.Some saw further proof that the problems are systemic, permeating even “normal” encounters.
Allegations against the comedian are proof that women are angry, temporarily powerful—and very, very dangerous.
Sexual mores in the West have changed so rapidly over the past 100 years that by the time you reach 50, intimate accounts of commonplace sexual events of the young seem like science fiction: You understand the vocabulary and the sentence structure, but all of the events take place in outer space. You’re just too old.
This was my experience reading the account of one young woman’s alleged sexual encounter with Aziz Ansari, published by the website Babe this weekend. The world in which it constituted an episode of sexual assault was so far from my own two experiences of near date rape (which took place, respectively, during the Carter and Reagan administrations, roughly between the kidnapping of the Iran hostages and the start of the Falklands War) that I just couldn’t pick up the tune. But, like the recent New Yorker story “Cat Person”—about a soulless and disappointing hookup between two people who mostly knew each other through texts—the account has proved deeply resonant and meaningful to a great number of young women, who have responded in large numbers on social media, saying that it is frighteningly and infuriatingly similar to crushing experiences of their own. It is therefore worth reading and, in its way, is an important contribution to the present conversation.
Reporting will always be vital to exposing the most egregious abuses of power. Yet the most underutilized tool in the movement’s turn toward lesser wrongs is fiction.
Millions are talking about the comic actor Aziz Ansari’s actions during a sexual encounter with an anonymous woman who felt wronged on their date night. Her grievances were publicized by an article in the online magazine Babe. And as many have noted, the article is similar, in its subject matter and public reception, to another recent viral sensation––the fictional New Yorker story “Cat Person.”
“Each describes an evening that a woman in her early 20s spends with a man in his 30s, and the tension in each comes from the disjuncture between what the woman feels and what’s going on around her,” Anna Silman wrote at The Cut. “Each describes a sexual encounter that might safely be described as bad: uncomfortable, filled with misunderstandings, and ultimately, for the woman, upsetting.”
When cities compete to attract big employers, the country as a whole suffers.
Since Amazon announced last year that it is going to build a second corporate campus, cities—238 of them in North America, in three countries—quickly started courting the company. They scrambled to propose the most generous package of financial incentives they could muster, in hopes of luring the online-retailing and cloud-computing giant.
On Thursday, Amazon announced that it had whittled its list down to 20 finalist cities spanning the country, from Los Angeles to Austin to Boston and Miami. What does the future hold for the lucky winner? In Amazon’s request for proposals, it dangled the promise of hiring up to 50,000 full-time employees (at an average salary of more than $100,000 a year) over the next 10 or 15 years, and spending $5 billion in the process of executing the project.
A vision to protect those persecuted for non-religion
Lubna Yaseen was a student in Baghdad when death threats forced her into exile. Her crime was to think the unthinkable and question the unquestionable—to state, openly, that she was an atheist.
Growing up in Hillah, a city in central Iraq, she developed an independent mind at a young age. “My mother is an atheist intellectual person, and she brought up me and my siblings to think for ourselves and to be open to anything,” she told me. Yaseen was particularly concerned about her teachers’ attitudes toward women. “I always asked why girls should wear a hijab and boys are not obligated to do so,” she said. Why would “God” treat the two sexes differently? She quickly learned the dangers of expressing these views: Her teachers often threw her out of their classes, and sometimes beat her.
The biologist Marci Johnson spent the daylight hours of Valentine’s Day 2011 in a helicopter, high over the Alaskan coastline, searching for musk oxen.
It was part of her job. Through the winter, she regularly went to check in on animals that she and her fellow researchers had outfitted with radio collars the year before. On this particular flight, she quickly found what she was looking for: a pack of 55 musk oxen moseying along in the snow. From the helicopter, Johnston could detect all four radio collars chirping happily—the “alive” signal.
She returned home to Kotzebue, Alaska, where she lived and worked as a biologist with the U.S. National Park Service. Winter wore on. A blizzard roared in off the Arctic Ocean, bringing whiteout conditions and winds between 60 and 100 miles per hour. What had been most unusual, though, was the storm surge—she remembers meteorologists warning local residents not to tie up their dogs close to the beach.
A viral story highlights the lingering difference between the language—and the practice—of consent.
It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.
I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.
That was Aziz Ansari, responding to a story that was published about him over the weekend, a story that doubled for many readers as an allegation not of criminal sexual misconduct, but of misbehavior of a more subtle strain: aggression. Entitlement. Excessive persistence. His statement, accordingly—not an apology but not, either, a denial—occupies that strange and viscous space between defiance and regret. I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart.
Hans Jonatan, who escaped slavery in 1802, now has hundreds of relatives in the country.
Hans Jonatan was born into slavery on a Caribbean sugar plantation, and he died in a small Icelandic fishing village. In those intervening 43 years, he fought for the Danish Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, lost a landmark case for his freedom in The General’s Widow v. the Mulatto, then somehow escaped to become a peasant farmer on the Nordic island.
No one knows how he got there. No one knows where in Iceland he is buried today. But the story of the first black man in Iceland, as far as it is known, has endured in local lore, passed down from his Icelandic wife and two children to hundreds of descendants since his death in 1827.
“The old East Fjords people would often say, ‘Oh, yes, you’re descended from the black man,’” one living descendant told Gísli Pálsson in his biography of Jonatan, The Man Who Stole Himself.
Coates says he is "mystified as anybody else” over West's critique.
If there’s real beef between the Harvard philosopher Cornel West and The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, Coates says he doesn’t understand it. West is a vocal critic of Coates and his status as a public intellectual.
Coates addressed the controversy at a panel Tuesday hosted by The Atlantic, saying he remains confused why the feud started in the first place, and that he can’t seem to find a huge difference in the things West has spoken about and what Coates himself has written.
Coates spoke about the first time he saw Cornel West 20 years ago, and found it surreal to have that same person “write critical things about you when they have so clearly not read your work.”
“I am mystified as anybody else” about West’s argument, Coates said, adding that he hopes people read Race Matters, West’s groundbreaking 1993 book.