Week 4 Capstone Class (week of Sept 26th)

This week has not been great. Everybody has been busy so it’s been hard to get the shots we wanted to use for the video. We did get a studio in place where we will be shooting the interviews… that’s a big win.

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Week 1 Capstone Class (week of Sept 5th)

After entering the class late, I joined a group that decided that we would focus on rap in Baltimore. This felt like a natural thing for me, being a musician myself, I knew this would be an area I would be very knowledgeable on.  The group in our first week was shaky. Nobody came to class except me the following week and it gave me doubts.

To Pimp a Baltimore

protester-baltimore

3813bcd3d4accb7634eea23a2a7ab190.1000x1000x1Baltimore has been on fire long before the riots of 2015. From teen-pregnancy to homicides rates, the city has had the ingredients for a highly combustible substance. Whether you call it good timing or possessing the ability of foresight, Kendrick Lamar told the story of Baltimore in his sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly, which was released a little over a month before the riots in 2015.

Kendrick Lamer is a rapper from Compton, California. Lamar has had a meteoric rise to fame since the release of his independent album Section .80 in 2011. Lamar’s versatility has endeared him to fans. During a time when hip-hop is watered down and very predictable, Lamar manages to be creative, commercially successful and still put a message in his music. TPAB, was an example of this.

TPAB was much different from his first major label release, good Kid, m.A.A.d city, in 2012. Unlike the former, the latter had fewer radio single and definitely strayed from your typical hip-hop selection of instrumentation.

Lamar has been known to challenge the norm of things, with break-neck-speed flows, intricate word-play and purposely distorting his vocals, he has established himself as one of very few standout rappers in the new millennium of hip-hop.

Growing up in Compton is not so different from growing up in Baltimore city, Lamar, made that clear on TPAB and that fact presented itself in the following tracks.

The first song on the cd is called “Wesley’s Theory.”  The track is about financial responsibility and how some black people, once they get a lot of money (or make it big), spend without thinking of the repercussions.

“And when you hit the White House, do you, but remember, you, ain’t pass economics in school, and everything you buy, taxes will deny, I’ll Wesley Snipes your ass before 35.”

The track used the tax problems of actor, Wesley Snipes, as a bigger message of what happens in schools systems, primarily in lower-middle-class black communities. Lamer, being one of the few to make it out of said communities, knows that people with talent can make it, however, not being taught financial literacy can hurt you in the long run.

A 90s feel is what you’re presented track number 12 “Complexation.” The chorus opens the song, “Complexion – complexion don’t mean a thing, complexion – It all feels the same.”

Self-hate, being so prominent the black communities, was something Lamar felt needed to be addressed. Many black people are teased by other blacks for speaking proper English, or their shade of black is considered too black. Lamar, tries and succeeds in delivering the message that we are all one and that being different does not mean keep one distant.

The featured artist on the song, Rapsody, places a bow on the track with a message to everyone in the black community that concludes with, “call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens, we all on the same team, blues [crips] and pirus [bloods], no colors ain’t a thing.”

The song that follows would best be described as the moment when a time bomb reaches its final ticks. Boom!

Track number 13 on TPAB, “The Blacker The Berry,” would’ve been playing in the background of the Baltimore 2015 riots.

“Six in the morn’, fire in the street, burn, baby, burn, that’s all I wanna see, and sometimes I get off watchin’ you die in vain”.

Lamar begins the song with this quote and his sentiments are accompanied by his hard-hitting flow. There were no gimmicks on this song, just an artist that was angry and, Lamar, did not hide that.

In Lamar’s first verse, he starts off by saying “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015, once I finish this, witnesses will convey just what I mean.” From that point on he goes on to question police brutality, but also wants people to know that he is black and not ashamed of it by using insults that have been used on black people and owning it, “you’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey, You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me.”

The first two verses end with Lamar giving a metaphorical middle finger to everyone who takes offence to his message but also letting them know the world made him this way, “you made me a killer, [this is] the emancipation of a real n***a.”

The song features Jamaican artist, Assassin, who marries the verses of Lamar, with an equally as powerful chorus.

“I said they treat me like a slave, [cause] me black

we feel a whole heap of pain, [cause] we black

And man a say they put me [in] chains, [cause] we black

Imagine now, big gold chains full of rocks

How you no see the whip, left scars [upon]’ me back

But now we have a big whip parked [upon] the block

All them say we doomed from the start, [cause] we black

Remember this, every race start from the black, jus [remember that].”

Lamar closes the song with a complete shift of thought by returning to his sentiments of the beginning of his first verse. He explains that he is proud of what his people are but also knows the problems don’t lay in only cops or white people killing blacks but also blacks killing blacks.

“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gangbanging make me kill a n***a blacker than me? Hypocrite!”

The song showed the versatility of Lamar. His courage to dive into topics others won’t touch is to be applauded. Being so outspoken has gotten Lamar loved by many but also hated by some of his contemporaries.

All in all, Lamar was telling his story of growing up and making it out of Compton, pitfalls of success, self-hate, self-love, etc. on TPAB. But he also told the story of Baltimore and many other places that the world seems to forget about until something major happens in those areas.

TPAB, will be remembered as a legendary hip-hop album. The timing could not have been better, and the album will serve as the soundtrack to changing times in the world.

Art LIVES!!!

My visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art was a great one. Admittedly, I have not been to an art museum since I was in elementary school, but going to this one has made me promise myself I would not spend that much time away from one again.

I was leaving my class at Morgan at exactly 11:00 p.m. and I arrived late. Sandwiched between classes, I knew my visit would be a short one.

I pulled up to the museum and immediately a smile came upon my face when I found out there was free parking for 30 minutes. After parking, I made my way into the museum and was greeted by some people who work there. They pointed me in the direction of the class and I was still lost.

During the time I spent finding the class, I looked at all the beautiful art that filled every room. One regret I had was not getting a chance to thoroughly enjoy the art I walked past.

After I saw one group of the class with a curator I snuck my way into the back hoping not draw attention to how late I was… That failed miserably, as I was asked by a classmate, “you’re just getting here?”

Next, the curator directed the group to a section that featured Andy Warhol.

The fact that I had been reading on and off about Warhol for the last couple of years and this was the only section I got to fully observe seemed like a pure coincidence, but I could not complain.

The curator began to speak about the section but my attention was drawn away by a Warhol painting I had never seen. It was a self-portrait that he had done in 1986, a year before his death. There was some sort of mirror effect used on it and spoke to me in many ways.

I did not read the caption but understood why he did it and after reading the caption I found I was correct. He wanted the people to know that he is just a normal human being and that is all, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface.” Warhol said of the painting and he added, “There’s nothing behind that.”

Overall I enjoyed my trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art. I thought I wouldn’t get a full experience (and in many ways I didn’t) but in many ways I did. Art is abundant in Baltimore, and as a person who prides himself on creativity, it would not be helpful in my growth to avoid it.

Freedom of Choice

Former Missouri defensive end and Co-Defensive Player of the Year from the SEC, Michael Sam, announced back in February that he was gay. On Saturday, Sam became the first openly gay athlete drafted into the NFL. The video that was shown when he was received the call from the St Louis Rams about their selection showed him kissing and hugging his boyfriend.  Needless to say people’s reactions were mixed.

Former running back for the New York Giants, Derrick Ward, voiced his displeasure with the video on Twitter saying “Man [you] got little kids [looking] at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.” Ward has received numerous death threats and various verbal attacks over social media.

Then there was Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined and excused from team activities until he under goes educational training, after Jones twitted the word “horrible” when asked about the video by a follower.

Both Ward and Jones have received public backlash from their post but does the punishment fit the (so called) crime… I don’t think so. Everyone who missed the NFL draft Saturday afternoon didn’t miss the main attraction. The sports outlets ESPN and NFL Network played the celebration of Sam and his boyfriend countless times.

That’s a hard pill to swallow for many religious football fans. Is it fair to continually flash that image in their faces?

Sam, to his credit, has tried to deflect the attention of his sexual preference and have the media focus solely on Michael Sam the football player. Will he get his wish; of course not!

The NFL, much like the marijuana issue, cannot be on the fence. The problem might be the loss of a group that patronizes its product, Is that a risk they are will to take? We’ll have to wait and see.