Hip-Hop in 2012: An Annal

This is not an end-of-the year list. This is an annal. The annal is an interesting way of chronicling events because it explicitly shows the interests of the writer. I chose to make this annal just to highlight how one’s knowledge of a field is overwhelming influenced by one’s personal interests and tastes. It’s an obvious point, but in world of music writing, people often use descriptive terms like “timeless” and “classic” to mask how the things they praise are essentially just the things they like. The other benefit of the annal is that is helps to illustrate how one can amass significant knowledge of something (in this case, a genre) and still have a very limited perspective. In short, this is my 2012 hip-hop experience, y’all!

Date Unknown/irrelevant: XXL releases its annual 2012 Freshman Class List, further demonstrating the unreliability and silliness of the list. In retrospect, Angel Haze, Joey Bad@$$, Nitty Scott, MC., Azealia Banks, Gunplay and other artists with significant buzz, are noticeably absent.

January 20: On the third anniversary of Obama’s historic inauguration, Red Tails is released, showing the world that Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry aren’t alone in their inability to make shitty movies for black people.

Feb 8: Earl comes home.

February 24: Kevin Hart throws J. Cole an alley oop.

February 26: Travyon Martin is murdered.

March 7: I become an intern for RESPECT.

March 26: John Seabrook shows the world why so much pop music sounds the same.

April 6: Danny Brown and Ab-Soul team up for a potentially hard-hitting song and Ab-Soul nearly ruins it with his stupid hippie bullshit.

Good Friday: “Mercy” by G.O.O.D. Music is released, unleashing 2 Chainz to the world that now wants to give him back.

April 24: Santigold releases her second album. The album artwork is done by Kehinde Wile.

June 5: Big K.R.I.T. reminds us that 2 Chainz isn’t the only voice of Southern Rap.

June 17: Haleek Maul shows us the dark side of Barbados.

June 21: I enter the Peter Rosenberg vs Lil’ Wayne debate, then renege in the comments a few days later.

June 27: Clear Soul Forces talks with me and puts on one of the best live hip-hop shows I’ve ever seen.

June 27: Google introduces hip-hop to Kafka.

July 4: Frank Ocean is beautifully frank.

July 9: Nitty Scott, MC calls for interviewers to ask tougher questions.

July 9: Lianna la Havas releases the most beautiful album of the year.

July 10: Frank Ocean releases an album that’s also beautiful, but I don’t want contradict the entry above, so…

July 13: An NPR intern acknowledges the fact that old rap albums are oftentimes insufferable.

July 15: I Heart NPR Interns.

July 24: Brandon Soderberg writes the most important hip-hop related article of the year.

July 25: Lupe Fiasco reminds hip-hop of the pain that gives it life.

August 2: Rap Genius gets called out for being inherently shitty.

August 3: Kendrick Lamar readies the world for his upcoming album. Months later, this song is played at college parties.

August 11: Azealia Banks disses Jim Jones, poignantly saying, “It takes a Harlem bitch to execute a Harlem bitch.”

August 19: Slaughterhouse releases their mixtape On the House. It is better than their album, welcome to: OUR HOUSE.

August 20: DOOM releases Key to the Kuffs, a collaborative effort with Jneiro Jarel, a producer who’s name is way easier to pronounce than it looks.

August 20: Nitty Scott, MC talks to me about her first commercial release, boomboxes and Nicki Minaj.

August 23: Lupe Fiasco casually and arrogantly addresses the word “bitch,” confirming his decline.

September 3: Talib Kweli unimaginatively and wastefully appropriates the best movie of 2011.

September 14: Kreayshawn releases her debut album; it sells less than J.R. Writer’s debut album.

November 2: The RZA takes killer bee swag to Jungle Village. The soundtrack is the best collaborative release of the year.

November 29: I regret reneging in the comments on the Peter Rosenberg vs Lil’ Wayne piece I wrote in June.

This is Why Trayvon Was Murdered

Last night, before going to bed to dream of spilled olive oil and socks that don’t fit, I signed into Facebook and read this:
“I Love Macon.
I love getting felt up every time I go dancing.
I love hearing police sirens every night.
I love stopping at red lights, and locking my doors because I’m afraid of getting carjacked.
I love being panhandled every time I go grocery shopping.
I love hearing gunshots.
I love having more pawn shops than clothing stores.
I love homophobic racist sexist old money rednecks.
I love it that “culture” is one theater.
I love disobeying my GPS when it tries to take me through the ghetto.
I love being scared of every black person I meet outside of campus.
I love the asinine way they handle rape victims.
I love hearing about Macon doctors laughing at AIDS victims.
I love the confederate flag.
I love when my air conditioning unit is stolen for copper.
I love it when my house is robbed.
I love it when my roommates are beaten.
I love it when the police do nothing.
I love it when the only safe place to survive is the “Mercer Bubble”

And what I love most of all is when idiotic “I Love Macon” pledges try to force me to speak positively about this city.”

The person who posted this is a friend/acquaintance/guy I know who goes to my school. Before proceeding, allow me to lay out some Important Preliminary Facts:  my school is 70-75%  white (mostly middle  or upper-middle class), my school has an open campus that is surrounded by poor black folk, the poster of this status is white and he was responding to this campaign.

If you didn’t read that article, go back and read it now. It’s important to read because it clearly demonstrates two important points: the people behind this campaign are aware that Macon’s problems are not necessarily unique and they are trying to confront those problems with positive energy. I don’t think the campaign is brilliant or anything, but considering how frequently I hear people shit on the city for no good reason, I think it’s in good spirit, especially since the campaign is aware of its silliness. The poster of this very offensive Facebook status, who I will now refer to as Sunbeam Guy, is understandably skeptical of the campaign. Honestly, amidst some of his racism and classism, there are some good points. No doubt, Macon can do better.

That being said, most of the problems he outlines are personal problems, like the problem of his racism. It depresses me when I hear about white folks at my school being scared of “ghetto” black folks. You know why? BECAUSE GHETTONESS IS ARBITRARY. The only criteria used to determined “ghettoness” are familiarity and black skin. This means two things: 1) at all times I am one step removed from being the ghetto, fear-inducing Other and 2) All of my social relationships [with these particular white folks] are solely predicated upon  my being familiar.  In other words, I am “safe” solely because I can be identified. I am one of the “good ones,” the trustworthy ones. Based on this type of racism I can be assured that if I encounter a white person who doesn’t know me or who doesn’t identify me as a member of the community, I am instantly transfigured from Stephen Kearse to Trayvon Martin. This is unacceptable.

In fact, this is why Trayvon Martin was murdered. This fear of black bodies, this need to identity them, to “confirm” their right to belong is exactly why he was murdered. You may think that you fear black people outside of campus, but the truth is that you fear the black folks on campus as well. Like I said earlier, the only difference between me and them is the fact that you know me. Literally, all it takes for you to fear me is a brief moment of misrecognition. That’s fucked up.

I don’t want you to fear me. In fact, I’d rather you feel indifferent to me than to subject me to this type of prejudicial surveillance. But my feelings don’t matter, apparently. You’ve independently decided how to deal with me and my “ilk.”

I’m not the spokesperson for black people (hint: there’s no such thing), but Guy, I have a message for you and people who think like you, specifically Mercerians: there’s no such thing as “The Mercer Bubble.” The Mercer Bubble is a racist, classist, provincial, insular, narrow-minded, stupid, deluded, arbitrary and ironically unsafe chimera generated by people like you who arrogantly believe that safety can somehow be guaranteed.

What’s truly funny to me is that until your retreat into the bubble, I hadn’t realized how unsafe I am. For 4 years, I’ve walked around campus thinking that I was among folks with the ability to think. Turns out I was wrong. At any given moment, without thought, you and your people (by this I mean the 50+ people who liked your Facebook and the dozens who would have liked it if they had read it) can resort to knee-jerk, parochial and bigoted views and indefinitely suspend my identity and self-determination as well as your own ability to think. How silly of me. I’ve been telling myself that I’m Stephen Kearse, but the truth is that I’m Trayvon Martin.