Fight Music

“Art will save us,” Dr. Tang told me as we drank coffee and played chess at a Berkeley Starbucks. She suddenly stopped, her hand still holding her rook a few centimeters above the board. She shook her salt and pepper hair, took a deep breath and smiled. “Let me rephrase. Art will not save is, Shawn. But it will make the bullshit easier to deal with. It will inspire us to do good work. It will gives us new eyes through which to see.” Checkmate. As Dr. Tang got up to leave, she told me one last thing. “As usual, the art that will get us through is music.”

I wanted to dispute this. I wanted to talk about the political dimensions of aerosol art, street theater, cyphers of emcees (like this still happens) — but in my experience, she was totally right. Almost all of my prosocial politics have come from music. Music has been there for me when so many others chose not to, or I didn’t allow them to. Music has been as much a part of my life and growth as geek culture.

Continue reading “Fight Music”

A Tale of Two Daves, Past and Present

When Chappelle’s Show dropped in 2003, never in my history of comedic television viewing had a first episode been so explosive. Clayton Bigsby was the most audacious thing I’ve ever seen. A black white supremacist? I, along with millions of others, was hooked. Until then, Dave Chappelle was a marginal comic presence. He had bit roles in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blue Streak, Undercover Brother, and other films. Then he became a star with the stoners for the cult classic, 1998’s Half Baked. He was a stand-up whose career consisted of mostly juvenile and scatological humor with flashes of the socially and culturally relevant comedy displayed on the first two seasons of Chappelle’s Show. He was a hard worker. Dude toured and gave it his all. It was fascinating to see him mature from confident performer to a master of crowd control. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Daves, Past and Present”

Ten (or More) People Who Proved 2016 Wasn’t a Total Disaster

When it’s all said and done, 2016 will be long remembered as the year everything (including American democracy) went to hell. Pop culture did not go unscathed either. We said goodbye to all of our heroes: Prince, Bowie, Ali, Phife, Kanye… and hello to the worst the internet could offer. From misogynist Ghostbusters haters to problematic faves, it was the year the ugly side of internet culture went mainstream. I mean, we literally elected an internet troll the leader of the free world.

Still, the geekosystem was able to produce a few silver linings in the massive dark cloud that was the last 12 months. Here are ten… or so.

Continue reading “Ten (or More) People Who Proved 2016 Wasn’t a Total Disaster”

What’s Beef for $1,000? Alex Trebek vs. Nerdcore

It’s been an interesting 24 hours, to say the least.

On Wednesday evening while on tour, I got a few tweets linking me to an episode of Jeopardy!

I not only learned that day that the show was still on the air, but that Alex Trebek had taken a really small poke at the genre of music in which I make my living: Nerdcore Hip-Hop.

Continue reading “What’s Beef for $1,000? Alex Trebek vs. Nerdcore”

Luke Cage: Dig a Little Deeper

My sister, Dr. Tara Betts, dropped the Luke Cage syllabus over at Black Nerd Problems. It is a must read. I wanted to add to this wealth of knowledge by offering my own “special features” companion piece to Cage. I will present the following without description as I do not want to taint anyone’s experience. This is only a small amount if what is actually out there. I mentioned other books in my reflections on the series. You can read it here.

Continue reading Luke Cage: Dig a Little Deeper”

Luke Cage on Netflix: Sweet Christmas in Autumn

[Note: minor spoilers throughout.]

Let me be upfront and get this out of the way, I love Marvel and Netflix’s Luke Cage. I love it for the way it is shot. I love it for the unparalleled beauty of the soundtrack. I love it for its color palette. I love it for its hesitancy and awkwardness. I love it for some of the struggle-performances. But what I love the most about it is how black it is.

Continue reading Luke Cage on Netflix: Sweet Christmas in Autumn”

Creator Profile: The Ghetto Geppetto

There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not asked some version of the following questions: “How do you know about all this comic book stuff?” It is usually followed up by: “There is so much out there. How do you know if it is any good?”

Instead of rehashing here my plea for people to take risks on art and culture, I’ve decided to be more proactive.

Continue reading “Creator Profile: The Ghetto Geppetto”

Remember That Lawyer Who Accused Hamilton of Discrimination?

Over the weekend, the Broadway musical, Hamilton, won 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Remember the news story about the lawyer who pointed out that Hamilton’s audition notice discriminated against Caucasian actors?

The lawyer, Randolph M. McLaughlin, inadvertently caused a firestorm of social media ire by lovers of the popular (and expensive) musical. I contacted Randolph to hear his side of the story.

Continue reading “Remember That Lawyer Who Accused Hamilton of Discrimination?”

Rest In Power to the 5 Ft Assassin

I received the text late. I’m normally a night out owl, but this CPAP machine is making sleep lovely and attractive. I heard my phone buzz and clumsily pawed for it. I pulled it close to my face, my sleepiness and the plastic bar of the CPAP face mask made it nearly impossible to make out — the combination of text size and screen brightness was too much for  me. I concentrated and the blurry screen came into focus. My heart sank. The text was from a friend: “Yo, Phife passed, B.” Continue reading “Rest In Power to the 5 Ft Assassin”

Black Masculinity as Performed in Japanese Visual Media

by Kendall Bazemore

Japan has long produced visual media that has captivated readers and viewers for decades. Manga and anime are two classic mediums through which fantastical worlds and profound characters come to life. Of all the hundreds of thousands of characters that exist in these worlds, there are a handful that share a close resemblance to African Americans. Though these characters are not always explicitly identified as black, they are heavily coded as black or Afro-descended. The aesthetic of black coded characters in anime and manga reflect the same ideologies of black males in U.S media and society. Popular series like Naruto and Samurai Champloo both use tropes of black males and demonstrate common ideas about their masculinity and how they are read by others. Hip hop is the vehicle through which Japan understands American blackness which manifests itself in various ways in Japanese media.

Continue reading “Black Masculinity as Performed in Japanese Visual Media”