The Kids Ain’t Al(t)Right

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Disclaimer: I don’t fuck with politics. I say that in regards to my personal interactions and my social media presence. Sure, when pressed in a crowded saloon I’ll let you know where my head is at, and once in a blue moon I’ll let off a tweet in response to some public or social occurrence that rattled my cage, but I truly keep to myself when it comes to the state of the union.

If you know me, you know that I’m well-educated. I dedicated a handful of tedious and expensive years to earning multiple degrees that have afforded me the luxury of living a life above the poverty line. I don’t say that to gloat, I mention that so you have some context in which to gauge my level of bullshit.

I haven’t been schooled in public policy, nor have I studied socioeconomics beyond a few undergraduate courses many years ago. What I have done is wholeheartedly thrown myself into this community where I help kids on a daily basis, who reside on the streets all around me, in an attempt to bring some slow-moving change to the city where I’ve laid my head for the past 18 years. I’ve held the same position for the past ten years, and I have zero intention of walking away.

I’ve made it my business to stay on the second cut of the political fairway in 2017 to keep my sanity. I have smart, passionate friends who would love nothing more than to hear my thoughts on Trumpito’s reign at the top, but all I got is my drink and my two step.

When it comes down to it we’re all arguing at the top of our lungs for whichever side we ride for. The only way we’ll affect real change is to first acknowledge the counterclaim, and second: get involved and stay involved working hand and hand with local legislators to draft and pass laws that have nothing but the best interests of the city residents in mind. I haven’t seen that happen quite yet, and yes, in that regard I am part of the problem.

As much as I admittedly enjoy burying my head in the sand the second politics becomes the active topic, there was no way I could ignore an article that came my way today. Apparently the “Alt-Right” is alive and well in the Capital City of New York. I moved here when I was 19, and I’ve always viewed my city as progressively liberal, generally aligned with the democratic ideals of the left.  “Alt Right” formations might not be alarming on nationwide scale, but it certainly caught me off guard in context to the 518.

If you’re scoring at home, the “Alt-Right” ideology was introduced in 2008 by Paul Gottfried during a speech in which he highlighted a new conservative, one who no longer identified with the current conservative (Republican) movement. According to The New Yorker, Gottfried never used the term “Alt-Right”, his remarks were later reported by a website under the headline, “The Decline and Rise of The Alternative Right.” And just like that, a new breed of right-brain extremists were born.

So what the fuck does “Alt-Right” mean? If you don’t subscribe to The Neon Tangerine’s insane tweeting, or the Vice Prez’s theory that you can “pray the gay away”, but you lean a bit towards the conservative side, are you “Alt-Right? The term itself is evolving as quickly as our system seems to be diluting itself.

While many would argue the “Alt-Right” is a clever way to subscribe to the “Make America Great Again” mentality of a country tired of slick talking politicians, others would claim the “Alt-Right” is actually blatant promotion of white separatism while simultaneously backing homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-feminism, discrediting media sources, and flat out social and political bullying tactics (which have been documented, complied, memed, and shared at an alarming rate online).

From all this political jargon emerged new phrasing like “Alt-Light” and “New Right”; youth-led movements which aim to distance themselves from both the Republican political thinking and white nationalism, and instead looked to strengthen “Western values.” Either way, these “alt” movements feel angry, isolated, and motivated by extreme judgement and hate.

This divided thinking leads to the organization of like-minded ladies and gents, which brings me to the Proud Boys, a group who are allegedly finding footing in my home, Albany, NY.

The Proud Boys surfaced sometime in 2016, and stand behind the theories found in The Death Of The West, a 2001 book by Pat Buchanan. These confused little boys (and girls) believe in a “pro-Western” society; they’re a frat of pale-skinned cowards who refuse to apologize for the triumphs (and tragedies) forged by the white man over the course of the last 200 years. They also don’t cop to their clear-cut “pro white nationalism” stance, but instead claim they’re supporters of the men who shaped the modern world. I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

Social media propagates these movements. The key stroke is mightier than the sword, and unfortunately these groups aren’t just about spreading their rhetoric via blog posts, rallies, and the word-of-mouth brainwashing of weak-minded kids looking for a family. They’re violent. They stand behind their “beliefs” so strongly they will fight. They will stomp. They will hurt people to “save” people, and it’s sick.  I’ve always been more Malcolm than Martin, so I will forever defend me and mine.  But before any of us react, we must consider the source of the message and the landscape of our nation.

The “alt” movement concerns itself with what “real Americans need.” Yet, real America is a collage of sights, smells, and tones. Real America is a place where we’re free to chase the almighty dollar. Real America is a blurred, fractured land. But, real America is also the place where free speech is protected and the Internet is the actual wild fucking West.

So, live above the bullshit, and if you subscribe to any of this hate-mongering rhetoric, do your research and only then speak your mind. Because until you’ve lived in or among any of the cultures, groups, cities, or communities you condemn, your opinion won’t be worth the bandwidth you used to spew it.

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Newsboys.

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By the end of the weekend I’ll have my very first paid piece of freelance journalism published. Seeing my byline on Hip Hop DX is going to be a trip. I’ve written and published years worth of content through this blog, as well as my contributions to the now defunct Mishka Bloglin (there’s no online archive, and I think all my work has vanished into cyberspace), and my current work with Above Average Hip Hop, but, there’s something special about receiving compensation for my words. Feels pretty damn good.

I pitched a few ideas for editorials (shout out to Riley for the assist), which were all rejected. The editor at DX and I decided on a review for the latest album from Brooklyn’s The Underachievers, which I had been playing quite a bit since it dropped a few weeks ago. It’s an interesting record, in that it’s definitely not the sound that’s currently dominating the culture, but it’s not entirely stuck in place either. I had a good (albeit a bit stressful) time putting the piece together, and I sent it off for editing.

I expected nothing but pats on the back and glowing praise. Rude awakening when I opened that draft and saw a sea of red ink. Comma splice errors, quotation mistakes, you name it. Ya boy got chin checked. I’ve been writing for a long time, but I’d always been given the green light to operate by my own devices. As a writer, there’s no such thing as too many edits, so I can’t take any of the suggestions personally, yet, you’re never ready for someone to point out all the shit you should have caught the 1st time through. But I focused, made the appropriate changes, fleshed out a solid concluding statement and got that 1st piece in the books.

I sent (what I imagine to be) my final edits, and I have to admit…I feel like I bodied the it. And that’s the feeling you need to have when creating subjective prose such as reviews and editorials. Be your best and worst critic, but most importantly stand by the shit you say with conviction and pride. I cannot wait for the comments section to pop off. That will be my true ‘Mama I made it’ moment.

Keep your eyes peeled to the reviews section at DX over the next few days, and have a great weekend.

What’s Beef?

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An early defining moment for me came when I got punched in the throat on the playground in the 6th grade. I ran my mouth and the kid came and found me, which wasn’t hard to do since we were in the same class. When it came to it I failed to guard my grill and ended up winded, lying on my back silently surrounded by my friends. Nobody had a phone. Nobody stomped me out. Nobody told a soul. That morning I had been listening to Naughty By Nature and felt invincible. I was filled with this burning energy that I was untouchable; soaked in that blind hubris we enjoy as kids. I was ready to knuckle up. I was the man. I learned a invaluable message that day; I was not made of glass and I did not have the juice.

I shared my ‘got my ass whooped once’ story this morning because I cannot ignore my Twitter timeline. Florida rap is making such seismic waves we’d be remiss not to talk about it. In a nutshell you’ve got a few young rappers (XXXtentacion, WifisFuneral, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Pump…I couldn’t make these names up with an online randomizer) who are the leaders of this new age wave that may or may not be the future of the genre. Sounds heavy, I know. But listen to this. They’re selling out 1000 seat venues, amassing millions of streams on soundcloud, and doing it on the strength of social media. Instagram live drops their life directly into your life, and the kids cannot look away.

So this XXXtentacion kid (yes he’s a kid, he’s 19 years old) is a troubled soul. Like many of the success stories in rap, his rap sheet is impressive. Impressive in the sense that he’s already caught a few cases and has logged some time in jail…at 19. He’s facing an upcoming case for home invasion, holding someone against their will, and allegedly battering his pregnant girlfriend. These are our heroes?

As Twitter cannot let me forget, XXX is on tour. He’s calling it the revenge tour. He shows up, spins the crowd into a mosh pit frenzy, shouts words over the words he’s recorded, flips and kicks off the stage into the arms of his eager fans and secures the bag. The crowds have been massive and the response has been feverishly rabid. The kids have fully bought in.

XXX also has no filter. He hasn’t heard a beef he won’t jump into. He doesn’t pick his spots, he doesn’t hold his tongue, he’s simply all in all of the time. Commendable, most definitely. But for this guy it’s a flaw that finally caught up to him. Earlier in the week he was onstage in San Diego (home of Rob Stone, a rapper XXX has beefed with prior) and caught the wild fade. The punch was something straight out of Mortal Kombat. Apparently, XXX pays 12 security guards to keep him safe, yet he still got snuffed worse than I’ve ever seen during any live performance. Ever. Take a look.

Joking aside, XXX was instantly knocked out and was carried off the stage by his team. There’s a lot to dissect here. First, did anyone else realize he was simply standing at the mic lip-singing? He hit the deck and the verse he was “singing” kept right on playing. And how about that track? It sounded like a Weezer cover…but I digress. The important thing here is that this young man is bringing the violence with him from city to city. The kid who leveled XXX with the punch was stabbed during that melee and was taken to the hospital. The following stop on the tour was postponed by the venue in hopes of dodging any San Diego fallout. Completely insane stuff.

What does all this mean for hip hop? Is it breathing life back into a genre that loopholes itself into periods of complacent boredom? Is this whole new wave simply a blip on the radar? A passing phase of youth and energy? It’s entertaining for sure, but it also feels cheap. Take a few minutes and google some of these kids. Watch some YouTube clips. Visit a soundcloud page or two. It’s a pulse. It’s a vibe, but it’s lacking any semblance to the beats & rhymes formula that’s worked for the last 30 odd years. Hard to ignore that it’s catching like a cold and spreading from high school to high school like an epidemic.

I blame anime. I blame drugs. I blame teachers and parents. I blame Macbooks. I blame history for repeating itself.  I never imagined I would live to see an emo invasion of the genre I’ve loved as long as I’ve been alive. 2017…you’re a real motherfucker. Rap is becoming a Tracy Morgan gif one day at time.

Reinvention.

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We sure are living in odd times, no? The Admin, the social climate, the art. Everything is twisting and burrowing itself into a bizarre niche that will someday be studied on tablets in classrooms around the globe. That’s assuming there’s a globe to study upon, but the Paris Accord pull out is a discussion for another blog, some other time.

Lately, I’ve been casually observing life’s finer moments through the warped, fish eyed lens of Twitter. It’s a one-stop-shop for social commentary. Looking for politics? You’re set. Need up to the minute sports? It’s there in 140 characters or less. Music news? Comedy? Pure unadulterated ratchet behavior? Better believe it. The shit I witness on Twitter on a daily basis would give my parents nightmares. We’re living in a big, bad Worldstar, and I cannot look away.

The scary part is, I can’t lose sight of Twitter because it’s become my sole social media vehicle. I deleted my IG app (not my account), and I’ve never actually completed the sign up phase for Facebook (my will isn’t strong enough to resist the imminent creep on ex friends and lovers). So that leaves me to my 140 character research…and sadly enough, I’m ok with it.

I tweet my jokes. I promote my writing. I attach gif files. I do what most aging, somewhat socially conscious old heads do…I hate. I find the shit the kids are in love with and I tear it down. Not only do I tear it down, but I do it with the full understanding that I’ll likely contradict myself down the line and halfway enjoy the same sounds and behaviors that I mocked (which leads me to occasionally delete older, salty tweets).

Please don’t get me fucked up. I’m not sitting here with a fidget spinner on my index finger, blasting Teenage Emotions (yes, there are some jams on that record) on repeat. But, I have made some concessions in my daily music and cultural intake based solely on the joy and happiness some of this seemingly nonsensical material brings to the kids.

In my 9-5, I’m surround by young people. I soak up what’s being heard, said, and even occasionally read. At work, I’m the observer. I’m the outsider. I’m sure on a few occasions, I’ve been the punchline of the 140 character joke. But regardless of how many times these little fools mention my Lebron edge-up, my slightly noticeable belly, or my “wack” top 5 (eat shit if Nas isn’t on your list), the kids are alive in 2017. They’re living in a time of break-neck pacing. Everything happens all the time. There’s no rest, no cover. Their lives, and now mine, are captured in tiny bursts.

On an entirely different note, Yelawolf released a new single yesterday called “Row Your Boat”. It’s the lead joint from his upcoming (and much delayed) Trial By Fire record. I love it, but I’m biased. I think Yela’s lane is entirely unique to his brand. So catch me bumping whatever he drops. Today is Friday. The sun is out. There’s a shit ton of new music out there to explore. So get up, get out, and get something. REinvent yourself, even if it’s 140 characters at a time.

Witness my shenanigans on Twitter @ThexGlassxHouse. Help me reach 1,000 followers so I can finally tell my mama I made it.

 

The Sunshine State 

Venice, Florida. I saw a sign yesterday, while hanging out poolside at the tiki bar of my Gram’s 55 and older community (which isn’t a bar at all, just a thatched escape from the sun), which read “I live where you vacation”. That’s when it dawned on me, it might be scary to apply for that job, or sign that lease, or sell that car, but what’s really holding us back?

Fear is the catalyst for so many of our comfortable routines. We find solace in stressful situations because we are creatures of habit. As I write this I’m listening to Wifisfuneral’s When Hell Falls, a record I would have entirely ignored a few weeks ago. My pride as a “hip hop purist” forces me to skip even the most innocent precursory listens because my habits dwarf my desire to experiment. The new class of rappers is trash. Hail King Kendrick. These sentiments are senseless, and my lifelong quest for new music only staggers when I allow routine to play a part in whether I press play or not.

It’s all relative. If we died today, would it be with a smile on our faces? Would we have really lived, or just mimicked our way through the days? If you’re tired of the snow and cold, pack your bags and go. If you’re in a dead end situation at home, pack your bags and go. Rent, mortgages, kids, none of those issues are anchors, they’re just factors in the complexity of your world.

Play the lotto. Order a double. Turn your music way up. Plan ahead, but leave some room for a left turn. Live like all this shit is temporary, because we don’t grow roots, even when it feels like it.  

Good Friday Indeed

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So it goes.  I completed all 10 days of the cleanse. It was a mental battle and I lost 12 pounds. More than the weight loss, it was rewarding to see it through. I think I’ll do it again in 6 months or so, but in the meantime I aim to be on my bike as much as possible. I did 10.6 miles yesterday, and it was glorious. But really though, I ate cold pizza for breakfast, so don’t get it twisted. We eat what we want around here, as long as we get up off the couch once in a while and sweat.  Spring makes me Schmoney Dance in the these streets.

I’m off from work the next ten days and heading to Florida on Sunday. Sunday should be an interesting day, to say the least. Kendrick dropped Damn last night. Twitter went ape shit…your boy included. It’s a powerful narrative, entirely different from To Pimp a Butterfly, but none less fascinating. It’s a concept record of epic proportions.  The record recalls the energy, pain, and passion of a life lost in the intro. The narrator tries to help a blind women who takes his life with a single bullet. Oddly enough, the record dropped on Good Friday…

His producer tweeted a pic of Morpheus from The Matrix with a quote that said something like, what if this wasn’t the real version?  Kendrick also modified his Spotify pic to stand in front of a blue brick wall. The internet buzzes even harder. Could we have heard the “red pill”, and if so, are we in for a second installment? Could the “blue pill” be coming on Sunday, Easter Sunday, the day Jesus came back from the dead? Is Kendrick hailing himself ‘the rap Jesus’? And if so, does anyone have a problem with that? On “The Heart Pt. 4″ (which didn’t make the album) he claims, ‘Dropped one classic, came right back, another classic right back”, and claims the next project is TOC. TOC…The Other Color? I’m over here twisting my imaginary Illuminati mustache.

All hip hop heavyweights have the double album under their belts. Big, Pac, Jay, Nas….a double entry from Kung-Fu Kenny makes perfect sense. Either way, Damn stands alone as a precise collection of songs less concerned with the immediate cultural climate (like we saw throughout To Pimp a Butterfly) and more focused on the energy of today’s musical landscape balanced with his industry-leading story telling prowess. Calling Damn a record with a heavy “trap” influence is a stretch, but it certainly is a project which continues to support those claims that Kendrick is the greatest rapper alive.

That being said, I’m completely enjoying Playboi Carti’s self-titled debut while I pound these keys.

Enjoy your weekend all. And keep your eyes peeled for Nation, the second half of Kendrick’s opus this Sunday. You heard it here first.

The Master Plan

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This shit right here? It’s the focus of my next 7 days. The actual Master Cleanse plan calls for 10, but fuck that noise. Why?  It’s rather simple. I’m cleansing to reset my system. I’m cleansing to prove that I can. And finally, I’m cleansing to take a step back from alcohol. Not for nothing, I also want to test myself. I’m strong, and I’m smart, but I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. Habits in food. Habits in drink. Habits in music. So now we rage against that habitual machine. It will also be eye-opening to experience the mental and physical hurdles that billions of staving people on this planet encounter every day.

Unrelated, Moonlight won the best picture Oscar after that now-famous royal Academy fuck up. So that was cool. The movie was a pretty cold glimpse at a story normally left untold. Every day I walk the halls of my building knowing there are of kids amongst the masses who think and feel differently than the “norm”. We work hard to accept those differences as merely part of the “norm”, but the sum never adds up. Moonlight is a necessary piece of art for a demographic, and world really, that still struggles to accept homosexuality. Kudos to that team for having the balls to make a gorgeous film without limits.

The Neon Tangerine continues to melt down in Washington. His dementia seems like it’s got the upper hand, and it would probably behoove me to start a dead pool in my office. If nothing else, this administration is pure comedy gold. Huge shout out to Desus & Mero on Viceland and from the Bodega Boys podcast for continuous coverage of the daily executive shit show from Capital Hill.

I’ve been on a huge U2 kick lately. What’s happening now is what happened a few years ago with Pearl Jam. When I was an angsty early 20-something, I couldn’t appreciate what Vedder and the boys were all about. Now that I’m a grown man, the song writing and guitar tones of U2’s entire catalog is mind blowing. They were once a punk (ish) band from Ireland singing because it’s all they had in the world. I can feel that now, and it’s worth it.

The Pretenders. The Replacements. Run The Jewels. Vince Staples. Ryan Adams. These are a few of my current favorite things. Specifically RTJ3 and Prisoner from Ryan Adams. Tremendous records. Also give After The Party by The Menzingers a run through. I thought they hit the wall on their last (2) records. After The Party is a look in the rear view as your twenty’s give way to the real shit storms of adulthood. Good stuff. Leave me a comment and tell me what I need to be hearing. Peace.