The booty don’t lie, y’all. The booty does not lie.
That’s what was exclaimed on a song my beloved Janelle Monae made with the Bae-In-Chief Erykah Badu. The song is inherently amazing.
But what’s even more fire is how much Janelle has evolved from her early days, back when she was toying with being more neo-soul than Archandroid. For those who do not know, Janelle comes from humble beginnings in Kansas but started the career we recognize today down in Atlanta.
My favorite part about Ms. Monae is the deliberate and unwavering attitude she’s had in growing from her first label-backed album to the current one. From her debut, this Electric Lady has been accused of not being girly enough and being too straight-laced and androgynous to being a James Brown copycat and lacking style, mostly because of her tuxedo-influenced getups and capes she wore during her energetic performances.
But she slyly held steady to the values and visions she saw for herself and has come out on the other side as a beautiful, high-energy, free-spirited artist with enough pull to get both Erykah and Prince on the same album. How dope is that? She also recently tore Governor’s Ball to pieces and looked immaculate doing it. Her energy and passion when she is onstage is really a sight to behold, and impossible to mimic.
Also, I love her.
Drake is a bit of an anomaly in some ways. He’s a tough talker as a rapper, but never really gets into the business of ‘rap beefs’. I understand it about as much as I understand molecular fusion. It’s whatever though.
But seriously, he talks tough because he can actually back it up. With every new track randomly released on the interwebz, more and more screwfacing commences in the Twittersphere and blogosphere. Not to mention the really rappity-rap parts of his albums.
What I really do like about Drake is his (unfortunately) unorthodox honesty in his music. He really delves into strictly human feelings and thoughts about romantic relationships, success, public expectations and even parental relationships. Those types of expressions aren’t new by a long shot, but I think that him sort being on that millennial ‘cusp’ is what makes the perspective fresh, not to mention the fact he strives to stay as normal as he can. It’s weird, but I dig why he does it.
That part of him and his honesty are really what I appreciate about Aubrey the Drake, aside from his skill as a rapper. I think that’s what will take him even further than he’s come. Can’t ever go wrong with truth in music.
To start this challenge very late, I’m kicking things off with my main man fitty grand-I-ain’t-never-played-can-jam-with-the-fam Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. A man otherwise known as Fela Kuti.
Many would consider this strictly African music but I’m using who he was and what he stood for as the first post for this #BlackMusicMonth series. You can find out more about that, here.
From what I’ve watched and learned about him, Fela was a man who was extremely serious about the betterment of Africans and people in general, and as such he was very much a political rebel in a corruption-infested country. Both of those characteristics materialized in his music, too. When you really pay attention, much of his lyrical content tried to open people’s eyes to the corrupt ways of the Nigerian government, and governments around the world. Sonically, his songs combined the best parts of jazz, funk, Ghanaian & Nigerian music, with a hint of Latin influence in the right places. Formally, this is known as Afrobeat.
Starting out, the sound was a risky mix, but he soldiered on to perfect it and make it authentic and beautiful and magical, and that’s what it became. That process also shows parallels with how he handled being a man of the people — not above but equal. There were many terribly rough patches and “run-ins” with the government of his home country, to put it almost obnoxiously lightly, but he fought and stayed true to what he believed in. He didn’t care who was going to fight him, he would and did fight back, and he was probably one of THE definitions of not giving a fuck — about the right things.
One thing that’s been stuck on my mind recently was when I was helping my grandmother repot a plant. She’d kept saying that the pot is too small for the plant and it won’t be able to grow like it’s supposed to, no matter how much we watered it and such. Its growth is stunted. My grandmother has had plants for as long as I remember, so she’s the resident expert I trust.
Although It made sense to me, a vision of what she meant really didn’t materialize until we started to change the pot. What I had seen was that the roots of the plant had grown a lot but it really was only able to take the shape of the pot instead of reaching out further and further, and taking whatever natural form it pleased. That was how the plant had been limited. Its roots were crowding each other. There was not enough room for it to expand its underlying foundation, which in turn didn’t allow for the growth of new leaves.
My mind tends to pull the very basic parts of concepts and superimpose them on this here thing called life, to see what matches up. So what I had gotten from it was that from time to time, you’ve got to take inventory of when and how your growth is being held back, and why. If you don’t, before long you’re going to notice that you’re stumbling over yourself and tripping over your own feet. It becomes obvious that the grand visions and aspirations you have for yourself do not yet have the proper foundation on which to be built.
In the past, I’d write things like this without really having a practical experience to base it on. But I think that up to this point I’ve endured enough to write what I write to you with a bit more fervor and confidence. I’ve taken that inventory and seen that I was limited, and now I speak to you from a new pot I can stretch my legs in.
So in my trademark and most infamous metaphoric fashion, I just want to tell you to remember to change your pot periodically. Realize that if you’re stumbling and tripping, see what it is you’re actually falling over. It could be your own roots.
Repot accordingly, please.
Well. What can I say about 2013 that won’t be cliché? I can’t say it was my best year to date. I can’t say it was my worst year, either. But it definitely was a year to be had. One of those mandatory things, I guess.
It’s sort of weird, but despite the time that I’ve had in 2013, I can’t speak ill about it. Even with being unemployed for most of the year and ending it off still unemployed, I can’t say I was treated terribly. Friends looked out and helped me keep sane, family kept love around and I’m grateful for that.