People are missing this crucial detail that proves TSwift is right and Kimye is wrong

Note: none of this actually matters. 

If you have the Internet, you may have heard that there is a war going on between two camps: one headed by Taylor Swift, the other by Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. Basically, Taylor Swift is pissed about some lyrics in Kanye’s song “Famous,” but Kimye (referring to Kim and Kanye as a team) alleges that Kanye told Swift about the lyrics, she gave her approval, and is therefore a liar and a snake and all these awful things. 

What really escalated things was when Kim released audio recordings of Kanye and Taylor talking about the song. According to Kimye, this proved that Taylor’s outrage was fake and that she knew what the song would be about. But here’s the detail that everyone is missing: Taylor took issue with one specific line: “I made that bitch famous.” BUT– crucially– even on the dubiously released phone conversations, Kanye never told Taylor about that specific line! 

To recap: Taylor was pissed about said line. Kim and Kanye went in on her, saying she knew what the song was going to be about and released taped conversations. But there were no conversations about that line in question that Taylor took issue with! It was a Kimye bluff, and everyone fell for it. 

Now, let’s break down why Taylor Swift was offended by that line: “I made that bitch famous.” The reasons are two-fold. First, he called her a bitch. For some reason, rappers are given a free pass when it comes to sexist and misogynistic lyrics. But if a woman takes issue with being called a sexist and derogatory slur, she is more than entitled to do so. 

How are so many people missing that point? Yes, Kanye has poetic license to use whatever words he chooses, but if you call a woman a bitch, she has the right to be upset by that. 

Secondly, and perhaps even more crucially, was Kanye’s lyrical assertion that he made Taylor Swift famous. This is where the sexism goes into overdrive. Here is a man saying that his shitty actions (specifically when he stormed the VMA stage in 2009 trying to take an award away from Swift) are what made an incredibly successful woman famous. He is trying to take credit for this woman’s success. And calls her a bitch while doing so. 

(It’s important to note that prior to the infamous 2009 VMA’s, Taylor Swift was a global superstar who has toured the world, sold millions of records, and connected with millions of fans. She made herself famous, by the merits of her songwriting abilities. Kanye West did not, in fact, make that bitch famous.)

In summation, Taylor Swift was doubly justified in being pissed off at a monumentally sexist line. Kimye used smoke and mirrors to fake a backstory and make Taylor look like a liar, when in fact, it was the Kardashian-Wests doing the lying. 

Again, none of this really matters, but it was very frustrating that everyone seemed to be missing such a crucial detail in this feud. 

Now back to reality!

An Open Letter to My Fellow White People

handsupTo my white friends: we need to wake up! Racism is real and is directly impacts black people EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Let’s start here: White privilege is real, and we experience it every day. Like when we write a nice white-sounding name on a job application, we know that we’re going to be judged only on the experience listed on the resume, and not a proven prejudice against “black-sounding” names. Racism exists in our every day lives. We need to acknowledge that.

But is *not* a two-way street. Racism only goes one way: white to black. From the descendants of slave-owners to the descendants of slaves.

We need to stop pretending that everything is equal. We need to remember that until only 150 years ago, in modern human times with electricity and cars, white people OWNED black people. (Sorry for the caps, but this needs to be done):

WE USED TO ENSLAVE HUMAN BEINGS AND FORCE THEM TO DO WHATEVER WE WANTED THEM TO DO.  WE MADE THEM PICK COTTON AND FARM AND DO OUR BIDDING 24/7! AND THEY DIDN’T GET TO GO HOME AFTER WORK OR EARN ANY MONEY– THEY WERE ENSLAVED. THEY COULD NOT LEAVE THE PROPERTY WITHOUT PERMISSION. WE WOULD WHIP AND BEAT THEM TO KEEP THEM IN LINE.

This was NOT that long ago.

Until even more recently, we lived in a segregated country!

YEAH! We need to talk about how even after we “let go” our human being toys, we didn’t let them go anywhere. People could say “no blacks allowed” and that was enforced by the law! We, white people, need to acknowledge that the Civil Rights Act *ONLY* became the law fifty years ago.

From Wikipedia: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations”).

We need to remember that for 64% of the 20th Century, we didn’t let black people go to the same restaurants, schools, bathrooms, bars, anything. Many of the racist former slave owners stayed rich and powerful enough to influence laws. For 100 full years after the Civil War, in modern times. So in that nice, idealized, beautiful, simple world that we so like to dream of in the past, when our white families would gather round the TV and watch “I Love Lucy” and eat apple pie, even having these illusions is white privilege. Because in these picturesque “good old days,” things sure as shit weren’t good for black families! Watching “I Love Lucy” at the end of a day filled with not being able to go to school or work where you want kind of loses its charm. And baking that nice apple pie gets more difficult when a black mother could be prohibited from shopping at a bakery because of the color of her skin.

And it continues today. We are still killing them! Why do so many of us deny that this is a problem? So many young men and women are having their lives taken away from them for having toy guns, or just being too scary looking.

I was about the same size as Mike Brown was when he was executed. I guarantee you that if I did the same exact thing to Officer Darren Wilson, I would have gotten yelled at and maybe fined.

NOT. SHOT. FUCKING. DEAD!

Because of the color of my skin, my life is valued more than someone like Mike Brown. A cop would subdue and apprehend me. But because Mike Brown was big, black and scary, he was put down like an animal.

Every American should have the right to their own life. We need to acknowledge the gross inequities applied to skin color in this country, today, in 2016.

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The oppressors oppress the oppressed. It does not go the other way around.

“Reverse racism” is not real, because we don’t get discriminated against. We don’t get shot when we get pulled over for a broken taillight. My dad just drove 300 miles through New England the other day with a busted taillight, and his absolute worst case scenario was *maybe* getting a ticket. At worst.

Phil Castile is dead because of a busted taillight. A nice man, a cafeteria worker who knew all of the students’ food allergies. An American. A human. Executed in a car. That is wrong. This happens

So, please, my fellow white people:

We really need to wake up. We did this. We caused these problems. But we need to acknowledge this truth if we are ever going to fix it. We need to get woke. If you don’t know what that means, just take note of the past tense. Because once you’re up, you’re up. We need to stay woke. We need to pay attention. We need to shift perspectives, realize the truth, and become more aware of our privilege. We need to become more aware of what other people go through. We don’t know half the awful stuff they go through, because we aren’t subjected to it because we are the majority.

Admitting this doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. It’s simply an acknowledgment of the world we live in, an acknowledgment that not everybody is given a fair chance. Some people, by virtue of the color of our skin, are born with a stacked hand. WE HAVE A SYSTEMIC ADVANTAGE. We need to wake up, acknowledge the truth, and try to get more white people to admit that institutional racism is real and wrong and hugely detrimental to the lives of our friends and neighbors. We can do better. We owe it to all of those young men and women whose lives were stolen from them because of the color of their skin. Racism is America’s original sin, and it is still destroying lives in 2016.

Oh and one last thing:

All Lives Matter is a racist statement. It dismisses the perils and disadvantage that black people have to face. It ignores the fact that black lives are under attack. It ignores the fact that in many ways today, black lives do matter less. They are less valued by law enforcement. They are taken away freely and without consequence.

That is why we need to say that Black Lives Matter. It needs to be said, because right now we don’t treat them like they do.

 

With love and gratitude,

 

Chuck

MC Ren On Why N.W.A Belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

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N.W.A (from left: Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Ice Cube, DJ Yella) accepting their Hall of Fame honors.

Earlier this year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted N.W.A as part of their Class of 2016. This was a huge step forward in recognizing one of the most influential and important artists of all time. Formed in Compton, California in 1986, N.W.A were one of the first artists to write about police brutality in black communities, and they were made into pariahs because of it.

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It’s jarring to listen to N.W.A’s lyrics today, because even though these songs were written decades ago, they sound as tragically current as ever. N.W.A, whose classic lineup comprised of DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren, wrote songs about racial profiling and police brutality, including the seminal “Fuck tha Police.”

When that song was released in 1988, it was a lightning rod for controversy. The group found their music censored, their concerts boycotted, and even received a threatening letter from the FBI. But the root of all of the uproar was the simple fact that an artist was audacious enough to call out systemic racism in America.

Here’s a fact: About the same number of white people and black people smoke marijuana. But if you are black, you are four times more likely to be arrested for it than if you were white.

Four times.

This, in a nutshell, encapsulates the centuries long struggle between black people and racist law enforcement.

Beginning with the founding of this country, when sheriffs would bring back escaped slaves to their owners, to when cops prevented freed slaves from daring to enjoy the same amenities as their former owners, to the present day, there has always been a different set of laws if you are black.

This self perpetuating system of oppression and injustice has affected the daily lives of black people in this country literally every day since its inception. Somehow though, this dynamic has been willfully ignored by white people since day one.

A combination of hate, ignorance, and obliviousness has led most white people to live their lives either ignoring the reality of black life or outright denying that black lives are more difficult, or even matter.

That is why N.W.A was and is so important. From 1980s Compton to 2010s Ferguson, (and Florida, Staten Island and beyond), a number of police officers, as Ice Cube put it, “think they have the authority to kill a minority.” This stream of police brutality has been divisive, leading to a national conversation about race. (I highly recommend reading this brilliant piece on white privilege, especially if you are reading this thinking that racism isn’t really a problem.)

Shortly after the group was nominated for the Hall of Fame, I spoke with MC Ren. We discussed N.W.A’s impact as well as the resistance to acknowledge their success. This was their fourth nomination– they’d missed the cut three times before.

“I have no clue why we keep getting snubbed by the Hall when they have other hip hop groups in,” Ren said, adding that “our group had as big an impact as all the rest.”

Only four rap acts had been inducted prior to N.W.A: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007), Run-D.M.C. (2009), Beastie Boys (2012), and Public Enemy (2013). Depending on your point of view, four is either way too small a number, or four too many. But many listeners of both rap and rock would argue that rock isn’t so much a genre, but rather a style of expression.

“‘Fuck Tha Police’ is hip hop and has a rock & roll attitude by the statement alone,” Ren said.

Ice Cube later elaborated on that thought, saying during his induction speech:

Now, the question is, are we rock & roll? And I say you goddamn right we rock & roll. Rock & roll is not an instrument, rock & roll is not even a style of music. Rock & roll is a spirit.

That rock & roll/hip hop spirit means standing up to adversity. Calling out discrimination. Fighting the power. N.W.A embodies that spirit without a doubt. As they knock down barriers upon their induction, the larger problem of police brutality still looms large. But today, perhaps more than ever, there seems to at least be a raised awareness of the issues.

“It’s not that America is catching up with the brutality,” Ren said. “It’s just now with technology, more events are getting captured on film and [are] bringing light to more of these evil crimes committed by crooked police officers who abuse power because they wear a badge.”

Recently many of the cop-on-unarmed-black-man crimes have blown up nationally because there are cell phone videos of these crimes. There has also been a push for body camera laws to hold police more accountable.

N.W.A went into the Hall of Fame alongside Deep Purple, Chicago, Cheap Trick, and Steve Miller. I asked MC Ren what his thoughts were on a potential all-star jam, and he said “I think all the groups together would make magic.” However, N.W.A wound up not performing at the event, feeling that they “weren’t supported.”

But like it or not, MC Ren and the rest of “the world’s most dangerous group” are now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where they belong. In many ways, the resistance to their induction stems from the simple fact that they make white people uncomfortable. By calling out police brutality and systemic racism, they shatter the pleasant safe space that white people have created for ourselves. They scare us through their art.

But I have a feeling that they don’t really mind the attention, even if it is negative.

I asked MC Ren what his reaction was when N.W.A’s music was practically forbidden in white America, and they were villianized and censored. His response?

“Free publicity.”

Photo courtesy of yahoo.com

Van the Man

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Last night I had the extreme pleasure of being in the presence of Sir Van Morrison. I got to see him perform at the Wang Theatre in Boston, MA, with my parents and my neighbor Sue.

Van’s daughter Shana Morrison opened the show with a delightful set of songs, culminating with a tremendous cover of “Purple Rain.” The tribute to Prince, who died less than a week ago, got the crowd hollering. After a brief intermission (and just enough time to visit some of my family in the crowd), Van the Man walked out on the stage and started playing saxophone. It was an abrupt and stirring entrance, and set the tone for a very special night.

Morrison opened with “Celtic Swing,” an instrumental track from his 1983 album Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. He then went right into “Close Enough For Jazz” from 1993’s Too Long In Exile. Up next were “Magic Time,” “By His Grace,” and “In The Midnight,” (spanning from ’91 to ’05).

Van Morrison has for decades had a reputation of being reserved onstage, almost to the point of weirdness. He has been known to not a say a word to the crowd, and even turn his back to them, all stemming from stage fright. But on an unseasonably cold Tuesday in Boston, he was shockingly animated. This first came to light when he brought out English singer Chris Farlowe to duet on “Born to Sing,” a 2012 cut from the album of the same name. When Van introduced his “friend” who “happened to be in Boston,” it was very surprising to hear him interact so casually with the crowd. He seemed like he was actually having fun!

After he bid Farlowe farewell, he brought his daughter Shana back out to duet on “That Old Black Magic,” an old standard popularized by Glenn Miller in the 1940s. Van’s shocking good mood continued while singing with Shana, and he rode it right into his cover of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” and his own 1987 ballad “Someone Like You.”

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Up next were his 1978 hit “Wavelength,” 1997’s “Sometimes We Cry,” and 1990’s “Enlightenment.” He followed these up with one of the night’s showstoppers: a long, loose cover of the Big Joe Williams classic “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” For some sections of the song, Van made a hand/harmonica/microphone concoction that gave his voice a very cool talkbox-y sound. During one quiet moment, after a fan yelled “I love you, Van,” he shocked the crowd (again) by singing into his contraption: “You love me? You don’t even know me!”

The “Baby, Please Don’t Go” jam included snippets of “Parchman Farm,” “Don’t Start Crying Now,” “In The Afternoon,” “Ancient Highway,” “Burn Baby Burn,” and “Raincheck,” and treated the crowd to the incredible sight of Van scatting, lost deep into the music. At one point he also told the crowd that he didn’t write this song, giving fair warning before launching into some provocative lyrics about legs, thighs, and higher…

Morrison launched into his 1971 classic “Wild Night” next, leading a singalong of one of my favorite songs. Next was “Whenever God Shines His Light,” which he originally recorded as a duet with Cliff Richard in 1989, followed by a mashup of “It’s All in the Game” and “Burning Ground.”

The next song he played absolutely floored me: he did “Brown Eyed Girl.” Van has been notorious for his longstanding disdain for this song, after he went through publishing/royalty battles over it many years ago. It was a foregone conclusion that he does not play “Brown Eyed Girl.” But he’s also supposed to be grumpy and not look at the crowd, and tonight he was practically jovial, so the inclusion made sense. The sold-out crowd of 3,500 was ecstatic to hear such a rare gem. This was a truly special night.

Van kept the magic going with “Into the Mystic,” a cut from his seminal 1970 masterpiece Moondance. (The couple next to me sang along pretty loudly and terribly, but they must have really been feeling the music. And hey, they knew all the words!)

The Man brought Chris Farlowe back out for the closing number, a sprawling take on Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Morrison left the stage toward the end of the song, letting his incredible band finish without him. And just like that, he departed back into the shadows…

Well, not yet! On our way out, my dad took us down a side street to get away from the crowd, and we wound up next to the stage door. Our timing was perfect, because moments later, Sir Van came out and got into a waiting car. The small group of people waiting applauded and the car sped away, only to stop at a red light a few feet later.

All in all, this was a truly fantabulous night, to borrow a word from the Man himself. Van Morrison and his band were outstanding. We are very lucky to have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience. A wild night, indeed.

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My family!

Setlist information courtesy of Mystic Avenue and setlist.fm