Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Kanye West And His "Thirty White Bitches"

"Yeezus," the new and almost pathologically anticipated Kanye West album, was leaked online two weeks ago and then, probably out of custom, released legally last week. Upon first listen it reminded me of Nine Inch Nails, Death Grips, and my dad—but not because West now has a two-week-old child with girlfriend Kim Kardashian.

When my father was in undergrad at a small HBCU in the Midwest, he joined the storied black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. Fraternity chapters, despite their ethnic and regional differences, will nevertheless always share some DNA, and so it shouldn't surprise you that my dad's frat was big on giving people nicknames. Some brothers were called things [...]


Don't Stop Running

I have never been a physically daring man. I'm afraid of heights such that my palms begin to sweat when I go up high flights of stairs in shopping malls. I'm awful at skiing, made slow and hesitant by an unyielding and morbid fear that I will propel into a tree or somehow shatter my femur in a devastating tumble. In middle school, when I joined the football team, in an attempt to realize my father’s thinly veiled desire that I be a quarterback, I was decidedly not one of the star players. To be very good at football, you need to be able to snuff out the voice inside [...]


The Black Millionaires Of Occupy Wall Street

To anyone paying attention, it wasn’t really a surprise when blacks didn’t come out in droves to support Occupy Wall Street. Despite the fact that blacks suffer from poverty and the ills accompanying it at wildly disproportionate rates, African-Americans have for a number of uncertain reasons been avoiding most of the liberal demonstrations of the moment. Blacks don't occupy Wall Street (or Denver or San Francisco) just as blacks don’t SlutWalk, or rally at the World Bank.

What was surprising was when the rappers started showing up.

At first it was just Russell Simmons—not technically a rapper, but a rap icon—his proselytizing becoming a daily fixture [...]


Ask An Ex-Mormon! A Conversation

My friend Beau and I grew up together in Tucson, Arizona, where he was the quarterback of our high school’s football team. We’ve since traveled around Italy together, sipped wine and talked about music until sunrise, and, one memorable time, got drunkenly chased out of a Vegas casino. Beau and I have a lot in common, our vices included, which is why I always forget one big thing about him: Until very recently, Beau was a Mormon. He never went door-to-door trying to convert people, nor did he ever march against gay rights. But for 18 years he faithfully went to a Mormon temple every Sunday with his parents and [...]


Rap After Odd Future: Action Bronson is Magical

Seth Colter Walls: Hi Cord Jefferson! Is there any new rap music that you have thoughts on or that you like especially? And if you say "Tyler" or "Odd Future," I will stab you in your esophagus!

Cord Jefferson: Ha! Yes, I feel like I've said all I need to say. Everybody's said all they need to about Tyler and Odd Future.

Seth: Oh, they will pull you back in before long, I'm sure. But yes, let's talk Rap A.T. (After Tyler.)

Cord: Within the past two weeks, I have developed a deep, deep obsession with a rapper out of Queens called Action Bronson. I'm more excited about [...]


11 Dead Rappers, in Order of Greatness, on the 12th Anniversary of Big L's Murder

11. MC Breed


"The Black People, as a Class, Have No Thought For the Future" –1874, the 'Times'

Sometimes, when I am eminently bored, I like to scour the New York Times archives for racial slurs. This weekend, hungover and manageably nauseous in a trendy Silver Lake coffee shop, the search term was "nigger," and I came across my greatest find yet: "'Nigger Day' In a Country Town."

"Nigger Day" was originally published on November 30, 1874, nine years after the end of the Civil War, and the reporter's name is listed only as "Our Own Correspondent." In circa 4,000 words, the article depicts the pastoral charm of a day in Huntsville, Alabama, right in the middle of Reconstruction, when black sharecroppers would come in from [...]


The Road To Hell Is Paved With Compostable Bags

I do not believe in things like ghosts or astrology or gods who care if you eat shellfish, so I feel unwaveringly confident in saying that the world is not going to end in 2012. If I did believe that, I think I’d whittle away the rest of my time at a months-long beach party in Thailand, physically and mentally removed from cable news caterwauling and any chance that I’d humiliate my mother in a whiskey mishap. I’d dance and probably ease my negative opinions on drum circles, and, as the sun collapsed over the horizon, I'd find someone to hold hands with and stand before the boiling ocean. [...]


Blueberry-Cranberry Sauce

One of my father's better tendencies is to take in human beings who have somehow been led astray. He never once coddled me or my brothers in our childhood, and I've always known him to look at even his few close friends with a hint of suspicion in his eyes. But around loners, rejects and the generally downtrodden, the old man opens up, guffawing at their jokes and putting his arm around their burdened shoulders like he's an old fraternity brother of theirs.


Five Memes That Are Mostly Just People Laughing at Working-Class African-Americans, in Order of Views

5. Latarian Milton


Who'll Get Punched on 'Jersey Shore' Tonight?

If only Brad Ferro, a 24-year-old former gym teacher, had, while drunk off shots the color of stop lights, hauled off and smashed in the tanned faces of someone named Ronnie or Vinnie, perhaps then he'd still have his old life. If only he'd taken a step back from that Seaside Heights nightclub bar, dropped his shoulder and thrust his fist violently into the famous abs of Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. Or, you know, if only he'd decided not to hit anyone. Perhaps then he wouldn't have been fired from his job, convicted of assault, forced to attend anger management classes and finger-wagged into begging for forgiveness in [...]


The Dementia Bonus: Football as Black Servitude

My favorite contribution to the fake motivational poster meme is "Reinstated Slavery." In deference to those who've not seen it, it depicts a white man–a coach, perhaps?–with his arm around the shoulder of a much younger black man, who's got the netting from a basketball hoop draped loosely around his neck. The white man is smiling gleefully, his eyes on some wonderful prize off in the distance; the young black man is weeping. The caption reads, "Catch yourself a strong one."


The Story of Connie Converse

The thing about New York stories that many storytellers often forget is that they can take place anywhere in the world. That's because for some people, New York City stays with them long after they've left it behind. Their time amid the soaring, sooty heaps of concrete helps define them in a certain way forever, like a tattoo or a scar from a fight. Regardless of how and where they live out the rest of their lives, everything they do will be tinged with an indelible sadness, or joy, or a sense of having had something great and then losing it through no fault of their own.

The story [...]


You've Learned Helplessness

As is the case with these things, it was the pictures of the oily birds-the one that looked like some gurgling monster; the one that lay on its back like a human, dying-that yielded the most authentic reactions to the oil spill I've yet seen. Showing the photos to three friends, I watched the anger over the oil spill subside in their faces, the frustration drift from their voices as they scrolled down the page, lingering on each new frame. Unprompted, all three eventually said the same thing: "It makes me feel helpless."


I Like You Like More Than Friends

With Memorial Day on Monday, it's essentially summer, so we're talking about it, in the series Here Comes Summer.

I knew her hair as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. Bright white and shining through the dusty windows of my office building–which was actually a dilapidated, sun-burnt performance hall stuck haphazardly behind a church–it was the same bleached shock I'd seen a week before, at a series of plays I'd helped stage at USC. At the time, I was working as an office manager at a nonprofit based in Venice Beach, where we would plan and put on after-school arts programs for at-risk youth. For a [...]


I'm Going Back To Arizona (And You Should Probably Come Too)

I have a friend I'll call Patrick who lives in Tucson, the small southern Arizona town where I spent 14 years of my childhood. A six-four wall of a man, softened in parts by pints and whiskey, Patrick and I have been close since high school, when his family–a big, pasty, Irish affair–moved to town from Phoenix. Once, on a trip to a low-budget Mexican beach community named Rocky Point, Patrick and I conspired to eat our vegan friend's entire supply of peanut butter and jelly while he was in the shower, leaving only his toothbrush in an empty jar of Skippy. While he screamed, "Do you know how hard [...]


The Census: "What Is Person 1's Race"?

When my German-American mother married my black-American Indian father, her dad and stepmom disowned her immediately. They would have been upset had she married an Irishman–"Those people kiss the filthy Blarney Stone," my grandfather would say–but a dark man was practically incomprehensible, like marrying an ironing board. "Race-mixing," as my grandfather called it, was an abomination.

The last thing my mom remembers her dad saying as she walked out of his modest Akron home is, "I never want you in our lives again."


Half Baked: 13 Recipes Under $7.50 for the Urban Vegan

I've never understood haute cuisine. I've never even understood spending in excess of 15 minutes–or $15–procuring something to eat. I think what most confuses me about fancy, expensive, time-consuming food is that, no matter how succulent the duck or the steak or the lobster thermidor, it will all soon quite literally be excreta (or, on a bad night, ejecta). I've got a lot of reservations about the fashion industry, too, but at least a $300 pair of jeans with sequins on the behind will keep you warm for a few months in the winter. This is probably why it was relatively easy for me to become a vegan.


Transcripts: Glenn Beck v. Anti-Tutsi Genocide Propaganda

Last week, prompted by the, oh, let's call it "strange tenor of modern American public discourse," I sought out a website that allowed me to peruse some RTLM transcripts. (RTLM, or Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines, was the "news" station that broadcast anti-Tutsi propaganda during the Rwandan genocide.) I wasn't sure what I'd find, but I thought it might be interesting to read some historic vitriolic hatred while living in a time of other, newer vitriolic hatred-it was sort of like how people sip decades-old wine to help them better appreciate their veal.


White People Clothes and "Old Money Green"

On the eve of my 28th birthday last month, I sat down to my computer prepared to purchase what my dad calls "proper pants." Closer to 30 than I'd ever been before, I decided I'd like to enter the next couple of years owning at least a few pairs of trousers that weren't denim, or at least not denim purchased at Uniqlo (one of the better reasons to live in New York, in my opinion).