Tag Archives: 4:44

White People Stories in Black Face

I recently expressed on my Facebook page that I wished Jay-Z would drop a new project from 4:44 every week for the rest of the year. Ya know, just to have something to balance out some of the absurd fuck shit of a nightmare taking place daily in the Whitehouse right now.

Having switched over from Apple Music to Tidal when 4:44 dropped, I get really excited when I tap on the app and see a new video or footnotes for a video from this brilliant project.

Now, I have to say, that although I love this album, Moonlight as a track on it’s own was always my least favorite. It’s the only track on the album I don’t ever really need to hear when I listen to 4:44, not because of the message, which I totally get. It’s just, as a music track, it doesn’t really move me. But see, that’s the genius of 4:44. The visual components to each track, present a deeper read of each one. And the video of Moonlight, which dropped this past week did just that.

A good friend shared the promo from Issa Rae’s IG account with me and I was really excited and delighted to see this tongue in cheek reimagining of “Friends” with an all Black cast, featuring Issa Rae, Jerrod Carmichael, Lil Rey Howery, Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Tiffany Haddish. Their theme song was “Friends” by Whodini which I thought was greatness. I was all set to just sit and watch the cast act out word for word what I believe is an actual episode from the dominantly White casted hit show. Watching these actors go through the motions of playing a Black Chandler, Ross, Monica, etc., it became clear how this was also a satire of the show itself. But then it goes even further by following Charmichael offset after a break in the scene.  He discusses the questionable success of this Black Friends version with comedian, Hannibal Buress who doesn’t mince words about his feelings on how far Black people have come in their ability to tell their own stories from their own perspectives.

“You gonna do black ‘Full House’ next? ‘Family Ties?’ Why stop there? ‘Home Improvement?’”

This is where I believe Jay begins to asks the real questions. And it ties right into a conversation I was having with Khalilah this weekend about films like “Girls Trip,” which has received many mixed and conflicting reviews from the Black community (I haven’t seen it yet) and the Netflix movie, “The Incredible Jessica James” (I watched this weekend) which imagines a reality where class, gender and relationships issues are on tap but race is addressed zero times. It’s like the new formula is just put Black people where you normally see White people, be sure to keep some White people in there and wallah! EQUALITY!

We stuck in lala land. Even when we win, we gon lose was a line I didn’t like hearing. It’s a hard truth. I was so anti- “Lala Land” last year, it was ridiculous. I was disgusted that Hollywood was harkening back to the days of old in this day and age as if those good old days were good for anyone else but White people. The fucked up thing is, I like musical films from that time. But uhhh, I didn’t have to not live through that time. Musical films came about as an attempt to distract and entertain Americans living through a brutal depression.

CAN WE PLEASE MOVE THE GENRE FORWARD?

Doris and Lynching

In Peck’s “I am not Your Negro,” the solid case for White people delusion is made with scathingly juxtaposed old Hollywood scenes put up against images of lynching and Black civil rights protesters being beaten and of Dorothy Counts being spat upon by a bunch White children for attending on of the first schools in Charlotte, NC to be integrated.      At the same time that fucking Doris Day was singing in her pristine make believe kitchen set in front of a camera, Black people were literally being killed because they demanded the right to sit at the same food counter with Becky.

In 4:44, Jay Z has interrogated several key systems of oppression and has taken it a step further by questioning what our true voices are. Can everything we do to thrive, to be seen and heard and felt stop being a reaction to what White people do or think about what we do?

Can we see ourselves outside of the oppressors gaze?

 

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Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

You know I thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em 
Cause I don’t fuckin’ need em
Take em out the hood, keep em lookin’ good
But I don’t fuckin’ feed em 

-Big Pimpin

Jay-Z

Everybody wants to be needed on some level

Chris Rock

 

My brother was the one who brought Jay Z into my world. And a lot of what my brother paid close attention to when I was growing up inevitably entered my consciousness as well. X-Men comic books, metal ninja stars, GI Joe, Hip Hop…

I remember my brother buying a lot of Jay’s albums and a long landscape poster of Jay Z on his bedroom wall. I didn’t think he was attractive. He just looked like a regular dude to me, whatever that means, but his confidence was undeniable. And I remember thinking, who is this guy? What capital does he have to impress me with if he’s not super good looking? When I listened to him, I got it right away. He was not unlike like Sinatra who was also no studio heart throb. That didn’t matter though. He was gonna do it his way.

Continue reading Notes on 4:44: Black Male Vulnerability

How Tidal Got Me: 4:44 and The Story of OJ

Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga
Rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga
Still nigga, still nigga

I was up late Friday night doing some work and conversing with Khalilah through Whatsapp. Jay Z’s 4:44 album dropped and she was raving about it. I learned about it from Mahershala Ali as he is featured in a video component of the album. I am a Mahershali Ali Day 1 stan just so you know. That short snippet of him punching a boxing bag with Danny Glover as his coach had me at hello. And then there’s Jay-Z’s lyrics over a laid back and emotionally nostalgic beat.

Letter to my father that I never wrote?

WHAT? Who is not immediately pulled in by that? But when I looked for it on iTunes it wasn’t there, and I learned from Khalilah, that it might never be released on other digital streaming platforms. I grew more and more annoyed with every social media rave review. This shit is really only on Tidal! I cannot begin to explain how frustrating and how dope that is at the same time. So I signed up. It’s the same price a month as Apple Music and is owned by Jay-Z. I think it’s a Boss move. He got my money, and I got an exclusive, powerful, elevated, beautiful, revolutionary and transformative Black experience.

I’m not gonna go into the album right now. I’ve listened to it once and really like it but I still need some time with it. Lets talk about the video for “The Oj Story”and how it gave me everything I didn’t even know I needed or could have in my life like 2 minutes in.

You wanna know how Jewish people own all the property in America?

Jay Bo on the cornerI think a semester long course on Jay’s choice of visual narrative, the lyrics, the symbolism, his message about generating wealth in the Black community and how much money has been made off of Black people to generate wealth for Whites could be taught on this track and video right now. There would be a waiting list a mile long to sign up for it.

The credits open to an animated cartoon cotton field  in the style of racist minstrel animation of the 1920s. I noted how close the opening was to Warner Bros cartoons like Bugs Bunny that I used to watch daily as a girl. Jay-Z plays a character called Jay-Bo, a version of Little Black Sambo.  Nina Oj StoryHe narrates as a laid back, cool and “free” agent in this animation that was created to dehumanize, humiliate and clown Black people at a time when “Civil Rights” was a distant dream. A sample of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” plays as an animated Nina Simone plays piano in a Burlesque club and Jay raps about how credit is more important than making it rain.

Very early on you see a wooden cross being erected invisibly into the sky. It gives me chills because my body knows this is not about Christianity. Or is it? The next time we see the cross is in the background of a landscape of slaves picking cotton in unison. The cross bears down on them oppressively from on high. Is he commenting on the way in which Christianity has kept us controlled, rootless and poor?

The scene that really stays with me (I’ve only viewed three times so far) is when Jay-Bo sings the rhythmic but sobering hook, with a noose around his neck in front of a crowd of racist White onlookers who are all watching him hang. In the corner we see one little White boy turn to the viewer and smile from ear to ear.

YOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

JAAAAYY!!!

I bought some artwork for 1 million
2 years later, that shit worth 2 million
Few years later, that shit worth 8 million
I can’t wait to give this shit to my children

Y’all think it’s bougie, I’m like, it’s fine
But I’m trying to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 10.53.46 PM

At the end of the video, Black people in the city borough neighborhoods jump for joy as Jay drops fistfuls of cash on them, a happy ending as it were. Why not? Why are we the only ones who get taught that money is the root of all evil and that we have to Sambo our way through life, turning the other cheek and pouring all of our money into a system that continues to divide and murder us?

It is masterful. No pun intended. Well, actually Jay is the master, so pun intended. Listen, I rarely try to talk anyone into doing anything I do just because I love it but if you’re Black and you don’t already subscribe to Tidal, you need to do it now. Just do it to experience this album. You can cancel anytime. But if you understand anything about the message of this album at all, at this time in Black history, then you will keep subscribing.

Nobody wins when the family feuds.

Oh, I’ll get to the album review soon…