So I didn’t read a lot or consume content outside of pure relaxation or research purposes this month. I have been busy as hell. I keep looking at my emails and guiltily slinking away because I have so much to do and limited time to do it because it’s also birthmonth, the one month where I’m basically absolutely allowed to do nothing at all. (Or so I’m telling myself.) Which means that I basically read fan fiction, watched horror movies with BTS Nieceling… and restarted My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic from the beginning. That’s largely it.
Fans had begun to notice him calling his male friends “hubby,” “bae,” and “lover” on Twitter and Instagram, which rang off alarms with swathes of rap’s homophobic fans. Straight men of all ages still use “pause,” so his terms of affection caught a side-eye from many, as did a photo of him and a hospital-bed-bound male friend feeding each other from double cups, as well as a video of him doing a bumbling, twerk-adjace dance to his “Perk” song. A YouTube commenter on the dancing video noted, “For those who say he isn’t gay… explain this, don’t worry, I have time,” capturing the sentiment of many rap listeners at the time.
When asked about his “bae” comments, he clarified, “It’s the language. It’s nothing stupid and fruity going on. It’s the way we talk, it’s the way we live. Those are my baes, those are my lovers, my hubbies, whatever you want to call them.”
First of all, I love the concept of a “Young Thug Week” anywhere.
Fans can react in concerning ways when their celebrity favorites screw up or misspeak in ways that hurt fans. It’s as if the attachment to a particular celebrity unlocks a desire to do whatever possible to maintain that celeb’s power and positive press. Even if the celebrity has been accused of actual crimes, even if we have proof of them doing something inexcusable, their stans will rally in order to protect them from criticism and accountability.
Enter: Nicki Minaj and the hold she has on her fans, known as Barbz. Not only do a subset of fans feel personal responsibility to promote her, but she herself has actively mobilized them over the years against people that she is in conflict with, on scales both large and small.
Once again, I forgot to post this when it went up uh… two weeks ago.
Nicki Minaj is just… a really good example of what happens when celebs actively make the choice to hurt people. She has millions of dollars, a fanbase that loves her, and some level of talent. And what has she spent a lot of 2021 doing? Antagonizing critics, harassing the woman her husband harmed when she was a teenager, and beefing publicly with other celebrities and even just random social media users. Like what got into Nicki’s head to make her think defending former Little Mix member Jesy Nelson’s blackfishing and attacking actual Black woman Leigh Anne Pinnock for calling it out was in any way necessary?
If I ever reach some sort of financial success and you see me out here fighting with people on social media – especially if I’m dead wrong – understand that something has gone horribly wrong.
It’s always so hard to pare down my links to a manageable amount rather than pouring out the entirety of my bookmarks for the month. But between last time and now, I have read some incredible things! Here’s a sampling with the usual added commentary.
She finishes her brief segment on her Twilight Apologia grievance by doing a classic “see I’m a liberal ally to the brown folks” move straight out of a JK Rowling’s tweet: adding the link to the Quileute tribe’s fundraiser to prove that she’s not racist, she cares about ACTUAL problems that the Quileute folks face. Not something as trivial as representation in Twilight but REAL problems. Clearly she cares more about indigenous issues than the indigenous people she’s arguing with.
In any case, you don’t need to be native to know there isn’t much sincerity to someone who dedicates two hours to taking shots of whiskey for every “apology” they have to make. Quite frankly it would’ve saved her time to just upload a five second Youtube video of her telling us to eat shit. The same message would’ve been delivered expeditiously.
A lot of people think that ignoring a problem like racism in media – here anti-Native racism in Twilight and Pocahontas… and Ellis’ coverage of both after the fact – will just make it go away. Add in a heaping helping of Ellis weaponizing her white womanhood and lumping in real Natives trying to educate her in with the very legitimate harassment she does get… And you’ve got a disastrous approach in one.
I thought this piece by Ali Nahdee was brilliant, insightful, and is a must-read for people who genuinely care about representation in media, fighting anti-Native racism, and holding ourselves and our favorite content creators accountable. In this country, Indigenous communities are mistreated and misrepresented as the norm. Media is one of the biggest ways that their cultures are repackaged – often being boiled down to a single experience set up to serve for the whole – and it’s important to recognize when we and our favorite/popular cultural critics drop the ball on recognizing that.
When I began the research for Last Night at the Telegraph Club in earnest, I knew that I needed to know more about those lesbians of color. More specifically, I needed to know what it was like to be a Chinese American lesbian in San Francisco in the 1950s, but they were nearly invisible in the historical record. The few times I came across references to Asian American lesbians, they were mentioned in passing or relegated to the footnotes.
It was enough to make one think that queer Asian Americans didn’t exist back then, but I knew that wasn’t true. What has happened is that our experiences have been erased or marginalized, deemed less important than the experiences of white LGBTQ people.
If you’re like me and you like learning more about queer histories of color, please check out this piece and get hyped for some awesome histories that you probably didn’t know before!
I don’t know that I get any particular vibes from the settings used in “Bermuda Triangle”? The video opens with a wasteland shot in black and white, swings to a neon-lit alley where the trio play at being gangsters for Zico’s first verse and part of Crush’s, the second verse is set in… maybe an outdoor restaurant… Then there’s the hotel room – very luxe even before the introduction of the money all over the bed and the hot tub surrounded by expensive alsochol bottles- and the church – because Zico’s Catholic faith is so important to him that it was actually maybe one of the first things I knew about him?
There are things about “Bermuda Triangle”’s different settings that I can… squint and see as nods to hip hop culture and other artists’ videos? Shots – like Zico in the hot tub – that give me “Godfather” energy and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was on purpose because of how hip hop artists worldwide reach for that film to signal at how hood and hardcore they are.
I listen to music all the time. When I’m working on Day Job, writing the next thing that’ll make nerds frothy mad at me (because I’m right), or even now as I rewatch Love O2O for the millionth time, I’ve always got music playing somewhere. Last year, I did a similar list and I wanted to start a tradition by uh… keeping that energy.
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
What Had Me Hooked: I love Megan Thee Stallion. I shamelessly and publicly have called her “my baby” when talking about her. I adore so much of what Megan does, how she carries herself, and how hard she leans in to having fun and being herself. “Body”, the lead single from her first studio album Good News, is a fun and sexy song where Megan and a bunch of beautiful dancers and celebrities basically celebrate their fine physiques. Every time I hear this song on one of my playlists, I have to dance!!
There are a couple main settings for No More Dream. At points across the video they’re on a school bus. At others, they’re in an alley in front of it. At the start of the video, they get off the school bus into skatepark with a skatepark with a quaint neighborhood theme and then a skatepark with classroom… themes.
One thing I like noting within Music Video Anatomy is when a hip hop video doesn’t go with expected settings. With “No More Dream” you can tell that there’s a goal for there to be some clear hip hop connection but then, as you can see on the Behind the Screen site’s entry on the No More Dream music video, there are a lot of nods to what’s basically alt culture that isn’t related to hip hop in the US? Which is pretty cool.
Across Hanguk Hip Hop, Myoung-Sun Song seeks to answer several pressing questions about Korean hip hop – made by and for Koreans in Korea for the most part – and one of the ones that has stuck with me is simple, but pointed:
What is real or original about Hanguk hip hop? (6)
It’s a question that I’ve never been able to let go of as I listen to Korean artists, read translated interviews they’ve done, and watched a really large amount of music videos and live performances from a wide range of Korean artists.
It’s a question that has no real easy answer to me.
Because, if you watch Korean hip hop music videos or even the idol rappers work with their groups or forays into solo work, a lot of it sounds and looks like the stuff I’d be able to listen to on MTV or BET if they still played music videos. A ton of it looks like stuff I listened to in my teens.
Artist: pH-1, HAON, Woodie Gochild, Jay Park, Sik-K, TRADE L, Big Naughty
Setting: This music video – which does double duty as a lyric video – is set in a Mexican restaurant in what appears to be a strip mall. It’s different from the go-to setting that several past H1GHR Music artists have gone with in their hip hop pasts – high school gym, dark alleys, night clubs. The novelty of the setting works for the song… mostly.
“I’m the only cast member who had their own unique experience of that franchise based on their race,” he says, holding my gaze. “Let’s just leave it like that. It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realise, ‘I got given this opportunity but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.’ Nobody else in the cast had people saying they were going to boycott the movie because [they were in it]. Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, ‘Black this and black that and you shouldn’t be a Stormtrooper.’ Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I’m this way. That’s my frustration.”
2020 has been a year where I have consistently been proven correct about things. Case in point? I knew that the Star Wars fandom’s unending racism absolutely was impacting how John moved throughout the world. I knew it was taking a toll on him across his time as Finn. And I mean, he confirmed it. He also talked about how antiblackness in the industry – from the people working around him and from casual oversights – left him essentially wounded. Star Wars should’ve been a positive and affirming nerd experience for John, but it really was not.
If you haven’t checked out my essay series on Antiblackness in the K-pop Industry and its Fandom Spaces, you should! Because it’s a good way to get a grasp on my complicated and always in-flux feelings about Korean pop and hip hop music (and its stars) as well as my feelings about Korean hip hop as an art form.
I went into Yoongi’s sophomore outing as Agust D knowing that I would probably find a ton to love about the album. After all, I literally love Yoongi’s voice. I’m talking about from the literal raspy sound of it and how he delivers his fierce verses to the way that he uses his Voice to unload sharp, intricate, and interesting commentary that often seems to revolve plainly around his past, present, and future as a rapper.
Mind you though, I was primed to like Yoongi’s return to the stage as Agust D.
For one thing, I am and will probably always be, fully fucking feral for every member of BTS’ brilliant rapline. (You may remember this from my review of BTS’ February release Map of the Soul: 7 because I couldn’t shut up about it then.)
Back when BTS was a baby group, they were subject to what seems (to me, as a fan coming later on to the group) like a really disproportionate amount of criticism. One theme that got the group loads of criticism?
Their relationship with and attempts at embodying hip-hop culture.
When you watch their m net -hosted series American Hustle Life, the first episode has a selection of headlines revolving around BTS’ debut as a group under BigHit Entertainment (around the 1:05 mark). These headlines, when translated, say things like “BTS challenging real gangster”, “BTS debut, opening up with 90’s gangster”, and “BTS, strengthening the industry with gangster rap”.
As an act, BTs was marketed and developed as a hip-hop idol group.
In the time period that they trained and debuted, a ton of idol groups were also debuting. Exo (2012), Block B (2011), B.A.P (2012), Winner (2014) and Got7 (2014) are just a handful of male idol groups that debuted roughly within the same era as BTS. But as far as I can tell through research, while all idol rappers are met with the same sort of disdain and suspicion from “mainstream” and underground rappers alike –
Some of the documented nonsense that BTS – and more specifically, their rapline – has been hit with by some of these dudes and, most likely, their fans has been… wild.
Case in point?
Rapper B-free’s on-again, off-again beef with BTS following a 2013 KBH Hiphop Radio interview that swiftly went sour.
I know that not a single one of y’all wanted to know that there’s going to be a South Korean musical version of Tupac’s life called All Eyez on Me performed by a cast that, as far I can tell, only has a single Afro Korean performer at this moment.
I know I sure as hell could’ve lived my life without knowing.
But here we are, with this knowledge fresh in our minds.
Near the end of October 2019, Korean rapper San E posted a photo on Instagram of his favorite (“best”) Korean rappers as part of the promo for something he’d reveal in the following days. He has ten rappers on the list, and while many of them would be on my top ten list… none are female artists.
Now, here’s the thing… I’m not actually surprised that San E couldn’t bring himself to place a single female MC on his list.
First, there’s the way that San E seems to hold female rappers – and women – to a different standard in his time as the host of m-net’s Unpretty Rapstar (2015 to 2016).
Last February, the closest I got to a Black History Month post was my review of Horror Noire on Shudder. This year, I’m aiming a little closer to what I’m writing about on the regular, by focusing on Black and Asian celebrities – as I’ll be writing a short piece on Afro-Korean celebrities at some point in my series on Korean pop and hip hop later on in the year. I stan talent first and foremost, but it has been incredibly convenient that I already had this list loosely sketched out in my mind with these incredibly talented celebrities.