Column

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

This Is America: New Folk Music from Childish Gambino

Artist Childish Gambino
Other tags folk

Thanks, Ed! This is a really important piece of art and piece of writing!

And thank you. 

Had to wait to watch it, but did for the first time...I'd agree my initial reaction is that I need to watch it again as there's a great deal going on there, but the fate of the hooded folk singer and Glover/Gambino dancing with the schoolkids with amid chaos and violence are images you won't soon forget...

While it isn't what I might have considered "folk" music, I once told a kid I worked with who lent me "Striaght Outta Compton" (yes, the misogyny was and still is a problem for me as well) that it was the new "Rock and Roll"...it was anti-establishment in the way rock and roll was for me when I was a kid, and rebelled against the power structure and rules of our society...so maybe Gambino and his contemporaries are the new "folk" music instead...I don't identify with the music part as much, but the message is no less important...

Shame they didn't write Gambino a better cold opening, but it appears that "everyone" is seeing the video...except probably the people who need to see it the most...

 

 

 

I mean...I don't think hip hop is any more misogynistic than most other forms of art. The language is just more forthright. It's not my go-to music either but there is some truly amazing experimental stuff happening that I love digging into when it catches my ear.

Agreed...the language is more forthright...the parts about chopping the vagina off and putting it in the ice box were a bit more than I had bargained for...I suppose on some level, as I had grown to adulthood well before hearing NWA, it was meant to offend me in addition to the police and all forms of authority...I had become "the man", but was not ready to accept that responsibility...

I meannnn there are hundreds of songs about murdering women who may have cheated on their men so I don't think it's a question of genre.

I think genital mutilation might be a pretty specific genre.

It seemed that way at the time...

Obviously I am not defending any of it but I don't know if it's great to right off an entire genre based on a subset of it (ie -- the stuff that gets played on the radio.) By that metric, people easily dismiss country/Americana/whatever you want to call it. I agree with Ed -- while this isn't the music that resonates in my soul, it's exciting and inventive and thoroughly American and should be appreciated that way, imo

I don't think you have to write off an entire genre to resist normalizing someone who sings of mutiliating woman.  Would anyone defend Marilyn (or Charles for that matter) Manson if they wrote the same lyrics? Thank whomever you thank that Jeffrey Dahmer never got into hip-hop.

Hahaha great point!

But I also want to argue that it's not just hip-hop that's normalizing it. It's the whole culture. As we see in many of these mass shootings.

Well at least we all agree we aren't writing off the entire genre or that we are all thankful to whomever that Dahmer didn't rap...

You found the silver lining Mr. Mutt...

 

 

 

Everybody's talking about the video - everybody's talking about it, it is sensationalistic with little nuance - I don't feel much about it - really - 

There's quite a bit of historical context to it. But it's not a hill I want to die on. The gun violence and nods towards minstrelsy made me uncomfortable, which I suppose is part of the point. https://www.insideedition.com/whats-meaning-behind-childish-gambinos-ame...

I also really like trap music, personally, and thought combining gospel with trap was fantastic.

 

I'm sure it resonates with many viewers (125,ooo,ooo Donald Glover Fans Can't Be Wrong) but I could do without it ever seeing that video again (or seeing it once for that matter). 

In contrast I heard a speech last week by retired Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Alan Page (perhaps better known nationally as a Pro Football Hall of Fame member and defensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings). He has a foundation that has raised over $14 million to put minority kids through college, in return for which they must devote time afterward to mentoring and tutoring minority children. The result of that post graduate approach is an enhanced chance the young children will attend grammar school, high school, college and be productive members of society. Page stressed the importance of education in creating a good path forward for all children. He was powerful and articulate in his delivery in ways this video isn’t. Sensationalist visuals may have prompted a ton of views, but I felt this video was more like a tabloid headline than thought provoking. If there’s a lesson in the video, I suspect many spent 4:05 watching and didn’t learn a thing. 

In the interest of getting an artistic perspective, here's Wynton Marsalis' take...as you may know, the jazz virtuoso was no fan of rap music and has been highly critical, but his take on Gambino is different...as I am old, caucasian, and only went to the "hood" to play hoops or when I worked for a YMCA Outreach program during my college days, I am by no means an authority...

“You can’t have a pipeline of filth be your default position and not have it take a toll on society,” he told the Post’s Jonathan Capehart on an episode of Capehart’s podcast, Cape Up. “It’s just like the toll the minstrel show took on black folks and on white folks. Now, all this ‘nigger this,’ ‘bitch that,’ ‘ho that,’ that’s just a fact at this point. For me, it was not a default position in the ’80s. Now that it is the default position, how you like me now? You like what it’s yielding? Something is wrong with you; you need your head examined if you like this.”

Marsalis has long addressed racism and its deep roots in America culture in his music. In 1997, he became the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for music with “Blood on the Fields,” a musical reflection on slavery. He’s also written pieces called “Black Codes (From the Underground),” which won two Grammys in 1986, and “From the Plantation to the Penitentiary.” He’s currently working on another examination of America’s struggle with racism, a commission titled “the ever-funky lowdown,” which homes in on negative perceptions of black culture that have been generated by mass white culture and, in some ways, parroted by black artists themselves. Jazz, Marsalis tells Capehart, is his way of addressing racial dynamics and progress at any given time in history.

“My words are not that powerful,” he said. “I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about niggers and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”

Asked about some of the most prominent voices in hip-hop today, Marsalis delivered a mixed assessment. He’s unimpressed with Kanye West and his recent foray into right-wing politics, dismissing West as little more than a salesman (“The quality of his thought is in the products he makes”), but more encouraged by Childish Gambino’s new political short film, “This Is America,” saying he applauds Donald Glover’s “creativity and what he’s doing.”

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Thanks for sharing that Jim. 

No problem...I thought the column was a good one Ed...stirred some forthright commentary...

Almost like the good old days. 

I was waxing nostalgic again there for a moment too...

I have a friend who says Gram Parsons wrote  "Wild Horses."
Or was it Graham Parker...
Maybe it was Alan Parsons?
At any rate, I can tell I'm starting wrong
Let me begin again.

 

Spotify  announced a new policy on “hate content and hateful conduct,” removing the work of the rapper XXXTentacion and R&B singer R. Kelly, from their automated playlists.

They are not banning  them but you won't hear their "art" if you aren't looking for your recommended f---ing dose of the n-word.

Spotify has a consicience?...and I thought it just had an algorhythm... 

The music is not in my wheelhouse but I recognize the video as art (and pretty good art) like I appreciate Rothko and Pollock though they aren't to my tastes.   I didn’t think the images were as gratuitous as something like Pulp Fiction and I know many people who say that is their favorite movie. 

 

Like the folk and protest music that came before it though, some will find it moving, some will hate it and most that like it will do so because it has a good beat and is easy to dance to.   The message has always been way down the list.   It doesn't matter if it is rap, rock or polka.      

 

Because it is 2018 though, the images need to be shocking and in your face to stand out in a crowded media environment.   The rules have changed and your not going to get 120 Million views by throwing out video cliches like an 80's heavy metal band.  Attention is the most valuable currency in the 21st century.   It is tough to get and almost impossible to keep and any type of attention outside of pedophilia can be turned into cash.    It has made a family who created and distributed a sex tape multimillionaires and a Reality Show Con Artist President.   Too often we spend it on foolish people and trivial things. 

                

But let’s hope Mr. Glover does something with the eyeballs and ears that he will gain from this and not squander it like Colin Kaepernick did by loudly stating he wasn’t going to vote.   Americans, especially progressives, have always been big on grand, empty gestures rather than doing the small things that really matter.  

Love your take. And polka? I’m on it. 

Eloquent post Rudyjeep...I posted the comments from Wynton Marsalis above because he stated that he realized at some point "my words aren't important", not because they don't create norms that we should reject, but because they do...what I say is really not that important and if I go lower, someone else will go lower still...like he said, the language of Rap in the 80's is now the default position, so how do you like me now?...and the Reality Show Con Man is also creating a new default position for politicians...no matter how low they go, they can't get lower than him, but they are trying like hell because as you put it "you have to be shocking and in your face to stand out"...but he has the biggest spotlight, and doesn't matter of it's Fox or CNN or WaPO or NYT or Breitbart, they are focused on him every minute... and can't wait to report the next inane thing he says...

A lot of progressives did stay home in 2016, or voted for a candidate who couldn't win...that probably had more to do with Reality Show Con Man Potus than Russia did...

This is really good...I like Graham, never heard this...love the lines about 2 live crew being banned and then also being in the museum...great lyric...

Progressives are politically stupid and live in a dream world the Moscovian Candidate has proven is completely unreal Jim.   They want to hit grand slams and if they can't they will take their ball and go home.   Conservatives have been hitting singles for the last 30 years and they have lapped us around the base paths.   As Steve Bannon said, one tribe will be dominant and the other will be irrelevant and I'm a liberal in New York State.  Right now, there is nothing more irrelevant than that.           

Polka is message music too.   Of course the only lesson I learned was to tap the keg and hoist another beer.   I wouldn’t presume to recommend a topic Ed but the Polka King himself, Jimmy Sturr, is right across the River from you in Orange County.   I think he has close to 20 Grammy’s.    He played my friend’s wedding and one of the guests died during the reception.    We all said he went with a smile on his face.          

Wow...death by polka...at least it was the best Polka you can experience...

I'd guess more progressives will show up in this next election which is far less important than the last one from a symbolic standpoint...but you are right...they lose interest quickly...conservatives have lately taken to being more divisive as well, dividing into camps, there are no centrists GOP anymore...but the Centrists, when push comes to shove, usually hold their nose and vote for the party candidate...

No one is irrelevant Rudyjeep...eventually they (Dems/Progressive) will understand that when you don't come together, you get outcomes like the Reality Show Con Man...but they aren't there yet...they are still doubling down on more of the same...and even when they get it together, you can't count on it lasting...