Another day on Twitter, comparing black women to dogs.
Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor are very familiar with backhanded compliments.
Recently, one user tweeted, "Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor's ability to have dangerously high sex appeal while simultaneously looking like rottweilers will always amaze me." To which, both singers responded by calling out the cultural toxicity that still attacks black identity. Lennox retweeted the post with the reply, "People hate blackness so bad." Taylor shared Lennox's response, commenting, "No lies detected."
But the discussion launched thereafter delved much deeper than the persistent scourge of cyberbullying celebrities. By comparing the two black women to dogs, the passive aggressive attack drew from a history of anti-black sentiment that's particularly targeted black women.
Lennox took to her Instagram livestream in angry tears to address the history of prejudice, systemic racism, and oppression behind the remark: "How people hate black people so much, how black people can sit up here and say, 'that's not my problem' or 'she does look like a Rottweiler'–that's fine–but you want to talk about being so sensitive?"
Most cuttingly, Lennox addresses the internalized racism behind the comment. In response to the argument shared by many that more culturally sensitive and inclusive language limits freedom of speech, she rejoined: "That's fine…but… Why is this your speech? Why are you so comfortable tearing down black women and no other race?" She called out the prevalence of racism and prejudice within the black community compared to other identities: "When are Hispanic women ever compared to dogs? When do they do that to white women? When are Hispanic men doing that to Hispanic women?"
Unfortunately, intra-racism, or internalized racism, occurs regularly among all groups (let's put aside, for now, the problematic issues with the word 'Hispanic').
Hence, we've tried to adopt a term to address such complex layers of misogyny, racism, bigotry, and all forms of oppression: "intersectionality." While the word's been badly misinterpreted among groups all along the political spectrum, the casual comparison between black women and dogs exemplifies the heart of its meaning. Simply, an individual is "impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues," to the point that even conservative writer David French calls it "common sense": "An African American man is going to experience the world differently than an African American woman," French told Vox. "Somebody who is LGBT is going to experience the world differently than somebody who's straight. Somebody who's LGBT and African American is going to experience the world differently than somebody who's LGBT and Latina. It's sort of this commonsense notion that different categories of people have different kinds of experience."
All too often, those layers of different experiences produce particular forms of prejudices. The original poster, @WinEverUWantIT, was inundated with replies calling out the hypocrisy and misogyny of him, a young black man, criticizing the appearance of two successful black women. "Black men are the weak link in the black community," reads a top comment, followed by, "Let me clarify. Black men like YOU are the weak link in our community."
Lennox then tweeted, "Moms and Dads please love on your beautiful black children. Tell them they're beautiful constantly. Tell them Black people are beautiful. Tell them black features are beautiful." This past summer, Lennox told Buzzfeed she'd had many experiences with social pressure and prejudice to change her features, from her natural hair to her nose. "I would never get surgery and I love my nose," she said. "I just feel this is a conversation that needs to be had. There are black babies that have insecurities 'cause culture says it's funny to insult black features." She uses her platform to denounce the notion that black women's features exist outside society's standards of beauty: "Rocking my natural nose, hair, and skin — that makes me feel so empowered, because there's so many people out there that would rather me not do that," she says. "I refuse to change for them. Knowing that I can encourage someone else to rock their natural self really empowers me, as well."
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Protest music aside, there is a slew of good underground music out today
An invigorating slew of protest music hit the shelves today.
Detroit-based emcee Tee Grizzley collaborated with Queen Naija and the Detroit Youth Choir to craft a melodic ballad that attempts to open up a dialogue with police. Meanwhile, alt-Jazz pioneer Terrace Martin took a different approach in his collaboration with Denzel Curry, Daylyt, G Perico, and Kamasi Washington, with "Pigs Feet" being more of an angry f*ck you than an attempt at communication.
As the rapper gears up to release his sixth studio album next week, lets revisit how Wale developed a reputation of being corny
To look at the history of Wale is to dive down a rabbit hole with many twists and turns.
As a rapper, he travels in prominent circles but has never seemed to quite fit in with his mainstream peers. His success has always come in the form of radio-ready singles, while his longer projects have historically garnered tepid critical reviews. The rapper seemed to have found his footing in the early-2010s. 2011's Ambition and 2013's The Gifted were crowning achievements for the rapper, the latter going number 1 on the Billboard album charts, while the former spawned the single "Lotus Flower Bomb," which went platinum and earned a Grammy nomination. For the first time since his debut, Wale's talent was noted in the public eye, and he wanted his due respect.
So when Complex's annual roundup of "50 Best Albums of the Year" exempted Wale's The Gifted from the list, Wale was fed up. He called the magazine and berated the staff, at one point threatening violence. The phone call made the rounds online and painted Wale as cocky, corny, and overly sensitive. In a tense interview later that year, Wale stood by his antics, saying he wouldn't apologize to "Williamsburg hipsters." It was the perfect example of what has forever been Wale's Achilles Heel: He tries too hard to be liked. "They think he has reacted to too much," said Joe Budden of Wale's haters. "Anytime your reactions are perceived to be emotion-based [it's corny in Hip-Hop,] and Wale has emotionally reacted to so much."
Is Wale Corny? | The Joe Budden Podcast www.youtube.com
But does an emotional reaction mean Wale should be dismissed as a viable artist? No, but his antics are painfully hard to overlook. In 2017 the rapper went on Everyday Struggle to talk about his fourth album, Shine. The album was a commercial flop, partially because the rapper aggressively leaned on radio-friendly sounds. "There's not a song here that feels grounded in much more than the desire to enjoy the moment or at least feign doing so well enough to make radio playlists," wrote Pitchfork. Shine was littered with potential summer hits, but they all sounded fraudulent and none of them sounded like Wale. The project felt rushed and curated for a very specific purpose, with singles like "My Love" coming off as a desperate hail Mary for mainstream relevance at a time when Wale felt his star was waning.
But in some ways, he was still highly discussed. Wale's previous project, 2015's The Album About Nothing, was warmly received by critics and served as a comeback of sorts for the rapper. It was a thematic continuation of the Seinfeld-tropes that put Wale on the map in 2008, with the welcomed addition of Jerry Seinfeld himself. Together, the comedian and rapper filmed a series of charming videos, both in the studio and at a coffee shop, discussing everything from music to strippers to Wale's over-sensitivity. Seinfeld directly helped with the album, and the duo even filmed a skit in which Seinfeld pressures Wale to make the infamous Complex call in 2013. The album went to number 1 on the Billboard 200 its debut week and was Wale's first number one project since 2013. "Why do you give these people meaning?" Seinfeld asks Wale at one point, referring to haters. "I don't know, Jerry!" Wale responds.
Seinfeld & Wale Talk “The List" | Complex www.youtube.com
Frank conversations like these, ones which paint the rapper as passionate and relatable, are what made the lack of authenticity on Shine so surprising. It seemed like Wale had turned a corner. It seemed he had realized that seeking everyone's approval is futile. But as Shine suffered, the question resurfaced as to whether or not Wale was just a try-hard willing to do whatever it took to stay famous. It seemed his identity was reliant on being our friend. "A lot of the mainstream artists that you're championing right now, I don't believe in my mind they're capable of making a song like 'Golden Salvation,'" Wale told Everyday Struggle when they confronted him on why Shine performed so poorly. The song, which was a deep cut off The Gifted, is a dense analysis of consumerism, and it critiques rappers that claim to stand by religion without embodying its teachings. But that was 2013. The hosts pressed him for more clarification. He then dove into an awkward verse-by-verse re-hash of his song "CC White," the only lyrical track on Shine. The track is lyrically stimulating, but the strange re-hash and overall denial of Shine's failure brought the discussion of the emcee's insecurity back into the limelight.
There is no doubt a lot of pressure on Wale in 2019. With the success of his radio singles now in the rear view due to the popularity of streaming, it's hard to see where Wale will fit in a genre that is overcrowded with budding talent. "I feel when the radio single kinda died, Wale died with it," said Joe Budden of Wale's relevancy.
It's sad if that's true. The emcee has a lot to be proud of. He's worked with a diverse array of artists including Lady Gaga, Jerry Seinfeld, Pharrell, and Waka Flocka Flame, and has proven to be a lyrical underdog to boot. With the release of his new album, Wow...That's Crazy, we can only hope he shifts focus to the lyrical content that has always been his passion, and disregard the rest. "They told me to get help...so I did," Wale wrote on Instagram before announcing the album. The collection will thematically follow Wale's journey through therapy, which seems like a fitting place for the rapper to end up at this point in his luke-warm career. One can only hope the project is genuine, because if it isn't, it might just label him corny for the rest of time. "Let me tell you why they don't like you," Seinfeld said to Wale. "Every person has a different reason, and none of them have anything to do with you." Wale snapped back, "Aren't I allowed to wanna know why, though?" Let's hope he's found his answer.
Wale - On Chill (feat. Jeremih) [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com
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