Category Archives: Culture

Tahat Takes: Kaeperknickers in a twist and the milquetoast Seahawks

Full disclosure: up until a few weeks ago. I didn’t care for Colin Kaepernick. I hadn’t thought about him in a hot minute mostly. And at the height of his powers, I projected my dislike for the 49ers and Pleated-pants Jim “McHandshove” Harbaugh and thought Kapernick arrogant, overrated, and self-centered.

I was the guy who gleefully posted the differences between Kap and Dangeruss’ Instagram on your timeline.

I was a PETTY AF sports fan.

I made him a character acting out a role in the theatre of the NFL.1

I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick is a full person containing multitudes and deserves all the respect I can afford—and that’s before he sat down during the national anthem and demonstrated that he has a curious, working mind engaged in one of the most challenging national issues of our time.

I’ve never bought an NFL jersey in my life, but if I do it’s gonna be Kaepernick’s2.

Some would delegitimize Kap’s efforts by saying he’s rich and doesn’t “have a plan.” But his wealth doesn’t make him less Black nor are protests required to “have a plan” to be on the right side of history.

There’s also a notion floating around that Kap is doing some sort of activism lite, and that he hasn’t achieved much of anything. But he has created space for a conversation in a league that isn’t interested in having this conversation despite the fact that it’s good for business.3 That’s a BFD.4

Enter the Seahawks.

Last week, Doug Baldwin spoke up, promising that the whole team would do some sort of demonstration of solidarity. I, for one, got hella excited. Unleashing ANGRY DOUG BALDWIN on Black Lives Matter and police reform on opening day is an activist’s wet dream.

Giving Baldwin and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt, I think they meant to do a really meaningful thing—to show solidarity for a movement that prioritizes the lives of black people, that ending racism and oppressive systems require the collective work of many people. The team-wide act, also worked to address the criticism that Kaepernick’s protest was an attention grab by eliminating the individual-ness of it. But at some point, the reality of their demonstration has to take precedent. And in the space of social movements, rhetoric and symbolism are everything.

On its face, a show of unity is an honorable, valuable thing. Who’s against unity?

But the call of unity has long been used to soothe people out of frenzy, as a band-aid for an amputation. But history shows us that to correct injustice—especially systemic injustice, which is more lubricious to grasp—requires anger and unrest so as to manifest into social movement.

Baked into our civic code is the idea we don’t need everyone to agree to something to make it happen; we only need enough to make a majority. That’s how we make change in a democracy. Calls for unity–specifically in response to a movement calling for change–is, at best, a moving of the goal post and, at worst, a blatant effort to cut a movement’s knees from under it.5

I have no interest in unifying with members of the Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazis, or anyone who thinks my interracial marriage and our mixed race kids are abominations.6

Now there’s a case to be made that overhyped histrionics of unity aren’t entirely the Seahawks fault. The media hyped it, not just Doug Baldwin. It’s not purely the Seahawks fault that mine and so many other’s expectations were Ezekiel Elliot-high. But Baldwin and others on the team have been around and have enough media savvy to know the type of coverage and reaction that was coming.

I am also tremendously sympathetic to NFL players not interested in engaging in public forms of protest. For many, professional football represents their only path to social mobility. The NFL is highly regimented and historically conservative. Their earning potential isn’t guaranteed and every time they suit up, they’re risking their health AND their careers.

Protect that. No one should feel like they have to pit their livelihood against what’s right in the world. That makes the choice even riskier. But in the event you face that impossible decision, protect yourself and provide for your family.7

But there’s a real, insidiously inflicted damage made in the milquetoast #alllivesmatter half-measure that the Seahawks proposed. In what is surely an unintended consequence of expressing broad support, their actions validated the misdirected conversation surrounding Kaepernick and other player’s method of protest.

Jesse Williams, in what may be the most woke moment of 2016,8 said, “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

Applied here: y’all that are up in arms about Kaepernick sitting but don’t have a valid criticism of the systems of oppression that drove him to sit9 need to examine y’alls priorities.

Many woke people tried to keep the focus of their coverage of Kaepernick on the racial inequity of our policing that he was trying to point out, however, 99.9% percent of the coverage around Kaepernick centered on his methods of protest—an insidious way of delegitimizing his point in the first place.10

This is wrong. Full stop.

It’s no different than our presidential election coverage eschewing policy for the horse race. It’s just wrong.

Now none of this is the fault of the Seahawks and what I’m sure is a well-intentioned leadership group the face of which has become Doug Baldwin. And I hope against all hope that this was the start of something bigger—that Doug Baldwin’s efforts to connect with the Mayor of Seattle yield real, substantive discussions and outcomes.

But standing together and locking arms has forced even the most progressive people into a debate about the methodology and efficacy of protests when we should all be talking about the inherent racial inequity and injustice in policing as presently constructed.


All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams!




5/24/16 – New Episode of ‘Talk Sex w/ Podrick Payne’ #GameOfThrones #HODOR #HOLDTHEDOOR


‘Talk Sex w/ Podrick Payne’ – your one-stop Luckswing destination for everything Game of Thrones.

Season 6.05 “The Door” T_T

(00:52) Joey and Stephen do a recap of this weeks episode, book spoiler free! LittleFinger’s plan always = Teferi’s puzzle box? Episode titles are important? HOLY CRAP TIME TRAVEL?! MANDERLYS!! Pissing contest on the Iron Islands, F**k R’hllor, WESTEROSI BARBARIANS, children vs men, playing tag…and more!!!

(1:00:44) Here is Rogue Maester land: TIME TRAVEL WTF CONTINUES, Jorah to Asshai? Victarion Greyjoy, COLDHANDS AND MORE!!!


On-time two weeks in a row!! Happy Tuesday Everyone!

Apologies Stephen is recovering from bronchitis and there is coughing episode pause somewhere in the middle.

There are a lot of weird bits of useless trivia this episode…

Bonus points to those who get the Magic The Gathering reference.

Feel free to comment in with questions, or alternate theories. We would be happy to discuss the on the next episode!

Make sure to subscribe to us on I-Tunes!!

Send in your own episode #s.

The church of chance: Creating space, making worlds between the lines of Coloring Book

“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.” –Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” –James Baldwin

“You might not know what it’s like to live your life inside a burning housing, holding your rifle just so that you can continue to hold onto your daughters.” –Ashley Jones, “Chiraq


This year alone, 200 people in Chicago have been shot and killed with another 1,088 injured. Nearly half of the city’s homicide victims1 were between the ages of 17 and 25. Gun violence disproportionately affects and is perpetrated by Blacks and Hispanics. Black-on-black or brown-on-brown crime has oft been the boogie man for “tough on crime” politicians. Recent work, however, has deepened understanding and is beginning to reframe the issue as a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 40% of patients to go through Chicago’s Cook County Hospital showed symptoms of PTSD. Childhood development makes PTSD in kids difficult understood and unpredictable. Programs around the Chi have recently sprouted to address youth PTSD like the Urban Warriors program, which partner kids “who live in high-violence neighborhoods, with veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and who might understand what they’re going through.

It’s impossible to remove Chance the Rapper’s music from the context of gun violence and the psychological effect it’s had on the generation of Chicagoans he represents or the city of Chicago itself— and the conditions of the city’s southside that raised him.

Chicago is the most racially segregated city in America. Racist housing policy, irresponsible city planning, and a culture of incarceration2 has collectively lent itself to a generation of fatherless kids who regularly lose childhood friends to gun violence but still give thanks for not getting shot today, wanting nothing more than to simply grow up to be alive.[/note] What are we even doing here? There is no place for this in America.[/note]

Coloring Book is a remarkably grounded exercise in world-building. In the mixtape’s universe, it/he/we are lucky, blessed, consecrated, fortunate, exalted, glorified, all the above to even see the light of day. The unlikely endeavor of being, breathing, and creating is made remarkable and remarked upon.

The album and its creative force Lil Chano have breathed dazzling horns and insurmountable energy into an unprecedented sound coming from a Chi-town hip hop scene still shaking its recent drill music past. As the dominant type of Chicago rap,3 Drill has often been—rightly or wrongly—scapegoated as a primary reason for Chicago’s violent youth culture. It may or may not be, but Coloring Book4 offers a whole other world filled with love, self-reflection, and faith.

Art is either a reflection or a forecast of the culture it represents. With murder rates rising in Chi-town, I hope that that’s the case here.


One of Chano’s most obvious retreats was and is church. For a boy on the come up, church is a place full of contradictions. Heaven and hell. Sermons and serpents. Jeremiah and Job. The sole pursuit of faith balanced with the need for communion. The holiness of God and the lascivious world of temptation.

Listening to Chance’s latest drop for the first time, you knew to expect church. Coloring Book, it turns out, is cathedral of a mixtape filled with echoes and confession, celebration and sin, supplication and rapture. It’s the highest form of what he’s been reaching for to date.

Chance greets us in “All We Got” as cheerful as ever. The song serves as a life-update,5 a dedication6 and celebration.7

To hear Kanye West say “music is all we got”—and mean it—is an echo of an earlier Kanye. The pink-poloed-All-Falls-Down-backpack-slangin Kanye. We need more of that Kanye, which we caught a glimpse of in The Life of Pablo. The pairing of Ye and Chano is an echo of that opening salvo too. Midway through Chances first verse, he even snatches a rhythm from the earlier tune. At the same time, the song is an open confession that the music isn’t everything—that work must still be done:

Wish I could tell you it’s ready
Tell you it’s ready today
They don’t give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
And that don’t take nothing away
Cause at the end of the day

We may not have much, but this is all we got. This music that you’re bumping to with the windows down, hauling ass down the turnpike. This love, this family, this song—it all confesses to the miracle of being.

To prove Chano still cares about a mixtape, you don’t have to look farther than the next song “No Problem.”8 Mixtapes and the ubiquity of free music have been a yacht-sized thorn in the side of the industry. “No Problem” is a celebratory fuck you to record labels and their A & R’s. And while they foreshadow a choir of upcoming features, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne represent two of the biggest rappers to have built their careers releasing 36 combined mixtapes.

Chainz stays weird,9 funny,10 and humbled.11 Weezy turns in one of his best verses in years,12 reminding everyone he is the undisputed champ of the mixtape class and culture.13 In a 40-bar romp, he weaves through the perks of being king and packs a dozen rhymes into two different four-bar stretches. Add Weezy F to the list of rapper resurrections Chance has presided over.14

Church needs faith, and Chance puts faith in the self-evident. I woke up this morning. My life is perfect. You’re special. On “Summer Friends” we see that that faith and enthusiasm emanates from tragedy and loss. Under the weight of layers and auto tune, Jeremih reaches for something incredible. Chance cuts through that suppression with a fun story about growing up in the Chi that turns into an all too real experience for most kids in the summer:

First day, nigga’s shooting
Summer school get to losing students
But the CPD getting new recruitment
Our summer don’t, our summer, our summer don’t get no shine no more
Our summer die, our summer time don’t got no time no more

Tragedy and loss are no strangers to youth of Chicago. Through the heat of a thick August, you can hear Lil Chano crooning, “Summer friends don’t stay.”


As a new father surrounded by this tragic inevitability, family has clearly taken on new meaning for Chance. This isn’t any clearer than in “Same Drugs,” a tender song about the moment the yellow marble turns a partly blue.15 It’s about growing up, not just for yourself but for the one you knew, the one you love, and the one you raise.

In a clever reframing of the Peter Pan, Chance becomes the boy who never grows up—who Wendy is, on the other hand, has many possibilities. Obviously, she’s the eldest Darling child with a “motherly” personality who eventually chooses to abandon childish things.16 Then there’s Wendy from Kanye’s “Homecoming”—a girl you’ve known since three who you loved and lost but still calls to talk about the kids wanting to be like Kanye.17 Through watching Wendy grow old, it exposes Chance as a proxy for yourself growing old too. “Don’t forget the happy thoughts” turns into a plea for Wendy and self.

Collapse the artist Chance with the person Chance,18 Wendy is both his fiancée and daughter. Despite an emotional proximity, Chance and his fiancée live vastly different day-to-day lives19 that have to be reconciled when they come home together.20 Wendy is the little one you don’t want to grow any older.21

Not unlike “Summer Friends,” “Same Drugs” is fun and easy to sing along to—because drugs—but implicit in the “We don’t do the same drugs no more” is the realization that growing up sucks. Wendy is that girl in elementary school I sold the crack pipe to at the gas station. Wendy is my little sister. Wendy is my 1-year old daughter learning to fly. All you need is happy thoughts.

Wide eyed kids being kids
When did you stop?
What did you do to your hair?
Where did you go to end up right back here?
When did you start to forget how to fly?

The end of childhood is tragic. It’s at that precise moment—the inflection point of every childhood—that “We don’t do the same drugs no more” turns from a fun, meme-able refrain into a chilling diagnosis for how we got here and how we ended up so far apart.


 Coloring Book is simultaneously responding to its environment while closing the trilogy. Chano has a real sense of scope and legacy, and he’s spoken on the desire to complete a holy mixtape trinity. He told Complex recently, “Everything you write as an artist is about your legacy and your catalog, and how you would look in a museum.”

If you hung up the cover art of Chance’s mixtapes like it were a museum installation, you’d get an indication of how much each of Chance’s works speak to each other.22 The tryptic gives us a small arc of Chance’s career and growth as an artist. A young rapscallion on 10 Day, Chano was fixed on something higher—warm while the world remained cold.

On Acid Rap, he’s looking right23 at you, eyes wide open, straight ahead. He becomes purple24 as he seeks balance throughout the mixtape. He is the color of an august album that learns to celebrate not in spite but exactly because of the “kid’s toetagging” and “everybody dying in the summer.”

In the three years between Chance2 and Chance3, he became the first independent artist to perform on Saturday Night Live then did it again. He negotiated a rare deal (for a friend) with the largest music distributor in the world that guaranteed his music remained not just free but for freedom. He lectured at Harvard. He starred in a VICE short film.  He graced tracks for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, West, Madonna and Mike Tyson, Busta Rhymes, James Blake, Lil Wayne, his actual brother Taylor Bennet, and like 20 other folks. He put on free shows all over his hometown and surprise-chaperoned Chicago Public School field trips. He constantly raised up his community. He had a daughter.

It’s no wonder that on the cover of Coloring Book, he is now cool one, and all that warmth, he’s imposed upon the world.


Chance makes the music I wish I had. Not just because it’s genre-bending but because it has a force of faith and enthusiasm I wish I had the tenth of to put into any work I’ve ever made. To do and create a Great Thing requires not only imagining it but a full-hearted belief that it is achievable and that I am the only one capable of making it so. In the deeply personal space of creating art, it is an act of faith in one’s self. Being and doing and acting on that faith is a radical form of self-love, and now is the time for self-love in Chicago and across a country dealing with the worst political identity crisis in a hot minute. This is all we got.

Part of Chance’s gift is his comfort and conviction of metaphors like serpents and mustard seeds, but what makes him truly special is the sweeping world he’s able to build out of his faith. Chance is the master of the cold reference and uses them to create worlds—pulling as easily from Western literary canon25 to modern black street art26. He’s just as comfortable calling on Harry Potter27 as he is speaking Hebrew.28

We expect from art—and especially faith—to be whole and irreproachable, but Chance admits freely that it’s all broken, fragmented, and rarely purely his. Instead, he arranges and rearranges until it rhymes. He’s the kaleidoscope, the unity of disparate things that refracted against each other make something else entirely.

But it doesn’t end with the end. The work of Coloring Book is constantly in motion, drawing and redrawing spaces for folks to believe in a not-too-distant world filled with grandmothers and childhood friends, a world of summer schools and rolling rinks, a world where loss leads to enlightenment. For doing that, this mixtape is more church than church.29

It’s not the intro it’s the entrée to something bigger. It’s a deeply personal connection to something higher, but just as church is not complete with faith alone, making a better world means doing better things. It’s always been yours and mine to fill in. It’s a Coloring Book, after all, and the book don’t end with Malachi. It’s a call to action, and now, finally, we have a musical language—at least a soundtrack—to sing and dance about the fruition of hope and change. This is a god dream. Welcome to the Church of Chance.




Netflix’s new ‘Cooked’ is not food porn, it’s food appreciation at its best: simple, topical, and congenial


For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienating, any time less wasted than preparing something delicious and nourishing for the people you love. – Michael Pollan

Netflix recently released a new documentary series Cookedbased on Journalist Michael Pollan’s 2013 book Cooked: A Natural History of TransformationAs an audience we are treated to a series of stories, histories, and philosophies – from all around the world – building a larger global narrative, along with Michael’s personal journey into cooking. Anyone with a love of food or food culture will instantly meld with this series because it affirms all of your beliefs and emotional responses to food, and for many, the very act of cooking.1, Cooked is more accessible to a wider audience because it works towards demystifying the world and narrative of cooking. Instead of presenting what seems too impossible to reach ideals and values, Cooked presents food through a variety of lenses – scientific, personal, spiritual, global, etc. –  that offer a greater understanding of our species’ relationship to it. Simply, it brings a more tangible understanding of food that for many remain forgotten or abstract.

Michael Pollan’s journey takes us through the four elements of nature: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth2. The elemental progression marks our own co-evolution with cooking, and how all four transform the raw world around us into food. Through explaining the scientific process and the our own historical relationship to these elements, he manages to stir the instinctual nature with in tapping into your emotional responses to food, cooking and cuisine.


The narrative of fire reminds us that cooking with fire is what originally made us human, allowing a hunter-gather society. It reminds us how, in many ways, society will evolve around fire to birth tradition and culture. The aboriginal tribe featured in the docushow still practice, on weekends, a hunter-gather type of lifestyle in the bush. You hear the tales of how fire is incorporated into every aspect of their lives: hunting, cooking, baptism, etc. It is in their history, way of life and, is the primary element that stitches together their community. You can’t help but to stop and think about your own connection to fire. Even if you don’t cook with it yourself, you’ve been around it your whole life. It can tie you back to your hometown, your family, and that basic human allure. Making the connection to home in America, the story also visits a Southern Pit Master smoking hogs and features Michael Pollan BBQing in his own backyard.


Water explores the birth of what we consider cuisine; providing the ability to combine plants and animals in various ways to create a wide variety of new flavors. Using water opened up endless possibilities for creativity, not just in making food tastier, but also making it more nutritious and comforting.  Michael Pollan and chef/ writer Samin Nosrat demonstrate and explain the process of braising; how the slow breaking down combines the molecules of your different ingredients to create something undeniably tantalizing. This episode amazingly presents the joy and satisfaction in the personal handling of ingredients and the creation of food. Pollan is constantly trying to provoke that a yearning to cook which he believes to be instinct for all humans.


Air in the series is heavily tied to the production of bread3, which for many cultures throughout human history has been an essential cooked4product foundational to the development of civilization. Air and bread literally allowed humans to turn grass seeds into something nutritious and magically delicious. Seeing a mill and wheat farm in its traditional form in Marrakesh is a reminder for how long bread has part of our society and how it still affects the daily lives of those in many other countries. More importantly, this segment takes you to the home kitchen turning something viewed as bought, as to something that can be made.  Pollan argues that studying the traditional ways of making bread can will always lead to something more delicious and “naturally5” more nutritious.

maxresdefault (1)

The final chapter, by far the most abstract in terms of an element, is earth. In this case not necessarily the dirt or physical earth, but the inevitability that all living things will eventually return to the earth, also known as decay. Human mastery over the microbes of these processes has not only been key to survival 6, but often allowed us to create foods and dishes unique to cultural identities. Every culture has a fermented product and Cooked shows that the processes of making cheese, beer, and cacao are all heavily reliant on a variety of microbes and decay to make them delicious and unique. Like the other cooking methods, fermentation is an old and global practice. This episode, even more so than the others, works toward moving American perception food away from the spectacle, commercialism, and separation we’ve created around cooking and ingredients; gently guiding our views to be comprehensive, appreciative, and unafraid.

Michael Pollan points out the clear contrasts between modern7 food culture and traditional cooking. There is a loss in connection to our food either turning it into an unreachable spectacle, or reducing it to a time saving measure. For many of us, we could not be farther away from our ingredients. Corporations do the work for us, save us time, and at that point, food becomes an after thought. For many other countries, we are shown that it this is not the case. In Mumbai, we see the importance of the home cooked meal, even in the contemporary work place; and how the rural farming communities of Marrakesh are brought closer together by the process of making bread, from growing the grain to milling the flour, and baking in the community oven. Pollan urges us slow down, look around at what were doing, and evaluate if it is right for us. He offers an alternative way to look at how our lives and well being are deeply connected our food and, explains the best way to get to find understanding in this is to explore cooking.

Michael Pollan is unashamed in his views against the unsustainable nature of vegetarianism, corrosive nature of processed foods and industrial meat farming, and how wheat has now been given a bad name with out properly evaluating how modern methods have been processing it. However, Cooked, is not a statement for an immediate call for change, and uses Pollan’s views more to tell a story than make a point. He offers insight and visual examples of how cooking can transform your life and, asks us to make simple choices to guide cooking back into the core of our lives.

To cook or not to cook is a consequential question. Though I realize that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly. Cooking means different things at different time for different people; seldom is it an all or nothing proposition. […However,] cooking has the power to transform more than just plants and animals. Cooking I found gives us the opportunity so rare in modern life to work directly in our own support and in the support of the people we feed. – Michael Pollan

Cooked validates all of my beliefs about food, and turns them into a visual reality both familiar and strange. If you love cooking or food, you can’t deny the human allure towards it, and our dependency on it. Take time to explore the primal, instinctual, and nostalgic nature of that relationship through the four elements of Cooked.




24-year-old Millennial rips the 29-year-old Millennial who ripped the 25-year-old Millennial who worked for Yelp

On Friday, a Yelp/Eat24 employee wrote a lengthy open letter to her CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, about her compensation, which she said came out to about $8 an hour after taxes. A few hours later, she said she was fired. It created a hot debate about how expensive the Bay Area is to live in, and whether or not companies should pay entry-level employees more.

On Monday, a 29-year old hero millennial responded in a post on medium. That article was since re-posted on and has been distributed throughout my facebook feed like a venereal disease for about a week. As long as we are writing open letters, this is an open letter to Stefanie Williams, the second woman in the correspondence.

Dear Stefanie Williams,

After reading your piece detailing the absolute struggle that you dealt with while working as a well-payed bartender in the suburbs of one of the most expensive cities in the world while living rent-free at your parents’ house, I just wanted to say your words are a powerful example for white millennials like me who are sick of other white millennials clambering for handouts . You and me, Stefanie, we get it. Life isn’t about sticking up for yourself in the face of corporate greed, it’s about getting by, hauling yourself up by the bootstraps 1 and getting picked up as a screenwriter while working at a bar. Our parents did it, and we did it. 2

My name is Joey. I’m not much younger than you. I will be turning 25 in a couple of months which puts me around the age of famed millennial cry-baby and likely socialist Bernie Sanders-supporting Talia Jane. It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat in my sophomore year frat house room crying over the curdled milk on my nightstand as I realized I would never again be able to smoke weed in the morning. But here I am, having survived my early 20’s with apparently whatever it is you call humility. 3

I can’t thank you enough Stef for teaching that ungrateful, young snake person Talia the value of a good work ethic. Despite sharing an age with Talia, I too understand the difference that a hypothetical 5 years can make. I imagine those years are incredibly important and I was proud to share in the narrative of your struggle.

You inspired me to put pen to paper to tell my own story of redemption, so it could act as a lesson to those young people who lack the conviction and the work ethic to succeed in the world our parent’s created for us – a world where we must rely on our wits, industriousness and privilege to attain respectably middling positions at semi-impressive sounding institutions, all so we can rub it in the faces of people we went to high school with. 4

When I was 21, I had just graduated College. I was sent into the employment-seeking world in the wake of one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory. In the middle of summer, young and (I guess?) scared about my future, I was deposited from the bosom of the liberal arts and welcomed to the “real world.” 5

I too, like both of you lovely young women, was an English major 6 and I also wasn’t sure what employment options my degree left me, having spent the majority of college just generally not thinking about what came next.

Like you, Stefanie, and fellow white people nationwide, my knee-jerk reaction to the fear of unemployment was to get drunk. Having set my mind to this noble task, I proceeded in getting a bit hammered outside of a bar in Seattle with some of my friends about a week after graduation. It was early in the day. A former professor of mine walked down the street and asked me if I was interested in getting into consulting. Not having a job, and with the accumulated angst of multiple days of unemployment threatening to dim the fire of my capitalist spirit – I said yes without thinking. I accepted reality and sold out to pay my bills, biding my time until I could, in your words:

“[find] another job that was more my speed, something my mother could be proud of, something worthy of my English Language and Literature degree and my Chaucer reciting mind.” 7

Little did I know that jobs pandering to creatives were few and far between. The experience I was getting was all geared towards business consulting and while it is hardly a bad industry, it didn’t play to the strengths or ideals that I held for myself. Like you, I struggled through the hardship of living with my parents in a beautiful white suburban home while commuting 2 hours to work each day. At times, I would reach into the pantry and find peanut butter captain crunch, when I had hoped for crunchberries. I again see in your words expression for that feeling of quiet desperation I experienced in moments like this. I passed by the parents of my high school classmates in the grocery store and using my stern power of discernment, I determined these looks were probably pitying and probably condescending accusations of how I had moved back in with my parents. Again, I turn to you:

“[I dealt with the pitying looks by ] laughing to myself knowing their child was addicted to coke and hating their ‘amazing’ job. I paid my dues. I did what I had to do in order to survive, with the help of my family. I was gracious and thankful and worked as hard as I could even if it was a job that sometimes made me question my worth. And I was successful because of that.”

There is nothing like a parent’s ignorance of a child’s drug addiction to brighten one’s thoughts in a gloomy time. This was my comfort as I spent years 8 charting the rickety path from middle-class white suburbia to middle-class white suburbia. 9

Again, I need to turn to your post. As usual, Stefanie, I call on your considerable mental firepower to put this millennial in her place. Prepare to be re-post-slammed, Talia!

“To [Talia], that is more acceptable than taking a job in a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a fast food place. And that’s the trouble with not just your outlook, but the outlook of so many people your age. You think it is somehow more impressive to ask strangers for money by writing some “witty” open letter than it is to put on your big girl pants and take a job you might be embarrassed by in order to make ends meet. And as someone who not only took the “embarrassing job,” but thrived at it, made bank from it and found a career path through it, I am utterly disgusted by your attitude.”

We sure did slam that Talia girl, huh Stefanie? If she had just quietly put up with her perceived injustices and followed our trail-blazing example, perhaps she too would have found herself re-posted by! Her little girl pants clearly didn’t have the perspective afforded by a couple years in the service industry or an entry-level office position.

I am tired of doing this so I will steal your conclusion.

Darling, darling, darling. Consider yourself double-condescended, darling! Memes!


Let us adopt real-person speak for a second. The original poster, Talia, was making a statement against a perceived injustice. Her employer denied employees full benefits and didn’t provide a great wages. That sort of injustice exists, she was just not the perfect person to represent that experience. It is true that struggling is a part of life, it is also true that neither I, nor Talia, nor Stefanie are the people doing the struggling.

Stefanie, you can’t just take a moment of personal strife and pretend that strife is somehow universal. There are serious socioeconomic issues in this country that are exacerbated by all of these bootstrap narratives that make it seem as though everybody can just move their way up the ladder with hard work as though the opportunity for economic advancement is universal. Not everyone has a family they can stay with while they save money. Not everyone has a college degree to fall back on. The narrative of overcoming socioeconomic strife is not ours to tell and, for all 3 of the speakers in this exchange (though I really doubt anyone will read this so probably just two speakers), I think it is damaging and embarrassing for our stories to fill this space while the narratives of those who actually struggle are buried.

This is not a “get-em girl” moment. There are injustices that are perpetrated every day in corporate America. Talia, yours is not a great example. There are people who overcome struggle every day to make a better place in this world which is sadly defined by earning potential. Stefanie, yours is not really one of them (and neither is mine). The decision to put Talia down while humble-bragging about a life story that is rank with your own privilege doesn’t help anything.

The people who are reporting and liking this article are the same people who will use your story as an excuse to deny opportunities to those that don’t have them. The same people who could not only benefit from an improved minimum wage (or better healthcare) but may stake their survival on it are the ones hurt when Talia’s example can be brought up as fuel for an argument that says: “these young people are just asking for free stuff.” It is our job to deny the fuel that feeds the fire of socioeconomic injustice. The best way for us to do that is to shut the hell up and let people who actually have something interesting to say actually say it. I am sorry I had to be a condescending dick for like 3 pages to prove this point. It was really fun to do. Bye!





Scorsese, Winter, and Jagger’s new series “Vinyl’ is classic HBO programming at its most genric

Screenshot (38)

This past Sunday, Hbo’s new series Vinyl premiered to only about 764,000 viewers; a shockingly low number compared to other series premiers this past season: The Leftovers and True Detective 1. With household names such as Scorsese and Winter, a celebrity Executive Producer like Jagger, and the full monetary support of HBO, how could a series like this under-perform? How does power, sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, with an auteur storyteller not equal a compelling and addicting hit? The answer is simply “we have been here before,” and no amount of celebrity and quality, artistic production can make an old, generic story feel fresh.

It is hard laying down a review like this on this series 2, because I don’t find myself criticizing the technical craftsmanship of its creators. Terrence Winter is an incredible, detailed storyteller, and this paired with Scorsese’s style and eye has resulted in a visually engrossing world populated by multi-faceted characters. Scorsese then treats audience members to an array of colors and sets that transports you in the venues, offices, and musical waves of the 1970’s 3.

Similar to the final season of Boardwalk Empire , 4 Winter uses this pilot to tell two stories – present and past – about our protagonist Richie Finestra, portrayed by high intensity Bobby Cannavale. As our “unreliable” narrator Richie guides us into his world of corporate greed, celebrity ego, life long dreams, and that innate, magical ear it takes to make a hit record. In the present Richie and his partners, Zak Yankovich (Ray Ramono) and Skip Fontaine (J.C. Mackenie), are attempting to sell their dying record label to a German conglomerate while dealing with an unhappy Led Zeppelin. Richie then finds himself reminiscing over his first client, a black blues singer/ guitarist named Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), as he flashes back to the sounds of to classic Rhythm and Blues. Winter has not only created a multi-faceted front-man for the series, but has given him two intersecting narratives which he seamlessly transition between.

Bobby Cannavale, who was a bit too over the top for me in his role as Gyp Rosetti on season 3 of Boardwalk Empire 5, uses his physicality as a representative theme for the series. His character, Richie, is torn between the man music (the industry) has turned him into and the raw feelings and emotions that listening to music stir inside him. The contrast between the smooth label executive and the wild fan of music sings through Cannavale’s performance and he definitely adds a unique signature to the series.

Yet with so much going for it, how is Vinyl not a major success? Had it premiered five years ago this series would have been a hit, and arguably a must watch HBO series for America (both for critics and audiences)6. However, with all this new scripted programming7,  constant access to countless titles for streaming, and an over all progressive shift in the “quality television” landscape Vinyl in 2016 will likely continue to struggle with viewership. The average person, in my opinion, is not going to sit down on a Sunday night and watch a two -hour (no commercial) premier of a series. Often times, even critics will grimace in the face of having to do so. At the end of the day, Vinyl just doesn’t shine bright enough through all the other programming (period or other wise) being made. *cough* The Knick *cough*8

There are so many series about conflicted and corrupt powerful white men 9. Terrence Winter has even made two series centered around that: The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. Many viewers and especially critics are bored of seeing old, corrupt white men being misogynists and rich assholes, which, although beautifully and craftily done, is a lot of what Vinyl is. Juno Temple’s character Jamie Vine, the young dreamer of the series, would be an ideal character to center the series around; watching an outgoing, talented, and driven young woman climb to top of record label. This is exactly what made Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt a massive breath of fresh air. I can only hope that, like Halt & Catch Fire season 210, Terrence Winter will find a way to give a lot more narrative to Devon Finestra (Olivia Wilde), Richie’s wife with a Warhol connection, and the intrepid Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) as she potentially discovers a new genre of rock n’ roll. He literally wrote himself a potential Betty Draper and Peggy Olson 11.

So if The Leftovers represents HBO’s series for critical acclaim, Vinyl seems more like a shout out to the networks mid 2000’s content and fans 12. A series that will generically be entertaining, well made, and nuanced but, suffers from a lack of progressive content, topical and fresh for the times. And if anything, Vinyl most certainly signifies that HBO is playing into the content race that Netflix started.

I can’t say Vinyl is not worth your time, because I am going to continue watching the series… However, don’t suckered into thinking this is or will be a must watch series of 2016. Like most of America and their connection to HBO just sit tight for April 24 and the return of Game of Thrones 13.




What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 2: Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Chance’s better angels, and Kendrick’s Grammy performance

This thinkpiece1 is the second of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.


“What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye?

Called “I Miss the Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye” – Kanye West, “I Love Kanye”

“[T]he mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of “personality,” not being necessarily more interesting, or having “more to say,” but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations…The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the [oxygen and sulfur dioxide] are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. – TS Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”


Of course the tragedy that is Kanye West would ensure that The Life of Pablo was always going to be disappointing, but fortunately, Kanye brought Chance the Rapper with him on SNL, lifting him and us up to new heights. TLOP has proven to be a decent album peppered with near-genius production, largely held up by a simulacra of emotional and intellectual depth that ultimately kept it coming up short and out of water.

Produced by any other hip hop artist, TLOP would be a fine work worthy of much praise. But Kanye is not merely another hip hop artist. Kanye is influential. Kanye is genre-defining. Kanye is enigmatic as hell, and Kanye, through Kanye’s sheer force of will, changed hip hop.

Kanye spends most of his time waxing about how Kanye is all these things.

I think I’m over Kanye.2

Alas, Kanye wasn’t the only thing to happen to hip hop since Saturday. The Grammy’s came and went. They weren’t the train wreck the Oscars3 were. Still stifled by its own injustices, we at least got to witness Kendrick Lamar perform one for the ages and hopefully the first of many cute, clever way to take shots at Kanye.


I miss the old Kanye,

Straight from the go Kanye

Perhaps more than any other rapper since the turn of the century, the experience of listening to Kanye’s music matters. I remember a 15-year-old me falling onto my pillow with Late Registration pumping through the lightweight headphones of a JVC CD player. I spent the months after college playing pickup in the heat of a summer sun, blasting Yeezus to the displeasure of unsuspecting straight-laced park patrons.

Kanye was all about experiences back then too—even when his albums became more self-centered.4 Kanye didn’t just care about the experience of struggling and ultimately failing to keep a promise to his mother or the experience of turning that failure into an advantage or the experience of imposing your identity politics on a world so shockingly prepared to embrace you. He cared about the experience of listening to his story; old Ye wanted to make sure you heard yourself in him.

Ya. I miss the old Kanye. I miss the catalyst and product Kanye, the platinum and acid Kanye. I miss the “more finely perfected medium” Kanye.

I miss the old Kanye who cared about the people around him—not because he was a philanthropist or represented the struggle—but because that was his pallet, the subject matter he rapped about. For old Kanye, those stories mattered, and he was giving them voice. Kanye’s focus on fashion, and most recently, tech, has come to consume him. As a result, his singular vision—centered on what Kanye can do, what Kanye should do—has replaced what was truly remarkable about him in the first place.

Finally listening to TLOP after midnight, in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day, was unremarkable and flat. The album was supposed to drop Feb 11 after his fashion show. He added six new tracks though—in large part thanks to Chance. Fine. This pushed the release date to the 12th. Which meant I spent the day periodically checking his website, Twitter, Tidal5 to no avail.

Then somewhere on one of my timelines, the SNL performance popped up:


First impressions are dangerous. I kept asking myself, What the hell, Kanye? This is what you made me wait for? This is what you’ve been perfecting? But then the whole tone and texture of the performance changed when the other voices came in—the choir, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Chance the Rapper—to lift him and the rest of us all up somewhere we’ve never been.


I hate the new Kanye

It’s not the misogyny in the music, the bumbled release, or the sheer hubris it takes to say and believe “I am a God.”6 It’s not even the pre-pubescent lack of focus, which is, in large part responsible for the expansiveness and underlying disorder of TLOP. I don’t care that his words aren’t saying anything we haven’t heard before. 7 At least he’s saying enough to not tank the whole damn production.

   West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways.

If there is brilliance in this latest iteration of Ye, it’s that TLOP is his first real synthesis. Each project before was distinct in its style8 and for the first time, he pulls together those influences in a single album. TLOP is a good album—an A-/B+ by Ye’s standards.9 He even captures and expands on the syllabic tripling made popular by Migos and now Future to set a pace which largely been unheard to this point.

What’s most striking about this Kanye project is that Kanye is at his best when Kanye’s not at the center. It’s no coincidence that the best parts of TLOP are when Kanye’s not rapping.10 West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways. TLOP is the ultimate manifestation of this skill. Only Kanye could so convincingly tie the myriad of loose ends that are the samples, features, bloops and bleeps of his latest album into something semi-lucid enough to be considered whole. Kanye as composer. Kanye as fulcrum. Kanye as medium.

If that proved to be Ye’s legacy from here on out, that would be enough to crown him GOAT. If he remained the catalyst that pulled these previously disparate voices together, he’d be platinum for life. Think about the opportunity to continually influence the next wave of rappers and producers and then bringing them onto the next project to influence the next cadre of hip hop artists. Kanye’s own personal self-fulfilling echo chamber. What irony is this that the lack of Kanye’s presence could amplify Kanye’s impact.

He’ll never figure this out though. Tragic Kanye continues to hold GOAT Kanye back.

More insidious than anything is the work Kanye’s done to mar the window into Kanye’s creative process—a perspective I am always grateful for across any genre.11 Kanye, by being Kanye, has ruined Kanye’s music for so many who would otherwise adore Kanye and Kanye’s music, and that sad-ass fact is starting to impact my own perception of Kanye’s music12

There’s an established school of thinking in art and literary criticism that says any work is and should be independent from the biographical information of the artist. I wholly abide by this. We are all creatures of consumption, and if we had to question the morality, judgement, and character of every author of the things we consume, the whole world’s economy would seize into paralysis. I hate that Kanye makes me want to abjectly reject such a fundamental theory that’s underpinned my whole conception of art—largely on the weight of disgust. It’s not the type of questioning of assumptions Kanye should be proud of.

Kanye needs a break from Kanye—at least a breather or a step back.


See I invented Kanye.

It wasn’t any Kanyes.

Now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes

“Ultralight Beams” is one of Kanye’s rare gems that rely on heavily on pace and layers.13 This is in large part due to all the features. Even the song title foreshadows the ambivalence between utter lack of substance and beam-me-up-Scotty transcendence. Which makes sense if you accept UB as a conversation with and within church. Within communion and congregation, in song or in practice, you accept the range of voices from the small-minded to the stoic to the soaring. This is in-the-room music for every room.

When they come for you, I will shield your name.

I will field their questions. I will feel your pain.

They don’t— they don’t know.

They don’t know. (Chano on 79th)

It’s no coincidence either that UB features more artists than any other track on TLOP. Each new voice represents an incremental tonal shift that traces the arc of rapture. First, Kanye’s trepidation as his “dream” falls out of pitch. Then enter The-Dream’s quiet restraint that sets the foundation for Kelly Price’s flight to a higher plane. And of course mid-air, Chance swoops in to reframe the very thing you were listening to, plucking these wings made for flight, pointing out you’ve been swimming this whole time.

Chance, who’s spent his entire waking life looking up to Kanye, casts his Lot with Genesis, imagining himself a righteous man of God. Generations above Jesus, he skips across the surface of genealogy like it ain’t no thing in the service of a lighthearted pun, a sincere dig at young love.14

I’m just having fun with it.

You know that a nigga was lost,

I laugh in my head because I bet that my ex lookin back like a pillar of salt.

Ughhhhh. (Chano on 79th)

In rhyme, rhythm and spirit, this 22-year old layers remarkable resonances until they falls back on themselves. A cascading kaleidoscope of shimmering light playing with our ears, signaling something about the way we listen: texture.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke, and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

In the shadow of Price’s reassurance, “that you’ll take good care of your child…we look to the light.” Enter Chance the Ultralight Beam. Throughout his verse, Chano reflects and imbues his relationship with a higher spirit with the love of daughter. At once, he is both father15 and child,16 teacher17 and student,18 at home19 and abroad.20 and the rest of him freewheeling into the present,21 Chance finds himself at liberty, squarely in the tradition of crafting new combinations. South side of Chicago folk hero Kanye West sets the stage for Chance—literally, in the case of the SNL performance. When Chano stops rhyming in the middle of the song, he insists that it’s his time to speak. He takes, occupies, and fills up the space Kanye once held while the old head looks on, smiling and struck by the spirit.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke,22 and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

One of hip hop’s loudest voices in 2016 croons in full-throated invocation of a higher power—full of rainbows and gosh darns, awe and power, soda fountain musicals and grand mama’s hands.

Ya, for sure, I love Chano like Kanye loves Kanye.

Every Chano cut pushes forward the boundaries of hip hop, this thing that we always thought we knew so well. He indulges fully—an approach ripped straight from his predecessors23—his better angels. And for that,24 we owe a great debt to Kanye.


Still no one likes jazz rap

Kendrick Lamar gave a Grammy performance for the ages on Monday night. In nine minutes he compressed the sweeping expression of modern black culture that is To Pimp a Butterfly. He even added an air of theatrical plot development—yet another genre-bending move worthy of music’s highest honor.

The performance was painful, celebratory, and relentless.

It stole the coming days’ conversation but the Grammy voters stole his award.

After all, no hip-hop song has won record or song of the year at the Grammy’s. Only two hip hop artists have ever won Album of the Year, and one them beat out none other than your boy Kendrick. The institutional racism that uses a Kdot performance to boost ratings and credibility while denying him it’s top honor for a universally acclaimed album that skewers institutional racism among other things is an irony I cannot bear.

Taylor Swift is nice, happy, and marketable. I wish her all the commercial success in the world.25 I also wish her a fierce rebellious phase that rejects the comforts she’s been afforded.26 I wish the self-awareness and courage to recognize and publicly address that she wasn’t the underdog this time, probably wasn’t really ever27 and won’t be anytime soon.

I’d like to scream into the wind and whip up a fervor. I’d like to foam at the mouth. I’d like to disabuse ourselves of this duplicitous notion that the Grammy’s are about high art and not the safe, commercially successful alternative. But I’ll save it for next year when Kendrick loses AOY to the next Adam Levine.



The Importance of Being Earnest: Burying the Lede with Chance the Rapper


You have seen them and odds are you kind of are one but don’t want to self-identify as such. Many cling together and work in some of the better-tipping service jobs in your favorite gentrified areas. Their parents are by and large wealthy-ish. Many in Seattle blame employees at major tech companies for rising rent prices as if those people are somehow to blame for going to good schools, educating themselves in a profitable career path and subsequently capitalizing on that investment of self. Fuckers. (That being said I bitch about this too. Rent-too-damn-high and such).

The loci of the past decade’s hipster proliferation is hard to locate precisely. As with all cultural phenomena it is clear from the outset that while the word “culture” is a pretty convenient placeholder the simplicity of the term belies the incalculably nightmarish profusion of shit that bubbles beneath the surface. When someone points out a certain phenomenon as “cultural” or as being influenced by the “culture” of the times they are not drawing a conclusion, but pointing instead to a pretty wide range of possibilities. We live in a culture right now that allows for meteoric and unremarked-upon surges in goat popularity and the existence of Fetty Wap. This seems as good of evidence as any to conclude that culture really hates it when you keep tabs on her.

From a literary perspective (I like books so this is always where I start), propagation of hipster-ness aligns itself fairly well with post-modern American literary movements from the 80’s on. If you want to go that route, then hipsters can be considered as a caste of fairly well-educated people who have grown up digesting content that comments often on the futility of locating ones’ self within a world, the futility of narratives to render meaning from abstraction, and an affinity towards conflating the sentimental with the grotesque. We are a generation of emotional orphans, who have been geared to regard the un-ironic display of sentiment with brow-raising disdain.

As we already said though, it would be crazy reductive to blame sentiments within literature for the propagation of the hipster. The only reason I even chose that as an example is because I like books. In fact, it is probably more likely that the same day-to-day trends within modern culture that precipitated the attitude of the modern hipster were responsible for the similarities we see within literature. In this way, we basically posit that hipster culture and post-modern literature’s disdain for sentiment have a shared root cause rather than some sort of causal relationship.

What then is the issue? You could point to the way in which formative education or even generalized pre-millennial parenting has been wired since (arbitrarily) the 90’s. This is basic “kids rebelling against their parents” stuff. Back in the day (if our own parents can be believed), formative educational institutions and the means by which children were raised tended to be characterized by discipline and rigor. Our parents were raised in households where it was not mete for a father to hug a son, for a person to be rewarded for effort or participation.[1] The politics of the time aligned to this. Children growing up in the 50s and 60s saw their formative institutions as grim paragons of authority and discipline, entities that rather obliquely asserted themselves as policy-makers for the lives of young people. Clearly this wasn’t the case in every instance – but it is certainly well-documented that parenting was a bit less nuanced during this time, with parents and institutions possessing a more clearly defined template for what their young clay-like child should be when they levelled up and attained sweet, sweet something-made-of-clay status.

Since this is being posted on the internet for free I don’t have to prove anything, therefore I am just going to go ahead and assume the prior supposition to be broadly and reductively true. If not, I can at least use it as a helpful analogy to work to where I hope to someday conclude.

Our parents’ parents were demanding, stern and authoritarian. Ours, or at least the broadly privileged and well-educated class of people that make up most of the hipster class, were largely kind, caring and generous, providing affection and approbation in light of our successes and gently guiding us through our failures.

For our parents-as-kids, rebellion was simple – moral even. It wouldn’t even be that far to assert that some of the best characteristics of our parents’ kindnesses could have been part of a master plan: adopt a stance of authoritarian rigidity and watch as your children rebound to being beautiful, caring people.

What wasn’t factored into that mindset is the fact that the same children who responded well to an authoritarian, stick-centric and carrot-sparse upbringing would then, being the carrot-loving adults they are now, be reluctant to pull the ole’ bait and switch and go Adrian Peterson on the next generation’s non-figurative asses.

This isn’t to say we should advocate for more rigid and stick-wielding educational and formative institutions. Not at all. What I am saying is the mannerisms associated with rebellion at some point in time 30 years or so ago got really confusing. Instead of openly rebelling against one’s parents as an authoritative force, kids were instead recoiling in embarrassment from helicopter-mom PDA’s when the school bus pulled in. There is a sentiment of rebellion and reaction to each scenario but while the former instance unfolds as a highly-emotional rebellion against authority, the latter enacts itself as an emotion-phobic rebellion against sentiment.

So where do we go from here? When sentiment and emotional honesty become the enemy, our generation is damaged by it. We can safely do away with an assumption that those emotions and sentiments have simply gone away – they just exist internally as objects of revulsion or embarrassment. Our natural rebellion to our nurturing ends up fighting our nature, as crazily fucking opaque as that clause was.

I don’t like this a lot. Which is why I love Chance the Rapper.

The Social Experiment

I have been to Sasquatch for the last 6 years and I am typically more drawn to the Hip-hop shows than the indy rock that tends to dominate the headlining acts (though this scale has begun tipping the other direction of late, but more to that later). 2 years ago, Outkast headlined Sasquatch alongside two other Hip-hop acts I was excited to see– Tyler the Creator and Chance the Rapper.

Of the 3, Chance was the closest to being an afterthought for me. I liked some of his songs to an extant but there was something just…weird…about his attitude/persona that I didn’t really quite get. I felt like he was in on a joke that I wasn’t a part of. His performance did much to rectify that initial impression.

I remember me and my buddy Nick in the midst of a pit (which was way taller and sweatier than usual – even for a festival) turn to each other at many times and vaguely express how exuberantly badass everything Chance did on stage was. We were fucked up and in the midst of a vibrant narrative. It was hard for language to make out the edges of the experience even when recapping that evening. Just a fuck ton of superlatives. Which at the time pretty much worked.

Chance made many remarks about how it was the biggest show he had ever played. He wasn’t even on the main stage. Was this a true statement for him? I am not sure and I have never bothered to do the research to find out – I believed him when he said things like that. Live music has the potential to create incredible, binding feelings of intimacy in an inherently plural space and Chance created this mood as well as any performer I had ever seen. He wanted to be there every bit as much as we did – maybe more. And why not? We were inhabiting a moment of a dream come true, a dream he occupied and expressed to us with a generosity of feeling that was easy to appreciate.

At one point in time, Chance came out and told us he had written a new song. It took about 3 seconds for Nick and I to turn to each other and agree that Chance was just singing the theme song from the show “Arthur” and we weren’t sure if anyone around us knew what was going on. At first, it was tempting to smirk at the people dancing around to a children’s theme song.[2] We were in on the joke and the teeming (rolling-their-collective-balls-off) masses were confusedly dancing along to a song from the show that taught me (specifically) to not make fun of poor people for eating leftovers.[3] Upon further inspection, half of the people who I was silently judging were singing along. They knew exactly what Chance was doing and perceived it as an opportunity to engage with a performance of sentimental nostalgia rather than perceiving it as a wink and a nudge, an opportunity for subtle mockery. Chance wasn’t talking to the jaded adult, but the enthusiastic 8 year old. Commonalities can be built this way – kids are all pretty similar until various meanderings and decisions bring us further and further from each other. That is why nostalgia rules – the further back you go, the easier it is to find commonalities.

I remember that I was embarrassed for an internal mechanism I hadn’t spent enough time examining to be properly ashamed of. I’m glad that happened. Moments of really internal, profound embarrassment[4] are easy to remember clearly.

Donnie Trumpet’s new album, and namely, the single from it – “Sunday Candy” – a song for which I have a near-pathological fondness, are lyrical instances of the same idea. What I hadn’t necessarily derived from Acid-rap on the first few go-arounds was Chance’s spirit. He is playful without being mocking, a distinction I failed to grasp maybe because I am a bad person or maybe because I was just not wired to expect it. Maybe that is why Chance’s music can be so jarring (beyond his voice, which is undeniably…goofy) to people who are hearing it for the first time.

When listening to Sunday Candy the first time, I had essentially already latched on to this aspect of Chance’s music that I had admired and identified it as sort of his emotional essence. That was what made my first listen to that song so beautiful – I wasn’t searching for hidden meanings or innuendos, wasn’t caught assuming that the lyrics were some vague reference to a girl he was banging but instead was able to take it for what it was – a song about his grandma whom he loved very much.

In retrospect it seems insane that anyone would expect or want anything more from a song. Is there value in being cryptic and opaque? I’m not really sure. Anyone can empathize readily with Chance when he talks about love, and the innocence of the song’s subject – the relationship between a grandma and her grandson – renders the expression of that love all the more universal. He isn’t espousing an impossible idea, just commenting on an authentic possibility – the possibility to be frankly and unabashedly appreciative of a person you love, willing to make that proclamation on a global stage, and willing to share that feeling even as he denies turning his experience into metaphor in one of the first lines of the song (“You say it too – but your grandma ain’t my grandma”).

Chance’ his music and his attitude are incredibly at odds with what I grew up thinking hip-hop to be. Given where we have been for the past 10 years though, maybe his popularity can be seen as antidotal, a required tonic for a generation that vaguely knows it is sick and is beginning to gravitate towards attitudes at odds with their own in hopes that they “rub off”.

Maybe our generation’s newfound appreciation of earnest sentiment is just a regression to senility. Maybe it is an opportunity to learn from our own mistakes and come out in the end better for it. Maybe it is nothing at all. I can only say that if Hip-hop and the music industry can find a place for Chance’s unadorned positivity, then maybe we don’t have to be so goddamn pithy all the time.

<Catchy and satisfying ending>

Or not. Fuck.

[1] This is totally a subconscious reference to something I saw Herman Edwards say on SportCenter the other day which got me thinking. He basically railed on the inappropriateness of giving out awards for effort, citing that rewards are essentially for winners and general pussification may occur if people are congratulated based on what they do rather than who-they-do-something-better-than. Yet, isn’t arduous, slog-up-a-fucking-hill-in-the-snow-for-no-reason effort pretty much the only truly American virtue? Isn’t that the reason why I need to hear people in Presidential debates talk about how relentlessly shitty their parent’s jobs were growing up? How by virtue of herculean mind-fuck near-migrant-worker-stereotype-but-not-quite-cause-we-don’t-like-them persistence they dragged themselves out of the disadvantage supplied by their own parents when they showed up on the east coast with only a handkerchief and a suitcase filled with sawdust to their name only to co-found the greatest sawdust mill the state of New Jersey had ever seen, etc. Also, why is the endurance of suffering espoused as a virtue in this country? Could it be that the people espousing the virtue are not the ones actually doing the suffering? Nah.

[2] It is tempting to smirk at music festivals often – people dress like fucking lunatics there.

[3] This is a real thing and is pretty much the only episode of Arthur that I remember. The other episode I remembered was actually an episode of “Doug” where Doug’s dad makes just a ton of kite puns.

[4] Can you be embarrassed if nobody knows what you are embarrassed about? The answer is yes. Yes so hard.