Friday, July 11, 2014

Here's the etymology of "Turn Down for What"

Since "Turn Down For What" by DJ Snake and Lil' Jon is clearly the dance anthem of this sad yet very fun generation, I've had ample occasion to think about what it means. And I'm clearly not the only one.

Duh It's a Rhetorical Question

Ok, fine, we all know "turn down for what?" is a rhetorical question. Like, for what reason would I turn down, "turn down" meaning the opposite of getting "turnt," or "turnt up."

But to fully wrap my mind around where this phrase came from and why exactly it's so catchy and cool, I had to trace the origins of all its parts.

Let's turn up the breaking down business by breaking "Turn Down For What" down.

Turn down.

Throughout history, there have been so many things developed technology-wise to turn down. Google's book search for "turn down" showed that before lanterns, people expectedly only used the phrase to mean reject something for an alternate choice. Like, "I turned the boy down on our third date because he was too into the fitness subreddit." Or, "President Obama turned down Michelle Obama because she was too hot." Stuff like that.

Or, turn-down (or sometimes even turn down, without a hyphen) was often used as a noun. Like a "turn-down collar." But that's irrelevant, nouns are irrelevant here.

With the invention of heat and a lantern came the invention of to "turn" something "down." Then that translated into turning the radio or the television down in the 30's and 50's, respectively. 

By the end of the 20th century, there were numerous things you could turn down, if they were too loud or high. Your iPhone ringtone. The volume of your Nintendo. Your enthusiasm about something going viral. There were so many things to turn down that turning them up wasn't even exciting anymore. We had to do something - SOMETHING - to make turning something up an event to remember.

Pertinent Tangent: Turnt

(oh great, the two most tired idioms in pop culture right now, together, in one JPEG, with a mini icon of beer pong. Thanks, Google Image.)

In 2005, a girl named Erica Peters knew "turning up" was like, so snooze. So she got the cue somewhere to kick it up a notch. More specifically, she give IT a T at the end. On Urban Dictionary.

"Turnt" to Erica Peters, the first one to post about "turnt" in Mr. Urban Dick in good old 2005 meant:

"Horny, Drunk,f*cked up!! Crunk!!
Damn, I am all turnt on! or I am getting Turnt to night at the club!"

Well, "turnt on" was eventually foregone in favor of the more popular "turnt up," but 2005 had the right idea.

In my opinion, there are two reasons that "turned" might have gained its cooler, sluttier older sister, "turnt."

Turnt theory #1: It's southern dialect. Google book search shows any use of the word "turnt" before 2005 was purely a dialectical spelling to portray a southern character. 

This theory is fascinating to me because what makes a southern person so apt to replace an "ed" with a "t" in this case? Is it that they are purely making a mistake about the past tense of "turn?" Is there an element of definitiveness they subconsciously add to "turn" by adding the harsher "T" sound at the end, in order to connote that something has been fully turned? My guess it might have been a combination of both.

Turnt theory #2: It's a rhyming thing. "Turn" rhymes with "burn," and people say something has been "burnt" a lot. Something has been "turnt" sounds very similar. 

British English and American English have differed in the way they've historically used "burned" and "burnt." In the case of American English, people use "burnt" more often to describe an object that has been completely burned. Like, Americans would probably say "I ate a burnt piece of toast" before saying, "I burnt this piece of toast." So, in my opinion, adding a "T" to the end of "burn" connotes a more complete process of having been burned for good, which reflects its harsher sound. 

Which brings us back to "turnt." Turnt's structure closely follows that of the way most Americans use "burnt." We say something is turnt, something is getting turnt, something has been turnt (usually us). So we're the direct object; something fully turned us up. The structure of the language gives the impression of a loss of control usually involved with substance use, which is something that "getting turnt" totally means. 

Here are the conclusions I came to about turnt: It is cool because it's offers a curve ball in terms of confident ending annunciation,  and it is associated with calm and collected southern living.

(lol) (It's not accurate in any way, I just think it's funny.)

For What?

("FOR WHAAAAAT [am I locked in here]???? I'm white and fluffy!!!" it says. The only thing that would make this picture sadder is if it were a puppy.)

"For What" definitely lives in "Turn Down"'s shadow. But don't get yourself twisted: it's an irreplaceable part of the rhetoric. Lil' Jon could have written, "Why Would We Turn Down?" and where would we be today? Definitely ALL THE WAY turned down. And for what?

What's so cool about "For What?" It packs a two-syllable punch, that's for sure. It sounds like a kid whose mom asks him to clean his room and he's yelling back at her from a pile of dirty laundry. "FOR WHAT, MOM? No one comes in here except me anyway!" Then he masturbates and cries because it's true. 

For me, the coolest thing about "For What" is it's a structure not often used in English. And, indulge me here, it's used a lot in Russian. They have two ways of saying "Why?" in Russian: "Pochemu?" and "Za shto?" The first variant is more abstract, like, "What is the reason for this world!!!!!!111," and the second is literally asking, "For what?" like give me a tangible result of this thing.

Bottom Line

Although the EDM oscillation between verses and chorus thrusts the song forward, "Turn Down For What," which is derived from its much less popular polar opposite, "Turn Up For Many Reasons," has the anthem X-factor mostly because of its lyrical structure. The kind of structure that floats up out of the dust of tiny baby pop culture trending hashtivist angels, and then enters the hands of nerd bloggers like me, and then, after a few months, joins the ranks of historic passe decisions that Miley Cyrus stores away in the part of her butt cheeks that claps. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Cold Shoulder War

You might remember when Putin annexed Crimea sometime at the beginning of the year. You know, back in those days when the Putin backlash was strong. The Russian president's club of western haters has subsided a bit because we've moved on to bigger animals of foreign policy like Iraq and Israel, but he'll do something to make it come back, I guarantee it. He'll make another statement about how being gay is wrong, or ban Facebook. And when the American media discourse falls back into the Putin-bashing mode, politicians will feel the need to chisel out some new vehemently anti-Russian policy. Like when, for example, some aldermen in Chicago in late March felt the need to suspend the 17-year “Sister City” relationship between Chicago and Moscow. 

That’ll teach Putin a lesson for annexing Crimea, they said. It was supposed to be an “important step” toward expressing “outrage” to Putin, but the mayor declined to sign it. That might have had something to do with the fact that there are approximately 15,000 Russian immigrants living in Chicago, according to 2009 American Community Survey data. Chicago Sister Cities International has thrown fashion shows, meals, concerts and events of all kinds promoting Russian culture since 1997.

Between the time of Putin's anti-gay law and his royal mess of Sochi, at least 40 of 76 U.S. cities with Russian Sister cities formed similar online petitions to suspend their Sister City relationships. So much time and energy went into garnering support for the anti-gay “propaganda” and anti-annexation petitions. What would happen if cities spent that energy trying to improve their already existing foreign exchange programs, many of which have persisted even through the Cold War?

"Citizen diplomacy" is the fancy reason for Sister Cities International. The organization was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the interest of using average citizens as political ambassadors for their country, whether purposefully or as a result of some other motivation. “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it,” the former president smirked in 1959.

Here's citizen diplomacy in action: no one from Chicago knows anything about Moscow, and vice versa. I asked many of my friends living in Chicago what they knew about Moscow. They said it was dreary, the Kremlin was there and the KGB used to exist. When I was in Moscow and mentioned I was from Chicago, I received one of two gestures in return from the people living there: either, “Oh, Da Bulls!” or “Boom boom! Al Capone.” Maybe it's just me because I love Russian history and culture, but I think we should mutually learn more about each other.

A friend I studied with in St. Petersburg in 2009 said she often struggled with the rough misunderstandings between Americans and Russians. My friend, who asked to remain anonymous because she works for the U.S. government, said if Russians and Americans do not actively try to understand one another, they're at risk of becoming completely disconnected, rotting in “echo chambers of their own rhetoric.” Real diplomacy, she said, only starts once the “conversation juices start flowing.” 

Ask anyone who's been to Russia, even those fluent in Russian, and they'll say they've had enough awkward moments and misunderstandings to last a lifetime. Just existing in the same place and doing the same menial task can work wonders for ironing out the folds of misconceptions between people.

Everyday commonalities are essential in even the most high profile international policy conversations. We saw this when Obama tried to relate to Putin over sports during their press conference about Syria. He announced to the press that the two had bonded over complaints that they were getting older, which made it harder for both of them to play their sport of choice. “We compared notes on President Putin’s expertise in judo and my declining skills in basketball,” Obama said, to laughter from the press. “And we both agreed that as you get older it takes more time to recover.” Putin did not take Obama’s statement as a joke, but rather he thought Obama was trying to make him feel more comfortable by painting himself as weak. "The President is trying to put me at ease with the fact that he’s becoming weaker,” Putin said. It was a moment lost in translation, and it underscored the value of communicating via the language of hobbies and culture. 

For those politicians who want to tell Putin off and spread democracy, Sister Cities could be the way to do that. A Sister City relationship is arguably an important means through which a country with more institutionalized freedoms (America) can influence a less democratic country (Russia). Exchanges like Sister City events are “the only way that Russians will have access to real information,” Ukrainian-American Luba Yurchyk said. Yurchyk, who was born in Ukraine, lives in Chicago and keeps in consistent contact with many Russians, said several of her friends living in Russia are frightened that whatever freedom of the press they had before is being squandered. Many told her their dismay at Putin closing them off from most independent channels of journalism and world news. “So what would it hurt for a couple of people from Chicago to talk to a couple of people from Moscow?”

Moscow and Chicago are cities with exhaustively different expectations of their languages, their governments (local and national), and their lives. What they share is a desire to appear vibrant and heterogeneous to the other. Many Americans don’t agree with Obama or Bush's policies. And many Russians don’t agree with Putin's. Sister City events reveal opportunities for people to bond over their dissent.

There will always be Americans and Russians who fundamentally disagree about urgent and far-reaching issues. But if a friendship is formed in some way or another on the ground, international policies could slowly patch conflict with mutual understanding of these divisions. We need to stop creating policies out of alienated antagonism and pause to appreciate our sisters. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

33 Signs We are Actually All Human Beings and Not Basic Bitches

"Big salads at Cheesecake Factory." "UGGs." "Instagram geotags." "Star tattoos on their foot."

These are four out of "33 Things That Every Basic B*tch Likes," according to Elite Daily (asterisk theirs). The realest "basic bitch" indicator of the whole article is a header called "Toasters." Apparently, "basic bitches" love their toasters:

Toasters are the epitome of basic b*tches. They can make anything in the toaster (except, heaven forbid, sliced bread), everything tastes better in the toaster, they enjoy the friendly chime of the toaster, they look like toasters... Those basic b*tches, the closest they've come to using real kitchen appliances is returning duplicates from their bridal registry.

Oh totally, those basic bitches are so basic that they like to use their modern day appliances to make their food crunchy! Jeez louise, that is so basic I am like seeing level 1 math as I roll my eyes into the back of their basic tiny little lids.

These so-called "basic bitches," namely the ones who are somehow known for their love affairs with a machine that can heat their breakfast quickly and efficiently, got me thinking. I did a little googling around for both the origin and the perpetuation of the "basic bitch."

It didn't take me long to find several listicles claiming to have the original and snarky look (snarky is probably too flattering of a word, here) into what makes a woman not only a bitch, but a "basic bitch." I learned from sites like Mass Appeal, Thought Catalog, Oh No They Didn't (which is still on Livejournal, evidently) and my personal favorite, Black Girls are Easy, that "basic bitch" is pretty much a code word for any woman who wants to fit in but is, unfortunately for her, too transparent or forthcoming to hide her conformist desires.

Actually, I'm going to put what I learned in even more "basic" terms: a "basic bitch" is anyone who possesses the qualities you either hate about yourself or are deathly afraid of having. And it's kind of a really ugly way to put another woman down. What could be more insulting than calling someone literally so normal that she is unenjoyable to be around? At least when a woman is a "bitch," she can be her own special "bitch." As a "basic bitch," she is confined to the role of someone so passe and predictable that for her to try is a waste of space.

"Basic bitches," like Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes, according to the kind of internet bloggers who grab onto these types of "urban" buzzwords and force their relevance for the bored 9 to 5 readership. "Basic bitches" also like posting selfies, wearing brand-name fashion for the masses and depending on men to calculate their self worth. They listen to top 40 radio and name their dogs after people. They're really into their horoscopes and watch nothing but bad television (I saw Say Yes to the Dress in about four listicles).

Some contradictions I found about a "basic bitch": A "basic bitch" loves a good sale, but she is obsessed with designer labels. A "basic bitch" brags about her boyfriend on social media, but she's a giant slut who gives head a lot. A "basic bitch" refuses to go camping or play sports, but she loves to work out and talks about going to the gym all the time.

A writer over at Black Girls are Easy wrote that girls are "basic bitches" if they lack ambition and hate on other women. And she totally planted a truth bomb about how calling someone a "basic bitch" reveals your own insecurity:

When you go out to the club and get your 4th of July ass bounce on you’re going to feel a need to look at another female and refer to her as a Basic Bitch. Before you pass judgment on her, look at yourself. This is the part of the movie where Haley Joel says, “I see dead people” and Bruce Willis says, “Where, little nigga?” If you are in the same room as women you deem basic, what does that make you? You are in the same basic club trying to get pulled by the same basic men they are. The fact that you are breathing the same air with that level of primitive hoe is proof that your life took a wrong turn and you, Miss “bad bitch”, may be the most basic of them all.

BUT, in her weirdly shoot-yourself-in-the-foot-with-your-own-judgments type humor, the author managed to miss the point, which is that a "basic bitch" is in the eye of the beholder. It's a way for women to put other women down by measuring them in appearance and the way they perform their personalities. That's why a woman putting down another woman for being a "basic bitch" is really just a "basic bitch" herself. She's living the "basic bitch" mentality rooted in brand recognition and empty feelings of superiority. Calling someone else "basic" perfectly illustrates where your own priorities lie.

Something really important to understand about using the term "basic bitch" on someone else is engaging in that action deepens whatever divide there is between women of different socioeconomic backgrounds whose indicators of wealth and popularity differ. A pair of UGGs might be "basic" to one Elite Daily blogger based in Manhattan with no care in the world except to garner clicks. But that same pair of UGGs could be golden to a 16-year-old girl whose single mother invested her Best Buy paychecks to buy them for her daughter on Christmas. And income gap aside, women should not have to hesitate to flaunt the clothes they like for fear of having their motivations questioned.

What's the big deal, you're probably asking? "Basic bitch" is just a funny way of saying someone's boring or they're wearing something you thought was cool in 8th grade. The big deal is, if you spend the time to get to know other kinds of women, the chances are there is something at least a little less boring about them than you originally thought. And if they're wearing something you thought was cool in 8th grade, maybe you should take that as a chance to consider the possibility of that article of clothing coming back in style. Let me remind you, the newest fashion trend hitting the streets, "normcore," literally takes its inspiration from what is considered "basic." One woman's "basic bitch" is another woman's treasure. Because, if there's anything that - what, like four waves of feminism? - have taught us, it's that all women are f*cking treasures (asterisk mine).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In which the coolest Ukrainian woman ever explains some things to me

It's 2 PM, I'm riding in an elevator in Chicago's loop down 42 floors with six other people, and we've just come out of a round table discussion about Ukraine. I have a migraine, and I want to get out of the city. The round table discussion was with a couple of prominent Ukrainian American politicians, journalists and educators who support Ukraine's sovereignty and transition into a western democracy.

Two college dudes are talking in the elevator about how they're not gonna remember the names of whoever said that kinda interesting thing about Ukraine earlier. Then a woman in the corner, dressed in a bowler's hat and olive green suit a la Katharine Hepburn, says, "If you don't remember anything else from this afternoon, guys, just remember that it's pronounced Kyiv - not Kiev."

The whole elevator collectively laughs. There are rumblings of, "yeah, that's crazy, we didn't know how to pronounce the name of a giant city." Earlier in the day, at the round table, the politicians reminded us that Ukrainians pronounce their city that we might know as Kiev, like Kyiv, long Y.

The woman smiles and arches her eyebrows cleverly. "You know, we petitioned The New York Times for 15 years to get them to write Kyiv instead of Kiev," she says.

"Really!" I involuntarily emit.

"Yeah! For so long, they were pronouncing it Kiev, like the Russians do. It's Kyiv, K-Y-I-V, like Kay-iv. That's the Ukrainian."

The elevator door opens and I have to ask her more. "Excuse me?" I hurry after her. "Can you tell me more about what you said about The New York Times and Ukrainian?"

"Of course!" she says, genuinely enthusiastic to be talking about it. "We would just like the world to pronounce the names of our cities correctly. And to drop the "the" before Ukraine. You wouldn't say The France or The Germany, right? So why The Ukraine? The, like in The United States, means something collective. Ukraine is no longer a part of a collective entity of Soviet republics, it's its own sovereign country."

She goes on to tell me that Ukrainians want respect for their own language, but they are relaxed when it comes to speaking Russian. That's not to say she isn't proud of speaking Ukrainian:

"Ukrainian is softer and more musical than Russian, because it's rooted more in Greek. Russian is a Germanic language so it's harsher. But no one in Ukraine makes a big deal about which language you speak."

She introduces herself as Luba. Then she tells me that Putin is attached to Ukraine in an "aggressive" way, but Ukraine is determined to break free and become a European country.

"For Putin, Russia without Ukraine is nothing. But Ukraine without Russia is everything," she says.

"It is a fight to death at this point. We cannot have a normal life with Russia on our back."

I thank her for her time, and she asks me which publication I'm writing for. I say, this might be published in The Moscow Times, but I don't know yet. She laughs a hearty laugh. "Oh honey," she says, "They won't publish anything I say."

"But it's in English, and it's independently owned," I retort.

"It doesn't matter anymore, Putin can erase whatever he wants," she says.

Luba was a banker on Wall Street for 15 years. She knows the benefits and repercussions of capitalism, and she wants them for her homeland of Ukraine.

We say our goodbyes, and I promise to publish her quotes somewhere, even if The Moscow Times won't give them a chance.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Does Putin want a return to the Soviet Union?

I wrote last night that Putin is dreaming of a return to the Soviet Union and hopes that Russians will unite under shared nostalgia for the Soviet era in order to make Sochi's infrastructure last as sustainable and profitable. But today, after reading this piece on Russia's actions in Crimea by Thomas De Waal for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Moscow Center, I'm not so sure the resurrection of the Soviet Union is Putin's primary guiding light.

As Russian soldiers set up camp in Crimea this morning, Western commentators were saying the West should preemptively tell Putin that he needs to keep his stuff inside his pants a.k.a. not annex Crimea or Ukraine. This afternoon, Obama did something of the sort, saying Russia shouldn't use force in Ukraine. De Waal argues that the West's pre-emptive position comes from fear that Putin wants another Soviet Union, so he'll do anything within his power to use force in Ukraine. This assumption is a misunderstanding that has several times been lost in translation, De Waal writes:

I have again read that Putin wants to re-create the USSR, using a quotation that I and others have pointed out does not actually imply that.

Any Russian escalation deserves a strong response from the West. But if you read what Putin is actually saying he is being more equivocal. He is ruthless, but he is not Sauron in Lord of the Rings. He almost certainly wants the government in Kiev to fail, but he is also hosting the G8 summit in Sochi in June.

The quote De Waal is talking about is one that Western journalists often quote Putin as having called the end of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century." I saw this quote in an editorial and almost used it as a piece of evidence for my piece. But De Waal's argument encouraged me to look back at the transcript of Putin's speech in April of 2005 when he allegedly said it.

What I found in the speech was a completely different statement. De Waal is right in some regard in that Putin did not say the crumbling of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century," and that instead, Putin said the crumbling of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of our age." Plus, when you look at this sentence in context, you see that it was actually a set up for a part of the speech where Putin celebrated Russians for creating their own type of democracy in the midst of the challenging economic and social change brought about by the disappearance of the Soviet empire:

Прежде всего следует признать, что крушение Советского Союза было крупнейшей геополитической катастрофой века. Для российского же народа оно стало настоящей драмой. Десятки миллионов наших сограждан и соотечественников оказались за пределами российской территории. Эпидемия распада к тому же перекинулась на саму Россию.

Накопления граждан были обесценены, старые идеалы разрушены, многие учреждения распущены или реформировались на скорую руку. Целостность страны оказалась нарушена террористической интервенцией и последовавшей хасавюртовской капитуляцией. Олигархические группировки, обладая неограниченным контролем над информационными потоками, обслуживали исключительно собственные корпоративные интересы. Массовая бедность стала восприниматься как норма. И все это происходило на фоне тяжелейшего экономического спада, нестабильных финансов, паралича социальной сферы.

Многие тогда думали, многим тогда казалось, что наша молодая демократия является не продолжением российской государственности, а ее окончательным крахом, является затянувшейся агонией советской системы.

Те, кто так думал – ошиблись. Именно в этот период в России происходили крайне значимые события... Надо было решить труднейшую задачу: как сохранить собственные ценности, не растерять безусловных достижений и подтвердить жизнеспособность российской демократии. Мы должны были найти собственную дорогу к строительству демократического, свободного и справедливого общества и государства.

Говоря о справедливости, имею в виду, конечно же, не печально известную формулу «все отнять и поделить», а открытие широких и равных возможностей развития для всех, успеха для всех, лучшей жизни для всех.

В конечном счете, на базе утверждения именно таких принципов мы и должны стать свободным обществом свободных людей. И в этой связи нелишне вспомнить, как исторически в российском обществе формировалось стремление к свободе и справедливости, как оно вызревало в общественном сознании.

First and foremost it's worth it to mention that the crumbling of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of our time. For the Russian people, there was real drama. Tens of millions of our citizens and their compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. An epidemic of disintegration also spread across Russia itself.

Citizens' savings were devalued, old ideals ruined, many institutions quickly disbanded or reformed. The integrity of the country was disrupted by terrorist intervention... Oligarch groups, having unlimited control over the information flow, served only their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be perceived as the norm. All this against a background of severe economic downturn, unstable finances and social paralysis. 

Many people thought that it seemed our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood but rather its ultimate collapse and the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.

Those who thought this were wrong. It was in this period that extremely important events took place in Russia... In those difficult years, the Russian people had to simultaneously defend state sovereignty and accurately choose a new vector in the development of its thousand-year history. It was necessary to solve the most difficult task : how to keep your own values... and confirm the viability of Russian democracy. We had to find their own way for the construction of a democratic, free and just society and state.

Speaking of justice, I, of course, don't mean the notorious formula of "taking and sharing amongst everyone," but rather the opening of broad and equal opportunities of development for all, success for all, a better life for all.

Ultimately, it is based on the approval of such principles that we should become a free society of free people. And in this juncture, it is useful to recall how in Russian society the desire for freedom and justice formed historically and how it matured in the public consciousness.

I'm not saying that Putin doesn't want a return to the Soviet Union in any way. De Waal mentioned a quote by Alexander Lebed that Putin is a fan of: "Whoever does not regret the destruction of the Soviet Union doesn't have a heart, whoever wants to recreate it doesn't have a head." Just because Putin misses the Soviet Union doesn't mean he has illusions of grandeur, and to equate nostalgia for a time of power with an uncompromising and dangerous thirst for power is no better than a Cold War mentality.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Everyone thinks FOMO, or "Fear of Missing Out," is a thing, especially on social media where everyone can make their lives look better than yours. All the stories I've read about FOMO have been framed like this: the author is sitting at home alone on a Friday night and happily eating Weight Watchers popcorn when all of a sudden she checks her Instagram, sees that a couple of her grad school classmates are out at a karaoke bar a few blocks away from her apartment and has a crisis of whether to text them, be hurt she wasn't invited or try unsuccessfully to enjoy the rest of her solitary evening.

Whenever anyone says they're having FOMO, they say it like they're having a hot flash or that they got a splinter in a rough spot and don't have a tweezer to get it out. FOMO is a shameful thing that people use to describe themselves when they're at their utmost level of loserdome.

Suspicious, then, that the Pew Research Center conducted a poll about people's behaviors on Facebook recently and found that FOMO is actually not really a thing. Only 5% of people said they "strongly disliked" that Facebook showed them things they weren't participating in, and 84% of people said they really didn't care at all. Could it really be that only 5% of us get bad FOMO when The Onion has declared it as a way of life?

I always loved Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon, on 30 Rock. But my problem with her was that she complained about being lonely, ugly and schlubby when she really wasn't: she had a relatively high-status job, she was attractive and she wasn't schlubby - she was just infatuated with messy meat lover's pizzas. Pew Research Center made me think: Maybe we're all a little like Liz Lemon. We joke about being insecure, alone, single forever slobs who end up alone on weekend nights bingeing on the new season of House of Cards. But Liz Lemon went out with Matt Damon and Jon Hamm, and she was enough of a stimulating protagonist to last the show seven years. Liz Lemon wasn't just self-deprecating, she was lying to herself.

When it comes down to it, maybe the narrative of FOMO and self hatred is one that we created for ourselves. Maybe we love ourselves most when we're drinking tea alone on our porch and using expensive data plans to sift through Instagram fitspo hashtags. In an age of overstimulation and massive amounts of information, we might be thinking that we SHOULD want to be cooler than we are, when really deep inside our FOMO is nothing more than actually being interested in things. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jay-Z and the "domestic abuse line"

Ok, here's my take on the "Eat the cake, Anna Mae," line in "Drunk in Love":

At the Grammy performance, Jay-Z and Beyonce proudly pronounced Hov's joke lyric about a domestic violence-related scene in What's Love Got to Do With It. Tina and Ike Turner's relationship, as illustrated in the movie, was abusive, and I am not minimizing the pain Tina went through. But I think the more interesting question here is why so many things that are popular now (Hannah and Adam in "Girls," Twilight, this song), force us to try to differentiate violent abusive sex and violent consensual sex. We love trying to figure out that sick little line.

But more importantly, as for Jay-Z's lyrics, he also references Mike Tyson's ear incident, and in the words of Jake Sweeney-Samuelson, "I don't think we're supposed to assume he does that in bed."

Also, just some FOOD for thought:

Hov's grammatical subjects are vague, and I would guess on purpose. After the Anna Mae lyric, he talks to a plural "y'all," leaving us to wonder who he actually told to eat the cake:

I'm Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don't play
Now eat the cake, Anna Mae said, "Eat the cake, Anna Mae!"
I'm nice, for y'all to reach these heights
You gon' need G3, 4, 5, 6 flights

So JUST SAYIN', this lyric might be a self-referential verse to Jay's lyrics in Drake's "Pound Cake," where Hov transforms the delicious word into a million modern day metaphors. In case you didn't know, "cake" in hip-hop means money:

Cake, cake-cake, cake-cake, cake
500 million, I got a pound cake
Niggas is frontin', that's upside-down cake
Get 'em a red nose, they clown cakes
They shoulda never let you 'round cake
Look at my neck, I got a carrot cake
Now here's the icin' on the cake
Cake, cake-cake, cake-cake, uhh

If this hypothesis is right, Hov would not be talking about shoving his penis violently in Beyonce's face, as we all so keenly inferred. He would, instead, be declaring, "look at how much money I have, bitches!", Anna Mae then serving as a symbol of all the world's haters, and cake serving as a symbol of money - not domestic abuse.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dayenu, Drake: 2013 Special Edition

Drake told CNN in 2010: "Lil Wayne, who is actually responsible for my career has always been a huge influence to me and one of my heroes."

With Weezy's new verse on Mack Wilds' single, "Own It," the feeling seems to be mutual.

Mack Wilds Own It ft. Lil Wayne

The New Orleans rapper performs a complete shoutout to Drake's verse in "Fuckin' Problems," bringing home how iconic Drizzy's verse released just over a year ago has turned out to be.

The shoutout is actually a symbol of something bigger. It's indicative of how Drake's image exploded in 2013. The Canadian-born superstar this year went from "somewhat apologetic but also overcompensating for insufficient rap-world masculinity guy who sings the catchy hooks" to "bonafide rap and hip-hop megastar who somehow learned to make all self-referential jokes before they can be used against him."

2013 was a biggie for Drizzy. The Bar Mitzvahed rapper released his third studio album, "Nothing Was the Same" in September, selling over 1 million copies in 6 weeks, which was 6 weeks faster than "Magna Carta" took to reach a milli.

Drake is also the king of the radio. In a pop music climate that is flooded with heavy club synthesizer beats, he nudged his steamy hot R&B single, "Hold On, We're Going Home," onto the charts.

And he persistently churned out the hits all year. If you are familiar with the Jewish song, "Dayenu," that is sung during the holiday of Passover, you'll know that Drake's accomplishments of 2013 ARE a flood of Dayenu verses.

"Dayenu" is a song about being grateful to God for everything he has given the Jewish people throughout history. It's about how if God had only granted Jews one thing, that one thing would have been enough. But God just kept the gifts coming and coming. You might say this applies to Drake as well.

So here's a gift for everyone - not just for Jews:

"Dayenu, Drake: 2013 Special Edition"

If Drake had brought us "Started from the Bottom" on February 1, and had not released the single to iTunes 5 days later,

Dayenu! It would have been enough!

If Drake had won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album with "Take Care," and had not taken this photo of himself taking a shot out of his trophy,

Dayenu! It would have been enough!

If Drake had sampled Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" on his sexy single, "Girls Love Beyonce," released on April 15, and had not given us this adorably nervous answer when Ellen asked him about his thing with Rihanna,

Dayenu! It would have been enough!

If Drake had announced his "Would You Like a Tour?" tour on June 17, and had not posed with Canadian Mayor Rob Ford like this in September,

Dayenu! It would have been enough!

If an app called "Drake Shake" had been created with Drake's approval, and Drizzy hadn't posted this super-meta photo of himself next to himself using the app,

Dayenu! It would have been enough!

And lastly, if Drake had put his cathartically angry video for "Worst Behaviour" online in December, and had not a few weeks later released a bangin' freestyle over Soulja Boy's "We Made It" track,

We Made It Audio

Dayenu! Dayenu! Dayenu! It all would have been enough! It would have been enough, Drake! But you are a prolific God, and for that, I thank you.

Indeed, 2013 was a great year for Drizzy, and he promises to release more and more music in the next month. As he moves from being prince of hip hop to the king of digestible and melodic rap, it will be interesting to see which artists and samples he takes from for inspiration.

Love you, Drizzy.