dope

The Art of Fresh: Retro Hip-Hop Style

“Being fresh is more important than having money. The entire time I grew up, it was like…I only wanted money, so I could be fresh.” ~ Kanye West.

Recently, I had the chance to see the indie film entitled Dope. The movie centers on Malcolm, a straight-A student and musician from a rough neighborhood in present-day Los Angeles. Obsessed with 90s Hip-Hop music and fashion, the movie captures his search for identity while navigating the turbulence of his immediate environment. Embracing a retro style patterned after the 90s, he wears a high top fade haircut, stonewashed denim jeans, Nike Air Jordans, and other brands prevalent during the “Golden Era of Hip-Hop”. Unfortunately, he is inadvertently pulled into criminal life when he comes to posses several kilos of a drug dealer’s molly, and presented with the choice of two potential life paths. This choice between two essential life paths is presented to today’s youth on a daily basis, and the search for personal identity is universally experienced during the adolescent stage of development. So why did Malcolm look to a past aesthetic of fashion to represent his present identity?  His choice possibly was made to visually and distinctively set himself apart from the negative expectations for black males in his community.

Throughout history, all art forms have reflected the cultural elements of communities. As a result, there has been a constant exchange between artists and the communities from which they originate. Essentially, the arts have been impacted and influenced by their communal environments, and inversely, communities have been impacted by the artistic forms emanating from within them. Fashion trends as an art form, especially those prominent in Hip-Hop culture, are exemplary of this mirrored relationship. Furthermore, the art of fashion has been moved forward by the push and pull between forces of innovation and conformity within specific communities. In this vein, Malcolm’s character felt that he did not fit into the stereotypical mold of the young black male in Inglewood, California. In the midst of gangs and drugs that existed within his community, he was considered a “nerd” because he was focused on school, played in a punk band called “Oreo” with his two friends, and he was still a virgin. In his position, I believe that Malcolm and his friends embraced this particular style as a conscious derivative of the past in an attempt to escape the harsh realities of their present. Even though Malcolm and his friends did not actually live through the ‘90s, the concept of their nostalgia as a form of rebellion against the expected norm, paid homage to the idea of “better times”. Consequently, this establishes a direct link between one’s socio-economic environment and their artistic expression of their status within it. According to Dictionary.com, socio-economics is “the study of the interrelation between economics and social behavior.”

On Friday, June 26th, a documentary was released that traces the history of Hip-Hop fashion entitled, Fresh Dressed. According to this film, the term “fresh” refers to “a crisp, new-in-the-box fashion look or tidy appearance.” Not only does this film discuss the impact that fashion has made on Hip-Hop culture, but it also notes fashion’s role to express commentary on social and economic statuses. Again, the mirrored relationship exemplified in fashion is explored. So, what is the connection between socio-economic statuses and artistic forms? In this documentary, Hip-Hop mogul, Damon Dash, makes a profound statement on the matter. He mentions that the whole idea of looking fresh stems from “the insecurity of not having anything.” He continues:

“The only way that you can kind of show that you have anything and feel some kind of status is, you know, what you have on your body. What you have on your body is a reflection of how you’re economically doing. It’s just a status symbol based on insecurity.”

Shirt King Phade, Co-Founder of Shirt Kings adds to Dash’s point, “When times are bad, a lot of people tend to gravitate towards art. Art takes our mind to another place.”

What I personally appreciate about the artistic expression of fashion, especially in Hip-Hop culture, is its ability to be both definitive and flexible. While at times a person can clearly take on a specific “look”, that same person remains able to represent his or her own individuality, ideas, or personal philosophy through their stylistic choices. In a sense, fashion can be a reflection of a person’s search for an identity within a paradigm of a specific culture. In the documentary, Pharrell Williams states, “When you’re young, there’s like a sense of wanting to express yourself…an importance of individuality.” This urge to find and establish individuality is a prominent challenge for the main characters of Dope. While Malcolm is not the only exception to the perceived “black male” typecast, through his character, the film examines a spectrum of stereotypes that are projected both inside and outside of an urban community. As seen in the current events that have spurred recent protest movements, stereotypes of black males are in full swing in today’s cities throughout the world, and our youth are continually placed at the intersection between expression of their own values, cultural histories, and pressures within community environments.

alphacat obama

Political Battle Rap: Breaking Down Obama’s Back to Back Diss Track

barack-obama-donald-trump-back-back-diss full size

If you don’t know Alphacat by now, get familiar. He’s been killing it on YouTube with his spot on impersonations of old POTUS Barry. But, just this month, he broke the internet with his best-produced and best-choreographed video yet: Back to Back. This video takes Drake’s original diss track and turns it into a response against Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the Commander-in-Chief.

This video hits on the core controversies of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence: his virulent anti-Mexican statements, his advocacy of family values while being questionable in his own personal life, and his opposition to mainstream conservatives.

This video makes a lot of claims about Donald Trump, as a man, as a candidate, and as a public figure. But it’s not always a good idea to trust the “interwebs” to be completely accurate about politics.

When it comes to politics, it’s always a good idea to fact-check it before supporting a candidate. Finding political facts can be hard because there is so much bias out there, especially on the internet. You would think News sites are a good first step, but even then, journalists and the channels they work for can become bias or even make mistakes and editors can insert their own views. Fact-checking organizations are better, but the best option is to go to the source: the politicians themselves.

Alphacat spit straight bars on this track, riddled with references that refer to many issues going on in recent heated campaign battles. Break down the lyrics in this diss track and see what political facts you can uncover.

ham-FB

Hamilton: Remixing the Old School for a New Audience

 

Hip Hop’s History of Remixing

Sampling and remixing from your forefathers has been a part of hip hop culture from day one. Bob and Earl’s opening horns to Harlem Shuffle were used as House of Pain’s opening to Jump Around. Funkadelic’s (Not Just) Knee Deep was heavily sampled by De La Soul’s breakout hit Me, Myself and I. Snoop Dogg’s What’s my name? practically sampled every bit of George Clinton’s Atomic Dog (bow-wow-wow-yippee-yo-yippee-yay). The Fugees biggest hits used hip hop to reinterpret old classics Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack and Ready or Not, Here I Come by the Delfonics. Their reinterpretations shined a spotlight on their inspirations for a new audience to appreciate.

Funkadelic - Uncle Jam Wants You (1979) #warnerbros #funkadelic #parliament #sampled #delasoul #funk #disco #platforms #shades #style #fonk #wicker #wickerchair #georgeclinton #kneedeep #bernieworrell #bootsy #junimorrison #parlet

 

Enter Hamilton…

Hamilton is a Broadway musical that takes a very old school tale and spins it with a hip hop beat to update the story for today’s audience. When you think of United States historical figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams, you probably think of a bunch of white dudes with puffy pants, powdered wigs and a 1 percent attitude — a strange and distant past that doesn’t seem too appealing to visit. The Broadway musical Hamilton takes this impression and turns it on its head.

alexander-hamilton41

 

Remixing A Book Into A Musical

In 2004, Ron Chernow published a book titled Alexander Hamilton, about the historic U.S. forefather. It was an acclaimed best-seller that captured the drama of Hamilton’s life and presented it in a novel-like readable manner. The book wasn’t just engaging to readers, it was also historically accurate. This book ended up being the inspiration for Lin-Manuel Miranda to pen the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Hamilton.

MwVzx

In this lesson, learn about how Hamilton pays homage to classic rap, celebrates diversity and provides a compelling narrative to tell the story of a white dude with puffy pants, which is entirely historically accurate. Then try your hand at creating the next unconventional blockbuster, relating history from your point of view.

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FOX’s Empire is basically Shakespearean Hip-Hop Theatre

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Are Shakespeare’s plays universal?

In the poem “To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare,” Ben Jonson wrote that Shakespeare was “not of an age but for all time!” His argument was that Shakespeare’s works were universal, and that any audience could relate to the themes within them. His theory is evidenced by the countless retellings and reinterpretations of the Bard’s plays. FOX’s hit Empire about a hip hop dynasty seems to agree with Jonson.

YMAL_KeyArt-Empire_0

 

The Bard’s Empire

In the pilot of Empire, one of Lucious Lyon’s sons, Jamal, says, “We King Lear now?” Lyon has announced that he has been diagnosed with ALS and will have to decide to which of his three sons he will leave control of his music business empire. Fans of Shakespeare may immediately think of Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan, but some of the fun of Empire is that the series offers many more parallels to Shakespeare’s plays than solely King Lear. Throughout the first season, we see connections to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Othello and Iago, and Romeo and Juliet, among others. Each episode, in fact, is named after a line from a Shakespearean play, which can prompt us into an even deeper investigation into parallels between the series and Elizabethan drama.

 

From the Stage to the Small Screen

One of the most interesting elements of Empire is the way the series maintains its own story while drawing on themes from Shakespeare. Shakespearean tragedies often begin in a state of disorder, either within the home, city, or kingdom. Over the course of the two hours of a play, the initial disorder is addressed, ultimately leading to a more orderly society. Things are not perfect, but the initial disorder is settled. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example. At the start of the play, we learn that the Prince is infuriated with the civic quarrels between the Montagues and Capulets. By the end of the play, everything is not resolved: two young lovers have died, along with many others. As a result, however, the Montagues and Capulets decide to put aside their hatred for one another, thus creating more order in Verona. Is it perfect? No. But, through the conflicts in the play, the initial conflict is resolved. At this point, the audience applauds and leaves the theater. What’s interesting about Empire is that the series can expand on this disorder-order model. Since the series airs weekly, and is much longer than two hours, there is more time to develop several themes and conflicts, and to create new ones. Just when the initial disorder is resolved, another conflict incites more disorder. In this way, the show can continue to draw on universal themes that make Shakespeare’s plays so beloved.

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The Complexity of Complexion: Colorism in Pop Culture

 

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The field of entertainment has a dark history (no pun intended) as it pertains to perceptions of beauty. The issue of Colorism has found its way into pop culture.  According to the documentary “Dark Girls”, colorism isprejudice or discrimination based on the relative lightness or darkness of the skin and generally a phenomenon occurring within one’s own ethnic group.”

This phenomenon is illustrated in the song, “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Rapsody on his recent album, To Pimp a Butterfly. The song is a narrative that follows the relationship between two slaves, one who works in the field picking cotton and the other who works in the house. This dynamic is relative to the issue of colorism because it often times reflects the intent of divisiveness between darker and lighter skin tones, where the latter is sometimes the offspring of the slave master themselves. Lamar emphasizes in the second verse:

Dark as the midnight hour, I’m bright as the mornin’ Sun
Brown skinned but your blue eyes tell me your mama can’t run
Sneak me through the back window I’m a good field ni**a
I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you
You know I’d go the distance, you know I’m ten toes down
Even if master’s listenin’, I got the world’s attention
So I’ma say somethin’ that’s vital and critical for survival
Of mankind, if he lyin’, color should never rival
Beauty is what you make it, I used to be so mistaken
By different shades of faces
Then wit told me, “You’re womanless, women love the creation”
It all came from God, then you were my confirmation
I came to where you reside
And looked around to see more sights for sore eyes
Let the Willie Lynch theory reverse a million times

The Willie Lynch Theory that Kendrick Lamar mentions in the verse refers to a speech that was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch, a British slave owner in the West Indies, to slave owners in Virginia in 1712. Supposedly, this speech, “The Making of a Slave” teaches the slave owners several methods to “control the slaves.” While it is highly debatable that such a letter or speech ever really existed, the content of the alleged speech has some merit. For instance, one of the lines from the speech reads,

“You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves.”

Recently, people on the internet took issue with Kendrick Lamar’s recent engagement to his fiancée, Whitney Alford. Kendrick’s life imitated his art in demonstrating, true to his words, that complexion doesn’t “mean a thing”. Kendrick chooses to see the beauty in his partner, revealing that we “all come from God”. Unfortunately, this mentality was not shared by others who still, to this day, believe that one skin tone is superior to others.

Kendrick fiancee enhanced-22030-1403731744-8

 

kendrick dark skin rant activist1

I guess the people who have an issue with Lamar’s fiancée is unaware of his support for dark-skinned women. In an interview with Miss Info, he gives reason as to why he chose a dark-skinned model for the video, “Poetic Justice”. He states, “We had another girl for the lead but I had an idea where I just wanted a little bit of a darker tone [girl] in the video. It’s almost like a color blind industry where there’s only one type of appeal to the camera. ….. I always kept in the back of my mind like ‘you don’t ever see this tone of a woman in videos.  No disrespect, I love all women, period. But at the same time, I still feels like it needs that balance.” 

 

kendrick-brittany

I tend to agree wholeheartedly! We should embrace all colors, for the real beauty lies within the diversity of our skin tones. Like Rapsody so eloquently put it:

“Black as brown, hazelnut cinnamon tea
And it’s all beautiful to me
Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens
We all on the same team, blues and pirus, no colours ain’t a thing”

Kendrick fiancee enhanced-22030-1403731744-8 thumbnail

The Complexity of Complexion: Colorism in Pop Culture

The field of entertainment has a dark history (no pun intended) as it pertains to perceptions of beauty. The issue of Colorism has found its way into pop culture.  According to the documentary “Dark Girls”, colorism is “prejudice or discrimination based on the relative lightness or darkness of the skin and generally a phenomenon occurring within one’s own ethnic group.”

This phenomenon is illustrated in the song, “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Rapsody on his recent album, To Pimp a Butterfly. The song is a narrative that follows the relationship between two slaves, one who works in the field picking cotton and the other who works in the house. This dynamic is relative to the issue of colorism because it often times reflects the intent of divisiveness between darker and lighter skin tones, where the latter is sometimes the offspring of the slave master themselves. Lamar emphasizes in the second verse:

Dark as the midnight hour, I’m bright as the mornin’ Sun
Brown skinned but your blue eyes tell me your mama can’t run
Sneak me through the back window I’m a good field ni**a
I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you
You know I’d go the distance, you know I’m ten toes down
Even if master’s listenin’, I got the world’s attention
So I’ma say somethin’ that’s vital and critical for survival
Of mankind, if he lyin’, color should never rival
Beauty is what you make it, I used to be so mistaken
By different shades of faces
Then wit told me, “You’re womanless, women love the creation”
It all came from God, then you were my confirmation
I came to where you reside
And looked around to see more sights for sore eyes
Let the Willie Lynch theory reverse a million times

The Willie Lynch Theory that Kendrick Lamar mentions in the verse refers to a speech that was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch, a British slave owner in the West Indies, to slave owners in Virginia in 1712. Supposedly, this speech, “The Making of a Slave” teaches the slave owners several methods to “control the slaves.” While it is highly debatable that such a letter or speech ever really existed, the content of the alleged speech has some merit. For instance, one of the lines from the speech reads,

“You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves.”

Recently, people on the internet took issue with Kendrick Lamar’s recent engagement to his fiancée, Whitney Alford. Kendrick’s life imitated his art in demonstrating, true to his words, that complexion doesn’t “mean a thing”. Kendrick chooses to see the beauty in his partner, revealing that we “all come from God”. Unfortunately, this mentality was not shared by others who still, to this day, believe that one skin tone is superior to others.

I guess the people who have an issue with Lamar’s fiancée is unaware of his support for dark-skinned women. In an interview with Miss Info, he gives reason as to why he chose a dark-skinned model for the video, “Poetic Justice”. He states, “We had another girl for the lead but I had an idea where I just wanted a little bit of a darker tone [girl] in the video. It’s almost like a color blind industry where there’s only one type of appeal to the camera. ….. I always kept in the back of my mind like ‘you don’t ever see this tone of a woman in videos.  No disrespect, I love all women, period. But at the same time, I still feels like it needs that balance.” 

I tend to agree wholeheartedly! We should embrace all colors, for the real beauty lies within the diversity of our skin tones. Like Rapsody so eloquently put it:

“Black as brown, hazelnut cinnamon tea
And it’s all beautiful to me
Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens
We all on the same team, blues and pirus, no colours ain’t a thing”

dope

The Art of Fresh: Retro Hip-Hop Style

“Being fresh is more important than having money. The entire time I grew up, it was like…I only wanted money, so I could be fresh.” ~ Kanye West.

Recently, I had the chance to see the indie film entitled Dope. The movie centers on Malcolm, a straight-A student and musician from a rough neighborhood in present-day Los Angeles. Obsessed with 90s Hip-Hop music and fashion, the movie captures his search for identity while navigating the turbulence of his immediate environment. Embracing a retro style patterned after the 90s, he wears a high top fade haircut, stonewashed denim jeans, Nike Air Jordans, and other brands prevalent during the “Golden Era of Hip-Hop”. Unfortunately, he is inadvertently pulled into criminal life when he comes to posses several kilos of a drug dealer’s molly, and presented with the choice of two potential life paths. This choice between two essential life paths is presented to today’s youth on a daily basis, and the search for personal identity is universally experienced during the adolescent stage of development. So why did Malcolm look to a past aesthetic of fashion to represent his present identity?  His choice possibly was made to visually and distinctively set himself apart from the negative expectations for black males in his community.

Throughout history, all art forms have reflected the cultural elements of communities. As a result, there has been a constant exchange between artists and the communities from which they originate. Essentially, the arts have been impacted and influenced by their communal environments, and inversely, communities have been impacted by the artistic forms emanating from within them. Fashion trends as an art form, especially those prominent in Hip-Hop culture, are exemplary of this mirrored relationship. Furthermore, the art of fashion has been moved forward by the push and pull between forces of innovation and conformity within specific communities. In this vein, Malcolm’s character felt that he did not fit into the stereotypical mold of the young black male in Inglewood, California. In the midst of gangs and drugs that existed within his community, he was considered a “nerd” because he was focused on school, played in a punk band called “Oreo” with his two friends, and he was still a virgin. In his position, I believe that Malcolm and his friends embraced this particular style as a conscious derivative of the past in an attempt to escape the harsh realities of their present. Even though Malcolm and his friends did not actually live through the ‘90s, the concept of their nostalgia as a form of rebellion against the expected norm, paid homage to the idea of “better times”. Consequently, this establishes a direct link between one’s socio-economic environment and their artistic expression of their status within it. According to Dictionary.com, socio-economics is “the study of the interrelation between economics and social behavior.”

On Friday, June 26th, a documentary was released that traces the history of Hip-Hop fashion entitled, Fresh Dressed. According to this film, the term “fresh” refers to “a crisp, new-in-the-box fashion look or tidy appearance.” Not only does this film discuss the impact that fashion has made on Hip-Hop culture, but it also notes fashion’s role to express commentary on social and economic statuses. Again, the mirrored relationship exemplified in fashion is explored. So, what is the connection between socio-economic statuses and artistic forms? In this documentary, Hip-Hop mogul, Damon Dash, makes a profound statement on the matter. He mentions that the whole idea of looking fresh stems from “the insecurity of not having anything.” He continues:

“The only way that you can kind of show that you have anything and feel some kind of status is, you know, what you have on your body. What you have on your body is a reflection of how you’re economically doing. It’s just a status symbol based on insecurity.”

Shirt King Phade, Co-Founder of Shirt Kings adds to Dash’s point, “When times are bad, a lot of people tend to gravitate towards art. Art takes our mind to another place.”

What I personally appreciate about the artistic expression of fashion, especially in Hip-Hop culture, is its ability to be both definitive and flexible. While at times a person can clearly take on a specific “look”, that same person remains able to represent his or her own individuality, ideas, or personal philosophy through their stylistic choices. In a sense, fashion can be a reflection of a person’s search for an identity within a paradigm of a specific culture. In the documentary, Pharrell Williams states, “When you’re young, there’s like a sense of wanting to express yourself…an importance of individuality.” This urge to find and establish individuality is a prominent challenge for the main characters of Dope. While Malcolm is not the only exception to the perceived “black male” typecast, through his character, the film examines a spectrum of stereotypes that are projected both inside and outside of an urban community. As seen in the current events that have spurred recent protest movements, stereotypes of black males are in full swing in today’s cities throughout the world, and our youth are continually placed at the intersection between expression of their own values, cultural histories, and pressures within community environments.

1964-Chevrolet-Impala-SS_255413_low_res (3)

The Data Science of Cars and Rap Lyrics

Cars in Rap Lyrics – A Sweet Data Visualization

Rap Artists are notorious for often singing about which cars are the most beloved. However, they often do this without the research to back it up. As a result, an author at Cuepoint decided to analyze all of the lyrics on Rap Genius – a resource for crowd-sourced annotations of rap lyrics - and displayed his findings using a number of methods.  He revealed the data behind how many cars are mentioned in tracks, as well as the kinds, their frequency, and other interesting trends.

Using a horizontal bar graph, the author determined that the most frequently mentioned car make is Mercedez Benz. The data was further extrapolated down to model types: the number one most mentioned model is the 1964 Chevy Impala.

Displaying the data with a time series analysis, the chart identifies the way that certain makes and models were changing in popularity. Analysis of the chart led to some noteworthy observations. For example, during the economic downturn in 2008, the popularity of less expensive brands increased.

Finally, an analysis of the specific artist that used car references most frequently was displayed with a unique sorted table.  The top artists were The Game, with 279 car songs (64% of all of his songs) and Gucci Mane with 309 car songs, (50% of all of his songs).

Cars and rap lyrics are like peanut butter and jelly – they just go together. Through the use of math and science, we are able to definitively see the data. This data analysis allows us to look further into rap and identify the valuable, less obvious trends.

What is Data Science?

Data Science refers to the tools and methods used to analyze large amounts of data. It is also known as knowledge discovery and data mining.  Many academics and journalists see no distinction between data science and statistics.

Data science employs techniques and theories drawn from many fields within the broad areas of physics, robotics, mathematics, statistics, information theory and information technology, including signal processing, probability models, machine learning, statistical learning, data mining, data engineering, pattern recognition and learning, visualization, predictive analytics, uncertainty modeling, data warehousing, data compression, computer programming, and high performance computing.

Data science techniques affect research in many domains, including the biological sciences, health care, social sciences and the humanities. It heavily influences economics, business and finance.

Visual representations of data, such as the one showing the relationship between cars and rap, evince trends in a clear and easy to understand manner. Visualizing data is a great way to make numbers, values, and what they mean easier to process for those without a deep understanding of statistics. Data science does not need to be extremely advanced or applied to something “boring.” In fact, often looking at variables outside-the-box provides the most unique and interesting insight into unexpected matters.