Ben Greenman writes about the Wrecking Crew, a “loosely affiliated assembly of musicians,” and the subject of a documentary, “We Got Good At It”: http://nyr.kr/1c9Het4
“Rarely credited on record, the Wrecking Crew nevertheless played for, with, and in the service of nearly every prominent American pop performer of the decade, to the point that it’s probably easier to make a list of the acts it didn’t support.”
“Women are socialized to make men feel good. We’re socialized to “let you down easy.” We’re not socialized to say a clear and direct “no.” We’re socialized to speak in hints and boost egos and let people save face. People who don’t respect the social contract (rapists, predators, assholes, pickup artists) are good at taking advantage of this. “No” is something we have to learn. “No” is something we have to earn. In fact, I’d argue that the ability to just say “no” to something, without further comment, apology, explanation, guilt, or thinking about it is one of the great rites of passage in growing up, and when you start saying it and saying it regularly the world often pushes back. And calls you names.”—The art of “no.” « CaptainAwkward.com (via ethiopienne)
The Fader Reviews Lauryn Hill's First Show Back from Prison
Ms. Hill comes back giddy but defiant
At her first concert since she spent three months in prison in Danbury, Conn., Ms. Lauryn Hill did not directly address the sentence for tax evasion that landed her at a low-security, all-female facility there. But the crowd, of course, knew the context of this set, which began at 11:40PM at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. (An earlier show at the same venue, also planned for Thanksgiving eve, was cancelled after the flights of some band members were delayed.) You could hear the context in the piercing shrieks that filled any silence and you could feel it in the way a lyric like after winter must come spring lingered in the air even as Ms. Hill sprinted through her verses. You could maybe even see it in her smile, or catch its spirit in the uplifting lilt of reggae that this time provided the mold for Hill’s constantly mutating hits.
Hill’s shows can be frustrating for various reasons (tardiness, the reworking of favorites), but being locked away by the taxman is a frame that proved to strengthen the meaning of her songs. Only a certain type of political radical is likely to agree with Hill’s ideological resistance to the IRS, but it wasn’t hard on Wednesday night to see how the undeniable power of a black woman defiantly spitting protest raps has an even broader appeal in a country where both the income gap and government disillusionment is widening. Hill said it best 15 years ago anyway: it’s funny how money change a situation.
There was plenty of fire during her set, but there was also a playful spontaneity that exuded the happy energy you might expect of someone playing her first post-incarceration concert. Early in the set Hill goaded Fugees producer Jerry Wonda out of the crowd to pluck the bass while she rapped fragmented lines. She also acted as conductor, instructing certain members of her eight-piece band to abruptly stop playing so her vocals rang louder, but she also frequently pushed them into improvisational jamming. During the encore, she brought out her teenage son Joshua, who bashfully rapped multiple verses off his phone while the band played a rendition of “Fuckin’ Problems.” Hill alternately egged him on and made sure the mic was close enough to his mouth so he could be heard over the crowd’s cheers.
It wasn’t until the encore that Hill stopped to speak at any length, and it was after she performed her most recent song, “Consumerism,” over the beat for Busta Rhymes’ “Don’t Touch Me (Throw Da Water On ‘Em).” “Consumerism” is almost impossibly knotty in both meaning and structure, and as Hill rapped the song her mouth was unable to keep up with the words firing out of her brain. She recognized this, and noted after the track’s conclusion that her new material (including “Neurotic Society [Compulsory Mix]”) was so wordy because it is the product of bottled-up emotion. She mimed the seething rattle of a machine gun, intimating that her voice is a weapon that not even she can completely control.
Then she recited some of the lyrics to “Consumerism” slowly and with no beat, as if she was doing spoken word. Modernism has created modern prisons/ Neo-McCarthyisms, new colonialisms… Impositions, superstitions, violence and contradictions/ False pretense and no convictions. This is dense and theoretical stuff, but one only needs to know names like Edward Snowden or Renisha McBride to argue that “Neo-McCarthyisms” and false pretenses and no convictions are more pertinent topics of discussion than Macklemore’s self-gratifying stances or Lorde’s distaste for gold teeth and champagne. But then again, Ms. Hill had to pause and spell it out for even her most fervent fans.
"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.
And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.”
Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, 1978 Peace Prize Acceptance Speech (via mommyslittlesunshine)
“You didn’t ask to be you, bro. I didn’t ask to be me. I didn’t ask to have this skin. I didn’t ask to be who I was, bro. Nobody in here asked that. The beautiful people? Your beautiful parents made you, bro. You didn’t ask for that. You didn’t ask to live where you live or anything. So when you see people, forgive them and accept, you feel me? You gotta open your mind and say, man, nobody asked to be born. Life is hard, kinda.”—Lil B (via mrskanyewest)
Those who were never defeated seem happy and superior, masters of a truth they never had to lift a finger to achieve.
They are always on the side of the strong. They’re like hyenas, who only eat the leavings of lions.
They teach their children: ‘Don’t get involved in conflicts, you’ll only lose. Keep your doubts to yourself and you’ll never have any problems.
If someone attacks you, don’t get offended or demean yourself by hitting back. There are more important things in life.’
In the silence of the night, they fight their imaginary battles: their unrealised dreams, the injustices to which they turned a blind eye, the moments of cowardice they managed to conceal from other people – but not from themselves – and the love that crossed their path with a sparkle in its eyes, the love God had intended for them, and which they lacked the courage to embrace.
And they promise themselves: ‘Tomorrow will be different.’
But tomorrow comes and the paralysing question surfaces in their mind: ‘What if it doesn’t work out?’
And so they do nothing.
Woe to those who were never beaten! They will never be winners in this life.
Hilton Als on Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,’s “magisterial” new documentary series that gives voice to slavery: http://nyr.kr/17WbhZd
“Gates’s quest isn’t ideological; one could call the documentary a kind of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ one in which the burdens are race and property. What becomes abundantly clear vis-à-vis Gates’s lyrical investigation is the innate genius it took for African-Americans to survive.”
Richard Brody on why Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” is better than the original 2003 film by Park Chan-wook: http://nyr.kr/1gj1Hjo
“Lee’s film is clearer, stranger, and more deeply rooted in a vision of life. Lee bends ‘Oldboy’ into a societal X-ray, an image that doesn’t resemble anything at first, but, when viewed correctly, reveals essential workings and troubles.”