Friday, March 26, 2010

"Little Freak" Official Video

My colleague and good buddy Elliott Powell sent me the official video for "Little Freak" earlier today.  After watching the video  I think Elliott summed it up perfectly, he said, "what's interesting (or perhaps not) about the video is how absent/forgettable usher is. there are so many shots of women dancing with women (homosocial coreography) and nicki spittin' game, that I actually forgot this was usher's song."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo in the News

Check out David Goodman's "Looking Hard at Looking Good" from the New York Times' City Room Blog.  Goodman discusses the protests against Sofia Moldonado's mural and quotes my post and Keysha Whitacker's  post in defense of Maldonado's work.

Check out the comments section.  Talk about classism!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Do We Make Sense of "Little Freak"?

If you've had your radio tuned to a hip hop station recently I'm sure you've heard Usher's new single "Little Freak" featuring Nicki Minaj.  Minaj, who is openly bisexual, rhymes on the track about "keep[ing] a couple of hos" and seducing a women and bringing her back to  "meet" Usher.
Excuse me lil mama
But you could say I'm on duty
I'm lookin for a cutie
A real big ol' ghetto booty
I really like your kitty cat
and if you let me touch her
I know you're not a bluffer
I'll take you to go see usher
I keep a couple hos
like santa I keep a vixon
Got that dasher, dancer, prancer,
dixon, comet, cupid, donner, blitzen.
I'm hotter than 100 degrees
A lot of bread no sesame seeds
If i'm in yo city
I'm signin them Tig-O-bitties
I'm plotting on how I can take Cassie away from Diddy
The girls want a Minaj yeah they wetter than the rainin
Usher buzz me in
Everybody loves Raymond 

Full disclosure: I really like this song.  Yet, I find myself as a queer women of color and hip hop head trying to make sense of this song and the gender and sexuality performances at play in the song.  

Usher's lyrics tell ladies that if they're "really fucking" with him they better be "little freaks" down to be with other women and have threesomes.  Nothing new there, pretty much par for the course in contemporary hip hop and r&b.  Nicki Minaj's lyrics, however, both play into and complicate the common trope of women engaging in sexual activities with each other for the benefit of a male partner or spectator.  When placed into conversation with Ushers lyrics it would seem like her actions are for his pleasure, but based on Nicki Minaj's lyrics and her rendering of the scenario on its own it's clear that everything she's talking about is for her benefit and enjoyment [and maybe her partner's].  If its more complicated than the easy dismissal of queer female intimacy for male pleasure, the question then becomes, how do we make sense of a female artist enjoying her sexuality and talking about having the "hos" on lock?

Some critics, and feminists cut of a certain cloth, will say that Minaj is trying to gain power and privilege in a male dominated space  (hip hop, and the music industry in general) by acting like a "female chauvinist pig." It's seductive theory, but I've always found that argument to be too facile, slightly racist, and very heterosexist.  That being said, is it useful to think of Minaj as part of a long line of queer women playing with and eroticizing power relations?  I want to say yes but I also want to  acknowledge there there are some problematic things going on as well.   

I'm also interested in how Nicki Minaj's high-femme aesthetics allow her to perform queer female sexuality within hip hop.  While Minaj has definitely provoked a number of homophobic inquiries and comments, for the most part she remains commercially viable and successful.  My hunch is that if Minaj was an AG dyke from the Bronx "Little Freak" might be far more controversial (that is if it even made it to the recording booth in the first place).  How is Minaj putting the prescribed narrow confines of female sexuality within hip hop to work for her?

All that is to say that clearly I have no idea how to make sense of "Little Freak," nor am I sure that we should even be trying to make it "make sense."  But I'd love to know what other folks have to say about the song, Nicki Minaj, and female sexuality and gender performances in hip hop.

"Latin Female Artist Draws Criticism for Times Square Mural"

Check out Keysha Whitaker's  post about the controversy surrounding Sofia Moldanado's Times Square Mural over at Single Women Rule. Whitaker astutely asks,

"Is it possible that we suffer a secret shame induced by our short-skirt, fake-nail, breasts coming out with the belly fat hanging over, Doobie-rocking gals? By the hood chicks? The ghetto-style supergirls, proud to be themselves and will punch you in the eye if you suggest otherwise? I would say yes. And when that shame is magnified, by say 92 feet, our first reaction is to cry, “Take it down! I can’t stand to see.” Or maybe, “Take it down so the good white folks don’t see our shame.”

Check out the rest of Whitaker's awesome post here

*Mural by Sofia Maldonado . Photos by Alex Mateo,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sofia Maldonado's Times Square Mural Under Fire

Raquel Rivera sent me this video about the current controversy surrounding Sofia Maldonado's new mural on 42nd Street.  The Times Square Alliance is now dealing with calls to take the mural down because it "degrades" women of color by depicting them as "ghetto."  

The most striking thing to me about the video and article was the conflation of working-class/poor women of color with "prostitutes."  That people were able to argue that these women with their "long finger nails" were sex workers of Times Square's heyday was really complicated and problematic.  It speaks volumes about the degree to which Times Square is not a space for "certain types" of  New Yorkers, but rather a sanitized Disney version of New York City.  In that respect I appreciate Maldonado's claim that her mural makes visitors confront an image of NYC that they much rather ignore.  Maldonado said this about the mural:

“The mural illustrates strong New York City women as a tribute to the Caribbean experience in America. Inspired by my heritage, it illustrates a female aesthetic that is not usually represented in media or fashion advertising in Times Square. It recognizes the beauty of underground cultures such as reggaeton, hip-hop and dancehall and incorporates trends such as nail art and Latina fashion. Green organic forms represent the imaginary land that third generation immigrants create in their minds about their countries of origin. I represent the characters and happenings that tourists usually do not see in Times Square, even though it could be a frequent scene in the other boroughs of New York City. These women are strong single mothers or wives who enjoy life and have overcome tough experiences living in and immigrating from a third world country.”
Me personally, I rather look at this than a mural of a bunch of Latinas in business suits holding cell phones and briefcases.  

*image from Times Square Arts

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pursuit Of Happiness

An alternate version of KiD CuDi's "Pursuit of Happiness" featuring MGMT and Ratatat.  To see the original version click here

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"I'd Hit That"

Gabourey Sidibe is pretty awesome.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Comprendes El Berry?: Part II

Some of you might remember that way back in October I blogged about "Watagatapitusberry" by Sensato del Patio ft. Blackpoint.  Well, this is the long overdue video for the remix featuring Pitbull, Lil Jon, and El Cata.

Despite  slick appearances the remix video remains pretty true to YouTube videos it spawned last year.  Lots of homosocial jumping around and wildin' out.  Fun times.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Golpe de Estado

Reggaetoneros respond to the mounting climate of violence in Puerto Rico and the ineptitude of the commonwealth government in dealing with this crisis. 

Check out  Franco el Gorilla's Lyrics...
Esto va a hacer fuerte y se que estremece
Hombre mata a esposa y se suicida frente a un hijo de diez meses
Gobierno mas estadísticas? que les parece, cuantos es que valen los jueces
Lo que suena dramática es la problemática
De personas fanáticas a las automáticas
No dejen las noticias y ya no son simpáticas
Por estadísticas, esta sociedad esta errática

Padre violando menores y en la iglesia pidiendo to’ colores
Asinamientos en las prisiones, no me hablen de valores si no son mejores si en el capitolio pa' mentir ganan millones

Uno de enero del 2010 se muere Kevin un niño inocente
Estudiante, pelotero.. un hijo excelente
Trancando el año nos visten de luto impresionante
Lo único seguro es la muerte.

Check out the rest of the lyrics here.

con mi M-16

I've been really busy recently trying to keep up with all the news coming out of Puerto Rico about the recent activation of the National Guard to fight "crime" on the island.  Anyway, this song has been playing on a constant loop in my head as I ponder all ways in which the Puerto Rican National Guard is deployed as an answer to high levels of crime among the island's idled youth population.  Rather than real reform aimed at providing social and economic opportunities for Puerto Rico's youth sector, the commonwealth government tries to push kids into military service as a way to make money or stay out of jail.  Those "civilian soldiers" are then deployed on the streets of Puerto Rico's urban centers to intimidate and police their peers, or perhaps worse are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

It's incredible to me the way that the National Guard is repeatedly offered as a solution to the problem of youth involvement within the informal economy and the crime associated with it.  The current administration is following in the failed footsteps of its predecessors by not addressing the lack of employment and educational opportunities for many Puerto Rican youths.  Instead, the Fortuño administration is trying to ram more neoliberal reforms down the throats of the people, only exacerbating the problem. 

This is of course not to say that the National Guard was deployed to only manage youth populations.  As union leaders have pointed out, the Governor signed the executive order to mobilize the National Guard, shortly after the unions announced their intention to strike (although they weren't activated until recently).  Clearly, the Guard is an attempt to manage these ruptures caused by Fortuño's neoliberal agenda, but nonetheless it is important to remain vigilant of the ways the National Guard is in this moment targeting youth, either on the streets or as a get out of jail free card.