Where should we, as listeners, mainstream media consumers and socially minded citizens, stand on Kanye West? It is a question that, in today’s world, flickers in our minds about as often as “what’s for dinner tonight?.”
With every concert hall rant, tweet and piece of Kardashian-related gossip, that spotlight has only grown brighter. Often, his career as an artist is only examined superficially, as if it is second to his worldwide image as an erratic pop star. This summer, following his support for Trump on twitter and preposterous statement that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice,” Kanye released his G.O.O.D. Music series consisting of five albums.
So where do these five albums fall on the stage of Kardashian gossip, tweets and rant? Is it fair to evaluate Kanye’s music without the context of his personality and erratic behavior?
Last week, Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music. This was the first time that a non-classical, non-jazz work was awarded the prize. I love Kendrick Lamar and I thoroughly enjoy Damn., but nevertheless, my reactions to this decision are mixed. Not, of course, about whether Kendrick Lamar’s work is deserving of such acclaim; indeed, the musical complexity and poetic mastery present on Damn., as well as earlier albums like To Pimp a Butterfly, warrant the utmost critical respect.
Graduation draws nearer every day. With the end in sight, I completed a millennial rite of passage and finished watching The Office. (I skipped swathes of the middle seasons, but we’ll conveniently forget that for now.) The last few episodes contained many anticipated surprises. Michael Scott returned right in time for Angela and Dwight’s wedding. So did Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard, who completed their long careers of making audiences squirm by running away and leaving Ryan’s baby in the care of Kelly’s unsuspecting husband, Ravi.
Anyone who knows me knows me to be a huge Marvel fan, and knows that in the past few weeks I have not stopped talking about Avengers: Infinity War. And while I’ve been marveling at how far the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come in terms of character development and universe-building in the past ten years, I also can’t stop thinking about the one thing they’ve made very little progress on: LGBTQ+ representation. To give it some context, in May of 2008, Iron Man brought about the beginning of what we know today as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In November of the same year, California passed Proposition 8, which reinstated the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Here we are, ten years later in 2018.
I’ll be seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear in NYC this weekend, and with graduation approaching quickly, I feel in some small way the king’s anxiety. Lear lives past his time. He gives up a large part of his power to his daughters but fails to retain their loyalty. Cordelia, his most loyal and most mistreated daughter, then dies before him. In the final act of the play, he has lost his mind.
When the universe wants to tell you something, it will tell you a few times. I take the same attitude with phone calls. Unless you call a few times or leave a voicemail, I’m not calling back. Late last night, when I was falling asleep to an episode of S-Town, I realized that I’ve been learning the same lesson for about a year. I will graduate in almost exactly a month, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lack of despair I feel about that fact.
Many of us are easily familiar with the name “Lebowski.” When we hear it, we think of bathrobes, bowling balls and buddy-love between John Goodman’s Walter and Jeff Bridges’ The Dude. With its one-of-a-kind storyline and its clever comedic interjections, The Big Lebowski has become a household film title, an easy answer to the ice-breaker question “favorite movie?” and a classic go-to choice when you and your friends couldn’t agree on anything else to watch on Netflix. But the film has not always been held in such high regards. Twenty years ago, when it was first released, The Big Lebowski was met with dissatisfaction and criticism. The reviews were mediocre at best, and in the box office, it was far from a hit.
On April 7, 1993, one day before Macedonia joined the United Nations, history was made: David Mickey Evans’ The Sandlot was released in theaters across the United States. It’s been one score and five years since its release, so let us celebrate why this film still stands. 1. The shoes: There is still nothing better than seeing canvas Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars or PF Flyers striking the dirt diamond and trampled plates. 2.
Considering America’s current political climate and the media’s obstinate fixation on criminal motive, it’s not surprising some people might suggest that the U.S.’s broken conception of masculinity could have something to do with recent mass shootings. While attempting to link the two is a causal leap, and in the wake of tragedy comes the risk of sounding a bit tone-deaf, I believe it’s as good of a time as any to begin discussing masculinity’s modern definition. Further, we can use art as a lens to determine masculinity’s place in society. While many people would argue that women in the U.S. face far more pervasive disadvantages than men and, as a result, conversations on masculinity are subordinate to those of femininity, there is no implication that I am arguing that men face systematic disadvantage. Moreover, many of those who would argue that American women face systematic oppression would also argue that masculinity (the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc.) is at least in part to blame.
One of my best friends is that guy who you might have seen on the Ivy League Snapchat story a few weeks back, wearing an Army uniform and playing the pedal steel guitar. Before I met him, during the Fall 2016 semester, I had only some vague sense of what the pedal steel guitar is, what it sounds like or what it even looks like. I think I understood that the pedal steel is behind that ambient, stoner wave in the beginning of “Breathe (In The Air)” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. This, of course, was news to my friend, who primarily considers the instrument as it appears throughout classic country music, by artists such as George Jones or Buddy Emmons — we often like to joke about the humorous dichotomy between my city-folk tastes and his north country musical preferences. The entire niche culture around the pedal steel was foreign to me, as was the brand of classic country that he enjoys, but nevertheless, this did not stop us from becoming friends and even playing music together.
If you’re a fan of the rap group/radical-left hype-men Run the Jewels, you may have been surprised by the news this weekend. Rapper Killer Mike, who forms one-half of Run the Jewels with El-P, gave an interview with the NRATV host Colion Noir in which he seemed to agree with the NRA and guns-right activists that new gun-control laws are not a solution to gun violence, separating himself from the progressive left that he has often acted as a celebrity spokesman for. In the interview, Killer Mike accused guns rights activists of being “lackey[s] of the progressive movement,” adding that “I told my kids on the school walkout: ‘I love you — if you walk out that school, walk out my house.’”
To be fair, Killer Mike was not simply aping the NRA’s incendiary rhetoric — he was trying to make an argument about the need specifically for African-Americans in poorly-policed areas to be prepared to defend themselves against threats. Killer Mike apologized in two videos he filmed at home soon after the NRATV interview was posted online, saying that he had unintentionally allowed the NRA to post the video as a counter to the March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, a protest which he called “a very noble campaign that I actually support.” However, he has chosen to explicitly align himself with gun-rights activists in the past: he said on Tavis Smiley’s show on PBS last year that “White men don’t want to give up their guns, and I’m with that. If you don’t want to give up your guns, and I have that right — not privilege — but I have that right too, then I’m standing on your side of the room when they say, ‘Who’s for guns?’”
A less surprising attack on gun control activists came from Jesse Hughes, the frontman of Eagles of Death Metal.