GUEST ROOM | On the Polarizing Nature of XXXTentacion

A new era has dawned in rap music, one fueled by the angst commonly associated with grunge acts such as Nirvana. And the 19-year-old Florida native XXXTentacion, along with the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, finds himself at the forefront of this new culture. What separates these young anti-label artists from rappers of the past is their unwillingness to be forced into taking on the label rapper, making music that at times sounds more like the metal, and simply not giving a damn about being well liked. X, born Jahseh Onfroy rose to prominence with his single “Look at me!,” a club-turnup song based off a distorted Mala sample and a gnarled 808 which has garnered nearly 93 million streams since its release in 2016. Since then there has been no turning back for X, who even landed a set at Rolling Loud this year.

Andy Serkis as Caesar

GUEST ROOM | Oscar for an Ape

As much as I love foisting my movie opinions on others, I don’t envy the jobs of Academy voters. Every year they put forth their best guesses as to what films and actors they feel stood out over the last 365 days and every year somebody somewhere will always feel their favorite piece or person has been snubbed. Unfortunately, those opinions are consistently more boisterous than the silent consent of the masses. That said, I think they’ve done a good job this year… for the most part. Best Actress has Frances McDormand (Three Billboards)?

SWAN | Kendrick Lamar’s Satire

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday evening and opened with an appearance by Kendrick Lamar. His performance consisted of a medley with songs like “DNA.” and “XXX.” from Damn. and “King’s Dead” from the Black Panther soundtrack. To accurately describe his performance in words would ultimately futile —  though I will briefly attempt to do it anyway.  I encourage you to check it out.

Boris Nemtsov speaks at a rally in Moscow in 2011. Courtesy of Voice of America.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Is Not Backing Down

Someone is trying to kill Vladimir Kara-Murza. Someone is failing. The Russian journalist and democratic activist, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, is soft-spoken but full of life as we sit chatting about politics in the atrium of Gates Hall. Kara-Murza is in town for a screening of his documentary Nemtsov, which tells the story of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and in an interview with The Sun he explained the story behind the film, and what he hopes to impart on his audience. “Boris was the best of us… so they killed the strongest,” Kara-Murza says when asked about the brazen 2015 assassination of Nemtsov that occured just steps away from the Kremlin.

Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

GUEST ROOM | The Last Jedi Reimagined

I got to review The Last Jedi when it came out, along with some other Arts & Entertainment writers. To sum it up, we all pretty much said the same thing: it was a film of highs and lows. The overarching theme of balance the movie sought to explore shone through in its quality: good balanced against bad. But this isn’t a movie review. This is a “rewrite” of sorts, in which I will attempt to suggest a few small tweaks that had the potential to improve a movie.


JONES | The Grammys at a Crossroads

The Grammys have become, in some ways, less and less meaningful with each passing year. As the music industry has moved from records to C.D.s to digital ownership to streaming, it has become easier and easier for listeners to sample large swathes of music without committing to, for instance, a certain album as the year’s best. Online music platforms like Bandcamp and DatPiff have also undermined the monopoly of popular music by record companies, but it is difficult to qualify for a nomination if an artist is not signed to a record label, which disqualifies many indie artists and rappers who self-release albums or mixtapes. At the same time, the Grammys have become more discussed and anticipated than ever in the past few years, because — just like the Academy Awards — they have become a measure of seismic changes in cultural conversations. As racial and gender inequity have become more publicly debated, nights like the Grammys offer a chance for aging societies run by white men to show that they “get it” — with some necessary prodding, like the #OscarsSoWhite online movement.

Frank (Michael Fassbender) and Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) in the movie Frank

COLLINS | Green-Eyed, Full-Hearted, Can Definitely Lose

I’ve never made a New Years resolution. My aversion to them stems from my awareness that I’ve never stuck to a goal like “read more!” before, and that I’m not starting now. Following a call from my doctor about my triglyceride levels this January, I finally agreed to eat vegetables and engage in the dreaded activity called cardio. But other than that, I’ve attacked 2018 the same way that I’ve approached each prior year. That is, with ambitious dreams that I break down into exactly zero actionable steps and then abandon.

Miguel talks to his grandmother in front of the ofrenda in the recent Pixar release Coco.

GUEST ROOM | Films About Mexico Should Stop Focusing on Día de los Muertos and Drugs

When I first saw an ad for Coco, I felt hopeful. There aren’t very many movies about Mexican people, especially not children and family movies. However, once I watched the trailer, I was massively disappointed. It seems that time and time again, movies that revolve around Mexicans are about either Día de los Muertos or drugs. I get it.

Courtesy of Pixar Studios

GOULDTHORPE | Idols with Feet of Clay: #MeToo and John Lasseter

It’s been three months since The New York Times released its bombshell story about Harvey Weinstein. Since then, more and more sexual offenders have been brought to light, and the entertainment industry has been rocked to its core. I can’t even begin to name all the actors, producers and so on who have had allegations come to light against them. It’s become a huge movement, but has sparked some backlash too. So I figured I would put my own voice out there, focusing on one case that hit close to me and my field: John Lasseter.


GUEST ROOM | Linaje Originarios: Indigenous Hip-Hop and Cultural Promotion in Colombia

In the wake of the recent war between the FARC, the military and para-military forces, the current administration is attempting to distance Colombia from its recent war-torn history. At the same time, narratives of indigenous culture are perpetuated by the continuation of resguardos, Colombian indigenous reservations, while the myriad changes in governing systems create a narrative of evolving political systems. As a result, indigenous people and their cultural traditions are characterized as “past” or “dead.” Moreover, through the divorce from the recent war with the FARC — a group which has its roots in the same regions where many of the indigenous resguardos are located — the administration frames indigenous culture as part of the violent past, while simultaneously engaging indigenous people in a system which is systemically oppressive to indigenous ontology. The hip-hop duo Linaje Originarios is creating a space for productive political inclusion and cultural promotion that resists hegemony through their online hip-hop music videos in and about their native Emberá. The two cousins Dario and Brayan Tascón, who form Linaje Originarios, come from a resguardo called Valparaíso in the western mountain ranges of Colombia, where they spend most of the year working in the fields. When they are not working, the pair spends their time writing and performing their music on the streets of their resguardo or in the city of Medellín.