Archive for March, 2014

You Can’t Say That! (Part 1)

Posted in At The Races, Ethics/Morals, General, Print, Race, Society, You Can't Say That! with tags , , , , on March 29, 2014 by Lupa

Shhhh

In today’s knee jerk politically correct society, one where context is considered superfluous, certain words have been thrown in the linguistic equivalent of incarceration.  The words are referred to by the letter they start with, part of the process of debasing them like a prisoner’s inmate number.  They also have to sit in the corner and think long and hard about what they’ve done.

Does one have true freedom of speech if one feels external pressure from society to never say these words, regardless of semantics?  To me it’s a rhetorical question.  One of the unique, irrevocable features of humans is the freedom to choose the words to express him or herself.  Even in prison one can still choose to communicate, or not communicate, in any manner one chooses.  The placement of some words in an area where the effect of their use is predetermined regardless of the user’s nuance undermines every individual’s right to autonomous self expression.

There is no word that is too vile to ever utter or write because that excludes the possibility of the discussion of why.  If every word is inherently unnatural, the man made high fructose syrup of human communication (as opposed to laughter, the sugar which is found everywhere and in everything), then these words don’t simply exist, they became.  Knowing how something became is commonly known as… oh yeah right, history, something kind of important I guess.  The following is my thoughts on some of these words.

Gay/Faggot/Fag

As is commonly known the word gay is accepted appropriate vernacular to refer to homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality.  As your grandparents and drunk uncles on Christmas will tell you though, gay once referenced happiness.  How or why the transition occurred, I don’t know.

In addition to the “legitimate” use of the word gay there exists a second definition considered a slur, which is gay referencing things/people which lack appeal or things/people which act in a variety of disapproving ways including but not limited to underhandedness, lamness and a lack of fortitude.

In my opinion the word gay can be used in the negative respect for numerous reasons.  First and most direct to the point, it has already made a nonsensical evolution from happy to homosexual.  That’s what is commonly referred to as a precedent.  This precedent aside, I use it to make comparisons in a simultaneously literal and satirical sense.  Allow me to explain.

I have no issue at all with homosexuality.  I consider it a valid, healthy lifestyle and am appreciative of the discrimination gays face.  I believe they should be able to marry and do anything else that a heterosexual person can do.

That said however, the sight of male homosexual acts, even relatively benign ones, makes me uncomfortable.  It’s visceral.  Seeing two men kissing provokes an uneasiness in me.  I would consider it an act of torture if I were forced to watch gay porn, no exaggeration.  Torture.  I can assure you I would throw up.  If this makes me defective in some way, well that quality will have some company along with my other deficiencies.

Consequently when I use the word gay negatively, I am meaning something is so far from what I would accept or enjoy as to be absurd.  It makes reference to something I reject by way of its association with gay acts, not the abstract gay existence; the act of sodomy not two men falling in love.

In this regard it lacks any hateful qualities to make it a full fledged slur.  I’m not saying it belongs in most areas of the public sphere, however it has it’s place and that place has a right to exist as my intent is not to denigrate gays, but the gay acts.  Faggot on the other hand is an entirely different story, depending on who you ask.

I acknowledge faggot/fag is deeply offensive to many and it’s casual use is anathema to them, however it’s utterance in the negative light is not necessarily a blanket determiner of bigotry.  In a very simple way faggot is a derogatory slang reference to a man who commits homosexual acts, but like “gay”, not necessarily a bigoted, hateful exposition of the homosexual lifestyle.

What any individual attempting to use these words in their disputed or disavowed definitions needs to keep in mind is that regardless of one’s intent, these words set many people off.  An individual will meet deserved scorn in society for attempting to use these words in that way without a substantial amount of discretion.  In other words, what you say for whatever reason with your friends is in a private cache of words and discourse, similar to how you really feel about your boss.  In a public arena or among strangers your personal nomenclature doesn’t apply anymore than any random word you assign a new meaning to.  Keep this usage for those you know will understand the context of your meaning, straight or gay, don’t assume or face the consequences.

 Nigger/Nigga

In contrast to the above words, nigger does not refer to a set of actions, it is a direct insult to the inherent nature of a person.  It is entirely existential.  It strikes a person’s constitution, not their actions or decisions.

There are no uncontroversial uses of nigger or nigga and many believe there is no real distinction between the two words.  Without parsing this subject, I’ll paraphrase 2Pac and say niggers are black people with ropes around their neck hanging from trees while niggas are blacks with gold ropes around their neck hanging out in clubs.  Pronouncing niggER is seen as having universal connection to its original racist intent, while niggA is commonly seen as the co-opted version of the word with the potential for positive or neutral connotations.

No person of any race can refer to another as a niggER in a positive light, as that word in that pronunciation has no accepted positive inferences.

The usage of nigger by any individual in a non hateful way is limited to academic discussion and well designed/executed satire.  The purpose of satire is criticism, whether that is good-natured or not depends on the implementation.  Every word considered to be at the extreme of bad taste has an application in academic discussion and in ironic use.  You are either discussing why it is what it is or using it’s influence to affect a different point.  Let me make clear this is definitely not fodder for a public display of using nigger ironically or academically by anyone.

Nigga has a more convoluted existence.  To some groups, primarily blacks, but to lesser extents other minorities and to a further lesser extent whites, nigga is not only acceptable, but indispensable.  I once tasked a teenager I knew to go the rest of our discussion without saying nigga and the concerted effort necessary was easily apparent.  Just like some people can not speak without saying words such as “like” or “you know” nigga as filler material is as much stuck to some.

In order to use nigga in the public sphere in a non-ironic acceptable way (to the extent it can be and to those who will accept) is first to be either black, mixed with black or generally all other ethnic minorities to a lesser extent.  Other than that, there really isn’t any other limitations to being confused as being racist other than saying something else racist in tangent e.g. “I hate black niggas, they never work” or “Gay niggas should die.”  I’ve never seen a white person say nigga with no irony and it be completely accepted, if only because I didn’t accept it.

In my opinion the word nigga today is more related to ghettos and the social/economic retardation there than to African American vernacular.  Educated blacks, older blacks and middle/upper class blacks use it in nowhere near the same frequency as most segments of ghetto populations.  Neil Degrasse Tyson is from the Bronx, but it’s hard to see him greet his friends with a “my nigga!”

Part of it’s popularity stems from entertainment depicting a predominantly narrow, unflattering segment of the black experience.  Perhaps hip hop embraced it as they did in part due to the Blaxploitation movies of the 70’s they grew up watching.  It didn’t introduce the word to them, but it provided a glamorous reference point.  Whereas the real pimps and gangsters of the neighborhood were using it much like others, these characters have the benefit of being characters, living however their writers imagined them, not bound by reality.

These characters functioned as essentially realistic superheroes for these kids, people able to overcome the ghetto through subversive methods, get filthy rich at the same time yet remain in the ghetto and be an integral part of it, all in a conspicuous flashy manner and ending happily or gloriously.  The rapper archetype is a natural progression, though the rapper unlike the pimp before him had the benefit of being in a legitimate industry and having a product that eventually became as mainstream as any other commodity.  They also reaped the benefits of newer media, allowing them to travel further faster than a locomotive.

My final thought on this is I encourage everyone to see 12 Years a Slave to get a loud and clear depiction of nigger/nigga’s intended vulgarity.  “My nigga” meant MY nigga.  Ownership.  Property.  It’s use in subjugating the slaves and denying them humanity was instrumental.  They weren’t people, they were niggers; subhuman forms of life that need a word created for them because they are an abomination in a perfect white world.  Rather poignant stuff.

Check back soon as I continue this dissection of society’s most taboo words such as bitch, retard and tranny.

De Blasio De Dunce & Wise Wilhelm

Posted in Current Events, General, NY/NJ, Politics, Print, Society with tags , on March 22, 2014 by Lupa
New Yorkers keep electing guys from Massachusetts and wonder why this happens...

New Yorkers keep electing guys from Massachusetts and wonder why this happens…

Bill de Blasio has been mayor for 80 days, which is technically 115,200 New York minutes.

As eager he is to tell you about his “tale of two cities” he is less enthusiastic about telling you the tale of two mayors and two standards.

This isn’t because he literally became a different person.  Some might not be aware Bill de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm Jr.  I have no issue with his name change reflecting his mother’s last name and what he was called growing up, however it can not be overlooked his legal name change coincided with his initial run for NYC office, and he couldn’t make up his mind after the first time he changed his name.

Wilhelm sounds Naziesque, and just sounding Nazi related is no good in New York.  That had to go.  Regardless of his motives, as I haven’t mastered mind reading yet (fingers crossed), the figurative imagery is undeniable; this is a person that is willing to become someone else for political expediency.

Yeah he whipped ass in the general election, though he barely made it out of the primary.  The fact he could ultimately crush up his competition is only indicative of how weak the field was.  Not to mention only 24% of registered voters actually voted, down from when 93% of registered voters voted for mayor in 1953, and 57% in 1993 when Giuliani first got elected.  That wasn’t de Blasio though anyway, that was Wilhelm the real brains behind the operation.

De Blasio is just the proxy in which Wilhelm comes through.  Wilhelm is the pragmatic one, he knows what he has to do to get something he wants.  He also knows now that he has power – for lack of a way of saying it I enjoy more – nobody can say shit to him.  He’s our Daddy now.

De Blasio meanwhile is the supposed populist ideologue with a black, former lesbian wife who will mend the divisions which create the two cities.  He’s the public relations veneer.  To whatever extent de Blasio’s success is, Wilhelm will have engineered it.  Like opposite sides of a coin de Blasio is the face and Wilhelm the foundation.  He’s the one who knew his made for TV son Dante would ingratiate him to a city which prides diversity.  He’s also the one whose level of scruples includes exploiting, I mean utilizing, his teenage son for his own professional gain.

Consider his tale of two cities refrain, a dish rich in irony and actually first served up by Chef Fernando Ferrer in 2001.  The economic and social disparity which exists aside, regular citizen Wilhelm could never speed and run through stop signs with impunity, let alone an officially sanctioned NYPD speed racer like Mayor de Blasio does.  Did I mention this speed adventure was preceded by the unveiling of Vision Zero, a campaign to reduce traffic fatalities, two days earlier?  Puppet Master Wilhelm knows that having the job is different then when you are trying to get it.  After all there might be two cities, but there’s still only one mayor.

Of course de Blasio, the facade, will purport to believe he is not superior or exceptional to the average citizen.

He is so committed to his propaganda, er beliefs, he included shoveling snow on his official mayor’s schedule, including the cameo by NYC’s favorite well coiffed and afroed teenager.  While the snow shoveling was planned I doubt the asinine act of shoveling with sneakers was intentional, though he managed to have the inadvertent audacity to dole out snow shoveling advice.  His zeal for fronting overcame his common sense.  People like a hot plate of BS that tastes good, but when the ingredients of the dish become apparent, people want a refund.  

De Blasio’s tendency to bait and switch or act hypocritically is a well stocked bar.  He brought Police Commissioner Bill Bratton back even though he is an architect of stop and frisk, a practice de Blasio constantly railed against and made a centerpiece of his campaign.  Perhaps my favorite flavor of his proprietary duplicity is the increase of jaywalking tickets by almost 800% while having no problem jaywalking with his city paid security team.

This guy is a piece of work, or maybe not.  His rule is the product of being the last person standing amongst a field of cripples.  The honeymoon period of “anyone else but Bloomberg” is over.  Like the day after a one night stand fueled by inebriation, New Yorkers are cracking their eyes open at 9A and finally getting a good glimpse of what they went to bed with.  And it’s a lot different than the guy buying us drinks while trying to get in our pants.

Who Is A Native New Yorker?

Posted in Bill de Blasio, General, NY/NJ, Print, Society with tags on March 20, 2014 by Lupa

NYC

The native New Yorker is one of the definitive archetypes of our time, emulated ad nauseam to a possibly unprecedented extent.  Perhaps no identification is as self aggrandizing and loaded.  To proclaim one’s status as a native New Yorker is to align oneself with the classic depiction of New York as a labyrinth of concrete and brick where there is no tolerance for nonsense and one can endure harm at any point.  Oh, and the universe moves time differently, hence the term “New York minute”, which means you think faster than you can actually think and pack more into your time than anyone else.

What exactly is a native New Yorker?  It’s not as easy to define as one may think.

New York City in the classic sense is Manhattan, “the city.”  Every other borough is considered a suburb of Manhattan, regardless of how urban the environment may be.  All the outer boroughs are on a distinctly lower level of status; at some point if you had anything going for you or big ambitions, you moved to Manhattan.  The “City That Never Sleeps” is not Queens.

Today the idea of Manhattan being the extent of NYC is outdated, as it should be I believe, possibly due to the success (or infamy) outer borough natives had in the city and their impact on NYC.  The outer boroughs came up – though without confusion – they still have a lower status than Manhattan.

For all intents and purposes outer borough people generally were always native New Yorkers, it’s just the recognition of those places on a level approaching equal to Manhattan was lacking, and it still is (minus the recent emergence of Brooklyn as being superior to Manhattan to some).  However, are all the natives of the outer boroughs native New Yorkers?  It’s hard to say.

What is typical in the Bronx and Brooklyn is less common in Queens and somewhat rare in Staten Island.  Queens is kind of like if you combined Brooklyn with Jersey, and Staten Island is interchangeable with Jersey.  I’ve heard Staten Island described as being “more Jersey than Jersey.”   Can a person raised in the suburban parts of these boroughs really relate to those from the aforementioned brick and concrete jungles?  Moreover, do the natives of these areas have more in common with people from New Jersey than with classic NYC?

One can argue a person from the direct NY metropolitan areas in New Jersey has a greater connection to Manhattan and thus can also be considered NYC natives possibly more so than anyone from Staten Island.  Let’s remember, Staten Island as a whole lacks a number of elements present in every other borough and in these parts of Jersey: a direct bridge or tunnel to Manhattan and train service to Manhattan.  Let’s also remember that these parts of NJ are just as geographically close as the outer boroughs (and closer than Staten Island).  Staten Island is unquestionably more isolated from Manhattan than these places in NJ.

I hate to rail on Staten Island (or not) as I know a number of people from there, but it also lacks any appeal that exists in the other boroughs.  Manhattan is Manhattan, Brooklyn is now battling Manhattan for relevancy and has the Barclay’s Center and Coney Island.  Queens has the Mets and US Open.  The Bronx, the Yankees.  There is literally no attraction that would bring the average person to Staten Island.  You only go there to see people you know, people you didn’t meet there because people don’t go there.  The Ferry is free for a reason.

Having included Jersey in the conversation, I would be remiss to not comment on places in New York state geographically close to NYC but not a part of it i.e. Westchester and Long Island.  In my mind none of those people can really claim to be native New Yorkers.  At the very least you have to actually be from a place in NYC.   I will acknowledge some of those areas feel just like NYC, like Yonkers, but then again so does Jersey City.  Someone from Montauk or Scarsdale is not fooling anyone.

It then presents the question, what does it mean to be “from” a place?

For me, a person who has spent a substantial part of their formative lives (childhood/adolescence) can claim nativity to that place.  Also, I think a person can have spent so much time in NYC and become a quasi native New Yorker.  For example, DJ Premier is from Houston, but he spent so much time in Brooklyn and absorbed so much of its influence it’s hard not to think of him as a native New Yorker.  Having full fledged New Yorkers co sign you helps also.

Extended further, does this mean a transplant old enough to have experienced the old, grittier NYC and spent a considerable amount of time there is just as much a New Yorker as natives who grew up post Guiliani?  Again hard to say.  What NYC is about isn’t exclusively related to the stereotypical qualities of traditional NYC.  Just because a neighborhood is safe, doesn’t mean it’s not New York City.

The End… for now.

(The Cartel does not believe in necessarily having concluding paragraphs which tidily summarize all the preceding ones.)

I Used To Make Music

Posted in Anatomy Of A Beat, I Used To Make Music, It's A Rap!, Music, Print on March 14, 2014 by Lupa

Music was my first love and to some extent will always remain the medium in which I get the most satisfaction.  If I had to choose being blind or deaf, you might see me with dark shades, a stick and an obedient dog, mainly because of music.  Thankfully I’m not aware of any person who was tasked with choosing their own disability, though I am a firm supporter of choice in most situations.  And at least I’d never hand you a card saying I was deaf and needed money…blind and needed money maybe.

Many people I’ve met after I stopped making music are surprised I have the ability to not only produce music, but I can play a few instruments with varying degrees of mediocrity.  Many people who did know me while making  music might be surprised how much effort I had to put in.  As much as I loved music, in comparison with others that I felt were equally or superior skilled than I, it just seemed easier for them.  After that realization, and of course the reality of the music industry being a shady, cutthroat place where style is often and usually valued over and rewarded handsomer than substance, I knew I would never want to be in an arena in which I didn’t feel that my supremacy and domination of others would be hindered by something as trite as inferiority, or rather perhaps an inferiority complex.  As if.

Everything is more enjoyable when you are good at it and it comes easy.  All the talk of practice makes perfect is great, but limitations are limitations and getting to a professional level is highly and deceptively laborious unless you have natural talent, with no assurances that reaching that level will even get you paid.  Also worth noting is that in today’s music world those limitations are often dictated by your music budget.  The reality is many people make it in music simply because someone else realized they could make money off them and in order to attract that you need to move in ways I find anathema.  You’ve got to play a role, whether thats you or not.  There’s a reason a lot of musicians get into acting, its because they ARE actors.

Still I managed to make a lot stuff I really like to this day, stuff that I would objectively listen to had another person made it, even if some of the quality is a bit low fi (cough, shitty).  I’m going to take this moment to post some of my favorite compositions with a little story on each.  It’ll be an ongoing thing…

I Have The Power

I Have The Power

This track has samples many will recognize, mainly from He-Man and Heathcliff.  “Blankito’s Way” was like my trademark on something.  Most of these were made after I moved to the Bronx, and that’s where Blankito was born.  This isn’t like some Eminem/Slim Shady thing though where I consider him an alter ego/different person; more mainly one of my split personalities.

I pitched one of the Heathcliff samples up a couple octaves and layered it on top of the original in the second verse, though it appears in the first.  This technique of pitching samples up I’ve heard started with Prince Paul, but it was the RZA who popularized it.  Kanye West used this technique numerous times earlier in his career.

For those not music compositionally inclined, an octave is like any given note’s sibling, it is the same note simply at its next chronological place on the scale.  In Western music, there are many tones but only 12 notes (including sharps and flats) which repeat endlessly, though we are limited to our own hearing (20-20K Hz).  This is because the Western scale is based in semi tones; I understand much Eastern music is based in quarter tones and those instruments have notes a guitar or piano can’t go without manipulating one of the 12 notes it does have.

To hear an octave go to any keyboard and hit a white key.  Count 8 times going consecutively and exclusively on white keys in either direction and you have that note’s octave.  If  you were to count all the keys you passed (including the black sharps and flats) you’d have 12 keys.  Each octave is double or half the the original frequency, e.g. middle C = 260 Hz, the next C up is 520 HZ, down 130Hz.  Octave relationships are perhaps the easiest to audibly recognize.

The drum/sample sequencing was done in Reason, but I cut the samples in Cubase.  Most of these samples I found on you tube and put a mic to the speaker to get.  When I sat down I just wanted to make a hot breakbeat type instrumental only with samples.  It was kind of like a test to see if I could make something I thought I might hear someone I liked trying to do the same thing.  I think it came out well.

A Moment Like This

A Moment Like This

This is another one where I had a goal in mind going in which usually I didn’t: mix samples with midi.  The main samples are from an acapella version of Kelly Clarkson’s song of the same name, when she singed it on American Idol in rehearsal before she won.  I also use a vocal sample from This Old Heart of Mine by the Isley Brothers.  The rest are synths I played in real time (as you can hear).

Killin MCs

Killin MCs

I didn’t think much of this one when I made it, I had actually planned to give it away to someone as charity.  As any halfway decent producer will tell you, when  you can make beats, rappers come out of the woodwork like roaches in the spring.  Not that I blame them, but from a producer’s perspective we want to get paid.  We understand you, the rapper/artist, believes you are the best.  That’s probably how you need to operate in that realm.  Unfortunately there’s a reason some guys bum for beats and others that producers will seek out to really do their work justice.  Just because a producer isn’t referred to as “the artist”, the producer is an artist every bit as much as the performer, at times more so.

It ended up getting recorded, which I did, as well as mixed, in our 4th floor walkup with what I had available.  I had WAVS of the other two I only have an MP3 of this, I wish I could find a non compressed version which has to be somewhere.  While it’s in Spanish, I recommend you learn or get your Spanish speaking friend to tell you it’s hot.  There’s also some backstory to all these people which I’ll omit, but I’ll say everyone was trying to outdo each other.  This is straight South BX Rican street shit, I’m not surprised at all by the direction they took it.  The beat is much like the atmosphere of where we were: dark, repetitive, sparse, dissonant.  These simple two bar loops can be a dream for a MC though, DJ Premier has a boatload of two bar riffs which are deceptively simple but allow an MC to really get in, not that I am comparing this or anything I’ve done to his work.

Burn It Up Remix

Burn It Up Remix

Last one for now…

This is a remix of the R. Kelly, Wisin & Yandel song.  I sampled La Bamba by Jose Feliciano and slowed down the tempo.

 

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