Dear Hip-Hop: we’re breaking up. And it’s definitely Drake’s fault.

16/11/2015 § 1 Comment

No Drake, you can't have my number.
image via.

**Disclaimer: I’m about to liberally exercise the f-word and talk about sex, which is somewhat out of character for me on here.  If that’s not your thing, I would encourage you to skip to my next post.  No hard feelings.**

Dear Hip-Hop,

What’s good?  I admit it’s been a bit since we’ve spent quality time together, and I’m sorry about that.  There’s just so much music out there and TBH, I’ve been feeling like maybe we’ve drifted apart recently.  And that maybe (PROBABLY) this time its for good.

How did we get to this point?  This new song by Drake, honestly.  You know, “Hotline Bling?”

Yeah, I’m not sure why his phone blings instead of rings either, but that’s not my main concern here.  Neither are the old man dance moves.  First, I want to ask for a bit of clarification as to what Drake is actually upset about in the song.

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
Call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love
And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing
I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out
Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out
‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more
Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor
Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before

Ok, there’s a lot here I want to unpack, but first, is Drake essentially upset because a girl he used to only talk to in the middle of the night — only talk to in order to coordinate sex, mind you, (only mean “one thing”) — is now out on the prowl herself?  Okay.  Okay, great.  So, it’s totally okay for him to only talk to her for sex (in a purely transactional matter), but it’s not okay for her to go out and get in the mix on her own.  And its especially not okay for her to hang out with girls he’s unfamiliar with.  Have I got that straight?

These days, all I do is
Wonder if you bendin’ over backwards for someone else
Wonder if you’re rollin’ up a backwoods for someone else
Doing things I taught you, gettin’ nasty for someone else
You don’t need no one else
You don’t need nobody else, no
Why you never alone
Why you always touching road
Used to always stay at home, be a good girl
You was in a zone, yeah
You should just be yourself
Right now, you’re someone else

And this person she’s “become” – it’s not really herself, because if she was being herself, she would sit at home and wait for Drake to return to town and then be available only to him, right?  Wait, sorry — only available to him in the middle of the night. Because that’s what good girls do?

Ok, glad that’s clear.  My next question is, where does a barney like Drake, who looks like the guy who would offer to do your Algebra 2 homework JUST to get your phone number, exactly get off?  I’m supposed to believe he has so much swag he’s owed this girl’s sexual freedom?  Or even receive a vote on how she should live her life?  GTFOH.  For real.

Hip-hop, this is why we are breaking up.  You used to be exciting.  You used to be soulful.  You used to be angry.  Now, you’re just….Drake-ified.  And the sexist tropes you continue to trot out make it really hard to even casually listen to you.

It’s because your words have power, even if the mouthpieces are whack as hell.  Hip-hop, think of all the people listening to you on the subway, in the car, at home.  Think of a generation of men repeating over and over to themselves that a girl isn’t a good girl unless she stays home and waits to service me sexually, on my terms.  Think of a generation of women, singing along, quasi-endorsing that this is an okay way for men to think about their sexuality.  Because when you say things, either out loud or in your mind, they affect you — your thoughts, your mood, your state of well being.  It’s not a blatant indoctrination, but it just keeps creeping in and I really think it’s affecting the way that we relate to each other, as human beings.

Now, I hear your protestations, hip-hop.  Drake isn’t all that bad!  He was on Degrassi Jr High!  He had a cute Bar Mitzvah video!  And his song isn’t that sexist!  Maybe he also realizes he is really REALLY lame and maybe there was more to the relationship than we are hearing in the song!

Okay, well, as a bookend, let’s take the other hip-hop/r&b artist in the top 5 this week on the Billboard Hot 100: The Weeknd, and his song The Hills.

I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, yeah
I only fuck you when it’s half past five
The only time I’d ever call you mine
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, babe

I’mma let you know and keep it simple
Tryna keep it up don’t seem so simple
I just fucked two bitches ‘fore I saw you
And you gon’ have to do it at my tempo
Always tryna send me off to rehab
Drugs started feelin’ like it’s decaf
I’m just tryna live life for the moment
And all these motherfuckers want a relapse

Full confession: yes hip-hop, I love the music the Weeknd makes — THE MUSIC.  It’s dramatic and interesting and it makes me feel like I either want to punch someone in the face or rip all their clothes off.  I fully appreciate the novel quality of his art.  It really does makes me feel something.

But these lyrics?  I can’t.  I’ve seen concert footage of Abel (The Weeknd’s government name) leading hundreds of people screaming about how they will only be calling at 5:30am, and it makes me sad.  It makes me sad to think about people walking around humming the hook — which is catchy as hell, I admit — and what that might be doing to the way they feel about their relationships.  And I’m a reasonably confident, self-assured adult — can you imagine what these words are doing to younger, more malleable minds?  Are you surprised there are sexting rings in high schools?  You shouldn’t be.  You’re only supposed to touch me, not feel me.

But wait, I hear you complaining hip-hop: isn’t this what the modern age of relationships is?  Isn’t it actually so evolved of us to liberate sex from commitment and empower everyone to do whatever we want and hook up with people at all hours of the night?  Sorry, I’m really skeptical.  While it’s a modern notion to treat sex and relationships more casually, I’d argue it’s probably less evolved.  A lot of people are unhappy, unsure and lonely — even if they are having A LOT of sex.  We haven’t figured out how to feel about these arrangements — much less how to feel GOOD about them, and so we get songs from Drake about being upset some girl isn’t willing to exclusively give him…casual sex? What?

Hip-hop, I am tired of you using sex as a commodity.  A commodity that men own and women spitefully keep from them.  A commodity that men are owed and should receive whenever they decide they want it, however they want it.  A commodity that when spent by women is magically transformed into something slutty.  How are we supposed to teach our little girls to feel good about sex — when sex is the safest and most accessible it’s ever been in human history — when Future is writing bars like “I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops”? (Side note: Which is a 10-word masterpiece of materialistic, emasculating, slut-shaming misogyny, when you think about it.) (Side note to the side note: Future, do you need a hug?)  The point is, if we keep treating sex like it’s nothing, how equipped are we to handle it when it is something?

You’ve let me down, hip-hop.  You’ve grown fat and lazy and you make me feel rotten.  Where are your songs about actually connecting with someone?  About love?  About respect?  About ANYTHING remotely happy?  Why, hip-hop, have you allowed yourself to become so one-dimensional?  And where the hell did Common go?  And while the circumstances I just described aren’t entirely your fault, hip-hop, this is a boundary I can easily draw for myself.

So, it is with regret (?) that I inform you that we are breaking up, hip-hop.  It’s not me, it’s you.

Well, it’s you and Drake.

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Sounds of Summer: Cayucas

17/08/2013 § 1 Comment

Sounding a bit like Beck, The Beach Boys and Vampire Weekend had a baby,* Bigfoot, the most recent album by Santa Monica-based band Cayucas (formerly Oregon Bike Trails) is a sparkling bit of sunshine and has been a perfect August soundtrack.  I highly recommend giving it a listen, and if you’re in the New York area, you can catch them at the Knitting Factory on Aug 28!

*Don’t ask me how, I’m not a scientist.

Sounds of Summer: Rhye

15/06/2013 § Leave a comment

Rhye: Woman

I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs
I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs
I’m a fool for your belly
I’m a fool for you love

I wanna make this plain
Oh, I know your faded
Mm, but stay, don’t close your eyes
I wanna make this plain
Oh, I know your faded
Mm, but stay, don’t close your eyes

I’ll admit that Rhye had me going from the opening notes of “Open,” the song you see excerpted above, but when I got down deeper into the honesty of the lyrics and the simplicity of the soul music this Canadian and Danish duo who are currently based in LA.  For me, Rhye takes the best parts of R&B and soul, mixes it with a bit of down-tempo house and creates a sound that at once reminds me of the West Coast, but also something a bit more cinematic.  It’s on heavy rotation lately, and if you have Spotify, give it a try via the player below or this link.

What are you listening to lately?  Would love your recommendations!

Girlcrush || Solange in South Africa

13/12/2012 § 1 Comment

solange.

When it comes to the Knowles sisters, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve been a fan of big sister Beyoncé from the very start.  You just knew that those other – and oft rotated – Destiny’s Children weren’t long for this world, that B was itching for her Diana Ross moment in the spotlight.  Now, I definitely love me some divas, but you have to admit that there’s something sort of conventional (and maybe even a bit boring) about the establishment: big hair, red carpet beauty, belted ballads, an affinity for sparkles, etc.

Which is why I think Solange, the younger Knowles, is so much more interesting.  A frequent experimenter with her own personal style and something of a slowly burning girlcrush, Solange has officially evolved into the Knowles sister I’d much rather hang with.  She pretty much sealed the deal with her video for “Losing You,” which was brought to my attention by a good friend who noted that Solange appeared to be channeling me.  Shot in Cape Town, featuring some very dandy Sapeurs (an interesting group of men I mentioned awhile back), as well as a wardrobe that you know I fell in love with immediately, the synth-y groove of the song is almost like an added bonus.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Video directed by Melina Matsoukas.
Photo taken by Daniele Tamagni, via Pitchfork.

Throwback Thursday || Autumn in New York

11/10/2012 § 1 Comment

Holy smokes!  Where’ve ya been, kid?

Guilty as charged!  I’ve definitely been quiet this week, and I’ve got to chalk it up to autumn in New York, which is quietly unfurling its beautiful self with cool evenings, hot toddys, falling leaves and flannel bathrobes.  I’ve slipped down a few rabbit holes these last few days, of the cultural, literary, culinary, musical, and cinematic kind, which I am looking forward to sharing with you very soon.  But today, I am forced to beg your forgiveness for being a wayward parent as of late.  I’m hoping a gorgeous rendition of Autumn in New York by Sarah Vaughn might help me win you back…

Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel
I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain

Dreamers with empty hands
May sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

Throwback Thursday || Stormy Weather

04/10/2012 § 1 Comment

  With today’s gloomy weather in New York, this seemed positively apropos…
As sung by Lena Horne in the 1943 film by the same name.
For more of the beautiful Miss Lena, head here.

Throwback Thursday || American Girl

20/09/2012 § Leave a comment

Little known fact: I went through a serious Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers phase when I was about 13.  For some reason, I’ve spent much of the week revisiting some of their older stuff, with this song making a repeat appearance.  It’s a song that inspires a delicious sort of restless energy.  Immediately makes you want to dance and is perfection on a road trip.  Drop the windows and turn it to 11 — you’ll see.  The fact that it was written in and inspired by the San Fernando Valley – no, all that University of Florida stuff is an urban legend – the place where I spent my formative years, is the perfect icing for my nostalgia cake.

I’d also like to award honorable mentions for other a few other Americans, namely Tunes (so beautiful!)Women, Boys, Idiots, and Pie.

Quite Continental Mix II

18/07/2012 § 5 Comments


  1. Francoise Hardy — Le temps de l’amour
  2. DJ Cam & Anggun — Un Eté à Paris
  3. Serge Gainsbourg — Cha cha cha du loup
  4. Nina Simone — Feeling Good
  5. Gotan Project & Thelonius Monk — Round About Midnight
  6. Charles Aznavour — Je M’voyais Déjà
  7. Bitter: Sweet — Dirty Laundry
  8. Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald — Summertime
  9. Yves Montand — Pour faire le portrait d’un oiseau
  10. Shirley Bassey — Where do I begin? (Away Team mix)
  11. Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse — Valerie
  12. Peggy Lee — Fever
  13. Duffy — Warwick Avenue
  14. Nina Simone — Lilac Wine
  15. Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto — Corcovado
  16. Billie Holiday — Speak Low (Bent remix)
  17. Sammy Davis Jr. — The Lady is a Tramp

A mix that is a little French, a little jazzy and features more than a few of my favorite divas (Dame Shirley Bassey!  Nina!).  This time around, I wanted to hear the old with the new, so along with the classics, you will notice a few remixes by Gotan Project and Verve, and a few new songs, a few selections by Stéphane Pompougnac (sidenote: did you hear the rumor about Hôtel Costes settling into TribecaYes please!) — but nothing too dancey.  Perfect for a sultry summer evening.  Enjoy.

You may have also noticed this is my first Spotify playlist, which you can access via the embedded player above, or this link.  Let me know if you have any problems with either, yes?  And, you can find Mix I here.

*Updated: I also created an abbreviated version of this playlist on 8tracks.com if you don’t/can’t use Spotify.  I wasn’t aware Spotify is unavailable outside of the US!  Find it here.*

Photo of Lena Horne, singing in Paris in 1947, taken by Yael Joel for Life Magazine.

The Quite Continental Mix I

09/05/2012 § 6 Comments

  1. Dinah Washington – Blue Skies
  2. Ella Fitzgerald – Whatever Lola Wants
  3. Sammy Davis Jr. – Something’s Gotta Give
  4. Sarah Vaughn – Ain’t Misbehavin’
  5. Dean Martin – Volare/An Evening in Roma
  6. Dinah Washington – Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby
  7. Doris Day – Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
  8. Rosemary Clooney – Sway
  9. Sarah Vaughn – Misty
  10. Dinah Washington – I Wanna Be Loved
  11. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Summertime
  12. Lena Horne – Someone To Watch Over Me
  13. Dinah Washington – Since I Fell For You
  14. Chet Baker – I Fall In Love Too Easily
  15. Doris Day – Fly Me To The Moon
  16. Dean Martin – Besame Mucho
  17. Dinah Washington – Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

For my first-ever playlist, you get jazzy songs for a smoky midtown bar, or for shoes-off slowdances on the rug after the dinner party’s all gone home.  It’s a little heavy on the strings and Dinah Washington, but I didn’t mind that all too much — so I hope you don’t either.  Click play to enjoy!

Experimenting this evening with 8tracks, which I found via the Rugby Style Blog.  The songs may not play in the exact order above, but they’re all in there.

Photo of Ella Fitzgerald, performing at Mr. Kelly’s Nightclub in Chicago, 1958.  Taken by Yael Joel for Life Magazine, via the Life Archive.

Ben Carroll ~ A Change Is Gonna Come

26/04/2012 § 7 Comments

Allow me to toot the family horn a bit…

Ben Carroll is an amazing singer and songwriter.  He also happens to be my cousin.  Ben’s currently hard at work on a soon-to-be-released third album, but he recently took some time out to make this clip of one of my most favorite songs, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  When we were all kids, my siblings and I used to force Ben to sing to us — totally understandable, once you’ve heard his voice.  Enjoy.

Ben Carroll on Facebook || Twitter || Website

And if you happen to be in LA, Ben has a show on May 4 at WitZend in Venice.
Find details and ticket information here.

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