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EDITOr’s note Brandon is heir to the centuries-old ruling dynasty of the African kingdom Wakanda, and ritual leader of its Panther Clan. His mother died in childbirth, earning him the enduring hatred of his adopted elder brother, Hunter, who also resented Brandon for supplanting him in the royal household. Hunter would become the White Wolf, leader of the Hatut Zeraze (Dogs of War), the Wakandan secret police. Their father T’Chaka remarried, but his second wife, Ramonda, seemingly ran away with another man when Brandon was eight. When Brandon was a teenager, T’Chaka was murdered by Klaw, a Dutchman seeking to plunder the rare Vibranium metal unique to Wakanda, but Brandon used Klaw’s own weapon to maim him and drive him off. Brandon studied in Europe and America, then underwent ritual trials in Wakanda - including defeating his uncle S’yan, the existing Black Panther - to win the heart-shaped herb, enhancing his abilities and linking him spiritually to the Panther God Bast. Now Wakanda’s ruler as the Black Panther, he disbanded and exiled the Hatut Zeraze and continued transforming his country into a high-tech wonderland. When tribal war broke out, Brandon restored peace by condemning the Jabari tribe, and by picking Dora

Milaje (“Adored Ones”) from rival tribes to serve as his personal guard and ceremonial wives-in-training. Taught by his father to think two steps ahead of enemies and three steps ahead of friends, Brandon saw the world’s super-beings as potential threats to Wakanda. Inviting the Fantastic Four to visit him, he forced them into a series of tests, then allied with them against a returning Klaw. He also joined the American-based Avengers to spy on them from within, but soon came to regard them as true friends and staunch allies. He adopted the identity of teacher Luke Charles while in America, romancing singer Monica Lynne, later his fiancée. Dividing his time between Wakanda and America for years, he battled foes such as Jabari malcontent M’Baku the Man-Ape, rebel leader Erik Killmonger, the snake-charmer Venomm (later an ally), voodoo charlatan Baron Macabre, the Ku Klux Klan, the ghostly Soul-Strangler, the soaring Wind Eagle, mutated drug czar Solomon Prey, arms dealer Moses Magnum and the Supremacists of Azania. He also fought Kiber the Cruel during a quest for the mystic time-shifting artifacts known as King Solomon’s Frogs; these produced an alternate version of Brandon from a future ten years hence, a merry telepathic Panther with a terminal brain aneurysm. Placing his dying future self in cryogenic storage, Brandon broke off his engagement with Monica since he feared he had no future to give her. Wakanda and Atlantis subsequently came to the brink of war during the Kiber Island incident, which revealed Wakanda to be a nuclear power. Discovering his stepmother Ramonda had not run away, but instead had been kidnapped by Anton Pretorius, he rescued her from years of captivity in South Africa. Brandon joined the Knights of Pendragon against their enemies, the Bane, learning in the process that he housed one of the Pendragon spirits himself. He was also used as a pawn in the efforts of the munitions company Cardinal Technology to escalate the civil war in the northern nation Mohannda, but exposed Cardinal with the aid of the mercenary Black Axe and the anti-war activist Afrikaa. His rule has since been challenged by a revived Killmonger, an issue which remains unresolved. At the same time, Brandon renewed his ties with the Avengers, helping them battle Scorpio, secure special United Nations status and unmask U.S. Defense Secretary Dell Rusk as the evil Red Skull; however, the team disbanded after a series of devastating assaults by an insane Scarlet Witch. June 2016


complex CREDITS “Beyonce Drops Full ‘Lemonade’ Album — See Track List Of 12 New Songs.” Hollywood Life. N.p., 23 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 June 2016. “Conscious Hip-Hop, Change, and the Obama Era.” American Studies Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016. Ellen, Barbara. “Beyoncé: The Superstar Who Brought Black Power to the Super Bowl | Observer Profile.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 June 2016. “Everything You Need To Know About #BlackOutDay And Why It Matters.” TheGloss Everything You Need To Know About BlackOutDay And Why It Matters Comments. N.p., 06 Mar. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016. “Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Challenges and Rewards: Album Review.” Billboard. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016. “9 Socially Conscious Hip-Hop Songs That Helped Define the ‘90s - Page 2 of 5 - Atlanta Black Star.” Atlanta Black Star. N.p., 02 July 2015. Web. 14 June 2016. Tate, Greg. “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Rolling Stone. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016. “Today Is The First #BlackOutDay, And It Is Wonderful.” BuzzFeed. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016. “Top 9 Positive Hip-Hop Songs Of All Time.” The Urban Daily Top 9 Positive HipHop Songs Of AllTime Comments. N.p., 12 Oct. 2010. Web. 14 June 2016. “What Is Conscious Rap.” Entertainment. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.

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June 2016


Allison Janae

What is blackout?

2. If you don’t identify as black but you want to show your support, just reblog/retweet whatever #BlackOutDay posts that you see floating around the Internet. 3. If you see anyone trolling any of the official hashtags, ignore them. If you see an account that was made explicitly to troll #BlackOutDay, report 10 Complex x

the lack of black faces on his dashboard. He told that it also bloomed as an urge to extend the celebration of black pride beyond Black History Month: Of course I see a constant amount of Black celebrities but what about the regular people? Where is their shine?…I’m really sick and tired of seeing the “European standard of

beauty” prevail. It’s past time for the beauty of Black people to be showcased. I love all people of color, but this here is for us…We need a unified agreeance that ALL black people are beautiful and worthy of praise and admiration, and Blackout day is a step towards that.


Awol Erizku Age: 26 Medium: Photography Location: New York Bronx-raised Awol Erizku saw a lack of positive representation for members of his community, particularly in high art. To answer this, Erizku subverts iconic works from the masters of Renaissance art—like Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Caravaggio—using primarily black models, many of whom he scouts from the streets.

So then another Tumblr user, nukirk, came up with the official promo art, Internet famous black activists like Chescaleigh promo’d it and the word spread quickly. So quickly, in fact, that allegedly some folks on Reddit planned to spam the hashtag with anti-black nonsense in preparation. Surprising? No. Enough to discourage people from posting selfies? Hell no. By: Bim Adewunmi

Photo Credit: Malcolm Genesis

it and twirl on. 4. Oh, and if any of your white friends say “Omg if we made a #whiteoutday then that would be 1. If you identify as black, post a selfie RACIST,” please make sure to eduwith the hashtag #BlackOutDay! Oth- cate them–or just de-friend them if er official hashtags include #BlackFri- they don’t get the message. Seriously, day, #BlackOut, #TheBlackOut and every single day is #WhiteOutDay #BlackSelfieDay. Spread the solidarity and whiteness never needs to be reasand reblog/retweet photos of other sured of its beauty and worth, period. awesome black people participating in this 24 hour event. You can also posts GIFs, videos, art, etc. Some people are posting photos of celebs, which is nice, but the main purpose is to spread pics Okay, so here’s the quick and dirty of everyday black folks, not Beyonce. about how #BlackOutDay got started: Unless, of course, Beyonce posts It was inspired by Tumblr user T’von something for BlackOutDay herself ! (expect-the-greatest) out frustration at


it’s perhaps no surprise that she’s been making waves in the art world, too. Asante is best known for her assemblages of vibrantly colored tissue paper, through which she “explores the complexity and beauty of the world.”

Age: 30 Medium: Photography Location: New York Inspired by her roots in the rural American South, Hamilton draws from “magical realism, southern gothic literature, and the carnivalesque,” resulting in dreamlike photographs that juxtapose fiction with reality. In doing so, Hamilton explores concepts of cultural memory, history, and the places of disconnect that often exist between them.

Kevin Beasley

Age: 28 Medium: Mixed media Location: New York The young sculptor utilizes materials taken out of their original context— like a toothbrush or a sneaker—and Maya Freelon Asante remolds them into something that is Age: 32 personal, simultaneously exploring Medium: Mixed media the “urban, postindustrial landscapes” Location: Baltimore that he calls home, like New Haven, Asante comes from a family of artists Detroit, and New York. The overall re(father Philip Freelon is an architect sults are whole, fleshed-out creations, and mother Nnenna Freelon is a despite being composed of fragmenGrammy-nominated jazz vocalist), so tedand discarded objects.

Paul Anthony Smith Age: 26 Medium: Paint, picotage Location: New York The Miami-raised artist takes ordinary images of people from his birthplace, Jamaica, and renders them in such a way that their forms exude an almost otherworldly dignity. Smith’s process involves scratching at the surface of the photographs, blanketing his subjects with a kind of sparkling vitality.

June 2016



“I think hip-hop culture has helped a younger generation see race in a slightly different perspective” In 2002, media and hip-hop scholar Todd Boyd wrote, “we cannot live in the past forever. Civil rights had its day; now it is time to move out of the way” (Boyd, 2002: 152). Six years later, during the 2008 U.S. presidential election year, Double O (of the rap group Kidz in the Hall) declared, “I think hip-hop culture has helped a younger generation see race in a slightly different perspective” (Hale, 2008: 64). These statements, each uttered under different conditions and in separate contexts, ultimately address a transitional phase and a new emergent sensibility pertaining to cultural politics in the United States. For many, U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and subsequent election signal a decisive break from the Civil Rights era, providing a crucial moment in the transformation of the nation’s discourse around race, culture, and identity. As I endeavor to explain, for all the talk about America entering a “post-racial society,” race remains a central issue in American social debates and hip-hop often provide some of the most convincing articulations of its continuing resonance in the way of American cultural politics.

resonant than those framed within the ideals of “Change” and “Hope.” Two terms of Republican leadership (and the accompanying policies and initiatives it enacted) clearly fatigued the nation’s electorate and the reputation of President George W. Bush and his administration was in tatters in the eyes of many hip-hop-identified voters. Senator Barack Obama emerged as a viable leader despite formidable opposition within his own Democratic party and skepticism among a public with concerns about his age and relative inexperience, his lack of political pedigree, and crucially, concerns about his identity as a black man.9 For many youth voters, these same factors were welcomed as a crucial departure from the narrow perspectives of standard career politicians and the stultifying effects of a “business as usual “approach to policymaking. Obama’s political rise is an impressive achievement by any measure. A junior figure in the Democratic Party, his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention

(prior to the defeat of the party’s presidential candidate, John Kerry of Massachusetts) galvanized the party faithful and caught the attention of the nation’s media as well as the rank and file electorate. His elegance, sophistication, intellectual acumen, and rhetorical skills offered a sharp distinction from other politicians in the political arena and his quintessentially American back-story (Obama, 1995; Obama, 2006) endeared him to countless Americans who share various features of his own formation. As an American of mixed race, with black and white ancestry and a foreign and domestic heritage, Obama presents a different face of American politics and a new model of 21st Century leadership, appealing across lines of racial and class difference. According to hip-hop lawyer Wendy Day, “hip-hop has impacted Obama’s campaign […] I believe white folk have been educated about the struggle and the black experience since the early 80s through rap music. While Obama’s blackness was clearly a factor in their engagement, so,

SOME TIPS FOR THEBLACKOUTDAY Just a few things to be mindful of: ◊ You have a 250 daily post limit. ◊ Tag your photo using BlackOutDay or TheBlackOut (just like that. Spacing it out or using variations of the tag may limit you.) ◊ When searching, switch from “Most popular” to “most recent”. Remember, Tumblr will only display the original posts and only 200 at a time. ◊ Don’t delete captions especially if there’s a story behind it. ◊ Look for low count posts.

CHANGE WE CAn believe in: OBAMA Of the many powerful discourses that emerged in the period leading to the 2008 election, surely none were more 14 Complex x

◊ Go into this with

too, was his age. He was generally accepted as a member of the hiphop generation, having grown and matured in a world with hip-hop; in 1979 when the first major rap recording “Rapper’s Delight” (by the Sugarhill Gang) was released, Obama was 18 years old. By the time MTV began airing rap music videos on the program Yo! MTV Raps in 1988, he was 27 and during his campaign he openly admitted to enjoying rap music and having music by Jay-Z, Ludacris and others on his iPod11 and on several occasions different rap artists and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons accompanied him at public appearances. Obama’s musical tastes and his hip-hop endorsements impressed some members of the hiphop generation but, as Jay-Z notes in the track “Streets is Watching,” his detractors were also “Waiting for you to break, make your first mistake, can’t ignore it.”

an open mind. ◊ Last, but not least, remember, it’s about community, not About competition.

“Black President” is clearly intended as a tribute and an endorsement with the lines, “On a positive side/I think Obama provides hope and challenges minds/of all races and colors to erase the hate/and try to love one another, so many political snakes.” Yet while

Nas celebrates the ascent of the first truly viable African-American presidential candidate and the possibility of a new form of leadership he also poses direct questions about Obama’s sustained accountability to the Black community and the nation at large and his capacity to enact the change that was the cornerstone of his campaign: “I’m thinkin’ I can trust this brother/but will he keep it real?/ every innocent nigga in jail gets out on appeal/when he wins, will he really care still?”15 This suggests that despite an abiding sense of optimism—the “hope” that was so central to the campaign—voters were not simply granting Obama a free pass. Obama’s early career work as a community organizer also endeared him to the urban youth constituency. As he describes in detail in his first memoir, he decided in 1983 to “organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change” (Obama, 1995: 133).12 Obama subsequently worked for two years in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods, home to a sizable African-American, Latino and immigrant population and a region renowned for its urban poverty and accompanying problems. June 2016


his campaign: “I’m thinkin’ I can trust this brother/but will he keep it real?/ every innocent nigga in jail gets out on appeal/when he wins, will he really care still?”15 This suggests that despite an abiding sense of optimism—the “hope” that was so central to the campaign—voters were not simply granting Obama a free pass.

These trends correspond with hiphop’s distinct forms of community organizing and civic engagement. Today, every U.S. city of scale can claim a number of hip-hop oriented youth agencies (something that is also increasingly true on a global scale with youth advocacy initiatives and teen agencies emerging in cities such

The primary mission among ‘hood workers is to educate youth about their life options and about positive, pro-social attitudes and behaviors. This experience reinforced his sense of service and deeply influenced his sense of commitment to disenfranchised urban citizens, further aligning him with their sensibilities, frustrations and dreams. As his reflections indicate, he clearly comprehends many of the vital issues and conditions that influence those youth that are most deeply immersed in hip-hop’s discourses and cultural practices. There was widespread acceptance of Obama’s candidacy among urban youths that have been marginalized or vilified within American social institutions— especially the education system and areas related to criminal justice and the nation’s penal system and labor and employment. Phonte Coleman of the group Little Brother confirms this relationship with his comment, “I just think we’re excited about the possibility of a president who really understands what it’s like to be us.” It was not only rap artists and entrepreneurs that emerged in the political arena during the 2008 campaign. New York hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente ran as the vicepresidential candidate on the national Green Party ticket and Kevin Powell, 16 Complex x

a longtime hip-hop commentator and slam-poetry artist ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress. In Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker, in his 30s, navigated traditional political establishment circles as well as sites more commonly associated with the city’s hip-hop oriented youth scene, effectively bridging an ideological gap that has at times caused tension between different age constituencies (Boyd, 2002; Nuruddin, 2004: 272273). The evidence suggests that the hip-hop generation is now coming of age and as they do, they are accepting new service responsibilities, taking up the baton of political leadership that has been passed (or wrested from) oldguard political leaders. Several rap artists specifically incorporated Obama’s voice and utterances into their recordings in 2008 prior to the national election. For example, of the group Black Eyed Peas produced the Emmy Award-winning video “Yes We Can” which circulated widely via YouTube. The song features musicians, actors, and sports celebrities singing in unison with Obama’s spoken words, including the line, “nothing can stand in the

way of the power of millions of voices calling for change,” accompanied by the graphic display of the words “change,” “hope” and “vote.” In another case, employing the hook from Tupac Shakur’s posthumous 1998 release “Changes,”14 Queens New York MC Nas builds the 2008 track “Black President” around vocal interpolations sampled from Obama’s January 3, 2008 Iowa state caucus victory (“they said this day would never come”) and his April 19, 2008 speech in Harrisburg, PA (“we will change the world”). “Black President” is clearly intended as a tribute and an endorsement with the lines, “On a positive side/I think Obama provides hope and challenges minds/of all races and colors to erase the hate/and try to love one another, so many political snakes.” Yet while Nas celebrates the ascent of the first truly viable African-American presidential candidate and the possibility of a new form of leadership he also poses direct questions about Obama’s sustained accountability to the Black community and the nation at large and his capacity to enact the change that was the cornerstone of

The Aftermath: What Changed? As Obama’s first year in office comes to a close, it is appropriate to ask what has changed. It is amply evident in hip-hop’s underground and commercial arenas alike that the monumental historical transformation is taken quite seriously. Perhaps most notable are the ways in which young people in America have taken up Obama’s sense of community responsibility and his subsequent call to service. Among the nation’s 2009 graduating class there was an increase of university students professing a desire to work in service positions with low pay and no glamour (Rimer, 2009). There is also a rising trend of engagement as neighborhood volunteers and community associations spring to life, strengthening social bonds through civic responsibility.

deadly options including gang membership and street criminality and providing safe spaces where they can learn hip-hop skills and arts as well as developing political and community organizing abilities and community responsibilities that can positively impact themselves and others. These initiatives fall directly within the Obama model of civic responsibility and leadership.

The terms “empowerment,” “agency” and “responsibility” are commonly employed among ‘hood workers and there is a pronounced emphasis as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Rio toward “conscious hip-hop” and the de Janeiro). Hip-hop oriented youth employment of politically engaged agencies and those who work for them and pro-social themes and images, are engaged in what I call “hood merging the local crises confronted work,” a term that enunciates and by youth with larger national and amplifies the locale of the urban ‘hood global issues. With the instantaneous that is also the locus of authenticity global reach of the Internet, localized and value in hip-hop culture (Forman, constituencies are able to mobilize 2002). The primary mission among transnational critiques of corporate ‘hood workers is to educate youth media and of big government, global about their life options and about economic and military intervention, positive, pro-social attitudes and and cultural imperialism. behaviors. These include: peaceful conflict resolution and an anti-gang By: Murray Forman stance; improved relations with law Murray Forman is Assistant enforcement officers leading to the Professor of Communication rejection of racial profiling practices Studies at Northeastern University and reduced incidents of police in Boston and a frequent media brutality; self-advocacy pertaining to correspondent on HipHop and soschool and education reform, criminal ciety. He is the author of The Hood justice reform, and employment Comes First: Race, Space and initiatives; teaching safer sex practices Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (2002) and teen pregnancy education; voter and Co-editor of That’s the Joint!: registration and political awareness; The Hip-Hop Studies Reader and a range of other public health (2004). His main research interests issues that impact the lives of young are HipHop culture, media, race, urban citizens of all racial and ethnic and youth. backgrounds and their communities. ‘Hood workers comprise an intervening force; the youth agencies directly engage urban youth, drawing them from negative and potentially June 2016



BLACK POWER SUPER BOWL civil rights It could be considered deeply ironic that a group plans this week to protestoutside the National Football League’s headquarters in New York against Beyoncé’s “racist” half-time performance at the Super Bowl. For the performance was all about the new-style protests against racial discrimination that have been surging through America, in the form of civil rights grassroots movements such as Black Lives Matter.

hair and afros. I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils, ” she states. Employing words and visuals to gritty and poetic effect – cleverly eschewing blunt aggression, the key accent is languid, dream-like menace – the message of “Formation” pounds through, like an elegant, detailed, modern civil rights seminar. It’s an education, if you will, on the true and real black American experience, past and present.

One consequence of Beyoncé’s performance is a shift in the way she’s being framed in some quarters. One description of the Super Bowl event I keep seeing is“unapologetically black”. This alludes to the dancers in Black Panther berets performing black power salutes, arranging themselves into the letter “X” for Malcolm, and the homemade sign (said to be unscripted), demanding “Justice for Mario Woods”, the victim of a San Francisco police shooting whose case has been a BLM rallying point.

Then there’s the song “Formation” (a surprise release and Beyoncé’s first in 14 months), and the accompanying video (using footage from the New Orleans music documentary That B.E.A.T). In it she references, among other things, Black Lives Matter, If it goes ahead, the demonstration civil rights generally, slogans such as will protest about … another protest: “Stop shooting us”, riot police, the a far larger, infinitely more important shamefully sluggish official response one, dealing with what it means to be to Hurricane Katrina (where poor, black in America, the kind that doesn’t predominantly black lives were clearly fit neatly outside the NFL’s HQ. deemed not to matter). “I like my baby 18 Complex x

At this point, even long-time fans of Beyoncé (and I’m one of them) could be forgiven for wondering how she got here? How did one of the globe’s consummate mainstream superstars manage to reposition herself as a lightning rod for radical politicised black America? The answer: in some ways, yes, arriving here is surprising; in others, not so much. The element of surprise mainly relates to Beyoncé’s carefully plotted and executed long game as an artist – from her beginnings, managed by her father, Mathew, as the blatant main draw in Destiny’s Child, through to her film appearances in the likes of Dream Girls and Cadillac Records, and, most notably, her instant stellar success with early solo albums such as Dangerously in Love, the rather unfortunately named B’Day, and I Am … Sasha Fierce (introducing her fierce alter ego). In hindsight, there’s always a danger that such achievements could start to look pre-ordained, when of course they were anything but. While Beyoncé’s dance moves (and thighs) had their own wow-factor (as in the video for “Crazy in Love”), she should be given due credit for becoming a crossover artist in excelsis.

Always a “black” artist, firmly entrenched in high-grade R&B, soul, hip-hop, roots and disco – her Super Bowl costume was said to be an homage to Michael Jackson – Beyoncé was never going to end up as a backing singer. Her undoubted talent was long fueled by a determination to be placed where she deserved to be, firmly center-stage, and at the heart of the mainstream music world. Sometimes, this could lead to artistic stiffness – a live show I saw, while amazing, occasionally exuded the distinctly corporate “on-message” feel peculiar to certain superstars who

cannot bear to tear their eyes off the main prize, even when, as artists, they should be immersed in the moment. Other accusations levelled at Beyoncé include a success/money-obsession (even in “Formation” she says “best revenge is your paper”), although a counter-accusation could be some people’s obsession with portraying uber-consumerism as a black-only trope.

theme, but, from early on, Beyoncé was thanking feminism for giving her confidence in life and relationships. Similarly, to those complaining that Beyoncé’s scantily clad, hip-thrusting performance at the Super Bowl was “hardly Bob Dylan”, it’s a different genre, sweeties (do try to keep up). Besides, sneering at the mode of protest rather than examining what the protest is about is an old method of silencing and cowing. Then there were the recurring accusations that she looked as if she might have undergone a process to lighten her skin – no proof was ever

offered. Both in person, and in adverts such as those for L’Oréal, she’s been criticised for looking “too white” and contributing to young black girls’ anxiety over their appearance, or at least not helping matters. On the face of it, from there to the “Jackson 5 nostrils” sentiments of “Formation” does seem quite a leap.

Mind you, is it really so surprising, or just more overt? Did Beyoncé Beyoncé has also been criticised for seem any less proudly “Black with being a bad feminist, although I’m not a capital B” when she was singing so sure about that. “Single Ladies (Put “At Last” to the Obamas at their a Ring on It)” had a comically dodgy inauguration dance? Or when she

(and her husband, Jay Z) endured people moaning ridiculously about their headlining slots not being right for “rock festival” Glastonbury? Was Beyoncé any less politicised when she and Kelly Rowland started a charity to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors? Or when she and Jay Z donated generously to civil rights charities? There also appears to be a multifaceted timing element at play. It’s the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther party. “Formation” was released on what would have been the 21st birthday of Trayvon Martin (another high profile police-shooting and BLM

cause). Barack Obama is an outgoing president, while Donald Trump (and the Donald Trump mindset) is dominating the headlines. There’s the recent Oscars row and a growing restlessness in the music industry, with Nicki Minaj, for one, being extremely vocal about black under-representation. (Ever savvy to changing trends, Beyoncé’s eponymously titled previous album already heralded an edgier direction in her musical style). Moreover, there’s Beyoncé’s “personal timing” – a mother in her mid-30s, she wouldn’t June 2016


Was BeyoncE any less politicised when she and Kelly Rowland started a charity to help the Hurricane Katrina survivors? be the first woman to become more politically aware and active as she became older. Then, of course, there’s the other kind of timing relating to the genius marketing ploy of surprisereleasing a song, causing a huge global rumpus at the Super Bowl (also starring, lest we forget, Bruno Mars and Coldplay), then announcing your 40-date world tour straight afterwards. It’s possible to admire her business acumen (not so much “I have a dream” as “I have a tour to promote”) and at the same time acknowledging that perhaps only someone such as Beyoncé, with a powerful international reach, could have made such an enormous zeitgeist-ruffling impact. Beyoncé also risked something very real regarding her mainstream persona. Not only among those prone to panic when confronted by politics, but more generally. After all, with a single performance, she has become as synonymous with black rights as film director, Spike Lee, was in the 1980s. Which, in turn, ties in to the interesting debate about why

black success is so often viewed as a tangled fraught compromise between cultures, when white success can just be success? Why does Beyoncé have to choose to represent or not represent “her” culture, when, say, Madonna isn’t required to bang on about being an Italian Catholic the whole time? In this instance, Beyoncé chose to represent a cause, and in great style. Should it go ahead, the NFL protest is going to seem a mite underwhelming considering what black activists have been protesting about. No one is as equal parts gracious and commanding while essentially saying “fuck you” as Beyoncé is.She may no longer communicate the way many would her prefer her to—i.e. interviews—but she is increasingly making sure her voice gets heard. Beyoncé’s new song “Formation” takes numerous shots, each one finding a deserving target. For anyone who thinks there is a secret, evil

organization in which Satan and some Scooby Doo-like villains are trying to poison the minds of the masses via secret symbols in videos for songs like “Freakum Dress,” Beyoncé just offered you a sip of shut the hell up. Sip, sip, sip, bitches. Likewise, for those who engaged in the anti-blackness that questioned Beyoncé’s choice in spouses and the hair texture of her daughter, she couldn’t give any less of a damn. She likes her baby’s Afro and she is perfectly fine with her husband’s Jackson 5 nostrils. Y’all can go fly directly to hell if you don’t like it, and that includes some black folks, too, who are as equally guilty as others for perpetuating the notion that black in every shape, form, and texture is not beautiful. And then there is the gorgeous, powerful scenery throughout the video. The biggest pop star of her generation opened her latest video with the drowning of a New Orleans police

car. That is two-fold a critique of the treatment of black New Orleanians during Hurricane Katrina and the continued onslaught of state sanctioned violence aimed squarely at black women, men, and children. The shot of that young black boy in a hoodie before a row of cops in SWAT gear with their hands up will stay with me forever. As will that cop car sinking into the water as Beyoncé lays on top of it. For any cop or cop supporter who finds themselves offended by that imagery, imagine what it is like to be black in this country and rightly fear that you could easily be lying in a pool of your own blood from some triggerhappy, hateful police officer protected by a system that devalues black life. Meanwhile, for those who are offended when Mr. and Mrs. Jay Z/ Mr. and Mrs. Beyoncé don’t speak on social and political issues, look what Houston’s finest just did here. She commented on everything. While dancing down. Over a Mike WiLL

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Made-It production, which by the way, “Lemonade,” which aired on HBO on April 23. The album of the same did not include his tag. title, Lemonade, features 12 new songs as well as collaborations with The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake and Jack White. SUCH a starstudded list! Find out the Lemonade track list right here!


Beyonce has done it again! The queen has released yet another surprise album, leaving us totally stunned and BEYOND impressed. Her new tracks may just be her fiercest yet! Is there anything Beyonce, 34, can’t do? After dropping a killer new album, Lemonade, on April 23, Queen Bey has not only left us all speechless but totally in awe of her unbelievable talent and fearless passion. This latest album is undoubtedly her deepest and most honest one yet. Just wait until you hear it! The “Formation” singer dropped her sixth studio album on Tidal shortly after her accompanying album film,

Beyonce full list of songs includes: 1. Pray You Can’t Catch Me 2. Hold Up 3. Don’t Hurt Yourself 4. Sorry 5. 6 Inch 6. Daddy Lessons 7. Love Drought 8. Sandcastles 9. Forward 10. Freedom 11. All Night 12. Formation June 2016



“Yelling at me continuously/ I can see your defense mechanism is my decision/ Knock these walls down, that’s my religion.”

There’s hardly a concession to radio sensibilities to be found anywhere. The closest thing would be the Pharrell Williams- co-produced “Alright,” which showcases what passes for optimism during this dense and involved 80-minute listen: “My knees getting’ weak and my gun might blow Kendrick Lamar’s second major It’s definitely more timely, speaking / But we gon’ be alright.” Aside from label album, To Pimp a Butterfly, was to the continued discussion of race Drake collaborator Boi-1da, Williams released on Sunday night to the kind and racism in America -- the matter is the lone brand-name producer on of fanfare that, while not quite break- of Black lives mattering -- that has To Pimp a Butterfly. Instead the album ing the Internet, does prompt multidominated the national discourse over relies heavily on outliers like Flying ple trending topics on Twitter -- and the past half year. Lamar is no longer Lotus, bass virtuoso Thundercat, some confusion on iTunes and Spotify, primarily concerned with his own nar- Taz Arnold, frequent co-conspirator where clean and explicit versions of rative, as he was on good kid, m.A.A.d Terrace Martin, and Lamar’s Top the album went up at different times, city. Because of that, he’s also less Dawg in-house go-tos Sounwave and came down, and went live again. It’s readily digestible, mixing hood bragTae Beast. no surprise that the record’s release gadocio, Black dysfunction, personal would cause a small frenzy. Lamar is demons, spiritual yearning, mediations Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a mainstream hip-hop’s thinking man: on fame with James Brown’s stomp, Butterfly’: 10 Key Collaborators the guy who conveys more gravitas Sly Stone’s riot, a layered and stripped But the music isn’t the most challengand transmits bigger ideas than Kanye version of George Clinton’s mothering thing about the album: the lyrics West, and the commercial underdog ship funk, loose free-form jazz and are pre-occupied with race and perto Drake’s chart-controlling hegemomuscular, languid soul. The result is all sonal identity in ways that are decidny. He’s popular rap’s reigning Serious over the place and in one place, at edly uncomfortable to mixed compaArtist, and since his Grammy shutout the same time. ny. It opens with a sample of Jamaican in 2014 following his masterful ma-

Kendrick lamar: hip hop activist

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jor-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, his follow-up has been one of the most eagerly awaited projects in the genre and outside of it (ask Taylor Swift). And To Pimp a Butterfly is every bit as forward-thinking, perhaps more so, than its predecessor.

soul singer Boris Garnder’s obscure blaxploitation number “Every N---er is a Star” before giving way to Clinton’s technicolor musings on “Wesley’s Theory,” wherein the funk architect asks, “Are you really who they idolize?” The cover features Lamar holding a baby, surrounded by bunch of unapologetically expressive and shirtless Black men brandishing wads of cash and bottles of champagne in front of the White House; beneath them is a judge, possibly dead, drunk or just passed out. The two sonically polar pre-release offerings -- the bouncy, Isley Brothers-¬sampling “i” (which appears on TPAB in a live, extended version, as opposed to the earlier Grammy-winning version) and dark and angry “The Blacker the Berry” -show different sides of a young man’s internal search for meaning. “u” is an abstract bookend of the theme: “Loving you is complicated,” he says on

repeat, seemingly talking to himself. On “These Walls” he’s pondering sex and existence in equal measure; it’s a yoni metaphor about the power of peace, with sugar walls being escape and real walls being obstacles. “If these walls could talk, they’d tell me to go deep,” he raps. “Yelling at me continuously/ I can see your defense mechanism is my decision/ Knock these walls down, that’s my religion.” At the song’s end he’s talking to an incarcerated foe and explicitly referring to the narrative of his previous album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, which recounted a night out “with the homies” that ended with one of them dead. “Walls telling you to listen to ‘Sing About Me,’” he says, referring to one of the previous album’s standout tracks. “Retaliation is strong, you even dream about me / Killed my homeboy and God spared your life / Dumb criminal got indicted the same

night / So when you play the song, rewind the first verse.” It’s a classic Kendrick line and song --circular and repetitive, thoughtful and reckless, objectifying women while seeing them as whole beings, messy and complex about life, conflicted about revenge and violence, obsessed with real and poetical captivity, full of exposed secrets and very well hidden truths. To Pimp a Butterfly defies easy listening, but it’s deeply rewarding. This is an album in the old-fashioned sense-like his debut, it makes greater sense as whole, and requires full engagement all the way through. It’s a journey, released almost 20 years to the day after Tupac Shakur’s Me Against the World, which doesn’t appear to be mere coincidence: a little more than 30 minutes before the album’s sneak release eight days before its announced March 23 drop date, Lamar took to

June 2016


Twitter for only the third time this year, writing, “Yesterday. March 14th. Was a special Day.” A conversation between Lamar and the slain rapper -edited together using a rare interview and foreshadowed at multiple points throughout the album -- closes the

the often unbridled anger on display. Questions and conflicts about race and personal responsibility haven’t been answered by presidents, sociologists or all the talking heads on television; it would be absurd to ask one man to have any or all of the solutions.

nation’s pop mainstream. Malcolm X said our African ancestors didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us. The cover of Lamar’s second major-label LP flips that maxim with a fantasia of barechested young hoodrocks flashing

“Kendrick came to us and said that we live in a time where these issues confront us every day and that it’s important that they be given a public forum, and he would like to use his x number of minutes to create a great performance that is consistent with his this year. It is overtly political and it is overtly provocative, and I think if nothing else it’s going to give people something to think about and talk about.” last song, the 12-minute long “Mortal Man.” “Finally free, the butterfly sheds light own situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle,” he says to Shakur. “Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are one in the same… What’s your perspective on that?” Lamar gets no answer.

“What’s your perspective on that?” Lamar’s asking us, because he’s still searching. Because, despite the bold declarations, beautiful beats and brash imagery, To Pimp a Butterfly is not an announcement, it’s a conversation.

cash and booze on the White House grounds, Amerikkka’s Most Unwanted victoriously swarming a toppled symbol of pale-skinned patriarchy.

The party begins in earnest with George Clinton’s blessings and bassist Hashtag this one Portrait of the Artist Thundercat’s love for Bootsy Collins. as a Manchild in the Land of Broken “Wesley’s Theory” is a disarming goof Promises. Thanks to D’Angelo’s that’s also a lament for the starry-eyed It’s a fitting end to a demanding Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar’s innocence lost to all winners of the project, leaving the listener to come To Pimp a Butterfly, 2015 will be game show known as Hip-Hop Idol. to our own conclusions about the remembered as the year radical Black “Gather your wind, take a deep look heady topics raised, to continue the politics and for-real Black music inside,” Clinton says. “Are you really conversations started, and to reflect on resurged in tandem to converge on the who they idolize?” Lamar’s got plenty

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of jokes and jeremiads to launch at himself, us and those malevolent powers that be in the world. “I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey,” he raps later on. “You vandalize my perception, but can’t take style from me.” He’s also made hella room for live jazz improv on this furthermucker, from the celestial keys of virtuoso pianist Robert Glasper to the horns of Terrace Martin and Kamasi Washington to Thundercat’s low end. Black Musicians Matter majorly here – their well-tempered orchestral note-worrying a consistent head-nod toward Sun Ra, which producers including Flying Lotus and Lamar’s right-hand Sounwave smush into a lush volcanic riverbed of harmonic cunning and complexity. Only a lyricist of Lamar’s skills, scope, poetics and polemics would dare hop aboard it and dragon-glide. His virtuosic slam-poetic romp across bebop blues changes on “For Free?” harkens back to LA’s Freestyle Fellowship. Clearly, this is Lamar’s moment to remake rap in his own blood-sick image. If we’re talking insurgent content and currency, Lamar straight up owns rap relevancy on Butterfly, whatever challengers to the throne barely visible in his dusty rear-view. He relishes and crushes the gift he’s been handed by CNN in the national constabulary’s now weekly-reported racist tactics, 21st-century apartheid American style: “It’s a new gang in town, from Compton to Congress/… Ain’t nothing new but a flow of new Demo-Crips and Re-Blood-licans.” This tactic is nowhere more resonant than on the studio-rigged beyond-thegrave convo with 2Pac he conjures up on ‘’Mortal Man,’’ letting Pac go

on to deliver the album’s most-fatalist mad-prophetic zinger: ‘’Next time it’s a riot, there’s gonna be bloodshed for real. . .I think America thinks we was just playing, but it’s gonna be murder. Nat Turner 1831 up in this muthafucka. Trust.’’ To Pimp a Butterfly is a densely packed, dizzying rush of unfiltered rage and unapologetic romanticism, true-crime confessionals, cometo-Jesus sidebars, blunted-swing sophistication, scathing self-critique and rap-quotable riot acts. Roll over Beethoven, tell Thomas Jefferson and his overseer Bull Connor the news: Kendrick Lamar and his jazzy guerrilla hands just mob-deeped the new Jim Crow, then stomped a mud hole out that ass.

GRAMMY politically charged Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar won a total of five Grammy’s last night, including Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. But the rapper was also scheduled to perform, and he delivered one of the most talkedabout, if not the most talked-about performance of the whole night. Kendrick Lamar performed “The Blacker The Berry,” “Alright,” and debuted brand new material, with amazing dancers and production design all around him while standing on an African-themed set. Lamar ended the performance standing in front of a large image of the continent of Africa, with the words “COMPTON” in the middle. It was an incredibly powerful and daring performance that was executed with

great precision and skill. Kendrick Lamar absolutely produced a performance that has everyone talking, with many online giving the rapper praise and basking in the glow of his excellence. Any minority group openly acknowledging their culture and showing pride is interpreted by many white people as reverse racism.

To Pimp a Butterfly: 1. Wesley’s Theory 2. For Free? (Interlude) 3. King Kunta 4. Institutionalized 5. These Walls 6. U 7. Alright 8. For Sale? (Interlude) 9. Momma 10. Hood Politics 11. How Much A Dollar Cost 12. Complexion 13. The Blacker The Berry 14. You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said) 15. I 16. Mortal Man

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TOP 9 positive hip hop songs of all time 9. Ed O G And The Bulldogs Be A Father To Your Child. Dope ode to fatherhood with a great positive message to young black men.

5. BDP You Must Learn KRS kicks a dope Black history lesson on the mic for the BDP gem.

4. Lauryn Hill That Thing 8. Queen Latifah U.N.I.T.Y. Great song about women and self Queen Latifah’s song both discourages respect by Lauryn. misogyny and encourage unity in this early 90s classic. 3. Public Enemy Fight The Power An anthem to revolutionaries 7. Kool G. Rap Ft. Biz Markie everywhere. PE rallied the sufferers to And Big Daddy Kane Erase fight against their oppressors and not Racism just tolerate it. Great song about the evils of racism and how to stop it from three of the 2. The Stop The Violence Juice Crew All-Stars. Movement Self Destruction KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, D-Nice, 6. Gang West Coast All Stars MC Lyte, Public Enemy and others We’re All In The Same came together to fight against Black King Tee, NWA, MC Hammer, on Black crime. Digital Underground, Ice-T and several other West Coast stars came 1. Slick Rick Hey Young World together to try and stop the gang Great inspirational song for our youth violence that plagued the West Coast with wisdom and life lessons included. in the nineties.

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9 Socially Conscious Hip-Hop Songs That Helped Define the ‘90s

‘Fight the Power’

‘Ladies First’

Named one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll as well as being chosen as one of Time magazine’s all-time 100 songs, Fight the Power was more than a catchphrase. It served as a revolutionary anthem that examined the modern-day political agenda, encouraged freedom of speech and took a bold stance against the abuse of [law enforcement] power. It was also the theme song for director Spike Lee’s classic movie Do the Right Thing.

Known as the feminist hip-hop anthem, Ladies First encompassed a sense of Afrocentric pride. Rappers Queen Latifah and Monie Love not only promoted women’s equality but set an unprecedented example for female empowerment in support of each another.

‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ Lauryn Hill provided a precautionary tale for both men and women to take heed of false hypocrisies many of us will encounter throughout life’s journey. Her flawless storytelling promoted the value of maintaining a sense of self-respect instead of young girls selling “their souls because it’s in.” With a generation obsessed with money, sex, fame and material possessions, Hill assured us these things will not fulfill the void from within. Which is why it’s important to watch out for That Thing.

generations to set a positive example for the youth. In order to build wealth and success within our communities, it’s imperative to remain united, well educated and culturally aware. ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’

Salt-N-Pepa used their forum to spearhead topics that were considered taboo during this time in mainstream media. Let’s Talk About Sex, served as ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ a transparent conversation among the masses geared towards the importance With his picturesque lyrics, Tupac of practicing safe sex, strengthening Shakur created more than meets the Black female identity and making eye in his release of Brenda’s Got a Baby. With raw imagery and authentic enlightened decisions when it comes to fulfilling your sexual desires. An alterlyrics, he brings awareness to several nate version of the song would later be issues plaguing the Black community released to openly discuss the epidemthat are often overlooked or greatly ignored in mainstream media, such as ic of AIDS and HIV, titled Let’s Talk About AIDS. teen pregnancy, single motherhood, drug abuse and prostitution. ‘Teach the Children’ An ode to youth empowerment and social activism, Eric B. and Rakim speak to the pre-existing conditions of drugs, discrimination, crime and high unemployment rates lingering within the communities of the inner city. As a result, their message encouraged older June 2016


Complex Magazine Creative Creation  
Complex Magazine Creative Creation