Lyrical Journal, Vibe Journal, words

Notes From TwentySeventeen

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It’s 2017, and the Obama Years are over. The luxury many Americans felt in the previous administration vanished, and has now been replaced with crippling anxiety and despair. The gravity that once held this country together, has collapsed into a blackhole called Amerikkka.

Nationalism is spreading globally, sweeping a number of important national elections to the far right. Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. The systemic powers that have ceaselessly worked against minorities and against progression, have traded their hoods for red Make America Great Again hats.

[Kodak Black portrays the current racial tensions surrounding the political climate.]

All the while in this very odd year, the woke culture gains momentum. People from all walks of life and all ages are getting involved in political matters, galvanized by the troubling times. Young public school students are speaking up about the Secretary of Education nominee, and citizens are engaging in online exchanges about what they believe the national budget should look like.

I turned 22-years-old at the beginning of these divided times. On my birthday, I mused on what it means to be young gifted and Black in 2017, and found three goals of utmost importance in this definition: understanding the intersectionality of all minority struggles, spreading Black Girl Magic, and fighting for the liberation of Black people.

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One way I know how to achieve these goals is by re-learning the history of my people, as told by Black historians and scholars. History books paint slavery as The Big Bang of Black people, and celebrate only a few heroes that fought for our cause. In reality, there were many names and organizations that paved the path for Black Liberation, such as the National League of Colored Women and other Black women’s club movement of the late 19th century.

In Angela Davis’ Women Race & Class, she gives depth to accomplished pioneers, such as Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells, who faced the hurdle of Antebellum America to establish political capital for Black women. She also gives breath to the many female Communist agitators, such as Lucy Parsons and Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor, who fought against racist and patriarchal ideals for an equal standing in society.

Another way I know to reach these goals, is by preserving the culture and uplifting stories/names that have been left in the dark. I recently attended a discussion held by the California African American Museum titled #BLACKGIRLSMATTER that focused on the 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins. I was moved to tears when Latasha’s aunt spoke of the family’s struggle for justice. The panelists, who included professors, organizers, and two members of Black Lives Matter, inquired on a number of the details that influence the fate of black girls in America. Lack of representation in the media, the devaluing of Black labor, and misunderstanding the fullness of humanity in any all contribute to black girls experiencing the double-edged sword of a racist patriarchal society.

I’m doing more and more to get involved in fighting the resistance against our conservative government. Much like the Tea Party, The Indivisible Project has directed me with ways to communicate with my local representatives and other local organizations that can bring about real influential change. Last year I placed a heavy amount of importance on making money and building my career, this year however, the risks are too high to be selfish and not take a stand against the injustices introduced by this Administration.

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2016 felt rotten from the inside out. This year, I hope our new collective outlook on our government persuades a real underlying change in the way we shape ourselves. I know that the odds are against me. I know how lucky I am to see another revolution around the sun.

-Tyler

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Vibe Journal, words

Coastal Behaviours

Aww sookie sookie now, here comes a heat wave. Summer solstice turned the world over on its hot back. California is melting, sinking, and burning all at once, and I’ve never felt better. Ditch the beach body stigma and throw on a pair of rose-tinted sunnies. The only rule to summer is to play fairly and let it out (let it alllll hang out). Don’t have air-conditioning and looking for a way to survive?

Play this mixtape:


Cast these music videos:

You know you dat bitch when you cause all dis conversation. Thank you Beyonce for showing us how black excellence can be portrayed without inherent sexism and how major label pop artists can use their fame as a vehicle for social protest.

I’m so stoked to see these Chicago natives rock out The Echoplex this Friday 6/24!!! Twin Peaks’ new album, Down In Heaven, is a summer surf anthem with a slew of up and down bangers. Ne-Hi is opening for them so get ready for a geeked up review.

Chance the Rapper’s new mixtape Coloring Book, is by far the most admirable album of 2016. His ability to balance mainstream and underground loyalty, while pushing forward with a modern-aged distrust of major-label edge, is both stunning and incomparable. This single in particular reveals Chance’s poetic ascension to one of rap’s greats.

Bear Salon—née Ghetto Bears—is a Boston-based band of five Berklee’s College of Music students, who are also five of my dearest college friends and sweethearts. This is one of their most sincere ballads, and it’ll probably never stop swimming into my ears. (If you’re vibing def go follow them on Bandcamp and petition them to release their album).

I knew I was going to be blown away by this performance when I read the rumors of Rihanna getting vocal lessons just to hit these notes. Drawing on the emotional triumph and yearning detailed in this tenderly expressed song, it manages to defy the narrow stream of poppy or clubby material, overall heightening her artistry.

Surf internet art and feel the feels:

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“Love” by Frank Viva for the (6/20) New Yorker magazine cover

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Arthur Ferrier, 1928

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Edward Hopper, Summer Evening, 1947

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Traci Lords in Cry-Baby hissing at a basic bitch

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Groovy 60s prints for technicolor inspo

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To the popsicles and corn dogs and sweaty bras and flip flops and bucket hats and rose-tinted sunglasses and 9pm sunsets of summer eves.

—Tyler

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Hot Fun

End of the spring and here she comes back…

 

“Don’t stay lost for too long,” was the first piece of advice from my Grandma after my college graduation. She pursed her dark lips and poked her heavy Southern hands into my shoulder. Her eyes, deep and wide as the Delta,  burned the fear into my skull.

Well, it’s been a year since Grandma’s forewarning, and unless you have a full-time offer for a position in your field immediately after college, getting lost is inevitable. Instead of running off to Europe [like the literal lost she was referring to], I got lost in Los Angeles and made it my home again. I found a part-time job at a cupcake bakery, and searched for myself in books and television shows. The months breezed by like spring, and I relinquished much of my writing to scribbles in personal journals, and letting my creative inhibitions surmount my passion.

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Gen X hearthrob Ethan Hawke in “Reality Bites”

However, when the world turned for summer, a newfound confidence glittered on the horizon. I now find myself in awe of myself, my strengths, and the weaknesses I’m still overcoming. It’s been a slow and undulating process of landing in the murky banks of adulthood, and now that I am here, I finally feel at peace with the little personalities in my creative control room. Thus, beginning a new chapter of this blog.

Much of this transition has to do with locating myself on a spectrum of empowering art movements. My womanhood is currently experiencing a tectonic shift of perspective, as I read through Angela Davis’s incredible book on Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Like many of the newly freed black women in the postslavery era whom the blues were addressed to, I’m finding my cultural identity in a shared female collective consciousness.

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Gertrude “Ma” Rainey

Davis uses the artistry, performances, and recordings of songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday to show how black women elevated themselves to be proud, assertive, and independent, while protesting themes like male dominance and a racialized and gendered social structure. The way Davis articulates the authority of these oft overlooked women of the blues is so empowering it draws on the sweep of modern feminine movements. The blueswomen and jazz lady she highlights, are the Beyonces of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s (respectively).

Also, this is all coming to me at a time when black artists like Kanye West and Beyonce are shaping our generation’s consciousness. Instagram queens like Rihanna, Zendaya, sensitiveblackpersonAmandla Stenberg, and Beyonce encapsulate the black woman’s crusade to preside over modern media. With projects as famous as “Lemonade” or as focused as the Art Hoe Collective strengthening the demand to be heard and taken seriously, there is so much raw inspiration in the beauty of the black woman.

Say, I wished I had me a heaven of my own

Say, I wished I had me a heaven of my own

I’d give all those poor girls a long old happy home

(lyrics from Bessie Smith’s Work House Blues)

And the drag of summer heat gives way to these goddamn sunsets. Life in LA can seem like a series of traffic patterns and Curb Your Enthusiasm skits, and yet, the world spins madly on. The important thing is to soak in the sweet stuff every now and then, roll down the windows, and smell the magnolias.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo by Michael Kagan

–Tyler

 

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Vibe Journal

FIDLAR Ain’t “Too” Original

FIDLAR’s new album “Too” tastes like a chorizo burrito: it grumbles in my stomach and strikes my chest with heartburn. The LA band’s sophomore LP emphasizes their knack for producing punk-pop anthems (i.e. Wake, Bake, Skate), only this time around, “Too” groans like a fuckboy with a recently developed conscious.

It tells the tale of lead singer Zac Carper battling his addictions and gnawing his way to sobriety. Instead of “Too” being an exultation of life, Carper’s narrative hurts in many places where the feels thrash the most. Overall, it’s pretty damn tasty.

Even Ross agrees, and we all know he’s burdened with some inner guilt.

Nibble by nibble, track by track, “Too” is laced with the desperate expression of surmounting society’s pressures by getting fucked up. The entire album displays an overarching theme of the plight of the [white] man of constant sorrow. Sung in the same key as old country music, it reveals the troubled facets of life that also come with the freedoms of maturing into the [oversimplified] American male, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, general feeling of not belonging—features all capsuled in the hit single, “40oz on Repeat.” We’ve heard songs like these dozens of times whining over the course of American music.

To outline the (not-so) strange comparison, I juxtaposed my top five tracks off of the album with five notorious country songs from the early 20th century.


  1. 40oz on Repeat x There Stands the Glass ­– Webb Pierce

And I don’t care at all, I’ll drink some alcohol

It’ll make me who I really wanna be

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Fill it up to the brim

Till my troubles grow dim

This album opener defines the nu punk pop rhythm of the entire album. It draws on an isolated emotional turmoil within the subject’s own insight. Webb Pierce’s desperate song, “There Stands the Glass” because these two songs the theme of vices eliminating reality’s strife. The only difference? It’s Webb Pierce’s first one today.

  1. West Coast x Ramblin’ Round ­– Woody Guthrie

I should try and get a life

But I don’t want that 9 to 5

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I wish that I could marry, so I could settle down

But I can’t save a penny

As I go a rambling’ round, boys

FIDLAR is no folk legend like Woody Guthrie, but the two songs embrace the theme of the rambling lifestyle so oft explored in American folklore. Set in the West Coast, both songs feature a subject giving in to his temptations enough to make a mother’s knees sore from prayer. Both subjects are equally as likely to end up passed out in an Oregon gutter.

  1. Why Generation x Big Rock Candy Mountain – Haywire Mac

And all the kids all the kids wanna know

Where do I belong where do I go

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I’m headin for a land that’s far away beside the crystal fountain/

So come with me, we’ll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

While FIDLAR’s Gen-Y cry questions the motives of the “adult world” in the modern century landscape, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” provides an answer explored by both main subjects as they hike into a world of escape and euphoria: alcohol. The young-spirited hobo of the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” never lived in the scrutiny of social media, like FIDLAR’s Gen Y subject, however, each subject shares the despair of being outside of mainstream society.

  1. Sober x You Drink Too Much ­– State Street Swingers

And why do I have to figure out why I’m like this

And still treat you like a princess?

But what about me?

I’m a fucking princess too

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I give you money to pay a bill

You come home smelling like a liquor still

I know, I know. I stretched the umbrella of vintage country music to encompass this Prohibition-era swing tune. The draw between the two songs, over 40 years age-difference, paints the classic portrait of man and wife quarreling over the man’s supposed duty to provide for his family, and the pressures that ensue this obligation to society.

  1. Stupid Decisions x Lonely Blue Boy – Conway Twitty

I didn’t talk enough

And I took too many drugs

And I drank too much

VS

My life has been empty

My heart has been torn

It must have been raining the night I was born

In my final comparison, I used these two tracks to highlight the album’s generic feeling of hopelessness found in the depths of regret. These songs both effectively strike a chord that reverberates the doubt of man’s burden to make something out of himself. Whereas Conway Twitty’s subject feels as if he was doomed from the start, it was the [stupid] decisions that FIDLAR’s character led astray. This play details an argument between predetermined fate and free will, and which has the power to cause a man to succeed or fail in his life.


I like chorizo and I like FIDLAR. I like country music and I like alcohol too. But after countless recordings of countless drunken ballads—and after Sublime laid the 40oz theme to rest in the 1990s—it’s time for the fuckboy-meisters to refresh their material.

For more comparisons of FIDLAR’s “Too” and other favorite country songs, press play and follow this playlist.

– TB

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Ode to the Nest

Along the long and narrow Bay State Road of Boston’s Back Bay, lies an antique abode I had the pleasure of calling home my senior year. It was a whimsical apartment, converted from the old servant’s quarters into Boston University student lodgings. It had one rectangular bedroom, one recently furbished bathroom, and one one-counter kitchen. The space from the kitchen poured into the brick-lined living room, where the day’s glow soaked through the oak-paneled windows. We called it the Nest.

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It had howling windows and hissing radiators that broiled the place during the frigid New England winter. The walls crumbled brick dust at the jolt of a breeze. Yet, with all of its idiosyncrasies making it seem like it lived with me more than I lived with it, the Nest was the first place I ever made a home.

Anyone that has ever climbed the windy flight up to the fourth floor will tell you how cozy the thick blue carpet felt underneath your feet. Anyone that has ever followed me out onto the roof will know the serendipity of the frozen Charles River.

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Student dormitories rarely create spaces of actual sanctuary. All too often, they drown the air with flat fluorescents and cinderblock trappings. After spending my very first winter (yes, I’m one of those Southern Californians) snowed inside the claustrophobia of my square foot dorm room in Warren Towers, I spent the next two years at college adapting my on-campus student housing into my off-campus oasis.

When it came to decorating the Nest, lighting was the most important aspect of generating warm vibrations. My roommate, Tamara, and I hung strings of white Christmas lights around the top of the square living room, and let them droop in the windowpanes. We used the leftover Christmas lights to pin an outlined “T” against the brick, a symbol of our shared initials. The theme fit well into the Nest even after Tamara went abroad, and my dear friend Tori moved in. The lighting scheme completed itself when Tamara discovered a grandma lamp on Craigslist for $10, and it emitted this touching light:

The golden lamp

The golden lamp

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Tamara Boyle & I’s craftwork

The most obvious aspect of me effectively personalizing my on-campus apartment, was hanging personal mementos. I taped flowers to the walls with angsty Brandy Melville stickers and they decomposed with their petals intact. On the two opposing wooden pillars that introduced the living room, the nest of the Nest, I pasted postcards I’ve collected over the years. I placed seashells on loose nails poking out of the brick. Paying close attention to the details on the walls—instead of slapping a tapestry over it—gave the Nest the breath of life. And that’s what made it feel like home.

Outside of the Nest, the large roof deck faced north. The calm river flowed by and the street changed along with the seasons, as if she kept changing her hair. We recognized that going on the roof was against BU policy—but the door from our room never made a sound. (This came to bite me in the ass at the end of the semester, when residence life fixed the alarm.) When the weather was fair and there lacked a 10-foot pile of snow on the deck, friends frequented the roof for fresh air, convivial conversations and the last ripples of sunset. It was a magical setting.
Autumn

Autumn

Winter

Winter

The Nest roused with animation every night after 2am, just as I’d be staring at my screen and tapping away at a column. The pipes underneath the radiators clinked ferociously, almost jumping from their valves. A crop of critters crept from the brick dust with 10 legs and purple ooze (when squashed). The fabric Doors poster wafted in a still breeze and after a chorus of ghastly sighs, the Nest would take a deep breath, and lull me right to sleep.
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On the Roof Portrait

For more related sounds, follow my Nestward playlist.
–TB
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Getting Lost in the White Mountains

MT MOOSILAUKE, NEW HAMPSHIRE [7/25/2015]

The mountain breathed and pulsated like a planet. Hovering and stirring all sorts of trouble with the atmosphere: cultivating tufts of clouds that generated thick energy. It veiled us in the crisp air of its beauty. I felt like an astronaut. The pull of the path beguiled us from the reality that we were completely lost.

We were supposed to be hiking up the mountain, 4, 200 ft up exactly. Instead, we ended up hiking 6 miles into the dense woods of the valley—around the mountain. We missed the trailhead and still arrived at our destination: a road hella less traveled.

It all started from the main path. The main path—a brisk patch—stretches wide enough for construction trucks and all eager-spirited travellers. The main path—hotter, buggier—becomes completely covered in a mass birch tree grave. We trudge through the rotten path. The fallen trees snap with every twig-cracking step for a mile.

Another hour floated by as the path greened again. According to a hiker we consulted at the gate of the path, a sign for our trailhead sat a mile from the start. We never saw the sign for Mount Moosilauke until our “descent” from the woods. It was facing the opposite direction, tucked in the brush.

We became encapsulated in the birches and moss. Breathing felt like drinking water from a fresh stream; the immense look to the left or right had the spatiality of an intimate room. We kept our heads low, jumping in each other’s footing, not questioning (at least aloud) the flat path onto the mountain. The air unclogged the thick Allston humidity from my lungs. A deep breath was a head dive. After crossing our first brook I put the camera away, embracing being alone in my head.

I thought about never climbing a mountain before—and how Mount Moosilauke wasn’t going to be my first.

I thought about how mountains are like humidifiers for the Earth.

I thought about my grandmother and if she was thinking of me.

I thought about being a college graduate and the supposed immediacy of future.

An hour passed before I landed back on earth [and out of my cranium]. We all loudly agreed that we were most definitely not on the mountain. Our flash of humility deepened when we ran into the hikers we spoke with back at the main path. They pulled out their pocket map and pointed our location.

It’s about 9 hours of a hike up to the mountain from where we are, he told us. I’m sure you didn’t pack enough food. My advice would be to just turn around and walk back to the main road.

He spooked us. The last thing I desire is to be featured on the Blair Witch Project.

After quiet shrugs, we reversed our tracks into the thick of the woods. We hopped on pebbles over trickier streams and ran our fingertips through the moss. The main path—golden hour green—led us to the company of two hikers and their glowing golden retriever. As the dog led us through the fallen birch trees, the NH natives informed us that it was the destruction of Hurricane Irene. We followed the golden retriever over the birch tree grave. We ignored our bug halos and sauntered back to the car with smiles and bug bites.

For more jams, push play.

–TB

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Patriotically, New England

Dear New England,

Here you have me in my third winter ever. I am 20 years old. I spent my first 17 revolutions around the sun without one single flurry falling from the sky. Yes, I am one of those West Coast transplants prone to complaining about the crummy weather. But in this moment, wrapped in your nor’easter blanket, I come as a child of your capital in cheers of the Superbowl victory.

Nonetheless, you might be disappointed to hear that I almost missed the game. After a weekend-stupor of friends on fuzzy couches and funny conversations, I didn’t feel like watching football was the way to wrap up my first quiet Sunday evening. I was in a thick robe after a bubble bath. The brittle and bitter outdoors seemed far removed from the hiss of my radiators. I couldn’t leave my apartment. But the stakes were too high for me to slump since it was the Patriots in a controversial pit against Seattle’s Seahawks. I called Kristie to hear the status of our friend of a friend’s Superbowl party.

(She isn’t going—it’s 10 degrees with a blizzard on the way.) Not only was my Colombian-born friend disillusioned by the thought of diving headfirst into the tundra, she was also disillusioned at the championship itself.

“Babe,” she reproached, “you really want to watch football?”

“Well…yeah,” I said with little conviction. “It’s like the World Cup of American football, and our city’s going to the championship!”

For the first time in my life I stood up for a sports team—even if it was in the flattest of tone—my pride slipped off my tongue and dripped in your favor. I wanted the Pats to win. I just had to see how good your boys played out on the field.

The B line to Boston College is crowded with Patriots fan returning home after the game. Commonwealth Ave, and Blandford St.

The B line to Boston College is crowded with Patriots fan returning home after the game. Commonwealth Ave, and Blandford St.

“People are spilling out of the bars and drinking rounds of pitchers and screaming everywhere Kristie! We should watch the game.” I couldn’t find the common language between us to evoke the emotional toll this game had on Boston’s very fabric. There was no hope with the Colombian.

After a quick assessment of my Superbowl situation, I was charged with the motivation to finally escape my robe. The game was starting soon and I was still alone in my cozy apartment. I remembered the loose plans that dangled with two other friends to watch the Superbowl without a location or a mission planned. I reviewed my possessions: No beer, no food.

“Come over and watch the Superbowl?! Brews and dogs!” I texted my two girlfriends. Fifteen minutes they broke through my lie and trudged their way into my living room with Jack Daniels and icy Subway sandwiches.

The cable to my cable was missing an end-piece, and for minutes I wrestled through the right amount of pressure to pick up my reception. When Tom Brady’s chiseled chin graced the frame on my flatscreen HD TV, I knew I had arrived. Still no beer, but I had the whiskey’s tingling sensation and the putrid smell of fast food subs to appetize the entertaining festivities. We swooned over Brady. He was a Michelangelo vision; sweaty and focused for victory like New England’s, “David” warrior. Along with the players, the plays themselves were beautiful executions of a precisely eloquent rhythm. Your boys played good—I didn’t need my boyfriend there to translate how—I just watched some damn good ball. I absorbed the triumph of Malcolm Butler’s winning interception! We won!

Two girls run and scream as they run into another group of friends around us. She wears Tom Brady's winning jersey.

Two girls run and scream as they run into another group of friends around us. She wears Tom Brady’s winning jersey.

The initial excitement from the game intensified when we discovered that school was closed Monday for a snow day. The Pats won and there would be no school. It felt like home.

When I left for college, I traded a golden winter for a frigid whiteout. But after three years of being three hours ahead and fifty degrees below my native temperament, cheering for the Pats in the Superbowl lifted my bicoastal bias. I lulled in the warmth of your hospitable spirit and found solace at the beginning of a blizzard. Or maybe it was the whiskey. Or maybe it’s because I got to see both the Patriots and the Red Sox win the championships. Or…whiskey.

Well—whatever it is that keeps me from a frozen heart, it’s not your nature.

My Superbowl troopers, Lexie & Tori, standing in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue as the Prudential Center glows Patriot colors in the background.

My Superbowl troopers, Lexie & Tori, standing in the middle of Commonwealth Avenue as the Prudential Center glows Patriot colors in the background.

Sincerely,

TB.

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