In: Essays

Loss Haunts A Tribe Called Quest’s First Album in 18 Years
November 29, 2016

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — On March 22, at 3 a.m., Q-Tip and Phife Dawg were on the phone. The two rappers…

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No Such Place As Post-Racial America: New York Times (2011)
August 6, 2016

Dear America, Please, I beg you, stop using the bankrupt and meaningless term “post-racial!” There’s no such thing as “post-racial.” There’s…

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How Hiphop Was Shaped By the Drug War: Washington Post (2012)
August 6, 2016

If you’re wondering why hip-hop has often been angry, sneering, nihilistic and dystopic, you can blame the war on drugs, and…

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How To Talk To Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin: Time Magazine (2012)
August 6, 2016

Eight talking points about the potentially fatal condition of being black. It’s unlikely but possible that you could get killed today….

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The Legacy of A Tribe Called Quest: New York Times (2016)
August 6, 2016

I GREW up in the suburbs of Boston, where I was the top-ranked singles player on my prep school’s tennis team and…

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I Would Die 4 U. How Prince Became an Icon.
July 2, 2015

The cover of “Dirty Mind,” Prince’s ingenious/ingenuous 1980 exercise in self-reinvention, threw down a rose-scented gauntlet. It featured a black-and-white shot…

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LET me tell you why “Adore” is the central song in the Prince canon. Because in “Adore” you get the commingling of two keys to understanding the man and his music: his sexuality and his spirituality.

In the second verse he paints the picture: “When we be making love / I only hear the sounds / Heavenly angels crying up above / Tears of joy pouring down on us / They know we need each other.” They’re having sex under a sprinkling of angel tears, which are flowing because of the angels’ admiration of their love.

This is the erotic intertwined with the divine. The Judeo-Christian ethic seems to demand that sexuality and spirituality be walled off from each other, but in Prince’s personal cosmology, they were one. Sex to him was part of a spiritual life. The God he worshiped wants us to have passionate and meaningful sex.

Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness?
July 2, 2015

In the age of Obama, racial attitudes have become more complicated and nuanced than ever before. Inspired by a president who…

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