WILLOW: feminist, spiritually-soothing, & mature

Willow’s newest self-titled project dropped on July 19, and it’s gotten tossed around as a “new age trope” and “disappointing.” What those reviewers missed is its calming energies, feminist messaging, and proudly anti-materialistic declarations – a bold step for the daughter of two of society’s wealthiest people to take.

“Like a Bird” is a poem. “Female Energy, Part 2” is a slow, crooning ballad that is entirely too relatable amidst our current political and environmental crises. “I don’t know if I can chill / I need to scream it loud,” she sings. “[H]ow am I to feel? Tell me how,” alludes to the new trend of climate-change-and-political-inaction-related-anxiety.

This project is more mature and staunchly realistic in its statements than ARDIPITHECUS and The 1st. It is primarily written from the perspective of Willow looking outward, whereas much of her past work, including “Cycles”, were more typical pop songs in their self-centered themes. The feminist assertions of “PrettyGirlz” and “Overthinking IT” are not to be overlooked. “Overthinking IT” takes responsibility for changing one’s own perceptions and stereotypes and removing one’s self from anxiety-inducing situations (self-care!): “I got so much work to do… I have so much love to give.” “PrettyGirlz” is my favorite track on the project; it celebrates femininity, bi- and pansexuality, and the attractiveness of intelligence (“Want a girl who knows herself like her favorite book right on the shelf”). Willow contrasts what society wants from girls (hips, Hollywood glamour, perfection, and oodles of straight, styled hair) with more desirable, genuine traits: curls (yay natural hair!), emotions running “amok”, passion, and confidence (“Her planet so bright, can’t see shit”).

The nostalgia of “Time Machine” is powerful and understandable; I’m a 90s kid, but I read and watch and hear about growing up in the 80s and 90s (my husband is eight years older than me) and yearn for that safer, anti-establishment moment. Instead, the cost of living today is so high that my friends don’t have time to get together; we’re working two or three part-time jobs seven days a week; what I wouldn’t give to have time to ride a longboard and “cruise all day.” She also references Basquiat and in “Samo Is Now”, SAMO, the pair of graffiti artists whose artistically-scrawled epigrams challenged conventional thinking and encouraged societal critique.

Her 2015 track “dRuGz” deals with insecurities and spiritual uncertainty. WILLOW demonstrates her newfound confidence using psychedelic imagery, energies, and spiritually-fresh musings: “Ancient secrets on me, on the beach for the week.” This project’s stunning, musically-mature sound and challenging content make it stand out among other 2019 releases.

money & guns: this is america

Gambino’s new video “This is America” is a thoughtfully choreographed masterpiece, evocative, timely, crucial. I was reminded of others’ work, Danez Smith, Claudia Rankine, Michelle Alexander, Jess X Snow, Myles Golden, George Abraham, Toni Morrison, Khalid Abudawas, and I felt that this video is poetry, that it takes audiences on such a stark, emotional journey, and it does so well. This project uses every imaginable aspect to convey violence, corruption, and terror. Each swell, musical style, and rhythm is meant to bolster the content of the lyrics and visuals.

The very first glimpse we have of Gambino is when he comes into view from behind a beam: taking us by surprise. Before the first sound loop changes into the next section of the song, we see him pull a gun out and execute the guitarist, terrorist / POW-style right after grooving to the intro, aka in the middle of ordinary activities.

After the commentary indicative of a Black Lives Matter / cultural truth “we just wanna party”, the chorus dives into critiques of guns, police, and the divide between people of color (particularly dark-skinned Americans) and inner city police forces (“Don’t catch you slipping up” and “guerilla”).

His main entourage or co-stars in the video are young; including young dancers is a beautiful statement and nod to those learning and dancing young, particularly to those youth of color in inner cities (the school uniform aesthetic) who dance for fun; it also serves, as culture and roots remind us, as an homage to inner city youth of days past.

Obviously one of the most fucked up and therefore powerful images in the video is when he slays the church choir. But the very way the scene is set up is also a powerful statement; Gambino slips in a side door unnoticed, meaning we as the audience probably didn’t even notice the door until he came in, since we were so focused on watching the choir perform. He acts at home, dances, smiles, laughs, freezes, turns, catches an assault rifle, and guns down the choir. During my first time watching the video, I said to my husband, “I almost had to expect that after the first guy he killed.” That in itself is part of the statement. How often do we just feel numb to the news of another mass shooting, another school shooting, another person with access to a gun who had never passed a background check, another bucket in the ocean of reasons assault rifles should not be manufactured for civilian sale. Another instance of Conservative gunowners possessing more rights than victims of gun violence.

The next scene depicts police and violence against individuals dressed in street clothes, hoodies, loose pants, etc. During the middle of this scene, Gambino jumps on beat and makes eye contact with the camera while singing, “Whoo, whoo!” He jumps playfully, sings goodnaturedly, as though the officers are a joke. As though the scene is a joke. Because how Black men are treated in this country by the police SHOULD BE A JOKE. But it isn’t. This irony packs a punch.

He dances again with the group of young people. He plays it off. It’s not ‘serious’; it’s normal for these kids to be dancing in the middle of chaos with the police; their neighborhoods are overpoliced and underserved. This generation is growing up when Black Lives Matter and social media and everyday life in their communities teaches them that this combative existence against the police is normal.

The lyrics during this section focus on a materialistic critique, a critique about caring about superficial things (“geekin out”; “fitted”; “Gucci”; “so pretty”). Then, the content moves in on a critique of guns and international weapons trafficking (“contraband”; “the plug in Oaxaca” (a city in Mexico); “blocka”). You’ll notice also that as the camera pans over some kids sitting on a balcony / second floor of the building, one kid is recording everything on a phone; this serves to critique the normalization of recording violence. I’m sure others who teach or are around teens can attest to this prominent habit of theirs today. When I was in high school six years ago, only a few (and I’ll be rude and call them shitty) of my peers recorded fights instead of getting help or trying to intervene. Now, I see my teen students pull up videos of fights or show off footage they recorded almost daily. They don’t seem to mind the wrongness of laughing at and celebrating violence; they’ve been desensitized. Inner city violence is multi-faceted and has a long history that can be traced directly to racism, segregation, poverty, systemic discrimination, intentional drug ferrying, redlining, gentrification, and on and on. But none of this okays the celebration of violence.

Gambino pauses in the next moments, and the music stops. He lights a joint. Casually. Pointedly. Again, a critique. Others of us light up to escape, to ignore, to waste time and not improve the problems laid out in the video.

I know there are so many things that have escaped my notice or that I can’t catch as references or significant because I lack the knowledge. One of these is the significance of all the parked, abandoned, hazards-flashing cars. I notice a young woman perched on one car’s bumper who seems to blow a kiss as the camera pans out.

The song shifts again, a second moment where we expected the song to be over, yet it continued. Point being, yes, these problems, that’s just it, they keep going. There are that many of them. They remain unsolved, placed on America’s back burner.

The final section of the song sounds like an outro or like background music in a slow-mo or timelapse portion of a movie. The part of the movie that isn’t content persay but filler. The scenes that help you understand the transition or the passing of time. The story being depicted here is Gambino running, terrified, from the police. But this is just something that happens. It’s just filler, just time passing. Right?

The conversation continues in the words of many other, wiser writers and people. Individuals on my Facebook timeline have pointed out references to Fela Kuti and New Jack City. I’m not pretending to be an expert by any means, but I’ve been a fan of Gambino’s for years, and this new video is fucking powerful. Thanks for reading. What do you think of what I unraveled? What did I misinterpret or miss altogether?

And may the universe bless Donald Glover.


Featured image credit: Highsnobiety & Donald Glover

poetry as spiritual practice & homage: interview with Dominique Christina

Kelsey May | September 24th, 2017

Dominique Christina: poet, champion of slams, acclaimed performer, author of two books (including the first and so far only poetry collection my husband has read in its entirety – high praise indeed). I first saw Dominique perform at the Split This Rock poetry conference in 2016. During her performance, I became convinced that the best spoken word poetry is page poetry, literary poetry. Dominique blended words, alliterations, alchemed magic on the stage, and the audience was enraptured; I know I wasn’t the only person with tears streaming down their face while listening to Dominique detail the terrified escape of a slave across the historic Mason-Dixie line.

Thank you, Dominique, for doing this interview with me! How long have you been writing?

​I started writing poetry when I was 22 and in a Creative Writing class in undergrad. That course changed the trajectory of my life. I was forced into a kind of honesty that I didn’t think was available to me. But it was, and once I engaged it, I never looked back. It still took me more than ten years after that to read anything out loud, but it was miraculous for me.

[Since then], I have tried to be a more deliberate writer. I am an accidental poet but not an unintentional one. I am an elegiac poet. I write about those who have died. I feel a responsibility to them… to a great many people. When I first started writing, it was largely autobiographical. And it still is, but there has been a shift in consciousness for me. I am interested [now] in re-fleshing the bones of others.

dominique christina 2

How do you blend performance poetry and page poetry?

Whatever is excavated from me is excavated, and I make a spur of the moment decision about what I share out loud and what I do not. But I recognize that language is urgent, and it deserves an appropriate reckoning. [I give it] the weight it deserves.

Poems like “I tell her about Jasper Texas” are difficult to read, painful to digest. They’re well-written and convincing enough that I find myself picturing a scene I don’t want to picture. Could you comment on the process of writing this piece and others like it?

​There is a nagging in my spirit, in terms of these elegiac poems specifically, but also poems that are largely social commentary; there is a nagging in my spirit that I can’t quiet down. So I wait. I wait on the words to come, and they always do. It feels ancestral. I believe it is ancestral. It’s like falling into the deep. I don’t know if I will hit the bottom. I don’t know if there will be arms to catch me. I don’t know the destination. I just know something in my consciousness needs room to move, so I give it room.

the bones the breaking the balm.jpg

One of my favorite lines from your debut collection, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm, is “make me wanna curse my own sugar” from “The Shug Avery Mimicry”. How have you dealt with people who don’t support you?

​I don’t pay attention to detractors too much. I don’t hold court with them, and I don’t give them relevance. I really mean that – so much so that it is literally erased from my consciousness. I have had to fight to name myself, and I have had to mean my life all my life so I am predisposed to self-resilience. It’s second nature. I don’t expect things to be easy, but I do expect to be victorious. I refuse to hate any part of myself. I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to be silent, and I will never apologize for any of it. ​

One area we document and celebrate at Hyype is natural beauty, self-esteem, and confidence. We LOVE your naturally beautiful self, especially your hair and fashion.

​I wear my hair the way it comes out of my head. I love my hair. I don’t need coaching around that, but I recognize that many of us do need ​it, and I know why that need exists. I think the natural hair movement is as much about challenging standards of beauty as it is about deep affirmation that we are enough and have always been enough.

dominique christina

Hell yeah. Thank you for the many ways you empower others. What do you consider a highlight from audience and reader reaction to your work?

I am always deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear how the work resonates with others. I am doubled over in gratitude for those who have told me that my work permissioned them to heal. That’s a hallelujah every time. ​

​What are you working on now?

​All the things. Branding for Under Armour. Writing for HBO. Traveling. Touring with my sister Rachel McKibbens as Mother Tongue Poetry. Finishing volumes of poetry. Working on an a mixed media art exhibit​ called The Ruined Woman. All the things.

​Mixed media? That sounds promising. I look forward to seeing what you create! What else is important in your life? I believe you’re a mother. How do you balance your writing career with other aspects of life? 

​I don’t know how I do it. It’s a magic act. But I have a very supportive family. They want me to be in the service of my gifts. I am met with no resistance on that front. Everybody stands back to let me get my crazy done. I’m lucky. ​


Interview edited for grammar and clarity. Photo credit: DominiqueChristina.com.

the meaning is in the making

Kelsey May | September 24th, 2017

One question I’m asked from time to time is what the meaning of life is without a belief in an afterlife. For the first two or three years after shaking my Christian beliefs, I struggled to answer this question. What was the purpose of life if it’s finite? How do our actions have any “real consequences”?

First, let’s recall that even Christians have to find their purpose. Simply believing in a greater plan doesn’t offer direction for day-to-day decisions, career paths, or relationships. Christians, like everyone, make choices.

The main thing stopping me from embracing a self-made, meaningful life a few years ago was that it didn’t seem to be significant enough. Where was the glory in living for only 70 or 80 years? If I was no longer serving the creator of the universe, what was the point in living? I struggled to feel important or value the beautiful life I have.

IMG_20170706_203104_063

What I learned to do, slowly, through advice from NPR podcasts, New Yorker essays, and my all-time favorite book, The Art of Happiness by Howard C. Cutler (featuring interviews with the Dailai Lama), was to trust that life itself is worth living for. No, I don’t believe a celestial, interventionist being exists, but I do believe in the sanctity of life, the nobleness of serving others, the lasting legacy that comes from impacting the world and creating a better tomorrow. I strive to inspire, encourage, and love others. I find joy in solitude and in company. I’ve learned to feel contentment, joy, gratitude, and satisfaction in all areas of life: in conversations with co-workers and in sunsets, in the gorgeous global community of progressive poets and writers, in frozen yogurt dates with my husband, in walking dogs and birdwatching.

IMG_20170727_195442_500

There are so many things to love about being alive. I’m sure you could begin listing some of your reasons now, if you took a few minutes to open your heart to gratitude. I make meaning for my life every time I choose to embrace my life and my amazing freedoms. I can wear clothes that are gorgeous, stylish, vintage, that fit my body perfectly, that make me want to dance. I can kiss my husband and lean into gratitude for his being in my life. I can write an essay about why everyone needs to work together to break down accessibility barriers in our society and communities. I can attend a concert where Damon Albarn implores the several thousand in attendance to love each other, really through-thick-and-thin love and respect and build up each other.

I’m able to do these things because I have been blessed beyond measure by the sacrifices – historic and present – of so many people. I’m blessed by the creativity of others, by the power of medicine to heal and eradicate major threats to my health. I’m blessed to live in a country that, despite our horrendous current administration, still allows me to live with rights and autonomy. I’m blessed to become whoever I want to be.

Nothing about life is perfect; I have my hard days, sometimes weeks. This article isn’t attempting to explain grief or loss or my struggle with anxiety and suicidal thoughts. But goddammit, I’m trying to be alive; I’m striving to create a more intelligent, accepting, uplifting, equitable world. My life’s purpose is grand and simultaneously so small: I live to be alive and to make my life and others’ lives more worthwhile. I live to plant trees and take photos and make art and read books. I live to teach about sustainability and to correct injustice. I live to convince others that wealth should be shared among everyone. We should all be living for each other; we should all be giving each other reasons to live, to create, to laugh and sing and celebrate. We should remember that we are each others’ meaning – family, friends, children, communities. Those who love to travel and those who wish to do so someday should remember that we need each other to carry on our rich, diverse traditions. We need each other to share knowledge and create a socially-minded world.

IMG_20170707_203342_468

There is so much glory in living for yourself and for others. Positivity and love are always worthwhile. In questioning the purpose of my life, I limited my ability to see how beautiful life is already. Now, after choosing instead to embrace the finite (and unknown) amount of time I have in this world, I’ve embraced a new level of spiritual awakening and satisfaction; I feel fully alive, fully myself. I feel connected to others in a profound new way; I need others, just as others need me. In writing this article, I’m reminded of the powerful and elegant portrayal of Babe’s character in the amazing show Grace and Frankie. Babe, who has terminal cancer, accepts her impending death, not with fear or resignation, but with gratitude. She has lived a full life; she traveled, she made many friends, ate delicious food, meditated, collected beautiful works of art and clothing. She learned so much about the world and about others, and the connections she made imbued her spirit with a wealth beyond material possessions. She chose to live – and die – with a boldness, a certainty that I envy.

I’m so glad I realized why I’m here. I’m so glad I started to become conscious and present as the main character in my own story. Who’s the main character in yours?

short poems

Beautiful and Broken

by J. A. Anderson 

The most

Beautiful art

Comes from the

Most broken

Minds

 

Stories Never Die

by J. A. Anderson

The smell of

Pages aged by

Time

The binding

Broken by

A hundred hands

The title

Almost unreadable now

So faded,

But not gone

And yet the

Stories never

Die

 
Dad’s Shoes

by J. A. Anderson

when i was little

i used to wear

dad’s shoes

and stomp around all day

but Now

I only stare at his

Military boots

And cry over the

Only thing

Left of him

 

 

More Poetry at “always anxious, sometimes brave.” and “A Handful of Roses.”

I cut off twelve inches of my hair. The Art Form of Self-Expression.

My hair was over a foot long. So for my birthday, on July 13, I decided to have it cut.

All together, they cut off about four feet of hair which I plan on donating to a program called Wigs For Kids (linked below.) I’ve donated my hair three times now and will continue to do so as long as my hair grows.

My hair now hangs a little longer than chin-length and I’ve never felt so confident and empowered from a haircut. Maybe it’s the wave in it. Maybe the length. Maybe because it makes me look a little older. But I feel ready to take on the world.

I also like feeling a little rebellious. My hair is short and dyed a blue-green color, which is not very “feminine.” Girls are supposed to have long, natural hair, right? Nowadays, it has become more normal for people to have different haircuts. Pixie cuts, shaved heads, long hair and everything in between. But still, it’s fun to be a little rebellious now and then.

And then I dyed it blue with real hair dye. Not Kool-Aid, which I have also done. I love it so much. Not just because it looks cool or because it’s fun, but because it’s self-expression. Everything you do is an art form, it’s self-expression. Have fun with it!

Speaking of self-expression, I really do think it’s an art form. How you dress, how you do your makeup or if you choose not to. How you act. The things you love. The way your hair is styled. It’s art 1. I think it’s so beautiful that people like to present themselves in different ways that they think is beautiful to them.

If you are looking for some sort of change, get a fun haircut. It’s empowering and fun. It makes you feel good.

Do you have a lot of hair? You should try donating. Wigs For Kids is linked here.

Is your hair dyed? Do you have a cool haircut or just got one? Let us know in the comments!!!

art1
ärt/
noun
  1. 1.
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Choose Happiness

While talking to a few of my friends one night, an interesting topic came up. Happiness. My friend said he was going to be a lawyer and I asked him if he wanted to be a lawyer. He said, “It isn’t about want.”

After a little bit more talking, he explained that he could be rich and retire early, give his kids an easy life. He said he didn’t have a problem with it, he didn’t see a problem. He also didn’t see how happiness and enjoyment came into the equation.

So I started to think about how so many people choose to do something for money. And yes, having money is helpful. Especially in this new up and coming world, where everything cost ten-times-more.

But whatever happened to happiness?

Nowadays, everything is all about working, being “successful” and following the crowd. But that isn’t happiness. So what do you think?

Happiness or success?

Why not both? Find something you love and turn it into a career. Do what you love because one day, you might regret only working for money while not being happy.

Nature Is My First Love

Nature is my first love

The sun has a golden touch

But the moon

Can whisper the sweetest love letters

The tallest trees

Have the most beautiful voices

But the grass whispers

The secret of life to the wind 

Snowflakes kiss

My eyelashes

And fill me with hope

But the rain

Caresses my skin and

Washes away my fears

The stars

Wink at me

From across the skies

But the smooth rocks

Along tide-washed shores

Beg to be held

And while I can never

Truly be with the moon

Or the rain

Or the smoothest of stones

I can still dream of them

Because nature is my first love

-by Jamie Anderson

***Do not forget about the Wattpad Contest, ending tomorrow! Click here!!!