Bitch Bad, Woman Good, Lady Better Or, Hip Hop Heteronyms

I can rhyme every word of Juicy by Biggie, I took a hip hop class in college where I wrote papers about the Geto Boys’ Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta and the whitewashing of hip hop culture and I can, have and will continue to get into raging arguments who can truly be considered the G.O.A.T. (Hov’ obv’)

Despite this, I don’t consider myself a hip hop head.

Mostly because the hip hop I listen to is equal parts party and bullshit and party and bullshit.

I know that hip hop can be lush and poetic. Lyrical, gritty, eloquent, intellectual and socially-conscious. As someone who loves words, I should devour this stuff. Gorging myself with a half-mad ferocity but for reasons utterly unknown, I don’t.

Instead, I shimmy shimmy ya and gleefully boast that I see some ladies tonight that should be havin’ my baby, baby…

Luckily, I have a litany of people in my life far more plugged in than I am and who have no problem dropping some knowledge.

A couple of months ago, Biffle sent me this video:

I didn’t know much about Lupe Fiasco other than I really liked the track he did with Jill Scott (Daydreamin‘) and The Show Goes On – a gem that based on a Modest Mouse sample but after one listen, I was hooked.

Bitch Bad is a pretty interesting commentary on misogyny in hip hop culture and the double-edged duality of the word ‘bitch.’

(Tangential aside: I Googled ‘Most Misogynistic…’ and it immediately auto-completed to ‘rap songs’ which I feel is slightly unfair.

Yes, the Ying Yang Twinz says some really shitty things about women but you know what, dudes? So does Mick Jagger.

And as utterly repugnant as the words to The Whisper Song are, Under My Thumb is so much worse.

I love the song. I really do. I think it is a great piece of music and when it comes on, I turn it up loud but the lyrics terrify me.

“It’s down to me, oh that’s what I said /The way she talks when she’s spoken to/Down to me/A change has come/She’s under my thumb,”

Kaine and D-Roc are practically vibrating with testosterone-fueled bullshit braggadocio. But Jagger? He genuinely seems to abhor the woman in his life. That is real misogyny, not some pissing contest between two clamheads)

There’s a school of thought that reclaiming a negative word abjures it of its power, thereby empowering the formerly disenfranchised. The grande dames of hip hop like Missy, Nicki and Queen Bitch herself, Lil’ Kim brandish this word like a flaming sword.

Oh, you think I’m a bitch?
No, no, no, honey.
I’m the bitch.
The meanest, the prettiest, the baddest mofo lowdown around this town.
Sho’Nuff.

And there’s the other razor-edge of the scimitar.

Where a bitch isn’t all She-Ra powerful and in total control of herself but rather a conniving harridan who betta’ have your money or a gyrating, semi-naked piece of bubblegum – delicious and disposable.

So, which one is it? The latter? The former?

Personally, I believe it’s both. Words are malleable and intensely personal. A revolutionary can be a freedom fighter or a terrorist depending on which side of the line you’re standing on just as a bitch can be a zenith to which a woman should aspire to or a nadir to which she can sink.

I’m not a fan of the word ‘bitch.’ I never have been. I just feel there are better ways to extol your bad-assery than repossessing venom and spitting it back out with equal rancor. There are just too many good words out there to merely settle on an arrow shot in your direction

And despite never being mistaken for a lady or ever being called a woman (‘Muppet-esque baby child’ is much closer to the truth), I’m with Fiasco on this one: bitch bad, woman good, lady better, but my name is probably best.

Or if you wanna be real sweet, call me honey. Seriously. It’s ridiculous how far that’ll get you.

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This Is A Public Service Announcement Or, The Great Gatsby – Official Trailer 2

Luhrmann has always been a bit of a dilettante when it comes to selecting pop music for his projects and this trailer is yet another example of that.

Jay and ‘Ye’s No Church in the Wild and Filter’s shattered-glass-and-concrete grit screamo cover of The Turtles’ Happy Together bookend this trailer and I cannot think of two songs better suited to the ethos of The Great Gatsby.

I’ve watched this trailer four times already and every time, I get a little breathless.

Hopes higher than Gatsby’s for this one.

I Will Never Be Cool Or, In Which I Make The Internet Hate Me

I spent entirely too much time watching this:

I knew it was Star Wars related but never having seen the movies (I. KNOW.), I had no clue what it was.

So, I texted my buddy who happens to be a pretty big Star Wars fan.

Me: Yo! Star Wars Fanboy! What is a Bantha?
X: Large furry elephant-like creatures found on your favorite planet.
Me: Hoth? Tattooine? That shitty planet with those little fucking teddy bears on it?
X: Ewoks live on Endor. That’s a moon, Jaime. Not a planet.

iPhone has a ‘derision’ feature.

Who knew?

Million Dollar Idea: Please Stop. Please, Please Stop Doing That.

My relationship with Dana can be summed up in seven words: Shit, piss….

Wait!
No.
Wrong words.

Those are the seven words you can’t say on television.

The seven words that crystallize our friendship are: “I’ll do it if you do it.”

This applies to pretty much anything from ordering the cheese plate to public dance lessons to creative endeavors.

As a result of this,  not only am I lucky enough to have an amazing friendship with someone I love and respect, but I also have a partner for my next million dollar idea. Allow me to present it to you via the magic of the actual conversation we had today:

Me: I have this awesome idea that is going to make us MILLIONS of dollars. I debuted it to Biffle last night and once he stopped hating his life because I’m in it, I think he decided to be on board.

Dana: What is it?

Me: So, I can’t dance for shit, right? Like, I am a legit awful, terrible dancer. But that doesn’t matter because we’re gonna start a strip club.

[Calm down. It’s not what you think]

But before you can get in to the club itself, you have to walk through the foyer. And that’s where I’ll be – dancing away, totally un-rhythmically to music that no-one should ever dance to – like the Day-O  song.

“Oh, what’s that? You wanna get in to see the smoking hot girls we have in our club? You’re gonna have to pay me to stop dancing.”

I’m like Gandalf — “YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS…Unless you give me $20 to stop flailing around like a muppet having a seizure.”

[I really do. There’s a lot of flailing and uncoordinated movements and surprised face happening. Elaine Benes dances better than I do. Seriously. I look like this:]

Dana: I can help with the bad dancing.

[See? Already. My girl is there for me]

Dana: My favorite move is the pelvic thrust.

Me: YES! Do you make grunting noises?

Dana: Yes.

Me: “Ughhhh….”

[This noise is especially attractive when I make it in person]

Dana: I’m also very handsy.

Me: Jazz hands and spirit fingers!

Dana: Yes!

Me: I was dancing last night on Skype with Biffle and he literally looked like someone was serving him a shit pie. Like, “Why? Which God did I anger to have this happen in my life? Please stop doing that….”

Dana: Hahaha. If I drink a little bit, I can move better. It looks less like a seizure. We can be the lobby dancers in the strip club. It’s like a step lower than the weekday-afternoon crew.

[Weekday. Afternoon. Crew. I just wanted to point that out because it’s hilarious and so true. Oh, what? I’ve seen Showgirls on VH1. I know how this works]

Me: Yeah, I’m gonna be fully clothed while doing this. Thus making the experience EVEN WORSE for all those watching – “Why is she doing that while wearing a parka?”

Dana: YEAH! I’m gonna wear like, rain boots or something. Galoshes. There’s nothing less sexy than galoshes.

Me: YES! Best usage of the term ‘galoshes’ ever! No make-up, hair up in a greasy bun, spaghetti stain on my cardigan. So hot, dude. So hot.

I think this could be a big success. Especially considering most of our Google+ conversations usually end up with us looking like this:

I was going to post a video of my dancing just to prove how truly awful I am but yeah…I still have some tiny semblance of dignity and knowing my luck, it would become a thing, so instead — I decided to throw a little happiness out into the world. Well, for straight women and gay men, anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen – Channing Tatum dancing to Ginuwine’s The Pony in Magic Mike.

I KNOW, DUDES. I KNOW. Yeah. You’re welcome.

Love = Love Or, I Don’t Care Who You Love, Just Don’t Love Crappy Television Shows

Even though Augs is white and I’m Indian*, I don’t think of us as a mixed-race couple. The closest I ever get to it is in the summer when I tan to a warm, coppery brown and Augs burns to a rosy pink.

But every now and then – the reality of our life together hits me. Like it did the other day when I started thinking about Loving v. Virginia – the landmark civil rights case which overturned all race-based restrictions on marriage.

Fifty years ago, Augs and I could have been jailed in certain parts of the country just for being together.

We couldn’t have rented a hotel room, eaten at the same lunch counter or sat next to one another on a bus.

Fifty years.

That’s nothing.

My parents and every single one of my aunts and uncles were alive fifty years ago. Hell, music that I listen to on a regular basis (Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis, Green Onions by Booker T and McGs, Please Please Me by The Beatles) was created 50 years ago .

When I was born, we were a mere 20 years removed from institutionalized racism.

To bring it closer to the present – THREE years ago, a chowderhead justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to marry an interracial couple out of “concern” for their future progeny. Yeah, ‘cause it’s not like a biracial child has ever achieved anything great, right?

It stuns me. I mean, really? People still think like this? After all this time and how far we’ve come?

Then, I start thinking about all of the people I love in same-sex relationships.

It is utterly devoid of logic and human decency to say your love isn’t worth as much as my love because of the color of your skin, where you were born or who you love.

Hell, even Dick Cheney agrees with that.

DICK. CHENEY. Underline. Bold. All-Caps former vice president of the United States who Jack Donaghy may or may not have sodomized while under the influence of a weapons-grade narcotic.

I guess what it comes down to is the following three things:

1. I don’t get it. I do not understand how I live in a world where people actually espouse a belief system so bigoted and wholly stupid.

2. Some truths are so universal that a dyed-in-the-wool democrat and a Sith Lord former Republican vice president can see eye-to-eye on them.

3. If you don’t believe that everyone deserves the same rights, you are not a good person. Let me repeat that. If you do not believe in equality – you are not a good person and shouldn’t fool yourself for a minute thinking that you are.

I’m usually not one for posting YouTube videos here because well, I kinda hate them. BUT, this one is important. Just make sure you have Kleenex at hand.

* Seriously, I am the worst cultural ambassador for India….unless you want to know about good great Indian food. A nickel’s worth of free advice – always order extra tamarind chutney. Food…hell, life is better with more amli in it. Oh and in the interest of not being yelled at by Mom for giving out bad advice — don’t eat too much because, well..I don’t know why. I just remember being yelled at by every Indian woman in a six-mile radius when I started loading it up on my plate. Imagine being attacked by a swarm of shrieking pigeons clanking with gold jewelry. Yeah, it was like that…but worse.

I Wrote A Song For You And All The Things That You Do Or, Being A Muse Might Just Be Overrated

If a genie popped out of a lamp and offered 17-year-old me a single wish, odds are I would have wished for a cute musician to write a song about me.

Yeah, 17-Year-Old Jaime was an idiot.

(Seriously, 17-year-old me? Seriously? You couldn’t have wished for hair that you never have to flat-iron? Or a basic understanding of mathematics? Or guitar virtuosity so you could write a song about your own damn self?)

A decade later, I’ve realized that being immortalized in song ain’t no great shakes.

Songs named after women usually fall into two categories:

A) God-awful sentimental pap
B) Bitch broke my heart and now, I’m putting her on blast.

(Yes, there is a sub category for songs named after children – Annabella’s Song by Art Alexakis, Flowers for Zoe by Lenny Kravitz, Jessica by The Allman Brothers Band – but that is a blog post for another time)

Obviously, Category A has some exceptions – Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen, Lenny by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Josie by Blink 182 (shut up – I like it) – but odds are that if some dude is writing a song and using a girl’s name as the title, it’s either going to be an eviscerating invective or cloying crap.

There are countless examples, but I’ve chosen to highlight three of each.

Three Bad Songs About Good Women

Beth by KISS — At the risk of offending an army of grown men in black and white facepaint, Beth sucks. It’s not a song so much as it is a voicemail to Glam Rock’s Penelope:

“Hey Beth! It’s me! Yeah, I’m out playing with the boys and won’t be home.  Oh, what? You miss me? You’re lonely? Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yeah. Me too babe. What…? Yeah, I gotta go! There’s like, six trampy groupies in the back of the bus and Gene can’t possibly take on all of them…I hope. Love…holy shit, Ace! What are you doing? Dude….Babe, I gotta go! (Click).”

Sara Smile by Hall and Oates — I would rather eat my own fist than listen to this trite pablum ever again. It’s so bad, dudes. Like, so bad even the Oatestache can’t save it. I can’t even type out the lyrics because they’re so vacuous. Trust me — it’s awful. If you are dating a girl named Sara and you put this on a mix for her, she has every right to punch you in the solar plexus, sleep with your best friend and take a baseball bat to your PlayStation.

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond — It’s fun. I get it. You get hammered and you sing/shout the lyrics at the top of your voice. But if your name is Caroline, you’ve experienced at least one douchebag ex trying to get into your good graces by singing this song. And it never works, right? Why? Because barking, “So good! So good!” and getting handsy with a girl while singing, “Touching you, touching me” is not, never was and never will be an appealing quality.

However, songs about the eponymous woman who done did you wrong? Good, if not great. Anger and bitterness make for good writing. Look at Bukowski — that guy was perpetually pissed off.

Three Good Songs About Bad Women

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson — Billie Jean is a liar who busts out with some Maury shit by slapping MJ with a false paternity suit.  But the song is amazing. In addition to that skittering, irrepressibly funky bassline, Billie Jean also features one of my favorite lyrics in the history of music — “Be careful what you do when a lie becomes the truth.” Bold statement about a bold statement and ain’t it the truth?

Roxanne by The Police — Our boy Sting falls for a hooker and to some, that could be considered hot. It’s all illicit and sexy….until the poor sap realizes that she’d rather purrohnnn a red laiiii than spend a night cuddling on the couch, watching Law and Order reruns. Our girl Roxy knows she doesn’t have to sell her body to the night. She wants to. Also, bonus points for the reinterpretation of the track featured in Moulin Rouge. Because I am all about the musical blasphemy, I’m gonna come right out and say it. I prefer that version. What? I like the melodrama and the lead’s anguished growl.

Layla by Derek and the Dominos — This is the anthem for every poor bastard stuck in Unrequited Hell. Read: everyone ever at one point or another. Layla is the unequivocal la belle dame sans merci and best of all, she’s real. For those who didn’t spent entirely too much of your adolescence holed up in your bedroom, poring over rock biographies, let me crack an egg of wisdom here:

Eric Clapton and George Harrison of the Beatles were close friends. Clapton falls in love with Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd and this song is born out of that torment. Eventually, Clapton and Boyd got together and he wrote the glurgey wedding staple Wonderful Tonight about her. They divorced in 1989 due to infidelity on both parts and Boyd will forever be known as the woman who inspired Layla, Wonderful Tonight and Harrison’s sublime Something. Looking at her, it’s not hard to see why these men were so enraptured.

Yeah. She’s the number one stunner.

Anyway, back to the song. You beg, you plead, she gets you on your knees and it still isn’t enough. Every night, she goes home to someone else and your heart feels like a cigarette butt being crushed into the pavement.

So, the question remains — what would you rather have? A crappy song singing your praises or a really good one condemning your very existence?

Seventeen-year-old Jaime would take the ego boost, but as we mentioned before — she’s a dummy.

Older, smarter Jaime (with the cuter hair) would take the vitriolic hit.

See, OSWTCH Jaime has a much better sense of self and understands that sweet nothings are a dime a dozen. Seriously, ladies. Walk into any bar in America wearing a pair of heels and a little mascara. Order a drink and within half an hour, some random dude will approach you to blow sunshine.

A passionate song, however? That’s a rarity. And I’m much rather claim culpability for a piece of great (albeit character assassinating) music than a track that’s going to lead to eye-rolling and the rapid-fire gulping of alcohol at weddings.

But hey, if Dave Grohl or Brian Fallon wanna whip out their pens and write a diabetic-coma inducing ditty about me, I’m OK with that and it’s spelled J-A-I-M-E.

I before M, guys.

Oh, what? I am large. I contain multitudes….as well as laminated list crushes on both men.

I Know You’ve Seen Me On The Video (True) Or, I’m In Love, What’s That Song?

When I was fifteen, I fell in love. A deep, all-consuming and pure adoration from which I’ve never really recovered.

When I was fifteen, I discovered music. I mean, really discovered it. Big fat basslines that rolled and rumbled in my stomach. Thundering drums which bucked and charged like wild horses through my veins. And the power chord. Always the power chord. Reverberating through every molecule and stripping away the static.

Last year, I discovered what has quickly become my favorite new band – The Gaslight Anthem. I’m no mathematician, but if I was — an equation would essentially go like this:

Gaslight Anthem = Bruce Springsteen + The Replacements x Tom Waits (The Clash)/ The Supremes.

Is it any small wonder that these four boys from Jersey are my musical soulmates?

Their music has been on permanent replay in my home, car and head for the past couple of weeks and has had me echoing Alex Chilton, “I’m in love/What’s that song?/I’m in love/With that song.” I’ve also been tracking down every video I can find on YouTube and watching them over-and-over-and-over-rollercoaster (and if you can complete that lyric, I owe you pizza, beer and my complete fealty).

Which brings me to my next point – When did the short form music video die? Dudes, I used to spend hours watching these things and the fact that MTV doesn’t have a single channel dedicated to videos (the old ones. I don’t care about Miley Cyrus singing about glitter or ponies or whatever the hell it is she warbles about) irks me to no end.

Also, what the hell, MTV? How can you possibly justify awarding video music awards when you don’t even show them anymore? If you want to give out awards for Most Orange Human Being or Dumbest Sperm Donor, by all means — do so, but awards for best art direction and choreography? Come off it.

MTV needs to bring back music videos. They need to bring back Idalis, John Sencio, Kennedy and Bill Bellamy. What? You think they’ve busy?

I loved the grandiosity of music video mini movies. Michael Jackson was a master of this, but he wasn’t the only one who knew a thing or two about creating an epic production:

November Rain by Guns ‘N Roses – The video’s based on a short story by this dude Del James and it suckers me in every single time. The roses on the casket, Slash’s helicopter-shot guitar solo, Axl’s fake wedding to Stephanie Seymour that everyone said wasn’t fake? It’s brilliant, it’s poetic, it’s actually pretty damn heartwrenching and it’s like, 87% better than most feature length films released in the past decade.

Rush Rush by Paula Abdul — Look, you know it’s awesome. Just admit it. I ain’t gonna judge. Keanu and Paula reenacting Rebel Without A Cause features the best spoken interlude in music video history:

Paula: Can I ask you something? Have you ever been in love?
Keanu: If I was I didn’t know it. You?
Paula: No. Isn’t that terrible?
Keanu: Terrible? No. It just reminds you that we’re all alone, that’s all.

Yeah. This is Dylanesque poetry. No, not Thomas. No, not Bob either. Yeah. That Dylan. Dylan McKay.

Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith – As dire and dark as the subject matter is, I love the story behind the songs. Turn out that before Steven Tyler played everyone’s favorite lecherous uncle on American Idol, he was a bit of a rock ‘n roll legend. The self-described Demon of Screamin’ had the title stuck in his head and kept chasing it around – “Janie’s got a gun. Janie’s got a gun.” But why? Why does Janie have a gun and what the hell is she planning on doing with it? So, he starts reading about cases of child abuse in the United States and from there, a classic was born. I love the idea of chasing something around in your head for months and finally being able to set it free.

California Love by Tupac – Post-apocalyptic George Clinton, Tupac and Dr Dre playing Robbin’ The Hood and a pretty bad-ass take on Mad Max. Although, I gotta say that Pac and Dre are not the most terrifying Thunderdome competitors. Now, you throw early 90s era Ice Cube in the mix (complete with menacing sneer and jheri curl) and you’ve got a party. And by party, I mean bloodbath.

Keep It On The Down Low by R. Kelly – Ronald Isley cripples our boy Kels and leave him in the desert to die like a stray dog. I don’t think I need to say anymore.

As much as I love these, I’m a much bigger fan of performance and tour videos. No-one did tour videos better than the hair metal bands of the 80s. Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue and Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi are prime examples of the best this genre had to offer. The Crue and Bon Jovi aren’t just bands. Oh no. Oh no. They are wandering warrior poets riding steel horses and slingin’ six strings. They see your face amidst millions, they will rock it and then, they’ll get off this long and winding road and head home sweet home.

And then, you’ve got the performance video. Nothing more than the band and their instruments. No gimmicks, no tricks and no place to hide. I think that’s why I like The Gaslight Anthem’s video for Great Expectations so much. It’s raw, direct and damned if Brian Fallon doesn’t sing like he’s trying to excise demons, earn redemption and heal his wounded heart.

For a while, I’ve been worried that the passionate and idealistic part of me had withered. It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a band. I mean, true love. The way you’re supposed to. The way Sapphire explains it in Almost Famous – “They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.”

But then, I discover this band of brothers from across the river who sing like Springsteen, scream like Strummer and remind me that when it comes to good music, love springs eternal.