This post is going to be slightly different than some of my usual work, and while it may seem like it, I did not receive financial compensation for this. This is just a really rad tool that I personally think every artist should have in their arsenal.
Soundfly is a website for musicians of any genre or style, offering subscriptions on a monthly and yearly basis. Started by pianist and composer, Ian Temple, the site is comprised of a small team of artists keen on giving you all resources to tighten your skills and learn new abilities. When you subscribe for either $39/month or $234/year (bringing it down to $19 a month), you get access to courses, blogs, and 1 on 1 mentors. If you choose to take the online courses, you get to select between produce, which focuses on the production of music, write, which helps with songwriting and composition, play, which helps with picking up instruments and getting into the habit of practicing them, hustle, which shows the ins and outs of the business side of the entertainment industry, and discover, which are fun, niche topics. No matter your skill level or interest, there’s something for you. But even if you can’t decide on a course or feel like you may not be finding what exactly you need, you can opt to create your own 4 or 6-week course with a custom 1-on-1 mentorship. With a wide range of music professionals with years of experience in the industry, you’re guaranteed to get exactly what you need to take your career to the next level. Hell, some of you might even inquire about becoming an advisor for the platform!
Now with that being said, this is a Hip-Hop blog. As I’ve mentioned, Soundfly covers a range of genres, and a lot of their courses pertain to Rap and Hip-Hop in particular. The courses offered not only include the technical side, such as fader techniques and mixing and mastering, but incredible elements to incorporate into your production to really make it stand out. Their newest course, Elijah Fox: Impressionist Piano & Production, is a stand-out for me in particular as it’s a hybrid course, showcasing how artists can improve their jazz piano skills to utilize in their Hip-Hop and Lo-Fi beats. With experience playing instruments for artists like ScHoolboy Q, Masego, Drake, and 21 Savage, your can add new layers to your songs while sharpening new skills.
If this and the other courses pique your interest, Soundfly was kind enough to provide me with a discount code for my readers. If you use the code SPICEY2023, you can take 15% off of your membership. Once again, I’m not receiving any sort of financial compensation for this. But I’ve gotten to see some of Soundfly’s courses and I truly think they are incredible resources. In fact, I’ll post some of my thoughts on this newest course to my Instagram story.
To learn more about what Soundfly has to offer, you can explore their social media pages here.
Some of you may have been wondering where I disappeared to. Some of you may not have even noticed. I have another post that addresses and pertains to my hiatus, but I lost track of time after getting excited over an idea for the first time in quite a while. So if these posts feel out of order, it’s because they are. But I didn’t realize how close we were to Valentine’s Day, and that silly little commercial holiday actually sparked my creativity for the first time after a pretty shitty case of writer’s block. Ironically, a man is a significant reason behind my lack of inspiration. And unfortunately, it wasn’t because I was madly in love. It was less enjoyable than that. But I haven’t let that stop me from hoping for flowers and creating valentines for my best friends. Part of what’s fueling my adoration for reds and pinks and heart-shaped chocolates despite spending another Valentine’s Day alone is the hopeless romantic that lives very far down inside me. I don’t let that side show often. Still, that side has been itching to come out, especially after a trip to India full of a beautiful celebration of love. So, in honor of Cupid and his bow and arrow, I’ve decided to pay homage to some of the things that fuel our hopeless romantics, from iconic couples to stories of unconditional love. Keep in mind, though, that this is a Hip-Hop blog. So the romance may sound a bit…unconventional. Or, honestly, not that romantic at all. I’m working with what I got.
It’s been an exhausting week to be a woman. I mean, most days can get exhausting. If you’re an avid news reader or social media user, you know some highly pivotal laws are up for debate. Laws deal with women’s health. That are, for some absurd reason, being discussed by predominantly old white conservative men. The past few years introduced some unsettling individuals into the Supreme Court, and this is a perfect example of why. Earlier this week, it was released that the Supreme Court would be debating the landmark cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. According to a released first draft, the majority already intended to override both cases that have shaped history and protected women everywhere. Let it be known that while these cases are in place, they still have not made it easy for women all over the US to receive the kind of care and nurture they deserve in this matter. But even with limiting restrictions in place, the option was still available. Unfortunately, we have already witnessed terrifying events in history manifest themselves in new ways since the past few elections. We have seen a lifetime in which women did not have the right to choose what they should do with their bodies. History has shown that women will remain resilient in doing what they believe needs to be done even without safe, legal options available. To demonstrate why a woman deserves the right to choose (besides common sense reasons such as equality, fundamental rights, etc.), I’ve compiled a variety of Hip-Hop songs from several perspectives that outline issues dealing with abortion rights.
You may have noticed that I haven’t been writing quite as frequently lately. If I’m being honest, I have thoroughly lacked inspiration. Life feels dreadfully dull as if I’m going through the motions without feeling much at all. Every week, I’ve been starting new pieces based on my emotions or experiences, but the thoughts seem to go nowhere. The ideas are empty and weightless despite their relevance to what I’m enduring in my head. As a result, I abandon them. However, this past week I went on a somewhat spontaneous trip to Puerto Rico. As much as I adore Philadelphia, it has been feeling far too claustrophobic for me, and I needed an escape. It feels like one thing after another happened these past few months, and my heart could only take so much. I was reaching my breaking point. Part of me thought about how I could abandon all responsibilities and run away to somewhere far and remote, just to reset and get myself right. Maybe I will for real one day. But to live in the moment and find joy in what the world has to offer, I needed a change of scenery. I ran away from my problems, and it was the best decision I ever made. I travel often, but this time was different. It gave me the strength and time to clear my mind of the chaotic emotions and to re-approach the situation with clarity and logical thinking. It’s incredible what new views and people and foods can do for a person. To help possibly inspire all of you to find a new adventure, I’ve written this post to demonstrate how good traveling is for the soul. And maybe that alone will be enough to spark some inspiration in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Philadelphia with all of my heart. This city has shaped me into who I am today, for better or for worse. But sometimes, when shit hits the fan, those familiar settings that once brought you peace and comfort bring you pain and suffering. Certain places remind you of broken promises and opportunities. It just gets to be overwhelming. And it can be a bit intense when living in a city, where time can’t seem to slow down even for a moment to give you some time to breathe. For instance, in Killer Mike’s “Anywhere But Here,” he raps, “let the city peel away right from under you, there are too many ghosts in this town. I can hear them calling out to me.” I always thought living in Philly was the one thing I was sure about because of how much I loved the communities here. Yet as I got older, I became less naive. I realized that you can create that feeling anywhere when you stay long enough in one place. But that same sentiment can be what traps you as if you can never outrun your mistakes or problems. And then it haunts you. You surround yourself with those who build you up and support you, but you’re also forced to face those that fuck you over and hurt you. Philly may seem like a big city, but those streets always find a way to connect. It’s a lot smaller than you’d think. I was starting to feel like Drake in his song, “Free Smoke,” when he rapped, “I wanna move to Dubai, so I never have to kick it with none of you guys.” I’m eternally thankful for those that are always there for me, but goodness, sometimes I just want to run away from everyone. You work to build that notoriety, but once you achieve it and eyes are on you, the pressure adds on significantly, and you crave that anonymity. Your moves feel like they’re being watched through a microscope, ready to be called out on every misstep and fuck up.
Furthermore, Flatbush Zombies wrapped up that feeling in their song, “Quicksand,” when they said, “sometimes I wanna run, run a million miles away. But there’s nowhere to go, it feels like I’m stuck in quicksand/shit is fucking with my brain. I’m in way over my head, feel like I’m in quicksand.” That’s a highly relatable feeling, to seem as though you’re sinking, but you’re too stuck to do anything about it. I knew some changes that I needed to make to bring myself peace, yet getting myself to that point seemed the most challenging aspect. So I didn’t even bother trying. I wallowed, and I cried, and I despaired. And then, I fled.
I think I had been feeling stir-crazy since the start of the pandemic. I was lucky to have experienced the most life-changing trip to Singapore and Thailand with my friends at the beginning of 2020. But, undergoing that and having this new take on life just to be thrown into quarantine and experience one of the most challenging times for my mental health was tough. And I feel like nothing was really the same after that. Not that I’m unique in that regard, I think we all relate to that. But I think my enthusiasm was starting to dwindle, as was my optimism. And I really didn’t know what to do. As things began to open up, something kept preventing me from traveling. I typically set a goal of visiting two new countries a year, with 2020 being my last year of fulfilling that temporarily. But for some reason, even when we were in the clear to travel, and prices were lower, I felt a new sense of anxiety. Traveling was something I’ve done on my own since I was 17 years old, but it was feeling extra daunting. Perhaps everything feels like that right now. But it became a balancing act, a seesaw of feeling manic and not having a care in the world while also wanting to give up and do nothing, that pushed me to emulate J Cole’s “Stay.” In the song, he questions, “should I skate town? Catch a Greyhound. Change my name right, catch a plane flight, out the country, let them muh’fuckers hunt me, come catch me if you want me/but where I’ma run to?” I felt that desire to be spontaneous and just live rather than feel so anxious and calculated. I wanted to avoid all of the things keeping me from finding refuge in my thoughts. I especially love that song because he says, “I’m comin’ back/believe that/to show the little *, you can achieve that.” As much as I wanted to run away and never turn back, I don’t think that’s who I am. Even now, the thought crosses my mind all the time. But I would just have too much unfinished business.
Despite my usually horrible decision-making process (and neglect of coming to an actual decision), the allure of getting away was enough to convince me, even if just for a few days. What was most surprising about this decision was that I chose to do so just a few weeks before my show, which was, in all honesty, a terribly irresponsible idea. But if I’m being transparent, I had no motivation to set anything in motion for it. I wasn’t preparing the way I should have been because I was hurting, and the lack of productivity felt like I wasn’t utilizing that time anyway. It was like a voice in my head, ironically enough, telling me to not think about the show and every possible outcome. Likewise, Tyler, The Creator, took on the position of that persuasive voice in the song, “Okaga, CA.” As he speaks to his significant other, he says, “don’t you wanna go, girl. Let’s go, let’s go, right now/The earth is so rough I’m not calling your bluff/take me higher. Let’s make our way to the Okaga cave.” These promises that you’ll find what you need somewhere new were all that I needed to reassure myself that this was best for me.
It was a nice feeling to just escape without thinking about my obligations. Although I’m slightly paying the price for it now as I’m frantically trying to catch up on work, I don’t think I would have gone back and done things differently. Wiz Khalifa’s “Zoney” explains how I felt confined in my walls when he exclaimed, “I’m packing up my bags/I gotta catch a plane/I can’t be at home, I gotta be away.” I’m not a hermit by any means. If anything, my spiraling depression was causing me to spend far less time at home. Instead, I went out to bars every other night, trying to fill my voids and distract from my stress with company and alcohol. But everywhere I went, it all felt the same, and I needed something far more tranquil. So I decided to say, “fuck my 9 to 5, disappear for weeks, wash up on a beach/catch a lil’sunrise,” as summarized by Tobi Lou in his song, “Just Keep Goin’.” Once again, a gross exaggeration as I literally left for 4 days, and I work as a freelancer, so there’s no job to disappoint; I just don’t get paid. But you get the sentiment.
Once I reached the airport, I instantly felt like I could breathe. I wasn’t even concerned about my flight or anything. I had two hours to kill. So, I enjoyed a mimosa with some older women going for a girls’ trip to Jamaica and even invited a young gentleman who had approached me to join me for a drink. I felt more like myself than I had in months, and it was so refreshing to be free of that negativity. For the first time in what felt like far too long, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with existential dread. My new positive outlook felt similar to Lil Nas X’s in his song, “C7osure (You Like)”, in which he tackles relatable thoughts of frustration. In the song, he rhymes, “brand new places I’ll choose and I’ll go/I know it don’t feel like it’s time, but I look back at this moment, I’ll see that I’m fine/I set boundaries for myself, it’s time to cross the line.” A lot of the pessimism I was feeling back home made it difficult to see past what I was feeling then and there. It was tough to focus on work, especially the potential with my shows. While on the trip, I actively dreaded going home, to the point of wanting to cry at the airport because I hated the idea of it. But in reality, feeling pure, unfiltered happiness, even if just for a few days, showed me that everything terrible I was feeling was minuscule compared to the rest of my life. I had far more important things to worry about. My whole experience being such a drastic shift in emotions merely from a change in scenery made me think about my favorite part in Anderson .Paak’s “Make It Better.” In the song, he sings, “meet me at the hotel, motel. Though we got a room at home. Go to a place that we don’t know so well, it be nice, add a lil’ spice.” Although the context pertains to that of a stale relationship, it runs parallel to the idea that sometimes you just need to reinvigorate that spark, which can solve some of your issues. I needed my spark back, and it took me going to a place I didn’t know to do so.
In Cypress Hill’s “Rise Up,” they reinforce how human the feelings of needing to get away are. They rap, “born with the will to hustle, see we hittin’ the floor. You’ll never stop it, you ain’t got the muscle. We’re on the world tour, homeboy, this is for sure. We got a tour, blow the stage up, we out the door. Sometimes we all need an escape, so when we fall off track, you get your mind while we make a stack.” I wasn’t the best about multi-tasking and getting much work done, but I definitely felt like I was in the process of getting myself on track. As I was gaining clarity, I slowly pieced things together for my next show and even got a bit excited about it! I was regaining my passion for what I do, and it was beautiful to be reminded of why I’m taking the risks that I am. I set things in motion so that when I got back to the city, I was pushed head-on into meetings to get everything right and have no time to anguish.
I’m back in Philly with just one week until my next show (please purchase tickets here! Even if you can’t make it, you can still support Cadence in the Clouds by buying one 🙂 ). The pressure is piling on, and any bit of relaxation that I felt is out the window, but let me tell you. Escaping was the best thing I could have done for myself. I needed to silence the criticism, both internally and externally, to remind myself of what I’m capable of and what is paramount. Be like Mac Miller in “Aquarium,” and follow where your heart tells you to go. He needed an escape when he rapped, “I’ma follow you wherever your mind go, take me away, somewhere they won’t be, hold me closely, look at me, don’t speak.” Allow yourself that peace of mind. Follow Jaden’s advice in “Bye” and “take a drive, feel alive/just be together/out on the beach havin’ fun, the weekend just ain’t enough.” Give yourself time to heal and restore so that you can attack things full force with 10x more confidence, passion, and determination. I’m hoping to continue traveling and allow myself to create more experiences without worrying about logistics like work and money while also focusing on a small bridge from Nujabes’ “Feather.” In the track, Cise Starr recites, “drifting away like a feather in air, letting my words take me away from the hurt and despair. So I’m keeping it vertical forever elevator, riding the escalator to reach something that is greater.” My love is writing on this blog, and neglecting it has only made me feel that much worse. Rather than thinking of it as more work, it will be my escape from reality when I need to transport myself to a different place.
Even just purchasing a ticket helps support Cadence in the Clouds. But especially if you are a creative or professional in the music industry, this is the event for you. For just $25, your ticket gets you
-incredible vibes from DJ Bear-One
-2 incredible live performances from Noely and Prlm Chld
-2 drinks from our wine and spirits bar (shoutout to our friends at Redbull!)
-unlimited beer and seltzers from the incredible Stones Beer and Beverage Market
-small bites from a fabulous local caterer
-amazing cupcakes from Bri’s cupcakes
-30 minute consultation with NGAGE, where you can ask this successful PR firm with clients like 300 and Death Row any questions you have about the industry
And of course, a HUGE thank you to our financers, Fine Homes and Spaces, for seeing the vision and helping bring it to life to support local Philadelphia artists!
March is Women’s History Month, and it’s only right that we commemorate the time with another post celebrating the beauty and strength that is womanhood. If you didn’t get to check out last year’s post, The Success of Every Woman is Inspiration to Another, you can read it now!
If you’re a Hip-Hop head, then chances are you know why this week is so special. Not only is the late J Dilla’s birthday on February 7th (as well as the late Nujabes), but this week also commemorates the anniversary of his death just 3 days later on the 10th. Furthermore, the 7th also marks the date that James released Donuts, his final album, which he finalized from his hospital bed just days before his passing. J Dilla’s legacy has been honored for years, with many more to come for good reason. His sampling and production were extraordinary, creating a sound as iconic as his story. You may think you’ve never heard of J Dilla. But, chances are that you most likely have listened to a track produced by his ingenuity and just had no idea. He was never one to put himself in the spotlight. His style was just…distinct. His talent was enough to earn respect from some of the most influential rappers, singers, and musicians in music. Honestly, it’s pretty likely that he had an impact on some of your favorite artists. So, to celebrate J Dilla and what he did for Hip-Hop, I’ve found some of my favorite references honoring the late producer.
The other day I had a long conversation with someone extremely close to me about reputations. Growing up in the South Asian community, how you carried yourself and represented your family was everything. You’re expected to fulfill certain criteria that fit the Desi standard. As a result, a lot of kids lived double lives. I definitely pulled the classic ‘changing in the school bus’ trick or lied about hanging out with friends when I was going on a corny high school date to the movies. But once I reached a certain age, there was an unspoken understanding with my parents that I was now an adult. My life was in my own hands. I would always be their little girl, but I was also living on my own and going to house parties and bars. There were plenty of times that I made a fool out of myself, and it was always slightly more terrifying when other Indians were around to judge me. But my parents understood that I was learning, and if you ask them, they’ll admit to having their moments of less than perfection. They allowed me to embrace my reputation rather than fear it, which is a lot easier said than done. They would prefer I present my truest self to the world than put on a facade to be societally acceptable, and if I’m being honest, I’ll always compare myself to the checkboxes Indian women are expected to satisfy. It’s hard not to. 9 times out of 10, I’ll probably miss the mark. But at least I know I’m being me. In that same conversation with my friend, he expressed the importance of our name and the weight it carries, especially in our culture. The women, who are usually expected to go on and change their names to match their husbands are to be delicate and submissive. That’s not the case anymore, though. My name can be whatever I make it because it is significant. To an extent, reputations are important. Sometimes, they can make or break you. However, they’re also subjective rather than factual. So take it with a grain of salt, and live your fucking life how you see fit.
2021 has magically come to an end seeing as I can barely remember one day from January. Like… did it even happen? What did I do last New Year? Can anyone verify that 2021 actually did occur and lasted a full 365 days? I don’t know if this is the champagne speaking, but man, am I confused or what?
Regardless of the fact that I’ve seemed to shut out most of 2021, quite a lot has happened. For music, for work, not so much for love. That aspect of my life is still quite uneventful. I’m beyond blessed that I’ve had such incredible opportunities to grow with artists this year, particularly Philly artists. I’ve re-connected with some of you who have been with me since I first started Spice on the Beat, and I’ve even finally met some of you in person! I’ve grown to realize though, that the Philly market may be one of my biggest passions. Personally, there’s no better feeling than connecting with Philly artists and learning about what they need. In the 7.5 years that I’ve lived in Philly, I have met some of the most talented singers, producers, and rappers. I have had some of the most out-of-body experiences at their shows or in their recording sessions, and it truly feels unreal to me how much talent one city could possess. Two artists in particular that I’ve covered on my site include Mike Voss and A.Rob. If you haven’t already, I suggest you check out their Philly’s Phinest posts from throughout the year. Those are some of the most diligent and hard-working artists I’ve met, and I really cherish my friendship with them. It’s one based on mutual respect and support, which is especially fulfilling in a jaded industry. But Philly isn’t like that. If you put on for others, they put on for you. Authenticity and ingenuity are key.
And that’s why my business partner Patrick and I started Cadence in the Clouds. I touched a bit on it in the last month or so, but let me tell you. This has been the scariest part of 2021 for me. This has been a risk, and only time will tell if it will pay off. I tend to be my own toughest critic, so if I fail, I fail hard. And I let myself know. But this time, I have someone there to ease the punch. Patrick has become more than just a business partner for me. He’s my twin flame, my right hand. We are SO similar, and we clicked ridiculously fast. I can depend on him, and that’s why I’m so glad that I have him to share Cadence in the Clouds with. He’s my brother, and we are determined to make this happen.
Now if you aren’t entirely sure what Cadence in the Clouds is, let me break it down for you. Cadence in the Clouds is an intimate concert for artists and music lovers alike. We’ve created a space in which creatives can come together and enjoy and celebrate the Philadelphia arts while working with one another to build up that very community. Philly is talented, but it’s underrated, and a big reason for that is because people feel trapped. They think that to really succeed, they have to go to New York or Cali to further their career. But you can do it in Philly, you just need the resources to do so. So we’re compiling them and putting them all together in one room to connect and collaborate organically. And that’s why we call Cadence in the Clouds a room for dreamers. Patrick and I are dreamers. We understand the uncertainty and the risks we take to pursue our passions. But we need to celebrate that resilience and encourage young creatives to follow their own paths, no matter how unconventional it may be.
Patrick and I had the soft launch for Cadence in the Clouds in the lovely Bean2Bean warehouse (@bean2beancoffeeco). It took place in the middle of December, and it surpassed our expectations. Guests enjoyed cocktails poured by our beautiful bartender Siska (@sisk_c), beer provided by the supportive Stones Beer and Beverage Market (@stonesphilly), and absolutely stunning finger foods by our chef, Marcus (@chef_marcu). My good friend Bear One (@thekidbearone) set the vibe with his hidden gems, and then Lucas Wolfe (@lucaswolfe_) took the stage to perform originals and covers. Bri (@thebrifix) decorated our counters with her gorgeous cupcakes and guests also had the opportunity to discover and bid on local artwork from artists like @cityliner, @prettysketchyvibes,@oxfordbluesoflove, and @jbake_photography. Our sound was crisp as could be thanks to Keith over at Bridgetown (@bridgetown_sound) and now thanks to Hameen (@picbait_media) we have a recap video to show you all of that.
Looking back, I’m so incredibly proud of everyone who took part. This was stressful and terrifying, but we did it, and it was a more heartfelt night than we could have imagined. And I have to thank Patrick (as well as the lovely Hennah♥) for keeping me grounded and sane. Because I was struggling.
And that’s why I am SO excited to announce that tickets for our first show will be going on sale this week. On January 28th, you can join us at the Bean2Bean warehouse for our first ever Cadence in the Clouds show, featuring DJ Bear One, Ruffin, and The InGlorious. Tickets are EXTREMELY limited, and you will be able to find more information on our Instagram so make sure that you give that page a follow! Tickets include a live and intimate show, a complimentary bar, finger foods, and the chance to network with other Philly music lovers and creators, so make sure to grab one. Although this may be unpopular, guests must be fully vaccinated. Times are uncertain, and we must do our part to keep you all safe. One thing we missed the most during the lockdown was live music and concerts. We’re hoping to provide you with that on a smaller scale to ease any worries.
But that’s not the only thing we get to celebrate. Thanks to all of my wonderful readers, I have officially hit 20,000 views! It may not seem like much, but it’s something to me. I had no plan for Spice on the Beat. This was my diary for when I was mad at the industry or the patriarchy or society. This was for when I feltinsignificant, and I just needed someone to speak to. But some of you found my work valuable, or relatable, or helpful, or painful, and that was so much more validation than I could have ever asked for. I am overwhelmed that people could possibly spend time out of their busy schedules to read what I have to say, especially considering that I can’t stand to read my work once I hit publish. I have such a difficult time embracing myself, but Spice on the Beat and my readers have helped me come to terms with the things I believe and the ways I feel. It has helped me become softer and more compassionate with myself, and I didn’t realize how necessary that was to live a fruitful life.
So thank you. For embracing me, and for showing me that my voice matters. On those days that I really don’t believe it, I look back at my conversations with readers and artists and think about how this platform has changed my life. I’m so excited to see what’s to come in 2022 (and quite frankly, a bit petrified.) Cheers!
Kick off the New Year with fresh Hip-Hop content delivered straight to your e-mail. I won’t spam ya♥
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but there’s no doubt that things are looking a little different this time around. Due to the resurgence of Covid rates, we are all attempting to navigate the holidays while trying to keep our loved ones safe, making it difficult to get into the spirit. And trust me, this is coming from a girl who has watched just about every terrible Christmas movie you can find on Netflix. But even that hasn’t quite cut it. My family was already unable to celebrate Thanksgiving because of testing positive for the Coronavirus, so the desire to come together for the festivities is at an all-time high. But there’s still a lingering cloud of anxiety preventing us all from truly letting go, making the holidays feel a bit lonely. But I’m not letting that kill the magic of Christmas. I was that kid who believed in Santa Clause until an embarrassing age. Not only would I put out milk and cookies (the Rugrats frosted Reptar cookies to be exact!), but I would also put out my massive whiteboard like a dork, hoping and praying that Santa would read my note of appreciation and sign his name. He always did, and I never questioned why his handwriting looked exactly like my mom’s. I tracked his sleigh and would get especially excited every time I saw him fly over the Taj Mahal to visit my extended family, knowing that by the morning, he would have made his way to Maryland. So, in the spirit of Christmas and keeping that magic alive, I’ve compiled my favorite stories about Santa Clause as told by some of our favorite rappers.
I often struggle to have faith in myself. I’d argue that it’s one of my most prominent faults. My career choices have been risky. Sometimes it feels like the risk is worth it and that my passion will be enough to make everything work out. But most times, I’m overly anxious, wondering if I’m really doing something practical to have a stable life. Lately, I’ve been preparing myself for even bigger chances and even more precarious life changes. And truth be told, I’m terrified. I know that I can do it because, at this point, I have to. I don’t think I’d ever face a bigger heartbreak than watching myself fail. Trust me, I’ve seen myself mess up. But at some point, this will all work out, or I’ll have to settle and change my career path. And that’s terrifying. Now combine that with the pressure I put on myself while also constantly doubting my decisions. It creates a lot of fear, and my hesitations do nothing but hold me back. So I decided to compile this post for reassurance; to remind myself that there’s courage and strength in facing my fears. I have the support and the love around me that I need when times get challenging, and even if I make mistakes, I still deserve to feel pride in what I’ve done. These artists took the plunge and put their whole life into sharing their music with the world. And if it doesn’t motivate me enough to know that I’m taking similar chances to help make that happen even more, then I don’t know what will. Keep an eye out in the next week. Exciting things are happening at Spice on the Beat. Just have faith in me.
Personally, I think one of the best parts about Halloween is dressing up in costumes. I know some dread it while others go all out. But, I feel like our costume choices often unlock a hidden side of our personality. Sometimes, these traits are ones that we want to showcase more but have difficulty doing so on our own. Other times, we just want the opportunity to dress in ways that may not regularly be deemed societally acceptable. I think my costumes always spoke volumes about who I was at that moment in my life. Ever since I was little, my outfits had to be pretty. Even if I was dressed as a vampire, she had to be a vampire princess. As I grew older, I wanted outfits that could be sexy but still fashion-forward. The pretty princesses slowly transformed into the Morticia’s. But the one thing that remained the same was that I’ve always picked costumes that I either resonate with or resemble physically. I’m the same way when I cosplay for conventions. I’m not comfortable in wigs or completely masking myself; I always want to shine through. In Hip-Hop, artists have created their own costumes through alter-egos and characters. Sometimes the personas come in the form of different pitches or outlandish clothing. The subject matter of the songs may even differ from what they typically release. A few rappers feel so passionately that they officially release music under these pseudonyms. No matter how the characters are unleashed into the world of music, they represent something. They allow artists to show the range of their abilities while revealing different depths to their personalities, often even revealing a more vulnerable, intimate side to them.
Nothing screams Fall quite like walking through the neighborhood and admiring the bright orange pumpkins perched up on stoops or cuddling up under the covers and watching scary movies. While Halloweentown and The Addams Family are a bit more my speed, I understand the appeal of jump scares and unmerciful villains. If I didn’t live by myself, I’d be more inclined to watch them. Unfortunately, just the sound of my creaky walls scare the shit out of me, and I have already put my parents through way too many 3 am phone calls over dumb shit. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill. But I save that for the nights where I can cuddle up with my girlfriends and have others to sacrifice just in case Freddy Krueger tries to invade my dreams. Sorry guys. I do wish I was more courageous, though, because there’s more of an overlap with spooky, horror-filled Halloween themes and Hip-Hop than one would expect. In fact, there’s a whole sub-genre dedicated to it known as Horrorcore. While it’s a bit too graphic for my taste, the imagery is pretty fascinating. Hip-Hop is known for its story-telling, and lyricists have created some of the most vivid, terrifying tales of gory serial killers and Satanic rituals. So to get you in the Halloween spirit, I’ve compiled some of my favorite Hip-Hop tracks that encapsulate the festivities and nightmares alike that make the holiday so enchanting. And don’t get it twisted, just because a bloody monstrosity isn’t jumping out at you with a chainsaw doesn’t mean these songs are any less scary; if anything, they give room for your imagination to run wild and create your own scenario of your biggest fears.
TW: Use of the word f*g. I don’t condone this usage at all.
One of my favorite fashion events of the year is the Met Gala. My dad worked in the fashion industry for most of my childhood, so it plays quite a role in my individuality. One aspect that I love about the progression of fashion is the blurring of lines between masculine and feminine attire that is becoming so common. In a world where women were expected to wear dresses every day, we now see them rocking powerful pantsuits to proms and weddings. We see men adorning gorgeous skirts without having to label them as kilts for them to be deemed societally acceptable. While the blending of gender identities has always been a part of underground and rebellious counter-culture, it’s been quietly making its way into mainstream fashion. Now, there’s no doubt that Hip-Hop has a meaningful impact on the latest trends. Whether rappers are wearing certain shoes or types of jeans dictates what the masses will wear. I even remember in grade school when the boys would all dye their hair like Wiz Khalifa. So, it comes as no surprise that the Met Gala’s musical attendees were made up largely of famous rappers and Hip-Hop moguls, some of whom are known for their risk-taking when it comes to clothing. Artists like Kid Cudi walked the red carpet in make-up and a dress, receiving mixed feedback. While newer generations encouraged it, I saw a lot of older generations of Hip-Hop lovers on my Facebook make remarks like, this is what’s wrong with these new kids. People seem to think there’s something innately wrong with a man wearing a dress as if they have a neurological disorder. One of the many issues with that thought process is that oftentimes, seeing a person dressed in a garment that’s usually associated with the gender opposite of what they classify themselves as is thought of as gay. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. There is no correlation. And even if there was, that doesn’t make it morally wrong in any way. Fashion is a freedom of expression, an art form, and should be thought of as such. Without risk-taking, fashion can’t evolve. That’s why, in a culture as influential as Hip-Hop, we need to encourage rappers to take these explorative routes rather than restricting fashion and particular garments as masculine or feminine or gay. We need to see these beautiful patterns and textiles as inanimate objects that can be brought to life through art and expression.
Let’s talk about our bodies. For the first time since the ninth grade, I purchased a bikini. Now I’m not talking about something high-waisted. I’m talking Victoria’s Secret, end of the season, cheeky, itty bitty, bikinis. And the best part? I didn’t cry once when putting it on! I hated going to pool parties or beach days. I would even end up in tears before events that required me to dress up like Prom and Homecoming because I looked bigger than I envisioned myself looking. But, swimsuits particularly have always been grueling, and I usually find myself in my cover-up the whole time. I remember seeing myself in photos in high school after purchasing my first bikini, and I was scarred ever since. It disgusted me to know that that was what I actually looked like versus how I imagined it. But over time, that fear has subsided a bit. Now, this isn’t to say I’ve finally learned to love my body. I’ll be honest. I’m not entirely sure if this is considered body positivity because it took me changing to be happy rather than loving myself for what it was. I lost a bit of weight, and I find myself even more paranoid now than ever that I’ll gain back each pound one by one, and that’s terrifying to me. But I have learned to be a bit more compassionate with myself. It’s okay to enjoy that bag of chips or to indulge in dessert. It’s fine if I don’t have time to work out. Most of the time, it’s because I’m out making memories with my friends anyway, and I think that’s a much more enjoyable use of my time. With that being said, I wanted to make this post about the pressures that women face to fit a certain look. In a world of plastic surgery and Instagram likes, women are expected to look a certain way. As we’re learning to accept all body types, there are still external pressures that negate that and make us feel as though maybe there is still an ideal. One of those external forces is the entertainment industry. Not just seeing different celebrities with their bodies that have been altered and Photoshopped, but also how we talk about women and their bodies in music. In Hip-Hop, songs idolize women with small waists and fat asses. With enough repetition, it’s become the universal standard. But not everyone is built like that. So, how does that impact girls who don’t fit that image?
As the Taliban has captured Kabul and made its way across Afghanistan, taking control of its cities and people, new concerns come to light about the future of the United States and the citizens of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US is trying to focus its attention on bringing civilians to safety in the States, but the uncertainty and tensions are creating an unpredictable outcome. Although this may come as a surprise, Hip-Hop’s lyrical content spans far ignorant puns about Afghani Kush and being strapped like a militant. Some of the culture’s notoriously political emcees have been rapping about the war in Afghanistan for decades, calling attention to the United State’s role and motives in the political turmoil. Some argue that the US may not have always been so forthcoming about what they were truly doing in the Middle East and use politically fueled anthems criticizing the government to share their speculations. Unfortunately, a sad reality of this situation is that many feel as if the time, money, and lives spent in Afghanistan are now wasted, and the potential threat of another impending war is daunting. If you’d like to help the innocent people of Afghanistan, I encourage you to donate to theAmerican Friends Service Committee. A friend of mine has been doing some of the most incredible work trying to help civilians with heart-breaking stories have a shot at a safe life by flying them to protection through this organization. The donations help fund the AFSC’s efforts with necessities such as evacuation costs, food, clothing, mental health and trauma counseling, and legal support. I will also be adding other fundraisers and resources to the end of this post. Regardless of what you think of this situation, there are millions of people whose lives are at risk, and even the smallest donation can help someone.
Beginning therapy was one of the best and yet most daunting things I’ve done for myself in a long time. I completely understand that it’s not for everyone, and for others, it may just be unattainable. Even I find myself questioning how feasible it is to pay such a ridiculous amount every single week. It’s sad that I even have to debate that knowing how beneficial it has been in my journey to love myself and find inner peace. But one thing people don’t tell you when you look into starting these types of services is just how exhausting it is. You’re always told that you have to be open and willing to put in the work, but you’re never warned about how tiring it is to revisit past memories that you thought you shelved a long time ago. I find myself sitting in sessions discussing things that happened in my past that hadn’t even crossed my mind. Not because they were trivial, but actually, quite the contrary. They were so impactful and damaging that I never wanted to think about those moments ever again, and yet here I was, paying absurd amounts of money to not only dig up those deeply buried memories but to analyze them with a fucking microscope. It’s not easy to do so, and I wish peace and strength to anyone who may understand this feeling while reading this. Trauma, especially in a world as chaotic and violent and intense as ours, has become so normalized because of the things that we endure on a day-to-day basis, from mass shootings to a global pandemic. As a result, we turn to coping mechanisms like humor to minimize the severity and make it more bearable when in reality, if we have to come face to face with it one day, we realize we have no idea how to handle it. We see rappers do it all the time with their music, especially because of the lack of affordable mental health resources, so they turn to writing to deal with it. In the same way that I write long-form, they write with poetic rhyme schemes, sharing their trauma with the world to help themselves and others internalize it. To honor their strength and resilience, this is a tribute to those who have used Hip-Hop to handle life-altering moments by sharing it with the world.
The way female sexuality is perceived is quite strange. Some embrace it, while others condemn it. Some find it liberating, while others find it disgraceful. To argue that it’s viewed on the same plane as male sexuality is naive, and honestly, ignorant. But in my opinion, there’s something extremely powerful about a woman who comfortably embraces her sexuality, and that’s one reason why it’s typically shunned. The female body is capable of incredible wonders. One way that we’ve seen this depicted is through the idea of the honeypot. Now, the term honeypot has a few different meanings. But for the sake of this article, I’m referring to a woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants, whether it’s information, an item, or even just attention. Oftentimes, the woman is using the other person and their vulnerability to her advantage, praying on the weaknesses of those around her because of her confidence and divinity. It’s used as a term for spies, where the agent uses sex to con someone out of viable information. I think there’s something freeing about that. Imagine being so sure of yourself and your beauty that you can make anyone do as you please. We live in a world that criticizes women who own their sexuality, and yet men are the same ones that constantly exploit it. So why not take control of the narrative, and get what you need? For this article, I pulled examples of women in Hip-Hop songs who used their feminine appeal to control men, often leading to their demise.
If you checked out my Gemini Season post, then you know it’s my birthday (June 5th), so I figured I would subject you all to celebrating with me. In honor of the day that I was brought into the world just to make my parents’ lives even more stressful and expensive (along with my own once I reached adulthood), I have compiled a breakdown of every Hip-Hop song in the Billboard Top 10 the week of my birthday starting in the year 1996 and spanning over the past 25 years. It’s fun to see the different patterns and trends that took place as Hip-Hop evolved over the years. So come get nostalgic with me!
I love sharing with my readers the different elements that make me who I am. One such detail is my star sign. I am not deeply invested in astrology, but I do see how being a Gemini impacts my identity. It’s either that or I really am bipolar, but I’ll leave that up to my therapist to diagnose. I don’t know anything beyond that; hell, I don’t even know what time I was born. I don’t know what a sun sign is. Or a moon sign. I know that I keep getting my life ruined by Libras, which is apparently a common occurrence? Either way, my birthday is coming up in the next few weeks, and tomorrow marks the beginning of Gemini season. So to help my fellow Geminis and I get in the celebratory mood, here are some of the hilarious (and potentially truthful and/or dramatic) ways that rappers have described Geminis. Either out of pride or out of a warning. You can be the judge of that.
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. They range in subject matter, from religion to science to entertainment. While I am not a conspiracy theorist (at all. Please allow me to REALLY emphasize that I believe in science and think the Earth is round and climate change is real and have absolutely no merit in any other conspiracies beyond this scope), it has a strong presence in Hip-Hop. Some prominent artists have been accused of being in the Illuminati while others have allegedly faked their deaths. Some of the ideas aren’t quite as crazy as they may seem; for instance, it adds up that a culture built on anti-elitism would distrust politicians and the media. The skepticism makes sense; systematic racism has plagued our society and lower-income neighborhoods for decades. Some of these theories explore just how far the government will go to prevent these areas from thriving, and they aren’t the most unbelievable. But others encroach on some bizarre territory, including Satanism. As of right now, Lil Nas X is the newest artist to be worshipping the Devil, but I think that’s just the homophobia talking. Christians everywhere have classified Hip-Hop as evil for decades. So why not have fun with it and bring these exaggerated characters to life? No matter what motivated the lyrics, they don’t always need to be taken literally. With that being said, while some sound intellectual and wordy upon first listen, quite a lot of them do require a second take. So here are some bizarre lyrics that touch on some popular (and some lesser-known) conspiracy theories. I have excluded those about Coronavirus being fake since that shit is tired and played out. And as always, this is solely based on my opinion. Please don’t read into it.
I have a strange relationship with my womanhood. I love being a woman. I think we are divine, with bodies and minds that are capable of breathtaking things. However, it’s also the source of a lot of my frustration. It makes me angry that I’ve had to leave or second-guess positions because of men who don’t know how to treat me with respect and professionalism. It makes me angry that I’m not always taken seriously and that my appearance will often be the main focus. It makes me angry that people think they can treat me like a second-class citizen. And it really makes me fucking angry that I go out in public fully clothed, just for people to undress me with their eyes, invading my personal boundaries with no possibility of consent because the advances are unspoken and indirect. Even after everything women have done for this country, we still often find ourselves demanding respect. On the final day of March, I want to celebrate Women’s History Month with Hip-Hop lyrics that uphold the names of women who have overcome obstacles to leave an imprint on history, cementing their legacies in poetic raps. No matter how others treat me, I’ll forever cherish being a strong woman with the stubbornness and willpower to continue fighting no matter what life throws at me.
It feels like every time I plan a celebratory or positive post, some sort of injustice or tragedy has occurred, diverting my attention to more pressing matters. This week, we had not one, but two mass shootings take place. One took place in Boulder, Colorado, and the other in Atlanta, Georgia. While the police haven’t discovered a motive behind the Colorado shooting as yet, the Atlanta shooting was racially charged, exemplifying just one more hate crime towards Asian Americans since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Violence against Asians has spiked since former President and forever dipshit Donald Trump referred to the virus as the “China Virus”, the “Kung Flu,” and numerous other scientifically inaccurate (but I guess who needs science, right?) names that linked it directly to the country. Unfortunately, just like Americans do to brown people, they linked the virus to all Asian people, sparing no one, not even the elderly. Someone equated the increase in attacks as to how Sikhs and Muslims were treated after 9/11, and the parallels are disturbing, especially considering the lack of concrete evidence linking the virus to China. As the country diverts its attention to ethnic and religious minority groups, we are once again witnessing white men get away with terrorist attacks simply because of their blinding privilege, and honestly, it’s infuriating. As a result, I wanted to write this post to show the beautiful ways Hip-Hop has paid homage to Asian culture through lyrics over the decades.
In numerous posts, I’ve recounted how my older brother, Sahil, shaped my love for music. Growing up with a four-year age difference, I always wanted to be like him. He wore his overalls with one strap buckled in place, the other hanging lazily. So I did the same. The very first instrument he learned to play was the flute, so that was what I chose to learn in elementary school. I couldn’t play a single note. He watched Pokemon on the weekends, with me faithfully by his side. He signed up for baseball, so I signed up for softball. That only lasted up until I got hit square in the face with the ball. After that, any time it would come near me, I would cower in fear, providing absolutely zero support for my team. Most of the time I wasn’t quite as successful at these activities as he was, and looking back at it, I’m not sure just how good he was at them. But in my eyes, he mastered every single thing he tried. It was impossible for him to fail. And even if I fell short in comparison to him, he always encouraged me. He knew what I needed to hear so that I wouldn’t give up. That pattern has continued into our adult lives, even if he isn’t quite as vocal. We both fell in love with music. I drew inspiration from his passion, talent, and diligence, and I wanted to show him that I was capable of it as well. After a few years, I started to feel those same sentiments, no longer feeding off his love for the arts to impress him as it grew organically within me. We grew older and fell out of touch through our teenage years, reconnecting and drifting apart incessantly as the exhausting cycle of life ensures. However, our sibling bond never faltered. I always knew that he would be in my corner, no matter what I chose to do. So today, on his 29th birthday, this post is dedicated to my best friend and incredible brother, Sahil. Thank you for exposing me to so much incredible music.
I don’t think I had much of an intention of Spice on the Beat becoming a political outlet when I first started it. However, over the last few years, we have seen the fine line between politics and human rights diminish as acts have been passed that make you question the morality of the government. After a while, I felt like there was something more that I could do; an interesting way to get people involved and tuned in to the issues that have been suppressed over decades. I have a platform and a knack for writing, and to use the two to stand up for injustices felt like a no-brainer. Nevertheless, I would be doing a disservice to my blog, my culture, my people, my family, and my roots if I didn’t find a way to talk about the Farmer Protests that were currently occurring in India. In what has become one of the biggest protests in the country, tens of thousands of farmers have set up camps outside of New Delhi to fight India’s newest laws. The laws, which were once used to protect the farmers and their profits by guaranteeing at least the minimum price for crops, are now being changed to “modernize” them. Rather than working with the farmers to come to an agreement, the people were met with barbed wire fences, police brutality, water cannons, tear gas, internet outages, and unlawful arrests.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted a bit of a change of pace with this post. I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day; I have ever since I was little. I would go all out in elementary school, with the most obnoxious homemade cards. My poor parents had to put in so much time to help me cut out large hearts. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a fan of Galentine’s Day (thanks to Leslie Knope). Getting wine drunk and eating chocolate in cute pajamas with my girlfriends. Celebrating how lucky I am to have them by my side. Showering them with cute treats and fun cards. I have had some sweet Valentine’s Days; I still remember one year when a guy bought me two boxes of Cheez-Its. That was the real winner. But even without romantic attachment, I still looked forward to the day when I’d see people walking around with teddy bears and gorgeous bouquets. It’s fun to have a day dedicated to going above and beyond to tell those around you that you love them. This year, however, is a bit different. Dating during a global pandemic isn’t easy, and unfortunately, spending it alone, especially without your friends, makes it a bit harder. So to help those who may not have any plans get into the mood, I wanted to highlight the beauty of love languages and the different ways in which you can express your sentiments to those around you. Love languages align with how you display your fondness and can vary by person. Your dominant love language is either Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, or Acts of Service. Hip-Hop isn’t typically thought of as the most romantic, so I wanted to make this post to debunk that myth, and possibly give you a fun playlist to listen to while you enjoy a bottle of wine (either by yourself; no shame! Or with a loved one). The irony of it all? I’m very very single, and even after numerous Buzzfeed quizzes, I have no idea what the hell my love language is. So despite how unqualified I am to write this, I hope you enjoy it!
Psychological abuse can come in several different forms; gaslighting, manipulating, lying. We fall privy to it quite a bit in romantic relationships. Being on the receiving end can create a lifetime of emotional damage, making it difficult to trust and difficult to love. Accusations can be turned against you, your sanity can be questioned, and evidence can be denied. You can be called crazy when in reality, it was the mixed signals and empty promises that gave you a false sense of hope. It can be telling a woman what she wants to hear so that you can have sex with her just to never call her back, making it seem as though she was clingy for no reason. It can result in a woman becoming emotionally dependent on her partner, unable to leave him alone even though she deserves so much more. These are all factors that are relevant in the dating world for both men and women. A lot of tracks tend to downplay toxic relationships, painting women as insane gold-diggers and sluts, while neglecting to reprimand the other person’s actions. It creates the idea that emotionally abusive behavior is normal and acceptable, so long as it’s in the name of passion and love. It makes it challenging to pinpoint unhealthy habits and even harder to stand up for yourself.
This post is a bit delayed, but I figured it’s never too late to say thank you. As you can tell by the majority of my subject matter from the past year, 2020 was exhausting. The country faced a lot of division, and Covid-19 took hundreds of thousands of lives and jobs, isolating us to a degree that I’ve never personally experienced until now. I was lucky to have my family close by, spending a lot of the last year in Maryland with my parents. The rest of the time was spent in my apartment in Philly. Alone. I’ve never done well just sitting with my thoughts. Frankly, it’s excruciating. But my blog became an outlet for me to vent, whether personally or about political affairs. It also gave me the ability to connect with others, whether they’re artists, trusting me with their music, or music-lovers, diving into the songs that I’ve chosen to analyze. I’ve met some incredible people all around the world thanks to this blog, and it’s been an incredible experience. So thank you for 10,000 views on my personal musical diary. This is me at my most vulnerable, but also me at my most genuine, so to see it so widely accepted is a breath of relief. I can’t wait to share more of my thoughts and incredible artists with you.
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in ignorant bliss (in which case I am very jealous), then you know about the events that rocked Washington DC. Trump lovers, Klansmen, Blue Lives Matters supporters, and anti-maskers/QAnon (yes, apparently they’re all different????) joined forces to protest… Well… I’m not exactly sure what they were protesting. Was it the Georgia election? Do they even know what they were protesting? Was that even protesting when you’re just asking the government to overturn democracy? Okay, whatever. Either way, they gathered together in their maskless glory, donning American flags and other obnoxious costumes, to storm the Capitol building. Well, not exactly storm, seeing as there wasn’t a whole lot of force used. Instead, they just kinda meandered in, with no real hurry and no fear of repercussions. It really makes you wonder where all of those tanks and guns were when we were faced to face with them during the Black Lives Matter protests. Wait, there was no National Guard either?! Wow. Maybe it’s because there was no real cause for protesting, whereas we were fighting for racial injustices and police brutality; two very present issues that go hand in hand. Apparently, trying to keep your Black friends safe is more dangerous than being an angry and fucking idiotic white supremacist who didn’t get their way. And yes, you had your token minorities, as you always do. But let’s be honest, because this country has completely given up on trying to hide this fact. White people can get away with 10x worse than Black and Brown people. These people got away with bringing BOMBS into the Capitol building! Whereas my family and I can’t even go into airports without being randomly selected, because clearly, I’m hiding something in my shoe. As a result, I’ve decided to talk about the police and the very different ways that they treat Black and white people. In hip-hop lyrics, of course.
Tik-Tok has been a huge source of entertainment throughout Quarantine; from cute dances to easy recipes to inexpensive lifehacks, you can get just about anything on there. However, the platform has also had a significant impact on the music industry. In 2020, the industry has faced challenges like no other, altering how we find new music. Thanks to Tik-Tok, an artist just needs 15 seconds of their song to go viral for it to be at the top of the charts. We saw it with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” Whether the song has been around for decades or if it’s a new release, chances are if that song is in a Tik-Tok that gets enough views, it can be a hit. It’s a new age of Influencers. Screenshots of Spotify screens are no longer enough. Tracks need some sort of visual; specifically, a dance routine that is simple enough to be learned by just about anyone, but creative enough to be offered some versatility.
The music industry can be taxing on one’s confidence. As much fun as it is, it can be turbulent to navigate, and it will often take a toll on your ego. Gaslighting, manipulating, and lying are not foreign to the business. It can be ruthless, and people will say what they need to say to get what they want. And when money is involved, it’s a whole different ballgame. Now, I’ve never been very good at asking for money, but after realizing that I do have valuable knowledge and experience in an industry that I’m passionate about, I still tend to get treated like an intern. People treat services in this industry very differently than a lot of industries. Jobs are often thought of as favors. But at some point, you deserve to get paid for the work that you do. Unfortunately, I’ve had numerous discussions like this, but they end up with the other person downplaying and even insulting my skillset, making it known just how replaceable and unimportant I am. It’s something we see at every level in the music business; as soon as you ask for something in return, all pleasantries are out the door. The skills that people were hoping to utilize are all of a sudden unnecessary, and essentially, you ain’t shit. Artists see it too when they start taking their demands to level executives. Out of nowhere, the same people who labeled them geniuses have named five others who could take their place. Thankfully, I’ve always taken pride in my resilience. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of others doing what I’m doing and more. But there’s only one me, and that’s valuable as hell.
So… Today’s the day. How’s everyone feeling? If I’m being honest, my emotions are all over the place. I’m trying to distract myself with mundane activities but find that it’s a bit difficult to focus my attention on anything other than the potential outcomes for this week. I still remember four years ago, when I sat at the bar until 4 AM watching the votes pour in. The swing states were trickling in, and the numbers were close. By the time my friends and I got an Uber, I felt defeated. I knew what was happening. As I pulled up to my apartment, I heard the boys next door cheering Trump’s name. Unsurprisingly, it was the lacrosse team’s house, which seemed to be his target audience. The privileged douche bags who could get out of any problem thanks to their skintone and their dad’s money. After a few hours of sleep, my alarm went off, reminding me that the night before wasn’t a nightmare and that I had to face the world and go to class. I felt my mind fog with sadness and the remnants of the alcohol from the night before, with the clouds and rain echoing my emotions. Cops were posted on every corner of campus, foreshadowing the disarray that was to come. And yet, it still didn’t prepare me for the hell that has been this year.
In 2008, the United States saw its highest voter turnout rate in young voters for the first time in 35 years. Celebrities of different statuses and backgrounds banded together to help campaign for the first Black president, with quite a few of those artists stemming from the hip-hop industry. In fact, Obama encouraged the use of this unlikely culture in politics, and it proved to have a strong impact. Young adults all over familiarized themselves with him through lyrics, falling in love with his charisma and optimism. Unfortunately, not everyone was enthusiastic about this introduction of hip-hop into mainstream politics. And let’s be clear, hip-hop has always been political. Whether it was commenting on racial inequality or exposing issues with authoritative figures, hip-hop has always been up-to-date with the political climate of the United States. But now, it has been at the forefront, receiving news coverage and getting noticed by politicians everywhere. And although one may disagree with Obama’s actions or beliefs, he was presidential. He inspired change. And he’s sure as hell better than what we have now. So as we get closer to the November election, I want to highlight some of Obama’s best hip-hop moments and reminisce on when we had a president in office, and not a disgusting, horribly spray-tanned piece of shit.
As you can probably tell, I am extremely invested in this year’s election. I’m typically always concerned when it comes to politics, but if you are honestly not terrified for the future of this country right now, then you are either hiding behind a veil of denial or a veil of privilege. Or you’ve simply just stopped caring, which is kind of understandable at this point. It’s been a whirlwind. And I know that this is supposed to be a hip-hop blog, but the ways in which I have been seeing politics and the entertainment industry overlap is actually pretty inspiring. Out of all of the methods I have seen to promote voter turn-out, this may be one of the most innovative ideas. President Trump has managed to worsen this country every time he opens his mouth. It’s genuinely become difficult to tell fact from fiction. So artists all over the United States have taken it upon themselves to expose President Trump’s web of lies in the new trend, #45Lies.
I decided to take a small break from my usual posts to do something I don’t usually do. This isn’t a sponsored post, but rather an event for something that I’m extremely passionate about, and that involves the dreaded world of politics. Unfortunately, at this point in time, we can’t think of politics as something that only affects the 1%, or what we hear talked about on the news at 11 PM every night. The current issues going on involve every single one of us, and that’s why this election is so important. It goes beyond a topic that is avoided on first dates and family dinners. In fact, it’s something I feel I have to talk about when meeting someone for the first time (if anyone would like to know why I’m still single). This has become a fight for basic human rights, and lives are depending on it. We need change. And this cannot happen unless we go out (or stay in!) and vote.
My last post was difficult to get through, as a writer, an editor, a reader, and a lover of hip-hop. But it was an issue that I was passionate about that needed to be brought to light. However, I ended it by mentioning “WAP,” the Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion song that has everybody talking. Astonishingly, the lyrics that I discussed in my last post were far more accepted than two women rapping about consensual sex, something that isn’t a new trend. When I first heard the song, I was a bit taken aback. However, that’s mainly because the version I first heard edited the chorus to say “this wet and gushy.” If you know me, you know that that would make me uncomfortable no matter who sang that. I’m definitely no prude. Gushy is just a weird word. It’s like how some people react to moist, which, oddly enough, I’m a little more okay with. But once I heard the actual version, I could 100% get behind it. It was empowering and refreshing. It was fun, but it was also powerful and sexy. It felt both dominant and feminine, showing just how fierce women could be. And frankly, if you think that song is inappropriate, you haven’t heard anything yet. So this post is dedicated to having *consensual* sex, fucking, making love, whatever you want to call it, and how it’s portrayed in hip-hop.
Over the years, hip-hop has intertwined with movies in so many ways. It was always exciting to see some of our favorite emcees like Ice Cube or Tupac on the big screen. Sometimes we see them play characters that we fall in love with, or everyday actors portray their glamorous lives. We think of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton or Eight Mile. Even Gully Boy if you want to include a bit of Bollywood. There are incredible behind-the-scenes documentaries, like Michael Rapaport’s Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, or fictional stories of neighborhood kids like Dope. But occasionally, we’ll see hip-hop music being used in movies that we don’t typically expect it in. We see it in family-oriented movies or used to portray superheroes when society has taught us that hip-hop is the villain. The genre connotates one thing, but then filmmakers use it to mean another. Often times, hip-hop can create a new dimension to the story or its characters and contributes a beautiful feeling of nostalgia and personality.
Similarly to my last blog, I have gathered a list of petitions at the end of this post that you can sign to help make the Cannabis industry more inclusive. If we want to legalize and decriminalize Marijuana, there is no reason why individuals should still be locked up due to their complexion when others can profit off of it. Please take the time to sign at least one petition.
The other day, I was running my fingers through my hair, feeling every inch of each strand. Most don’t know this about me, but I developed alopecia just a few years ago. It was traumatic, to say the least. I always loved my hair because it was the one thing that connected me more to my culture and religion than anything else. So when I woke up with a giant, striking bald spot on the right corner of my head, I was mortified. My mental health was already in turmoil, my stress through the roof. The worst part is, the more I stressed out about it, the more patches developed over time. My best friend was the only person entrusted with my hair. I would only get the bare minimum cut off during trims, terrified of losing any more of myself. The attachment was so strong that it was probably a bit unhealthy. But my hair was so much of who I was.
PSA: At the bottom of this page, you can find a list of resources to donate to, as well as other ways to get involved. I have also compiled a list of local black DMV/Philly artists that have Spotify fundraiser picks up on their page. I strongly urge you to support these artists.While media blackouts have good intentions, by not listening to these artists, you are taking away their streaming revenue. Play their music. Hear their voices.
*Also credit for the beautiful header image goes to @bymudra on Instagram*
If you’ve ever gotten a chance to check out some of Luke James’ music reviews, then you’re in luck. I’ve been following him for quite some time, and after surprisingly not much nagging at all, he agreed to let me interview him. After a few back and forth messages over Twitter, we were able to make this happen. I have a lot of love for him, so even if you aren’t into full music reviews, check him out on Twitter to get a bit of his humorous takes and honest shade. It’s super entertaining.
“My tribe is a quest to a land that was lost to us”
Riz Ahmed – The Long Goodbye
If you’re in my inner circle, you know that I struggle with my cultural identity quite a bit. I did touch on this a little in Screwing the Light Bulb, but I’m going to expand on this a little more. I stopped feeling comfortable in Indian clothes around the same time that I stopped feeling accepted at Indian parties with my parents and their friends. I felt out of place, and I remember carrying that feeling with me to college as I would walk around with my best friends, knowing I looked nothing like them and feeling the eyes of the Desi kids staring at me as if I felt like I was better than them. But I didn’t. I just felt unaccepted. Hip-hop became my safe place, becoming so much of who I am today. But I still felt a similar sense of not belonging, the way I stupidly feel with my white friends who love my culture and don’t even notice the color of my skin, or the Indian kids that in reality, don’t even pay me any mind. These insecurities may be stupid and in my head, but they’ve caused me a lot of internal turmoil nonetheless.
Sure, things are absolutely crazy right now. Animals are roaming the streets, the environment is the only thing thriving, cities are going on their first full month of quarantine, tornadoes are wreaking havoc,and it is absolutely impossible to find toilet paper anywhere.But did you see that RZA vs. Preemo though?!
I’ll be honest. I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to write about. When I first created this blog post, I literally titled it, “Well What Now…?”, a title that I’m sure I’ll reuse in a month if I am still sitting in my pink polka-dotted childhood bedroom. I am lucky if I get up earlier than noon these days. I’m stuck, tired, and frustrated. Every day gets more exhausting than the last, and I honestly couldn’t tell how much time had gone by since my last post. Was it one week or two? What day was it today? Time has been blending together, and it is beyond uncomfortable. But for the artists who have used this time to create content for everyone else to enjoy, I am so very thankful. Because I know how hard it is right now. And because without you, I don’t know what I would do. Every day I go for a walk around my lake. It takes a bit of energy to convince myself to get up and do something, but the minute that I plug in my headphones and select shuffle on my Spotify is the minute that I can be transported away from all of the bullshit. I’m able to smile and enjoy the sweet bliss of some of my favorite songs, imagining I’m with my friends or at a fun bar.
I’m not 100% sure how to approach this post seeing as I’ve been feeling quite numb for a while now, so I do apologize if it’s all over the place. But music has been the one thing to keep me going, so I may honestly be making this post more for me than anyone else. But I hope that it’s able to give you all something to take your mind off of what’s going on in the world, even if just for the few minutes that it took to read this. Please, no matter how discouraged you feel, do not let go of your creative outlets. Paint, make music, do what you can to feel a sense of comfort, because I promise, it will inspire others as well.
This is the second part to a two-part series called Homosexuality in Hip-Hop. If you haven’t already, please read part one here.
In the first part of this series, we took a step back to look at how homosexuality was viewed in hip-hop for years, and how it’s slowly but surely progressed. While a lot of it was due to progressing views overall as a nation, some of those conservative ideas have still held a lot of people back. The big difference now, however, is that artists are using their voices to advocate for this cause, no matter what sort of response they might receive.
Although I think I’m still trying to find the right answer.
Not often do you find a 23 year old Indian girl who can talk your ear off about Hip-Hop. I get asked all the time, typically with a tone of shock and wonder, “Who are you?!” when I find myself rambling about my favorite MC’s, and often times, I have to stop and ask myself the same question.
It all started when I was the age of 15. I was sitting in the car with my older brother, who always knew anything and everything about music. I envied that about him, especially as I had to follow in his footsteps and attempt to live up to this musical passion. But I was lost. I could never connect with it the way he could, and I hated myself for it. That was until Common’s “Heidi Hoe” came on. I know, suddenly this story is not quite as cute and romantic. In fact, it was the final line in the song that caught my attention: “There’s a party in your mouth, bitch, and everybody’s cumming”. To my poor parents who are probably reading this in absolute disgust, yes, this is the line that made me curious about Hip-Hop. It was so crass, and yet so simply genius, that I was amazed. And I had to learn more.
From there, I dove mostly into Common, of course falling in absolute love with “The Light”, but also with his other classics such as “Be”, “Come Close”, and “I Used to Love H.E.R.”. I wrote papers on his music and learned every single one of his albums. Through him, I learned of the amazing J Dilla, who shaped my work ethic and passion, as well as the Soulquarian movement, which became the era of Hip-Hop that I could mostly relate to. It became my fuel in life, bringing me to the city of Philadelphia where my life and passion for music was just beginning.