Time to Read

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” This quote by author and activist James Baldwin has altered the way that I view reading. What was once an activity that I lost passion for after being overwhelmed by reading for school, became essential to the path of developing greater compassion for others and myself.

Slow Down and Read

For many people, especially students, reading can feel like extra work that’s adding to our already busy schedules. We are used to moving fast in a world that’s filled with instant gratification, so taking part in the slow process of reading can be difficult. When I finally forced myself to read during my free time, I learned about how rewarding the experience can be. I have connected with characters who have very different lives from my own, which allowed me to figure out that one does not have to have the same life as me in order for us to understand each other. Through reading, I have gained more compassion for people living with mental illness, incarcerated people, the lonely, the afraid, and those who are confused about their place on this Earth. These circumstances and feelings are often not talked about, which can cause us to forget about people who experience them or if we are the person experiencing them then we feel like we’re alone in our struggles. Reading helps us recognize others while feeling known.

People of Color have Stories too

As a person of color, I often felt frustrated by reading stories about people of color but told through a white lens. Although people of color have our own individual experiences, we have more personal insight on issues that people outside of our communities do not have. I recently began to read books by Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. Their books didn’t simply tell me that “racism is bad,” something that I already knew, but they put words to the pains of being a Black woman, they guided me to feel my resilience that was sent down to me from past generations, and they helped me to know that I exist beyond oppression. Angelou and Morrison are two important figures who made room for other writers of color to tell our stories, but our stories are often still placed in the shadows. In order to prevent this from continuing to happen, we must uplift writers of color, which is what Noname’s Book Club is doing

Noname’s Book Club

Noname is a rapper from Chicago who started the book club to elevate the voices of people of color. Each month, two books by writers of color are selected and participants in the book club are strongly encouraged to access the books through libraries and local bookstores, rather than supporting large and exploitive corporations. The book club has an online community, but the goal is to have in-person discussions and to build chapters in various communities, including prisons. I have been the owner of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis book, but I never took the time to read it until I saw that it was selected by the book club. Before reading Persepolis, Iran seemed like a distant place that I would never know anything about. After reading Persepolis, I began to care deeply about Iran and the people who call the country home. This shows another reason, and possibly one of the most important reasons, for the necessity of reading: in a world pervaded by apathy, reading forces us to care. 

Written By: Maya Dixon
Photo by: Catapult

Peep This Joint: Royce Da 5’9” – The Allegory Album Review

After reflecting on his life in the highly introspective, soul-baring album, The Book of Ryan, in 2018, rap veteran Royce Da 5’9’’ focuses his newest effort, The Allegory, on looking outwards and providing philosophical commentary on society at large. 

In an interview with legendary Los Angeles radio host, Big Boy, Royce explained the origins of the album title, revealing it as a direct reference to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

“The album speaks a lot about perspective, I’m intrigued by perspective these days,” Royce said. “It’s amazing to me that two people could be looking at the same thing and seeing two totally different things, and each thing being their respective truth.”

With this project marking his eighth studio album, the Detroit emcee enlists a myriad of rappers to help push the album’s focus on perspective. The Allegory runs for a little over an hour with 22 tracks total of dense lyricism and philosophical messages meant to question the listener’s current perspective on reality.

In the rap game, Royce is best known as a top-tier lyricist and storyteller. But in this project, he switches things up by producing every track on the album. Considering that he has only recently started producing beats with his first credit on Eminem’s newest album, this is an ambitious feat that deserves its own applause.

The album opens up with the song, “Mr. Grace (Intro)” where a sample of a a father teaching his daughter financial literacy is played. Lines such as “If I gave you a million dollars right now, would you buy candy or a candy store? A candy store,” and “If I gave you something for 500, and you flip it to the next man for 2000, what is that called? Upselling” indicate Royce’s invitation to listeners to question their perspective on America’s lack of financial curriculum for its children.

He confirms this later on in his verse the repercussions of this lack of literacy rapping, “But this is America, where credit is for the privileged and profit is not my amenity.” In this line it’s clear to see that Royce is targeting the oppressors, namely rich white businessman who maintain the racist status quo of oppressing minorities.

A standout track of the album is the song, “Upside Down feat. Ashley Sorrell & Benny The Butcher.” As the fourth single of the album, Royce and rising New York rapper Benny The Butcher lay down a lyrically he avy tirade against the aforementioned oppressors. With Royce rapping, “White kids graduate to relationships with a ton of perks / Black kids, just aggravated and had to take a ton of Percs,” it’s clear to see the frustration he holds over the lack of equity in today’s status quo. Benny The Butcher voices similar frustrations rapping, “Young heathens clap tools over VVS jewels / White kids pull heaters at school, wanna CBS News.”

For a rapper with one of the most sharpest pens in the game, the production throughout the album never seems too boring or stale, despite the heavy reliance of sampling and boom-bap drums. The eclectic use of a wide range of samples such as Kool & the Gang’s funky hit, “Sunny Madness” in the song, “Dope Man” or the soulful crooning of The Linton’s “Lost Love” in “Overcomer” shows the hard work Royce put in before showcasing his work to the world. It ultimately pays off with an impressive production quality not typically found in rappers who decide to dip their toes into beat-making, especially one capable of such high caliber lyricism.

Overall, The Allegory proves that Royce’s pen is still sharp as ever and showcases his new production skills in this self-produced album. If you’re itching to hear some hard hitting bars that’ll have you reflecting on your own perspective, I suggest that you peep this joint out!

Rating: 8/10

Written by: Johann Oribello

Peep This Joint: The Brooklyn Drill Sound

A new movement has been brewing in the midst of the New York rap scene for the past couple of months.

Take the gritty, haunting production from U.K. drill and mix it with the aggressive yet charismatic delivery of Brooklyn rappers and you have the Brooklyn Drill sound. The catapult-like rise of Brooklyn rappers such as Sheff G and Pop Smoke have officially put Brooklyn back on the map.

It’s clear to see that Brooklyn Drill has roots from the original drill scene in Chicago and the U.K. Nevertheless, the rappers from Brooklyn have managed to put their own signature New York flavor and created a new, bustling movement that’s taking hip-hop by storm.

The sound has already been steadily growing in the most thorough borough for a minute now with Flatbush’s own Pop Smoke’s track, “Welcome To The Party” gaining tons of traction during the summer of 2019. The song became a breakthrough hit and landed Pop Smoke at the forefront of movement. 

Unfortunately, the fast-rising rapper’s career was tragically cut short on Feb. 19 as he was fatally shot in his Hollywood Hills home during a home invasion. 

The shocking death of the promising rapper has left the rap world shocked with music artists from the rap community pouring their condolences and support on Twitter.  In light of Pop Smoke’s untimely departure, here are a few words about the young phenom as well as other Brooklyn Drill rappers to check out:

Pop Smoke

Taken from: HipHopDX

As mentioned previously, Pop Smoke reared the helm for the Brooklyn Drill scene. Listen to any of his tracks and it’s not difficult to see why. His low, gravelly voice matched with his effortless delivery and signature growl adlib caught the attention of many listeners worldwide. It even had one writer compare him to an ancient Sumerian demon. Out of all the Brooklyn Drill rappers, he saw the most commercial success garnering collaborations with artists such as H.E.R. and Travis Scott. It’s clear to see the prosperity Pop Smoke received brought much attention to the Brooklyn scene as a whole.  Now mainstream artists such as Tory Lanez, Quavo and even titans like Drake and Nicki Minaj have hopped on to the Brooklyn Drill wave. Despite the premature cut to a promising young career, his influence opened the gateway for the sound to reach the masses. 

Tracks to check out: “Welcome To The Party,” “Meet the Woo,” and “Dior.”

Sheff G

Taken from: Pitchfork

Due to Pop Smoke’s meteoric rise into the spotlight, he’s seen as the most prominent voice in the Brooklyn Drill soundscape. Before his arrival into the music scene though, Flatbush’s own Sheff G reared the helm. He first made waves back in 2017 with the release of his breakout track, “No Suburban” and then went on to release his full-length debut, The Unluccy Luccy Kid in 2019. Capitalizing off the momentum of the entire movement, the album proves to be a strong entrance for the Brooklyn rapper. If you’re new to the scene The Unluccy Luccy Kid is an amazing introduction to the subgenre as a whole.

Tracks to check out: “Flows,” “We Getting Money,” and “Menace feat. Sleepy Hallow & Mozzy.”

22Gz

Taken from: Atlantic Records

22Gz (pronounced as tutu jeez) is one of the earliest pioneers of the Brooklyn Drill wave, releasing his first song, “Blixky” back in 2016. After capturing heat with the release of his next single, “Suburban,” his career took a turn for the worse as he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Fortunately for the young Brooklynite, he only spent several months in jail as the murder charges were later dropped. Since then, the self-proclaimed “Brooklyn Drill General” has been steady on his grind and managed to ink a deal with Kodak Black’s label, Sniper Gang. With a successful mixtape under his belt, 22Gz is a force to look out for in the near future.

Tracks to check out: “Blixky Gang Freestyle,” “Spin the Block feat. Kodak Black,” and “Suburban Pt. 2.”

Fivio Foreign

Taken from: XXLMag

Fivio (pronounced as fabio) Foreign is another up-and-comer that’s firmly gaining traction beyond the Brooklyn music sphere. Landing a feature on Tory Lanez’ new single, “K Lo K,” Fivio shows up with an infectious energy and bounce as he puts on for the city of New York. His rapid rise to popularity has even caught the eyes of Drake who he’s rumored to have a feature with. After connecting with legendary New York rapper Mase and signing a record deal with him, Fivio is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the near future. 

Tracks to check out: “Big Drip,” “Richer Than Ever feat. Rich The Kid,” and “K Lo K feat. Tory Lanez.”

If you’re looking to find out what’s currently hot right now in hip-hop, peep some of these joints out!

Written By: Johann Oribello

Another Little Women Movie

Including the Little Women 2019 film, the classic novel now has six movie adaptations and twelve television adaptations. One may think, how many times can one story be told?

Greta Gerwig’s version simply shows the movie industry’s plan to profit off the nostalgia of its audience to disguise its lack of inventiveness! Why would Gerwig, the director who was able to poignantly capture the twister of emotions that comes with teenage girlhood in her film Lady Bird, settle for creating another remake? Well, as someone who has seen the movie twice and plans to see it many more, Gerwig’s Little Women is more than a remake, more than a holiday movie, and more than just a simple tale of domestic life. Just like Lady Bird, Gerwig made a film that represented me so accurately that it allowed me to experience the most beautiful pain.

“But… I am so lonely.” 

There is much to love about this film that contains very much love within it, but the purpose of this article is to focus on the quote said by the character Jo March, “Women, they have minds and souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition and talent, and as well as just beauty, and I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it! But… I’m so lonely!” Although Saoirse Ronan (Jo March) never fails to brilliantly portray her characters, the warm tingles suddenly shooting up my spine while she delivered these lines made me certain that I was hearing something that would mean a lot to me.

A longing to be extraordinary 

I am a young woman living in the United States in 2020, not the 1860s. I haven’t had to prove to anyone that I have dreams I’m capable of obtaining that don’t revolve around marriage and children. Like Jo, I am independent, passionate, and dedicated to creating something memorable and impactful, but I, too, sometimes feel stuck in the loneliness that can come with it. I know I’m supposed to think that I am worth more than the love that any man can give me, but there is still a longing to be told, and proven to me, that I am extraordinary. Not only to be shown that I am great by my success but to know that my love is magnificent enough to be held by another. To have someone to want you to reside in their time, allowing you to leave the loneliness of your own. I usually laugh at these thoughts and call them outdated, I am a creator, I am modern, I am enough for myself, but women can know that they are fit for more than romantic love without feeling guilty for wanting it. Being loved and being independent doesn’t have to be contradictory. 

We are not one feeling

Women exist in more than one way and can have more than one dream. Having multiple dreams doesn’t make any of them unimportant or less meaningful. Not striving for romantic relationships doesn’t mean we’re going to live a depressing life of solitude that make our dreams seem futile. Admitting to loneliness and wanting to be loved doesn’t make us weak, shallow, and unambitious. To feel like a serious creator doesn’t mean that the entirety of our lives has to belong to our art. Women have been shamed throughout history for all of our dreams but acknowledging all of them reminds us that we are real and keeps us honest. In two hours and fifteen minutes, Gerwig shows her audience the vastness of women’s minds, the strength of our hearts and souls, the power of our ambition and talent, the realities of our loneliness, and the beauty that all of them express.

More than another adaptation

Much time has passed between Jo March’s time and my own, our experiences are different, our societies aren’t exactly the same, but what has traveled between us is the multitude of our wholehearted love and the aches that arise from not always being certain if we’re putting it in the right place. Little Women (2019) reminded me to care for those around me a little more, to celebrate every aspect of my youth while it can still be felt, the significance of my dreams, the intensity of loneliness that’s seemingly unshakable, and that I am grateful for all of it. This film is more than another adaptation, but its own entity that allows a new generation to have our feelings seen. No one will forget Jo March and no one will forget Gerwig’s Little Women.

Written By: Maya Dixon