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How You Gonna Hate On Gentrification When It's Your Fault: Leh Go

This is addressed to those who are in my demographic: post-college hipster types? I don’t know.


Living in Williamsburg, the gentrification mecca, it’s very common to hear cries of mostly white residents complaining about how gentrified the neighborhood is and how expensive things have become. I’m sorry, but aren’t we having this conversation in a bar that used to be a barber shop in a neighborhood that use to not be quite so affluent? We are full-fledged participants in this process—to think otherwise is to be in denial, if not a total asshole.


Besides those in denial, you’ve got those who ooze white guilt. If you feel that bad about it, then move to the Upper East or West Side. I’m pretty sure they’ve always belonged to white people (although nothing in the U.S. ever really has).

Someone once lamented to me about how bad they felt about moving to Bed Stuy. It was irritating for many reasons but mainly because I couldn’t understand where they wanted the conversation to go. Were they looking for a response like, “OMG I gentrify too! So glad we can support each other!”? It seemed like a dire attempt to fabricate an internal struggle that, just for the record, no one is going to give a shit about.

Both of these states of mind, guilt and denial, lead to the quest for authenticity—chasing after “the hood” or the “old New York.” The former makes me cringe. To those who proudly announce that they live in Bushwick, as if it suggests something daring in their character, I ask: would you live in East New York? No. Would you live in the South Bronx? No. There is nothing unique about moving to a place where there isn’t a majority of white people. Rather, what’s important is the fact that a larger number of white people are moving to a neighborhood: this is the process of gentrification. This is what matters to people: not the lack of resources or white people, but the fact that wealth and whiteness is on its way. If this wasn’t the case people would happily be moving to East New York or the South Bronx, where the rent is way cheaper. Your quest for authenticity is therefore misguided and will never be achieved.

As for the latter vision of discovering “the old New York,” I really cannot get over how funny this is. “Old New York” really wasn’t that great, especially for the disenfranchised. We are definitely reaping some of the benefits of work people have done before us, and some of us are creating benefits that people after us will enjoy. But I guess people are longing for the cheaper times, when apparently people were more creative because spending less money is romantic or something. But isn’t that what Berlin is for?

To put it simply for those who move to NYC: you are not the victims of gentrification, you are its protagonists. Those who have grown up here have watched it change and have actually been affected, whether by being priced out of their apartments or no longer feeling welcome in their own homes. Gentrification is too often talked about as something abstract that’s happening around us and not something that we are responsible for. NYC is more expensive than ever, but that’s not going to change. You are not just paying rent for your room—you’re paying rent to live in NYC, so to move to this city from somewhere else and complain about the prices is redundant. Just don’t come. After all, people in my demographic are broke but never poor. If times get hard you can move back home.

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"Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta": Saying Your Goodbyes to a Reality TV Show

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With the Finale of “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” having screened last night on VH1, I find myself particularly sad about its end. The last few episodes left me in tears, which may seem like a tragic (#tradge) thing to admit because firstly: it is, and secondly: their wealth doesn’t lend them much sympathy. But the portrayal of women of color is always something to be missed, because it’s always missing.

The wealth and privilege of these women of color is not to be ignored, though it does function as a distraction from the fact that they are constantly being done wrong, over and over again, and the exploitation of those issue are as sad as the issues on hand. Their lives are transformed into a charade of events that are laughable: abortion, adultery, etc. The show is constantly trying to drive home this idea that black women are a complete mess. But I think there is some hope in our spectatorship, there are other ways to read the show which can result in us understanding the intellect and strength of these individuals.

Yes, we know Reality TV means scripted reality, directed reality or whatever. However there is no denying that the tears that are shed, are real. In the penultimate episode, there is a particularly poignant scene where K. Michelle is forced to convince Rasheeda that she was beaten by her ex-boyfriend, who incidentally is Rasheeda’s friend. Isolating the issue for a moment: just having to convince your friend you’ve suffered domestic violence-is fucked up. Having that issue broadcast on television is unpleasant and ignites conversation: is K. Michelle lying about the abuse. This is such a setback in terms of women talking about abuse they’ve suffered but K. Michelle doesn’t cower to this intimidation. She stands by her experiences.These women’s lives are centered around men and what they’ve done to them, which for a majority of women is nothing less than reality.

Joseline, who we are constantly reminded (and she is), was ‘saved’ from the strip club by record producer Stevie J. She is an undeniable force in the show who embodies the woman women love to hate on and men want to sleep with. She is the perfect reality TV personality. And yet she embodies a lot more. She has clearly not always had a life of luxury. Being “plucked” from the strip club must be a difficult weight to carry. Stevie J constantly hangs this over her in order to remind Joseline he has control over her; perpetuating this idea of strippers having no worth at all. She was supposedly worthless until Stevie J gave worth to her. Fortunately in the last few episodes of the season, this disturbing dynamic changes and Joseline acquires some mobility and finds herself happier working without Stevie J. In the final episode Joseline admits to him she wants to continue their relationship but in the hopes it would only be professional.

K. Michelle, Rasheeda, and Joseline are only a few: there is Mimi, Karlie, Erica, Shay, Ariane, Momma Dee who have inspired my interest in travelling south to Georgia. The force of these women renders the men as pathetic, which is something I never have a problem seeing. For example Lil Scrappy’s dependence on his mother Momma Dee and Stevie J’s delusions of grandeur (in the final episode he wears a T-shirt that reads “I Am God”). Everyone knows there is a severe lack of shows that feature women of color, let alone the shit we experience. “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” is not trying to be a pro-woman piece of TV, by any means, but I believe there is space to understand and enjoy this show by recognizing that these women are kind of dope and super fly.

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THREE BEST HIP HOP VIDEOS TODAY

A$AP Rocky’s debut album is about to drop. I’ve heard it, and, WOW. This video makes you want A$AP to be your best friend.

A$AP Rocky, again plus some others: 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick. 2 Chainz is 2 Chainz (more on him below) Drake looks like he’s a tourist in Jamaica, no offense but get it together. The best part of this video is A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar, excuse the overused out of fashion word SWAGGGGG, but these brothers are styling HARD. 

The thing about this, and about 2 Chainz in general is that he reminds one of a Dave Chappelle show skit. Every single video of his looks like he was paid to be a parody rapper. So, obviously, that, is, genius.

Lil B: The "Post-Lil Wayne Deconstructionist"

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There’s a lot of people who hate Lil B. I understand why and how and all that. I think I did for a second, ‘this is a bastardization of hip hop!’, which it can definitely be considered as. But based on his music videos it’s also can be considered as a demonstration of what hip hop is often reduced to, violence, girls, money. So as a fuck you to those who reduce, Lil B raps about Wonton Soup. Actually I’m not sure if that’s actually why, but I’m romanticizing, which is all part of making him in an artist rather than accepting that he’s just a shit rapper.

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he knows what he’s doing and knows that most of what he’s rapping about is not intended to be profound. Someone described him as a ‘post-Lil Wayne deconstructionist’, which is kind of annoying and inaccurate seeing that Lil Wayne is still with us. But it did (maybe regrettably) make me think of Lil B as less of a rapper and more of a performance artist, so I guess in turn this is kind of what I’m trying to do here.

If we were to organize a gallery screening of all his videos, play them back to back, I believe we’d discover a really interesting body of work.

The arbitrary Lil B came to fame lawlessly, through social media. It takes a lot of ego to put yourself on the internet constantly (Exhibit A: BLASIAN.US). The consistency of his output is amazing. Fans on his Facebook page have complained that he posts too much. 'my news feed is filled with you!’

He’s really really funny. Apparently, according to his lyrics, he looks like Jesus and J.K. Rowling and that’s why women want to sit on his dick. Now the absurdity of this, to me at least, nullifies the misogyny. Er, actually probably not but I really want to give him the credit that he doesn’t hate women.

The internet seems to be a site of democracy, (oh, and racism and homophobia and misogyny). Lil’ B has been democratically voted via, YouTube and Twitter etc, into stardom. This must be a liberating type of celebrity, no one is responsible for Lil B’s fame but people surfing the web. Let’s be honest, with the seemingly tragic quality of celebrity today, who better to choose than the public?

I won’t get too idealistic, we make some horrible decision on shows like American Idol, I mean Clay Aiken, I mean Clay Bloody Aiken. But that said, I think this process can make for some really awesome finds.  

If you can bear to give him the time of day, Lil B is not as moronic and unbearable as he sells himself to be, just try him out a few times and he might work for you. I am going to revisit Lil B in a couple of weeks after I attend his lecture on April 11th at New York University. They are branding him as a ‘cultural icon’. SWAG. Sorry, I’m done.

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Watch Lil B: Wonton Soup here

My Hopes for R. Kelly's "Love Letter Cruise"

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I know everyone knows that in October R. Kelly is hosting a cruise in honor of himself, ‘The Love Letter Cruise’. If you don’t know, then you need to start following his Facebook page, this is important stuff. I want to briefly talk about my hopes for the cruise.
 
Firstly, R. Kelly should be singing for the entire time whilst simultaneously hanging out with me and everyone else. If I’m gonna spend thousand of dollars on a cruise, I should at least get to have a Patron (Silver) with R. Kelly.

Secondly, I expect him to sing every single song he has ever written including every collaboration he has ever done, and they have to be there too, which could end up taking longer than the cruise, but that’s something he should have thought about when wrote so many songs.

Thirdly, he has to screen projections of ‘Trapped in the closet’, (preferably on the deck of ‘The Carnival Destiny Cruise Ship’). This should be followed by a panel discussion on the series which includes everyone involved, because I know we all have a few questions.

In addition to this, there should also be a panel about his music videos, a panel about his songs, a panel about why this cruise is happening, and finally a panel about why R. Kelly has happened to the world. I don’t mean that maliciously, he’s just an absurd musical peculiarity. A song that uses the term “[let’s] go half on a baby” as a romantic proposition, is troubled.

Finally, if I didn’t have to save up for rent, bills, clothes, alcohol, my wedding that might not happen, my retirement that might not happen, my unconceived child’s college fund (that they might not want to attend), their wedding (that they might not be interested in either), then I would definitely go. However, they do offer a payment plan, I’m not kidding, they really do. It might be worth it because “you’ve never heard him at sea”.

[Important R. Kelly links]

R. Kelly - Half on a Baby (Music Video)

Love Letter Cruise
R. Kelly Facebook Page


Stop Singing Little Girl, Let's Learn About Baseball: "Moneyball"

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I must confess I know pretty much nothing about sport, I can just about tell the difference between basketball and baseball, but I can’t name players or understand rules or anything fancy like that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get down with Moneyball, which concerns what I identified as baseball.
 
Moneyball deals with the distinction between baseball the game and baseball the business. This is conveyed through Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Billy Beane, who is the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a relatively poorer team than the The Red Sox and The Yankees. Beane uses a unique method of Sabermetrics, with help from his assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill),  in order to create a top level team despite their financial restraints.

As well as it being a true story, it also works as a compelling allegory on how we evaluate people in society. When Beane presents his new approach to the rest of his board, they are outraged questioning how could Beane possibly employ a player who, for instance, has an untypical pitch. However there is a white-man-savior-narrative working on this film, I sometimes got confused whether Beane was representative of a community outreach program or the GM for a baseball team, but then I’d be reminded when he would go ahead and cut a player.

There are some cringe-worthy moments, like every interaction with his daughter. No one is interested that he loves his daughter, let alone has one. The scene where he takes his daughter to buy a guitar, is pretty painful. This device, “career-driven-father-has-a-child-so-he-cannot-be-a-completely-selfish-wanker”, is so frustrating. The film is doing a great job building momentum when we have to stop for a lame performance by his daughter. It’s also crudely intertwined within the film, worst of all at the end when his daughter has made him a recording of her song where she “cutely” confesses that she thinks her fathers a loser: NO ONE CARES. What I care about is whether Beane’s strategies are successful or not, isn’t that why we are all watching the film?

Brad Pitt gives an engaging performance; it inspired me to embark on a Wikipedia venture: “Billy Beane” > “Oakland Athletics” >“Baseball”. That’s about as far as I got, but it’s still an improvement from the little I knew before. So if the film can strike on any level, its an educational one.

THE WOODY ALLEN PERVERSION CHAPTER 1
“What’s up, Tiger Lily?”, Woody Allen’s first film venture, is a spoof of an already existing Japanese spy film. Allen dubs over the film with his own dialogue, thereby changing the plot in an attempt to transform the film into a comedy. The film in its entirety was OK, not that funny but thankfully only 80 minutes long. In all honestly nothing compelled me to write about this film except the final closing scene, which is set outside of the Japanese spy film and involves Woody Allen with an unnamed Japanese woman.
 
In this scene, Woody Allen is lying on a couch eating an apple while the woman is standing in front of him looking at the camera and slowly undressing. At first I naively thought that the only thing that connected this scene with the rest of the film was the Japanese woman, well because she’s Japanese and the film involves Japanese people. But we all know that there’s far more going on. The film reveals an unfortunate depth that I was hoping would not appear: that being the introduction of Allen’s exoticizing eye.   
 
If none of the footage was originally directed by him, does that therefore make the original film exoticising and fetishizing? No. Definitely objectifying but not exoticising and fetishizing. Funnily enough women of color are normal in other contexts and parts of the world, but it seems when a white man lends his lens for our viewing, women of color become sexed up creatures that are objects of their conquest, approval, disapproval, interest, and in the case of the closing scene, disinterest. Allen manages to pit an apple and a Japanese woman against each other, they are the two focal objects in the room. As viewers, Allen wants us to have as much interest in the woman as he does in the apple, and as much disinterest in the apple as he does in the woman. The conclusion of these objectification mathematics is that Allen posits himself as the most powerful character in the whole film and hints at how he would like to operate in his film career and evidently does.
 
The scene closes with Allen saying directly to the camera, “I promised I’d put her in the film”, as if the apple he was eating hadn’t said enough. Firstly this somewhat misogynistic confession, correlates with the idea that other films like Lost in Translation purport, that Japanese women (and by extension Japanese men) are accessories to white ambitions, feelings and reality. Secondly, its simply not funny.
 
I am trying my best to write about Woody Allen without really writing about Woody Allen, but I think I’ve happily failed. I think so far i have accused him of fetishizing, exoticzing, objectifying, excercising male priv’ n’ shit, so I am proud to conclude I am not a fan. But please do not doubt my ability to criticise because I am unable to celebrate this man’s work. I love a lot of respected artists such as Jodeci, Jagged Edge, Ginuwine, Ciara, … [ILL ITERATE: PBS loves Woody Allen. BLASIAN does not.]