Category: Lifestyle & Culture

Black Panther: The Album review

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The soundtrack for Black Panther, the film that broke box office records when it was released, is and diverse mixture of trap, R&B, and experimental rap that expresses the immense influence of Black culture on music in America.

Kendrick Lamar’s intro, “Black Panther” proclaims his place in the music industry as “King.” This into to the album launches the overall theme of the soundtrack, the idea of Black culture as powerful, a moving force on the entire soundtrack. Lamar ends the track by claiming his throne as T’Challa, and also as Erik Killmonger, encompassing two significant powerful figures in the film. Lamar’s voice echoes through every track, a constant reminder of his place and a proclamation of his dominion.

“All The Stars,” the lead single for the record, where SZA sings the hook, “This may be the night my dreams might let me know, All the stars are closer.” SZA and Lamar collaborate on the track perfectly. The significance in this song being the title track is the need for guidance from stars or even ancestry, especially in a society that is so quick to limit opportunity for people of color.

Trap influences on the album are also prominent on tracks like “King’s Dead” and ‘Paramedic!” and “X” which all have heavy trap beats.

“Opps” is one of the most experimental tracks on the album, with heavy electronic influences, where Vince Staples’ influence shines through. “I am” by Jorja Smith and “The Ways” Khalid bring through the R&B influences on the album and “Seasons” brings out Jazz influence – all genres encompassing and influencing modern day music within one solid, eclectic album while also encompassing strong African influence.

Statements on the record hold the overall meaning of the project as a work through the perspective of people of color.  “They ain’t wanna see me win ‘cause I’m Black, so I pulled up in an all Black Benz in the back,” exclaims Young T.O. on “Paramedic!” On The Ways, Khalid sings, “Power girl, I really wanna know your ways” which references the character Nakia, a spy and skilled fighter for Wakanda. On Seasons, Sjava raps in Zulu, “Bebathi ng’yophelel emoyeni, beba right, manje ngiy’nknayezi,” which roughly translates to, “They thought I’ll disappear into air, they are right, now I’m a star,” a proclamation of rising from oppression to stardom through African language. A verse from Mozzy on the same track proclaims, “Trapped in the system, traffickin’ drugs. Modern-day slavery, African thugs,” referencing modern day neo-slavery through the prison system.

Listening to this album is an experience that can only be had by a person of color, especially when paired with watching the film. Since many of the songs are a symbol of power, the scenes are more pronounced and resonate with you long after you leave the theater. As a woman of color, the sight of seeing powerful women fight against evil to music made for people of color, by people of color gives off so much emotion. It makes you feel as though you could conquer the world to the soundtrack.

“Opps” blaring through the theater while T’Challa and his group chase after their enemies is a triumphant scene in the movie, and could not have been well portrayed without the music that accompanied it. Hearing “All The Stars” after the movie ended, just before the final cutscenes, giave of a hopeful feeling for the future of representation of people of color in marvel movies, and film in general. SZA, an icon for women of color such as myself, has a voice of strength that could be parallel to the character Nakia, a powerful fighter, while Kendrick parallels to T’Challa as the king of Hip-Hop.

The overall theme is of this project is power and an indefinite reclamation of Black culture through music. In the age of hip-hop music being used as a tool for industry, commercial, and monetary gain by white record company owners, “Black Panther” is a humanization of the art that originates from Black people through early jazz music, the building blocks of most modern-day music genres. It is also a call for people of color in the film and in the music industry.   

In times like this, an era of revolutionizing the way we view race and people of color, Black Panther is an extremely important staple to our generation. The film shows what people of color are made of, and the soundtrack just adds to the energy of the movie. Finally, a franchise, a movement, that encompasses the image of blackness as heroic, royal and breathtaking.

 

Fall 2017 Music Suggestions


Brent Faiyaz

Orginially from Baltimore, Brent Faiyaz moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career. He write heartfelt and intimate R&B songs. He layers his voice, beats, and instrumentals beautifully. Most noticeably, he recently came out with his debut album entitled Somber Son, which speaks to a lot of his past and current life experiences in a vulnerable and real way.

Suggested songs:

    • First World Problemz/Nobody Carez
    • Talk 2 U

Brent’s Soundcloud

Maxine Ashley

Maxine Ashley is a Puerto-Rican American singer/songwriter from Bronx, NY. Her sound is contemporary R&B with electronic and soul beats. Her music is extremely versatile, growing up in NYC looking up to influences such as India Arie, Alicia Keys, and Salsa music. Many of her music videos play around with different sounds and looks, along with covers of songs such as Murder She Wrote by Chaka Demus & Pliers.

Suggested songs:

  • Between You and I
  • By Your Side

Maxine’s Soundcloud

Maxine’s Youtube

Tessellated

Tesellated, or Joshua Meeks, is a 19 year old singer/songwriter from Jamaica. He started making music when he was 16 and has continued creating into University. His music fuses his various musical influences to create smooth beats with electronic and instrumental influences. His music has a light smooth feeling, and as he describes “from the tropics spreading good vibes”.

Suggested Songs:

  • Searchin’
  • Pine & Ginger with Amindi K. Fro$t & Valleyz

Tessellated’s Soundcloud

A.CHAL

Originally born in Northern Peru, Alejandro Chal immigrate to the united states with his parents as a young child. Growing up in Queens , NY, he made beats and raps with his friends. His songs are smooth r&b/hip-hop with a trippy sedated feeling to them. His music is perfect to vibe out too, with mixture of Spanish and English.

Suggested Songs:

  • Love n Hennesy
  • Perdoname

A.CHAL’s Soundcloud


 

Humans of UMass Amherst: PWIs

By Lucia, Ariya, Sandra

The Class EDUC 392B: Racism Global Context is a class discussion about racial issues and how to confront them on predominantly white institutions (PWIs). Led by facilitators from CMASS (Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success), students came together to discuss their own encounters with racial issues on campus and how to address them in a productive way. We asked them about their experience over the weekend, what they learned and what they would like to share.

Chris

Sociology major

“Silence is violence, and it’s important to break the silence. Because there’s` so much institutional silence around issues of race and racism and the intersectionality of race and racism. And when we engage in discussion we’re like starting the work of deconstructing the institutional silence and violence that’s imposed on people of color but also that affects other people as well at predominantly white institutions.”

Tori

Accounting major

“Coming to this class and having an open discussion about people’s experiences with racism at umass was so eye opening. Because I know a lot of my friends think that racism doesn’t really occur on this campus, and it was astounding to see so many first perspectives about racism on campus and their own actual experiences.”

Jimmy 

Computer Science major

“Something I learned over the weekend is that everyone feels the same as I did about racial issues — they had their own issues with race too. And so I’m not the only one who feels this kind of pressure about race.”

Henry 

Psychology major

“I had the intention to learn more about different people’s perspectives because I am a leader on this campus fighting very hard for diversity and I felt that this course would, in a way teach me more about others people’s perspectives so that i can incorporate it in my work and improve.

“It’s important to have these kinds of group discussions because we can all just in a way share our pain so that we can learn to better empathize with each one another and have a greater understanding as to what’s happening in not only our lives but other people’s lives.”

“American Honey”’s View of Vagabond Youth

Review by Ariya Sonethavy

Andrea Arnold’s fourth feature film isn’t your typical “teen” movie — it’s not even a particular type of drama. Very few films of the genre follow the story of a woman of color, especially one whose thoughts the audience are hardly aware of. The storytelling in American Honey is atmospheric, and even the scenes of great intensity of a peculiar quietness to them.

We follow an 18-year old texan, Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), whose socioeconomic status deviates from the quirky white teen protagonists we see in movies about heartbreak and high school. The opening scene starts with star dumpster diving with two children — both of whom don’t seem to bear any blood relation to her — and their life ensues in typical fashion in their small Southern suburban home. There is a subtle nature in all of this. Arnold never gives away Star’s background in any kind of tangible story, but instead we see the young protagonist’s desire to escape when she cries softly as a man the children call “Daddy” forces her to slow dance with him to a country song.

The film itself isn’t about being poor, or even about life in the American South. Rather, it’s a portrait of youth that is never exposed in artistic mediums. Star eventually moves away from whatever life she had when she meets Jake (Shia Labeouf), who invites star to join his crew of traveling magazine sellers, run by a young but authoritarian Krystal (Riley Keough). The crew consists of young people from all different backgrounds, and together they seem like temporary family of hedonistic lost boys. Going door-to-door selling stories in exchange for magazine subscriptions, the group makes enough money to keep travelling across the country and enjoying their youth, deviating as far from 9-to-5 working class culture as possible. The near three hours of the film isn’t an epic in terms of thick plot, but instead encapsulates this visual poetry to create something strangely intimate. The magazine crew’s journey is turbulent, and there is an unspoken knowing that the group is temporary as different people come and go. Star breaks the Krystal’s order by finding an interest in Jake, and throughout the film their relationship see-saws from infatuation to jealous passive-aggressiveness. Star’s tumultuous personality is representative of the young women who are against the establishment, and even in a business where professionalism may lack, Star continually pushes Krystal’s buttons through her behavior.

There’s something political in Star’s disposition to difficult situations, and the cinematic frame that Arnold creates within this narrative is an artistic statement that extrapolates on the themes of youth — it’s a different play on the hazy teenager days that we see in movies like The Virgin Suicides, while the indulgence in being young and free deviates from films like Spring Breakers. The film takes a medium between placidity and action, and there’s a barrier between the audience and the characters from the fact that the film itself is merely a depiction — we never actually know what Star or Jake or any of the characters are thinking. The dreamy Instagram ratio visuals adds to the film’s character and atmosphere of motion, one that goes along with the nomadic nature of these wandering teenagers and the vastness of midwestern and southern America. There’s a richness in the energy of the actors on screen, most of which are unprofessional actors (Sasha Lane herself was found by Arnold on a beach with no prior acting experience), and communal empathy in the act of the entire crew singing along to popular rap and pop songs.

Arnold ultimately creates a masterpiece that isn’t driven by sex or edgy youth or love, or even the adventure of party culture. All these factors are instead taken in doses through the abstract, and becomes a messy anthology of raw exuberance, authenticity, and escape. American Honey is enigmatic, with the film being a window for observing rather than judging through a cohesive plot. The luminous cinematography and dizzying portrayal of youth make for Arnold’s statement that takes a Almost Famous-esque road film and transforms it into a work that has no boundaries or sense of time. Instead, we become the observers of an unorthodox romanticism of escape, reflecting all of our teenage desires to run away from home.