sampling and sound’s effects

@Escofrass just released “Up Like Trump” last night (January 20, 2017) and I need to be very clear when I say that I do not rate this song.

While the rest of the forward-thinking world was mourning the inauguration of Donald Trump, Jamaican dancehall artist Esco Frass Don Dada was timing the release of his 2017 ride on Rae Sremmurd’s 2014 trap tune “Up Like Trump.”  Please forgive me for posting as this song needs a parental advisory and a warning to all feminist and progressive members of humanity.

Esco Frass’ song was teased on Twitter on Thursday and posted last night. It begs our attention not because of its lyrical genius or societal upliftment (it lacks both). What it does is highlight the dangerous ripple effects that Trump’s presidency has put into action outside of the United States. As a woman living in the Caribbean, more specifically, a woman living in Kingston, Jamaica, I am a part of a culture that can, on the one hand, elect a woman to the highest government position; but, on the other hand, still suffer from such a crippling fear of emasculation that violent sexual aggression remains a common, arguably, acceptable course for subjugating women.

Hearing Donald Trump’s hot mic recording loop over and over again throughout this “Don Dada’s” (read: ladies’ man) tune is a sign of just how tragically pervasive the disregard for women’s bodies is globally.  I watched the video and was immediately transported back to early October when the “Access Hollywood” story first broke the internet but, notably, did not break Trump’s campaign. In Esco Frass’ defense, (insert me shuddering as I write that phrase) the release of that 2005 recording did not stop Trump from getting elected, so why should it stop a dancehall artist from capitalizing on a now “popular” Trump phrase? The tragedy is that Jamaica seemed poised to adopt the phrase. This is Jamaica, land I love, land that birthed me, and land of daggering.  Jamaican popular culture, particularly Jamaica’s musical heritage, has anchored my existence yet I find this song to be particularly dangerous.  As I blogged last year with regard to Chaka Demus and Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote,” while our bodies may respond to the vibes, we must stop and consider what the lyrics are saying.

It was only twelve years ago that the very newly minted president of the United States of America was caught boastfully saying: “And when you’re a star [women] let you do it. You can do anything…Grab them by the p*ssy… Some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her… I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait…” Trump’s now infamous but not un-electable message of “Grab them by the p*ssy” are carefully translated by Esco Frass into Jamaican language when he says: “Up like Trump/ Dem gyal a get f*ck/ […] Me no talk, just reach, and feel fi di clump.”  The song even references the seedy details of the hot mic transcript when Frass says that he “buy yuh furniture/ buy yuh house/ mi pop off yuh skirt/ den pop off yuh blouse.”  c2kzdmzxeaaetvuWearing a red tie like the one that Trump donned during the pomp and circumstance of yesterday, Esco Frass also put on white-face, a pout, and a terrible blonde wig to perform Trump-ed up levels of misogyny as he layered the now POTUS’s hot mic words with his own all while riding on a trap track that was versed by a rap clique that values “money, hos, and clothes,” to quote the late Brooklyn philosopher, Notorious B.I.G.

What does it signal when on Inauguration Day a practitioner of dancehall (which is already a misogynistic musical genre) releases a video tune that directly samples Trump’s brand of sexual assault?  In my estimation, Esco Frass Don Dada’s choices signal the importance of how Trump’s language of inflammatory rhetoric is going to problematize and endanger all manners of communication and relationships from both the personal to the international level.  Specifically, this exposes just how Trump’s very public sexualization of women is being read outside of the U.S. This emphasizes the importance of the end-of-2016 hashtag and movement that gave hundreds of violated Caribbean women the courage to publicly voice their truths about sexual assault. Thank you #lifeinleggings.  To some degree, “Up Like Trump” demystifies why there were 10,000 cases of child abuse reported to authorities in Jamaica in 2013 (the majority of those cases were about girls and their trafficking).  This video-song may also shed light on why in my island nation of Jamaica there were more than 20 women killed by their domestic partners last year.

Just yesterday I was re-reading Jamaican writer Michelle Cliff’s 1982 essay “If I Could Write This In Fire, I Would Write This in Fire.”  The recently and dearly departed Cliff wrote about the destructive rage of having to remain silent about one’s life’s truths. (Thank you again #lifeinleggings.) In one of the sections of the essay she discussed Jamaica of the 1970s, the Michael Manley years. Cliff noted that by 1980 such a significant segment of Jamaica’s educated population had migrated to the US and Canada that the nation had to rally a new campaign to bring in any tourist dollars that it could. “Make it Jamaica again” was the campaign and YouTube makes viewing it possible.

How eerie it is to see that commercial today. Just what “Jamaica” is the commercial asking for as it sings out “Come back to Jamaica/ … What’s old is what’s new.”  As the one minute message concludes, a scarved woman dances with vested black men in what looks to be a great house.  colonial-returnShe wears not the festive bandana plaid that is our national fabric, but rather a type of colonial costume as she looks directly into the camera and says: “come back to the way things used to be.”  To when exactly is she referring and what is meant by “the way things used to be”?   During this 1982 campaign did Jamaica seek to make itself the “Jamaica” of its colonial past?  The questions that this commercial raises are very similar to the questions that Trump’s slogans have raised in the States.

 

Esco Frass should not be categorized as parodying Trump. He seems to be performing, yes; but, the misogynist intersections are too problematic to be regarded as carrying a humorous intent. Honestly, we lovers of dancehall artistry should find it disconcerting just how at-home Trump’s “p*ssy” grabbing words are on this grimy song.

Rappers and dancehall deejays have too much creative talent to be sampling Trump in these ways.  Sampling Trump’s rhetoric of misogyny is not what Jamaican men and women need.  With this new and unruly leader at the helm, perhaps now is the time for Jamaica to abandon looking to the United States as a model of how to be in this world. _____ist words are never worth sampling. For the sake of our girls and women in Jamaica and all over the world, better must come.

it’s even in the food

The period of disbelief is behind us and it is officially Inauguration Day.  Last night, after watching a few painful minutes of Donald J. Trump speak about his “huge” wins this past November, I gave up and tuned the television to a local music video channel. “Chip Chop” by Sanjay and Shelly Belly was the perfect distraction. But now it is today. I seek to distract myself some more and I click on the cable box and tune in to the Food Network. Surely there will be nothing there to bring me back to this political reality.  Wrong.  “The Pioneer Woman” is on.

Self-taught home cook and food blogger Ree Drummond is the star of Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman.” According to the channel guide, today she is preparing “apple fritters with bacon and sausage for breakfast” and for lunch “pulled pork, classic coleslaw, and quick-and-easy baked beans.” Ree is an American “country girl,” a “ranch-wife,” and mother of four.  Her show is filmed at her home in Oklahoma, which she affectionately calls “the middle of nowhere.” (Click here for images of the open fields that are her back and front yard.) And if you go to her personal website she features recipes, food photography tips, and bible verses. Ree’s home is referred to as her frontier and, while I know nothing of Ree’s political affiliations, her show seems to tap into a certain Trump-like American “greatness.”

Unlike the Food Network’s other very popular shows – like Giada de Laurentiis’ Italian dishes, “The Kitchen’s” diverse American and global dishes (importantly, I’ll note that this is a panel show that features both a black woman and a Chicana), Ina Garten’s European and American meals, or Bobby Flay’s Tex-Mex and Latin flavors – Ree Drummond’s show always leaves me feeling a bit … alienated.  When Ree invites friends over for scripted meals, there is no racial diversity present. When her children have scripted celebrations or when Ree attends a scripted church function, there is no racial diversity.  When Ree heads to the supermarket to shop or to a sporting event to cheer, I search the passers-by and see no diversity.  Whose America is that?  Certainly it was not my Bronx, USA. Certainly that was not my Philadelphia, USA, or my suburban Washington, D.C., USA.

Admittedly, as a champion baker and home chef myself, I watch a lot of food shows and I have seen more of “The Pioneer Woman” than anyone should.  I suppose it might seem that I am belaboring a critique of a thirty minute program, but as the clock winds down to the start of Donald Trump’s America, I am reminded that the America that some of us fear will begin at noon, has actually been here all along, dormant at times and violently raucous at others.  American pioneers have been pushing west since 1492. American pioneers have been trampling, pillaging, and taking sacred and hallowed grounds for centuries. American pioneers have been making America great, “huge” even, since its inception.

In these misogynistic Trump times I do not want us to forget that the American west was first to offer women the right to vote.  In 1869 the Wyoming Territory granted (white) women suffrage as a way of luring more (white) women to the male-dominated frontier. And in these racist socio-political times we should not forget that it was not until 1917 that (white) women of New York had the right to vote.  No, we will not forget that black women did not gain voting rights until 1920 and as late as the 1960s in parts of the American south.

Thinking a bit more about this, the Food Network perhaps thought that it had solved its “race problem” when it cancelled Paula Deen’s shows following her use of the N-word in 2013 and her posting social media pictures of her son in brown-face in 2011.  But people have long been critical of the Food Network’s lack of diversity and the whiteness of its hosts as compared to the black and brown, ethnic, and globally diverse culture that is presented on Food Network’s (half?) sister network, the Cooking Channel with chef-hosts like Roger Mooking, Ali Khan, Judy Joo, and our favorite Sister Sister twin, Tia Mowry.

So what does America’s dinner table tell us about America?  And what do America’s cooking shows tell us?  What does it mean that Ree Drummond has a show and blog called “Pioneer Woman” and her show and blog are popular? It means that Ree is capturing an important segment of the nation. It means that Ree Drummond is making more people feel included than excluded. It means that Americans feel at home in her kitchen.  It means that Americans identify with and aspire to live the life that Ree projects. After all, she is just a “country girl,” a “rancher’s wife,” and a mom. She lives in the middle of nowhere and has everything she needs: family, nation, house, land.  Her America seems quite great while my America, the America that I have known remains wrapped in uncertainty.

Though I write this from my home in Jamaica, I feel a deep and troubled concern.  Tuning into the Food Network did not alleviate my stress. There are, at least, four arduous years ahead. As Donald Trump is sworn-in some of us will will be making our own quiet pledges to ourselves, our families, and to our communities. As the Trump train drives on to make America great again, we will swear on our faiths to make America better.  We will be ambassadors of openness and emblems of understanding. We will be pledging to honor the America that represents hope and change.

In the time spent writing this post I have changed the channel.  In just under ten minutes a new head of state will emerge to rule the tenuously united states that are America. In just under ten minutes a new leader of the free world will be in command. As I look to the clock and try to make sense of this pinching sadness, I know that trouble has been in the water for centuries. Today I recognize that the trouble was also in the food. Let us not choke on it.

donald-trump-pork
Photo credit: http://www.ibtimes.com,  Reuters photographer Jim Young, August 2015