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Thank you Cardi B

in Campus Journal by

She was born in the Bronx as Belcalis Almanzar and is Dominican and Trinidadian.

She is the first female rapper, since Lauryn Hill in 1998, to reach the number 1 spot on Billboard’s top 100 chart.

She was a stripper who first came to fame through her social media presence, especially her “A Hoe Never Gets Cold” video.

In 2015, she secured a spot on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: New York” during season 6.

She is – drumroll please – Cardi B.

If you have not listened to Cardi B’s new album that she dropped on Friday, April 6th, then you should definitely get on that. Her album “Invasion of Privacyconsists of 13 songs including 6 singles and 7 collaborations that feature Migos, Chance the Rapper, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Kehlani (honestly blessed), 21 savage, YG, and SZA.

“Invasion of Privacy” is getting praise from many respected and loved artists such as 2 Chainz, Erykah Badu, 50 Cent, Rihanna, Janelle Monaé, and Logic. This album is beautifully and powerfully crafted, and is truly an invasion of privacy as Cardi seems to be holding nothing back. Her voice is harmonized through her pain, strength, humor, anger, bravery, and truth. Her voice is a weapon; her voice is a healer; her voice is her story, her outlet, and her truth.

Her song “Get up 10” sets the scene. Here she raps with fire and force about how she “went from rags to riches” and tells us about her life before she started making 6 figures. The transition within the song happens at minute 1:44 as it explodes into a take-no-prisoner, “If a girl have beef with me, she gon’ have beef with me forever” type of attitude. “Get up 10” displays Cardi’s wit and play on words with her line “I came here to ball, is you nuts?” and shows her unapologetic presence through the line, “Whole life been through some f***ed up shit/They say I’m too that, oh, I’m too this/When you seen what I’ve seen, you end up like this.”

Kehlani helped me understand why Invasion of Privacy left my heart feeling heavy after some songs and specific lines. In a Hot 97 radio show about one year ago, Kehlani talks about Cardi B and why her presence and voice are so important and powerful.

What I admire about you [Cardi B] so much is that you created everything yourself. Yeah, nobody can take any of that away from you because nobody can sell anybody nothing who literally did everything they ever said they wanted to do with all the odds against them. You know what I mean, like never stop ever.

Some of Cardi’s words and verses just leave me sitting here thinking “Wow, she really did that.” I have so much respect for her because of the determination and strength that she continued to have throughout her journey to get where she is now. After watching an enormous amount of interviews with Cardi B and listening to “Invasion of Privacy,” I have been thinking a lot about the politics of respectability and how exclusive and oppressive it really is because of the structural racism that is too prevalent and forceful within our society. Cardi B is brilliant exactly for who she is and how she portrays herself and no one should attack her for that.

Through “Invasion of Privacy,” we see Cardi and her many different sides. We see the pan-Latin-unifier Cardi through “I Like It” featuring Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican Latin trap and reggaeton singer, and J Balvin, a Colombian reggaeton singer. Then there is I-know-I’m-the-shit-try-and-stop-me-I-dare-you Cardi through “Drip” featuring Migos, “Bickenhead,” “I Do” featuring SZA, “Money Bag,” and “She Bad” which features YG. Next up is the I’m-in-my-feels-leave-me-alone-but-you-better-be-listening Cardi with her song “Be Careful,” “Ring” featuring Kehlani, and “Thru Your Phone”.

Her wit emerges through lines such as “Leave his texts on read, leave his balls on blue” and her vulnerability and pain can be seen, heard, and felt through lines such as:

“I said I never had a problem showin’ y’all the real me

Hair when it’s fucked up, crib when it’s filthy

Way-before-the-deal me, strip-to-pay-the-bills me

‘Fore I fixed my teeth, man, those comments used to kill me

But never did I change, never been ashamed

Never did I switch, story stayed the same

I did this on my own, I made this a lane”

The background beat/tune to Cardi B’s song “Be Careful” reminds me of the Wii theme song with it’s light, upbeat, staccato melody. This is so interesting to me because the lyrics to this song are not light and upbeat. I feel heartbreak and longing in her words along with strength and resistance in her tone. Cardi, in this song, says that she put her heart on the line and gave everything she had, but got nothing in return. In an interview with Beats, Cardi says:

“When I hear this song, I be really crying. It really means so much. It gets me angry, it

gets me sad and I know that women are going to be able to relate, somebody who

doesn’t like me is going to relate, I know your mom is going to be able to relate”

This song isn’t just for Cardi. It’s for those whose capacity to love is so great that it hurts. Sometimes the love you have to give is not always returned but rather is a weapon that can be used against you. A few lines in the song that embody this idea is:

“You even got me trippin’, you got me lookin’ in the mirror different

Think I’m flawed because you inconsistent

Between a rock and a hard place, the mud and the dirt

It’s gon’ hurt me to hate you, but lovin’ you’s worse”

Love is a powerful force that consumes the heart, body, mind, and soul. It is a force that taints reality in such a way that can be both beautiful and scary. Cardi’s song “Be Careful” is not a threat, but rather a warning because she will love and she will be vulnerable. She is telling her partner that they need to be careful. If Cardi’s partner isn’t careful, she will get hurt and make sure that the whole world knows what you did.

Cardi B is not new to the world of music. We all may think that she came out of no where, but it has taken her years to get to where she is now. In an interview with Beats, Cardi stated:

“Yeah just flowing better, learning better. It’s just like I feel myself getting better. I also

needed a little bit of help mm-hmm so I got my ferberizing. Yeah I needed a little bit of help from breaking out of my box. Like I feel like my music was very trappy and it’s really almost like drill because it’s just like I be feeling will never get out of that style. I’m so stuck on rapping and I need a break and I need to learn how to flow a little bit easier and cleaner and I don’t feel like I perfected it yet but I feel like I’m getting better and better”.

I am so excited to see what Cardi B has coming up next and you should be too.

Review: Tiyé Pulley ’19 finds “The Way Out”

in Arts by

Tiyé Pulley ’19 introduced his debut EP, “The Way Out,” by reading a deeply personal account of the recording process of the project. His note tells the story of the trials and turmoil that birthed this EP. Almost the entirety of the project was written in one week in the midst of mental breakdown and recorded in a single session. “The Way Out” premiered last Friday to a room of whoops and loud applause.

Pulley has been a strong presence in the recently revived hip hop scene at Swarthmore since his arrival last year. He parlayed his regular attendance at the WSRN show “Freestyle Friday’s,” performances at open mics, and variously sponsored Olde Club shows into a freeform jazz hip hop band last spring. That band, GOODGOODNOTBAD, went on to achieve considerable Battle of the Bands success, winning Pulley the opportunity to open for Tory Lanez at Worthstock 2016. Fresh off of that experience, Pulley returned home over the summer, where he recorded “The Way Out”.

In order to examine this project critically, it is important to establish a basis of comparison. Comparing Pulley’s EP to major label hip hop releases would provide an unfair and largely unhelpful metric for consideration. Fortunately, in this era of widespread access to the internet and mainstream popularity of hip hop, there ’is a wide variety of material to establish a more helpful basis of comparison. Pulley is not unique as a rapper in college, “college rap” is actually a reasonably well-established genre. Sadly, rap music associated with college or made by current students generally has an overwhelmingly negative reputation. Of course, there are exceptions. Kanye West’s debut album “College Dropout” contains many collegiate references and is both critically and popularly beloved. Additionally, many successful rappers, like 2 Chainz and J. Cole, hold college degrees. However, college rap as a genre, represented by figures such as Hoodie Allen, Asher Roth, and Sammy Adams, has often been both critically panned and widely considered corny.

Evaluated in terms of college rap, Pulley’s album is a clear standout. He successfully avoids college rap clichés and displays a far more intricate and adept flow than is characteristic of the genre. Pulley’s laid-back production and dense verses differ significantly from the pop-oriented party anthems that constitute the majority of well-known college rap. This represents both a breath of fresh air and a limitation on the basis of comparison. To resolve this limitation, Pulley’s medium of publication offers another metric for judgement: SoundCloud rappers.

SoundCloud rappers have nearly as poor of a reputation as college rappers. Although many of the best regarded and most upwardly mobile underground rappers publish their music through SoundCloud, the openness of the platform means that it is also hugely populated by much worse music. Ultimately, this has led to a reputation for SoundCloud rap characterized by rough closet studio singles.

Again, on this metric, Pulley stands out. The production on “The Way Out,” for the most part, shuns the modern trend toward EDM influence and draws from classic hip hop production, featuring samples, keys, strings, and drum beats. This is by no means rare for SoundCloud and neither is Pulley’s lyricism. What is remarkable, however, is the quality with which this project was executed.

All instrumentals in the “The Way Out” were made by a single producer, bergs~, which helped create a cohesive album while managing to avoid a sense of homogeneity. Pulley has impressive range in terms of flow, neatly sidestepping a pitfall for many amateur rappers. He displays his adeptness at both dense, lyrically intricate flows and simpler triplet flows. MF Doom is a clear influence, especially visible in the beginning of “diamond in the ruff interlude.” Pulley also bears rhythmic resemblance to OutKast at times, but his closest colleagues are clearly Chicago rapper Vic Mensa and Brooklyn trio Flatbush Zombies. The only feature on the project, BooG in “Falling,” is similarly well executed, although BooG does bear a remarkable similarity to Jay Electronica.

The cohesiveness of “The Way Out” extends beyond the production. The EP is lyrically and thematically consistent. Pulley is consistently able to bring his verses to life through vocal inflections and skilled impassioned delivery. Overall, this EP stands as an impressive and admirable demonstration of Pulley’s well honed skill.

“The Way Out” is not without flaws, however. The entire project is mixed more quietly than standard and the seven track EP lasts just over 16 minutes. While the latter is not necessarily a bad quality, it is likely the product of a noticeable lack of hooks and in some instances means that the individual songs do not have the time to develop much of an individual character, only allowing brief glimpses into the aural concept Pulley was trying to curate. Additionally, there are a few visible signs of Pulley’s relative youth and inexperience. While his bars, in many instances, snap perfectly to the beat, there are times when he holds a syllable or pause a half-second to long and it shows. Regardless of these relatively minor flaws, “The Way Out” is an impressive debut and signals good things to come from Pulley.

Pulley and BooG will both be performing at the WSRN Hip Hop Showcase on Friday September 30th, as well as the Student Band Showcase on Saturday October 1st, both in Olde Club as part of the Kitao Fall Arts Festival.

Le1f wows Tri-co crowd

in Arts by

le1111f

Khalif Diouf, better known by his stage name Le1f, blew away crowds of fans at the Bryn Mawr Campus last Friday, March 21st. He performed to an audience hailing from the entire Tri-co and further out, in a double act with Betty Who. This was the only show the Bryn Mawr Concert Series will put on this semester.

Early in his career, Diouf worked as a producer for Das Racist, whose members he met in class at Wesleyan. He told Respect magazine, “I dropped music theory like, three times at Wesleyan. I was going to be a music major but after that I was like, ‘I’m just going to be a rapper.’”

His first few mixes met modest success. In these early tracks, vocals take the backseat to wet beats and otherworldly tonality. Diouf earned his first major audience with 2012’s “Wut.” The music video, which has two million views on YouTube, features dance moves that he may have picked up during his days as a dance major.

Mainstream popularity is on the horizon for Le1f: last month, XL released the five song EP, “Hey.” Diouf shares the label with acts like Vampire Weekend, the XX, Sigur Ros, and Thom Yorke’s project with Flea, Atoms for Peace. The single, “Boom,” is poppier and more danceable than previous tracks. Still, it maintains his signature combination of darkness and wit.

Diouf may be as well known for his controversies as he is for his music. He accused Macklemore of taking the beat from “Wut” for “Thrift Shop,” and called him out on the politics of “Same Love.” And while cited as “make ‘em all say ooh,” the opening lines of “Boom” sound an awful lot like “Macklemore say ooh.”

He also tangled with conservative rapper Lord Jamar, who accused him of undermining the masculinity of black hip hop culture. Diouf responded articulately, tweeting “If you think being gay is the same as being white, you are as ignorant as your enemies…Rap started out as a creative response to oppression, and no matter my outfit, I know oppressions you will never understand.”

One thing that transpires from this comment is Le1f’s commitment to being honest and true to himself in his rap. This was obvious, in to Pat Walsh ’14, who loved the concert. He said, “You could tell that he was very much into performing, making a really good show for people.” The importance of the audience to him was also very apparent, and Walsh described him cutting a song for to “do one that’s actually, like, more fun.”

His dancing abilities were also remarkable to most of the audience. Walsh described his act as “a bodily performance as well as a musical one” and Natalie Gainer ’15 concurred, adding that his dancing abilities “made you want to dance along with the music” which contributed to the overall quality of the show in her eyes. Overall, his stage presence and performativity electrified the audience, that was gagging for more.

 

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