Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Sojourner-Artist: Make Sure There's Something COMPELLING About Your Art

One of the recurring problems that I've noticed with most so-called "positive" art is that the artists never gave much thought to how they were going to sell or promote their work. Their art usually does not have a built-in, compelling aspect to it. Many of them seem to think that the fact that their work is "positive" is enough to make it sell and become popular. Ummm . . . NO! A commenter named Roslyn (who is a published, working author---check her out at http://www.roslynhardyholcomb.com/) alluded to this in an earlier conversation when she said:

"Danny Glover is another one who annoys the living stuffing out of me. Twenty years ago when he was huge making those Lethal Weapons movies he had the clout to do something more substantial, but he didn't. Now he's trying to get funding for Toussaint L'Overture movie. He's irate because producers are asking him, 'Where's the white hero?' Of course they are. I'm sure they're also asking 'Who's going to watch this movie?' Black folk won't support anything without a black man in drag, and white folk certainly aren't going to see a movie WITHOUT a white hero. Back in the day, he could've gotten studio backing for a small vanity film. But now? Uh no."

"Who's going to watch this movie?" is a legitimate, critical question.

"Why would anybody WANT to watch this movie?" is another question.

Yet another critical question is the one mentioned by the columnists over at WORDPLAY, "Is the premise naturally intriguing---or just average, demanding perfect execution?"

These sorts of considerations apply to more than just screenplays. They apply to art across the board. The people who created the classical crossover group named Bond know this. That's why they selected women musicians who can "pass" as fashion models. They know that sex sells. I strongly urge all aspiring Sojourner-Artists to keep these commercial considerations in mind when creating your work. Quality is not enough. There has to be some type of compelling "hook" to your work. You have to give thought to how and why your work will sell.

Consumer behavior is fairly consistent no matter what type of product is involved. There are a handful of people who actively seek out healthy, nutritious food that is good for them. But such people are not the norm. Similarly, there are a handful of people who actively seek out entertainment products that are high-quality and life-enhancing. Again, this type of consumer is not the norm.

Most people go with whatever is readily available. And what's readily available (read: heavily promoted) tends to become popular. Whatever type of work that becomes popular then becomes even more readily available (through sequels and imitators, etc.). Most "positive" artists haven't figured out how to break into this circular process. A negative manifestation of this circular process is why African-American arts have been spiraling down for the past two decades. Trash art begets more, and even worse, trash art.

A good beginning to answering the above questions is to read the following columns from WORDPLAY:

http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp01.A.Foot.in.the.Door.html
http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp02.Strange.Attractor.html
http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp03.Beachcombing.html
http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp05.Death.to.Readers.html

36 comments:

ActsofFaithBlog said...

This is true - very very true. I find some of the artists I want to support for not going the foolish route are somewhat too derivative for me in comparison to who has influenced them. It's why I had to give Rihanna props for doing something different from her contemporaries that was also interesting to watch even though she's not a good singer. Even being pretty isn't enough to sell a record on its own.

I also noticed Questlove made a comment on Twitter yesterday how he got completely caught up in Tori Amos' performance on Jay Leno even though he didn't like the song due to her musicianship. She is one of the few instrumentalists I've seen who will play piano and organ straddling a bench while singing. It's part of what makes her live shows so entertaining.

I took a marketing class for actors that required us to do market research on ourselves to determine which character in mythology we most closely resembled to the general public and that would determine the projects we'd do in our careers to maximize our audience.

The compelling portion is all part of the business acumen and perhaps understanding human nature that we need to accept.

Khadija said...

Faith,

You said, "I also noticed Questlove made a comment on Twitter yesterday how he got completely caught up in Tori Amos' performance on Jay Leno even though he didn't like the song due to her musicianship."

RESPONSE: I had a similar experience when I finally broke down and read a borrowed copy of The Da Vinci Code. I gobbled the book down in only a couple of sittings, which is extremely rare for me.

I didn't particularly care about (or for) the characters. I was turning the pages because of the plot. I was totally caught up in seeing what was going to happen next in the book. THAT sort of magnetic "hook" is what I dream of duplicating with my novel. That sort of magnetic pull, PLUS sparkling dialogue, fascinating characters, etc. LOL!

You said, "The compelling portion is all part of the business acumen and perhaps understanding human nature that we need to accept."

RESPONSE: Yep.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

roslynholcomb said...

A while back I saw a documentary with James Brown, and he talked about how crucial it is to get a listener as he put it, "On the one." It's something I've never forgotten. There are hundreds of thousands of books published each year. We're competing with more entertainment resources than ever before, if you don't get your reader (or movie-goer) "on the one," you might as well forget about it. I listen to a lot of music by great lyricists like Sting or Billy Joel. Think about, those guys have less than four minutes to tell a whole story, and make it sound good. For a novella, I only have 20k words, a full-length novel is typically 80k, but my pitch, my hook for my editor/publisher is usually less than 200 words. Listening to and dissecting, even reverse-engineering a lot of really well-written music is one way to learn how to develop a hook for your story.

When I come up with an idea for a story, I spend a lot of time, sometimes hours, sometimes days coming up with a 'hook.' To learn how to write a hook, you have to read a lot of great books. Take for instance Octavia Butler's Kindred. The first sentence of that book is; "I lost an arm when I came back this time. My right arm."

Good grief, who doesn't want to read the rest of that story after reading that opening? I defy any sentient being to put that down without finding out what on earth is going on. With two pithy, almost sparse sentences, Butler captivates the reader. She was a genius at getting it "on the one."

I write romances, so my books have to start with the sexy or with the funny, or the adventurous. Rock Starbegins with what the reader will assume is a bondage scene. My most recent book begins with the heroine breaking someone's collarbone.

Bottom line is, you're intrigued, you're captivated by these characters, "on the one."

Khadija said...

Roslyn,

Before I say anything else, let me say a loud "THANK YOU" for being generous with your time and industry insights! I truly appreciate it.

You said, "Listening to and dissecting, even reverse-engineering a lot of really well-written music is one way to learn how to develop a hook for your story."

RESPONSE: It's kind of hard to do this when all one is familiar with is derivative mess. This is what I find so bizarre about modern AA music consumers.

People my age and older generally grew up listening to our parents' records in addition to whatever artists in our own age group were doing. A rip-off artist couldn't get away with copying (and peddling long samples from) earlier artists' work because we were familiar with the Black music that came 20-30 years before our "time."

For example, when I was in high school in the 1980s, we were all extremely familiar with our parents' music from the 1960s. Most of us were also at least a little bit familiar with our parents' older siblings' records from the 1950s. So an artist couldn't steal a 1960s Smokey Robinson & The Miracles song and present it to us as if it was their own work. We had heard these earlier songs.

But then something changed with AA listeners. For example, I couldn't believe the numbers of Black people who actually didn't recognize that Coolio's mess ("Gangsta's Paradise") was a DIRECT rip-off of Stevie Wonder's "Pasttime Paradise." There were several other shocking instances where modern AA consumers obviously weren't familiar with popular music that was from just 20 years before.

This makes me wonder if modern AAs are raised by wolves. How is it that these people didn't grow up listening to their parents' records? Don't these people have parents who have & play their own music collections?

You said, "When I come up with an idea for a story, I spend a lot of time, sometimes hours, sometimes days coming up with a 'hook.' To learn how to write a hook, you have to read a lot of great books."

RESPONSE: This is something that I find lacking with many of the AAs that I know who want to write books. They don't read much. They certainly don't read enough. And what little they've read is generally of low quality.

They figure that they can do better than the "street literature" that's flooding the bookshelves. And I suppose they can. But that's not sufficient. The Wordplay columnists refer to this type of thinking as "Crap plus 1." They feel (and I agree) that it's better to aim for excellence as opposed to aiming for "1 point better than crap."

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Enlightened said...

Hi Khadija!

You said: I had a similar experience when I finally broke down and read a borrowed copy of The Da Vinci Code. I gobbled the book down in only a couple of sittings, which is extremely rare for me.

I didn't particularly care about (or for) the characters. I was turning the pages because of the plot. I was totally caught up in seeing what was going to happen next in the book. THAT sort of magnetic "hook" is what I dream of duplicating with my novel. That sort of magnetic pull, PLUS sparkling dialogue, fascinating characters, etc.
------------------

Dan Brown is a prime example of a person who took on a controversial and interesting subject matter, wrote it in a compelling manner and maybe took a few liberties with historical accuracy, and became wildly successful, but got ripped to shreds by "critics" (not affiliated with the Catholic Church) for dumb reasons like "his poor writing style".

I read "The Da Vinci Code" in 12 hours. It was SUCH a captivating story and is one of the best books I have ever read. Dan Brown's writing style, to ME at least, served the purpose for the story he was trying to tell. Never once during the time I was reading TDC did I actually rely on this FICTION AUTHOR as a reliable source of historical information, nor did I expect the man to write a Shakespeare-esque novel.

I think quite a few people who focus on "positive" forms of art at the expense of finding a hook or compelling reason for someone to consume their work use "consumer ignorance" as an excuse for their failure. They expect people to fall in love with their work just because they did it and it's not "Flavor of Love" or one of these "urban lit" novels.

I think the story of Toussiant L'ouverture would be an amazing movie if it were done right. But Danny Glover clearly did not ask himself the questions you mentioned in your blog. And I speculate he would be one of those folks who thinks it's a no brainer that this this movie should be produced just because it's not "Soul Plane".

Khadija said...

Hello there, Enlightened!

You said, "I read "The Da Vinci Code" in 12 hours. It was SUCH a captivating story and is one of the best books I have ever read. Dan Brown's writing style, to ME at least, served the purpose for the story he was trying to tell. Never once during the time I was reading TDC did I actually rely on this FICTION AUTHOR as a reliable source of historical information, nor did I expect the man to write a Shakespeare-esque novel."--------------------------------

RESPONSE: I believe that these rabid critics are simply envious haters. TDC provided hours of EXCELLENT, non-degrading entertainment. That was the point. What else do these critics want from that book, or any other work of fiction? The book is fiction, NOT a doctoral thesis. This type of criticism is pure envy.

You said, "I think quite a few people who focus on "positive" forms of art at the expense of finding a hook or compelling reason for someone to consume their work use "consumer ignorance" as an excuse for their failure. They expect people to fall in love with their work just because they did it and it's not "Flavor of Love" or one of these "urban lit" novels."----------------------------------

RESPONSE: BINGO! I agree that most "positive" artists use consumer ignorance as an excuse for their OWN negligence in failing to find a "hook" for their work. And let's be real---Frankly, a lot of this "positive" stuff just isn't that good. It's "crap plus 1." When somebody is producing output on a level comparable with the women from Bond, THEN we can talk "consumer ignorance."

If musicians who perform at THEIR level have to find a "hook," then surely the rest of us not-so-spectacularly-talented artists are responsible for finding our own "hooks"!

I'm choosing to highlight Bond as examples of REAL artists because there is NO debate to be had about their skill and talent. In their case, the "personal taste" cover story/excuses don't apply. I'm not particularly a fan of classical music. But when I heard the level of playing on "Explosive," I had to "recognize"!

In terms of a movie about Toussiant L'Ouverture: There was a time when I felt a duty to support such things, no matter what level of quality the project had. Not anymore. If the product isn't doing something for me (entertainment, education about something that I actually want to know about, etc.), then I'm not going to go out of my way to support it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

blackotome said...

These links are so helpful. I was lucky enough to have fans email me and tell me my "hooks" so to speak. I haven't gotten to the pro level but with the internet I've gotten so much feedback and managed to improve a lot. I read the Twilight series when the movie came out, and even though a lot of people hate on that book,its quite engrossing. I just had to know more about this girl and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend who loved her but might end up killing her in a fit of bloodlust. I see no reason why something similiar (less stalkarazzi though) could not feature african american girls. With the new Disney Princess and the love for the Obama girls, this is a prime time I think.

Khadija said...

Blackotome,

Yes, the Wordplay site is the bomb! I've been poring over it; it gives lots of helpful hints. I'm so thankful that BklynGirl mentioned it in an earlier conversation. [Another round of thanks to BklynGirl!]

Yeah, I've read articles pointing out the apparently MANY horrible-for-girls messages contained in the Twilight series of books. I've also read commentary alleging that these books are racist in their depictions of Native Americans. [I haven't read the books.]

However, I'm at a point of being more focused on producing what I would want to read. If a product with a yucky message is engrossing, there's still much that we can learn from studying its "hooks."

I'm making a list of blockbuster thrillers that I'm going to read/re-read and study (in terms of plot structure and pacing). My goal is to "reverse engineer" the basic building blocks of engrossing, magnetic thrillers. I want my novels to be as exciting as The DaVinci Code. The Wordplay columnists mentioned the importance of newbie screenwriters studying scripts from good movies.

[The reason why I spend any time at all ragging on the "My Pafology" type of Negro literature is because most of us are confused about its true nature. Most of us mistakenly believe that this stuff is lifting us up, when it's actually helping to keep us down by normalizing the brutalization of BW and girls.]

I agree with you that the time is NOW to produce new visions for AA women and girls.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

roslynholcomb said...

I've gotten into far too much trouble arguing with people about the basic lack of quality in much of hip-hop. Bottom line to me is, how do you produce music if you can't play an instrument, sing, or write/read music? I don't get this, and I never will. I'm sorry, but hip-hop, ie, somebody talking, usually in vulgarity over somebody else's 'beats,' isn't music.

And I'm tired of folk claiming that black folk can't afford to learn how to read music or play instruments. Black folk CREATED every popular form of music in this country. And EXCELLED at the one we didn't create. Are you going to tell me that black people are poorer today than the Mississippi sharecroppers who created the blues, the basis of all American music? Are you going to tell me that black people today are poorer than the SLAVES who created bluegrass and invented the banjo? How is that even possible? Have you ever heard anything so stupid?

They created hip-hop out of laziness and lack of discipline and yes, lack of talent, and have thereby totally destroyed African American music, probably for all time. We've gone from being creators and innovators to pathetic imitators. A sad commentary and example of the devolution of our culture. IMO, music was our people's greatest contribution to the world, and we threw our heritage away for a mess of pottage.

I learned to read music and play an instrument (badly) at a young age. Did I mention that my mama was a domestic and my daddy mainly worked as a laborer?

I grew up in a household that was a polyglot of good music. My mama loved the blues, my daddy was a great lover of country music. My older siblings listened to a lot of R&B, so I grew up listening to good music. With a father who'd fight you over The Great Speckled Bird,' nobody dared dismiss any type of music as 'white' or 'something that black folks don't do.' To this day Dolly Parton is still one of my favorite singer/songwriters.

Even worse, we've seen generations of black people who created music and never saw a profit. This generation is too foolish to get involved in the only part of the music industry where there is true profit: PUBLISHING. I thought it was so foolish when Whitney Houston recorded I Will Always Love You. Folk were running around talking about how much better her version was than Dolly's. I'm sure Dolly thought so too, considering she made far more, as the writer of that song than Whitney ever would or could.

This is why you have singers like Beyonce stealing writing credits from songwriters. Only she got her hand spanked at the Oscars. Only the first three writers are eligible for nomination, so her little trick didn't work for the song Listen.Any number of songwriters have been ripped off this way, and it's a blessed shame. Writing a real song is hard work, trust me, I've tried. And to have it ripped off by these no-talent bimbos must be beyond frustrating.

Khadija said...

Roslyn,

I hear you. As everybody knows from my previous comments about this, I'm sick to death of all the excuses that we make for lifting up INFERIOR products, ideas, values, etc. And I'm absolutely disgusted with how hip-hop has destroyed AA music. As you noted, probably forever.

You said, "Even worse, we've seen generations of black people who created music and never saw a profit. This generation is too foolish to get involved in the only part of the music industry where there is true profit: PUBLISHING. I thought it was so foolish when Whitney Houston recorded I Will Always Love You. Folk were running around talking about how much better her version was than Dolly's. I'm sure Dolly thought so too, considering she made far more, as the writer of that song than Whitney ever would or could."--------------------------------------

RESPONSE: There's no excuse for this level of stupidity nowadays. I can excuse the AA artists from the 1960s and before for being taken. They really didn't know any better. And there was only a miniscule number of AA professionals around who could have advised them better. That is, if these previous artists had done something other than blindly trust "Massa" to pay them what they were worth.

But after having collectively lived through the examples of how previous AA artists got ripped off, there's no excuse for duplicating their mistakes. None whatsoever.

You said, "This is why you have singers like Beyonce stealing writing credits from songwriters. Only she got her hand spanked at the Oscars. Only the first three writers are eligible for nomination, so her little trick didn't work for the song Listen."---------------------------------------

RESPONSE: {shaking my head} That's outrageous. The other thing that I find annoying about the Beyonce situation is how these "music artists" (including non-musical ones) have en masse usurped a HUGELY disproportionate chunk of Black acting roles. This is yet another indignity heaped upon those serious AA actors who made the effort to hone their craft. This is part of the price AA actors/actresses pay for being passive instead of creating their own opportunities.

Just imagine: Here you are as an AA actor/actress who spent much time AND money (be it in the form of college tuition and/or acting classes) learning your craft. You worked in theater. You paid your dues honing your craft. And then you're cast in a movie alongside Ice Cube. Or Snoop Dog. Or Beyonce. Or Queen Latifah. Or Oprah.

Oprah's and Queen Latifah's presence in movies doesn't bother me as much as these other people, but it's the principle of the thing. Whites do NOT have such a HUGE chunk of their acting roles occupied by the likes of Ozzie Osbourne, etc. Nor do they generally have their A-list actors/actresses cast in movies alongside the likes of Britney Spears.

Is somebody like Britney Spears cast in the same movies with Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, etc.? Nope. Are a large chunk of the available White acting roles occupied by the likes of Britney Spears? Nope.

I find the overabundance of AA "music artists" being cast in Black roles to be a sly, quiet insult to us all.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Aphrodite said...

Hello Khadija,


I saw your comment about G. Knight's performance and how some of the audience looked bored. I think that is so disrespectful. If anything they should have been on their feet giving her a standing O. She is music royalty.



My parents were from two different gens - so I did get exposed to music from the 60's and 70's more so 70's from my mom and my dad like yours loved country music and he also loved blues. His favorites were Crystal Gayle and B.B King. I still have all my dads original blues and country 45s & 8 tracks. :)

Songs like "16 tons" would be trapped in my head. Had no clue what it meant, but could repeat it verbatim.

Then there was my older brother who (in his better years) exposed me to some synthesized music from the 80's.


I was trained/played several instruments for a long time, but when I got to hs I realized that was not my passion. It was not something that I could do or maintain an interest in.


But I do remember wondering when was the next big thing coming out? what was the next movement in music/film/TV to take the world by storm?



When the whole Biggie/Tupac thing blew up - ended with their deaths- I honestly thought rap was over. But is seems like the world got stuck on rap/Boyz in the Hood.


I agree with Roslyn when she said that we have always invented every major form of music in the country. I don't get what happened. It seemed like every decade or so something new was coming out and then it stopped.


Sampling is out of control and has lasted too long. First it was rappers, but then it seems like rap and rap methods are fused with everything else. Most songs have rap in them and I can hear hooks in R&B music and pick up on the original song. I would think that if you were a singer you would at least force your producer to arrange it so that someone can't recognize the original.


Re: Publishing

I totally see your point. I have no answer because this seems to follow the trends you have discussed before on this thread about AA's. To not got this route seems shortsighted. Maybe that is the intention- to create disposable acts to make some money with little effort and forget about the rest.





RE Acting

The other thing that I find annoying about the Beyonce situation is how these "music artists" (including non-musical ones) have en masse usurped a HUGELY disproportionate chunk of Black acting roles. This is yet another indignity heaped upon those serious AA actors who made the effort to hone their craft.



I have seen quite a few debates on this. I have also seen quite a few trained AA actors complain about this and other AA's would jump on their heads.

The arguments being that the Beyonce's, rappers, and other personalities have built in audiences - so they offer guaranteed eyeballs.

And some say w/o them some AA movies would not get made and thus the trained actors would not get work.



I can agree that this is an insult. I can see how some people can justify, but it is so painful to watch. Kind of like finding out that Ron O'Neal was a classically trained actor Shakespeare and the whole nine and he has done some serious 'hood' films/TV shows with knuckleheads.

Khadija said...

Aphrodite,

You said, "I saw your comment about G. Knight's performance and how some of the audience looked bored. I think that is so disrespectful. If anything they should have been on their feet giving her a standing O. She is music royalty."-----------------------------------

RESPONSE: That's how one can tell that this really isn't about "personal taste." Modern AAs are DEAF to talent if they're bored by a Gladys Knight performance. That's crazy.

You said, "My parents were from two different gens - so I did get exposed to music from the 60's and 70's more so 70's from my mom and my dad like yours loved country music and he also loved blues."--------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: That's Roslyn's parents. When my parents went off the beaten music path, they tended to listen to jazz. [As a child, I believed that their jazz records were actually recordings of whale or dolphin undersea songs. LOL! I heard their "deep" jazz records as filled with random, discordant sounds without any discernable melodies. LOL!]

You said, "I agree with Roslyn when she said that we have always invented every major form of music in the country. I don't get what happened. It seemed like every decade or so something new was coming out and then it stopped."--------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: It stopped because of hip-hop. Once we started elevating no-talent "music," we stopped producing quality work. As you noted, the stealing of other people's work (through so-called "sampling") became rampant among us. As Roslyn said, we became a group of "pathetic imitators." Whatever new forms of music eventually come out WON'T be from us!

You said, "Most songs have rap in them and I can hear hooks in R&B music and pick up on the original song. I would think that if you were a singer you would at least force your producer to arrange it so that someone can't recognize the original."-------------------------------

RESPONSE: These people are counting on modern AAs to: (1) not recognize the work stolen from the original R&B song (because AAs' music listening has become so extremely narrow and parochial); or (2) to not care if they recognize the rip-off (because we have 2 generations of AAs raised with the idea that it's a-okay and legitimate for "music artists" to use other people's work).

[Part 1 of my reply since Blogger is doing something strange]

Khadija said...

Part 2 of my reply since Blogger is doing something strange:

Aphrodite, you said, "Re: Publishing

I totally see your point. I have no answer because this seems to follow the trends you have discussed before on this thread about AA's. To not got this route seems shortsighted. Maybe that is the intention- to create disposable acts to make some money with little effort and forget about the rest."
--------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: That's was Roslyn's insight about the music publishing angle. About disposable acts: That's one reason why the Entertainment Industrial Complex likes promoting these no-talent "music artists." They're more easily controlled because they're more easily replaced. One "Milli Vanilli" act is the same as another. However, you CAN'T readily replace a Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, etc.

You said, "I have seen quite a few debates on this. I have also seen quite a few trained AA actors complain about this and other AA's would jump on their heads."--------------------------

RESPONSE: It's dangerous to raise the issue of quality among AAs. We aggressively defend trash.

You said, "The arguments being that the Beyonce's, rappers, and other personalities have built in audiences - so they offer guaranteed eyeballs. And some say w/o them some AA movies would not get made and thus the trained actors would not get work."-------------------------------

RESPONSE: This is "Crap plus 1" thinking. The unspoken statement here is that the work is sub-par, has no intrinsic "hook" of its own, and therefore is dependent upon the presence of some "music artist" to get eyeballs in the theater to see it. [i.e.,"Nobody will WANT to see this mess unless Snoop Dog is in it."] This is basically an admission that these flicks are INFERIOR and can't stand on their own intrinsic merit.

So instead of creating intriguing films that DON'T depend Snoop Dog's presence to generate ticket sales, we produce crap flick after crap flick. This is another example of how the circular process can be positive or negative. We've got a negative momentum going where one crap "Black" movie begets another crap "Black" movie.

You said, "I can agree that this is an insult. I can see how some people can justify, but it is so painful to watch. Kind of like finding out that Ron O'Neal was a classically trained actor Shakespeare and the whole nine and he has done some serious 'hood' films/TV shows with knuckleheads."---------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: It IS painful to see classically trained AA actors sharing the screen with the likes of Beyonce, etc. However, like I've said in earlier conversations, I blame the trained AA actors/actresses for this. Nobody is stopping them from creating their own production companies to create better work for themselves. Nobody stopped Ron O'Neal from taking whatever monies they paid him for Superfly and Red Dawn (crazy, White, Rambo-esque movie from the 80s), etc. and creating something else for himself. If he didn't create any other opportunities for himself, that's on him. And the same with the rest of these trained AA actors/actresses.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

And another thing before I run off to a barbeque:

Aphrodite said, "I was trained/played several instruments for a long time, but when I got to hs I realized that was not my passion. It was not something that I could do or maintain an interest in."--------------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Learning to play an instrument, much less to play it well, is NO joke! Acquiring skill with an instrument requires discipline and commitment. I notice that there are fewer and fewer modern AA parents who sign their children up for music lessons. [Including those who can afford to pay for it themselves.]

Furthermore, modern AA parents who can't afford to pay for music lessons also do NOT require their children to sign up for band in school (even if the school offers band).

Exposing our children to real music and instruments is no longer important to us. This is a disgrace.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

PioneerValleyWoman said...

Khadija:

RESPONSE: Learning to play an instrument, much less to play it well, is NO joke! Acquiring skill with an instrument requires discipline and commitment. I notice that there are fewer and fewer modern AA parents who sign their children up for music lessons. [Including those who can afford to pay for it themselves.]

Furthermore, modern AA parents who can't afford to pay for music lessons also do NOT require their children to sign up for band in school (even if the school offers band).

Exposing our children to real music and instruments is no longer important to us. This is a disgrace.

My reply:

And they don't have them take the music appreciation classes that would help them understand and appreciate what musicians with talent sound like.

Aphrodite said...

@ Roslyn

Roslyn I am so sorry about tcrediting Khadija with those comments.

I thought for sure I was looking at the right thing. I apologize.

I guess I need to keep cutting and pasting.

Miriam said...

Not to mention that music is like another language!

(And acoustics sound way better than electrical equipments. lol that was my personal gripe)

LaShelle said...

Khadija, so true about how popular AA so called rappers and singers taking parts from truly talented black actors/actresses. Moreover, I am disturbed about how black women have been dimisinished in every shape and form from popular black entertainment. The rise of the video vixen has destroyed the image of a truly talented young singer forever.

My daughter and I enjoyed listening to Taylor Swift and she asked me why aren't there any black girls who sing and write their own music without trying to be all sexy. I explained to her how in the 80's and early 90's there were quite a few talented young black female singers and rappers but hip hop became more sexist and degrading to bw, so in turn the black male entertainers created this imagine of a bw only being good enough to sing or rap if she looked a certain way. BW in the media are nothing more than glorified strippers.

Khadija said...

PioneerValleyWoman,

You said, "And they don't have them take the music appreciation classes that would help them understand and appreciate what musicians with talent sound like."-----------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Oh no, we won't do that. We're too busy defending the supposed "art form" of Negroes cursing over the backdrop of 25-year-old stolen beats.
__________________________

Miriam,

Acoustic or electronic, we've got a roster of "music artists" who can't play ANY instrument. {smh}
___________________________

LaShelle,

You said, " Moreover, I am disturbed about how black women have been dimisinished in every shape and form from popular black entertainment. The rise of the video vixen has destroyed the image of a truly talented young singer forever."---------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Yep. And most of us as AA women have been/are complicit in this systematic destruction of our image. Many of us were/are loud, shrill, and persistent in our defense of this garbage.

You said, "My daughter and I enjoyed listening to Taylor Swift and she asked me why aren't there any black girls who sing and write their own music without trying to be all sexy."--------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: There won't be any such persons until we start being them ourselves. And supporting the few who are out there.

You said, "I explained to her how in the 80's and early 90's there were quite a few talented young black female singers and rappers but hip hop became more sexist and degrading to bw, so in turn the black male entertainers created this imagine of a bw only being good enough to sing or rap if she looked a certain way."-----------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Large numbers of AA women were/are complicit in this too. There are STILL many AA women who will defend and justify these degrading images. There are also many AA women who will also defend "official" stripping and "sex work." As was recently pointed out at What About Our Daughters, didn't the Essence rag recently suggest that strip clubs were a legitimate place for AA women to patronize in order to meet "eligible" men? {seething}

The bottom line is that nothing is going to change about this until WE change it.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

I've noticed with most so-called "positive" art is that the artists never gave much thought to how they were going to sell or promote their work.Khadija, just to expand this a bit, keep in mind that many artists don't create art to make money. So they're not thinking about "hooks" or marketing. Art is created for a variety of reasons. For some artists, making lots of money may be an accidental byproduct of creating art, but some artists create solely because it's a passion. They hate the business side and usually have others to handle that piece.

I'll sell my essays, but I don't consider them art so I can put on my business hat for that. I may write a book one day and I'd try to sell that if I had a message.

However, my passion is bending wire. I could make a decent living as a wire sculpture artist if I were driven by money, for ex., but the money doesn't motivate me and I've learned not to be seduced by it. There's nothing more frustrating for me than to know that I've got to finish making a cookie-cutter piece for someone when I actually want to ***create*** something else.

I would rather create than do anything. When I'm in a really creative phase, I have to force myself to take time out to eat. I can't sleep through the night if I encounter any problem with a project. I have always been creative in various ways, so I have a ton of finished stuff that I've created that most likely I'll never sell. I don't even think about selling it. I don't care about it. When I finish making it, the passion is gone.

With books, screenplays, etc. I think your focus though is on "message art"--creating art to get out a message and in that case, marketing, distribution, selling is critical to the purpose of creating.

Khadija said...

Evia,

You said, "Khadija, just to expand this a bit, keep in mind that many artists don't create art to make money. So they're not thinking about "hooks" or marketing. Art is created for a variety of reasons. For some artists, making lots of money may be an accidental byproduct of creating art, but some artists create solely because it's a passion. They hate the business side and usually have others to handle that piece."-------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Oh yes, I had overlooked that type of motivation for the purposes of these discussions. I do understand it; in high school and college I gave away a lot of my sketches to anybody who asked for one.

There are a couple of things about artists with this sort of motivation: (1) They typically aren't the people who are angry that their stuff isn't circulating, popular or selling because that's not part of why they created it in the first place.

And (2) for certain types of art (acting, for example) the artist is really forced to consider these things because it's not something that they can completely do on their own. They need to either be cast by somebody else, OR they need to create their own roles and performance venues (somewhere to perform 1 person plays, producing their own movies, etc.). They need an audience to create their art.

As far as artists such as actors relying on the "business suits" (agents, lawyers, etc.) to handle this end: I don't know if these "business suits" get paid as much if the actor forms their own production company. Or is their compensation predicated upon the typical scenario of the actor being cast in somebody else's thing? If so, then they have little to no incentive for suggesting creative self-determination to their actor clients.

And, unlike the actors:

(a) The "suits" don't have a built-in "shelf life" on their careers; AND

(b) The "suits" typically represent several (many?) performers. This means that if the "I'm depending on other people to cast me" Black actor/actress goes for years without working, this circumstance is not doing critical damage to the suits' livelihood.

For certain types of art (again, acting as an example), failure to consider these angles leads to not having any opportunity at all to create one's art. On the other hand, other kinds of artists (painters, sculptors, musicians, etc.) can operate in this fashion and still be able to create their art.

You said, "When I'm in a really creative phase, I have to force myself to take time out to eat."-----------------------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: Ahh...I remember being in the same creative "zone" when I was sketching or painting. I remember trying to explain what it felt like to a non-artist friend. How it's impossible to hold a conversation, or multitask in any other way, when one is in that zone. How hours would pass unnoticed. It can be a "peak experience" sort of feeling. {warm, fuzzy memories}

You said, "With books, screenplays, etc. I think your focus though is on "message art"--creating art to get out a message and in that case, marketing, distribution, selling is critical to the purpose of creating.".---------------------------------------------------

RESPONSE: This is true. Thanks for expanding upon some of the angles to this that I had overlooked.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

sistrunkqueen said...

Like NAS said two years ago HIP HOP IS DEAD. People do not have money for cds or concert tickets anymore. The music is repetitious at best and even the record companies have put hip hop on the back burner.

Khadija said...

Sistrunkqueen,

I can only pray that hip-hop is dead. In the meantime, it has already destroyed AA music. Probably forever.

As Aphrodite pointed out, hip-hop's methods (lack of creativity, rampant sampling, lack of talent) have infected other genres of AA music.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Aphrodite said...

Hello Khadija,


I heard my first rap song today that sampled another rap song! I couldn't help but think of this discussion and I was laughing my backside off. I was like how lazy can you be?


It is a new song, but the 'artist' sampled a 'rap' that is barely a year old and looped it throughout the whole new song.

Khadija said...

Aphrodite,

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. {smh}

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Halima said...

Khadija

I think there was a point when you had such sophisticated sampling that you could not even tell there were samples being used, let alone from where it came. i remember years ago picking up a CD and discovering from the literature that it had samples from about three different old tracks intricately woven that i didnt even realise they were therein contained.

I think that the fact that at a certain point, musicians were restricted to sampling a few seconds without financial implications, constrained sampling and made it a skill and art form, producing deft technicians (necessity being the mother of invention and all that!).

but yes todays sampling is very 'lazy' and consists of dumping chuncks of identifiable sections (even the whole track) of older work into newer track with hardly any processing save pitch shifting and basic EQ touch ups. I think the idea of sampling in earlier times was you built a real track (bass, keys, rhythm section etc) and embeded memorable phrases from earlier songs to tap into an earlier 'emotion' etc. I think this whole connection and 'spirit' has been lost.

and yes black music is in a bad way, and once again black folk have let the corrupting osmotic dynamics of outside reward systems do the damage.

Khadija said...

Halima,

I agree with you that at the beginning, the sampling was done in a much more sophisticated manner. However, that still didn't make it appropriate as far as I was concerned. I was offended from the beginning by the use of other people's work. And even the sophisticated stealing made me lose whatever respect I previously had for the music artists who engaged in that.

People ought to have enough professional self-respect to do their own work.

It's a very bad practice in general to crib from other people's work. It's even worse to make stealing other people's work an acceptable, standard practice within an art form. It encourages laziness and discourages what little creativity might otherwise exist. In the end, legitimizing this practice encourages the "race to the bottom" that we see today with Black music.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Enigma said...

Really GOOD music by black artist is not dead, it is simply not in the mainstream. I listen to a lot of songs that come on during movies etc. and it amazes me how much of it I hear on BET Jazz program Soul Sessions or their other music programs. YES BET sucks but their Jazz channel is really, really good. The music and lyrics are thoughtful, the artists are playing their own music and the singing often is phenomenal. For instance, I heard about Corrine Bailey Ray on BET Jazz Soul Sessions program about 4-6 months before she went mainstream. There are quite a few songs that a lot of maintream jazz stations play that I hear on the regular on BET J. I also pay attention to companies that do play music that I like. Hidden Beach records has great music, I like Lizz Wright and she is on Verve Music and I go and listen to artist from that company. Yes, both of these companies have black and white artists but the black artists are making great music. THAT I can support.

What changed our music is that we allowed pop, rap and hip-hop become the only things that are played consistently on the radio stations geared towards black folks. I remember hearing a variety of music back in the day from jazz, gospel, blues, r&b and hip hop - but because it was not a creative diet of only hip-hop/rap a full spectrum of life was presented so that you could choose what kind of life, what kind of feeling, what kind of emotion you were going to experience. It wasn't all anger and chex, it was love, hurt, pride, determination, advice, etc. It ran the gamut.

I remember when Jill Scott first came out. She was not played heavily on the radio. My neice and her friends overheard me playing her entire album and begged me to purchase them a copy. My nephews begged for copies of Sam Cooke and other artists from their grandparents. Exposure is the key to their appreciation for different kinds of music.

I think the problem with black music is the lack of exposure and the willingness to give other things a try. We let MTV and VH-1 define what black music was and what WE wanted to hear. Now there are Euro artist copying our old styles and calling it their own. And I do not blame them for their hustle at all. If we are too foolish to support it and own it, then others will. I will continue to support BET J for that reason and that reason alone. Also, there are a lot of internet sites that introduce and promote these kinds of artist too.

The thing that WE need to do is request that these artists are played on mainstream stations. Yep, there is going to probably be a lot of harrumphing etc., but if we want to hear Lalah Hathaway, Brian McKnight, Ledisi etc. we are going to have to request that they are played and played often.

Evia said...

The rest of y'all can have those Mr. Muscles types. This guy in the site I reference here is the type of guy who turns me on TO THE MAX. LOL! So this may also be a mini lesson in vetting.

Anyway, this guy says:
"My primary interest is finding new ways to continually expand creativity by melding art, science, mathematics and other seemingly-disparate areas of human endeavor. I seek not only to expand the mind, but to shatter it."

Books Published: 40+; Patents: 50+

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/bookscp.html

Also he offers great writing tips.

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/bestseller.html

IMO, the goal for quality AA women should be to focus on this type of man or men with his type of mentality--ONLY. LOL! Leave all of those "Mr. Muscles" men to the low-brow sistas who want them and can't live without them.

Now, that's just my opinion. I know how so many AA women just have to have them a big, bass-voiced, so-called masculine "brutha" with a swagger. But if I had a daughter, she would consider men like that to be next to nothing IF he didn't think along the lines of this guy.

Darren is a scientist and mathematician and reminds me of this guy in his mentality. That's one of the main reasons I was attracted to him in the first place. Darren is an attractive man to me and he had means, but if he hadn't been brainy and mentally strong, he would have never gotten to first base with me. The fact is that Darren is more intelligent than me in certain areas and I'm more intelligent than he is in other areas. As you know, there are multiple types of intelligence. My ex-husband, however, was more intelligent than me in EVERY area I can think of. LOL! I ain't gon lie about that.

Both of them are MASTER problem solvers in practically any real-life situation and of course, academics were a piece of cake for both of them. For ex. I can call up my ex husband right now with just about any problem and he can tell me how to deal with it and it almost always works out well. Lawdy, my ex husband's intelligence used to make me break out in goosebumps. Lots of people wanted him on their team! He has had children now and his children are just as brainy. However, lots of AA women shunned him because he was "too African looking," and has "that African" hair, and he is a Nigerian man.

Evia said...

Part 2

Many AA women foolishly shun Nigerian and other African men because they think he will try to dominate them. That is such a prevalent notion and in my experience, it's a stereotype.

I've never had a problem with that whatsoever in dealing with African men and I dated a bunch of them, aside from the one I married. What some women don't seem to grasp is that a man can't dominate you or do anything to you like that UNLESS you allow it. If a woman puts her interests First and Foremost in a sane and reasonable way, other folks really can't harm you much, unless you're the victim of a physical assault of some type.

Also, another reason why I may regard a typical African man in a positive way is because I love confident, mentally strong men--who can deliver. In my experience, as a group, continental African men tend to be CONFIDENT and mentally stronger than other ethnic groups of bm I've met. Also, due to their own mental, emotional, and intellectual assets, I never had to worry about making an African man feel insecure, whereas with SOME other men I dated, you have to walk on tippytoes around them to keep them from feeling insecure. After all, we all know that some men will try to put their hands on a woman if they feel insecure around her.

Now, this doesn't apply to ALL continental African men, of course. I'm only talking about the ones I encountered. And Khadija, of course, I understand WHY this is the case, but it is still the case or at least from my experience.

With Darren too, I never have to feel like I'll make him feel insecure. So I can be free to be who I am. He doesn't feel ***threatened*** by me, as some males claim that women threaten them LOL!!!(Lawdy!)

However, so many dim-bulbs out there, including many AAs, can't imagine why an AA woman would ever be attracted to a brainy white man and/or a secure man or one who knows how to keep his pants up. MANY folks believe that if there's ever a choice between a "Mr. Muscles" and "Mr. Brains," that a typical AA woman will ALWAYS pick "Mr. Muscles." Now maybe I'm engaging in magical thinking, but I hope this is not true.

Anyway,some of you younger bw out there, take it from me: a 'living well' life is much easier to attain and maintain if your man has brains and other mental, emotional, and intellectual assets and knows how to use them. I'm NOT just talking about booksmarts because there are plenty of folks with high IQs and can't survive or are homeless. They lack DRIVE. IMO, a person is not really intelligent if they are endlessly struggling to survive, especially in the USA. There's just too much wealth here and it's too easy to get. This is why some immigrants like my Nigerian ex-husband can easily come here and zoom.

And why shouldn't AA women become partners/wives to those types of black ethnic men or wm like Darren who know how to connect the dots?? These guys need love too. LOL!

Khadija said...

Evia,

I just looked over the guy's site you mentioned. His books sound fascinating. I'll probably buy one soon. LOL!

I generally agree with you. I find guys with high functional intelligence extremely exciting. I would just add some caveats.

About foreign-origin men in general: Be aware of GREEN CARD SEEKERS.

About African men, Middle Eastern men, and South Asian men in particular: Be aware that a number of these men have pre-existing, hidden (hidden to the American women they're dating, that is) wives "back home."

Also keep in mind that for a lot of these men, American women in general have a bad reputation as being "loose" and therefore not serious wife material. Some of these men have figured out that (unlike some of the societies they come from) American families are not tribal in structure. This translates as nobody to take revenge against him for "dogging" an American woman.

Also keep in mind that their behavior here in the US might not accurately reflect how they'll act if you move to their home country after marriage. The smart foreign guys know that they can't as easily get away with beating & mistreating women in the US as they can back home.

I've known a couple of AA female acquaintances who had nightmarish experiences living in Africa with their African husbands. One practically had to stage a POW-type escape from Nigeria with her kids.

[I have heard tales of some of these foreign husbands taking & hiding their American wives' passports after they move to their home countries.]

As with ANY situation, women need to keep their eyes wide open and create as many back-ups as possible for themselves.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Evia said...

Khadija, you're correct, women must ALWAYS vet men. To me, that just goes without saying. There is absolutely no way around that.

I never worried about what my ex would do to me in Africa because the plane flies both ways. He knew I wasn't the type to tolerate any mess like that. And he could have easily done that. This is why I keep saying that anyone will try to get over on you if they think you'll let them. IMO, it's really important to convey (indirectly) to a man that you don't love him anymore than he loves you. I guess I'm a weird type of woman--the type whose love can turn cold real fast if a man mistreats me.

Anyway, since so many AA women have such a problem vetting transparent homegrown AA males, I guess it would be tough for them to vet foreign men.

However, those and similar men are the men in the global village who I'm referring to. Folks keep saying that I only talk about wm, but actually, I'm talking about lots of men in the world. Maybe, I'm just too positive, but I believe there are many great men out there because that's been my experience.

Khadija said...

Evia,

What's the old AA saying? Oh yes, "Find a fool, bump their head." YOU know how NOT to self-present as somebody who'll tolerate having their head bumped. I know the same things. However, it seems that the masses of AA women don't know these things.

I'm saying all of these things out loud because many AA women somehow become utterly caught up in MAGICAL THINKING when it comes to men. As you noted, "Anyway, since so many AA women have such a problem vetting transparent homegrown AA males, I guess it would be tough for them to vet foreign men." So, in that spirit, let me mention some other things that you or I would automatically consider that might not occur to others who are dating foreign men:

Ladies, keep in mind that the further away from Western culture the man's culture of origin is, the more ALIEN you are to it. This has many implications as you progress through the interaction. This makes it harder to read nuances; and harder to suss out what certain things mean.

This is why it's best (if possible) to have other, pre-existing friends from the guys' culture. Friends from his ethnicity who are NOT connected to him. Because they're intimately familiar with the culture, they're in a better position to more quickly spot subtle red flags about the guy.

For example, when I was in college, one of my AA friends was seriously dating an Indian student. Or so she mistakenly thought.

I asked around, and a South Asian friend warned me that if certain things were not happening, it was a clear signal that this guy was allowing his family to go ahead and continue (literally) shopping for an Indian wife for him. A wife that would never be my AA friend.

Yes, following the simple rule of reciprocity would have tipped her off that there was a problem. She was taking him around to meet all of her relatives; he was only bringing her around a few of his MALE relatives.

However, it wouldn't have occurred to me that this guy (through his family) was ACTIVELY shopping (literally) for an Indian wife while he was laying around her apartment. At that age, I wasn't yet hip to the fact that a number of these African, Middle Eastern, South Asian guys already have wives back home. I found that out by talking to my various foreign friends. And by watching what happened with acquaintances who were dating men from these ethnic groups.

Sure enough, after his family found a wife that met his specifications (and I guess he had his fill of laying up with my silly friend), he dumped her and married this other woman imported from India. This was after my friend had foolishly wasted several years exclusively seeing this one guy. [She persisted in this even after I repeated my South Asian friend's warning. Oh well.]

An Arab (male) coworker explained to me about how many Arab men sow their oats with American women (some of whom mistakenly think these men are serious about them) and then import an Arab wife from "back home." [Which is what he did after his extended family negotiated with his future wife's extended family in Jordan.]

Some of these other cultures are ones where marriages are basically contracts between families, and NOT solely individual matters.

The bottom line is that the further removed the guy's culture of origin is from Western culture, the more unknowns there are about his situation. Unknowns that have to be carefully researched. AA women need to understand the implications of things like that to avoid getting their "heads bumped."

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

cool_splash1 said...

I love Spike Lee, Kasi etc. but it does get me how they bemoan Hollywood for not promoting their movies. Most of these movies are more art house. Nothing wrong with that, but don't expect commercial success or big money like 50-60mill for productions like Spike was pissed off he didn't get to make a movie. Hell white art house films don't normally have commercial success or get 50-60mill. And futhermore why is an African American movie going to get 50-60mill when most AA films make back 50-60mill?

Spike is my inspiration when it comes to black filmmakers, but what pissed me off about him is not doing straight to video movies. He could have done so much with that venue instead of complaining about Hollywood not giving him the kind of budget or exposure etc. for his movies.

Khadija said...

Cool_splash1,

Too many AA artists like Spike Lee and others just can't get it through their heads that Whites are NOT going to promote them (or their work) the way they promote White artists. They're still hooked on that "one in a million/Jackie Robinson/I'm gonna be the 'special Black person' who breaks the color line" dream.

Meanwhile, the decades pass and the beat goes on. With or without them and their work.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

cool_splash1 said...

Too many AA artists like Spike Lee and others just can't get it through their heads that Whites are NOT going to promote them (or their work) the way they promote White artists. They're still hooked on that "one in a million/Jackie Robinson/I'm gonna be the 'special Black person' who breaks the color line" dream.

Or others like York or Maverick (white controlled)are going to come in telling black filmmakers what types of black movies they will distribute. They will use those movies to move on to bigger things like what WB and UPN and many other channels that made black sitcoms to gain viewers and then well we all know what happened later with the shows on UPN and WB and then when they changed to CW. This also applies to Fox. Remember all the black sitcoms they did until they gained more viewers?

I do have to say that I do like that Maverick is around, because at least new filmmakers get a chance. Same with Yorke though I have been warned she cheats people etc. Don't know if it's true or not. The movies may not be great some even crap (lions gate gets nobud baddies as well)but at least they got made and can help a filmmaker, because managing to get a feature done is what really gets you seen.

http://www.maverickentertainment.cc/pressdetail.php?NewsID=38
http://www.yorkentertainment.com/

Also films like Soul Food (loved that movie)need to stop promoting themselves as family movies. What family movies have sex scenes in them? Black people complaign that white women and others said they didn't think they would associate with a movie like Waiting to Exhale because it was about black American women. Well how many movies with ww (some do)where a they end up alone and not considering any other men (because even the ones that do meet a guy even if it's at the end or it's not really about her finding love, but about her growing spiriturally). Usually in a movie like this these women would have found other men or had men at least interested in them even if they weren't ready yet. I think that black filmmakers also try to hard to make a film "black" that even black filmmakers can't associate with it.

Another thing on movies like Soul Food why aren't we making more family type films or family friendly films when it's been proven that those tend to make more money? I'm not saying make kids films, but movies the whole family can see. One of the reasons (all though that's changing because there's so much focus on NRI's)that Bollywood is so huge. Most of the films are very family friendly and family oriented.

I said that Bollywood is changing, because of the focus on NRI's. Well Bollywood industry is nervous because they have a rising competitor bhojpuri films. This industry is going to target rurual Indians even ones in the city, because most families cannot associate with some of the new films that are being made. Bhojpuri films have already proven that there is a huge demand, because of people feeling alienated from Bollywood movies.