Note from BBT: Anyone who has known me for the past few years or for several years could probably tell you that I am not a fan of most of today’s popular music. Now, someone could analyze my sentiments on the topic and conclude that, well, this music is not of your generation. Don’t get me wrong, I get that. After all, when I was growing up and listening to the music of my era, my folks and other people from their generation often dismissed the music I liked and wondered where music was going. “That music is garbage. What ever happened to artists such as (fill in the blank)?” they would ask. ‘They sure don’t make music like they used to,’ was another comment I would often hear from the previous generation.
These types of comments seemed to get even more common with the rise of Hip Hop. Fans of the ‘old school’ from my parents generation just couldn’t get into Hip Hop. To them it was just noise. They couldn’t get the poetry set to rhythm and amazing rhyming techniques of up and coming rappers, even if they recognized many of the grooves that rappers sampled from artists of their generation.
Even though the group En Vogue had elements of Hip Hop and New Jack Swing in their music, they were a quartet in the classic format of a number of all-female singing groups from previous decades. I still remember the first time my father heard Em Vogue’s debut hit ‘Hold On’ in 1990.
The song started off with an acapella version of the famous Miracles, Smokey Robinson-penned hit ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’, that I knew first through the Jackson 5 cover. After that brief intro, a hard bass line kicked in with a guitar chord that sounded eerily similar to the James Brown classic ‘The Big Payback’.
As JB was an artist that was in steady rotation in our house as I grew up, ‘Soul Brother Number One’ was one of my father’s favorite artists. So, when the ‘Hold On’ instrumental track kicked in, my father yelled out ‘Heyyyy!’ as he and my mother often did when one of their jams would come on the radio. But after a few bars of the groove, his reaction paused as he stared at the radio and wondered what song this was that obviously borrowed from the JB hit.
His reaction was similar to mine and that of funk legend Rick James when first hearing the 1990 MC Hammer hit “U Can’t Touch This”. The Hammer hit borrowed the main bass and keyboard riff of the 1981 James hit ‘Superfreak’ and even though James was intially infuriated with the sample, he calmed down when he learned how much money he was earning thanks to Hammer’s sample. The Hammer sample would also earn James the first and only Grammy of his career.
Through sampling, Hip Hop and New Jack Swing of the late ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond, paid homage to the ‘old school’ while simultaneously updating the building blocks of soul and funk music of the 1960s and 70s. In terms of music, the genres immediately constructed a bridge between the old and the new school. But of course, musical trends always change.
I loved what Hip Hop and New Jack Swing did with old school funk and R&B, but I can’t say that for the current styles that are representing black music. Being in Brazil between the years 2012 and 2021, when I listened to the rado, which was rare, I heard a few of the enormous hits coming out of the United States as American music had a dominant presence on Brazilian airwaves. During this period, I heard songs by Rihanna, Drake, Beyonce and other artists who had massive hits over the past decade.
There were a few American songs that I got into, but after hearing most of these songs more than a few times, I would immediately change the station, or start playing the music I put on my flash drive. ‘This is what new American music sounds like?’, I thought to myself. NEXT! I wasn’t feelin’ it. Who stole the soul?, as the late ‘80s seminal Hip Hop group Public Enemy once asked, was my reaction to most American music of the past decade.
This leads me to an artist that I never thought I would be discussing on this blog. Like myself, singer-rapper Lizzo is from the city of Detroit, but her music has nothing in common with the Motown label that put Detroit music on the map in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And it doesn’t have to. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t ever heard Lizzo’s music until recently. It’s a shame, but I was more familiar with her antics than her music.
In the past few years, it seems that Lizzo’s behavior and presence in the media brought her just as much fame and recognition as her music did. A few things that added to her fame were the eight Grammy award nominations, of which she won three in 2020, TIME magazine’s naming her ‘Entertainer of The Year’ in 2019, and her appearance in the 2019 film, Hustler. Great accomplishments for a new artist. But her antics and public behavior, at least for me, detracted from me even wanting to listen to her music. I see Lizzo as an example of so many things that pushed me further and further away from today’s pop music.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. Yes, western society does discriminate against, stereotype, abuse and dehumanize people of African descent. There’s simply no way to rationally deny this. But at the same time, it gets pretty difficult to defend certain types of behavior that people like Lizzo seem to defend. The sight of Lizzo baring her ample backside in a thong on the sidelines at an LA Lakers basketball game in December of 2019 is just one example of this type of ‘all eyes on me’ at all costs mentality of our social media-driven society.
As I don’t follow Lizzo, I don’t know how long she’s been a favorite roasting topic for black men on the internet with her cries for attention and acceptance, but I have to say she reached an all-time low some time in these past few weeks when she grew tired of trolls on her social network account and invited detractors to ‘kiss her black ass’ and then, as if to ‘ass-entuate’ her point, stood up, turned around, bent over, and revealed her bare ass and mooned all of her followers.
So, just curious…is this the type of behavior on the part of black woman that we should be promoting as acceptable to the young black girls watching her? It was this same mindset that led to a restaurant owner berating a group of women seen twerking at tables almost a year ago.
“How can I tell the men to respect [you] and you guys are twerking on the glass here? If you want to do it, get the f**k out of my restaurant. Don’t do it again. If you don’t like it, get out because I don’t need your money. I need to provide something for my people,” he was heard saying on camera. Obviously on a blog where I call out the blatant racism of Brazilian society, I don’t condone people treating black people as if they we weren’t humans beings with rights to respectiful treatment. But on the other hand, if we want to be treated respectfully, we must behave in a respectful manner that doesn’t give other groups justification for denying these rights.
Given the behavior she has become infamous for, I would have never thought that I would have been discussing Lizzo on this blog. But then two recent events concerning Brazil caught my attention. The first was about a month ago when her fans asked that she say ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ during a live chat. The phrase has long been a battle cry against the controversial Brazilian president basically meaning ‘Get Out Bolsonaro’. Not being familiar with Portuguese, the singer asked fans what they had requested she say.
Then, even more surprising, earlier this week, the singer revealed that one of her favorite songs was a tune written and performed by a legendary group from the state of Bahia known for its songs rooted in the tradition of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The trio known as Os Tincoãs also recorded traditional sambas along with sacred chants from the Catholic church. Although the mixture of styles and genres was clear, the Candomblé influence was the dominant aesthetic for the group’s music.
Rapper Lizzo reveals favorite Brazilian song is by Os Tincoãs
Courtesy of Alma Preta
Nominated for the ‘Grammys’ last year, Lizzo revealed on her social network page that “Cordeiro de Nanã” is her favorite song; the song was released in 1973
“Sou de Nanã, euá, euá, euá, ê”. In a conversation with internet users through her Twitter page, the American singer, songwriter and rapper Lizzo revealed that her favorite Brazilian song is ‘Cordeiro de Nanã’, by Os Tincoãs, surprising her fans. Followers even asked for an official version of the song in the artist’s voice.
The song, written by musicians Dadinho and Mateus Aleluia, was originally released in 1973 in an album with the same name as the group, and is still sung today as a classic of black Brazilian music.
With re-recordings by big names in Brazilian music, such as João Gilberto, Margareth Menezes and Thalma de Freitas, the song serves as a prayer for those who worship or are admirers of the orixás and religions of African matrix.
Curiously, during a visit to Brazil in February last year, the singer praised a Brazilian rhythm. In an interview to O Globo newspaper, Lizzo said: “I love bossa nova, I love how sexy, intoxicating and sweet it can be.
Both references by Lizzo once again point out the importance of Afro-Brazilian culture that is at the root of so many cultural references that brazilian society has long attempted to appropriate as being simply ‘Brazilian’.
Source: Alma Preta