Sunday, June 12, 2011

The limitations of positive thinking

Initially this post was meant to be A love letter/apology to Digible planets. I was disloyal during the period of the second album. See that first album, reaching, a refutation of mind and space had me giggling like a underage tranny who just got to meet Rupaul. Keep in mind this was waaay before the term black emo would have made sense to anyone, before people understood that not everyone had to be hard, hood, or hustling. Cats could be reaching. That album reached back to the heroin laced mellow of black urban think of the 60's without being retro, and infused it with a 808 type rhythm that let you bump it in your Walkman as well as your jeep, if you had such things. It was political, timely, smooth, and live. I got mad when Martin Lawrence made fun of them on def comedy jam. Those were my folks!

But then the Blowout comb came out. What had previously been a meditation on the inequities of abortion rights turned into full on quotes from chairman Mao, the referencing of every black person as comrades, and a nostalgic trip I was simply unwilling to take. I defamed them, I scandalized their names, I was that backbiter. I won't lie about it. I'm not a "positive" guy. I don't call other black people brother and sister. When someone calls me Black man, the funniest instance of this happening occurred when a dread dude was pushing his car down the street and yelled to me "Blackman! Help! ", I usually correct them with my name. I let the dude pushing the car slide, he had enough problems. It's not that I'm not proud or happy to be black, it's just that the positive shit seems a bit excessive to me. Plus it often glorifies the late 60's-70's as some mythological heyday when all dashiki wearing nettles could hang out together and effect social change through the use of blunts and revolutionary rhetoric. This ignores the realities of things like Kwanzaa being created by Ron Karenga, a known F.B.I. Informant. (Reason #22 why you'll never see my ass at another Kwanzaa celebration). See I told you I wasn't positive. What bugged me about the blow out comb was that it assumed a communal sense of nostalgia for that time. I don't like my albums assuming that much about me.

About five years about I listened to the blowout comb again. Wow! It's simply an amazing album. It's what dead prez wish they could think about and say rationally. It's how smart Common wishes he was (I know he's on the album but think of me as the anti-common. Nobody is that positive). It's black Brooklyn in the summertime, rum soaked Georgia peaches with powdered sugar and a touch of cayenne, and the mind of a 1st year black college student reading frantz fanon for the first time. It's political but it also sounds really good. The confusion for me back in the day was addressing it as a hip-hop album. Blowout comb is a jazz piece. You have to have heard a miles album to pick up what they were laying down and at the time I simply wast that versed.

All of this has come about because of my new love for Shabazz palaces, butterfly's Seattle based project that is simply ripping shit up. It sounds way more D.I.Y than either of the Digible albums, and as a result sounds more true to that original sound. Without competing for vocal time, my man is able to let his lyrics bounce off the beats and tempos his drum kits and machines lay down. Plus the tribal moles and guest vocals on his tracks just makes me want to get in the car and just drive in the dead of night pumping both seven song albums over and over like I'm some teenager who just woke up to the idea that blackness can be beautiful.

So this is what this post was going to be. Then I did a little more searching on the break up of Digibles. Looks like the group fell victim to the same 70's B.S. that many of the political movements of the time did, namely not compensating the women equally. I can't get into too much of the politics of it because I don't know them. But now even Digibles got a pall cast over their legacy. It makes me sad. Maybe the fam can get back together. Ya'll are like Voltron. Individually fascinating, together, unstoppable.


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