Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Super Ugly: Ten reasons why that 'anti-blackness' theory used to explain criticisms of Jay-Z's looks is trash

 Nouns, verbs & unpacked adjectives by St. Paco
Jacked photo (above) by Cigar Aficionado

I'm gonna begin this reasoned rant by confessing that I feel as though I'm doing myself a small disservice by even usin' my exquisite mind to ponder the matter that will presently be considered. The sad fact of the matter is, though, that for as long as this matter has been floatin' on the...ether, no one with a unique sense of perspective has 'spoke' on it.

I nominate yours truly.

And so this dirty deed will be done by this writer primarily because he utterly despises that which defies logic. And when a discussion like the one that has inspired this post comes into being--and then refuses to die the appropriate quick and natural death--it's the responsibility of folks like yours truly to make like Missy Elliot and "kill it with a skillet."

Before gettin' down to the nitty gritty now, I would like to offer Jay-Z my apologies for this... Nah, scratch that. To quote a Beyonce verse: "I ain't sorry. I ain't sorry. No, no--hell naw."

Frankly, if a guy has what Busta Rhymes calls "Arab money," and the weight of mo' money mo' problems gets him down, he can take a chauffeur-driven Bentley ride over to where his private jet is hangared, climb aboard, kick off his Yeezys, relax in the Corinthian leather seats, and have the pilot fly him off to an old villa in the south of France, where he can drown all his sorrows in bottles of 19th century wine.

Or...he could just go home and get his bump-n-grind™ on with that bootilicious™ wifey who keeps breakin' iTunes™, Twitter™, Snapchat™, and every other modern day bar by which human achievement is now measured. Either way, he wins.

Now, according to some non-experts in various corners of the interwebs, the suggestions of Jay-Z's "unprettiness" that have dogged him for much of his two decade-old music career are apparently [dramatic pause for effect] a "subconscious manifestation of anti-blackness."

Fhat the wuck?!

Aiight, lemme speak in dialect for a hot minute like somebody born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and 'aks' these hella failed Jungian Psych Majors the $25,000 question:

Whut the heyul kinda’ Kool-Aid™ is ya'll drankin'?

Seriously, have ya'll ever seen Africans before? Yes, those 'melanated' peoples of the Motherland from whom we, "the blacks," inherited most of our unmistakable appearance?

I'm feelin' inclined to say no, because if ya'll had ever seen Africans before, then maybe one of the last things ya'll would be tryna do is make a brotha whose caramel complexion would prolly pass the infamous Brown Paper Bag Test ("Skee Wee®!") a poster child for blackness.

Young Hov in '88

By that anti-logic, Jay-Z's mug exemplifies that of our African ancestors more than any. other. brotha. in modern pop culture. Ergo, this is the reason why some... Okay, a lot of folks think that the dude ain't pretty. Because...deep seated anti-black self-hatred.

Negro puhleeze.

Jesus, Isis, and Osiris. Can a man’s face simply not fit any one of the textbook concepts of handsomeness? Can his face not have a generally pleasing symmetry and it just be okay?

No? Well, walk with me. Because I have ten foolproof reasons why that subconscious self-hatred theory is trash.

Ten reasons why that 'anti-blackness' theory used to explain criticisms of Jay-Z's looks is trash

1. Fifty Cent is reason number one. He's been in the rap game for almost as long as Jay. He got shot a couple times, was hospitalized, and went to jail (I think). But ladies love him. Maybe not as much as they love LL Cool J, but LL was a pretty mama's boy. Fiddy was a thug.

2. Will. i. am leads the rap group Black-Eyed Peas. He may not be on any of the "Sexiest Dudes" lists, but if he ever got shot up and spent some time pumpin' iron in the pokey, he'd prolly be number one with a bullet. Women are attracted to dangerous thugs. (See #10)

3. Wesley Snipes is a great actor and a bad boy too (read: prison time). And for over two decades, he's been on the Sexual Chocolate List of many. In fact, one woman I dated even named her kid Romello, after his character in New Jack City! So, is Wesley the keeper of your woman's panties? (Genesis 4:9.5) Yes, he is.

4. Idris Elba is an actor whose face has graced numerous men's magazines. Sales in those months are known to spike due to the flocks of chicks who cop those issues for an Idris fix. He can make women undress faster than you can say "Rainbow Bridge." (Yup, a Thor movie reference for the geeky mamas.)

5. Morris Chestnut had a partial nude scene in The Best Man Holiday...and gave Wendy Williams and millions of other broads across the country eyegasms. (He gets just one sentence for that. Fucker.)

6. Emmitt Smith is both a Super Bowl and a Dancing With the Stars champion. He was also featured on TV's Who Do You Think You Are?, where genetic testing found him to be 81% African, one of the highest Motherland percentages they'd seen. He could prolly have Beyonc√© if he wanted her. 

7. Akon is an American singer with roots in Senegal, West Africa. In his past, he also spent time in jail, because America just looooves black folks in bondage. Nevertheless, the ladies love this talented "Konvict," and would gleefully role play "sexy prison guard" for him N-E-day.

8. Dijimon Honsou is an actor and model from Benin who has been featured in music videos, Calvin Klein underwear ads and countless films. He's been on "Sexy Man" lists from E! Entertainment to Essense. And for many--my sister included--Honsou is the chocolate gladiator of love.

9. K'Naan is rapper from Somalia who immigrated to Canada as a teen. Growing up, he lost friends to murder, suicide, prison and deportation. But he gained fans across the planet by mastering rap music. And his East African looks with curly, Nubian locks are prolly a plus. 

 10. Mike Coulter is a fairly new face in American pop culture. But his recent star turn on 2016's hit Netflix TV show Luke Cage has fangirls across the country wanting Coulter to take 'em out for late nite coffee. If you've seen the show, you know exactly what that means.

Side note: For full disclosure, this writer may have placed Coulter in the final spot in the deluded dream that the actor might hook a brotha up with co-star Simone Missick. To quote an old LL verse, I would "take her breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breakfast."

Super Ugly

So is Jay-Z, by some really backwards-ass logic, supposed to be 'blacker' than many other black male celebs--including brothas from A-f-r-i-c-a--that don't suffer any debilitating stigma of blackness? Hell naw. So ya'll need to take that tripe back to whatever butchered cow ya got it from, stat!

At the end of the day, the criticisms of Jay-Z's looks have nothing to do with anti-blackness. Jay's cosmetic detractors go after the dude for reasons similar to those that drove simple village folk in fabled France to go after the Hunchback of Notre Dame: They hatin'.

Nah, Jay just doesn't have the fairytale looks of the tall, dark and handsome Prince Charming. But he's got platinum records, boo-koo bucks, worldwide acclaim, President Barack Obama's goddamn cellphone number, three beautiful children, and a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious spouse.

The fact that he isn't the dictionary definition of handsome just balances the scales of the universe a bit for a man who has damn near everything. I mean, how much more would it suck for all the rest of us mere mortals if Jay looked like a male model too?

Yup, exactly.

Ol' King Hov

In a Facebook discussion that partially inspired this post, at least half a dozen ladies expressed that they've long thought of Jay-Z as handsome. My mother disagrees with them. But she did buy her son a copy of Jay-Z's Decoded as soon as it came out, because she thinks Jay-Z is brilliant. Her son the blogger agrees. 

Note: For those who don't know, "Super Ugly" is actually the title of a song that was written and performed by Jay-Z for that now legendary Jay-Z/Nas battle...that Nas won with the song "Ether." Just saying.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Print On Demand - Bullet Proof Soul Revisted

"Bullet Proof Soul" was originally produced as a limited edition 12" vinyl record art print. The piece features recycled and remixed elements from nine different 1970s era movie posters, including Coffy, Game of Death, Cotton Comes to Harlem, and several others. It was inspired by an idea that I was exploring in a series of works under the working theme, "The Best Movies Never Made."

It didn't take long to sell the few that were made. I failed to keep one for myself, though. So it occurred to me that I should do a slight re-design and reformat it as a small 8x8" print so that I could have one on my wall.

Well, I made the alterations and printed the 2.0 version on a heavy, inkjet art paper made in Japan. Shortly after completion, several copies of this one were also promptly sold too.

While redesigning this piece, I also roughed out a brief synopsis of the film idea that I had in mind. I wanted to post it here along with the images, but can't seem to find the folder in which it was filed. So you'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that it's bad ass––because it's pret-ty bad ass. Like a sun-tanned sista' in apricot bikini bottoms. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Disobey Fascists

Yup, it's like that.

Shepard Fairey inspired sticker & wheat paste poster design by St. Paco, 2017

#Resist #NoBan #NoWall #DontLetYourPresidentGetYourAssWhupped

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Marvel Team-Up: The 1970s Comics of Chris Claremont & John Byrne

I'd been feeling nostalgic for early John Byrne art and recently ordered a sampling of books from his 1970s run on Marvel Team-Up. The vendor on Ebay with whom I placed my order had a nice selection of Bronze Age books in VF/NM condition, and each selling for less than the cover price of today's comics.

Iron Man #109
Cover date: May-July, 1978

Iron Man #109 is a book that I purchased solely on the strength of the John Byrne cover. Ain't it cool?

This issue of Iron Man picks up in the immediate aftermath of a battle with villans Midas and the Growing Man–a battle that has left the Stark International building in smoking rubble.

Ol' Shell-Head is joined in the opening pages by Avengers teammate Yellow Jacket, as well as the Jack of Hearts, Whitney Frost (the metal-faced love of his life), and a pretty ticked-off...Tony Stark?

"Stark" is giving Iron Man a tongue lashing over his seeming mishandling of the millionaire industrialist's orders to get the clean-up and the rebuilding of Stark International underway. Yellow Jacket quickly steps in to brief Stark on all of the recent happenings and pretty much saves Iron Man from 'himself.'

In a quick about face, Stark offers his thanks to Iron Man and everyone else for their assistance, and then exits to give his bodyguard a chance to say adios to his amigos.

As the others move to take their leave, the Jack of Hearts stays behind and asks Iron Man if might consider taking him on as an apprentice; the costumed novice realized in the battle with Midas that he has a lot to learn about being a super-hero. Iron Man obliges.

In the second act, Iron Man and Jack of Hearts take one of the Avengers' quinjets on a quick, interstellar jaunt to the moon. They want to investigate the possible existence of lunar base from which the Growing Man launched his attack.

Immediately upon their arrival, our heroes are quickly ambushed by the Soviet super-powers known as Darkstar, Vanguard and Crimson Dynamo!

How will they fare against the soviet threats? If I told you that, you wouldn't want to read it to find out for yourself.

As mentioned, Iron Man #109 is a book I judged by its cover, and I'm glad I did. It was a solid read that reminded me of days gone by when you could jump into any random comic without knowing anything about what happened in the issue before, and still find yourself entertained.

This issue's writing was skillfully handled by long-time scribe Bill Mantlo, and the art was nicely done by guest-penciller Carmine Infantino.

Iron Fist #15
"Enter the X-Men"
Cover date: September, 1977

With this issue of Iron Fist, a short-lived series featuring the pulse-pounding exploits of the books' titular character comes to an end.

In the opening pages of the story titled "Enter the X-Men," Iron Fist's young life nearly comes to an end when he is attacked--once again--by a mysterious dragon branded bruiser who's been stalking Fist and attacking from the shadows.

After this last sucker punch, Iron Fist seeks refuge at the home of his girlfriend Misty Knight, who shares a posh Greenwich Village apartment with Jean Grey of the X-Men. Misty, he groggily recalls seconds after his arrival, is away on an undercover cop assignment, and Jean Grey is out with her boyfriend Scott Summers, picking up some last minute items for a little soireé she has planned for that evening.

One of people on the guest list, Wolverine, arrives early and mistakes Iron Fist for a prowler when he spies the fighter entering the apartment through the skylight. Unfortunately for Fist, the hotheaded Canadian's blood is already boiling over Jean's undying love for Scott, so he charges after the apparent prowler in a red-eyed rage.

The psycho lovelorn X-Man is soon joined by his teammates in a battle that could have and, frankly, should have been avoided. But it's still fun to see.

Iron Fist is obviously over-matched, but handles himself reasonably well against the coordinated efforts of Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee, Storm...and a justifiably pissed-off redhead who finally comes back from the grocery store. 

As this was the the very last issue of the Iron Fist series, fans would get to read by way of the letters column that although the title was ending, they'd be getting to see more of Danny Rand in the pages of the re-named Power Man and Iron Fist (issue #44). And, thanks to the benefit of hindsight, we all know what a historic pairing it was for two really well-liked characters.

Overall, Iron Fist #15 is a fitting end to a now classic Bronze Age title that introduced many comic book readers to Danny Rand, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and Sabertooth, Wolverine's ever-popular arch-rival, who was introduced in issue #14 of the series.

The writing and art chores were skillfully handled by the dynamic duo of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who would take their talents over to Danny's new home in the pages of Luke Cage's book.

Marvel Team-Up #63
"Night of the Dragon"
Cover date: November, 1977

In my review of Iron Fist #15, I mentioned the dangling sub-plot of a mysterious martial artist who had been attacking Iron Fist from the shadows. Before moving Fist over to Luke Cage's book, this story is brought to a climactic completion in Marvel Team-Up #63, which pairs Iron Fist with the spectacular Spider-Man.

As per usual, Peter Parker's pockets are full of lint and the rent is due. As luck would have it, the Daily Bugle photographer has received an assignment to shoot the luxurious home of the wealthy Danny Rand (aka Iron Fist). At the same time that Peter arrives at his home, Danny discovers a mysterious note that had been left on the front door by Steel Serpent, a man whose fighting ability reminds him of his own.

Rand abruptly cancels his meeting with Parker so that he can meet with the Steel Serpent, but ends up being shadowed around town by a concerned wall crawler. Meanwhile, Misty Knight, operating under the alias of Maya Korday (and lookin' super-duper fine on the yacht of a character called the Bushmaster) had been starting to think that the criminal tycoon may have something to do with the attacks on her boyfriend.

She blows both her cool and her cover when she overhears Bushmaster confirming during a telephone conversation the that he's put the hit out on Iron Fist. Meanwhile, cut back to Spider-Man. He has lost Danny Rand's trail. Eventually, though, Spidey tracks down the taxi that Rand had been riding in and learns from the driver that his fare had disembarked at a public park. The web-slinger shoots over to the park and soon finds Danny Rand's abandoned clothing.

Minutes later, Spidey finds Iron Fist in the midst of trading losing blows with the chi-draining Steel Serpent! But does the K'un-Lun kid stand a chance against him?

Marvel Team-Up #63 is a fine example of Chris Claremont and John Byrne near the senses-shattering apex of their combined creative powers. The writing is intelligent, the art is impeccable, and the final page--which features Misty holding the limp body of Iron Fist like the Madonna with lifeless body of her son draped across her lap a la the famous "La Pieta"--offers a moving portrait that leads into the soul-searing conclusion in the next exciting issue of Marvel Team-Up!

 Marvel Team-Up #64
 "If Death Be My Destiny..."
Cover date: December, 1977

Danny Rand lost the battle with Steel Serpent, and was drained of the mystic power of the Iron Fist. Spider-Man and the Daughters of the Dragon (Misty Knight and Colleen Wing) team up to help Danny get back the powers that were taken from him. But Steel Serpent also has plans to to end the life his adversary altogether, to make sure that he retains the power that he has unjustly come to believe is his birth-right.

In this issue of MTU, readers get the revisionist back-story on Danny Rand and Davos, "son of Lei Kung" (a.k.a. Steel Serpent). It's a tale that goes back two decades to the magic-shrouded realms of K'un-Lun City. After the psychedelic flashback, we come to our senses to find Spider-Man and the Daughters of the Dragon trading blows with Steel Serpent. And even fighting as a gang of three, the trio is virtually outta' of their league. Will Iron Fist join the battle and tip the scales?

Marvel Team-Up #64 offers yet another fine example of early work by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. The issue nicely finishes up a lingering sub-plot that was started in Iron Fist #14, before the title was cancelled. The two men would stay with Marvel Team-Up for two more issues, bringing to conclusion a classic tag-team that included issues 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65 & 66 of this long-running title.

Also, before going on to make their soon-to-become legendary run on Uncanny X-Men, Claremont and Byrne would take the green and gold garbed ass-kicker from his solo book to another team-up or sorts in the knucking-cracking pages of the renamed Power-Man and Iron Fist (issue #48).

Uncanny X-Men #122
"Cry for the Children"
Cover date: June, 1979

The cover of Uncanny X-Men #122 is somewhat misleading, as any good cover should be. It shows the adamantium-skinned X-Man in the danger room flexing his "muskles" between the teeth of a hydrolic vise, under which appears the tag line "The trial of Colossus." And while the issue does feature such a trail, the actual title of this issue is "Cry for the Children."

In all frankness, this issue could actually have been called "Black Power." Because that is what came to mind for me as I read turned its pages and was hit with hit with the unexpected appearances of Luke Cage (aka Power Man) and Misty Knight.

Well, Knight's appearance wasn't all that unexpected. She shared an apartment with the X-Men member Jean Grey, and had made many cameos in Uncanny starting with issue #102.

Luke Cage (aka Power Man) on the other hand, was more of a surprise.

As a young kid in the 1970s, you often found yourself--or at least I did--dreaming of seeing more than one major character who looked like you on a comic page at the same time–because it almost never happened. This story offered one of those very rarest of times.

The greater portion of this book of is devoted to living up to its cover. It's the part in which I was least interested. The more intriguing part for me takes place in Harlem, where Storm has been chauferred in the back of Xavier's Rolls Royce by none other than Wolverine.

Approximately seven pages are devoted to Storm. She asks Wolvie to drop her on the corner of Broadway & 135th. From there, she roams the streets for several hours in a seemingly aimless attempt to find what she lost there two decades before: the American roots of her childhood. 

Entering a familiar looking, but abandoned brownstone, Storm climbs the stairs to the second floor and opens the door of what she has a hazy memory of being her childhood apartment. But to her dismay, it's a shooting den now inhabited by half a dozen or more teenage heroin junkies!

Things quickly go sideways when the young junkies see the regal-looking woman as a target for a quick shakedown––so they can score more drugs. One of the teens pulls a switchblade and slashes Storm's hand with it. She then reveals herself to be more than they bargained for.

Storm shows her mutant power for controlling the elements and the teens start scrambling. But one falls out of her line of vision and circles behind her with his knife drawn. He creeps up behind our heirone and readies his blade to strike. But Luke Cage and Misty Knight arrive to the apartment just in the nick of time to cover the exquisite X-Man's back.


The meeting between these three characters is short but sweet. But that it occurred at all makes me recall now why I was a particular fan of comics written by Claremont and illustrated by Byrne.

At the same time as Uncanny X-Men, the duo also handled the production of Powerman and Iron fist. Both books frequently featured various degrees of overlapping stories, and shared characters––a handful of whom were people of color. That was cool.

And I wish now that there had been just one Uncanny X-Men tale featuring just Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Storm, written and drawn by Claremont & Byrne. That would have been so fantastic. But alas...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

[Video On Demand™] The Georgia Boy Choir - Nigra Sum

In 1943, the Spanish composer Pablo Casals (1876-1973) wrote "Nigra Sum," perhaps his most well known choral work. Like many of his compositions, the piece was designed to be sung at the famed Montserrat Monastery in Catalonia, the ancient Spanish city of Casals' birth. It was written as a six-part chorus, with an organ or piano accompaniment.

Rather fittingly, I found a performance of his masterpiece by the Georgia Boy Choir, recorded at the majestic Benedictine abbey on June 14, 2016. The performance took place during the Spain/Portugal International Concert Tour in which the choir participated. Some of the kids look a bit overwhelmed by it all, but the sound of their performance is beautiful.

The video itself is also beautiful, offering us establishing views of the picturesque "sawn" mountains where the Monsterrat Cathedral sits. Rather surprisingly, the video also includes shots of the boys with La Moreneta (The little dark one), a wooden Black Virgin statue whose legendary existence in Catalonia can be traced to the 12th century.


Nigra Sum - Pablo Casals, 1943

Nigra sum, sed formosa, filiae Jerusalem. 
Ideo dilexit me rex et introduxit me in cubiculum suum et dixit mihi: 
Surge, amica mea, et veni. 
Jam hiems transiit, imber abiit, et recessit. 
Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra, 
Tempus putationis advenit 
Vox turturis audita est in terra nostra. 


I am black and beautiful, o daughters of Jerusalem. 
The king has brought me into his chambers. 
We will exult and rejoice in you; 
We will extol your love more than wine; 
Rightly do they love you. 
My beloved speaks and says to me: 
“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 
For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on earth; 
The time of singing has come, 
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” 


(Song of Solomon)