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The quickest connection people make when attempting to validate the art of hip–hop is to compare it to poetry, or more specifically, spoken word. But no genre of Black music needs to be validated, as Black musicians and artists influenced and created the roots of most popular American culture. Either way, when I think of poetry, I think of love songs. Considering a ballad is a form of verse set to music, described as a narrative poem or song, the connection between verse form, love, and music seems clear–cut. Being cautious to not reduce R&B to merely poetry with music behind it, and taking into account the complexities of the genre, there is something to be gained by exploring the lyrics of Summer Walker’s Still Over It for their poetic significance, especially considering her rocky relationship with the music producer London on da Track, and therefore perhaps to the music itself.
Aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics. It's one of the first words that comes to mind when we talk about what makes HBO's Euphoria unique. That, alongside "glitter," "skimpy outfits," "graphic eyeliner," "drugs," and "partying." Anyone wearing an I.AM.GIA set, rhinestone makeup, or fun hairstyles is now said to have a Euphoria aesthetic. We toss the word around, loosely understanding it as embodying the style of a given piece of media or work of art, but formally, aesthetics is actually a philosophical discipline: the study of beauty and taste.
Terry McMillan achieved national attention with her third book, Waiting to Exhale, in 1992. It was a huge success, remaining on The New York Times bestseller list for several months. When crafting up her characters—four single Black women in Arizona in the '80s—McMillan couldn’t have foreseen social media or a global pandemic, let alone manifestation TikTok. Even so, McMillan’s novel reveals how social expectations placed on Black women prevent them from taking part in the relationships that they are taught to aspire to. Andin the 30 years since the novel's release, these societal expectations and aspirational relationships have only gotten harder to reach.
There are a lot of ways in which men hurt women. There are even more ways in which men hurt Black women.
“The most important part of writing, and really life, you said, is revision.”
“Look, if you are sad, you have to try not to be.”
We are currently in a moment of immense clarity. Whether that clarity is better or worse than the state of dulled content we maintained before— I don’t know. It’s clear we can no longer continue to convince ourselves that political correctness is synonymous with equality.
Black women deserve to read stories that feel accurate to their experiences and notice the struggles of Black love without passing judgement or minimizing their feelings. We deserve to read well-rounded characters that are complex and confused, powerful and vulnerable. Impulsivity and infidelity are forgiven for the Allie Hamilton’s of the literary world, but too rarely are those imperfections illustrated in such a forgiving light when Black women are imagined. Instead, Black characters too often play into obvious, binary tropes: rappers are cold, violent, and arrogant; professional women are sassy, ill-tempered, and mean-spirited.