Thoughts on Brexit, a Lesson in Change

It’s all not so funny anymore.

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A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.

Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.

The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.

As a British citizen, I feel completely disillusioned by the whole debate in which both sides fail to adequately address the issues at hand. Its divisive politics have had a clearly damaging effect upon the UK’s social cohesion. The polls reflect this, with a clear majority of young people aged 18-24 voting remain, and conversely a clear majority of the older generation voting to leave.

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What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.

Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.

These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.

May we make the mistakes from which others learn.

Takin’ It To K-Street: Why I don’t regret my decision to protest

As we marched down to K Street and blockaded the traffic, car horns filled the air as members of our group spread out and started to paint the mural, which bore the words “reconstruct, reinvest and resist.”
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It was an overcast day as we seated ourselves in the middle of a park near one of the most notorious streets in America. We gathered to eat lunch and say goodbye to our new friends, César and River, who had guided us, all but one from UNC Asheville, to Washington, D.C., to join over a thousand individuals in a mass protest against the most hot-button issues in the country, racial injustice, environmental destruction and anti-immigration legislation.

A few weeks earlier, I was seated on the Quad, enjoying the quaint and cute maple-shaped cookies and cider that UNCA so generously hands out every fall, when a friend from the UNCA Divestment Coalition came and placed a flier in my hand, telling me about the “Our Generation, Our Choice” event taking place Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C.

My first thought was, “There is no way I can leave school, not with all the assignments I have to do.” My second thought was, “Hell, yeah.” I had never really been to D.C., unless you count gliding through on a Greyhound bus, and these are all issues that I am passionate about.

It was settled.

We first left for D.C. on Saturday morning, and aside from some mild panic in regards to obtaining rental cars, the trip there was fairly smooth. We discussed everything we loved about the world, hated about the world, talking ‘bout our generation all the while. The energy was good, and it was evident that we were all thoroughly excited and ready to jump into the action.

Rolling into the American capital at night, we first went to an art collective in a warehouse nestled in an industrial, sleepy side of the city. We met César and River, who, alongside the other artists there, were helping to make the signs and the mural that would ultimately be our group’s creation.

We worked for hours in the chilly, neon evening and the warm, comforting art studio, with some of us cutting out cardboard circle stencils, others painting the main banner that would be supported by over 20 hands on the day of the rally, others making the wood posts to hold the signs up, and still others spray-painting the stencils onto small canvases outside.

We were there from 6 to 9 p.m., weary but excited, envisioning how everything we were helping to create would be utilized in the rally.

After this, we departed into the twilight and found the church in which we were staying. Sleeping on the floor alongside other activists from across the country, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable situation, but I love my sleeping bag, so it was all good.

Some of the group went directly to sleep, while the other, perhaps less sensible portion of the group, myself included, retreated back into the night to roam the streets of D.C.

It was a fantastic night to say the least. We walked up and down various sections of the city, sipping beers and talking about life, engaging in various kinds of debauchery that won’t be mentioned here for various reasons.

However, the inevitable hangover that ensued the following day was nothing short of awful, and as I took off to our day-long civil disobedience training, running to throw up in trash cans at subway stops, I sort of regretted my decision to not be responsible.

The training was a lot of things, to say the least. There were intense moments, in particular when one person confronted the speaker about immigration issues and treatment toward minorities who were protesting, and by the end of the day, we were tired as heck and ready to crash.

The morning of the event, however, we were just ready. Even running off an unstable amount of sleep, we were possessed by a fervent energy to get into action and bring everything we had to the rally. We had been warned numerous times that we could be arrested that day, and while it was frightening, it was a risk that I wanted to take. The issues we were speaking out against, the impending crises that the United States is facing as the 21st century pushes forward, and the well-being of our generation and the generations still living on this earth were something to speak out about, and I wanted to contribute my voice.

thumb_IMG_0288_1024As we marched down to K Street and blockaded the traffic, car horns filled the air as members of our group spread out and started to paint the mural, which bore the words “reconstruct, reinvest and resist.” I held the art supply cart, mainly because I had managed to skin my already-skinned knee further by falling that morning, and would have been in too much pain to kneel on the ground and paint.

The snipers inevitably came out on top of the White House and pointed their automatic weapons at us, a bunch of “crazy hippies” promoting a world where people are kind and thoughtful, not ruthlessly given over to the behest and pursuit of the almighty dollar.

After two hours, we retreated back to the park from where we had originally marched . Al Jazeera and Reuters reporters were there, interviewing students about our protest that apparently was national news.

I have at times been skeptical of whether or not myself and a few others in our generation, a few planktons dominated by a sea of piranhas, actually have the chance to make a change in the world.

But as I sat there with my crew, smiling and taking in the soothing autumn air, I knew I wouldn’t have chosen to have spent the morning of November 9, 2015, in any other way. In the words of Regina Spektor, “All this hippie shit’s for the ’60s.” But it’s for the ’10s, too.

 

Photos by Larisa Karr. This article is opinion.

The Frigid, Sonic Landscape of Chief Keef

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Slurred, disjointed braggadocio drenched in bouncy, delayed autotune. Punchy ad-libs peppered sporadically like trumpeted staccatos. Synth heavy beats sliding around, as amorphous as a gust of propane that has escaped from a steel tank.

All of these and more are characteristic of your average banger issued by Chief Keef, christened Keith Cozart on the 15th of August, 20 years ago. The Chicago native broke into the consciousness and headphones of rap fans everywhere upon the release of his 2012 mixtape Back From the Dead. “I Don’t Like,” a track from the aforementioned mixtape, quickly went viral, attracting the attention of industry mainstay and hit-maker Kanye West; the rest has been history.


Much of the discussion surrounding Keef’s work has just addressed its “weird” nature. Noisey, Fact Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and more have all touched on the experimental territory the rapper has treaded since his increasing departure from the drill-rap conventions he himself was largely responsible for establishing, along with his early producer Yung Chop. What all of these talking heads seem to miss is that Keef seems to have direction with his experimentalism, despite the haphazard quality of many of his releases.

Not unlike the place “demo tape” releases have held in DIY, guitar-centric music scenes, mixtapes in the modern rap-sphere serve as a testing tool for an artist to shop an artistic direction without potentially sacrificing major marketing and recording budgets. Additionally, they’re useful for keeping core fanbases happy and having sufficient material for live shows. Keef’s most far-out projects have been released through the mixtape format, including the unique 2014 sequel to Keef’s breakthrough, Back From the Dead 2.

This one’s a monster:

 

 

Back From the Dead 2 showcases Keef’s most drawn out yet consistent flows. He allows lines room to breathe, beautiful musical flourishes to shine, and quickly followed by sometimes hilarious ad-libs that are always intensely effective.

Young Thug, a contemporary of Keef’s, has been getting press for what many perceive to be a “gibberish”-based rapping style. His, and Keef’s in a similar fashion, have been perceived to actually be captivating takes on regional vernacular filtered through very expressionistic flow-forms, with Thug even having been known to walk into the recording booth with doodles of shapes and concepts rather than lyric books.

This vocal approach has been termed “warble-rap”, which places more emphasis on feeling than New York-based rap conventions of technical ability. Warble rap follows in the storied tradition of long time trap-rapper Gucci Mane, who has worked as a collaborator and mentor to both artists.

Of course, beats play a role in a song’s feeling. Keef is at the helm of 16 of the 20 tracks, all heavily indebted to a sound quality not commonly attributed to rap, not to mention  hardcore rap – psychedelic. Chief Keef’s psychedelia is less about kaleidoscopes and Flower Power and more about the disorienting perspective acquired as a product of war-torn streets. Rugged individualism by way of survival rather than personal philosophy. Sound collages of machine gun shots litter many of the tracks.

Upon listening to the long awaited, retail mixtape Bang 3, one can observe the scaled down the eccentricities from much of his 2013-early 2015 output. Despite that, his adventurous spirit can still be seen in the three random songs he posted on October 19th:

 



 

Much has been said about Keef’s place in the industry. From fellow Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco’s criticism of his hyper-violent lyrical content to persistent concerns that his short-lived dalliance with Interscope Records was manipulative, Keef’s name has constantly been pulled since his entrance into the high stakes arena of the rap business.

And the concerns have all had some level of validity. As Keef was achieving stardom, Chicago was constantly in the news due to its status as what Kanye West referred to as being the “Murder Capital”. Much of the publicity focused on post-2010 figures, although Chicago has had an endemic problem with fatal violence since the late 1960’s. Since 2000 the average annual murder rates are lower than those as recent as the 1990’s.

That being said, out-of-touch community leaders and politicians from Chicago seem to lack empathy for someone who is a result of the issue. Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and another local mayor shut down a benefit concert in Chicago that was to feature a hologram of Keef citing concerns over violence. It was more of a political move to seem “tough on crime” than anything else. It turned out to be a moot point, as the benefit, and the holographic performance, was in condemnation of  gun violence and sought  to assist recent victims of the phenomenon. So who is in the wrong, the guy who came from a hyper-violent world talking about it frankly and artistically, or the label bosses and politicians who use the guy to benefit themselves?

King Sosa is constantly seeking the Sound in an age where artistic exploration is often synonymous with the sacrifice of fan loyalty. For that, all fans of forward-thinking rap should be thanking him.