Category: Malcolm X

  • Intersectionality: Beyoncé Feminism

    “When the Levee Breaks,” Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy (1929): “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin, 1971: Beyoncé samples the Zeppelin version in “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” off Lemonade (2016): She also samples a 1962 speech by Malcolm X: In the official video for “Formation,” we see what happens when the levee actually breaks: Beyoncé […]

  • X, UnNaming, and the Cowboy Blues

    You all know this song. When Lil Nas X became a household name, I started thinking about that name. “Lil” like Lil Wayne, or like so many other rap artists? “Nas” like . . . Nas? “X” like DMX? Or even Malcolm X? Apparently not. But words and names mean things. Here, Malcolm X — […]

  • A Love Supreme

    Coltrane’s bare-bones score for his masterpiece, the four-movement suite A Love Supreme, which was recorded in one session in December, 1964: Coltrane has noted in the manuscript that the piece should be played “in all keys together.” As his biographer Lewis Porter says, at the end of the first movement (titled “Acknowledgment”): Coltrane’s more or […]

  • A First-Stream Rhythm and Blues Primer

    Handbill distributed by the Citizens’ Council of New Orleans, one of many such groups opposed to integration. Early rhythm and blues was essentially what its name says: an uptempo version of the blues, with a strong emphasis on the kind of driving, propulsive beat popularized by jazz. It was marketed to black urban record-buyers as […]

  • Beethoven as a Black Composer

    The South African novelist and anti-apartheid activist Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) published a short story collection in 2007 entitled Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black. The title story is about a multiracial university professor in Johannesburg, thinking back over his life and his identity: Beethoven was one-sixteenth black the presenter of a classical music programme on the radio […]