Category: Spike Lee

  • 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 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 […]

  • “Ethiopian” Songs: Love and Theft

    [Trigger/content warnings: lots of racist and ableist imagery and language.] In 1768, English playwright Isaac Bickerstaffe and Charles Dibdin — librettist and composer, respectively — presented their comic opera The Padlock at London’s Drury Lane Theatre. Dibdin portrayed the role of Mungo, a black slave from the West Indies, and his aria “Dear Heart! What a […]