Over the past couple of years, I have wondered about my writing voice, about my place in the writing world. It is almost as existential a question as "who am I," so, true to form, it has been very crippling for me creatively. Then, I read The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.
I thought I didn't have anything new to say. I thought, "everything that is worth saying has already been said or is currently being said." Then I read the The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is a good book. The storyline is captivating, and I particularly enjoyed reading the individual perspectives of each of the characters.
However, if I had authored The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, I would have written it in a completely different way. I would have emphasized different aspects than Lola Shoneyin did. For one, I definitely would not have been as explicitly sexual as she was. Perhaps, I might have given Iya Femi a redeeming quality or two.
Hear me well, this is not, at all, an indictment on Lola Shoneyin. It is merely a revelation for me. I do have something to say because I have a different perspective. I have different life experiences and I have a unique voice. It might not sound like Lola Shoneyin's or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's or Osar Adeyemi's, but it's mine.
It's Jesus trying to use me and my voice to say something, and for now, that is enough.
The Netflix film, Cuties, generated much controversy even before it was released on the platform. My take: Cuties would work in a perfect world, but our world is anything but.
Here's what I mean: if Cuties could be released exclusively to an audience of only adult women, it works. It creeps me out to think of a guy, any guy, watching this film. In this imperfect world of ours where fathers rape daughters and uncles touch little girls inappropriately, I am disgusted with the thought of those kinds of men watching these pre-pubescent girls twerk.
Yet, that is the philosophical dilemma of societal commentary: in an attempt to comment on the hypersexualized world that we live in, Cuties, itself, is hypersexualized. And when I say hypersexualized, I really, really mean it.
Aminatu and the other girls in the Cuties dance group break out some sexualized moves I have not even seen grown women do.
A Short Synopsis for those who haven't seen it:
Cuties follows the story of an eleven-year-old girl, Amy Diop, who has just moved into a new housing project in Paris along with her mother and two little brothers. We learn that her father is back in Senegal, taking a new, younger wife and will be joining them soon. Amy seeks solace in a girl dance group called "Cuties." The Cuties are desperate to prove they are not little girls. They bare their midriffs, dance suggestively, and use curse words. Throughout the film, we see Amy struggle to balance her home life and her Muslim-Senegalese upbringing with the dramatic "freedom" that the Cuties' lifestyle seems to offer.
A Critical Look At Cuties
Westernization (West is Better) Narrative
1. The protagonist's name is Aminatu. If it is to be shortened, the spelling should be "Ami," not the Western-friendly "Amy." Yet, even the Netflix subtitles have it as "Amy." Aminatu and her family are newcomers. It's unclear whether they are new to that particular area (housing project) of Paris or if they just arrived from Senegal, the latter being more likely. Either way, Aminatu is new to the area, new to the school, and she does not even get the dignity of having her name spelled right. In Aminatu's first direct interaction with the Cuties, they accost her: throwing her books to the ground and calling her names, among which is "Senegal."
Of course, Aminatu internalizes this "West is Better" narrative and adopts her Western identity. On her social media page, Aminatu spells her name "Amy." Every immigrant with a non-Western name can relate to Aminatu's experience. As someone with a non-Western name, it is interesting to see the director, Maïmouna Doucouré, commit the same blunder she seems to be critiquing.
2. In pop culture, there is an existing narrative that Western culture equals "free" and "uninhibited" while non-Western culture/families are negatively portrayed as "conservative" and "restrictive." And of course, in this narrative, Western is better, sending a clear message to non-Western people that "if you can just be Western, you will be happy."
Doucouré initially plays into this dichotomy: Amy is laughing and care-free when she is wearing crop tops and rehearsing with the Cuties; Amy is stone-faced as she sits through another prayer lesson Then, Doucouré dismantles the narrative:
When we first meet Aminatu, she takes the time to torture her little brother with ghost stories so he can sleep; she playfully portions out cereal for him. She even takes the time to tuck her baby brother to sleep. This is "restrictive" non-Western Aminatu.
When Amy becomes "free," her mother falls to the ground in a faint and Amy cannot even be bothered to get up from the dinner table. She locks her little brother in a bathroom for (probably) hours so he doesn't bother her and her new friend. She steals from her mother, pushes one of her "friends" into the river so she could take her place in the dance team, and posts naked pictures. This is Western Amy.
Doucouré cleverly draws a comparison between Amy and Aminatu and asks the viewer to judge: who is really "happy"?
I don't know, I think I'd take Aminatu.
Portrayal and Treatment of Women/Girls
1. But life's not perfect for Aminatu either. And this is arguably what pushes her to be a Cutie. After all, if her mother - who was doing everything right - could still lose her husband to a second wife, what was the point of being a "good" woman?
Although only eleven, Aminatu was already being groomed to be a "woman" and in so many African (pardon my generalization), that usually comes with a ton of responsibility. Less than five minutes into the film, Amy has to sit with much older women as they listen to an off-camera speaker expound on the importance of piety and virtue while Ismaeli, her little brother, sits only a few feet away engaging in carefree play.
Right after this, Aminatu walks in on a girl her age dancing with the same care-freedom Ismaeli has (because he's a boy) and Aminatu is fascinated with the idea of being so unencumbered, so "apparently" childish.
Of course, we'd come to see that the dancing is anything but childish.
2. Mariam's - Aminatu's mother - situation is the plight of so many women in West Africa. Although hurt and embarrassed by her husband's decision to take another wife, she is forced to bury her emotions, her thoughts, her self because (in our society) that's what it means to "be a real woman." Afterall, a "real" woman is one that is perfectly fine with her husband sleeping with another woman just down the hall from her children's room.
2. On Hypersexualization
I don't think I can ever watch another music video without wondering if the video girl is gyrating to the music because she wants to or because she thinks she has to. I think the saddest part of this whole film is the hypocrisy that it reveals in our society. We live in a society where "sex sells," and not much is done to protect little children from that. So to be completely affronted and shocked when little girls mimic what they see on their television screens or on the trending section of YouTube is not just hypocritical, it is a little sad. Banning Cuties would not solve the societal problem of hypersexuality but in true hegemonic fashion, anything that shines a light on the dark underbelly of society must go.
Cuties is an educational film. Doucouré does a fantastic job commenting on so many aspects of society: the oppression of women, hypersexualization, immigrant struggles, even bulimia. At one point, she shows Yasmine forcing herself to throw up in the bathroom before she rejoins the Cuties, commenting on the horrific societal standard that a girl (in this case, Yasmine) can only be a part of the group if she is skinny.
Yet, the ending of the film leaves a little much to be desired. Aminatu' story is resolved too quickly and there are no consequences for her behavior. She posts a nude picture of herself online and almost drowns a person, but because the last scene shows her wearing age-appropriate clothes and playing jump rope, all is forgiven and forgotten?
Cuties both works and it doesn't. The director falls into the same traps she is criticizing but at least she shines a light on this broken part of our society. We can do better. Our black girls deserve better.
Adekunle Gold's transformation from Adékúnlé Gold of Gold, his debut album, to AG Baby of Afro Pop, Vol. 1 is a curious case of Benjamin Button syndrome. You know...because he aged his image backwards. He even has "baby" in his new moniker. 😂
But this transformation, this reverse-aging, is not necessarily a bad thing. I loved the Adékúnlé Gold of Gold and so did my parents. His sound transcended generations such that every time we were on a long drive, my dad would request his album with excitement. However, his new sound is transcendent, in its own way. After all, it is very telling of Adekunle's talent that he is able to transform so radically and yet, remain quite relevant.
Let's see what he packed into this album, shall we?
Before Twice As Tall began streaming, I had read quite a few reviews - all of them brimming with praise for Burna Boy's latest body of work. Then I listened to the album and I couldn't quite believe my ears. This is it? I wondered aloud to myself and my brother as the album played loudly on the car stereo. But I swallowed my disillusion and decided to listen again. This time, I sat with my headphones and my fingers poised above the keyboard:
Twice As Tall? You decide.
Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps is a tough act to follow. I didn't actually review it, but I don't think I needed to: we were all kind of in awe of Fireboy DML's genius.
APOLLO is miles away from Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps and I have mixed feelings about that. In some ways, that's a great thing because #growth, yet I can't help feeling nostalgic for the magic and, dare I say innocence, embodied in his debut album. Let's review the album track by track, shall we?
Have you guys been enjoying the playlist? I hope so!
Let's get right onto the review...
This is Amazing Grace like you have never heard it before. It's fresh, it's new, it's good, it is hype.
You think you know rap? You think you know electronic music? Wait till you hear Amazing Grace. Your jaw will drop. 😄
But it's not just the beat or the cool-as-heck bars, it is the lyrics. THE LYRICS ARE SO GOOD.
Like stop, wait, hold up the club/I found Somebody that I love/Like stop, ayy, hold up the grave/I found somebody that can save/Like stop, dance, come get your mans/Bring 'em to the Man who atones for your sins/Like stop, ayy, hold up your praise/Get a little taste of amazing grace like
Check it out here: https://song.link/i/1384319424
The Lord's Day
One word that comes to mind when I think of Hyper Fenton's music is full. There is so much richness, so much goodness, so much Jesus in this song that every time it comes on, it just fills you with joy. So many times The Lord's Day has come on and flipped my bad day upside down and I can't flipping wait for you to hear it! 😄
Check it out here: https://song.link/us/i/1384319423
Thank you, Hyper Fenton, for being a vessel.
I don't usually do one-song reviews, but some songs just demand it, you know?
It's like when you eat Ramen noodles (or Indomie 😋) and it tastes like you have never eaten noodles before.
Yes, In View is just that good.
More than the catchy riffs, more than the sick beat, more than the unnameable quality in Jake James' voice, the message in In View is so strong, so real.
You make me wanna put in work baby/No matter what I will make it work for you/You make me better than before baby/But I don't see 'em till you put in view
Tell me that this is not Henry and Oyin's story in The Perfection in Love?
Love should lift you up, not put you down.
Love should make you want to do the work. So that you can you be better
That's what the Lord's love does, and that's what real romantic love should do, too.
Jake James, 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾
Check out In View and other Jake James songs here: https://song.link/us/i/1453422504
I have been a fan of Okey Sokay since I first heard HSKT, so when I heard The Transition had come out, I had to review it. And can I say, the album was so artistic!
You can see it in the one-word song titles, hear it in the musical choices in each track, and picture it in the album cover.
Okey Sokay, gbam! 🙌🏾 🙌🏾🙌🏾
I mean, come on: there are even 10 tracks in the album! No more, no less. Just perfect.
In the spirit of the one-word track titles, I am going to try to keep my track reviews to one sentence each. But no promises. 😉
1. Alpha: The title of this track is so apt for the first track in the album. Again, I am floored by the level of artistry that went into making this album. Also, can we pause on the breadth of tone in Okey Sokay's voice? Hmmm! 😍
2. Name: I can't wait till every church is using this song in their worship sessions.
3. Good: This track is so simple, yet so so powerfully effective.
4. Oga: If you are not moving your shoulders by the end of this song, I will not call you what you are; just play this song over and over until you start moving your shoulders.
5. Surely: Just when I think I have heard it all, I hear Surely
6. Imela - You can't help but sway when this track comes on. I am used to Okey Sokay hitting my senses with those fast tracks, but I find that I like this slow-jam feel just as much. (I said no promises!)
7. Miracle - It's so awesome when you hear a song that speaks to you exactly where you are; Miracle did that for me. Thank you Okey Sokay. Thank you.
8. Winner - This song made me cry; don't ask me why.
9. Merem - There is an undeniable essence of joy in this track and it is infectious, oh so infectious.
10. Nmeri - This track is a jam. You can't help but move. This is the perfect song to declare your victory in Christ. It does not matter whether you are feeling victorious or not. This song will help you feel it. This was also the perfect song to end the album. The only thing I don't like about this track is that it means I have finished listening to the album.
Okey Sokay, if this is just The Transition, I might not be able to handle The Destination when you get there.
Thank You Jesus for Okey Sokay. We are grateful.
Album: Omo Charlie Champagne
Released: April 19 2019 (happy belated birthday to Simi)
1. Charlie: There is something so quietly powerful about this track. The song hits all the right highs. Simi takes us on an emotional journey as she processes her feeling about her late father. She is sad, yet happy; not mad yet furious and we feel every single emotion along with her.
2. Ayo: Ayo is the song you want to put on for that Saturday morning cleaning. You will dance your way through that dusty living room, I promise.
3. Jericho: The rhymes in this song are 🔥🔥🔥. The beat in this song is 💯💯💯. Here's the problem: you can't be cool when dancing to this song. When it comes on, your body does not know whether to dance to the lyrics or the beat, so you end up dancing to both and looking like a fish on the chopping board. Also, "I lay you down like an edge controller," is a bonafide Simile. Please call the writers of Queen Primer and Verbal Reasoning and tell them to include it, thank you.
4. By You: This song is the embodiment of the Simi-and-Adekunle we all know and love. Classic. I'm a fan.
5. Immortal: This song is...um, nice. Okay fine, it is not my favorite song. Sorry Simi, I still love you though.
6. Love On Me: 🤭🤭🤭
7. The Artist. Yes! Yes! Yes! Please say it louder for those of us artists at the back.
8. Move On: This song guts me. Over and over. Until I am curled up in a fetal position on the ground. Simi is so good at expressing what we all feel but may not have the artistry to articulate. And that falsetto? The rawness in it bleeds me dry.
9. Mind Your Business: Auntie Simi, this table you are shaking, some of us sip tea on it every day. 😏
10. Lovin: I have been a Simi fan since day one, so it is hard to pick a favorite among her songs. But Lovin is pretty up there. Also, if you have not seen the video, I only have one thing to say to you: Why?
11. Please: I am such a sucker for Simi's voice accompanied by a piano. She could be singing "A-B-C-D" and it will still be a profound work of art. Please is so emotional and I'm here for it. "Please don't lose what I found," Simi begs on this track. I can relate, Simi. I can relate.
12. I Dun Care: The awesomest part of this song is the spelling of "Don't" as "Dun." Simi really dun care what anyone has to say in this song and she makes that known right from the track's title. Awesomest is not a word, this sentence is a comma splice, you can tell I dun care too.
13. Hide and Seek: I am here for the intro of this song. It is unlike anything I have heard from Simi. I'm a fan.
Simi is a such a gifted lyricist. Weh done ma. More power to your elbow, more inspiration to your mind, and more love to your heart!
Here are some of my favorite lines from this album:
"Will you forgive me for the happy tears?" - Adekunle Gold on By You
"Be the Range to your Rover?" - Simi on Jericho
"I lay you down like an edge controller" - Simi on Jericho
"Please don't lose what I found." - Simi on Please
"Carelessly loving you, babe, is the worst thing I could do." - Simi on Move On
"Sweet, but hard to chew, like sugarcane" - Simi on Move On
"E dey pain" - Simi on Move On
"See, I walked down the aisle just the other day/ but you weren't there to walk me. /I 'm not mad o / I take that back, I'm furious." - Simi on Charlie
"Can you Simi now?" - Simi on Jericho
"Wanna hold you tight like a folder." - Simi on Jericho
"The Artist is always under pressure...there's pressure from within as well." - Simi on The Artist
Is this thing on?
Gil Joe and Nkay will always have a special place in my heart. When I first started doing this relationship thing with Jesus, their lyrics were my constant companions. They taught little ol' me that being a Jesus lover was nothing to be ashamed. of.
Love you guys!
Album Title: #AfroGospelToTheWorld
Artist: Gil Joe x Nkay
1. Nobody: Love...Love..love...love this song! The fusion between Afro beats and EDM in this track is too much for my un-Zanku-able legs to handle. I can't with this song: the lyrics, the strategic placement of the beat drop. It's like, after you proclaim to the Lord that there is nobody else, you're like, "let me show You what I mean!" Please hep me clap for GilJoe x Nkay and Proud Refuge.
Song Credits: Gil Joe, Nkay, Proud Refuge
2. Do: If you have heard this song, be honest: do you not have "That You do" stuck in your head? I'll be honest: I do! 😆 (see what I did there?) Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, when I first heard the song, I slept on it. But now, I can't sit still when it comes on. Gil Joe, well done. Jesus is the new wave!
Song Credits: Gil Joe
3. Better: Seriously, Gil Joe's growth as a producer has grown so much from Maturity. Don't get me wrong, all the songs on Maturity are dope, but the songs on here are Better. See what I did there, again? Hehe.
Song Credits: Gil Joe, Nkay
4. Shackles. Y'ALL!!! Y'ALL.!! Y'ALL! Y'all... I 😭 freaking love 😭 this 😭 song.😭
Okay. Okay. I will calm down. I promise: I am not overhyping this track. Everything about this track is a hit. The beat, the lyrics, the enthusiastic voices of Gil Joe and Nkay...even the timing fit! (the song came out when the Shaku shaku dance was in its prime). I mean, Shackles & Shaku shaku. This review practically wrote itself.
Song Credits: Gil Joe, Nkay,
5. With Me: Whoever came up with the idea for Gil Joe and Nkay to release an EP together is a freaking genius! The drums on this track give me so much life. I really do believe that God still has so much for me when I hear this song. Gil Joe and Nkay have this uncanny ability to sing a song with swagger. As if the lyrics were created for that beat and the beat for that lyric. Nothing else fits.
Song Credits: Gil Joe, Nkay
6. Since You Came: I honestly wish this song was longer. I really could listen to Mr. Nkay groove on this beat for hours. This song feels like a R &B -infused love song, and who better to sing a love song to, than the Lord of love Himself? Also, Nkay's voice on this track is probably the best I have ever heard it. Love, love, love it!
Song Credits: Nkay
7. Issa No: This song is sassy! But you wouldn't know it if you weren't paying attention. In that classic chill Gil Joe x Nkay way, they saunter through this track with sass and swag. I am a fan of this song.
Song Credits: Gil Joe, Nkay
Nothing compares to when you sing a song for the Lord. It just fits.
I think that is an apt word for this EP. "Fits."
#AfroGospelToTheWorld fits and I'm a fan.
Ten years late, hehe.
Watching Avatar put me in a headspace that I don't find myself in after a movie: simply happy.
Not deeply joyful, or intensely moved. Just a simple kind of happy.
Usually, my thoughts go a mile a minute, and I am either horribly indifferent, immensely fired up, or extremely elated.
But since the credits began to roll, the slight smile on my face has stayed in place.
I don't find myself mad that the bossy "Sky People" ignored all the history lessons that ever existed and tried to colonize the Na'vi people.
I don't find myself deeply moved by the deaths or the romance or the psycho-biological connection the Na'vi people have to their land.
I am just happy that good trumped bad. The guy got the girl. The bad people were sent out, and...
everyone lived happily ever after.
Of course, this remains to be seen as the sequels head to theaters soon.
But till then, I am very content with this simple-kind-of-happy.
All posts by Ronke (unless otherwise indicated)