Plots

On the Come Up ~Angie Thomas

“Who are you? of the millions and billions of people in the world, you’re the only person who can answer that. Not people online, or at your school. I can’t even answer that. You’re the only one who can say who you are with authority. So who are you?”

On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore album from New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. By now you should have already read and watched or at least heard of The Hate U Give and therefore you should know how powerful Angie Thomas’ prose is. It feels fun and personal but then hits home with some real truth about today’s society.

Sixteen-year-old Bri Jackson dreams of being a rapper and On the Come Up is her story. With an uncertain home life and people’s opinions and prejudices on every side believing, Bri faces tough decisions and rough situations.

As a character, I honestly didn’t connect with Bri as much I wanted to. She was definitely well developed but I didn’t feel a strong attachment to her. Her supporting characters though, definitely stole my heart. Curtis was amazing, silly and sweet and he showed real character growth (I won’t spoil it, but he definitely was not the same from beginning to end.) Sonny was funny and balanced Bri and her other friend Malik out. Bri’s brother Trey was also an interesting character, he and Bri have a close relationship which I adore. By far however, my favorite character was Supreme. Bri’s dead father’s ex manager, he wasn’t a main character but he had a hand throughout the narrative. He was mysterious and ambiguous, a real dark horse for sure.

The story touched on a lot of current issues: Trey earned a college degree but struggles to find a job, Bri’s grandparents go to a church filled with members who profess Jesus but would rather gossip about people behind their backs, and Aunt Pooh stays involved with horrible things because it’s where she feels accepted and can take care of her family. Ultimately this story is a narrative of identity. Bri grapples with being a black girl in a white world, being seen as aggressive and a threat for things that are tolerated in others. Is Bri the criminal and hoodlum her school and strangers on Twitter believe she is? Is she a carbon copy of her father like her neighborhood thinks? This book drives us readers to wrestle with these questions as Bri does.

Don’t fear though, this book isn’t just heavy existential questions, it’s got a lot of humor and a plethora of references for hip-hop heads. I especially liked getting to read Bri’s rhymes as they appear in the book, it’s evident that Angie Thomas used to be a rapper and I’m all the way here for it. Another thing I love is how, like T.H.U.G, On the Come Up shows the beauty of a place others are quick to write-off. Both books are set in the Garden, which feels like a reimagining of Chicago’s ghetto, and while outsiders see a dangerous area unfit to live, the residents see hard-working people who are proud of where they come from, a neighborhood that supports their own.

Often, it’s hard to follow a mega success like The Hate U Give, but Angie Thomas delivered a solid story. She’s definitely an author to rely on for some hard-hitting, unapologetic, and fun books.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

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Music · Pleats

Dressing Like Kpop Albums

I’m back with another lookbook style post! I came up with this idea one day and immediately latched onto it. If you know me then you know I love kpop and I love fashion. Planning these outfits was a blast and I hope you enjoy this concept!

For each of the 7 kpop albums I own I took inspiration from the photobook and packaging to create looks. These aren’t necessarily recreations of outfits from the photobook but outfits derived from the “vibe” of the album.

BTS — Wings

Top: Thrifted

Pants: Thrifted

Blazer: Thrifted

Shoes: So Aesthetic Shop

This album is rich and luxurious so for the fit I tried to incorporate lots of textures. Starting with leather pants and a “silk” pajama top (big believer in pjs for daywear), I decided to top it off with a white blazer. To add even more dimension, I opted for my beloved iridescent platforms.

NCT 127 — Chain (Taeyong Version)

 

Top: Forever 21

Jeans: Old Navy

Blazer: Thrifted

NCT’s Japanese album has a lot of graphics and sporty yet structured looks. To compliment the graphic element I chose my “sisterhood” graphic tee and paired it with black jeans and a black blazer for a casual yet classy look.

EXO — The War

Top: Dillard’s

Pants: Gap

Shoes: Converse

This concept is quite different from all the other albums I own. It’s rife with primary colors and beachy prints. It’s hazy, laid back, and summery so I chose an outfit that was the same. Yellow pants are the focal point and I balanced their silhouette with a flowy black floral print top. Some cute apple Chuck Taylors were the finishing touch to this fit.

BTS — Love Yourself: Answer

Dress (as top): Dillard’s

Skirt: Macy’s (?)

Shoes: Converse

A springy luxe concept, this album is characterized by lace and pastels, romantic silhouettes, and frills. In my outfit I matched the theme with a peasant style dress, worn as a shirt and a flowy white circle skirt. In the photo book outfits they wore chunky shoes to contrast the flowy clothes so I opted for my white Converse One Stars to finish the fit.

Monsta X — The Code

Top: Forever 21

Sweater: Aeropostale

Jacket: Thrifted (Hollister)

Jeans: Dillard’s (Calvin Klein)

Shoes: Gifted

The Code is soft and neutral with cozier shots and a black, white, and nude color palette. To honor this, I went with a white knit and a brown corduroy jacket. Then, I chose light wash jeans and tan ankle boots to keep the soft look consistent.

EXO — Don’t Mess Up My Tempo

Sweater: Forever 21 (Men)

Skirt: Forever 21

Jacket: Dillard’s

Belt: Aliexpress

Shoes: So Aesthetic Shop

Leather, chains, belts, and general motorcycle rebel gear define EXO’s fifth album. It’s hard and it’s cool but it’s also really hot. The main point of my outfit is the chain belt so I built the ensemble around it. To balance proportions I chose a bulky sweater and pencil skirt. I topped it off with the leather jacket because, you know, leather and EXO are a whole ship. Of course my platforms were the only shoe for this because I definitely needed to be taller and really powerful for this concept.

BTS — Love Yourself: Tear

Top: Gifted

Jeans: Old Navy

Jacket: Thrifted (H&M)

Boots: Off Broadway

LY: Tear is probably my favorite kpop album concept wise: it’s dark and brooding, casual yet rich, and painful but beautiful. I chose a black button down and black jeans with a black belted denim jacket. As you can tell, the mood was all black, so I finished the fit with black lace up ankle boots.

Let me know which look was your favorite!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Palates

Two Ten Jack : Japanese-inspired Izayaka

iz·a·ka·ya

/ēˈzäkəyə,ēzəˈkīə/

noun: izakaya; plural noun: izakayas

  1. a type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.

After dozens of Yelp searches, menu perusal, and deliberation. I finally decided on a restaurant for my 17th birthday dinner: Two Ten Jack Nashville. If you know me, then you know I adore Japanese food and so I couldn’t pass up this place.

We had a pretty good sized party and my grandparents came too, so I was hopeful that they could accommodate and comfortably seat everyone, especially the elderly among us. I made a reservation for 7:30 and we arrived on time. They couldn’t seat us until the rest of our party arrived (which we knew before hand) so we waited in the foyer until they arrived. Two Ten Jack had a gorgeous outside eating area that I’d love to come back and explore when it isn’t 20 degrees.

Our party was completed by 7:40 but the party who had the table lingered. We waited quite a long time. The staff apologized over and over which was great, and it truly wasn’t their fault. Finally the previous party left and we were seated.

They led us to a back room with two long tables. On the wall, an anime movie was showing. I recognized it as a Studio Ghibli film because I’d watched it at a friends house. The table setting was modern: light wood tables, charcoal gray menus, architectural boxes to hold chopsticks, and rolled towels.

As we poured over our menus, our server came to explain how everything worked. The food is meant to be enjoyed communally, with everyone at the table partaking of a maki roll, yakitori skewer, or bowl of ramen. We ordered a plethora of dishes between us: crispy brussels, Japanese fried chicken, potato fries, Gojira roll, east side fish roll, and tonkotsu ramen. Everything tasted spectacular, but I want to highlight a couple of dishes.

The Gojira roll was a perfect balance of heat and texture. The habanero sriracha was subdued by the cream cheese, and the panko shrimp added a beautiful crunch.

Speaking of crunch, the Japanese fried chicken was spectacularly crispy. This was a crowd favorite at our table, with the only complaint being that there wasn’t enough of it.

A Japanese inspired take on the fish sandwich completely intrigued us, so we were thrilled to try the Eastside fish roll. The choice of hot sauce rice, rather than just hot sauce, was genius and set off the acidity of the pickles well. I’ve never had fried catfish in a maki roll before, and I must say, it was delicious.

One thing that stood out to me about the ramen was the richness of the pork broth. The chashu (pork belly) was fatty and had an amazing mouth feel.

Finally, one of my favorite dishes of the night: the crispy brussels. I’m a huge fan of brussel spouts and the addition of rice krispies, while unexpected, brought some beautiful texture. Furthermore, the miso vinaigrette provided some acidic saltiness and the brussels were cooked perfectly.

Eating at Two Ten Jack was a great experience. My grandfather used chopsticks for the first time, my family ate outside of their comfort zone, and we created a lot of beautiful memories.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

I’m Still Here -Austin Channing Brown

Per my mom’s suggestion, when I read certain books I keep a pad of sticky notes inside to mark special quotes and passages. Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here held dozens of sticky notes peeking out from both ends: a testament to gorgeous prose holding deep thoughts. The rest of the title is “Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” and the narrative explores Austin’s experiences as a Black woman in America. I laughed, cried, and got chills. A lot of Austin’s experiences are familiar to me: I felt seen in her accounts of the unsolicited invasions of privacy, uncomfortable off-handed comments, and the solace of the Black church. She reminds us that racism in America will never be completely resolved here on earth but that Jesus is our ultimate hope.

I challenge every single person to read this book. I’ll leave you with a few quotes to drive home how spectacular this book is.

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced, when this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive whether intentional or not”

“The white co-worker who was walking behind me stares in shock. She has never seen me with my hair in a pineapple fro. She reaches out to touch my hair while telling me how beautiful it is. When I pull back, startled by the sudden act of intimacy, she looks hurt and isn’t sure what to do next. The message: I am different, exotic. Anyone should have the right to my body in exchange for a compliment.”

“Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the open-heartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.”

“But the truth is, even the monster – the Klan members, the faces in the lynch mob, the murderers who bombed churches – they all had friends and family members. Each one of them was connected to people who would testify that they had good hearts…The monster has always been well-dressed and well loved.”

“I love being a Black woman because we are demanding. We demand the right to live as fully human We demand access – the right to vote, to education, to employment, to housing, to equal treatment under the law. And we do it creatively: sit-ins and die-ins, signs and songs, writing and filmmaking. We demand because our ancestors did. We demand because we believe in our own dignity.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Pleats

Valentine’s Day Mini Lookbook

Hey!! Valentine’s day is coming up and I wanted to share three outfit options in case you need some outfit ideas for the big day.

ⓛⓞⓞⓚ ①

Sweater: Goodwill/American Eagle

Jeans: Calvin Klein

Shoes: Converse

Necklace: Claire’s

This one is quite casual: perfect if you have school on Valentine’s day and want to be cute but still comfortable. The soft pink of the sweater is pretty and romantic, I decided to pair it with medium wash jeans rather than dark wash to keep the color palette soft. Finally, I added my white and rose gold sneakers. They’re a bit chunky but the colors make them sleek.

ⓛⓞⓞⓚ ②

Top: Goodwill

Jeans: Goodwill

Shoes: Converse

If you’re into less expected ensembles, this is for you. I’m in love with these baggy jeans and I decided to pair them with this pink and white stripe button down. With the white belt, I added some balance to the baggy jeans by emphasizing my waist and topped the fit off with my white sneakers again.

ⓛⓞⓞⓚ ③

Top: Goodwill/Rag n’ Bone

Pants: Goodwill

Shoes: So Aesthetic Shop

Earrings: Target

For a fancier but still comfy look, I went for a white textured top and hot pink pants. This is perfect for those who want to make a statement at a party on Valentine’s day. I added my platforms for added height and dimension since the iridescence tops off the crisp white and hot pink colors.

Let me know which outfit was your favorite and what you plan to wear on Valentine’s Day.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

Plots

What I Read in January

Does it feel like January lasted forever to anyone else?

Even though I didn’t set a reading goal for 2019 I still wanted to read more and rekindle the part of me that got lost in books when I was younger. I read a good amount of books in January that I wanted to share with you guys!

Perfect is Boring – Tyra Banks & Carolyn London

5/5

If you want to know all the tea on supermodel and business mogul Tyra Banks, then this is the book for you. If you love to hear mother daughter duos give great advice and love on each other, then this is the book for you. I listened to the audio version which I highly recommend because there’s nothing like hearing Tyra Banks’ mom rap in her own voice (yeah she does). This is the perfect mix between self-help and autobiography that gives you a beautiful look at the ins and outs of the model industry, and Tyra’s journey.

Finish – Jon Acuff

5/5

I read Jon Acuff’s Start in 2016 on a road trip to Minnesota and I was hooked. Jon’s writing style is so infectious: he weaves anecdotes in expertly and uses humor like a pro. In Finish he gives advice on how to follow through with goals and creative projects. But he doesn’t give a vague motivational speech, rather, he gives executable action steps, which I love. Since, I listened to this on audio I didn’t quite grasp all the nuggets of gold, so I’m excited to get the physical copy and re-delve into this book.

Solo – Kwame Alexander

3.5/5

As a fan of both Kwame Alexander’s writing and novels in verse, I was excited to give this novel a try. I have mixed feelings about Solo. It’s broken up into different parts and I loved the last part as it was the climax, but reaching the climax was slow and sometimes tedious. Some of the characters were a bit underdeveloped too like Storm the main character (Blade’s) sister. She often showed up in the narrative but I had a hard time grasping her role in the story. But as I said, the ending was truly beautiful and rich with quotes.

Little Green – Chun Yu

4/5

For some reason, I have a bit of an obsession with China’s Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. The communist regime of this dictator I find quite intriguing and I love reading about it from a child’s perspective. It has an innocent and romantic quality, but doesn’t shy away from the horrors and atrocities of this time period. The scenic descriptions were gorgeous and immersive. Little details about the outfit she wore to give her revolutionary speech or the revolutionary songs she sang while walking to school with her friends allowed the book to come alive.

Stay fly,

~Akilah

What books did you read in January?

Music

Is BTS Low Quality Music?

Recently, I saw a DKDKTV video in my feed that grabbed my attention. It was called “BTS is Low Quality Music”. Of course, I couldn’t scroll on by after that. I had to see what this was about. The video was an answer to Parkgaedae’s video “BTS is McDonald’s” (which he has since deleted). His premise is that like McDonald’s, BTS is very popular but they produce low quality music.

Now, before I begin I would like to preface a few things: #1 I’m an American (African-American to be exact) and I have never been to South Korea before. #2 I’m an ARMY, I’ve been a fan of BTS for about 1.5 years (I’m multifandom, so I stan a lot of groups). #3 I don’t know any Hangul (my little sister can read and write it), I know a few words in Korean but I don’t speak the language.

I tried to approach this video in a logical way instead of just saying “BTS is amazing and you’re a hater!” I tried to figure out Parkgaedae’s arguments and look at his and DKDKTV’s premises.

His first argument was that people think BTS’ music is catchy, they’re handsome, and nice but their music is low quality. Now, I didn’t get to watch the original video because it was taken down, but in the clips that DKDTV referenced, he never defined “low quality music”. David (from DKDKTV) talked about how Kpop has a reputation for being “fast food music” essentially mass-produced and “factory made”. I understand how you could think this if you only listen to the catchy choruses of comeback tracks that are released twice as often as western artists. But if you look at the song credits and see how many Kpop artists are producing they’re own music, if you examine the lyrical genius, and observe a studio recording session of a kpop group, I believe your “fast food music” mentality might be changed a little.

Particularly BTS, if you’ve ever watched RM’s Vlives where he breaks down the album in his studio: recounting writing processes, funny production moments, and exclusive demo tracks, then you would see all the care that they put into their music. I’m assuming Parkgaedae is not an ARMY and I wonder if he’s ever asked any of us why we like BTS. Because he seems to think that it’s only because we “think they’re handsome and nice” which is a factor, but at least for me, it’s more about how much they’ve impacted the world and individuals with their message. It’s about how they’ve taken their pain and struggle, worked hard and risen to fame, yet still stayed humble and appreciative. It’s about how they create amazing music about real issues and encourage people to love themselves.

Parkgaedae’s next point was that Koreans have immense national pride in BTS and it’s displaced. He referenced the fact that the first thing Korean people mention to his American friends is BTS and their place on the Billboard Charts. He (and his American friends) are rather disgusted that a country would be so proud of a boy group.

Danny (from DKDKTV) agrees that it’s irritating to him (as a Korean) to hear Koreans always asking foreigners if they know BTS, Gangnam Style, Park Jisung (soccer player) etc. David pointed out that if it’s the easiest thing to talk about or have in common: whatever thing your country’s known for. Parkgaedae likened it to him as an American talking about how amazing McDonald’s is. Mentioning how far it’s spread across the world and how many people consume it. That “feeling is what a lot of foreigners get when Koreans take a bunch of pride in BTS.”

What I think Parkgaedae missed in his analogy is that we as Americans don’t HAVE to do that to feel like we matter as a country. We take for granted that the rest of the world looks up to us, we assume that they consume American food, music, and products. We assume that we’re the most important on the world stage so we don’t even try to find common ground. (Please note that I’m not saying all Americans believe this and I’m also not saying that every country “looks up to us”, I’m simply saying that seems to be a prevailing mindset among the general American public.)

When you’re excited about something, you tend to mention it as much as you can. Think about those recently engaged people who talk about their ring, engagement story, and wedding plans every time they have an opportunity. Listeners understand this because it’s exciting and it’s new, it’s something to be proud of. Another possible component to nationalistic pride in BTS is the feeling to have to prove oneself or country. If you’re a part of a minority group you’ve probably experienced the feeling of standing in a room where you had to prove you are good enough. Having to have something in common with the majority culture and show that your culture can “hang with the cool kids”. This is something that Parkgaedae probably has a hard time fathoming as a white American male, because his culture is the dominant one. If you’re a minority and a person or thing that is appreciated in general society comes from your culture, you generally want to leverage that. It’s interesting to me how it seems the majority of the people upholding the rhetoric of “you’re talking about Black Panther too much or you shouldn’t take pride in BTS” are white males.

Parkgaedae’s final point is that Koreans should take national pride in Hangul instead. They should be proud of this amazing alphabet that is beautiful and systematic rather than promoting a pop boy group. While I agree that Hangul is amazing (it seems so organized and efficient but also gorgeous to write) and should get more love, I have an issue with this point. Rather than making a video about how cool Hangul is and how it deserves more recognition, he comes off as a bully telling another ethnicity and country what they should and should not take pride in. Somehow he thinks it’s his place to dictate how people should show their pride in and admiration of their own culture. The fact that he’s telling Koreans what they should promote/be proud of rather than telling other cultures/people groups about this cool thing and promoting it himself seems like a very backwards thing to do. I believe he partly did this to get views: make a video bashing BTS in order to get millions to watch it, but since he removed the video, he probably wasn’t prepared for the response.

The final thing I want to say is in agreement with David. BTS is one of the biggest promoters of Korea to the world (at least from my American point of view). They’re part of the reason that my sister is and I want to learn Hangul and Korean, they’re part of the reason I’ve research the politics and history of South Korea, how I know what hanbok is and even some Korean recipes. They’ve used Korean traditional music in songs that have taken over the charts, spoken in Korean at major awards shows, and promoted a message to the world that South Korea can be proud of. Like their music or not, their impact is undeniable, as evidenced by their winning the Korean Order of Cultural Merit for “outstanding meritorious services in the fields of culture and art in the interest of promoting the national culture and national development.”

Stay fly,

~Akilah