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

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Life · Music

What Went Down April + Mixtape

So I started drafting this post and realized that the normal format I do for monthly wrap-ups just wasn’t cutting it, instead, I decided to just talk about the highlight of April: my college tours trip. And of course my monthly mixtape because April music was lit.

Spontaneous trips are always fun, and this one was no different. We set out before the sun on a Thursday morning and drove the 4 hours to Atlanta from Nashville. First stop was Clark Atlanta University for a tour. The campus is in the heart of ATL which gives it the city feel that I like. While we were there, we had the amazing opportunity to see their art gallery, which was my favorite part.

The fashion students created a look based on certain works of art and accompanying pieces of poetry. It was so beautiful and completely my thing.

 

Next we went to the historical Tuskegee University in Alabama. This is the university Booker T. Washington started after reconstruction. Just being on the campus after reading Booker T. Washington’s autobiography last year was powerful.

Our final stop was Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. Our tour there was so polished and informative, all the students and faculty we met were kind and helpful, that school made an amazing first impression.

Overall, this trip got me even more excited about college because now I can feel it becoming real for me. It was a really fun trip and all of the schools were so worth my visit.

 

Shifting gears because I just really wanted to share my playlist like this was a regular What Went Down post, here are my most loved/played songs of April 2018.

  • Don’t Leave Me ~BTS
  • Chance of Love ~TVXQ!
  • Thunder ~EXO
  • Blooming Day ~EXO CBX
  • Sweet Dreams ~EXO CBX
  • Polygon Dust ~Porter Robinson
  • Jealousy ~Monsta X
  • Shine ~Pentagon
  • Redbone ~Childish Gambino
  • No Scrubs ~TLC
  • Haru Haru (acoustic version) ~BigBang
  • Tender ~Jones
  • Plz Don’t Be Sad ~Highlight
  • I Got You ~Jaylon Ashaun
  • lovely ~Billy Eilish, Khalid
  • Rewind ~GOT7
  • Us ~GOT7
  • Baby Don’t Like It ~NCT 127
  • 90s Babies ~Victoria Monet
  • Mad Generation ~Victoria Monet
  • Paradise ~GOT7
  • sidetoside ~Chris McClenney
  • The Move ~Reva Devito
  • One ~Samuel
  • After the Storm ~Kali Uchis, Bootsy Collins, Tyler the Creator
  • What You Mean to Me ~Chris McClenney
  • Run ~Chris McClenney
  • Off-Road ~Pentagon
  • Do It For Fun ~Pentagon
  • Fallin ~Monsta X

I hope you enjoyed my different format for this month, and look forward to some epic posts in May!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

Palates

Lunch at Plaza Mariachi

I absolutely adore places that are dedicated to celebrating culture and Plaza Mariachi is one of those places. It’s a collection of restaurants and specialty stores that showcase Latin culture. They have live music, an array of cuisines, and even a grocery store where you can buy authentic ingredients.

A few months ago, we went there for lunch and had some bomb food. First, we stopped at place to get drinks. I ordered the Avocado Lime Agua Fresca. It was so creamy and refreshing, if you’re wondering how avocado works in a sweet drink, it works wonderfully and adds a satisfying mouth feel.

Next, we went to Tres Gauchos for food. I’m a huge fan of chorizo, so when I saw a chorizo sandwich on the menu I was intrigued. It also had chimicurri and pico de gallo on it, which added a freshness and moisture. The roll was toasted perfectly and soft in the middle. Plus, the fries that came on the side were thick-cut, crispy and warm. They also had this amazing spicy aioli to dip the fries in that was to die for. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

If you’re in the Nashville area definitely go to Plaza Mariachi, you won’t be disappointed!

Stay fly,

~Akilah

 

 

 

 

 

Plots

The Hate U Give ~Angie Thomas

“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen -people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.” ~The Hate U Give

I’ve been waiting for so long to read this book. It’s one of the most hyped books of 2017 and shocker its a hyped YA contemporary that I actually wanted to read. The premise sounded interesting, I’m always searching for more “YA of color”, and Jason Reynolds, one of my favorite authors, acclaimed it, so it was a perfect fit. 

The Hate U Give is about sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses her best friend Khalil get murdered by police. I’m ecstatic that a book about hard topics like police brutality and race relations by a debut woman of color author is getting buzz. I hope that this will lead to more  authors of color getting the recognition they deserve, especially in YA. Also, as there’s a movie in the future (with the great Amandla Stenberg I might add) I hope that the movie will do it justice and expand the platform even further.

I love the cover, first of all. My book cover aesthetic is very clean and minimal and I love the white, black, red, and brown color scheme. I appreciate that it isn’t a photo, as I’m not a fan of photos on book covers, but that it features a WOC on the front (representation matters).

Starr is a wonderful character, multi-faceted and imperfect. Her obsession with Jordan’s and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air make her quite endearing. On a side-note I loved the descriptions of shoes in the book and hearing which J’s are Starr’s favorite.

Family is also a major part of this book, Starr’s parents and siblings are developed in a satisfying way and add to the book. Seven, Starr’s older brother is the epitome of cool and her younger brother Sekani adds bits of humor to the family. I also love how strong  her parent’s relationship is, even after a messy past. Starr’s Uncle Carlos is a police officer, which adds an interesting dynamic to this issue of police brutality, making her perception of police complex.

As far as friendships, Angie Thomas uses Starr’s relationships with her friends to deal with deeper issues, which is perfect. Also I admire her friend Maya, I would definitely hang out with her in real life. The only person close to Starr I did not like is her boyfriend Chris. I understand what Angie Thomas was trying to do with exploring interracial relationships (Chris is white) but I didn’t like his character. Their relationship seemed unnessecary and I wish I could just cut out his scenes.

I would love less Chris and more Khalil. I knew going in that Khalil was going to die, yet I still let myself love him so much. Why do I do myself like this?? I cried, physical tears when he was shot (and at other times during the book) because he was just so kind, funny, and he loved Starr. They grew up together and I would love to see a prequel of their childhood. Also, his love for his momma and grandma is so sweet, Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of revealing his character even after his death. Starr’s character development also continues throughout the whole book. It was amazing to see her growth over the course of the story.

My only other complaint aside from Chris is the language in this book. It’s like a PG-13 movie, but I find language even more bothersome in books. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under 13, it also can be a little intense at times so be aware.

This book was bomb, and I’m glad it’s getting so much acclaim and I hope the movie delivers like the book did.

Stay fly

~Akilah

What did you think of The Hate U Give?

If you liked T.H.U.G. you might like…

  • When I Was the Greatest ~Jason Reynolds
  • Piecing Me Together ~Renee Watson
  • Scorpions ~Walter Dean Myers
  • Maizon At Blue Hill ~Jacqueline Woodson
Plots

Humor, Culture, and Race// Open Mic by Mitali Perkins Review

Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race. Listen in as ten YA authors — some familiar, some new — use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while — until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form

The Good:

I love reading short story collections, they offer a chance to find new authors, listen to different voices on the same subject and experience new adventures. This collection: Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, is an excellent manifestation of those things.

My favorite stories: Confessions of a Black Geek and Like Me, resonated with me as I could identify with the characters. On the flip side however, I also enjoyed the stories where I could experience the point of view of characters in other cultures.
The Bad:

Nothing was bad, but my least favorite story was Lexicon, I couldn’t quite understand what it was about.

The Beautiful:

The cover for one, so simplistic with the color scheme of a sunrise. And the freedom with which all these authors approached the touchy subject of race and race relations. It’s always wonderful when important conversations can begin in a format like this.

Stay fly

~Akilah

Pleats

Is That Trend Still In?

Trend analysis is the perfect marriage of my two loves: fashion and research. It takes into account the cultural climate, time periods and global events to produce a picture (albeit limited) of our society through clothing.

I was beyond ecstatic when a couple of weeks ago Fashionista published a trend report from Google. I’m so ready to discuss and give my thoughts here.

Trends that have shown steady growth over the past years and are still in:

Biker pants

To me, biker pants are just glorified leather leggings. And while I don’t have a problem with them on the surface, I stand by my conviction that leggings are not pants. Therefore, biker pants can look rad styled well, say with a flowy burgundy tunic, gold choker and strappy black sandals. I also think lace could add a nice contrast with the bad girl look of the biker pants.

Ripped jeans

Yaaassss, I am in love with ripped jeans (having diy’d my own) and am excited they’ll be sticking around. I’ve been on the lookout for some medium wash boyfriend jeans to go to town ripping.

Trends that are likely to come back bigger and better:

Kimono dress

Honestly, I’m not sure what the term kimono dress encompasses. I’ve seen it used to describe everything from close to the traditional Japanese garment to a striped jersey fabric dress with wide sleeves. So, while I like the way traditional kimonos look and even have a top that is kimono inspired, I’m not really into the jersey dress with wide sleeves being labeled a kimono dress.

Romper

Go romper! I am enamored with rompers in pictures, unfortunately because I have a long torso and long legs, I’m not sure if the style is going to work for me. I’m still holding out hope though.

Coatigan

A coatigan is basically an unstructured coat, a hybrid between cardigan and coat. I am intrigued by the look and I kind of have one already, that is gray with fur. I’m not sure if it is indeed a coatigan since it has buttons and such, but it is very slouchy.

Shirt dress

Again, a trend that I have a struggle wearing. I have a black shirt dress, but because of its stiff yet baggy shape I can only wear it with a belt or as a duster. However, it’s satisfying to see a bit of a classy/prep item still in style.

Boho dress (U.S.)

The beauty of the boho dress is the broadness of the term, it may describe a maxi dress with a handkerchief hem or a wide-sleeved lace dress belted. I think Coachella may have something to do with this trend as it has a festival vibe. The maxi version is my preferred style of it with a floppy black hat, cloth choker and gladiator sandals. Go festival or go home.

Trends with recent, sudden growth that may burn out soon

Off-the-shoulder top

Nooo, I don’t want this top to goooo! The breezy, yet classy style of this trend is gorgeous, I especially like the chambray version.

Bodysuit

Huh, I have a love-hate relationship with bodysuits. They look wonderful paired with ripped jeans, especially the long-sleeved body suits. I also spotted a lady rocking one with harem pants the other day. But, it seems as if this trend was started by people trying to wear the lace up ones, not completely laced up. And sometimes they’re too revealing for my tastes. Like with everything they can be well used or completely abused.

Lace-up top (U.S.)

Again, I like these in some capacity, but when you have it loosely laced down to your belly button, well, I ain’t about that life.

Bralette

I’m happy this trend is on the way out, I’ve seen many people who aren’t built to wear a bralette wearing one. A bralette is not a shirt guys, it is an undergarment. Don’t forget that.

Dashiki dress

When fashion from other cultures is popular in mainstream America, it can be a blessing or a curse. That’s where I am with the dashiki dress at this point. On the one hand my Pinterest board is filled with gorgeous dashiki dresses, ankara print pants and African inspired headwraps. But much like the kimono dress when you add the term “dress” to the end of a garment that has historical and cultural significance and then buy it at Forever 21, it loses some of its importance and value.

Traditionally, the dashiki is colorful, loose men’s shirt originating in West Africa. The American version is worn by both sexes, however, and has evolved into dresses in some capacities. I don’t think it’s wrong to wear the dashiki dress at all, however I wonder how people from West Africa feel when we wear a dashiki dress from a fast fashion retailer made in China.

Trends that are going downhill and we won’t see coming back anytime soon:

Drop-crotch pants

Let me just say, I’m so thankful. Drop-crotch pants are not my style, MC Hammer may be the only one who can pull them off well. Also the versions that I’ve seen are tight everywhere but the crotch (unlike hammer pants which are just all around baggy.) They just aren’t a good look.

See-through clothes

God is good guys.

Acid wash jeans

I’m sensing that the residual trends from the 90s are fading away. Strangely though, it seems chokers and overalls and such are getting more popular than ever. But I could take or leave acid wash jeans.

Babydoll dresses

This isn’t surprising, as it seems that women’s fashion is going in a bit more of a masculine direction. I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about this trend.

Trends that will probably fade more each year

Asymmetrical skirt

This one can leave, I ain’t mad.

Waist trainer

Just, leave already, I was done with this a million years ago. It looks like those commercials with people and their bad back contraptions.

Maxi shirt (U.S.)

I have no clue what this is, and when I Googled it they only gave me results for a maxi skirt. Maybe Fashionista had a typo?

Trends that have had their fun and are tumbling down the mountain of uncoolness:

Suede skirt

*cries in corner* I kept seeing these and wanted one so much, unfortunately I was broke at the time and didn’t get one. Now, when I could possibly scrape together some pennies, they’re out of style.

Whatever, I’m still going to buy it because I wear what I want *flips hair*

Stay fly

~Akilah

What trends were you ready to see die? Which do you miss already?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plots

The Struggle is Real: Representation of the Middle Passage in Literature

ship

Every race, culture, and member of humanity has a struggle. And their struggles are what make stories, stories that are written on paper, stories that are published, that we pick up at our libraries and bookstores. These stories are the ones that we read, that expose us to new ideas, comfort us, and give us a window into someone else’s experience.

But why is it that one group of people’s story gets repeated over and over but another’s are only whispered on certain days? Why is it that there is a plethora of stories about the horrors of the Holocaust, but comparably fewer about the Middle Passage?

The Middle Passage is the journey slaves took from their homeland of Africa to the unknown soil of America. They were packed together tightly in the bowels of the ship, like they were nothing more than common cargo. Buckets of freezing water were tossed onto their bruised bodies. They were forced to dance to joyless beats for “exercise”. Young girls were ritually raped by sailors. And all these horrors were only the beginning of the life of hardship that was waiting for them in the Americas.

There are many answers to the question of why there are so few middle passage books, especially in MG and YA historical fiction. But one answer lies within the fact of who tells the story.

We all want to feel comfortable. Most books that are popular and receive the most exposure are written by white Americans. It’s much more comfortable for Americans to sympathize with the Jews, some of them are Jewish themselves and had ancestors with first hand knowledge. The Holocaust happened far away. And was the fault of the Nazis.

In contrast these authors great-great-great-grandparents could have been slave owners, deck hands and ship captains. It hits so much closer to home.

Also, writing about the Middle Passage would require more research, since  there are probably not any witnesses like there are for the Holocaust.

Because these stories are difficult to hear and to write is all the more reason to hear and write them. I do not discount the Holocaust and I believe it should be remembered. Nor do I think the Middle Passage is the only story of a struggle that needs to be told. But it is an important part of the history of America and of the world. And it must be remembered and told.

I have read a few excellent books about The Middle Passage that I will feature in an up coming post.

Until next time

Stay fly friends

~Akilah

Have you read any good books about the Middle Passage or other unknown struggles?