Dog Star / A Creative Arts Guide






Image above: Vik Muniz

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after Édouard Manet, from the Pictures of Magazines 2 series, 2012.

Out of the refuse of modern life—torn scraps of outdated magazines, destined for obscurity—Muniz has assembled an ode to one of the first paintings of modern life. Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, painted in 1882, explores the treachery of nineteenth-century Parisian nightlife through the depiction of a bartender attending to a male patron reflected in the mirror behind her. Muniz plays on Manet’s style, replacing Manet’s visible brushstrokes with the frayed edges of torn paper and lending the work immense visual interest.

“Thank you for DogStarNYC, in general. The site speaks to so many kinds of interests; it discerns which qualities will appeal to many different tastes in a tremendous number of activities. I love how it encourages young people to pay attention to the unusual.

In New York we let so many teens walk around the periphery, mildly shell-shocked by life, while the information that they need to make sense of their world sits in the center of the room. DogStarNYC welcomes them into the middle of the room; the blog tells them how to walk there. ” - Stacy L.


DOG STAR is the creation of a high school English teacher in New York City. This blog began in 2008 as an online community for a journalism class and has since evolved into a curated site on the creative arts, arts-related news and a guide to free and low-cost events for teens. Our mission is to offer teens real-life options for enjoying all the creative arts in New York City. May wisdom guide you and hope sustain you. The more you like art, the more art you like!

IMPORTANT NOTICE OF NON COMMERCIAL & EDUCATIONAL CONTENT Unless otherwise stated, we do not own copyrights to any of the visual or audio content that might be included on this blog. Dog Star is for criticism, commentary, reporting and educational purposes under the FAIR USE ACT: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. If you own the copyright to any images and object to them being included in this blog, please advise and the content will be removed. No attempt is made for material gain from this blog's content.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chief Keef & Black Futures

A Cold Heart, but Hints at WarmthChief Keef’s New Album is ‘Finally Rich’


Exactly one rap star has an Instagram account wholly devoted to affectionate, intimate, cute pictures of his child: Chief Keef. This is the same Chief Keef who had another of his Instagram accounts suspended in September for posting a photo of himself receiving oral sex. The same person who spent a significant portion of 2012 under house arrest in connection with gun charges. The same one whose music is in part a catalog of gang-related boasts and threats. Chief Keef is 17, and appears happy for the most part to be seen as a problem child.

There’s plenty that’s troubling, and troubled, too about his major-label debut album, “Finally Rich” (Glory Boyz/Interscope), which was released this week. Like the mixtapes that preceded, it’s relentlessly dark and sometimes lifeless, at least in the lyrics. It is also, thanks to Young Chop, who produced about half of it, exuberant and pugnacious, a stress reliever of an album.

Surprisingly, “Finally Rich” is an album that at least doesn’t ignore fatherhood. “Got Them Bands,” a bonus track, is the most direct. “My daughter’s heaven sent/She rock Gucci, Louis,” Chief Keef raps. “She be flexin’ like a bitch/She know papa got that cash/She know papa hella rich.”

At least four other songs mention his daughter, whose nickname is Kay Kay, and that doesn’t count the song called “Kay Kay,” which is as coldhearted as anything here — “Tats all on my body/Don’t make me catch a body” — while only obliquely referring to her.

Chief Keef might not be much of a rapper — he’s clunky, monochromatic and sometimes outright awful — but he’s careful. These mentions are the only indication of heart on this album, which barely rewards close listening. Typically his rhymes don’t get more inventive than “Hit him with that Cobra/Now that boy slumped over.” But his grip on youthful abandon is compelling — he makes menace sound fun. He’s an inheritor of several generations of Chicago gangster rap, and also of the drill music that’s saturated the city in the last three years. But he’s also a child of Internet-driven cults of personality like Soulja Boy and Lil B, young rappers whose most meaningful fan interactions happened outside the label system. Whatever demand there is for Chief Keef he generated it on his own, with his mixtapes, straight-to-YouTube videos and local hero status.

Like those progenitors, Chief Keef has a narrow palette, a rigorous commitment to it and a reluctance — or inability — to change. “Finally Rich” has a couple of moments that suggest forward movement, though. “Love Sosa” and “Hate Bein’ Sober” have insistent melodies that are brighter than anything he made on his own. The decidedly weird “Laughin’ to the Bank,” with its ghoulish laughs — “I’m laughing to the bank like ha ha ha, I’m laughing at these lames like ha ha ha” — could have been a Dr. Demento favorite. And the three bonus tracks are among the most adventurous on the album, with his vocals on two of them buried in digital processing that recalls the recent genre-melting work of Future. But mostly the turf is familiar, and often disturbing. Even though he’s a success, the Chicago that Chief Keef grew up in is still with him. On “Diamonds,” Chief Keef appears to taunt the gang claimed by Lil JoJo, an aspiring Chicago rapper who was murdered in September, and whom Chief Keef taunted on Twitter after the killing (though he later claimed his account had been hacked).

As a title, “Finally Rich” has the sound of a fait accompli, but Chief Keef is anything but. He’s still a small fry in the hip-hop economy. And compared to the rest of the hip-hop mainstream, Chief Keef’s music is stark and raw, something that is made even clearer by the handful of outside guests who appear on this album looking for some refracted credibility: 50 Cent, Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy, French Montana. They all sound polished to a tee. And they barely leave a stain. It’s not hard to imagine Chief Keef and his crew rolling their eyes at the old guys.

Certainly the fact that less than a year ago, Chief Keef was filming videos in his grandmother’s house, where he was under arrest, is remarkable. But there’s little about his rise on “Finally Rich” apart from the steady references to newfound wealth. You learn more about what Chief Keef has seen in the last nine months from the liner notes than from the music: the list of guests, the use of Interscope Studios in Santa Monica for recording much of the material.

You also have to return to Instagram to spy on his growth. On his various accounts there are frequent shots of stacks of money, and of expensive purchases. Though he hates being interviewed, he’s happy to preen for the cameras, showing off this designer outfit or that luxury sports car. He is, after all, just a kid.

As a whole, he comes off as someone who, major label record deal notwithstanding, has seen little of the world. His album is preoccupied with old beefs and old feelings. On most songs he shouts out members of his crew — the people who’ve been alongside him for years, not the new people clamoring for his attention.

And then there’s his daughter. He recently posted on Twitter photos of child-support documents that he appeared pleased with. He also posted a video of shopping at Target for gifts for her first birthday. He may have a narrow worldview, but that’s a fate that, because of her father, Kay Kay might be able to avoid.

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