Real n****s go hard (pause, no homo): iLoveMakonnenTarik Moody
The night of the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards was … a time. Viewers watched Rihanna win the career-spanning Video Vanguard Award and appear to dodge a kiss from presenter Drake. Britney Spears performed on the program for the first time since her controversial 2007 appearance. Key & Peele, in character as semi-clueless influencers, slung jokes from the stands. But for at least one artist in attendance, the real fireworks took place after the show was over.
Atlanta rapper iLoveMakonnen says everything seemed fine when he first showed up to that evening’s VMA afterparty at the New York nightclub Up & Down. All the stars were in the room; there were bottles and balloons everywhere. Makonnen had taken some shrooms, and was vibing with a few of his fashion friends. It was shaping up to be a good time — until Drake walked in. At the time, Makonnen was on the outs with Drake’s label OVO, which had signed him back in 2014 on the strength of his single “Tuesday.” Though they hadn’t seen each other in a while, Makonnen had no reason to think there was any bad blood between them. “I was like, ‘Drake, what’s up?’ ” Makonnen recalls. “And then he looked at me like, Look, next time I see you, I’m gonna f*** you up.”
No one knows for certain what led to the hostility of that moment. But one thing is for sure: Throughout his career, even before he officially came out in 2017, Makonnen’s presence as a queer artist in the hyper-masculine trenches of hip-hop has been a subject of extreme scrutiny, and at times a source of tension.
On this episode, we explore hip-hop’s relationship to masculinity through the story of Makonnen. We dig into the early days in Atlanta’s alternative rap scene, with stories from Awful Records founder Father and Makonnen’s first collaborator, his own mom. We chat with author and scholar Mark Anthony Neal about how hip-hop has historically enforced “legible” and “illegible” forms of Black masculinity. Finally, we examine Makonnen’s impact on the style that would come to be known as emo rap, and how his mentorship of artists like Juice WRLD and Lil Peep queered the trap and created more space for everyone.
To follow along with the music in this episode, check out the Louder Than A Riot playlists on Apple Music & Spotify. We’ll update them every week.
Audio story produced by Mano Sundaresan Audio story edited by Soraya Shockley and Sam J. Leeds Audio story engineered by Gilly Moon Podcast theme and original music by Suzi Analogue, Ramtin Arablouei and Kassa Overall Fact-checking by Candice Vo Kortkamp
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona and music although she has also made songs with themes supporting LGBTQ rights, female empowerment, and autism awareness.
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary and deeply jazz-influenced album that marks the start of a new chapter in her trailblazing career. Following her 2018 covers album Ventriloquism, Meshell returns with an album of new original material that taps into a broad spectrum of her musical roots. The Omnichord Real Book was produced by Josh Johnson and features a wide range of guest artists including Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire, Joel Ross, Jeff Parker, Brandee Younger, Julius Rodriguez, Mark Guiliana, Cory Henry, Joan As Police Woman, Thandiswa, and others.
The Omnichord Real Book is introduced today by the expansive lead single “Virgo,” the mind-altering 8-minute centerpiece of the album which features Meshell on vocals, key bass, and keyboards, Younger on harp, Rodriguez on Farfisa organ, Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboards, drums by Abe Rounds, Deantoni Parks, and Andrya Ambro, and additional vocals by Kenita Miller and Marsha DeBoe. The Omnichord Real Book is available for pre-order now on Blue Note Store exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and digital.
“It’s a little bit of all of me, my travels, my life,” says Meshell. “My first record I made at 22, and it’s over 30 years from then, so I have a lot of stored information to share.” Reflecting on the impact that the forced stillness of the pandemic lockdown had on her, she says “I must admit it was a beautiful time for me. I got to really sit and reacquaint myself with music. Music is a gift.”
“This album is about the way we see old things in new ways,” Meshell explains. “Everything moved so quickly when my parents died. Changed my view of everything and myself in the blink of an eye. As I sifted through the remains of their life together, I found my first Real Book, the one my father gave me. I took their records, the ones I grew up hearing, learning, remembering. My mother gifted me with her ache, I carry the melancholy that defined her experience and, in turn, my experience of this thing called life calls me to disappear into my imagination and to hear the music.”
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