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Blood Orange Makes His Mark Of Black Excellence On ‘Freetown Sound’

Music
Photographed by Deana Lawson

A first listen of his fresh release

In the opening track of Blood Orange's Freetown Sound, titled "By Ourselves," a sample is used of Atlanta-based writer Ashlee Haze reciting "For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem).” In it, she breaks down why representation matters and the impact of '90s hip-hop queens Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim, and Angie Martinez on feminism. Being black has never felt more prominent than right here in America, and right now in 2016. If Beyoncé's Lemonade served as a love letter to black women, Freetown Sound is the carefully worded response from the black man.

In the interviews leading up to the release of this album, Devonté "Dev" Hynes said that this might be the most personal Blood Orange record yet. Throughout the album, he reflects on his experience as a black man in America and nods to elements of black culture within the red, white, and blue borders of the U.S. There are also many references to Hynes' own heritage—the album's title is another name for the capital of Sierra Leone, where his father was originally born and raised, and he pays homage to his mother's origin of Guyana with a nod to Eddy Grant on one of the songs.

While longer tracklists have drained listeners as of late (Drake, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Zayn), the 17 songs that make up this album are all core pieces of a singular identity. There are so many layers to Freetown Sound, and the only person who can really unpack them properly is Hynes himself. I have been listening to this album over and over again since 8:30am, and all I can really say is that it gives me chills. It weaves in and out like a delicately curated cassette tape, skipping from pop to hip-hop to funk to R&B. This album can't be contained in one box, and it shouldn't be.

The samples included in the tracks all serve a purpose, providing smooth transitions and adding to the ongoing conversation at hand. Vince Staples, Venus Xtravaganza, and De La Soul lend their voices with some profound quotes. Additionally, Nelly Furtado ("Hadron Collider"), Debbie Harry ("E.V.P."), Carly Rae Jepsen ("Better Than Me"), Empress Of ("Best To You"), Kelsey Lu ("Chance"), and Bea1991 ("Squash Squash") are on the long roster of artists featured on the record.  

Cut to the end of "Hands Up," and protestors voices shouting "Don't shoot!" take over and the reality of our current situation sets in. Black bodies continue to be shot, killed, and buried on a daily basis. "Desirée" is interrupted by clips from Paris Is Burning, a documentary about the New York drag scene in the '80s. While the Sandra Bland tribute is not featured on the final version of the album—there is a snippet of it in the closing track, "Better Numb"—there are lines that allude to the Black Lives Matter movement like, "Cry and burst my deafness, while Trayvon falls asleep." 

On "Love Ya," Hynes begs the listener for love, tenderness, and affection. We all crave it, but seldom get it when we need it the most. "You are special in your own way," he softly sings in "But You." The track examines how black men are perceived by those outside of their race. Of all the things that American citizens have been forced to redefine this year, the concept of freedom might be the most complicated. When I listen to "With Him," it feels like a subtle reminder that black people don't have to dull their shine for anybody; we don't have to fade away into the shadows. This idea is cemented with the inclusion of an excerpt from Marlon Riggs’ documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t.

Moments like that are so empowering, and that's when I think I understand what Hynes is trying to do with Freetown Sound. His goal isn't to tell people how to think—all he wants is for listeners to grasp how it feels to carry that weight around with you every day. He is painting a picture of his existence in this complex world where all lives do not matter. But there is a glimmer of hope, as indicated by "Thank You" and "I Know." Despite that inconvenient truth, we keep pushing forward, though it doesn't necessarily get any easier and we know it probably never will.

As Jesse Williams so eloquently put in his acceptance speech at the BET Awards, "Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real." Freetown Sound is the finest example of a modern classic. It doesn't matter if it is or isn't the industry's quintessential album of the year—it's the album that its community needs to heal. This music will move, uplift, and free your mind.

This album is pure, black gold, and it is heartbreakingly beautiful to listen to. Despite what some of us might have been told to believe, blackness is not a burden even though the load that comes with it is heavy on the heart.

Hynes states it best in a post on Instagram: "My album is for everyone told they're not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way, the underappreciated, it's a clapback."

Freetown Sound is available to download on iTunes. Stream the musical masterpiece in full, below.

Photo by Rachel Dennis

Finally

"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - Official Trailer www.youtube.com

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