Revenge of the Dreamers

Here’s my coverage of Dreamville Festival 2019 originally published in The Hilltop

Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, NC welcomed 40,000 music lovers on Saturday, April 6 for the first-ever Dreamville Festival. The sold-out festival, which was originally scheduled for September 2018 but postponed due to Hurricane Florence, featured J. Cole’s entire Dreamville record label as well as Rapsody, Teyana Taylor, Nelly, Big Sean, 21 Savage and SZA with Cole as the headliner.

Cole’s love for his hometown of Fayetteville and the state of North Carolina is a common theme throughout his music. The day-long festival was an ode to the state filled with moments of familiarity for North Carolinians such as myself, including being shuttled to the festival on school buses through the campus of local historically Black university Shaw University and the on-site food trucks serving Southern cuisine reminiscent of Raleigh’s downtown food truck rodeos.

“The festival offers an opportunity for J. Cole to give back to his home state that has helped shape the artist he has become with a one-of-a-kind celebration of local culture, food and art,” states the Dreamville Festival website.

While the Carolina theme was obviously prevalent, Cole fans from all over were able to appreciate the day which was three years in the making logistically, but seemingly a lifetime in the making for Cole.

“Dreamville Fest was so special to me as a fan, just witnessing Cole be able to bring his dreams to fruition, not only for himself but for his team and his community,” said junior psychology and math double major Stacia King. “Everything was so purposeful, from the shuttle bus routes to the Black food vendors. He’s really making his state proud.”

One of the highlights of the festival was the pause Cole took when he first came to the stage, seemingly in awe at the crowd of fans filling the 308-acre park in support of his dream, Dreamville. Other highlights included numerous dedications to the late Nipsey Hussle throughout the day as artists Teyana Taylor, Big Sean and Cole took time out of their sets to remember the rapper and activist as well as a surprise performance by Meek Mill.

“Dreamville Fest was crazy, man. The vibe, the people, everything. Every artist did their thing and the energy was incredible,” said junior marketing major Jalen Rose. “I’ve been listening to Cole for at least the past decade so to hear the songs live was definitely an experience to remember.”

The festival was also thought to be a success by city officials who considered Dreamville a chance to test Raleigh’s capacity for such a large-scale event.

“The city definitely had a great experience with Dreamville,” said Joseph Voska, program supervisor for Dix Park at a Monday afternoon press conference. “We wanted a test to see what this area of Raleigh, what Dix Park, with downtown Raleigh — how would it all come together? As future opportunities come up for the city of Raleigh, how did we handle it? And what we’ve seen so far, we handled it pretty well.”

Following the festival the city cited no major medical or safety issues and traffic within their expectations, creating a promising outlook for Dreamville Festival 2020 as it was announced at the festival that this will become an annual event.

“If you didn’t go this year, make sure you go next year,” said senior legal communications major Brittany Read.

“Get Out” vs “Us”

Here’s a short essay I wrote for a film class and felt was worth sharing. Oh and, *SPOILER ALERT*

Jordan Peele’s sophomore film “Us” was understandably highly anticipated after the success of his first film, “Get Out.” “Get Out” was scary, witty and most importantly Black. The entire rollout of the film was intriguing; I remember being unsure if the movie was even real after viewing the trailer for the first time. Fortunately, it was very real and very good. The subtle humor and horror specific to the Black community and all the clues that slowly came together made for a viewing experience that remains uniquely satisfying even two years after the film’s release. Because of this, I along with everyone else I know had high expectations for “Us.” Sadly, those expectations weren’t met.

For me, “Us” was just okay. It lacked the subtle humor of “Get Out” and as a fan of horror films, it definitely wasn’t scary. What’s worst of all, though, is that it was so predictable. I knew from the moment Adelaide saw her doppelganger in the funhouse that the two had been switched. Her inability to talk to or connect with her parents after that night confirmed it for me way before we reached the big “plot twist” at the end. The entire movie I waited for something to shock me and nothing really did. I certainly won’t say it was bad, just disappointing in comparison to “Get Out.” “Get Out” was an engaging ride that kept me thinking the entire film.

More importantly, “Get Out” answered all my questions and connected all the dots before the credits rolled; it even answered questions and connected dots I hadn’t even thought of. “Us,” on the other hand, left far too many questions for my liking. Maybe I’m thinking too practically for a movie but if the government created the tethered wouldn’t they have some kind of defense system in place? Why would the tethered be able to come to the surface so easily that young Adelaide was able to just wander there? What exactly are the rules of when characters can control the actions of their doppelgangers? There were just far too many loose ends for my liking. I understand that sometimes things are purposely left up to the imagination of the audience, but at some point too many unanswered questions are just plot holes.

As one of my classmates mentioned during our discussion, “Get Out” was Peele’s baby that he worked on for years while “Us” clearly got less attention. Again, I don’t think “Us” is a bad movie. The concept was certainly interesting and it features some great cinematography and acting, but it just didn’t live up to “Get Out” for me. In all fairness, though, “Get Out” was a hard act to follow. However, in both films it felt good to see Blackness centered. Even though “Us” wasn’t about race, the family was a Black family who listened to hip-hop on road trips and featured a Howard alumnus father and mother with natural hair. I believe this was a beautiful step towards normalizing Blackness in films that aren’t purely “Black movies.” Jordan Peele’s recent statement that he has no intention of casting a white male lead any time soon has only made me more excited for what he’ll create next.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Redefining Protest

The recent PR fiascos in fashion took no break for Black History Month. In fact, some even felt that brands had decided to use the month as an opportunity to stir up some buzz by antagonizing the Black community. Balmain’s late January blackface incident, Gucci’s questionable sweater design and Burberry’s blatantly bizarre use of a noose on the runway caused understandable outrage on social media.

As with all social media conversations sparked by outrage, boycotting inevitably came up. Most people seem to agree that if brands can’t be culturally sensitive then they don’t deserve the Black dollar, yet it still seems boycotting is something that’s hard for us to commit to.

Just as everyone else, arguably even more, luxury brands are an aspiration for much of the Black community. Labels are a symbol of wealth and as an oppressed people, it feels good to look and feel upper-class occasionally; furthermore, for those who have obtained substantial wealth it feels good to finally flaunt. This is why there are countless Gucci and Prada references in hip-hop.

In the spirit of protest, though, Young MA says at the end of her “Thotiana” remix, “we ain’t buying Gucci, we ain’t buying Prada,” likely referencing the aforementioned Gucci sweater as well as Prada keychains that went viral in December 2018 for similar reasons.

However, when discussing protests we may have to broaden how we view the issue. I saw someone on Twitter note that Black people can’t protest luxury brands because we buy knockoffs instead of the real thing. While I think it’s important to note that everyone buys knockoffs, not just Black people, this got me thinking about the stigma behind fake luxury pieces, because although they’re common they’re still a source of shame.

What Dapper Dan proved over 30 years ago, though, is that it doesn’t matter if its authentic as long as it fly. His now iconic work was often made from knockoff materials because at the time high-end brands had no interest in this Black man’s shop in Harlem. He was a pest who received numerous cease and desist letters.

Fast forward to 2019 and we’re simultaneously looking for an effective means of protest while shaming people wearing fake labels. To me, the answer is evident. While I obviously see that value in authentic fashion and wouldn’t normally encourage counterfeits, there is no protest in doing what you should and normally would do.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

 

Balmain, Black Face and (Possibly Fake) Ignorance

I almost can’t believe that I’m writing this in the year of our Lord 2019, but then again stuff like this shouldn’t be a surprise anymore.

Balmain closed Couture Week in Paris on January 23 with Creative Director Oliver Rousteing’s first-ever couture collection. The show was supposed to be a big one for obvious reasons: it was Rousteing’s first couture collection, it was the week closer and it was Balmain’s first couture showing in 16 years. However, it ended up being the talk of the industry for something no one expected: the beauty look.

Rousteing’s Spring/Summer 2019 vision was one in complete black and white apparently as models were covered in either ghost white or pitch black makeup depending on their skin tone. The odd beauty look, which was done by Val Garland, was immediately called out by many on social media as black face (and white face).

Of course there were also those who argued that the makeup couldn’t have been rooted in racism because Rousteing is partially Black himself and there was white face involved as well. It should be pointed out, though, that Rousteing was raised by adopted white parents and doesn’t identify as a particular race, but as “human.” I will also add that I don’t believe the beauty look was rooted in malicious racism either. I believe it was rooted in tone-deafness, which is almost just as bad in this age of information.

A simple search into black face would reveal its ugly history in minstrel shows. White actors dressed in black face perpetuated stereotypes as a means of entertainment and justifying racism for years and when Black actors were finally given opportunities to work they were forced to don the same black face.

To present a beauty look even reminiscent of this is irresponsible and offensive, but it seems that such avoidable irresponsible and offensive occurrences keep happening in the fashion industry. H&M’s “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie and Prada’s monkey figurines last year are also examples of the kind of tone-deafness major brands keep finding themselves under fire for.

That fire, though, has brought these brands a lot of press and to some people all press is good press. There’s a running theory on social media that brands are only pretending to be ignorant in order to create controversy and garner attention. This creates a dilemma, do we ignore these instances and not reward brands with the influxes in views that go along with a scandal or continue to call them out?

To me, the answer will always be call them out. Unacceptable is unacceptable and we can’t accept it because we think we know the motive. Ignoring racist imagery would be encouraging it. If we ignore black face from Balmain it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll see it elsewhere soon.

The reality is that the closing show of Couture Week, or any fashion show, is just too big of a platform to display ignorance. Brands have a responsibility to understand the images they’re putting into the world. Doing the necessary research (and thinking) is not too much ask.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Letters (Number One)

The second half of 2018 was hard. I mean really hard. I went through a lot mentally and emotionally that I haven’t discussed with anyone yet and I don’t know when I’ll be ready to. What I will say, though is that this rough patch left me uninspired and unmotivated, which is why BTZ has been on hiatus and for that, I apologize.

However, today is a special day because today marks three years since I first hit publish on this site. Crazy right? So I scoured all of my favorite publications and social media pages to find the appropriate subject for today’s post, but I came up empty-handed. As usual, there’s currently plenty happening in the fashion world that I could’ve picked from (Moschino’s codename for Black customers, the influencer craze, how ridiculously hard it is to find an internship, etc.), but none of that felt right.

Instead, I’ve decided to introduce a new series, Letters. Like a letter from an editor in a newspaper or magazine, Letters is a chance for me to just talk to you. There will be no soapbox speeches on the morality, or lack thereof, of the industry or trend critiques/analysis in this series, but just updates and words from one friend to another.

As far as updates go, I’m excited to share with you guys that I’ll be beginning Teen Vogue and Parsons’ Fashion Industry Essentials online program soon. For those who have never heard of the program, it’s a year-long certificate program made up of five courses which teach different aspects of the fashion industry. This is something I really just stumbled upon and didn’t even know about a month ago, but I’m so excited to begin the journey because up until this point, my fashion education has been informal.

Being accepted into this program has relit a spark in me that I hadn’t realized (or maybe fully accepted) had gone out. Working in a creative capacity, whether that be as writer, designer or anything else is draining. Your work is always personal, which is a blessing at some times and a curse at others. The blessing is the passion and general enjoyment in the work. The curse is the inevitable comparisons and lack of inspiration that make you question not only your work, but yourself. That’s part of what I dealt with last year and in all honesty, it kicked my ass.

What I’ve learned, though is that work is just that– work. No matter how passionate I am, it can’t be my life because that will always lead to unhappiness and the yearning to do more. I chose to share this because hopefully it can help someone else, and if not, at least it felt good it get it out.

 

Be the zeitgeist,

Chantè

Culture Changes and We’re Just Going to Have to Accept It

Things are getting weird. Michael Kors purchased Versace for $2.3 billion and the hip-hop scene is becoming unrecognizable. Other than being odd, those two things are seemingly unrelated, but in actuality, they’re both indicators of the same occurrence: a shift in culture.

Every generation has them. It’s the time in which an era’s trends are defined and in most cases, they come with some opposition. Change, especially in the things we hold dear such as music and family fashion business, is hard to accept, but not accepting it problematic. The spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, will persist, even if you disagree.

It’s also worth noting that those changes are often less dramatic than we realize, but the fear of the loss of tradition can cloud judgment even when in reality, it’s not that bad.

Concerns that Michael Kors’ acquisition will ruin the brand are valid only when you don’t consider the facts. Firstly, Versace was bought by Michael Kors Holdings, which will soon be changing their name to Capri Holdings, not the MK brand. Secondly, Donatella isn’t going anywhere. She will remain creative director as well as become a shareholder in Capri Holdings and according to her, Versace will remain a luxury brand.

What is concerning, though, is Kors’ plans to increases Versace’s revenue by adding more stores. Exclusivity is an important element of luxury. But this is still only a minor issue as going from 200 storefronts to 300 is hardly the nose dive from caviar to McDonald’s that Twitter is pretending it is.

Hip-hop is a different story. Accepting that shift is understandably harder because, for now at least, it’s more evident. The vague and divisive term “mumble rap” has become a bane for hip-hop heads, icons such as Kanye aren’t who they used to be and rappers have lost their sociopolitical voice.

It’s clear that the genre has changed into something very different and arguably more careless. However, that change can also be viewed as growth. Maybe mumble is just a subgenre of hip-hop– maybe it’s not. Maybe this really is a completely different phase in hip-hop’s evaluation.

Either way, ignoring (or fighting) it is probably a bad idea. At some point, being a purist makes your viewpoint obsolete if you’re completely unwilling to accept change. Yes, we’d all love for monumental names like “Versace” to maintain their grandeur and yes, we’d all love for hip-hop to always sound the way it did that summer we fell in love with it, but those things could only happen in a perfect world.

In the real world, things change and from the standpoint of a cultural critic, those changes are worth embracing and exploring. Finding the balance between appreciating how things were and appreciating how things are is just something we’re going to have to learn to do or soon we’ll turn into our parents, regularly reminding anyone following what’s popular that “things just aren’t how they used to be,” and honestly, no wants to hear that.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Melania Trump Really Doesn’t Care

The big story about Melania Trump for Thursday, June 21 was supposed to be about her visiting immigrant children in Texas. Instead, it ended up being about her wardrobe. The ever-watched First Lady chose to wear a ZARA jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” printed on the back. This was bizarre, to say the least.

While Melania is often depicted as somewhat ditzy and not fully aware of what’s going on, I find it hard to believe that the impact of wearing such a jacket was truly lost on her. The Trump era has been and remains to be a tense one, with many minorities and lower class individuals voicing their feelings that the president simply doesn’t care about them. Therefore, Melania’s wardrobe choice comes off as confusing and somewhat taunting. It seems as if she’s making light of citizen’s grievances, which honestly wouldn’t be surprising considering the behavior of her husband.

However, he claims that the message on the jacket was aimed at the media rather than individuals feeling isolated by the Trumps. “[the message] written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares,” tweeted the president.

This doesn’t coincide with the statement given by Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokeswoman, though. Grisham responded to questions about the jacket, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

While I agree that there certainly was no hidden message behind the jacket, being that it was clearly and boldly printed on the back, I can’t accept the idea that Melania’s team didn’t intend for this to be a story. The first lady doesn’t simply wear a jacket saying she doesn’t care and expect it not to be a big deal.

This fashion statement, while odd, is exactly the kind of non-traditional and arguably disrespectful thing we’ve come to expect from the president, but not so much the first lady. Early on in Trump’s presidency there was much speculation about whether or not Melania fully understood or agreed with her husband’s policies and leadership style. I think she answered that question today. She doesn’t care.

Be the Zeitgeist.