R&B genius converts a predictable sequence of events into gold: black male utterance causes somebody to take off her panties, followed by swaggering dicktease. The whole point is simultaneously to engage in art-making and “keep a nigga bills paid” (as our song says) by trafficking in racialized gender gibberish.
“Pyramids” begins with the act of watching the singer’s lady “put [her] panties on in the mirror.” The lady has always already dropped her panties in capitulation to the act of voice R&B presupposes, already been dicked-down to exhaustion. Listen to it on repeat to induce a comic hallucination in which a mythological, therefore anonymous, black woman — “for now let’s call her ‘Cleopatra’” — puts on her dirty panties a gazillion times and heads to work at “The Pyramid,” a strip club, of course, in a two thousand-year-long continuous present. It’s an erotic-mini-epic! (My favorite R&B sub-genre!) No, it’s a postcolonial lament disguised as prog dance music with Jeff Buckley samples and references to cars without gas tanks! (Frank is sad that he’s “got your girl working for [him]”; that an entire population has been debased for his profit and pleasure.)
I am reminded of the several human dilemmas made plain in Charles Mingus’ Beneath the Underdog. I am interested in you, Frank Ocean, with the Midas touch.
Simone White‘s chapbook Unrest will be published in Ugly Duckling Presse’s Dossier series in 2013. She is the author of House Envy of All of the World (Factory School, 2010) and the chapbook Dolly (Q Ave Press, with the paintings of Kim Thomas). Her work has also appeared in The Claudius App, Aufgabe, The Recluse, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Tuesday; An Art Project and the exhibition catalog for the Studio Museum of Harlem’s Flow. Currently a Ph.D. candidate in English at CUNY Graduate Center, she teaches American Literature at Hunter College and lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints?
Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.
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