Anderson .Paak

I’ve been a little bit into Anderson .Paak ever since I saw his NPR Tiny Desk Concert:

I just love how funky the whole set was, and that he brought a full on drumset into the tiny desk area.

Recently, I also downloaded his interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast. Two things struck me in the interview:

  1. First, he came across like he was just having such a freaking good time. Like he is constantly thinking “I can’t believe I get to do this!” He seems extremely happy, chill, and just excited to be making music and interacting with the people he’s interacting with.
  2. Second, I found out he got his start playing music at church! I wonder how many artists that have sort of made it big got their start in the local church. I think the church often functions as a sort of egalitarian musical landscape. If you’ve got even a little bit of chops, and you want to give it a shot, then come on. In a lot of these environments, there seems to be the idea that if you’re interested in being here and using what you’ve got, we want to have you.

And then, of course, the interview turned me on to some of .Paak’s older stuff. The gem I’m currently listening to now is his Cover Art album with the Hellfyre Club band. You can listen to the whole cover mixtape here. Notable songs so far: “Such Great Heights” (originally by The Postal Service) and “Seven Nation Army” (originally by The White Stripes).

It’s really cool to see an artist doing what he loves and loving what he’s doing.

On Violence and Bloodthirsty Americans

No, this blog post is not about vampires. Though I suppose it could be, with that title.

Joining in with the rest of America (so it seemed), Elaine and I saw The Hunger Games in theaters. Normally, I wouldn’t go see a movie before reading the book, but I just couldn’t help myself. To be honest, I heard lots of great things about it – even from those who read the books, which is surprising – so I convinced Elaine to go with me. Before getting into any kind of analysis, I should say that I really enjoyed the movie. I thought it was very well made, and had some excellent acting. That in itself was surprising, considering many of the actors weren’t well-known.

As Elaine and I walked out of the theater, we did the typical, “So, what did you think of the movie?” As you can obviously tell, I was pretty happy about spending the previous 2 1/2 hours with Katniss Everdeen. Elaine surprised me, however, by saying she was unhappy with the movie. I was a little baffled, so I asked her to clarify. Her initial reaction (and I think rightfully so) was general disgust. Or perhaps, at the very least, she was quite disturbed by watching children between the ages of 12-18 killing each other. The fact that movies look so realistic now really doesn’t help. In particular, there is a scene at the beginning of the actual Games in the movie when a large portion of the children run towards a specific location, and the entire scene is a bloodbath. I must admit, I was quite disturbed myself.

One of the things Elaine said that caught my attention was that she felt like the audience of the movie actually became the audience of the Hunger Games. The general premise of the movie is that children are chosen to compete (and kill each other) in a game of survival, where there can only be one winner. The citizens of Panem (the nation) are forced to watch, and many find entertainment in the Games. The problem Elaine noticed is that the majority of the movie – and the book – focus specifically on what actually happens during the Games. Not only that, but because the focus is on a specific person (Katniss Everdeen), the movie audience finds itself actually cheering Katniss on in her quest to win. What we may not realize, however, is that in cheering Katniss on, we’re actually cheering for her to kill others. This is a problem that, I’m willing to bet, most Americans won’t even realize. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking violence is alright simply because “the good guy” might “win.”

Fortunately, I think both the moviemakers and the author were trying to convey something (or perhaps I’m simply being overly optimistic here). I think the attempt to force the audience to cheer Katniss on actually shows something deeply depraved within humanity – and especially Americans. You see, we enjoy violence quite a bit, whether we want to admit it or not. Seriously, look at just most Evangelicals. If a movie is rated R for sexuality or nudity, we’re so quick to condemn it and say that it’s a distortion of something beautiful God has created. Coincidentally, however, we’re also quick to say, “Oh, it’s only rated R for violence? No big deal.” Isn’t this just as much of a distortion of creation as a movie that objectifies women or distorts sexuality?

I’m not trying to be condemning or judgmental here. Actually, I’m willing to freely admit that I’m guilty of this exact issue. I think I may have even said those words before. The problem is, if I believe God has truly created the world and is actively reconciling and redeeming it, violence is equally as culpable as distorted sexuality.

What do you think? Have you noticed this trend in American culture? Do you think violence is alright to witness, even if only in a movie? Or do you think it should be treated as a problem in our society?