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It’s The End of The Year As We Know It
The Best, 2020
How to make sense of a senseless year? It wasn’t just that 2020 was bad or miserable, it was incomprehensible at times. As someone who is and was already having a difficult time (my flop era you could say), the pandemic and the overall feeling of dread and death wrapped around the very air outside have only heightened every negative thing already taking place. How unfair it is that I can’t spend my most miserable days in a bar drinking myself numb to deal with the internal pain? Instead I have to drink at home alone, which is just corny as hell.
This was a year where we literally clapped for first responders and medical staff while demanding they work overtime without any bonuses, a year we grew accustomed to hundreds of thousands of deaths, a year where we actually celebrated in the streets because an old genteel republican sexual assaulter posing as a liberal and a literal cop won an election. This year has made me unafraid of hell—honestly what could the devil do to us at this point.
At any rate, it’s the time of year when people insist on telling you what their choice projects are and why they matter and all that other nonsense no one cares about. If you’re reading this, it’s because you want to be mad, or you want to argue, or you want to be told what’s cool—either way, I’m not mad at it. There was plenty of good stuff that helped make this year close to bearable at different points, and they are worth celebrating.
This is also a year in which I tried my best to make this newsletter interesting, while still trying to figure out what exactly I want it to be. Like any other newsletter it’s part zine, part State of The Union address. I hope to have a better grasp on flow and style in this next year. Lets talk about the best this year had to offer.
The Best Music
While it’s true that you are getting old, you are not completely mistaken in feeling like music is worse than ever. As annoying and self righteous the 90s mission statement of never selling out, never having ambition of any kind may have been, they had the right idea regarding corporate interests destroying art and wanting to fight against it.
You can never stop capitalism from influencing and watering culture down, but with rap’s continued ascendency—and the fact that many of its best purveyors come from destitute areas and generational poverty—the resistance between artists and corporations who want to use their output to sell burgers as grown smaller and smaller. It’s gotten to the point where even the most shameless embracers of capitalist values and commercialization, such as Drake and Travis Scott, are actually celebrated for that shrewdness—including by me. Add in the continued rise of corporate streaming companies that promise to do the work of finding music for you or telling you what to like, and you have a music industry that is rewarded based on their ability to best game the system and get spots on playlists. Despite capitalism’s promises of promoting ingenuity, the music has become more and more homogeneous, all blending together and monotonous, all because it sounds like what you already like and what is already on said playlists. At this rate, music is sure to get blander with fewer breakout and familiar popular artists actually trying for something new and exciting. That said, here was my favorite stuff.
The Best Albums:
Lil Uzi Vert - Eternal Atake
Dogleg - Melee
Hook - I love you 2, Hook
Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Jay Electronica - A Written Testimony
Young Nudy - Anyways
Wizkid - Made In Lagos
Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
City Girls - City On Lock
Sault - The Untitled Albums
Benny The Butcher - Burden of Proof
Odunsi - Everything You Heard Is True
Soccer Mommy - Color Theory
Key Glock - Yellow Tape
Navy Blue - Ada Irin
Rod Wave - Pray 4 Love
Victoria Monét - Jaguar
Kahlil Blu - Dog
Flo Milli - Ho, Why Is You Here?
Cardi B & Megan Tha Stallion - “WAP”
Lil Baby & 42 Dugg - “We Paid”
Roddy Rich - “The Box”
Shy Glizzy, Jeremih, & Ty Dolla $ign - “Like That”
Bfb Da Packman & Sada Baby - “Free Joe Exotic”
Dua Lipa - “Levitating”
Dogleg - “Kawasaki Backflip”
Fiona Apple - “Shameika”
City Girls - “Pussy Talk”
H.E.R - “Damage”
Chloe x Halle - “Do It”
Sada Baby - “Whole Lotta Choppas”
YN Jay - “Austin Powers”
Jazmine Sullivan - “Pick Up Your Feelings”
Jay Electronica & Jay-Z - “A.P.I.D.T.A”
Playboi Carti - “@ Meh”
Khalil Blu & MAVI - “runway talk”
Popcaan & Drake - “All I Need”
Haim - “FUBT”
Armand Hammer, Earl Sweatshirt, Moor Mother, & Fielded - “Ramesses II”
Phoebe Bridgers - “Kyoto”
The Best Television
For obvious reasons, this is the most TV I’ve actually watched live (or at least on pace with releases) in years. The prestige television experiment has completely worn me out and I am on the record as believing TV reached its zenith with David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return, there’s just no where else for the medium to go from here unless miraculously proven otherwise. It’s because of this, I’ve kind of reverted to TV as comfort food and not intellectual stimulation. That of course hasn’t stopped TV from trying.
The last couple years, but in 2020 especially, television has seen its grand race awakening. Prestige TV, reacting to a post-MeToo, post-BLM world, wants to “have a conversation about race” and the results have mostly been middling. All of the shows are pretty, all of the actors glamorous, all of the work very “important,” all of it leaves me cold, a reaction to the lack of reality and bite at play in many of these grandiloquent presentations.
There was a part of me that wanted to recognize Tiger King in my best TV list. It was a huge phenomenon and many of us tweeted and memed all about it, but much like the hangover from a huge drug binge or drinking the original Four Loko, we all feel much worse about it the more time passes. Anyway, here’s my favorite television of the year:
I May Destroy You
The Last Dance
The Good Place - Final Season
Gangs of London
The Good Lord Bird
The Best Movies
A top three “worst” about this year, more than anything else, was that I couldn’t go to a movie theater. It is maybe the most important place I spend significant time at. You know when you’re a kid how you’re always looking for a tiny space in your home to hide from the world (and especially your parents) like a cabinet or a coat closet, that is the movies for me as an adult. It is a safe space, it is a happy place, it is a break from reality and no movie has felt the same without it.
That said, a nice side effect of the pandemic’s effect on theaters is that we went a year without a good deal of tentpole and/or new major blockbusters and it was highly refreshing to not have to think about Marvel or Disney in general mostly. It was amusing watching a good deal of people not know how to have an identity without these movies around, and it was a nice thing to focus on in the face of the dire reality of the future of the theater experience and the continued global domination of streaming. While yes it is nice that many more people will see a lot more movies because of these channels, there is nothing that can replace the theatrical experience. The American economy crumbling thanks to Covid-19 has certainly allowed for fantasies of a new world being built by communities for the community in the future, in all likelihood we are just in store for even more and even harsher gentrification of society, robbing us of anything significant or culturally relevant in the name of tax haven luxury apartments and megastores.
I hope there’s still a future to watch movies like First Cow and Time in theaters and not just The Avengers vs The Fast and The Furious vs Tom Cruise. At any rate, I got to see Tenet at a Drive-In at least and that was a better vibe to appreciate such a dumb but pretty looking movie. The closest thing to normal about this year.
First Cow (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
Time (dir. Garrett Bradley)
Lover’s Rock (dir. Steve McQueen)
Bacurau (dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles)
Miss Juneteenth (dir. Channing Godfrey Peoples)
Crip Camp (dir. Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht)
Mangrove (dir. Steve McQueen)
Da Five Bloods (dir. Spike Lee)
Shirley (dir. Josephine Decker)
Palm Springs (dir. Max Barbakow)
Mank, Tenet, and I’m Thinking of Ending Things are at the very least quite fine, interesting movies.
Lover’s Rock “Silly Games” scene
Time final sequence
Palm Springs montage scene
Mank “walk and talk” scene between Mank and Marion Davies
Never Rarely, Sometimes Always “karaoke” scene
I’m Thinking of Ending Things “This is Jake’s room” scene
Tenet “car chase/ inverted chase” sequence
In Sudden Darkness “Make It Last Forever” ending
Birds of Prey police precinct fight scene
Last Call (and a note from the editor):
This year has been a fucking nightmare and I’m glad it’s over. If there can be a silver lining I would say that I’m very optimistic about a year and life in general in the way I haven’t been maybe ever. Despite it all, I think I used this year productively. I wrote scripts and short stories and chapters of a book, I took the craft of writing seriously, since no one would pay me to work on assignment. I read a lot, I watched too many movies (which is to really say not enough actually) and I used the music and artifacts of my youth to lose myself in nostalgic longing for a time when I could enjoy things like being in love or “going outside.”
On another note, I hope as we move into this next year that this letter becomes more of what you can expect from Afropoptimism. I want it to be more like a zone where I semi regularly share my thoughts on what I’m watching, reading, listening to, or just my feelings in general, maybe I’ll even give bad advice. Who knows 2021 is full of possibility!
Enjoy the new year and tell a friend to subscribe! ✨✨✨