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Saturday, July 07, 2012

I've Been Neglecting You. Part I


Wow!

Wow!

It's been 10 months since I last updated my blog. That is SLACKING!
It's been a crazy (in a good way) year for me. This time last year I was sitting at home in Holland, my dreams of doing an awesome internship at the Clinton Foundation were shattered, my plans of moving back to the UK were on hold, it was a testing time. But testing times are why box sets, movies and Mad Men reruns were invented. With the support of my amazing brother Daniel and my super-dad- Dad, I think I had a pretty rewarding year. I may not have advanced professionally, but spiritually and personally it was a blessing. 

Fast forward to January 2012, I'm sitting on a couch, playing with a little child in a little house in a little village in western Germany. The kid is transfixed by The Gruffalo playing on the TV, so I take the time to check my e-mail. I see this:

Dear Julian, 

Thank you for your application to the role of Consumer PR Internship (CWCONINT12a) recieved 23 Dec 2011. We would like to invite you to discuss the role further at our main site in London:

I felt like this inside




But I wasn't in my own home, so I couldn't let the full crazy excitement out, so I just did this:


That e-mail was from Cohn & Wolfe, London. Pretty big deal in UK and Global Public Relations. I had recieved rejections or no replies from other companies I had applied to, so when I got this e-mail I knew I had to grab the bull by the horns (or is it balls?..anyway, I knew I had to be on my GRIND)

Three days later I was saying goodbye to my Dad and Bro, heading on a flight from Amsterdam to London and reading up on 'How to ace an interview'. 

I had a week of solid preparation, lots of advice and prayers from friends and family, and a lot of sleep! Then the day arrived, put on my suit (looked like a black Don Draper) and headed off to Cohn & Wolfe towers to GET THAT JOB!!!......and did I get it? You BETCHA!



Part II coming soon (Wimbledon break)

Monday, September 26, 2011

The African Middle Class: Responding to Amber Rose


Amber Rose recently said this on her first visit to Ghana "what I’ve noticed about Africa since I’ve been here is that there’s extremely rich or extremely poor, there’s no middle class at all" she goes on and says "I’ll like to speak to the rich people and be like, what are you guys doing? help out a little bit" (notice she said ‘noticed about Africa', not Ghana, we're back to this notion of Africa as a homogenous block. How ridiculous would it sound for me to visit Portugal and say, 'what I've noticed about Europe is that')

I question her observational skills for one, she’s been in Ghana a few days, observing it mainly from tinted windows of a 4X4, and yet she feels she is in possession of enough social information to make such a statement as that.

But it doesn’t surprise me, I’ve read and heard many westerners make statements like that. I’ve heard people who are about to visit an African country for the first time say stuff like ‘I wanna visit the ‘real’ Africa’, 'real' is just code for poor. I think to myself, “but you’ve never been to Africa before, how do you know what is real and what isn’t” They have a prejudged script of how Africa is supposed to be, and in their heads they divide Africans into ‘authentic’ (a.k.a poor) Africans and 'inauthentic’ (middle class/rich) Africans. Poor Africans to them are the authentic ones, the ones that don’t challenge their views of Africa. When they see an African in a new German car with an iPod they just can’t compute that the wealth could have been acquired in any way but through a direct exploitation of the poor people they see. So the image of a wealthy African becomes offensive to them because they have come with their colonial/charitable mindset and here are Africans living in big houses not seemingly as worried about the poor as they (Westerners) are. Some travel to African countries to (temporarily) relieve their sense of guilt for living in a materialistic Western society, and the image of an African just as materialistic as they are challenges their views in what was supposed to be a trip about moral self flagellation and finding oneself (as you know, you can't find yourself around shiny cars and flat screen TVs, there have to be poor faces around, with flies casually perched on them, only in the midst of the less off can one realise the purpose of life.)

The problem is many Western amateur social critics, like Amber, never ask these questions about their own countries, Amber Rose can say to a rich Ghanaian, "why are you rich? and why don’t you give that naked kid clothes" as though a comparative disparity doesn’t occur in her country, the USA of all places, we all saw Katrina, we saw America’s underbelly, and it could rival this so called brand of African poverty.

So I can understand the frustration a lot of Africans feel when a Western lens goes to an African country and only records destitution, what they are doing is de-legitimizing the African middle-class, de-legitimizing our stories and histories, they are effectively saying we are traitors to our people because we've risen above what they percieve the standard of African living to be.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Breakfast in Bed

I’ve never really understood the concept of breakfast in bed. Why would anyone want that? Why would anyone want to eat food without their feet planted firmly on the ground, and why would anyone want to drink hot liquids or even any liquid while in bed? With breakfast in bed, you wake up and prop your torso up, while some supposedly doting boyfriend/girlfriend lays a tray of breakfast on your lap, and you have to keep your thighs perfectly still if you don’t want to spill OJ and scrambled eggs all over your linen.
Futhermore, at least for me personally, I like to brush my teeth and rinse my mouth before I eat breakfast, so the idea of someone waking me up and then offering me food is offensive…Plus, when I wake up I look like I’ve been 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, it’s not a pretty sight, and I definitely don’t want to be enjoying food while I look like death. So for any future girlfriends/wife reading this, don’t ever offer me breakfast in bed, I’ve got two legs, I can walk the 1 minute down to the dining room and enjoy your romantic cooking.
Thanks

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Nigeria Dreamin' Part III

I have to admit, I’ve been a pretty bad blogger this year, in fact I don’t think I deserve to be a called a blogger after this dismal performance in 2011. My last post was in January, and for that I can only apologize, I guess my reason is that 2011 has been quite disappointing for a variety of reasons, and reasons I felt I didn’t need (and didn’t want) to go into detail (I can’t put everything out there, right?)

So, if the present isn’t all that rosy, what better place to go than to the past, as some of you probably know (from my last two Nigerian Dreamin’ posts) I have very fond memories of growing up in Nigeria in the 1990s. They were indeed fun and mostly happy times, and these posts are a way of reminiscing about those good old days, the celebrations, the recreation, the food, and of course, being kids; the punishment.

Moi, yes, this is how I dressed (sometimes)

Charity begins at home

I think the biggest difference between living in Nigeria and living in the Netherlands can be found in the etiquette of guests. In Nigeria it’s not unusual for a friend to show up unannounced on a Saturday morning just to have a chat about relatives or politics. Nobody called in advance, or arranged a convenient date, you just showed up and hoped the person you were visiting was at home. If they weren’t, you either go back home, go visit another friend who lived nearby or come in and wait till your friend arrived. Even if my dad was sleeping, it was our duty as kids, not to politely turn the guest away, but to go up and wake daddy up, shaking him saying “Daddy, Daddy Mister So-so-and-so has come”. Daddy would rise up, wipe the sleep from his face and come down, and before long he and his guests would be laughing heartily.
There was the customary greeting of guests which was a bit of a ritual, it involved us kids coming, either en masse or one by one to greet the guest. We usually stood close to an exit so as not to prolong what was to be a quick affair. The guest would usually ask about what class you were in, and then make a flat comment like “You’re now a big boy eh” which sounded like a question, but was probably a remark, and so I’ll look at dad, as if to telepathically ask “Should I reply in the affirmative that I am indeed growing or is he mainly stating the obvious”
Once the guest had exhausted all the compliments he/she could give that was your cue to make a quick exit, this was important because some guests were quite...touchy, and would insist you come and sit next to them or on them and endure a three our conversation about fuel prices or Abacha, and you couldn’t really refuse, so you sat there, legs dangling, respectfully bored to death.
Sometimes, if we didn’t have any soft drinks, or beer at home we were sent to go get some cold ones from next door. If you were lucky, dad could give you some coke if you seemed to be quite helpful around, otherwise you waited till the guests left and then raided the living room for any remnants. I still don’t like Guinness till this day, but there was something quite satisfying as an eight year old, finishing the last bit of Guinness in the bottle, you felt adult, somewhat wiser, for this was what ‘real men’ drank afterall.

All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy

My grandma was always rather suspicious of our friends. I think she felt they were either too rude, too rough, or too “un-trained” or plainly didn’t know when they had overstayed their welcome (in Grandma’s eyes if you were still hanging around at dinnertime then you were way past your welcome). So on the occasions friends came over I made sure we went up to my Grandma’s room where I’ll introduce my friend, and they would greet her as politely as possible- this should ideally involve bowing, not looking agitated, and most importantly, remaining standing until dismissed by her, walking off before being formally dismissed was the height of disrespect. After Grandma’s approval, play could then commence.

Me and my super-awesome Grandmother

I think we got a PC in 1998, remember how computers looked back then? CPUs the size of suitcases, and monitors what were half your body weight. Oh and dial-up internet, which was used only sparingly, and took 5 minutes to load up a simple page. Ah, good days.
When we got the computer, dad gave us a lengthy lecture about its purpose- STRICTLY FOR EDUCATIONAL USES. He demonstrated this by buying us a load of CDs, with titles like ‘Human Body in 3D’ ‘GCSE Geography’ ‘Encyclopaedia Encarta’ etc. Of course as young kids our idea of a computers purpose was diametrically opposed to our father’s, and this was demonstrated by the programs we (covertly) installed on the computer, with titles like ‘Need for Speed’ ‘Mortal Kombat’ ‘Duke Nukem’ ‘Street Fighter’ etc

Part IV coming up soon, where I talk about celebrations and punishment.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Strange Things I Do Or Think


1- I don't like the sound of my voice when it's recorded (I sound like a walrus with a cold)*

2- I'm a bit peeved when people don't capitalize the first letters of my name, or anyone's name for that matter

3- I occasionally have dreams where I'm awake but my body is completely paralyzed (freaks me out) (later edit- it's not a dream, it's Sleep Paralysis, and it's quite common apparently)

4-I'm very self concious about my stammer and most things I say to strangers are rehearsed about 5 times in my head before I actually utter them, that's so I can get the least difficult sounds to pronounce

5- I sometimes act out my life as if it were a movie and the things I say or my gestures are deliberate. I even imagine where this imaginary camera filming the scene is positioned (this one is a 8.5/10 on the Weird-O-Meter)

6- Back at uni I sometimes spent up to 4 hours reading news on the web straight after waking up, forgetting to eat breakfast (ok, not breakfast, as I usually woke up after midday)

7- I don't like beer......because it's bitter! (and I think a lot of men secretly agree with me on this one )

8- I get slightly irritated when smiley faces don't have noses- it's :-) not :) ..get it right!!

9- I've been to McDonald's and Burger King a total of about 8 times in my life (but the stats for KFC and other fried chicken spots are considerably higher)

10- I have a playlist called 'Depressing Songs' which I tend to listen to a lot (I'm usually happy though...I think..lol)



* I've never met a walrus with a cold, but I imagine that's how they would sound

Monday, October 25, 2010

Can We Get Much Higher? Kanye West and the future of hip-hop

(Due to high traffic from people wanting to know about Kanye West's song Dark Fantasy which features the line 'Can We Get Much Higher', I've decided to link you to the song Kanye sampled the hook from, it's called 'In High Places' by Mike Oldfield, listen to it here)

Kanye West is due to release his fifth album, titled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on November 22. In typical Kanye West style (extraordinary), the album is going to have five different cover artworks, one of which is featured here, another, racier one, can be viewed here. Kanye West has had a very troubled year, ever since his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech it seemed the whole world was against him, I mean, even Obama called Kanye a jackass. Once the president of the United States of America, sets time aside from Middle East peace talks to call you a jackass, you know you've messed up somehow.
As a devoted Kanye West fan, I like to think I've always understood his motivation, and while I didn't agree with him spoiling Swift's moment, I agreed with his position that Beyonce had a better video (not the best of all time however)
With the increasing vitriol from the media and other artists, Kanye went on a self exile, recouping and recalculating. Some thought Kanye was done, but as a fan, I knew otherwise. Although he says different, Kanye's genius seems to stem from tribulation, whether his nearly fatal accident that led to College Dropout, or the untimely death of his mother and break up from his fiancée that led to 808s & Heartbreak. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Swiftgate and the avalanche of hate and criticism has led to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
However, my main reason for writing this article isn't to analyse the opinions of Kanye West, but rather to elaborate on what I think this man means for hip-hop as a culture right now.
Kanye has always been a visionary, and his music and artistry are a testament to that, no other hip-hop act could conceive and pull off the Glow in the Dark Tour. But just when you think there's nothing new he could do, Kanye has hit us with his latest venture, a half an hour movie, titled Runaway, directed by West himself.
Yes, you might be thinking, "No!! movies and rappers shouldn't mix", but this movie signals the first time (to my knowledge) of a mainstream rapper directing a film. Does Runaway deliver, you ask? My answer, it does. You may need to banish West's last foray into directing, Drake's breastfest video for 'Best I Ever Had'. Kanye West's short movie Runaway is abstract, full of symbolism, full of music, visually alluring and yes, model Selita Ebanks is there as well..as well as grazing rabbit and sheep. In short, the movie is about a phoenix (Ebanks) who crashes on earth and is rescued by Kanye, unaccustomed to human behaviour, the phoenix struggles to blend in and appears confused by life on earth. She is shunned and ridiculed by Kanye's guests at a dinner, and the final insult is the placing of a still feathered dead turkey on the table in front of her (she is part bird afterall) Disappointed with the world, the phoenix burns up and leaves earth, lamenting that human's always try to change that which they don't understand.

Selita Ebanks as the 'Phoenix' in Kanye West's 'Runaway'film

The phoenix can be seen as a representative of Kanye West's music, or art for that matter, for he is more than just music. Kanye has always sought to push the boundaries of hip-hop, experimenting with new sounds, new artists and new instruments. Just like any sub-culture, hip-hop does have it's boundaries, and some people protest when others 'ignore' it, Kanye did just that, ignoring the drug and gun narratives and instead criticizing hip-hop's fixation with crime. Ignoring entrenched homophobia in hip-hop by vehemently opposing it, and being outspoken about his opposition. Ignoring the homogeneous baggy clothes and rocking tight jeans. Kanye just didn't give a damn what others thought, as far as he was concerned, he is a 'Soldier of Culture', and soldiers don't surrender to trends, or conventions.

Kanye West, his Phoenix and guests at a dinner, screencap from 'Runaway'

The most important thing to me, in Kanye's seemingly one man hip-hop revolution, is his unshakeable love for hip-hop culture, so while he may be in Paris for Fashion Week, or making experimental movies, he brings his interpretation of hip-hop with him. It may be tempting to forego hip-hop when in the space of 'high culture', some purists may cringe at the mixture, but like Murakami at Versailles, Kanye brings two cultures that otherwise should clash into [an] imperfect (in perfect) harmony. He blends Kubrick inspired visuals with boastful rap lines like "How you say broke in Spanish? Me no hablo, me drown sorrow in that Diablo". There is a juxtaposition when you see ballet dancers performing life to music by a man with an MPC beat machine (2010 VMAs) but it's all within Kanye's mandate of fighting against 'traditional thinking', Kanye is redefining the space hip-hop music is supposed to occupy. As a much maligned and disrespected genre even today, these are the kind of artists we need in hip-hop, people who are not constrained by conventional notions of black masculinity, artists who can stand up for what they believe in, not what they think others expect them to believe. Artists who can get inspiration from genres of music that many of their fans may not even like, artists that can channel the emotions on the spoken word into beautiful visual vistas. Artists that refuse to recognize boundaries, artists that take risks.
Kanye West is all of the above, a true ambassador of hip-hop, a visionary. There are not many rappers (not any) who are five albums in, with all five albums sounding very different from the last, that, to me, is the mark of a true genius, someone not afraid of growth or experimentation. Kanye West's step into movie-making, while not perfect, is exactly the type of artistry we need in our still relatively young genre. The dynamism he shows should be embraced by the culture as we attempt to move beyond a conservative definition of what constitutes hip-hop. Kanye West is moving hip-hop further, I say we should support him.

Julian Obubo

Watch Kanye West's film 'Runaway'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Twenty-Two


Yes, I'm one year older, finally 22. I say finally as if I couldn't wait to turn 22. In truth though, the past year has being the most eventful year of my life, as you probably know I spent most my time as a 21 year old in Newcastle, studying for a postgraduate degree in Media and Public Relations. Well, I'm glad to say that that degree is done, and yours truly is graduating with a distinction. Yay! I've never been prouder of any piece of work as I am of my last dissertation, I pored through journals, articles, books and a gazillion hip-hop songs while researching, and I'm very happy it turned out well. I had loads of help, and I'll post my acknowledgement at the end of this blog post.

I think the theme of my last year has been 'Growth'. When I look back at myself at this time last year, and I look at my self today I'm so happy and humbled at how it all turned out, I owe it all to the fantastic people I met along the way.

A close friend of mine gave me this poignant analogy of life. He said it's like a train ride, and we are the drivers, and different chapters of our lives (being in uni for example) can be looked at as train stations, we pick some people up in these stations and they alter us in some way, positively or negatively. When we get to the next station, some of these people disembark, never to reenter. Others stay on, some stay on till the end of the journey. I guess in someway, the key to real friendships is discerning those who are on the train for a short ride, and those who will be on forever.

I've met some truly truly beautiful and inspiring people, who've not only challenged me in my religious faith, but also on life philosophies, love, and political ideologies. I've met people I could hang out with for hours just talking about any and everything under the sun. I've met people who can call me up at midnight to come eat some extra spicy food (our mouths were on FIRE!) I've spent time with beautiful people who made me rethink my prejudices and fears. I've 're-known' some old friends, and had many special moments I wish I could just bottle up and preserve. In short, it's been nothing short of a very memorable year.

So as I celebrate another year, here's a toast to all of you who made this past year extra crispy, extra special and extra fun, you know who you are. I love you all, I love you all so much! Some of you have left and indelible mark on me, and your words are in constant replay in my head. There are those I wish I knew better sooner, but hey, it's not the end of the world....and there is facebook afterall.

Peace and Love

Julian

P.S.

My actual dissertation acknowledgement

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my loving father Rodger Obubo first and foremost for his continued support and constant inspiration. Although this dissertation involved a topic that we could not easily discuss, he always gave me support and good guidance throughout the research and writing phase.

My second debt of gratitude goes to my ‘Facebook support team’ of Tokie Adebiyi, Rob Davies, William Smith, Rotimi Kuforiji and Afo Babatunde who not only showed interest in the work I was doing but also gave me suggestions as to possible lyrics or music videos I could analyse.

I’d like to thank Justin Tay for providing me with much needed distractions and entertainment during the laborious weeks of research and writing and for being an academic sparring partner on issues of identity, race and culture.

Thanks also goes to Dominik Plonner for his inquiries about my work and his probing questions which led to new ideas I could develop in the dissertation.

I owe a big thanks to the entire family at Jesmond Parish Church for their constant motivation and prayers (I needed that!)

I’d like to especially thank my lovely sister Laura for offering to proof read some of my writing and for her academic interest in my work.

I’d also need to thank Dr. Monica Figueroa for introducing me to advanced concepts of race and ethnicities and critical white studies.

To anybody who casually asked me what my dissertation topic was and had to bear through a ten minute monologue from me about why hip-hop is so fascinating, I do owe you all much thanks for getting my brain cogs moving.

My final and biggest thanks goes to my dissertation supervisor Dr. Carolyn Pedwell for her prompt and detailed feedback on drafts of my work and pointing me in the right direction when my ideas became a bit muddled.

I can only hope this work positively reflects the support you all have shown in different ways.

Muchas Gracias

Julian


Monday, September 27, 2010

Untitled


“Hoping that my tomorrows sympathize with my failures today, and somehow your departure would lead to your arrival at my door in years to come. And what was once a chapter would not end up a footnote. That which once blossomed will not wilt with the passage of time”

Julian Obubo