DCP EP. 85 Everybody’s A Critic: Touré

Transcribed by: Sydney Henriques-Payne

Completion date: October 13, 2021

Shana Pinnock
[00:01:19] Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust for the culture. And I’m your co-host Shana Pinnock, Social Media Director here at theGrio,

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:01:50] and I’m your co-host Gerren Keith Gaynor, Managing Editor at theGrio. And this week we’re asking “Dear Culture, who asked you anyway?”

Shana Pinnock [00:02:02] Whew, Chile. That should apply to a number of folks.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:02:03] Mmm Hmm

Shana Pinnock [00:02:04] But before we get into the show and asking people, you know, “Who asked you, anyway, why are you opening your mouth, why are you flapping your gums?” What is on your mind this week, G?

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:02:14] So, everyone is talking about Dave Chappelle, “The loser” Netflix special. And, I didn’t rush to watch it because I had other things to do. I’m a busy person, but actually one of our colleagues, Courtney Wills, our entertainment director. She called me, which was like, “Did you watch it? I want to know your thoughts.” And obviously, being a part of the LGBTQ plus community, she wanted to know if I felt it was homophobic and transphobic, as many [members] of the community have said, and I did watch it. And I have to say, I personally do not think that it was homophobic. I think that it was… It was definitely on that line of transphobia. I don’t think that Dave Chappelle’s intent was to be homophobic or transphobic. And as a person who understands comedy, I understood most of the jokes. I think that I did laugh at certain parts, but there are parts that made me cringe as well. And one, I want to say that as a Black queer person, I felt erased from the sketch from the stand up because he focused so much on talking about the LGBTQ Plus community through a lens of white supremacy. And it completely ignored the fact that there are many of us who are Black and Brown, a part of the community, who were just as incensed and just as hurt and impacted by words and actions of. people like DaBaby or or Boosie, or whoever we’re talking about from week to week when these homophobic transphobic comments are said. So, I think it’s important to separate a Dave Chappelle from DaBaby. I don’t think I think that there was some type of artful attempt to bring the community in the conversation, like he talks about Black people and White people and women and Asian people. And and there there is room for that in comedy. I think that where Dave Chappelle went wrong is that he didn’t acknowledge people like me. He just kind of dismissed like, “Oh, you’re complaining about Kevin Hart and and DaBaby because you’re white and you’re speaking from your place of privilege.” Well, what about those of us who don’t have that privilege? So, I would have… I felt very ignored by that. And Preston Mitchum wrote a piece for theGrio on behalf of The Trevor Project about this. And you know, he saw it as something that is punching down to the community, even though, you know, he mentioned that…He makes that punching down, punching up reference in the special. And his take, in which I do agree with also, which is that… While jokes are jokes to people like us who have the intellectual capacity to understand is a joke. Many people in our community and many people around in this country will not take it as such. They’ll just see that as more fodder to make fun of trans people, in particular. When I hear jokes about trans people are more sensitive because, you know, I can take a gay joke. Like, I have friends who who make anal sex jokes with me and we laugh about it. It’s not, like… They’re… I know it’s not coming from a homophobic place, but because of where the trans community is today and how harmful it is for them to just simply walk the streets. I mean, I know it’s is dangerous for me to walk the streets as a gay man, but I could not imagine being openly trans person and have to endure the potential violence and ridicule every single day. And there are young people who are trying to figure out their identity; who are, you know…those jokes are being using in classrooms and young people are having suicidal ideation at very young ages because of said jokes. Whether it’s coming from Dave Chappelle or someone in your in your neighborhood or someone in your classroom. So, there’s danger to jokes, even though we know or I believe, that Dave Chappelle is simply trying to use humor to provide cultural critique. But, he missed… He kind of dropped the ball when it came to having that understanding of the nuances of the LGBTQ plus community because we’re not all white and we’re not all, you know, insensed, because of our white privilege, because some of us are actually Black and Brown just like you.

Shana Pinnock [00:07:00] Mm hmm. I think that’s it’s so interesting. So I have not seen the special yet. I… I… I… Will watch it this weekend. I’ve been kind of waiting until all of the commentary dies down and we’ll talk about cultural commentary, why that’s a problem, later. But I said, “Let me just wait until a lot of this dies down.” But something that I think that is very interesting is the fact that, again, I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen little thoughts and bit pieces here. The fact that he apparently at one point in the stand up says that he himself is a TERF, I don’t know if it was, you know, Wayne in a joking manner or whatever, but let’s recognize that TERF is an acronym for Trans Exclusionary, Radical Feminist. These are people who do not believe that trans women are women who do not believe they’re trans men are men. There…therefore, by definition, he’s admitting to be in transphobic. But OK, you know. All right, fine. Let’s…. “Comedy. Ugh… Let’s have a good time.” Whatever. But I am interested in seeing, you know, exactly what he discussed and then just kind of making my judgments from there. Courtney called me as well, so I am due for a very long conversation. But so, you know, again, talking to…or, rather, kind of pivoting to people who… “Who asked you anyway and why do you feel the need to comment on things that are not incredibly necessary?” So, unless you’ve been living under a rock or, you know, really are not into sports, the big tea this week has been Jon Gruden’s …Jon Gruden’s, you know, emails coming to light as part of a larger investigation by the NFL. And I believe the the Washington…Team [The Washington Football Team], the former Redskins, Jon Gruden. And for those who don’t know, I believe he’s the former head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Am I right with that? I think so. That’s who it was. Yeah, The Ravens. And essentially, he was catching some heat about a comment that he had made, apparently about a another person in the organization— a Black man— with some lines that basically said comparing this black man’s lips to Michelin tires. Now, OK, fine. Right? You know, of course, there’s minstrel character references there, and for a White man to say that about a Black man is already kind of iffy. But Jon Gruden then came out and said— which just,… when… In the grand scheme of things, when you pull back and watch the forest for the trees, makes it even worse. He came out and said, like, yeah, he took it too far, but he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Lies.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:09:54] That line.

Shana Pinnock [00:09:54] But really… Lies. But really, I think my big issue was watching so many Black, especially Black male sports journalists, sports analysts come out to defend this moron before the, you know, additional info about his emails and just how incredibly homophobic that he was, how offensive he was to Black people in general out here sharing nudes of the cheerleaders on the team, like— all of this from a work email, by the way. Fine. But, you know, in particular, just seeing people like, what is his name, Mike Tirico and… Oh gosh, I wish I could remember his name. It’ll come to me. But watching these Black men again carrying water for a white man accused of racism, the whole idea of, “Oh well, he’s never been racist to me.” You sounded like Terry Crews right now, but OK, “He’s never been racist to me. And you know, I’m just going to take him for his word and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And I’ve never, you know, he’s he’s been around Black players and he’s had this exceptional relationship with Black players.” Ask Keyshawn Johnson, because that’s not true. But also, you know, all of all of these things, all of these, these twists and turns and pretzels that they pull themselves into to defend some racist White man who, if you peel back all the layers at the end of the day, that man wouldn’t want to spit on you if you was on fire. If you were to bring your Black tail to his household with his White daughter, he would… He would sit there and try to shoot you. Are you kidding me? Like what? What do y’all gain from this? Is this again, just another example of Black men trying to, you know, have proximity to power to sit here and and be Samuel L. Jackson in Django and just “No….” and throw yourself in front of this white man for what? That no, I’m… I’m sorry. I am never, ever, ever going to defend any White man because I don’t know what that may have been talking about. It’s very cute what you can say amongst mixed company, but I… I’m very interested to know what exactly do you talk about when you’re with your friends, when you think when you’re with your White friends, when you think nobody else is around to hear you?

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:19] Mm hmm.

Shana Pinnock [00:12:20] When you think nobody’s watching your emails, when you think nobody is doing any of those things, but it’s just it’s really disappointing. It’s really stupid. It’s giving “Candace Owens,” it’s… It’s it’s giving… “Ben,” you know, it’s giving “Ben Carson,” it’s giving…a lot of those. And I’m… I’m just not here for seeing Black people twist and turn themselves to be the “good Black friend” to protect any White person from their misdeeds, their racist misdeeds. But..

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:54] OK.

Shana Pinnock [00:12:54] Yeah, this is my little two cents

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:57] I hear that.

Shana Pinnock [00:12:59] So, let’s get into today’s show. I mean, we are out here talking about cultural commentary and hot takes, right? Or as I like to call them, you know, you think pieces which I call “stink pieces.” The art of the hot take is one we have all become familiar with. These are quickly produced, often strongly worded pieces of commentary that are in direct response to a recent event. When hot takes are really hot. They catch fire; often going viral. At a time where one tweet can go around the world within minutes, the hot take has truly changed the culture of cultural commentary. This week, we’re joined by writer, music journalist and cultural critic Toure’, and we’ll talk with him about his experience as a verified commentator on the culture and get his thoughts on how social media is changing cultural criticism. Let’s get into it.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:17:01] So, Shana, as you know, you are in the social media. We work in the media at-large and we know a good hot take when we see it. We know clickbait when we see it. So, I want to first start the conversation by distinguishing what is the difference between a hot take and clickbait.

Shana Pinnock [00:17:23] I mean, I think first off, it really comes down to the… OK, so let’s distinguish what a hot take is and what clickbait is, right? So hot take is usually it’s… It’s typically derived from facts. I know many more times this.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:17:40] Let’s start there.

Shana Pinnock [00:17:41] You know, it’s it’s derived from facts… It’s something that is meant to be thought provoking and interesting, especially from like op ed pieces. Those are… Those are your hot takes, right? So case in point. I had a hot take when the the contract for Black America came out from Ice Cube, and I thought it was full of poop. And you know, and I said… I gave my reasoning as to why, and I explained it. And then I had many people– typically Hoteps and people who don’t, you know, know punctuation, punctuation and words —were essentially like, “Oh, you know, with you in this clickbait.” First off, I didn’t tell you to click nothing. You don’t have to click nothing. But like my opinion is right there in the headline, if you don’t agree or if you want to know why I said it, then feel free to click. But that’s not clickbait-y. Clickbait is something where I’m like, “Oh, well, you know, Ice Cube and this contract for Black America has Russian funding.” I dont fricking know that… You know, like, like and those are those are the Shade Room gossip. You know, what I mean? Like, that’s what your clickbait is. I think the thing about it is, though, where I get frustrated in this world of social media, in this world of everybody believes that just because you have a keyboard and just because you have a screen and you know, maybe, maybe you have a few followers here and there that your hot take actually matters. I think that’s…[laughs] I think that’s a problem within our society. And I say, this is a person who writes op ed —Y’all don’t have to give a single hot-biscuit-of-a-damn about what I have to say. That’s fine, and I can still put that out there. But I, at least, feel as though, especially on certain topics… I don’t speak on things that I don’t know about as a Black woman, as a, as a woman who was out here voting as a woman who was out here, voting as a Democrat who has been, you know, trying to push all of these things. I felt that my commentary at that point in time as to how dangerous I felt that his actions were at that point in time were important and were something to add into the ethos and at least be able to get that out and get my frustration out. But I mean, to keep it a buck, like, not everything requires everyone’s commentary.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:20:03] Okay!

Shana Pinnock [00:20:03] It’s sometimes… It’s not cultural commentary. Sometimes it’s just “Shut up and keep scrolling.” Well, what do you think, G?

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:20:10] OK, so… So when it comes to clickbait, you know, for me, I would say if I had to define what clickbait is, it’s when you present something and then when I click it, there’s no actual follow through. Like I didn’t like, you didn’t… The promise wasn’t made or wasn’t kept, rather. So if you have a headline and I click it and I realize that, you know, you kind of like exaggerated the headline, that can be clickbait. But ultimately, clickbait doesn’t have substance. You know, I do think of, you know, no shade to the Shade Room, no pun intended… But when you scroll through their timeline and you will see a lot of clickbait. They start… They have good content too, every now and then, but oftentimes

Shana Pinnock [00:20:58] Shout out to them for  their investigative pieces.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:21:01] There’s a really good investigative series that they launched. I do like. I like the variety. And you do need variety because, I understand that there’s a business model that has been created through clickbait because of the internet. You know, it’s all about clicks. It’s all about advertising dollars. And so, that has kind of forced media companies or what what some maybe see as traditional media companies having to engage in what might be considered clickbait. And so as a news organization here at theGrio, I can speak for us is that while yes, there might be a headline that might try to entice you, but we’re trying to give you substance when you click through. That, we’re giving you information that is valuable; that we have done the research; that we are providing cultural and historical context. That’s what makes a hot take. And I think that so much of that gets lost nowadays, because one – people don’t read like. You know, Shana, you know, more…we know more than anybody that you can construct and report the most amazing stories with the most amazing with ..with like factual, interesting information–good stories at theGriol dot com,  but people don’t click. They see a headline, they keep scrolling. And so that forces a lot of companies and brands to… To kind of peddle and click bait because you have to bait them like fish because y’all are just swimming around Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and you don’t really want to read. Y’all just want to I just want to shout at each other. Everybody wants to have an opinion, but nobody wants to actually read and learn, which is what the media is for;  which is what journalism is for. And so, I find it very frustrating because I feel like what got me into journalism was the hot takes. You know, I grew up reading Vibe Magazine and Ebony and Jet and being like, I want to be I want to see my byline in these magazines. And I did get my name in those magazines, actually. But, now the industry has changed so much to the point where you…You can’t not exist in this dislike in the in the middle of a hot take and click bait. And so.. and those lines are being blurred more and more every day when we have, you know, I hate to quote the former impeached…twice impeach president, but “fake news.” We have this proliferation of fake news and… And people spreading clickbait or spreading false means. Whether it’s about the pandemic and vaccines or… Or information around the 2020 election. Like now, it’s hard to decipher what is what and people just, you know, …people just… It’s really hard to reach people with hot takes and find an audience that really wants true and accurate information. So it’s very interesting working in this business because it’s not… It’s not… it’s not the business that I grew up watching and admiring. It is very, very different. Yeah.

Shana Pinnock [00:24:15] Listen, no reading comprehension. Just vibes.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:24:19] Just vibes.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:04] I’m so excited to introduce our guest this week onto “Dear Culture.” None other than, Toure’ — because he is an expert on cultural criticism. He’s a writer. He’s a music journalist and cultural critic who has been at the forefront of cultural criticism for many years now. Toure’, welcome to “Dear Culture.” We’re so happy to have you. 

Toure’ [00:00:23] Thank you. I feel all blown up and put on the spine. Call me an expert. The pressure is all on, oh my God. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:31] You are, you are. 

Toure’ [00:00:33] You’re so sweet 

Shana Pinnock [00:00:35] I’m trying to tell you. Kinda of a big deal, Toure’.

Toure’ [00:00:37] Oh my God, here you go. What? What do you want to talk about. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:40] So, first, because you are a cultural critic. Many people these days, everyone has an opinion, especially with social media. What makes a cultural critic? What are the qualifications you would say? 

Toure’ [00:00:53] Well, that’s a great question. I mean, a cultural critic is somebody hopefully who… I mean, traditionally you had some sort of institution, for starters. You’re at the New Yorker or Rolling Stone or Time Magazine, so readers would know to find you there and some sort of import would be transmitted to you because you were writing from the pages of The New Yorker or what have you. Now? I mean, you know, there’s definitely people who do it in a YouTube newsletter. We don’t blog anymore, but like newsletter sense, and because their opinion seems to matter to people, they get that same sense of importance. But hopefully, the critic will talk about culture in a serious way. We’ll talk about culture in a way that reflects a broad appreciation and understanding for it. The easiest thing in the world is to say [00:01:55]if something is good or bad, that is super boring and lame. What is… It is much harder. Where does it fit within the continuum of things that are like it? Where does it fit in the world? [12.0s] You know, we’re having a national argument right now about Dave Chappelle’s last stand up. The political conversation is, “Is he transphobic? Is he homophobic?” I’m falling asleep already. The conversation about, “Is this a good hour of standup? Where does this fit into the Chappelle pantheon of hours of standup? Where does this fit into the modern pantheon? The historic pantheon? How do you compare this and understand this versus what other people are doing with the four have done in the past?” This, you know, an understanding of storytelling and callbacks and what he’s trying to do with the form makes for a much more interesting cultural critical conversation. “Where does this fit within the modern landscape?” You know, I’ve seen some comics and they’ll do an hour, and it’s based on their own personal experience, or it’s based on some sort of imagined experience that has nothing to do with the real world. If nothing else, Chappelle has entered like a real world conversation. A lot of us are saying, You know, “what does it mean to be trans? What does it mean to be white and trans? What does it mean to be gay and White? How does that interact with my world?” I think for a long…a long time ago, a lot of us said, you know, “what does it mean to be gay? OK? You know, I accept that, you know, I have gave you my family or my world. I, you know, I accept that I, you know, you know, live your life.” You know, I think the last decade, a lot of people have been saying, “Hey, what does it mean to be trans?” You know, and “this is a new thing that I have to embrace.” Dave is at a certain place in his intellectual understanding of what that means, and he’s wrestling with it on stage. So in a way like this special exists in the real world, and the cultural critic would sort of know that and be able to say, you know, like, here’s other ways that “trans-ness” or the discussion about being trans enters into the world that Dave is perhaps responding to. All this stuff, talking about this special, or, you know, you could play to a movie or an album without ever saying, “Is it good or bad?” I just ,I just, we just went to see the new James Bond film. And, you know, it struck… It stood out to me that I don’t know if you guys have seen it– this [will] not ruin it for anybody. There’s there’s another. He’s left the force officially. He officially comes back into it in the movie, but officially he’s left the force. They replaced him with a dark skinned Black woman who is now double 007, right, like he was always double that. And there’s an interesting subtext of like, “Oh, snap, now we have a Black woman, you know who’s 007, this is cool.” So, you know, and like, you know, the cultural critic might talk about that and the meaning of that and how Bond has always been a straight white man and how many of us have been saying, “Hey, like, why can’t it be Idris Elba? Why can’t it be? Why is her name escaping me? The sister from the sister from from Black Panther?” Why is her name escaping me? 

Shana Pinnock [00:05:44] Oh the sister, Sherise? Cheree? 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:05:48] Suri? 

Toure’ [00:05:48] Why can’t it be Lupita Nyong’o? 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:05:49]  Lupita! 

Shana Pinnock [00:05:49] Oh Lupita, oh, Lupita! Yeah,. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:05:52] That would’ve been cool. 

Toure’ [00:05:53] Why couldn’t it be others? Why couldn’t it have been Kerry Washington? Like, you know? And you know, so just like I’m saying, the culture critic is going to do much…You know, I hate when reviews meander down to “here’s a letter, here’s a number” or even worse, here’s a thumbs up or down. [scoffs] You know, like, talk about what it is. 

Shana Pinnock [00:06:16] Mm hmm. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:06:17] Analysis

Toure’ [00:06:19] Yes. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:06:19] Yeah. Mm hmm. 

Shana Pinnock [00:06:21] So I guess my question to you today would be, as a person who is a social media director… And I see a lot of opinions, a lot of critiques from self-appointed critics… What do you think qualifies someone to be a cultural critic or is it, you know,  anybody with an opinion? Any… your Aunts and uncles on Facebook… Who who, who qualifies as a cultural critic? 

Toure’ [00:06:46] I mean, you know, it’s a great question. You know, when I started doing record reviews at Rolling Stone, I wasn’t given a test to… To be like, “What’s your qualifications?” However, before I started doing a bunch of them, you know, I certainly sat with the record review editor and we had an… an unstructured conversation about music in general. And he was like, “What do you like? What do you listen to? What do you think?” And it wasn’t a test, or at least I didn’t understand it as a test. He was testing me, but there wasn’t like a formal test, but it was definitely like, “Oh, wow, like, you have a perspective on music, you have things that you like and things you don’t like.” At the time, I was very East Coast-y. I really wasn’t into the West Coast. This is very early. This is talking about early 90s, when you could be Anti-West Coast that… that nobody is anti-West Coast anymore. But like, you know, that was my perspective then. So I had a perspective. I had emcees who I loved.  I loved, you know what we would then refer to as like the “conscious emcees,” I thought they were really, you know, pushing the culture forward. You know, I really believed in the culture. So, you know, in terms of qualification, I would want to see somebody who deeply cares about the body of work that they are critiquing, who has an understanding of the history of it. So if you’re critiquing, you know, hip hop, not only can you talk about, you know, the hot ten records that are out right now this year, but you can also talk about what was going on in the double O’s in the 90s in the 80s. You can also talk about, you know, the pre 80s hip hit rap music. You can also, you know, perhaps even go back to what was coming out of Jamaica. Perhaps you can talk about some of the political reasons why hip hop develops so you have a deeper understanding of hip hop. You know, you have a deeper understanding of the history of it. If you’re into movies, you want to review movies– can you talk about more than, you know, your favorite MCU movies? But like, you know, a history of movie Blaxploitation and, you know, the rise of Spielberg and all sorts of things. And not just sort of like one narrow thing, because if you have a broad understanding and a deep concern, I cared very deeply about hip hop and hip hop culture, if you like Pauline Kael had a famous book called “The Greatest Movie Critic Ever.” She had a famous book, “I Lost it at the Movies.” She cared deeply about the movies. 

Shana Pinnock [00:09:38] Mm hmm. 

Toure’ [00:09:38] And that informed her critique. You know, when I got a lot of attention at once for I think it was Public Enemy sixth album that I bricked it, but it was partly from a deep love of Public Enemy and a deep love of hip hop that I was hurt and upset that they had made such a bad album. Now the other thing, you know, so if I didn’t love hip hop, then I would not have written what I did and it wouldn’t have come across to the audience in the way that it did. Now, you know, one thing that the cultural critic has to have is a sense of courage in that you’re going to say something is bad when it’s bad. When I said that [the] Public Enemy record was bad. You know, a lot of people were very upset. People came to me on the street, people came to me in conferences and like…t sort of meetings and like, “How dare you say that about Public Enemy?” And I was like, I had the I mean, it’s not the courage to like, you know, stand up to, you know, the system. But like, I had the courage to say, “I think this record is bad” and I think history has… Time has borne out that idea. You know, if I was a movie critic, would I have the courage to say, you know, Tarantino is the best filmmaker working today, but his last three films have been horrible? So he hasn’t made a good movie about eight years. 

Shana Pinnock [00:11:18] Mm-Hmm. 

Toure’ [00:11:19] I think I would, you know? But you have to have that sort of courage of your convictions to either say “this thing, this person who everybody loves is not that good” or “this thing that you guys haven’t noticed yet is great.” Like when you can do that to elevate somebody or something that others have not yet noticed. That’s really interesting and powerful. That, to me, is the most exciting part of it. You know, it’s fun to break something that others are like. “Yeah, it’s great.” And you’re like, “No, it’s not.” But, when you… when you elevate something that others haven’t noticed to be the first or one of the first to say, this group, this artist, this this person, this entity we all have not noticed is amazing. You should pay attention to that. That is really empowering and powerful. [55.0s]

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:17] Mm-Hmm. Toure’, you mentioned something about having courage. And obviously, you’ve been doing this for years, so it probably doesn’t really impact you, but I know when I started in writing before journalism, I was more I was kind of a critic of myself on the college campus of Morehouse, and I remember getting pushback for my critiques. How do you handle people critiquing your critique? How do you develop[ed]? Is there a way of developing tough skin? Or do you just put it out there and don’t care? 

Toure’  [00:12:48] I mean, you know, I wouldn’t not care because [00:12:51]I think the critic is in conversation with the audience. And if the critic totally doesn’t care about the audience, then there will be a breakdown in their relationship, right? So you know, you have a privileged position in that. You get to listen to the album or see the movie a little bit before everybody and give your opinion and others will be look… looking and checking, “what’s your opinion?” So, you have to respect that position and care about the audience as well as you care about, you know, the form that you’re critiquing. [39.7s] It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I care a lot and that I carefully listened to or carefully watched this movie or listen to this album or read this book and I feel very deeply that, you know, this is a success or it’s not or what have you. And you know, I make that point. And like, I have to stand on my sense of my correctness. I may have one or two or three elders who I look to, whose opinions I value highly, who may be insiders in a given world or just have great people with great opinions who I can turn to and say, “Hey, did you see such and such movie? Did you listen to this album? Like, what do you think? Like, Oh, you hated it too? Okay, great. Or you love that too? Okay, great. Like, I’m I’m not jumping out the window, right?” Somebody else’s opinion I really respect agrees with me. So now, if you know if 10 or 100 of you say, like, we’re mad about your opinion, like, well, you know, I triple checked my opinion. I asked my, my mentor, my favorite elder. You know, I mean, you know, for me at my age, I mean, you know, for me, at my age, it may not be even an elder. If I was still talking about hip hop music, I would. definitely have a millennial or even a Zoomer, an older Zoomer friend who was like, “hey, like, you know, what do you feel about this?” Because I don’t need I don’t need other Xers or Boomers to tell me how they feel. I’m sure the younger folks are like, “This is… this is wack, right?” Like, Yeah. OK, OK. But I mean, like, the courage extends in many directions. If you brick a certain project, the creator may read what you wrote and they may be huut about it. And that may have repercussions for you professionally that you may not get that interview if you know when it’s there, when they’re when their album comes out or whatever. You know, I actually just had this come full circle. I think it was… it was Black Sheep’s second album, and they were a big 90s rap group. Their first album was really hot. I didn’t like the second album. Nobody liked the second album. OK? But like you know, I was asked to review it, didn’t like it. It was not controversial because nobody liked it. But, you know, the lead rap or the rapper in the group read my review in Rolling Stone, took [inaudible]…Took issue with it. He berated me and I ran into him at a festival like five or six years later. He berated me publicly in front of a bunch of other people, and I was kind of like, Wow, look, this guy’s really bad. I don’t even remember. Like, what? He’s so mad about the review that I wrote, like, you know, it’s like one word thing, and he’s furious. And we had occasion to reconnect. About three weeks ago, he posted something on Instagram that seemed homophobic, and I kind of called him on it. I didn’t want to go hard in the paint at first because I knew that… that this was just bubbling beneath the surface with me. But I was like, “What? What, what? What’s going on with this dude?” And we try to start talking about it. And it’s been like 20 years since that review. And his first comment was a little salty in a second comment was basically, “You gave me that crappy review, you know, like, screw you” and that…And I was like, I knew this was coming. The conversation continued, and it actually ended up with us having a reconciliation and doing an interview. And, you know, like when you have like kind of like a fight or, you know, bad– not bad blood, but just like dislike with somebody for a long time and then you like, get past it and you connect and it and it felt really good to like, have a human connection with him after all this time. But it was definitely overlaid with you like, you know, you know, I can definitely think of one rapper who— I won’t say their name—, but I still today don’t think that I think very little, very, very little of this person’s ability. And I did them on Twitter and I was in a particular position and there people saw it. And as I was writing the thread dissing them, somebody from my… my team called me and was like, “Stop typing now.” And then it was like, “So you are not going to get an interview with that person or…” …everybody’s clicked up, right? So like “or the other people on there, click because their management team is mad at you, because you said [rambles].” And I’m like, “Wow, like you know” 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:18:54] Now, I want to know who this person is I’m thinking… 

Shana Pinnock [00:18:56] I’m like, “Shake the table. Tell us, who it was, Toure'”. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:18:58] Can I buy a vowel? 

Toure’ [00:19:00] Oh, slide off the table… I mean, like the way things are now. Like, you know, somebody can pull up something you wrote or said  10, 15 years ago and like, oh, “10 years ago, you said, you ain’t like me, so I’m not giving you an interview. “. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:19:15] That’s true. Yeah. 

Toure’ [00:19:16] So I mean, I definitely learned that criticism. It sort of, I mean I might as well say, since it’s theGrio is, you know, [00:19:27]like the grios in Africa, right? Like, they get buried separately because they have to be able to tell the stories, right? And like, if you’re going to be a critic, like you just got to live that life and just just roll on that lane. Because if you’re going to be a critic and then jump back into like writing a feature back and forth, eventually your criticism, you’re going to say negative things about somebody and they’re not going to like it, and then you’re going to start cutting off your professional opportunities. [29.9s] And that’s different than, you know, like  a Wesley Morris who does this great cultural criticism where he’s like, I’m going to talk about what’s going on in society in general, and I’m not here to say, you know, “this album is good. This album is bad movies good or bad,” but like I’m talking about like, you know, what’s going on in the world and I can… [00:20:21]I can summarize and bring together, you know, four or five different things down into one thesis. And I hope you understand the world in a more interesting way. [10.4s] I mean, like, that’s the greatest thing. Or one of the greatest things in nonfiction writing is when you can give the audience a great idea such that they can take it and like, go to a party — remember when we used to go to parties? And go to somebody and say, you know, either express it is their own idea or say, I read Toure’ or Gerren or whoever Jelani Cobb, whoever said, blah blah blah. And that helped me understand the Black experience or George Floyd or Dave Chappelle or whatever it may be. And… and you help them understand, and in the world and encapsulate their feelings about the world into, you know, like a neat paragraph or a couple of sentences. And… and when you can do that, that’s really powerful. And I think that makes the audience keep coming back to check for you. 

Shana Pinnock [00:21:27] Mm hmm. So, you know, in terms of cultural criticism, like it’s not just, you know…”Here we are critiquing, like, certain bodies of work in terms of music or film.” Sometimes it’s critiquing like our culture at large. You’ve managed to make a decent living as a cultural critic on that aspect as well. I mean, really, Toure’, you were really at the forefront of R. Kelly and that whole debacle. You know, being able to ask him like, like, “Do you have a thing? Are you having relationships with teenage girls” and the, you know, “What do you qualify as teenage” bit. Right? So I don’t know. I think for me, just as a as a person who was a teenager, I think at the time who watched that interview and noticing that there wasn’t really a large pushback back then versus now, how would you describe the value of a of a cultural critic and vote in cultural criticism, especially now? 

Toure’ [00:22:32] Well, OK. I mean, I think of cultural criticism as the person who is basically sitting in their apartment and writing about different strands of what’s going on in the world and sort of like coalescing it into one thing, you know? And, or, you know, here’s an album. Here’s a movie, whatever. Here’s a book. Talk about what it is and what it means and what it does. That is different, I think, than what happened with R. Kelly, that was journalism, right? Like I’m talking to, you know, a newsmaker or, you know, one on one about like, “What’s up with you? Like, you just got off trial. What’s going on with you?” And you know, it made news because I think he kind of gave away the game. I mean, there was no professional or institutional fallout, partly because he only aired that once. The day after it aired R. Kelly’s team called and said, “Don’t don’t run that again.” And I don’t know what their threat was, but BET immediately said, “Sure, OK, we won’t run it again. Sorry.” Which is insane. But I mean, I could barely walk down the street after that. I mean, you know, not that people were mobbing me, but like every block, somebody would go, “Yo, Your your face, your face and the R. Kelly [inaudible]!.” 

Shana Pinnock [00:24:16] We were all confused 

Toure’ [00:24:17] I meant, it would take me an hour to get down to blocks because there were just… Everybody saw it and was commenting on it. And we did not use the word “viral” then, but it was super viral. 

Shana Pinnock [00:24:30] Mm-Hmm. 

Toure’ [00:24:30] It was the beginning of a real pushback that would eventually end his career. But you know, as you see, like, to get somebody actually cancelled takes an extraordinary amount. You could still stream his music on Spotify and Tidal, right? His music would still pop up here and there in different situations. Right. We saw a statistic that his music streams of his music went up 500 percent after he was. So what has been cancelled mean? Like nothing. He was convicted because the justice system got their stuff together, and we don’t play that and we actually pulled together. Believe was 11 people who were like, No, we can testify for real against him. But you know, it’s it’s. It took a lot because the… he still makes a lot of money for the music business, so they weren’t going to do anything to push him off the stage. [64.4s]

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:25:44] Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. And speaking of cancel culture, you know, you basically said that it kind of doesn’t exist, but we hear it so much. Do you think cancel culture is being overly used oftentimes when celebrities are being critiqued? They immediately go, “They’re trying to cancel me.” How do we reconcile with what cancel culture is and how do we identify it? 

Toure’[00:26:07] Yeah, I mean, you know, it’s interesting. So a couple of examples come up and let me maybe we can go through that. I’m like, [00:26:14]I don’t know what cancel… what being cancelled means. And to me, if you’re cancelled, there must be something. There’s necessarily something final about it. It can’t be temporary or it’s not cancelled. It can’t be, you know, like it can’t. It has to be more than just, I’m angry with you.  [23.8s] Now, there’s been some discussion of, like “Dave Chappelle’s cancelled.” Dave Chappelle is the number three special on Netflix. There you can see all, all sorts of specials and his show on Netflix. You know, he just did a thing at the… at the Hollywood Bowl. In no imaginable way is he cancelled. Are some people very angry with him? Yes. I would move that. Almost no one who is a real Chappelle fan is angry about the clothes. They’re right. The people that went into the clothes are having already decided. I am angry with him because I feel like he’s transphobic and or homophobic, or I understand and I accept these are jokes and I’m riding with him. So nobody was actually moved, right? I think with… with a cancellation. People are changed. I think that you see, like extraordinary situations like Russell Simmons, who once was able to move around America freely, was a very famous person and had a tremendous amount of power. And then, like, you know, a ton of horrendous, tragic, horrific stories came out about him and he stepped away from all his businesses and moved to Asia. That’s cancelled. He’s… he cannot return to America. He cannot be a figure in America anymore. Now, in between there, I think about what’s his name. Terry is a Terry Crews. Yeah, Terry Crews. Um, I’ve been personally very offended by many things that he said. So, when I see him in a show or on a tick tock or whatever, I turn the channel, I’m not riding with him. I’m not down with him. I’m good with him. I don’t care for his tweets. I don’t care to watch him on TV. I’m good with him. So he’s… I’ve personally been like, “I’m shutting off from you.” There’s nothing… And I listen to him talk to Roland Martin after the last straw, like trying to like, understand and like, give you a chance. And like, Nah, bro. His explanation was terrible, you know, and it partly rested on “I’ve been cancelled many times.” Like now, he still has shows and I believe commercials. And, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would pop up in a movie. So, like, is he cancelled? No. But like, there are many people like me who are upset with him and don’t want to consume his work. And I think that’s anybody’s right. You know, overall, it would be good if we could get to a place where people are able to grow. Like Terry Crews is like, “This is how I feel. This is who I am.” So I’m and I’m like offended by that. If somebody makes like one wrong statement and we don’t give them a chance to like, “Hey, here’s some information, you know, on Black people or trans people or whatever, you know, like, do you know, do you accept the information? Do you want to, you know, like Da Baby is in a lot of trouble? And as far as I understand, he’s trying to be in dialog with some gay groups who are trying to give him some information. This is a guy from rural North Carolina, right? Like he may or may not give… The information, may or may not penetrate, I don’t know. I’m not in this head, you know. Do we want to give him a chance to receive the information and to develop more understanding and empathy? I mean, I know that [00:30:43]information is a really powerful way of getting people to understanding and empathy. [6.2s] I was at I personally was at a certain a certain given level in terms of my understanding of what it is to be trans. I don’t think I was transphobic, but I really did not understand much about what that meant as just as a human condition. And if you try to talk about trans children, I would have been like, “I really don’t understand anything about that.” And then a friend of mine who I’ve known since we were both 20, you know, let me know that one of her five kids was trans and I was like, “Oh, wow.” And we had a really long, amazing conversation where my friend explained to me, basically her son’s coming out to her and you know how, how… How he was fighting against wearing dresses before he could talk. And she was like, Why is this such a struggle? And when he finally was able to talk, he’s able to express like, “I’m like, Daddy.” And she’s like, “Yeah, Daddy is great.” “Like, no, no, no, no, no, you don’t understand.” And and also expressing suicidal ideation at like two or three. And I never forget her saying, like when your child starts talking about suicide, you figure it out really fast. And that was very educational for me in terms of understanding how young a human being may… can know what it is to be trans and what that…what that journey might be like for them and their family. And you know, it gave me a different understanding and a different level of empathy for that human experience. And you know, thankfully, I didn’t say something stupid about it before that. But like, you know, I would like to think that if I had, I could have had the chance to get some information and be educated and have folks go, “OK, like he’s he’s he’s done some work on himself and let’s move forward” and not just, you know, hold his feet. You know, just always say, like, “Oh, you’re… you’re a horrible person. You’re cancelled.”. 

Shana Pinnock: [00:34:34] So Toure’, I got a last final question for you. Before we let you go before we let you go, of course, we have to ask, “what do you think is next for the culture?” And I mean, quite frankly, what’s next for you? Like, you have a lot of things going on right now. Again, you’re a big deal Toure, so let us know. 

Toure’ [00:34:51] You’re so sweet, you’re so sweet. What’s next for the culture? I have no idea! I wish I knew I’d bet on it. I don’t know what’s next for the culture. You know, hopefully the culture will continue to surprise us because Black culture in particular has been very aggressive about moving forward and growing. You don’t really have that much in the way of Black oldies stations, the way that white people do, because we’re very forward looking as a culture. You know, the one thing that I will say is that, you know, I hope that I can continue to personally feel connected to it because music in particular is generally made for people who are 15 to 25. And the further away you get from that that age range, the harder it is to feel it, to really feel it. And you know, when I was 30 even or thirty five, I didn’t like something. I felt very comfortable to give it a brick. I’m in the culture like, “Screw you, you’re whack.” You know you get older, you’re like, “Maybe it’s me. Hey, man, you ears don’t understand.” I don’t want to be the one who’s like, You know, “Back in my day. You know, we rap the whole verse. None of this mumble. What is this mumble rap? Oh, this is horrible. oh my God, ah.” You know, “Back in my day we articulated our raps” like, who wants that? You know? I mean, there is something valuable to mumble rap. There is something valuable to “adlib rap.” There’s something valuable to a lot of the innovations that we see in millennial hip hop culture. And, you know, as things turn toward, you know, the Zoomers taking over, you know, musical culture, you know, like you got to like, prepare like you are a whole culture away, a whole generation away from the dominant music makers like, you know, you better make sure you can figure it out and not get left behind. And so, you know, just that would be my hope that I can…Every album that comes out that is like a big change, and I listen to you and I like it. I’m like, “OK, OK, good, I still get it. I still got it” Like, I still understand the culture.. Like, You know, I don’t want to be like, Oh, this is not music. Like, You know, my dad, you know, my parents grew up on like, you know, the Supremes and James Brown. I’m listening to Early hip hop, and they’re like, “This is not music. There’s no singing… what is this..where’s the melody where’s the, you know, the this…. Stevie Wonder– that’s music.” I mean, like, I love Stevie Wonder, too, but like, you know, I love this Run-D.M.C.. This is killing me right now. This is great. You know, they didn’t. They didn’t see they didn’t see it until Quincy Jones made an album full of rappers back on the block. And then they were like, “Oh, well, Quincy likes it. Then it must be good” Oh my god, you know, I don’t want to be that guy. So, you know, hopefully I can continue to enjoy, appreciate the stuff, you know? But it’s hard. It’s hard. It’s hard, though. The further away you get from that age group. But you know, I think that I love Black people and I love Black culture, and I hope that I can continue to, um, you know, like just love and appreciate it as we go forward. 

Shana Pinnock [00:38:26] Mm hmm. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:38:27] Well, Toure’, I mean, you’ve been a phenomenal host. I really appreciate your candor, your humor. I mean, obviously, your expertise in helping us find the nuances when it comes to cultural commentary. And for our listeners– to hear more from Toure’, visit his website at Toure dot com. His latest book, “Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness: What it Means to Be Black Now” And “I Would Die For You: Why Prince Became an Icon” are currently in stores. For more commentary on the culture, including from Toure’, Visit theGrio dot com, and that’s G-R-I-O.com. 

Shana Pinnock [00:39:03] And… And my other book about Prince– “Nothing compares 2 U,” that just came out. 

Shana Pinnock [00:39:07] Oh, another Prince book! 

Shana Pinnock [00:39:09] See. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:39:09] Oh, excuse me. 

Shana Pinnock [00:39:10] “big deal.” What [did] I say? 

Shana Pinnock [00:39:13] Thank you Toure’. 

Toure’ [00:39:13] Thank you guys. Nice to see you. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:39:16] Good seeing you, too. 

Toure’ [00:39:17] I’ll see you soon. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:39:19] Indeed, indeed. 

Shana Pinnock [00:25:24]  [00:25:41]We want to remind our listeners to support your local black businesses and donate to your local organizations and religious institutions. The business that we will highlight this week is BLK and GRN (Black and Green). BLK and GRN is an all natural, nontoxic online marketplace with a mission to connect Black women to the tools, resources, knowledge and products they need to lead happier and healthier lives. Founder and doctor of Public Health Krisitian Green believes that a life free of toxins and all things artificial is a life worth cultivating. Black and Green works to disrupt the personal care products market, to support Black women in minimizing exposure to toxic chemicals in personal care. To learn more about BLK and GRN visit their website WWW Dot B L K G R N dot com. theGrio has published a list of 50 plus black businesses to support during the coronavirus pandemic. If you like your business to be featured, email us at Info at theGrio dot com. That’s G R I O dot com. 

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:49:51] Thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast and share it with everyone you know. 
Shana Pinnock [00:50:00] And please, email all questions, suggestions and compliments (We love those!) to podcasts at theGrio dot com. The Dear Culture Podcast is brought to you by theGrio and executive produced by Blue Telusma and co-produced by Taji Senior Sydney Henriques-Payne and Abdul Quddas.