20 September 2017

SUWU AND PIMPING OUT DISADVANTAGE


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why untitled/unmarked? google street view
DISCLAIMER
I almost never talk in normal prose on this blog, because I see no reason to indulge passive reading or people who can’t read past language. This time though, since this isn’t actually my own opinion, instead an actual attack on me because of the blog, I’m going to write to you in ‘proper’ English.

Suwu is a restaurant that’s on the same street as me, basically. I live on Prince Arthur/Laval. They’re on St-Laurent one door south of prince Arthur. So, I might consider Suwu a place in my neighborhood. They advertise themselves as such on twitter. Neighborhood is an interesting term to use for a bar with the name of a blood call. The restaurant itself has no distinguishing markers outside. It’s an all black storefront in the new post-post-color world. Blaring from their expensive speakers is, often, a song off To Pimp a Butterfly. That’s a favorite of all bars who call themselves hiphop. More specifically, I’ll guess the song is King Kunta, a record enjoyed by various colors from rich-merc-driving-botox women to the Canadian hockey team.

Let’s then think about what this song is about.

A slave in Alex Haley’s Roots, Kunta Kinte was whipped into conceding that his name is Toby and not Kunta. Then he had his foot cut off because he tried to escape the plantation. Let’s further assume that all this is reasonable of a slave narrative. You can’t expect a plantation owner to do anything different. Dark bodies were commodities white people profited off of. (As an aside, a predominantly white person who tries to say they have a mixed ancestor needs to renounce their citizenhood and think for a second whether or not it’s ok that they can choose to side with the side of their “heritage” that was disadvantaged. Think about whether or not you can exist in this world as you are if you were fully this side of heritage.) Kendrick Lamar aligns himself as a modern day Kunta Kinte who tries to evade the record industry qua plantation, but succeeds and creates an acclaimed piece of black music. Kinte inverts into a regal epithet of “King.” The slave narrative is still present, but the heritage is taken as a point of pride to taunt the dominant culture that does not quite allow it. Move back a level and think of how the record executives think of this. White man is probably not too happy that a black man is talking about how he’s black and disadvantaged in an empowering way.

Now, let’s think about what a white person profiting off of playing this song is doing. They pay the recording industry that actively stops black people from making this sort of music unless they have a gangster appeal and can sell to the white demographic. An exception, Kendrick Lamar happens to transcend this divide. Or is it an exception. Maybe the gangster appeal is a sort of aspiration this demographic tries to reflect in themselves. Yet, bottom line, the person playing this music at their establishment plays a hot record to please their crowd. This, for now, we’ll say is fine. Kendrick Lamar, for all his Blood ties and Compton roots, does transcend the gangster rap paradigm.

Now let’s think about someone who went to high school with Kendrick Lamar, influenced Kendrick Lamar, is also indebted to G-Funk, sells quite well himself, is a sort of a legend in his own right. This would be “The Game.” This fall, Game released two heavily Blood-influenced and massively popular albums, The Documentary 2 and The Documentary 2.5. Notably, on 2.5, there is a song, which people would call a banger, featuring two very popular rappers, Ty Dolla Sign and YG, both Bloods. At the beginning of each interior verse, suwu/suwoo/soowoo is sung three times as an overlapping texture. I guess, we’ll attribute this to each rappers asserting their affiliation. Now, let’s look further at the lyrics.

You ain’t never been dropped off in the jungles
Teared Khakis, red bandana wrapped around your knuckles

Game raps that the people listening to this song pretending to be gangsters have never been thrown into “the jungles.” Both connoting the animalistic aggression of gang-infested Compton, jungle also hints at the foliage characteristic of southern California. “Jungle” is far from a term uniquely found in the Game’s lexicon. Rather, this is a term widely used from Drake about a Toronto neighborhood named Lawrence Heights to Cam’ron about Harlem. Also notable, this jungle fever qua aesthetic is widely used as a potentially endearing term relaying white people’s attraction for black people, or tendency for ‘black’ behavior. Trace it back further, we get to white supremacy grand-father / literary icon / most white people’s first childhood exposure to Africa, Rudyard, “White Man’s Burden” and a Nobel, Kipling’s Jungle Book. We don’t really need to think too hard about the Jungle Book, but let’s think a bit about a bar that has a jungle aesthetic full of fake plants and hip hop music.

As a quick gloss, “Red Bandana” refers to a characteristic blood banner that gang-members carry to identify. Say, the physical double for the shout, suwu/suwoo/soowoo.

For simple paraphrasis, in this couplet, Game tells his listeners that they’ve never been to the projects or had to wear blood symbols to protect themselves. Again on the topic of exploited blacks, the record industry may sell this, and it is at the discretion of who ever chooses to profit off of this, but Game explicitly warns people against using jungle themes or blood aesthetics. Let’s consider for a second, individually, what the implications of a bar with a blood call name and a jungle décor represents.

On to the next lyric.

Flag on the left side claiming you a Blood
Blue rag on the right side calling niggas cuz
Bout to get your mark ass chalked out on the West

To define a few terms, “flag” and “rag” are the same as the above defined “bandana.” So to quickly get a meaning of these lines, when a blood member meets a crip, “blue,” member, and uses “cuz,” the blood version of “bro,” the crip will be killed, and “chalked out” by police.

We’ll say that this only occurs in gang hot beds in America and certainly not in Montreal, where the history of redlining, of blood-crip violence is very inconsequential, save of course, for the proliferation of gangster music that traces back in almost everycase to the blood-crip binary. Now that gangster rap is a popular mainstream genre, people may make money by playing it at a bar, for example, or using gang aesthetic for their establishments’, say, “vibe.”

So, back to suwu/suwoo/soowoo. As a blood call, an aural text that has no fixed transcription, any spelling is a derivative of the sound. Yet, as there seems to be more hits on google with suwoo, this seems to be the preferred form. Yet, again, Lil’ Wayne, another name that dominates rap bars’ playlists, titles his song “Soowoo.” As for “suwu,” we might imagine this to be the simplest way of spelling it, but also with a chink (or generally east asian) tinged look. Now say, a restaurant were to offer Tsingtao and some sort of Asian food, like say Korean bbq or used the chink 海鲜 (hoisin) sauce, or maybe had a drink named “wu-tang,” someone may be inclined to think, to think, that there is a strange fetishization of non-white culture. Su Wu, a han dynasty chink diplomat, happens to also be a chink idol for patriotism and resilience. Add in the fact that Su Wu was aided by the xiongnu, ancestors of this text editor, and maybe there exists a personal insult to be explored. But again, one may simply be inclined “to think.” Or inclined to write, or inclined to exercise language.

Now if one were to look at a certain menu and find drinks such as “lil’ cease” or “apple bottom” or “big bootie hoe” (perhaps most egregious), one could again be inclined to think that an appropriation of ebonics is happening. “lil’ cease,” apostrophe and all, appears to be a way to say Caesar, not quite a standard west island, white Anglophone way of talking. Again, “apple bottom” seems to refer to tribe called quest’s “bonita applebum” or flo rida’s “get low.” Both songs appear to objectify a woman’s ass. Now, “big bootie hoe” may provide us the most intriguing use of non-standard white language. Maybe this is speaking of gardening tools, or this could be a white male with jungle fever lusting after a black woman’s stereotyped big ass. Hmmm. Ok.

Now in this hypothetical bar, if one were to look, one would find an owner, white, taking pictures with dreadlocks. If one were to look at a hypothetical bar’s owner that is.

So, for all the uncanny references in these past 1000 or so words, I did comment on suwu’s facebook event about their use of gang terms. This was promptly deleted and I received an invitation to talk. Now, let’s look at these messages with the owner Zach Macklovitch.



So, suwu is apparently short for Saintwoods. Interesting. It seems that something along the lines of Saiwoo would be more “short for saintwoods.” Maybe Zach enjoys assonance. Or, maybe this man, as he admits “I mean I am aware of the blood reference but it’s not a racial term,” just appreciates the euphony that gangs use in their language. Also, I’m not sure if anyone can deny that gangs are not a direct product of white racism and oppression. Seems interesting then that someone can accept that their restaurant/ “neighborhood” bar (my bold (myblod?)) uses a term that incites violence.



Then zach says that these gangs don’t exist in montreal. Sure, but the music exists, and his hip hop bar would not exist in montreal without gangs either. That I am the only person to comment on this in 3 years seems even more interesting. Maybe there is a larger complicity for white kids or whoever that listens to gangster rap without understanding the music. Maybe I am privileged because I appreciate the music enough to try and understand why it was formed instead of using euphony to sell drinks named “big bootie hoe” to white kids entering a bar named after what is essentially a death knell to young black men.


 

“I’ve never exploited rap…I’m a major promoter of independent and up and coming rappers and none of them have ever said anything”

Maybe the racial binary where whites hold power in business negotiations doesn’t exist. Maybe record labels who will tell someone to change their music, major promoters of up and coming rappers, and helpers of independent rappers, have also never exploited rap. Maybe I should open a restaurant that serves jewish food named heil hitler.




Now zach criticizes my blog, which I guess is fair because I criticized his business. Yet, I don’t think my criticism of him making money off of selling a brand named after a blood cry and playing hip hop music is quite the same as me writing a blog about my experiences and thoughts as a chink trying to recreate a chink identity. 


SUWU as a title objectifies black men as thugs and gangsters. Their beloved drink, the "big bootie hoe," objectifies black women as sex objects. Their owner, in doing this, provides an exceptional service to whites with jungle fever and a love of ignorance. Anyone I personally know in Montreal reading this goes to university. If you attend higher education and don’t value the importance of language, maybe you should try to think about what meaning is left in your life without language. If you love having fun at SUWU, maybe you should think about how much fun you had as a kid saying “retard” or “fag.” But now these words get full on attention campaigns, as they should. Yet you love saying stupid shit from “thug” to “big bootie hoe” to “suwu.”

Maybe it’s because these words don’t affect you as white people. Maybe it’s because you as white people feel guilty that you are complicit in creating the gang violence. Maybe you think that living in Montreal provides a safe buffer from American gang violence. What if the bar was named hell’s angels? What if it was named after a white person slang or slur? What if it didn't make you feel “black” or hipster to go? What if you were implicated in the creation of racism? But you also incessantly talk about the American election as if you had a stake in it. And gang violence and racism is just another thing you sweep under the rug and don’t try to understand. Keep at this and we’ll all see the decay of language and decay of meaning. We’ll all be white kids with dreadlocks and gang tattoos throwing up suwu signs like it's cool.

Maybe I’m defensive and took this as a personal threat. Maybe a white man is upset at me because I pointed out a questionable thing in his business. Maybe I’m playing the victim. Maybe he’s a victim of himself. Maybe suwu is ok to say. Maybe a place that gives people happy times is good. Maybe white people making money off of racially insensitive material is ok. Maybe borat is a great representation of Kazakhstan. Maybe suwu is a satire as well. Maybe satire like borat is tasteful. Maybe suwu is tasteful. Maybe I’m just wrong and just another chink that doesn’t know my place in the world and needs to be told. Maybe a white man is allowed to make money off of a blood call. Maybe insensitivity is great. Maybe I’m just too sensitive.