“Screwed: A Politically Charged Party Anthem” by Vanessa Maki

System Log

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The word “screwed” is commonly used as a sexual term, or to describe a difficult situation. Think of the amount of times you’ve heard the term used interchangeably. With the fifth track on “Dirty Computer” Janelle and Zoe utilize both meanings.

In the world we live in there’s always been a looming of disgust towards sexual expression. Not to mention sexual freedom (especially when it pertains to marginalized bodies). And the government doesn’t make it all that easy either. Nor does Trump being in office. People like him want to set the world back and make people scared that it’ll go that way. They want us to feel “screwed”.

With the lines:

“And I, I, I hear the sirens calling

And the bombs are falling in the streets

We’re all screwed”

it’s referencing Trump’s prior tweeting about going to war with North Korea. And it presents us with the other meaning of screwed.

“You fucked the world up now, we’ll fuck it all back down”

A tour bus incident is what birthed this line but Janelle also went onto to say this:

“It also is a conversation to be had about how women, how women of color in particular are out on the front lines. When you think about certain wars … when you think about the war between south and the north when we were fighting to end slavery. It was black folks and it was women in particular on the front lines, we were the first people out there. And i think that continues to happen, you continue to see us … clean up a lot of shit.”

This song is supposed to make you bop and dance but also think about the state of the world. What’s happening, what continues to happen and what should no longer be happening. Being screwed by the world doesn’t feel good and it never has. Though another question comes to mind and it’s – what do you want to do about it?  Janelle’s ability to make you deep think is an absolute gift. She’s a true artist and “Dirty Computer” is a true masterpiece.

The outro is Janelle calling out so many aspects of society that make various people feel screwed. Expressing your valid anger as a black woman is more often frowned upon. Though Janelle is explicitly unapologetic about addressing  Free the Nipple, equal pay, corruption, beauty standards, Trump’s scam of an election, protesting and last but not least– black men who claim to be apart of black empowerment but keep spewing harmful rhetoric.

Vanessa Maki is a queer writer,artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologizes for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other spaces as well.  Follow her twitter & visit her site

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“Young, Black, Wild & Free is the Dream” by Vanessa Maki

System Log

 

Unlike a lot of black artists, Janelle has no problem being unapologetic about her blackness. She doesn’t dismiss her experiences as a black woman or make light of them. Nor does she water down the reality of what life is like for her. That’s one thing that often gets left out of the conversation in terms of Dirty Computer. Mainly that happens when non black critics of color and white critics mention the album: that Janelle is being vocal about her struggles as not only being queer but being black too. Since her identity is intersectional – it makes life that much harder.

The intro of “Crazy, Classic, Life” is very important for the song itself. It’s an interpolation and excerpt of “The Declaration of Independence.” Following that is one of the boldest lines in the song – “Young, Black, Wild and Free,” then “Naked in a Limousine,” which highlights nakedness as freedom. The idea of actual freedom is lost, especially for those of us who are black. The world consistently reminds me that I’m not really free. It dangles that idea and the idea that we live in free countries (US + Canada).

In Verse 2,  Janelle highlights her lack of desire for marriage. She just wants to live her life without being held back and told by the world that she can’t be herself. To live in this world means a lot of compromising of self, and this world becomes more and more dangerous for black bodies.  The world in Dirty Computer’s short film, while fictional, is a depiction of the world. And how it treats “dirty computers.” We’re only “free” if we conform and suppress what makes us “dirty.” Unapologetic blackness is seen as wrong.

Yet here Janelle is, here a lot of us are, not suppressing our blackness. Not silencing ourselves. Even if we may not be completely free.

 

 

 

 

Vanessa Maki is a queer writer,artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologizes for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other spaces as well. Follow her twitter & visit her site.

“The Bugs Are Apparently in Me” by Vanessa Maki

System Log

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The definition of a “dirty computer” is very much similar to what Janelle’s description happens to be. Everyone can come up with their own definition, of course. Regardless, in the eyes of ignorance and hate, I’m a dirty computer.

There’s a sense of internalized shame in being seen as someone who has corrupted files in a sense. It’s even more prominent in those of us who have grown up in religious spaces. Such as Janelle I’ve been surrounded by religious people all my life. That’s something that’s brought on a lot of resentment towards the universe. The “why couldn’t I have been born in a life where I can be myself fully?” passes through my mind too often. This has fractured how I look at religion quite frankly.

“Searching for someone to fix my drive
Text message God up in the sky
Oh, if you love me, won’t you please reply?
Oh, can’t you see that it’s only me?”

This part of the song explores Janelle’s confusion about her own religious standings. She’s a black queer woman that grew up in the Baptist faith. She also said in this interview:

“A lot of this album is a reaction to the sting of what it means to hear people in my family say, ‘All gay people are going to hell.‘ ”

Verse 3 is so very important for the album itself. It’s pointing a huge finger at the idea that queer folk who may believe (this term takes on different meanings)  in the Christian God , are no longer loved. That their queerness in itself makes them unloved and doomed. For me verse 3 causes me to get introspective (this album does in general) and it makes me think of my own personal experiences. How this album would have been even more powerful during my teen years. How it would have changed how I saw myself.

Being black or any other person of color also comes into play and dances hard with the shame of being queer. The world hates you double time. It slaps the label “dirty computer” before it even realizes you’re queer. Then once it does you get the same label again. While I’m hated for more than one reason, I wouldn’t want to get someone to fix my drive.

 

 

 

 

Vanessa Maki is a queer writer, artist & other things. She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologies for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Entropy & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz journal, interview editor for Tiny Flames Press, & regular contributor for Vessel Press. She enjoys self publishing chapbooks. Her experimental chapbook social media isn’t what’s killed me will be released by Vessel Press in 2019. Follow her twitter & visit her site.

 

“Dirty Computer is More than an Album” by Vanessa Maki

System Log

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“I’m a gift and a curse to the wilderness when the leaves only turn to brown”

“So Afraid” Janelle Monae

Brave. That’s one word that describes the masterpiece that is Dirty Computer and Janelle Monae herself. I could go on about each track, how it’s obvious how much effort went into it, but that’s not the focus right now. The focus happens to be how Dirty Computer serves so many purposes. One of those purposes, for me at least, is minor healing. What I mean by “minor healing” is that it has cleared cobwebs and it’s an album to feel safe in my identity.

One could say that an album can’t possibly be there for you or provide a sense of security. That happens to be entirely untrue. This album washes over you like a humongous wave, especially if you’re a black queer person. You suddenly get invited into this vulnerable space and you can relax and feel safe for awhile. There’s this sense of vulnerability that makes you want to be vulnerable too. There’s a powerful energy which encourages a form of healing. 

People see healing as linear, they see healing only happening if you do this or that. Truth is: healing almost never works that way, and usually healing and coming to full terms with your identity can take many years.

Now am I saying that an album can completely heal you, make you comfortable forever and scratch trauma away like nothing? No. I am saying that healing can come in different forms and intensity. Dirty Computer provided and still does provide me with a temporary space to exist. To patch up the small wounds I never imagined could heal. That within itself is powerful, no matter the extent in which I have healed.

 

 

Vanessa Maki is a writer (& other things), queer & full of black girl magic. She has work in various places like Entropy, Rising Phoenix Press, Sad Girl Review, Soft Cartel among others & is forthcoming in Pussy Magic Press among others. She’s founder/EIC of yell/shout/scream & rose quartz journal. She has also self published a chapbook & micro chap. Follow her twitter & visit her site.