A few years ago someone told me I was a Blerd. I had no idea what they were talking about. But (as I was then told) I’m black, I like SFF, and I talk about it a whole lot. So that makes me a Blerd. Okay. Fine. Whatevs. I didn’t really expect the term to catch on. I mean c’mon. Black + Nerd? Shows how much I know. Today Blerds are everywhere. There are Blerd sites, Blerd podcasts, Blerd blogs, Blerd meetups–you name it. Blerd has become a community. Blerd can maybe even be called a movement. Blerds are also remarkably diverse. And it turns out using one story to define them, may limit the full breadth of who or what they (we) can be.
Unlikely Mix: Rappers, Dragons and Fantasy. So read an article this past March in the Wall Street Journal. The story was on a new campaign strategy by HBO to reach out to a more “urban” demographic, by putting out a Hip Hop and reggaeton album craftily named “Catch the Throne” (see what they did there?). I like Hip Hop. I like dragons and fantasy. But something about this entire affair and the way it was promoted had me feeling “some kinda way.” Cue the Rains of Castamere.
*parts of this write-up were recycled from an earlier posted 2012 blog. opening art: emcees MF Doom and Bishop Nehru
“Tony Starks is Ironman!” Exact words of a friend who back in 2008 made the connection that Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, alternatively known as Tony Starks (with an s) was linked to the comic book icon, Iron Man–also known as Tony Stark (no s). Wu had just won over an otherwise oblivious new fan for Marvel.
“It’s imagination. To imagine means to image. And once you make an image, you can make flesh. It’s power upon power. And it’s real. That power, that force–if you let it, it can move mountains.”–Rza, The Wu-Tang Manual
Earlier this week, Rza dropped the first trailer for his directorial debut martial arts flick–The Man with the Iron Fists. Set in a fictional 19th century China, it stars some premium actors, among them Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and the incomparable Pam Grier. Rza, better known as the mentalist leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, and for digging in the crates to mash-up an orchestration of dissimilar sounds to lay classic Hip Hop tracks and score such films as Ghost Samuraiand Kill Bill I & II, co-wrote the film and plays a starring role–as a martial arts blacksmith alongside a razor-fan slicing, gun-toting, golden-skin morphing cast of characters. For anyone even remotely familiar with Wu-Tang, and the mind of Bobby Digital especially, none of this should come as a surprise.
You know what’s great about posting videos to your blog? Very little writing. Following my previous piece deriding uninformed claims that Hip Hop and speculative fiction are somehow averse to each other, I thought it might be good to post some examples showing the best blending of my two favorite artistic expressions–especially those that pull from classic speculative fiction tropes. In this mash up, one of the most phenomenal duos to ever grace the mic and turntables, Gang Starr, meets pre-Star Wars icon George Lucas’s first major film, THX 1138.
I first saw the work of artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s still there. You walk in, and on the left wall is an immense mural of a figure that looks somewhat like Tony Starks (Ghostface, not Downey Jr.), on horseback crossing the alps–a reworking of Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil-painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St Bernard Pass.