Category Archives: Lagniappe

“The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore

Kendrick Lamar's message in "The Blacker The Berry" continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray's death.

Kendrick Lamar’s message in “The Blacker The Berry” continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray’s death.

The defining pop culture statement about Baltimore’s reaction to Freddie Gray’s April 19 death in police custody – in a year that will be defined by such repeated and senseless acts of institutional racism – came almost two months before this heinous tour made “Charm City” its latest stop.

Kendrick Lamar’s single “The Blacker The Berry” presented a narrator awake to how little those in power cared about his life as a black man, and the frustration and anger inherent in such a realization. The narrator of “The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore are marching hand in hand this week, it occurred to me as I watched and read reports of peaceful protests and riots occurring in the wake of the 25-year-old Gray’s death.

Baltimore, a once great American industrial city decimated by corporate outsourcing and the phony War On Drugs, now stands at attention, eyes open to the long festering injustice at its doorstep.

Below is an examination of Baltimore’s upheaval and unrest viewed through the prism of “The Blacker The Berry”. It’s worth noting that while Lamar’s narrator refers to himself as a hypocrite throughout the song I view this as a storytelling device the artist employs to provoke thought about the senselessness of black-on-black crime in the face of such an oppressive, corrupt and hateful society. This descriptor by no means disqualifies the narrator’s point of view.

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My R-Rated Takeaways From Nobel Economist Stiglitz’s TPP Speech

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will fuck us. It will fuck our 11 nation partners. It will fuck their residents and small businesses, their environments and their healthcare systems. It will leave us all fucked. And for what reason? The bottom line of multinational corporations. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

That was my abbreviated, R-rated takeaway from Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s speech Wednesday night at P.S. 69 elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens on the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 73-year-old Columbia professor and Clinton administration veteran, of course, did not resort to vulgarities while questioning the Obama administration for supporting the “trade agreement” which could have devastating impacts for all countries involved. The plan being drafted in secret by the Asian-Pacific partner nations and 600-plus corporate lobbyists is its own obscenity, a potential stain on the global market that will not be easily removed, the economist warned.

“When you have issues of secrecy … ” Stiglitz said to the hundreds gathered inside the auditorium, “the natural question is why. What are they trying to hide?”

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Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside

A heat wave is coming!

A heat wave is coming!

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 51 titled “Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside” is fairly self-explanatory. :)

New York City is in the midst of a heat wave. AccuWeather predicts temps in the city will hit 12 degrees when the clock strikes noon. That may sound dreadful, and believe me it is, but it marks a 10-degree upswing since overnight. So yeah, NYC heat wave 2015!

Here’s a list off the top of my head of things I would rather do than go outside:

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Bobby Jindal, Still Not Presidential Material

I swear I will not embarrass the great state of Louisiana on a national stage.

I swear I will not embarrass the great state of Louisiana on a national stage.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ruffled feathers abroad and at home last month with his anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposed higher education cuts. Turns out all those ruffled feathers did little to nothing to rouse voters. It appears the 43-year-old Republican might be closing tent on his 2016 presidential aspirations before the big circus begins. Color me shocked.

Jindal is a man who, first and foremost, believes his own bullshit. On No-Go Zones, the need for more cuts and less taxes, you name it. Bobby Jindal believes Bobby Jindal is the man the Bible God has ordained to lead our troubled nation. The problem: his two “part-time” tours of gubernatorial duty have equated to one large dumpster fire.

Why should Jindal stay on the sidelines of the 2016 presidential race? Glad you asked. Here is my Storify document counting the ways.

Stepping Out Of The Dark: A Seattleite’s Comedy Debut

The path to comedy stardom?

Here at Cajun Tomato world headquarters in east Harlem I welcome guest submissions. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my friend Matt Wastradowski‘s recap of his stand-up comedy debut. Enjoy!

The bitter taste of a warm IPA lingers as I absentmindedly tap my foot under a small table in the darkened club. Tonight’s open-mic host steps to the stage, thanks the previous comic, and calls the final performer of the night: “Matt W.”

I take a deep breath, step onto the carpeted stage, and turn to the audience, ready to make my stand-up comedy debut. But whatever nerves I wrestled with in the previous two hours have been pushed aside for a startling realization: I can’t see the crowd.

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Broussard Comes Out As Openly Dumb Following Collins’ Gay Announcement

Jason Collins via

Jason Collins’ cover story in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated not only announced him as the first openly gay male athlete in major American sport. It also offered a profile in courage and a master class in how to conduct one’s self with grace and dignity.

Collins’ NBA peers responded to news of the journeyman center’s decision to reveal his sexual orientation with praise and support. They should be applauded for this, especially considering only nine states in America have legalized same-sex marriage.

Not everyone welcomed the news though.

During an appearance on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines”, the network’s senior NBA reporter Chris Broussard likened being openly homosexual to “walking in open rebellion to God” – a belief many fundamental Christians share.

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Death Grips Preview Apocalyptic Soundtrack During Frenzied Portland Set

MC Ride via Prefix

Ed. Note: Cajun Tomato correspondent Scott Hesedahl recently attended Death Grips’ Portland show. Though the band’s abrasive sonics are certainly not for everyone he loved their show’s intensity.

As I waited Saturday night in a downpour for the Star Theatre’s doors to open, a stranger approached to inform me he planned on pissing through the fence the line had formed against.

I attempted telling him there were better spots to urinate in the belly of Chinatown.

“Fuck it,” he replied. “It’s the Death Grips, man.”

Yes, Death Grips, the Cali death-hop act that surprisingly signed to a major label only to be dropped by that major label (Epic) after leaking their album for free without notifying the label.

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Guest Blog: What I Learned Volunteering In Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath

Today my journalist friend Brett Schweinberg shares his experience volunteering in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath on Staten Island. It’s been a month since Sandy hit. Many people in the area Brett visited remain in need. Learn how you can help here.

I journeyed to Staten Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy feeling uneasy about my reasons for the trip. The plan called for two neighbors and I to drive from Chicago on Friday night after work, volunteer on Saturday and Sunday, and drive through the night Sunday to get home in time for work on Monday.

On the 13-hour car ride in, my travel companions and I wondered aloud whether the money we were spending on gas and lodging would be better spent through any of the dozens of organizations collecting for the relief effort. I feared a shameful sort of voyeurism drove my desire to volunteer as much as a true desire to help.
Between the thrill of participating in a relief mission, the fun associated with driving halfway across the country and the incessant praise I received from friends and family, I worried I might be gaining too much from what was supposedly a selfless act.

What I found once I arrived in Staten Island erased my doubts.

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ASAP Rocky’s Roseland Theater Set Hints At Bright Future

ASAP via New York Times

Cajun Tomato hip-hop correspondent Scott Hesedahl makes his debut with this dispatch about Harlem rapper ASAP Rocky’s Roseland Theater tour stop, which also included indie rap faves Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q.

PORTLAND, Ore. – I am now 0-for-2 in my quest to see Detroit MC Danny Brown perform – despite having tickets to both shows – though I assure you it had nothing to do with me “smoking blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt.”

There were, however, many blunts blazed during the sold-out ASAP Rocky/Schoolboy Q/Danny Brown show Monday night at Roseland Theater, during which I realized my assertion the kids these days are getting soft may not always hold water. More on that later.

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Alabama Shakes Wow Subterranean Crowd In Chicago

NOTE: The Cajun Tomato is invading the Midwest today, in the form of an Alabama Shakes concert review from correspondent Brett Schweinberg.

Twice during the Alabama Shakes’ show earlier this month at Chicago’s Subterranean I covered my ears. It had nothing to do with Brittany Howard’s wailing vocals or the sound emitting from the quartet’s instruments. Both times I shielded my ears the crowd of around 375 overwhelmed the P.A. system with their cheers.

The Athens, Alabama, southern rock revivalists were scheduled to play Lollapalooza before a thunderstorm wiped out their set. They will return to the Windy City to play the 2,500-seat Riviera in December.

The band’s Sept. 11 set at Subterranean required patience – people lined up as early as noon – and a willingness to skirt work responsibilities. But it was worth it.

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