#Review: ON THE COME UP, by Angie Thomas

I shouldn’t write this tonight. I am tired, y’all; there was no school on Monday because of Presidents’ Day and this week has still been at least six years long. I don’t even have to go to work on Friday because I have a training all day and I still don’t know how the hell I’m going to make it through the rest of the week. It’s just been bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit, and that’s just been within the walls of my building. It’s not like there hasn’t been substantial bullshit going on in the real world, too. There’s been plenty. I am as tired of white men and our bullshit as I have ever been in my life and the notion that I am almost by definition guaranteed to be less tired of white men than damn near every person of color and damn near every woman on earth is practically incomprehensible. I don’t know how any of y’all make it through a day without killing any of us. I really don’t.

You may remember that I liked Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give quite a lot. In fact, it was my second favorite book of the year. I ordered her follow-up novel On the Come Up a few weeks before it released and was up far too late last night because I couldn’t put it down. (Note: “follow-up” is a decent way to describe the book, which alludes to the events of THUG and is set a year later and in the same neighborhood, but does not share any major characters. There are a couple of shop owners and neighborhood figures and the like who I think appear in both, but I’d need to reread THUG to be sure.)

On the Come Up is not as important a book as THUG, but I think I might have liked it more anyway. Bri, the main character, is a neophyte rapper and the daughter of a local hiphop legend who was shot and killed when she was very young. Hiphop was a big part of THUG, but this book is utterly drenched in it, and honestly I’d love to hear some of the raps she performs in this book actually recorded. My understanding is that Angie Thomas at least dabbled in rap herself, and I can absolutely hear this kid performing the lyrics she writes throughout the book. Let’s be real here; given my previous experience with this author and the subject matter, there was no chance I was going to dislike this book. The only question was how much I was going to love it. Will it end up at #2 on my year-end list? Perhaps not, because, again, this book doesn’t feel as important as THUG— which is less a criticism of Come Up and more of a statement that if you haven’t goddamned read THUG yet you should get off your ass and do it.

I look back over this and realize I haven’t really discussed the plot of the damn book at all; chalk that up to being tired. In lieu of me rewriting it, let me just post the blurb from the back of the book, which is a perfectly fair description:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. 

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.  

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

Give it a read, y’all. Angie Thomas is a goddamn national treasure; you should be appreciating her while we’ve got her.

In which I’m writing about Weezer for some reason

I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

I’m not a fan of Weezer. I’m not not a fan, if that makes any sense; there are probably a dozen Weezer songs that I have at least partially memorized and might sing along with given the opportunity, but if you asked me right now to name even one Weezer song I wouldn’t be able to do it. If a song was playing and you asked me “Is this a Weezer song?” I could probably tell you yes or no, but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on any one song. They’ve been around a long time and I don’t dislike them, they’re just not my people musically, for whatever that’s worth.

You may have heard about the Teal album. The Teal album is utterly unique in that I can review it merely by listing the tracks on it:

  1. Africa
  2. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  3. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
  4. Take on Me
  5. Happy Together
  6. Paranoid
  7. Mr. Blue Sky
  8. No Scrubs
  9. Billie Jean
  10. Stand by Me

And right away, boom, you know if you’re going to like the Teal album. (Weezer apparently has named most of their albums Weezer, and then distinguishes them by the color of the cover? Also a thing I didn’t know, so I don’t know if I should be italicizing Teal when it shows up or not. Weird-ass band.) And, more importantly, based on whether you’re wondering why the hell they bothered or you’re right now opening iTunes so you can download this, I know within about five or six years how old you are, because it’s a good damn bet you’re in the decade around being born in 1976 somewhere.

There is not a single song on here that I have ever decided to deliberately listen to, except maybe for No Scrubs, and in that case it’s been a very long time. And yet I literally purchased and downloaded this album within ten seconds of knowing it existed. Ask my wife; she was standing right next to me when it happened. And I’m listening to it right now, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it, and I don’t understand what has happened that those things are true. I mean, don’t get me wrong, these are all good songs, but … why? Why? This album is simultaneously the whitest thing that has ever happened and utterly delightful, and those should not both be true, and I’m very very confused right now.

It is a crime that Never Gonna Give You Up is not on here, by the way.

And here’s what is probably the weirdest part: I feel like it’s weird that the Teal album is my only Weezer album in my music collection, which is over 1100 albums strong (and, for the record, very close to 100% legitimately purchased) and now I feel like I need to spend some more money and buy at least one Weezer album where they’re playing their own music. Am I going to listen to it? I dunno, maybe not. I mean, the next thing I did after buying the Teal album yesterday was buy TLC’s Fanmail, because I didn’t like the idea that Weezer’s version was the only version of No Scrubs I had. So it’s not like this isn’t without precedent, y’know? What album would I buy? Am I just picking my favorite color or looking for a Greatest Hits or their debut (my usual move with a band I don’t own any music from) or …

Yeah. When I complain about not having enough money, remind me of shit like this, will you?

EDIT: Upon checking iTunes again, I note that Weezer has released a collection, called Blue/Green/Red, that is in fact just those three albums, for $13.99. So now I own four Weezer albums. (Also: Oh! These are the Buddy Holly guys! Of course they are.) They also apparently have released an album called Hurley, the cover art of which is a headshot of the guy who played Hurley in Lost. I don’t know what to do with that information, but I felt like those of you who didn’t know it need to.

EDIT EDIT: Island in the Sun and Blister in the Sun are not the same song, and I’d like to tender my sincere apologies to the Violent Femmes for my momentary loss of sense.

#30daysongchallenge: Day 31

Why not call it the 31 day song challenge? The world may never know.

The theme is a song that comforts your soul, and the only real question was which Bob Marley song I was gonna choose, so I went with both of them. And I can’t imagine a better song to end this month on than Redemption Song:

And your choice?

#30daysongchallenge: Day 30

Day 30, which should be the last day of the challenge but isn’t, is “A song that reminds you of yourself.” Which … huh? I’m reinterpreting this again, to mean “reminds you of a specific time in your life.” Which leads me to this song, which (despite coming out in 1992) will never as long as I live not remind me of my senior year of high school:

Do any of you have songs that you listen to and think “This reminds me of me”?

#30daysongchallenge: Day 29

Heh. A song that reminds me of my childhood, huh? Okay:

What were you listening to in 4th grade?