Top Rap/Hip-Hop Albums of the Decade by John Stevenson

This decade has been so important for music, especially rap and hip-hop.  Rap/hip-hop has officially became the most popular music genre in the 2010s, thanks to artists such as Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Travis Scott.  Starting in 2010 Kanye West released arguably the most important album of his career, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” This album was inspired by Kanye’s slip up at the MTV awards when he went on stage and took the microphone from Taylor Swift who won best music video, and attested that Beyonce had a better music video than her. This embarrassment would follow Kanye for the rest of his career, but it did help him refocus and it reminded the world why people love him: his music genius. 2011 was not the best year for music, but it did not disappoint with Kanye West and Jay-Z’s joint project “Watch the Throne.” This project was very successful as the track “Otis” headlined this album.  This album is very interesting in terms of timing because it was created almost right before Kanye West and Jay Z’s beef, which lasted until 2019.  

The two biggest years of the decade for music were 2015 and 2016.  2015 was headlined with Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” a possible top two album of the decade, and Kanye’s protogeé Travis Scott’s debut album “Rodeo.”  “To Pimp a Butterfly” is by far Kendrick Lamar’s most powerful album as he addresses racial inequity in our country today. “Rodeo” by Travis Scott is widely viewed as the greatest trap album of all time, which is a subgenre of rap/hip-hop.  This album consists of heavy production done by Kanye West, Metro Boomin and Mike Dean, to name a few. This is my favorite of all time as I feel it is the greatest album of the decade as it broke barriers in the music world. Overall, this decade was great for music as I feel the next decade will be even better.  

Just a Boy by Julia Schmitt-Palumbo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a boy who lived a few doors down

in the smaller one with red brick

and a faded yellow door.

 

His laugh rang out like gunshots

the day he tried to set

that wooden barrier on fire.

 

When the fire truck came with its

sirens blaring he tried to open it

get inside the flaming cinders and hide.

 

And we had to call for a second

ambulance to get him out of

that burning hellhole.

 

I saw him three years ago

buying something from the deli

his face was worn and weathered

 

and I could see the burn marks on his hands.

Moony-Eyed Man by Julie Larick

A tan briefcase fell through open doors,

Almost as weathered and haggard as its owner. 

His austere black shoes came second,

Noise rickoting off their soles against freezing mint floors. 

His gaunt face with drooping skin came third,

Snow-white hair and moonish, gaping pale gray eyes.

He yelped a throaty call to a friend, everyone else he ignored.

He pushed circular thickly-lenses glasses up a hooked nose, 

Brushing past stares in groups of fours.

A bird-framed woman flicks harsh eyes in his direction,

Fingers deftly flipping pages of a magazine. 

She is not the only one, as his voice billows

through the train and out the window it pours.

As minutes drip by, the moon-eyed man gruffly

stoops towards the open doors. 

They mechanically widen,

and through them the weathered briefcase flies once more.

A Second Call by Julia Schmitt-Palumbo

You stand, legs shakier than expected. A sudden rush floods your body – almost like you stood up too fast, except this one doesn’t fade away. Your ears are ringing and you make to say something to your instructor, maybe ask to leave, but nothing comes out. He shoos you out anyway, so you grab your bag and walk as quickly as you can into the hallway, eyes on your back.

Once the door slams closed behind you, you fall back against the lockers and let your bag drop to the floor. Your eyes fall shut to get a break from the relentlessly pounding headache and you’re thrown back into memories.

You’re alone in your childhood bedroom, backed into a corner, facing the room. You’re terrified. The same ringing fills the room. You’re being Called for your first and, as far as anybody could guess, only time. You’re only six, younger than anyone you knew was when they were Called, if they even had been. Hot tears flood your water line, threatening to spill forth, a wail building in your throat. You didn’t know it would be this loud. Didn’t know how the ringing would bounce around the walls and attack your eardrums. It feels like there’s an orchestra in your ears, the rings each clamoring for attention, drowning you. You’re frozen in place, tears that finally broke free racing down your cheeks and dripping from your chin, staining patches on your shirt.

Maybe you cried out, maybe that wail escaped, or maybe the rings were just loud enough that someone heard and your bedroom door bursts open. Your mother stands in the door, eyes wild and afraid, hair mussed and clothes frumpy. She had been sleeping. Maybe you cried out after all.

“Mama!”

She comes rushing to your side, scoops you up, coos in your ear. The ringing takes a backseat to her soothing voice and your tears begin to subside. Fear is slowly replaced by a deep-rooted yearning. You snuggle closer, but something, that ringing, makes you want to get down. The rings, now that they’ve quieted, sound more like singing. High, whimsical singing, twisting into the room and snaking into your ears, looping about your navel and tugging, ever so slightly, pulling you out of your mother’s warm arms. You should stay.

But fairytales and myths are more interesting than the love of your mother now, so you slip down out of her grasp, looking to the window. The singing seems to be coming from outside and the window is the quickest way out. You go to unlock it but you’re too short and you strain for a minute until strong hands hook under your arms and lift you to the lock. In the window, you can see the reflection of your mother, her eyes still afraid but much calmer and overflowing with love, sprinkled with a touch of something sad. She spins you to face her once you’ve pushed the window open.

“You can go, but come home once you have what you’re looking for, okay sweetheart?”

You hadn’t thought to ask, but you’re grateful for the permission and you nod eagerly, straining in her hands to climb out the window. She pulls you back to plant a kiss on your forehead and lets you go and you’re gone.

You were right in thinking the singing was coming from outside as the minute your feet hit the ground, you’re hit with a new wave of sound so hard you stumble. But the more you hear, the more you want to find the source and you break out in a sprint, your spindly legs flying as fast as they can over the grass and dirt, your bare feet barely hitting the ground as the singing wraps around you, urges you onward.

You keep running, don’t stop until your feet hit concrete and you trip, arms outstretched to break your fall. You’re panting. Your short and heavy breaths nearly masking that mystical song. You push yourself to your feet and you’re immediately taken aback by a beautiful building you’ve only seen in pictures stretching up into the sky in front of you. It looks like a temple, made of white marble that turns into brick into smooth concrete and glass walls. It reaches into the sky, way beyond the canopy, scraping the clouds. Looking up at it like this, you could swear it’s swaying, about to topple over on you, and you feel so small.

The singing has faded even more but a faint tendril snakes under the front door of this lovely building, pulling you straight in, up the stairs and through the front door. The singing surges again, white light floods your vision, and when you can finally see again you’re in school, back on the lockers, bag next to you. Your watch says no time at all has passed and you let your head smack against the door of your locker. You stand, the ringing slowly filling your ears again, and you shoulder your bag and head for the door.

Blink Instinct by Kiara Patterson

person's eye, Eye, Eyeball, Close Up, Vision, Eyesight, human, white, macro, iris

Blink Instinct

Blink and begin to think how different we’d be if we trusted our first instinct

The mind rules us, our body its reaction, our eyes are like the musical transaction

In just two seconds we as people can analyze a situation

We don’t need answers or understanding, there is no hesitation

Adaptive unconscious — which is out of reach to the human mind — makes us and the world we live in go blind

What if we just went with our gut instinct all the time? Would there be less chaos? More understanding? The world may never know until we try

Many of the thoughts we think as people are seldom forgotten

They grow on our brains and then get picked like cotton

It’s been proven true that we are in charge of our own fate

We can manifest our success and turn out great

The words we speak alone can and will hurt us

They will mold, shape, stop, plop and skirt around us like a school bus

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex plays an important role in decision making

It navigates our thoughts and molds them until they are ready and done like baking

The real you is revealed by your actions

Even though your words may invite a different attraction

It’s all up to you and your minds transaction

Blinking in black and white is a job well done

The Implicit Association Test (IAT) was once a long run

With our first instinct we can associate words into categories 

Our mind stores preexisting knowledge and distributes it little by little into stories

Many jobs like being a sales associate for a car dealership involves thin slicing

Taking care of the customer first is a job worth its enticing

On many occasions a person has to be quick on their feet

They base their sales pitch, attitude and demeanor on the first time they meet

First impressions are a response to what we think we know and are exposed to

Our minds are biased to what is drilled into us like a nail screw

We can train ourselves to be less racist, sexist and homophobic

With more exposure to equality in everyday life our mind becomes less claustrophobic 

When less is more, rapid cognition requires people to stay on their feet

Quick decisions may turn out like candy, sour or sweet

What you hear versus how you react has been set in stone and made as fact

From television, radio and everyday communication encounters, you absorb information like a sponge on a wet counter

The naked face is prone to what you are thinking and feeling

Although it can be a signal of what is on your mind, it actually is more revealing

With the way we instantly communicate with people, it’s our first action response

Every moment our face is on display like the Renaissance

All in all listening with your eyes is a lesson to be learned

Just like in everyday life, there is money that can be earned

The choices you make with a blink of an eye may seem simple but are really complex

How we understand the world from within is a revolutionary fortress

Acting on our first instinct can allow for many things

We may make new discoveries in this world we live in or fly away like a bird with wings

If we look at the bigger picture blinking allows for more mistakes yes, but better understanding

Remember you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar any day because its not in your favor to be demanding

In many ways how we interact with others influences our actions

We have a self serving bias and that is the main distraction

When we blink, we process information but we also miss the view we had with our eyelids closed

It’s up to the brain to remember what was once there and imposed

Blinking is the power of thinking

It’s part of the rush you get when you fall, dive into a pool or for many grown ups, when they end up drinking 

So many different feelings, emotions, reactions and transactions flow and coincide within our systems 

In just seconds we, like many other living things become a part of a bigger whole, like our ecosystem

 So now that you know the history, background and technicalities that come with blinking

The next time you do blink, bring more purpose to it but please, don’t start overthinking 

No. 1 by Asya Akkus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Christmas and the New Year leave

Like empty trains I’ve missed somehow,

I turn on salsa music.

Even though I hate the beat of the drums.

Even though the false gaiety makes me feel sick.

Even though the images of people whirling round and round, arm in arm

Enhance the loneliness.

I pull my shawl closer and listen

Only to pretend that I’m somewhere else.

It reminds me of Portugal.

With a pastel-de-nata.

And a coffee.

And a view of the sea.

And the unforgiving morning breeze.

I listen to a guitar crooning out the melody of Recuerdos de la Alhambra,

All on top of a castle.

It reminds me of Turkey.

With the magic of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys.

And the oppressive heat embracing me.

And the smell of spices in a bustling Bazaar.

A fiery-faced woman haggling over a rug.

The many colors flash before my eyes.

I listen to the melodious baalama bringing out folk melodies.

All on top of an adobe apartment.

 

I turn toward the radio, inserting the CD,

Listening to the effervescent strings.

It’s not conditioning.

It’s an association.

The Greatest City in the World by Lauren Sheperd

 

I am a city girl. Some of my favorite places in the world include Chicago, Washington DC, and now New York City. On my short trip to the Big Apple, I was introduced to streets of lights, a dead sea salt hand scrub, and a plethora of pungent odors. But most importantly, I found another place in the world that I loved.

Windows down, Welcome to New York by Taylor Swift (duh) blasting as I cross the George Washington Bridge with my best friend, and we get our first full view of that iconic skyline. After a not-so-excruciating eight hour drive, we had finally made it to the greatest city in the world. The next two and a half days that followed would be unforgettable, exhausting, and for me, life changing. In the short time we were there we managed to squeeze in trips to the 9/11 museum and memorial, a skate under the Rockefeller Center (which we eventually traveled to the top of), a new art exhibit called The Color Factory, and many other iconic New York activities. We even had some New York style pizza (though I will ALWAYS prefer Chicago). Every place I went helped me get further and further in touch with myself. The 9/11 museum taught me not just about a historical tragedy, but the way it brought people together, and continues to do so today. Going to the Top of the Rock showed my just how wide the world was, and how many opportunities there are out there for me. The Color Factory helped me connect with my inner child as I ate a ridiculous amount of sweets and played in the largest ball pit I have ever seen. Even the many disgusting subway rides brought different people into my life, all with their own story that I may never know.

In Empire State of Mind, a song sung by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, part of the chorus sings, “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” After visiting a city that I was expecting to be overhyped, I can agree with this lyric. New York is a place of dreams, imagination, and opportunity, and I cannot wait to go back.

 

WWIII by Jordan Green

“Don’t let your dog tag dangle in the dirt!” our sergeant belched.

“If your dog tag hangs then tuck it in your shirt!” all 250 of us hollered in unison, as our platoon marched in cadence through an open field in heavy military boots, the traditional green camouflage uniform, and a matching hat on top of our army haircuts.

No, I didn’t join the military—I was an extra for a military segment in “Cherry,” a Russo brother’s movie partially filmed in Cleveland. 

However, with a 4 a.m. call time, seemingly infinite sets of push-ups, drill sergeants screaming in our faces, and real-looking prop-guns, it felt more like military boot camp then a Hollywood movie set (except for the millions of dollars worth of camera equipment all around us).

The casting call required extras to have an “athletic build.” Evidently, after sending in a shirtless photo of myself to the casting director, I was athletic looking enough to get the part. But what I failed to realize is that “athletic build” implies athleticism. That turned out to be a bit of a problem. 

I found myself in the backlot of the Cleveland Water Treatment Plant with 250 guys I had never met before—my scrawny arms trembling as the “drill sergeant” tauntingly commanded “down…up…down…up.” I wanted to drop to my stomach so badly, but I couldn’t. Not while the camera-drone was flying right over my head. I knew that if I dropped down to my knees, they would just cut me out of the scene. So I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. Eventually, I stopped caring about the movie because my arms hurt and figured they could just cut me out of that damn scene.

The obstacle course scene didn’t work out much better for me. I didn’t even know it was possible to scale a 30 foot vertical rope. I got my feet about two inches off the ground before my mind and body agreed that they wouldn’t be making it any further. That probably won’t make it to the film either. 

Fortunately, however, not every scene was hampered by my toothpick-like physique. I became pretty good at marching and … standing. In fact, one of the most important scenes had us simply standing in our platoons while one of the main actors delivered a monologue. I was hopeful that this would be the scene where I would catch myself on the big screen next fall, but I later realized that I was standing directly behind the flag bearer and was completely blocked from the camera.

So am I going to be able to see myself in the film? Almost certainly not. I’m certain they will cut me out of every physical activity scene. 

That’s okay, though. There were other highlights—like using the same “VIP” bathroom as Tom Holland. Or stealing one of the crew members’ breakfast sandwiches, because the breakfast they gave to the extras was not tasty at all.

And would I do it again? Hell no. I had to wake up early and do physical activity, two of my least favorite things. But do I regret doing it? Nope. It was 100 percent worth the memories, the new conversation starter, and the look on people’s faces when I tell them I was in a movie.

Not Every College Supplemental is Boring by Lindsey Cicero

Provide a creative response to the image below. (400 words maximum)

I fished my phone out of my back pocket, the screen illuminating as I read the time. It was already nearing 11 p.m. and the sun had hidden beneath the horizon hours ago. I spent the entire day wandering the streets of the city, trying to memorize its every detail. Major intersections, dark alleys, cute coffee shops; I drank everything in like I was going to be tested on my ability to recall the location of the nearest trash can. I had only finished moving in the day before and took the first chance I had to get out and about, but now, Ignoring the ache in my legs, I started the journey back to my apartment. Despite my own fatigue, the city felt more awake than ever. I wound my way through crowds of people, each one living their own life. Not a single face was familiar, and yet I felt a connection with every person I passed. Each one, a whole individual, and yet we had all been drawn to the same city. We all experienced the same big crowds, and honking cars. Each of us so incredibly different yet somehow the same.

Walking home after my first day in the city, I felt an energy in me. Like a ref had his gun in the air about to start a race or the first time I drove in the car alone. The electricity of something about to begin hummed in my veins. I didn’t know what was coming, but I was ready. I had waited my whole life to leave home, finally, live as an individual. Now stood at a cross-section of potential futures, the circumstances were almost comical. It all seemed so cliche, a small-town girl moves to a big shining city and has life-changing adventures.  But cliches exist for a reason and shining in the neon spotlight of billboards, I finally felt like the main character in my story.

Feeling Hopeless by Erica Smith

“Well, I guess we’re screwed.” I thought to myself in fourth period Environmental Science that Tuesday morning. We had been watching a documentary about the current state of the Earth for the past two days and I was feeling a bit hopeless about the future of our planet. Through the atmosphere of the class, I could tell I wasn’t the only one concerned and a bit hopeless. Since we were splitting up the documentary over multiple days we didn’t see the resolution of, “Here’s what you can do to help!” for at least a week. Image result for global warming graphic design

I went home knowing I needed to study for my econ test but feeling like, “What’s the point? The world’s ending. ” And while I realize that’s not exactly the best attitude, that’s how I felt in the moment. 

I was simply angry about the state of the Earth and that no one was talking about it or doing anything about it. But at the same time, I didn’t know what I could do. So, growing more and more frustrated, I decided to call it a night. 

I walk into science the next day ready to be sad. Our teacher announced to the class that it’s the last day that we were watching the documentary. 

Finally, we had reached the conclusion with positive ideas and what we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint. 

One suggestion stands out to me: take one day a week to not eat meat or cheese. 

If just one person were to do this it would help immensely. It was the only suggestion that I could do for myself as a teenager. I can’t convert our home to only solar power and I can’t switch to an Eco-friendly car. But this, this I could do. I went home and told this to my parents. They decided that would join me. We decided we would start having meatless (and cheese-less) Mondays. 

As it began I didn’t notice too much of a difference it was just something I had to make sure to remember. While making my lunch, I would have to remember not to pack anything with meat or cheese. 

While the switch isn’t massive and I’m certainly not single-handedly solving global warming, at least it’s a nudge in the right direction.