By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Los Angeles, California
Only a fool would fail to realize that the elegance and good humor of a man like Allen Toussaint is an indictment of the blindness and total lack of culture displayed by George W. Bush. Bush is still there; America's greatest city will likely never come back.
Hurricane Katrina and Kanye's exuberantly upchucked analysis of Bush's racial sympathies were what rocked my world the hardest in the '05. Kanye's more ambivalent attempt at reconciling his diamond collection and its weight in mutilated African children spoke volumes about the moral quicksand hip-hop's been flopping around in since beats became synonymous with bling.
The government left an entire stadium full of black people to die. And it was broadcast on national TV so we could all watch. And we only get one rap song? And it's an MP3?
Brooklyn, New York
Kanye doing "Jesus Walks" (and bearing down hard on "victims of welfare living in hell here, hell yeah") worked; his triumphant "Touch the Sky" on the next telethon not so much. When David Banner played a Katrina benefit, he reached back to Mississippi: The Album, maybe the most relevant album of 2005. But nothing captured the problem better than the Game performing "Dreams" on the same broadcast: I can't imagine all the homeless in Houston and here in Memphis and scattered all over the region were much interested in his desire to "fuck an r&b bitch."
It was no surprise when U2 began performing "One" during the Katrina concert. But after Bono finished the first verse, the song went places it had never been before. Emerging from the shadows at the back and bringing the kind of comfort you only get from someone you've missed more than you realized, Mary J. Blige looked into the camera and asked-her voice thick with a thousand others, all hard as fists"Did I disappoint you?" With that she unlocked a rage in the song that Bonoeven Johnny Cashnever got to. A verse later, the series of questions about forgiveness and raising the dead and playing Jesus made the song's unnamed "you" plain as day. Because these weren't questions anymore, they were indictments. And Mary was sending them directly to George's door.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
My African spirit was murdered in the aftermath of Katrina, as my lost city was left prey to Bushite "benign" neglect and real estate carrion eaters. Kanye removed a few rusty arrows from my Brass Ankle corpse, but the ghosts of Marie Laveau 1e, Indian Jim, Lafcadio Hearn, Robert Tallent, Professor Longhair, and James Booker still parade through my mind. When the levees broke, so did my Creole, bluenote spirit, and I doubt it can ever be made whole again.