It took four years, but Frank Ocean turned the follow-up to Channel Orange, his masterful debut, into an entire weekend event. There was a 45-minute visual album, Endless, a five-minute "Nikes" single and music video, a 360-page Boys Don't Cry glossy zine, the founding of a label of the same name, the debut of four pop-up shops, and the launch of the game-changing 17-track album Blond(e). It was a full production. And buried in the mix, Frank seemed to give a reason for it all.
The first feature of the Boys Don't Cry zine is an interview with Frank's friend's mother, Rosie Watson, the maternal voice of wisdom behind Channel Orange's "Not Just Money" and Blond(e)'s "Be Yourself" interludes. Known for dispensing advice to the bevy of young men that surround her, including the likes of Ocean and Syd tha Kid, she divulges the last piece of advice she gave Frank face-to-face.
"Remember in life: You have to have both swagger and sway," Watson says. "'Having swagger is not enough in life. With swagger alone, you're convincing yourself that you have something that you really may not have, and that others don't see in you. Sway is knowing what to do with that swagger. Sway is influence. It's persuasion." In the context of this past weekend, Frank—a.k.a. "Lonny" to Auntie Watson—seems to have taken all of that advice to heart.
The modern version of turning the release of music into a massive, multimedia cultural event can be traced back most neatly to Kanye West.
If swagger was Ocean releasing Endless at the end of almost three weeks of video-streaming, sway is using that as the launching pad to establish his own record label. With Endless having fulfilled the New Orleans native's Def Jam contract, "Nikes," with its visual queerness and NSFW imagery, was the first release out of his newly independent status. Sway was convincing Apple of a new way to beat the sophomore slump by immediately launching a third album two days later and building out a coffee-table publication and opening shops to distribute them. Sway was taking a release and transforming it into a happening.
Frank Ocean isn't the only one to do this. The modern version of turning the release of music into a massive, multimedia cultural event can be traced back most neatly to Kanye West. With Yeezus, Ye premiered songs like "New Slaves" by visually projecting them onto buildings in cities like Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles. Swagger was the new music—sway was pushing people to 66 locations across the US at different times to experience it. He's continued the approach, hosting a massive listening party at Madison Square Garden for The Life of Pablo in conjunction with his latest Yeezy fashion collection. There, fans could pick up the latest issue of his zine. With the controversial "Famous" video, West hosted viewing parties in various cities with times and locations announced on Twitter. All happenings.
Frank Ocean. From the album cover of 'Blond(e).' Courtesy of Boys Don't Cry
But when it comes to visual albums, Beyoncé has no doubt become the queen. After a bit of a trial run with B'Day, where she recorded the B'Day Anthology Video Album featuring 13 music videos, she outdid herself with her self-titled studio project. While it had attracted a flood of rumors prior to the release, much like Ocean's project, there was no explicit promotion by Bey. Swagger was the release of the music while sway was the ability to sell an album, in totality at a premium price with no promotion in the age of 99-cent singles on iTunes. She followed it up with the Emmy-nominated Lemonade, which debuted on HBO. That happening spawned fan-hosted viewing parties and a flood of headlines. But why do so many artists feel the need to go to these lengths for success?
One reason is the constantly evolving nature of distribution. Album sales numbers have lost out to the sales of singles, and those have lost out to a focus on streaming. To recoup some of their monetary losses, artists have been entering into exclusives; Kanye, Bey, and Frank have all employed exclusives in previous deals.
For Lemonade, after the film was released to HBO exclusively, the accompanying album was a Tidal exclusive. Once sale of the album saw a wider release, it remained as a stream exclusively on Tidal. Kanye, too, used Tidal to exclusively stream Pablo while Frank partnered with Apple, who some say even underwrote the cost of his zine. Even Rihanna, who gifted her album through Samsung and turned the album wait into a literal cellphone game (another recent if unsuccessful happening), did some exclusive streaming with Tidal. Although exclusives limit distribution, they can allow artists to benefit monetarily—Tidal offers better revenue than other music streaming services—and build hype in a time of peak hype culture. All of which is an extension of why artists are forced to create happenings in the first place: It's hype all the way down.
In today's pop culture, 15 minutes of fame have been whittled down to a momentary blip on Twitter and the frenzied media cycle. Frank's own Endless release was overshadowed by the release of Blond(e)—mostly because it was a bigger happening. It includes not only a fully realized creative work but an experience that stays with fans. An experience to talk about, to Instagram and tweet about. That's what today's artists end up striving for to stay above the fray and make noise: Snapchat filters that are built around pop-up shops; Twitter moments constructed around visual-album releases. Happenings are how modern artists release music that makes enough noise to get the credit it deserves. It takes a little bit of swagger and a whole lot of sway.
Follow Mikelle Street on Twitter.
Last night, on a special episode of GAYCATION, hosts Ian Daniel and Ellen Page travelled to Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shooting to learn how survivors and those affected are healing from the tragedy. To further explore how Orlando's Latinx and LGBTQ communities are coming together to recover and what more needs to be done, Daniel spoke with Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, an organization working to advance LGBT rights in the state and creators of the Pulse Victims Fund, a history-making crowdfunded trust. He also spoke with Nancy Rosado and Zoe Colon of Hispanic Federation, a coalition of Hispanic community service agencies and creators of Proyecto Somos Orlando, a fundraising and social services organizational effort. Below is an edited and condensed version of their conversations.
Ian Daniel: Tell me more about Equality Florida and how the organization's been working to secure LGBTQ rights.
Nadine Smith: Florida has a long history of state-sanctioned LGBTQ discrimination, the consequence of which is the normalization of hatred toward LGBTQ people that becomes discrimination and violence. We've been working to end discrimination in schools, employment, housing, and public accommodations, and we've actually been pretty successful.
One of the most powerful moments after Pulse was hearing Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs basically apologize for a message that made the world less safe for gay people. There's been a softening of hearts and an opening of minds in the aftermath of Pulse—an understanding that you really do have to uproot and end the normalization of hatred toward LGBTQ people, as well as the discrimination and violence that grows from it.
Daniel: When you heard about what happened at Pulse, what was your initial response to help?
Smith: I was vacationing with my family in Disney World, and my phone began to ring—it was five, six o'clock in the morning. We got everybody on the phone because we wanted to account for our Orlando staff. It wouldn't be unusual for our team to be there.
We immediately launched the GoFundMe page because we knew that in the aftermath, we needed funds to flow in a way that were sensitive to the demographic. We wanted to make sure that undocumented folks weren't denied access to resources, too. We were astonished at how quickly it took off. When we hit the $3 million mark, GoFundMe put together a powerful video that inspired more to give—and they pinned us to the front page so that anybody who went to Go FundMe saw this outreach. They were quite incredible.
Daniel: How are the funds being put to use?
Smith: We publicly committed that every penny collected would go to victims, their families, and survivors. September 25th is the cutoff for determining how much money has collectively been raised, and based on that number, funds will be dispersed on that date.
We insisted that these funds would include people who didn't get hit by a bullet but went through this horrific trauma—many were held hostage for hours, so crisis counselors and other help services were made available. At the feedback hearings on how funds would be dispersed, victims of other mass shootings spoke up and specifically lauded Equality Florida for making sure that this process unfolded in a way that honored the victims. We were honest and transparent about where the money was going, and they hadn't experienced that before.
Nancy Rosado, in a still from GAYCATION's special episode on the Pulse nightclub tragedy
Daniel: Nancy, I saw a glimpse of you in the video for Jennifer Lopez and Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Love Make the World Go Round."
Nancy Rosado: Yeah, I made a quick guest appearance on The Today Show for it.
Daniel: I loved seeing your face flash across the screen. Last time I was in Orlando, discussing the issue with you, you expressed a lack of celebrity support from the Latinx community. How did that shift and what was the impetus for the song?
Zoe Colon: Jennifer Lopez had already written the song, and she thought that after Pulse it would be a great way to motivate people to keep dancing and spreading love in the face of hate. Her and Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to fund organizations that were going to ensure services were being delivered over the long haul, at the hands of bilingual, bicultural professionals that really understand our community.
As of July 4th, they committed 100% of the proceeds from the digital downloads in the first three months, and it was played at the Zumbathon, a huge annual conference for Zumba that takes place in Orlando. One of the survivors, Angel Colon, is a Zumba instructor, and he danced to the song. It's had a lot of meaning for the Orlando community and particularly the Latino community. We know that at least 27 victims were Puerto Rican, right? So to have two Puerto Rican global superstars take action and create a song that talks about resilience in the face of hate was really moving.
Daniel: Nancy, what has the healing process for the communities been like?
Rosado: I don't think the Latino community was as organized as the LGBTQ community to deal with something like this, but the effort that is starting to be made is positive. We're seeing young LGBTQ Latinos coming together, and the Latin community is coming together, whether straight or gay, to see how they can reach out. To pull something together at such a difficult time is heartwarming because, to be honest, before this it could be a very fractured community. We come from so many different countries and everyone pulls in their own direction. Because of religious beliefs, the Latino community has historically been a little leery about dealing with the LGBTQ community. An attempt is an attempt, and I'll take it before we have nothing.
Colon: I want to add that there has been little to no investment in Latino-led initiatives and community-based organizations, which is part of the reason we were not able to respond the way that the LGBTQ community was able to. At the end of the day, LGBTQ issues and immigration issues are Hispanic and Latinx issues. Out of this tragedy has come the opportunity to establish ourselves as key players and partners in the community. Hopefully there will be an investment going forward.
Daniel: What are the main issues in the Latinx and Hispanic communities that you think people watching our show need to be thinking about now?
Rosado: The economic situation for people in Florida right now is horrible. Congress' Promesas Bill, which would lower the minimum wage for men and women in Puerto Rico under the age of 24 to $4.25, is going to cause another wave of migration. With that comes LGBTQ young folks trying to establish themselves here in America—because who can live on $4.25 an hour? Now we have to keep our eyes open for our community that's coming over in bigger numbers. We are a community that is very affectionate and warm, so this isn't a terrible thing—but they'll require assistance, because life here is significantly different. It's not about sacrificing your culture, it's about learning to adapt to a culture that currently exists.
Colon: We want the mainstream media and the world to know the intricacies and dynamics of being alive in a Latino community, the need for culturally competent services. For example, they need to understand that there are undocumented immigrants in our community that are going to need new Visas now, that won't be eligible for cash assistance from the national compassion fund, which is requiring social security numbers.
Somos Orlando is offering case management services and sending people to mental health services of all different types, like art therapy and family and group counseling for those who may not be ready for one-on-one counseling. We're creating a roster of Attorneys that can provide provide pro-bono law assistance, and we're providing community education within the LGBTQ community, but also in the broader community.
We're providing safe spaces to ask questions—there were so many layers of what happened at Pulse that night that we want to unravel and have our community ask questions around. A big part of what we're doing is building confidence and working within the LGBTQ community with culturally competent, hispanic, bicultural, bilingual providers. We're training therapists, and partnering with both new and more established organizations to do cross-training. I think our response is going to be significant in the years to come—we're going to be able to respond to the support needs of the Latino LGBT community for the long haul.
Follow Ian Daniel on Twitter.
For decades, tin foil fashionistas have attributed a number of sinister happenings to the atmospheric research program known as HAARP, including hurricanes, earthquakes and even the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia. After this week, however, it will be a lot harder to entertain those claims: On Saturday, the supposed weather-altering secret weapon
Getting banned from Twitter can be incredibly easy or hard as hell. Breitbart blogger Milo Yiannopolous, for instance, only got banned last month after years of encouraging his followers to harass people. He eventually messed with the wrong person when he incited a barrage of racist harassment against Leslie Jones. After Jones said she was quitting Twitter, a lot of websites (including this one!
Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark US Supreme Court case that required law enforcement officials to read you your rights upon every arrest. Since that case, any statement made to law enforcement is inadmissible if the defendant was not first informed of his or her Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights—the right against self-incrimination and the right to consult with an attorney before answering any questions.
Even if you've never been arrested, you've seen enough movies and television police procedurals to know the familiar refrain: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you, and so on.
But for primarily Spanish-speaking people in the United States—which has become the world's second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico—those rights can easily get lost in translation. In countless cases across the US, Spanish-speaking defendants have been read incorrect or mistranslated versions of their rights, where butchering words like "free" and "right" can cost someone their best shot in court.
Now that could all change: The American Bar Association (ABA), at its annual conference earlier this month, voted unanimously to create a uniform Spanish-language Miranda warning and urged law enforcement agencies to adopt such a warning for defendants who do not speak English well or at all.
"As we looked into it, we discovered that too often Miranda is mistranslated, and that shouldn't happen," Alexander Acosta, who chairs the ABA's Special Committee on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, told VICE. "This is something that should be very straightforward."
Every year, law enforcement across the country use Spanish-language Miranda warnings in 874,000 arrests, according to a report from the committee. In many of those instances, inaccurate translations that could potentially violate a person's civil rights can lead to excluded statements in court. But countless other incidents slip through the cracks, where a person did not understand their rights and their incriminating statements are used anyway.
"Even if there is a one-in-1,000 error rate, you can imagine how significant that would be nationally," Acosta said.
The problem is not uncommon: The committee's report lists dozens of instances of bad translations, including the use of Spanglish, and completely made-up Spanish words like "silento." (The Spanish word for silent is "silencio.") In other instances, words were found to be mistranslated, according to the ABA Hispanic committee's report: One Ohio case used the word for right-hand side, instead of a legal right. In a few different cases, defendants were told they had the right to "apuntar un abogado"—to "point at" a lawyer, rather than to appoint one.
In other situations, bad translations can lead to complete inaccuracy as to what rights the Fifth and Sixth Amendments even afford you. In Minnesota, a defendant was told of a right "not to say nothing." Others were told of a "right to answer questions."
One high-profile case in 2013 led to some clarification on the issue of Miranda translation. That case stemmed from a 2008 incident in which defendant Jeronimo Botello-Rosales and four others were arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants. Botello was also charged with illegal possession of a firearm, according to court records.
Upon arrest, Botello-Rosales was read his rights, first in English, and then in Spanish. Officers said he waived those rights and proceeded to spout off a number of incriminating statements, including his alleged connection to a marijuana operation and about his immigration status, according to a brief.
Botello-Rosales's lawyer, Michael R. Levine, filed a motion to suppress his client's post-arrest statements, something not uncommon for such a case. Here, though, Levine had the court interpreter listen to the Spanish-language warning read by the arresting detective on the stand.
"He finished, and then I turned to the interpreter who was in the back, and I said, 'Well, how did it go?' And she said, 'Well, actually, he made a couple of mistakes,'" Levine told VICE. "And I immediately perked up and said, 'What do you mean mistakes?'"
It turned out that, in his warning, the detective garbled the translation and misinterpreted the word "free," as in "without payment." According to court documents, the detective informed Botello-Rosales, "If you don't have the money to pay for a lawyer, you have the right. One who is free could be given to you." But the version of "free" he used was the Spanish word "libre," which would be interpreted as "available," or "at liberty" to provide service. The Spanish word for "could" instead of "would" was also in dispute, as it is the government's obligation to provide a free attorney, not a choice.
The detective later admitted that he didn't always deliver the Miranda warnings the same way, but added that he always used the word "libre" in that way, according to court documents.
"He'd been doing it wrong for 25 years," Levine said. "He thought, honestly, that the word 'libre' in Spanish meant 'at no cost,' which it doesn't."
The district court nonetheless denied the motion to throw out his post-arrest statements, finding that Botello-Rosales probably understood the English Miranda warning. He pleaded guilty, on the condition that he could appeal the judge's order denying the motion to suppress.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit panel reversed the lower court's decision. The panel's opinion effectively said that Miranda rights must be translated correctly in order for them to be valid—reciting them properly in English is not enough. The case was remanded, and Botello-Rosales took a plea deal for a lesser sentence, according to Levine.
"This is something that's given probably thousands and thousands of times every year, to a myriad of defendants, and there's no reason to assume that they're not getting it wrong," Levine told VICE.
That case and others illustrate the need for a standard of some kind. Once the ABA commission puts together an official translation with help from law enforcement experts, it will look to promulgate the translation out through state attorneys general and local bar associations, according to Acosta.
"I think at the end of the day, if the American Bar Association says, 'This is one that we have vetted and we support,' I think many law enforcement agencies would certainly use that," Acosta told VICE. "Because it provides them a safeguard."
Of course, even a consistent Spanish-language warning is not a cure-all solution. For example, while the warning may be uniform, the Spanish language itself is not. The committee is working on trying to address regional or dialectal differences in its implementation to help mitigate this. And of course, there's human error: In some cases cited by the commission, even printed-out Spanish-language Miranda cards contained errors.
But the ABA's vote this month was a promising first step that could lead to translations not just in Spanish, but ideally in other languages—and a decision that defendants, attorneys, and judges could benefit from. During remarks to the commission ahead of the vote, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Donald talked about her stint as a federal judge and said she hopes that her time on the bench was not marred by mistranslations.
"We have an opportunity with the passage of this resolution to make certain that Miranda is more than words," Donald said, echoing the theme of this year's ABA conference. "I spent 15-and-a-half years as a judge on the United States District Court, where I heard cases, and we had one Spanish-language interpreter. I hope that we were not one of the courts that engaged in any of those mistranslations. But this is serious."
Follow Paul DeBenedetto on Twitter.