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Frontlines Friday: Ice Spice & Valerie Jean-Charles’ “The PR Take”
Frontlines Friday is my return to the pop culture writing and ranting I love.
Welcome to the first edition of Frontlines Friday.
The only thing I miss from my last toxic-ass editorial job—aside from editing my brilliant writers— is writing a weekly culture newsletter. If you know me or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, I am always watching something. And I always have an opinion about whatever that something is, whether it’s a newsletter or show or TikTok song I can’t get out of my head (“How the fuck did you pull up to the motherfucking party and forget the Percs?!?”)
Frontlines Friday is my return to the pop culture writing and ranting I love. Every week I’ll share a piece of culture I am really fucking with. Sometimes I will feature Dominican art, sometimes Haitian, sometimes both, sometimes neither—but always Black.
On the other hand, the Wednesday post will be more focused on a mix of reporting, narrative, and review work, including my thoughts on Caribbean books or texts that are helping me think through displacement that month. Next week, I will review Cleyvis Natera’s Neruda on the Park. I am almost done with the novel, released last year, and I can’t stop thinking about this quote from Chapter 2, page 37: “Now, facing this attack, she felt fiercely connected to the neighborhood, to her people.”
I wanted to make sure writing is sustainable for my mom, a full-time worker, so her Spanish column will start off monthly. Her first post will appear later this month.
Now, here’s what I’m loving this week.
The Dominican Queen of Bronx Drill
I loved learning that Ice Spice is a Dominican Bronx (and Catholic-educated) girl.
It’s unsurprising, as others have pointed out all across social media because she sounds like almost every Bronx girl I know and love. She’s cocky and coy and snarky and delivers quick, fun lines. She’s unapologetically Bronx and Black.
I learned of the 23-year-old drill rapper on TikTok after “Munch (Feelin’ U)” went viral last year, and just last month she released her EP, “Like..?” It’s six songs, totaling a little over 13 minutes. “Munch” is on here, and it is still as fun to hear as the first time. RIOTUSA, her producer, writing partner, and son of DJ Enuff, kills this beat. It’s a perfect summer drill beat, and I love how she raps over this.
Every song on this delivers, they’re fun and catchy ass hell, and I love how confident and cool Ice Spice is. If you’ve only heard snippets on TikTok, each song still delivers when you hear fuller versions, which is not always the case with viral sounds on the app.
I love “Munch” and “Bikini Bottom,” but my favorite is “In Ha Mood.” I was unsure of myself as a Bronx girl in her early 20s. I couldn’t see myself outside of male desirability or how the men I had loved defined sexuality for me. So I love hearing lyricism that lets younger Black girls feel empowered and fun and cute and free. (I also love hearing her say “grrrah.”)
“She a baddie, she know she a ten (baddie, ten) / She a baddie with her baddie friend (damn, friend)… / If I was bitches, I'd hate me a lot (grrah).”
New Podcast looks at “trends and themes dominating headlines”
Full transparency: This is a Valerie Jean-Charles stan account.
We met at Fordham University in 2007. She’s from Brooklyn, and we hit it off almost immediately. She’s always had that funny and brilliant and snarky humor you find in Black New York City women.
Throughout my career, she has helped me much as a writer, especially in my past coverage of gun violence. She has taught me about Haitian history—she is a former writer at Woy Magazine, an online media project, in Kreyòl and English, that covers Haitian news, culture, and politics.
In December, Valerie launched “The PR Take,” a podcast that looks at “trends and themes dominating headlines.” In her first episode, she talked about the media coverage of Tory Lanez’s trial in the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion and hate speech against Black women. In the second episode, released last month, Valerie discusses the evolution of Formula 1 fandom. I loved learning more about the sport. (Shout-out to my aunt Rosa, who taught me the little I knew about the sport before this episode. Go any and all teams Lewis Hamilton is on!) And go listen to “The PR Take.”
Some other things I also recommend
Shamira Ibrahim’s “Issue #12: Pulled from the Archives: Missy Elliott and the Sonic Revolution”
Marjua Estevez’s “Americano Media Wants to Be “Fox News in Spanish”
Thank you to everyone who has subscribed, pledged, and shared the first Bronx Frontlines essay. I am so grateful that y’all signed up for this newsletter—and that you’re opening and reading my work and that I get to write about my borough and community every week.
See you next week and have a great weekend.