February 12, 2017

Paul Thompson is moving to Houston.

  1. I’ve been thinking about the scene in Moonlight when Chiron, played in adulthood by Trevante Rhodes, shows up at a diner in Miami hoping to reconnect with the friend who initiated his first sexual encounter, then ultimately betrayed him. Here’s a man who, a dozen years prior, was defined by his frailty, by a timidity that made him seem almost alien to his peers. Today he’s impossibly muscular, his back still rippling under two t-shirts, a cca. “Wanna Get To Know You” 50 Cent who can still fit comfortably in an airline seat. (In an earlier scene, we watch this adult Chiron—”Black”—drive down an Atlanta street, gently ribbing a passenger, dangling then breaking silences the way he would never dare when he lived in South Florida.) When his friend, the one who betrayed him, asks what he’s been up to, Chiron says “trapping”; when he eats, he carefully takes out his gold fronts. We’re watching this evening in a Miami diner because it is, in theory, one of the formative moments in Chiron’s life, one of the couple-dozen days he might recount to a biographer or a therapist. It will, in theory, shape him. But every time we see Rhodes move, speak, emote on screen, we’re reminded that Chiron’s been shaped—literally, to look at his neck and shoulders—by his new routine, by the pull-ups he does every morning and forgets by noon.

  2. I didn’t know “Daily Routine” existed until I saw, on the right side of my Facebook feed, that “Scotty ATL Starlito” was trending. With no disrespect intended to Scotty, I’m not sure how Facebook would decide that the second song from Smoking On My Own Strain, a tape that had come out with basically zero fanfare two weeks earlier, was as newsworthy as Sean Spicer and Tom Brady. But I tweeted about Starlito the same day, so, you know.

  3. In the video, Starlito is flooded with digital notifications, each one popping up on the screen, iMessage iMessage iMessage an article in the Tennessean about his friend catching a homicide charge. His verse starts: “Day two of this road trip/ my bitch sending me stressed messages, always bringing up old shit.” His deadpan (it’s always a deadpan) makes it seem less like a problem of his girl sticking to a single point in the past than a loop that never closes.

  4. Lito’s wearing a Julio Jones jersey. At another point in the verse he raps: “My conscience keep on fucking with me/ went and bought another semi/ Feel safer out of town, even though I love my city.” Don Trip is a witty, thoughtful vet in Memphis; Lito sounds, at least to national audiences, like Nashville’s wearied, withered, honest-to-a-fault superego. This reminds me of that radio interview when Pimp C told Atlanta it wasn’t part of the South. It also reminds me of how tours aren’t really tours so much as an endless string of motel rooms and green rooms and vans that don’t totally seal out the sound of the highway, a loop that never—he also raps “Every day it’s some new shit.” A little over a year ago, Starlito put out an album called I’m Moving to Houston.

  5. Speaking of Oscar- (and probably Emmy-) nominated scripts, both Arrival and Westworld toy with the idea of time as a circular, malleable thing. There’s something to the idea that, even if we mark time in a linear way, the only way we’re able to construct meaning is by repeating processes over and over; for a while, popular fiction kept coming back to this notion insofar as characters would be expected to relive a period over and over so as to fix their mistakes. But Westworld stakes itself on the idea that people want to be stuck on a flat circle, and Arrival goes beyond that, into the metaphysical, where Amy Adams can see fragments of the past and future in the order she needs them, not necessarily the order they happen. I imagine this is how it is for Amy Adams in real life, too.

  6. I came to the conclusion that karma’s real” is a strange turn—even a non-sequitur. Lito spends most of the verse awash in information, fielding angry texts and death threats and emails from promoters and glares from police. Maybe karma’s a way to filter things, to make causal connections to distract from how horribly, oppressively arbitrary life is. Or maybe, like Amy Adams, he’s arguing that there’s something unquantifiable at play. He also says he’s “been on both sides of a driveby,” which is undoubtedly a question of framing, and which makes me think of “Tomorrow,” the last song from Cam’ron’s Come Home With Me, when he raps: “I’ve been on both sides of burglaries/ guns out and choked up/ Man, this shit’ll get you choked up.” Lito gets to pretty much the same place: “Ain’t ashamed to cry but sometimes I just roll up and be like ‘Fuck this shit.’”

  7. At one point, Lito mentions that he’s “paying everybody’s bills.” Then it occurs that his friends and family might be taking advantage of him—at which points he breaks the cadence of the verse and says “I don’t know, shit, probably.”