We didn’t see this year coming, but we heard it from all sides. In Signal & Noise 2016, you’ll find the way we made sense out of all of that sound.
I. “Oh, don’t be looking at me acting all surprised.”
Adia Victoria does not care if you come hither. Not that the singer-songwriter’s haunting, saucer eyes don’t wail as powerfully as her pliant voice, but she’s not here for your desire. When she stares us down in the video for punkabilly jitterbomb “Dead Eyes,” from her blues-lashed … read more

Rap fans were taken aback two years ago when J. Cole showed up to CBS’s Late Show and decided against performing anything from his just-released album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Instead, accompanied by a single keyboardist and hardly anything else, Cole sang, “All we wanna do is be free!” Well, he didn’t really sing — there wasn’t much consideration for melody. He wailed. Cole’s face, wet with tears, revealed an exasperation common among black Americans living with the trauma of hypervisible … read more

The tide of white racial resentment that has borne Donald Trump to the White House’s front door is not an anomaly. In fact, according to Emory University professor Carol Anderson, it’s just the latest manifestation of one of the most persistent patterns in American politics: whites responding to black advancement by trying to roll it back. In Anderson’s recent book White Rage, she traces the history of this pattern, from Reconstruction through the present. I talked to Anderson about how the election … read more

It made sense that the media event for Selma director Ava DuVernay’s new documentary, 13th, displayed Constitutions alongside the coffee. Sitting next to the refreshments were several pocket-size copies of America’s flawed foundational document, all of their front covers emblazoned with the film’s poster: the silhouette of a black inmate, head bowed, in leg irons and a prison uniform. “From slave to criminal with one amendment,” read the bookmarks that lay inside.
The comparison was not … read more

When confronted with the awful reality of how black people were treated in the age of slavery and then during the Jim Crow era, many white people take solace in the knowledge that they would never sit idly by and watch black people be mistreated today.
It’s easy to look back on the anti-slavery effort or the Civil Rights movement and feel superior, but in doing so, white people tend to forget that racial segregation is alive and well today — and that, just as many failed to take action during … read more

The journey to black empowerment begins at the kitchen table, so it’s no surprise that Solange’s third studio album is titled A Seat at the Table. The singer recently explained that she was focused on “healing” and the “journey of self-empowerment.” The methods she used to get there draw on decades of black theatrical tradition.
Playwright Lynn Nottage once said that “for me the journey begins downstairs at the kitchen table,” in relation to her 1995 drama Crumbs from the Table of … read more

In 2016, one of the most distinctive voices in music is wearing a three-piece suit, with Ankara print details that demand your attention. Jidenna has been making our playlists do up their top button and find a pocket square since he released “Classic Man” in 2015, a platinum-selling meditation on outdressing and outsmarting life’s crises and conflicts. Though born in Wisconsin, Jidenna spent most of his early years in southeastern Nigeria, and is outspoken about how being both Nigerian-American … read more

It always comes back to the flag. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey features numerous mise-en-scènes in which the American flag is billowing in the wind. It’s never been more appropriate to use the flag in such a menacing way than in America’s current political climate. The rise of Donald Trump has coupled with a hypernationalism that’s pushed jingoism to the forefront and sunken political discourse into an “us versus them” mentality. When Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national … read more

Atlanta feels like a protest more than a cable sitcom. To depict such realistic black lives on television is like taking a knee during the national anthem. The most popular black television shows at the moment are dramas. The black sitcom has always been tricky. How do you make a show that’s true to blackness without turning into coonery like Homeboys in Outer Space? And when there’s already a popular show like Black-ish on the air, how do you convince people that there should be more? That black … read more

Three times in the past two days, Donald Trump has stood inside meeting halls before a teleprompter and tried on his Serious Candidate hat. And the harder he tries to prove to us that he should lead America, the more frightening the prospect of his victory becomes. On Tuesday, he lectured an all-white audience about “law and order” and the Democrats taking black voters for granted, all while standing just 40 miles from a Milwaukee simmering with racial tension following the recent fatal police shooting … read more

We made it through two weeks of political party conventions mostly unscathed! (Yay?) Speakers at both the RNC and DNC reminded us of the urgent need for social justice work. Some championed important causes; others embodied the very problems we need to solve. Either way, I hope you’ve been inspired to get out there and make a difference. Regardless of who wins any election, it’s up to us to hold politicians accountable to the people and do our part to make sure the work gets done. You can do more … read more

At this moment, Georgia representative John Lewis is leading a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives, fighting for a vote on gun-control legislation. The following are reasons why you should not fuck with Georgia representative John Lewis.
1. John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, at the height of Jim Crow. He and his family — including nine siblings — were subsistence farmers, growing cotton and corn and raising pigs and cows.
2. John Lewis was 14 years old when the Supreme Court … read more

Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidential nomination. Immediately following her clinching primary victories, the moment and its symbolism got subsumed into one feverish, sentimental version of progressive women’s history in America. That trajectory is best exemplified by an op-ed the New York Times published shortly after Clinton delivered her speech, in which columnist Gail Collins casts Clinton’s win as the teleological end of 18th- and 19th-century suffragist … read more

– Piers Morgan thinks Muhammad Ali was “the greatest superstar icon of my lifetime,” but he also thinks the boxer was racist, at least early in his life. “Muhammad Ali said far more inflammatory/racist things about white people than Donald Trump ever has about Muslims. #fact,” Morgan tweeted Sunday. He followed that up with a Daily Mail column in which he explained that he’s not trying to disrespect Ali, but he was irked by people dumping on Trump after Trump mourned Ali on Twitter and he just … read more

Stacey Dash has a new book, There Goes My Social Life. The book is about her life as an African-American actress-turned-conservative pundit, although I’m using all of those words very loosely. Dash has gotten a lot of attention in the past four years or so, especially after she endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, then became a Fox News contributor, then gave many, many nonsensical interviews about her conservative beliefs. Just my opinion: Dash is ridiculously ineffective as a spokesperson for her “conservative” … read more