How Does it Feel



this zine is dedicated to jeffrey lamar williams aka young thug

How Does It Feel started as a small-scale passion project between two friends, and has become something truly special and different from anything either of us has ever been a part of.

How Does It Feel is a space where womens’ opinions about rap and r&b music are heard (as well as the opinions of other marginalized groups). It is a space where female artists are championed the way male artists are in the mainstream media, in a time where rappers like Kamaiyah are still forced to make music videos in their living rooms (no shade). It has given us both a deeper appreciation for the diversity of voices and the magnitude of creativity and skill in these ever-growing, ever-changing genres.

How Does It Feel has given us, the contributors and the supporters opportunities to develop skills and try things our careers have maybe not allowed us to. Since the first volume, big things have happened for our contributors and friends. To name a few, Mark Clennon, interviewed about his debut EP in volume 1, now has an album on iTunes called When The Smoke Clears and is on iTunes playlists with the likes of Frank Ocean and John Legend. Steph Horak, who did a piece in volume 2 about Stax and Motown, had her blog Stories Behind the Songs nominated in NOW Magazine’s best of Toronto this year. The zine has been a way to showcase the many ways we think about this music we love, and, best of all, making the zine has and continues to be a lot of fun. Thank you for your continued support. It has been a true joy.


Alice & Liz

Praise Ms. Jackson

Rhythm Nation. Control. Nasty Boys. Scream. Together Again. All for You. Don't know what you got til it's gone. I get so lonely. Miss you much. That's the way love goes.

Janet Jackson: political, sexy, playful, fragile, provocative. The RnB canon of the past quarter century offers sound evidence of Ms. Jackson’s undisputed queendom. An originator of smooth yet memorable tracks and a dancer worthy of emulation by subsequent generations of aspiring chanteuses (s/o to Beyoncé), Janet’s music also became a platform to address political tensions with the 1989 release "Rhythm Nation".

A pre-cursor to Beyoncé's recent political turn in "Formation", the militant tone of Janet's fourth album "Rhythm Nation" urged political awareness of colour lines in America with hope for “a better way of life” through freedom from racial oppression. At a time when the hip hop movement was nearing a political apex (e.g. 1990 releases Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet” and Boogie Down Productions’ “Edutainment”), this message of racial unity came through loud and clear on beatboxes, Walkman earphones and cable TV. The urgency of “Rhythm Nation” was conveyed by a woman at centre stage, who was unafraid to be both sexy and smart, experienced yet open to new possibilities.

A woman who also knew, it must be said, how to put would-be players in their place: No my first name ain't 'Baby'. It's Janet. Ms. Jackson if you're nast-y! By the beginning of the 1990s, Janet had won our hearts. It was impossible not to crush on her in "Poetic Justice" (just ask Tupac) or resist daydreaming about the heady desires enumerated in "That's the way love goes"…Like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire...

All of this is her queendom. Her fans, the most loyal subjects. But nowadays if you see her perform live, Janet won't ask you to bow down -- she'll probably lift you higher. While Beyoncé awes with laser sharp choreography and soaring vocal range, the live result can feel like standing on the outside observing her revel in the crystal cut architecture of her own immaculate performance.

By way of contrast, Janet in concert is a more permeable and inclusive experience. It's a bit like being at an intimate house party hosted by Ms. Jackson herself: She invites you in, with graceful and enticing movements, asks you to stay awhile, and generously anoints her guests with that expansive smile and flowing laughter. No flashing lights or sculpted onesies. Little need for props or artifice of any kind. Just on-point (Paula Abdul schooled) choreography punctuated by a voice that is a balm and, oftentimes, a summons. An incitement to a better way of life.

During her last performance in Toronto, a giant projection screen displayed the graffiti-scrawled words, "$1 billion for a highway, nothing for homes" as she chided Harper for having questionable financial priorities. In light of a recent album release, Janet continues to grace new audiences with her talents. And these days, she does it all fully clothed, having recently converted to Islam.

A concert with Janet is a gathering where you're the guest of honour. It's all for you, if you really want it. She will don the jean jacket offered by an admirer while taking song requests, and giggle when you dance and sing along. After the fun has been had, she will thank you many times over for the time spent together. Her smile illuminates from the inside out and leaves you eager for the moment you can come back and do it all over again. For the most dedicated RnB seekers, she is a master teacher who always knew it's about that feeling. The lesson is simple: It's all love.

*Inspiration for this piece is owed to a past HDIF launch party attendee who had no idea where he was and tried to hate on her Majesty Ms. Jackson, to no avail. He was undoubtedly frustrated to discover that among all the girls standing in line for the bathroom, there was nary a Nickelback fan.