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As a wave of sighs, boos, hisses, and expletives flooded various homes and social media platforms in the wake of Beyoncé losing every major category at this year’s Grammy Awards, a familiar sentiment surfaced just as swiftly: “What did you expect?”

The rhetorical question is rooted in the history of the most celebrated music awards show we have. It is a history that has long highlighted the fact that the Recording Academy has little interest in amplifying black art outside a few designated genre categories.

When Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost out to Adele’s 25 on Sunday night, some suspected vote-splitting was behind the upset. I think it was just white people being white—like they always have been.

Here is a list of the 10 black artists that have won the night’s biggest honor, Album of the Year, since the show’s inception in 1957:

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (1974), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1975) Songs in the Key of Life (1977)
Michael Jackson: Thriller (1984)
Lionel Richie: Can’t Slow Down (1985)
Quincy Jones: Back on the Block (1991)
Natalie Cole: Unforgettable With Love (1992)
Whitney Houston: The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack (1994)
Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1999)
Outkast: Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2004)
Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company (2005)
Herbie Hancock: River: The Joni Letters (2008)

It is a shockingly paltry sum, especially since many were basically handed the award long past their prime and for works that arguably catered more to the taste of the Grammys’ suspected older white male voting body. In more recent years, innovative works from the likes of Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and, of course, Beyoncé, have lost in this category to artists such as Daft Punk, Taylor Swift, Beck, and Mumford and Sons. It therefore was not surprising to me that in a world in which Taylor Swift has two Album of the Year Grammy Awards and Prince has none, Lemonade lost to 25, a far more palatable album (to white people, anyway).

What’s even more frustrating about the Grammy Awards is that it purports to be more evolved on race than the Oscars. Last year, Neil Portnow, CEO and president of the Recording Academy, was asked about inclusion in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign. In his comments to Variety, Portnow projected a certain moral superiority:

The music community really is much more inclusive because of the nature of the collaborations. Also because of the nature of the proliferation of influences of one genre into another over time. It’s the history of how music has evolved from the very beginning.

Portnow sounds like a member of the Democratic National Committee touting the inclusion of the party while promoting the DNC. Sure, they present splotches of color in primetime, but the reality is that even though black women keep the Grammys alive, they don’t have enough of them in real positions of power. Because the organization don’t value them as much as claim to. Because they celebrate diversity only in superficial terms. That’s just how it’s always been.

That said, something did feel slightly different last night—largely because someone white at least alluded to the blatant biases that consume Grammy voters. Adele, who basically runs the British wing of the BeyHive, used her acceptance speech time (twice!) to profess appreciation for Beyoncé and Lemonade. “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humble and very grateful, but my artist of my life is Beyoncé,” she explained. “This album for me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental.”

Some took issue with this comment of hers: “The way you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel is empowering. And they stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have.”

Those folks need to be quiet.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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On its surface, when news hit of Beyoncé leading the 2017 Grammy Awards with nine nominations, it read as nothing short of a win for the behemoth pop star. The Houston native has scored nods in the three big categories: Album of the Year, for her sixth studio offering, Lemonade; and Song of the Year and Record of the Year for its lead single, “Formation.”

Beyoncé will compete in other categories, such as Best Rock Performance (“Don’t Hurt Yourself,” with Jack White), Best Pop Solo Performance (“Hold Up”) and Best Rap/Sung Performance (“Freedom,” with Kendrick Lamar). The end result is that Beyoncé has become the first artist ever to earn nominations in such an array of categories in a single year.

On that feat, Neil Portnow, CEO and president of the Recording Academy, told the Associated Press in an interview: “Artists are feeling emboldened and courageous and just wanting to step out of the predictable boundaries of what they have done. Of course, [Beyoncé] is the poster child for that.”

With these new nominations, in addition to already winning 20 Grammy Awards, Beyoncé has become the most nominated woman in Grammy history, with 62 nominations. Yet if we are to believe that Portnow is sincere in his description of Beyoncé, it ought to be made clear that despite her historymaking news, the Grammys have failed to truly honor her artistry beyond very predictable boundaries of R&B and “urban contemporary.” The Negro League subcategories, if you will.

That is not to negate, diminish or even place an asterisk near Beyoncé’s Grammy history. Hell, I’s a Negro and very happy with Negro-centered celebrations. However, it does speak to an overall pattern that this show has long had with honoring black art, especially if it is crafted by a black woman. Of all Beyoncé’s Grammy wins, the only major category she has ever won in is for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” which won Best Song of the Year in 2010.

In 2004, “Crazy in Love” lost Record of the Year to Coldplay’s “Clocks.” In 2014, “Drunk in Love,” a massive hit, was not even nominated in that category, though works from the likes of Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift were. And of course, this was the same year that Beyoncé’s eponymous fifth album notoriously lost in the Album of the Year category to Beck’s Morning Phase. Headlines pointing to a glaring snub were seen far and wide, but no one was as vocal about it as Kanye West.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I am a Black man in the beginning of my 30s who cannot shake the constant desire to consume chicken wings and copious amounts of fried catfish. I need to be stingy with my stress levels. With that in mind, I will not allow the Oscar nominations and the sea of whiteness in which it sailed on to give me high blood pressure.

Once again, there are no people of color nominated in any of the major acting categories. Once again, Black film directors like Ryan Coogler and F. Gary Gray find themselves shut out of nominations in the Best Director category. You know, like Ava DuVernay last year, Spike Lee many years, or [insert Black director’s name here] in your year of choosing.

Once again, there is no film with a majority Black cast nominated for Best Picture.

Once again, some Black people find themselves enraged; some White people are tapping into said rage; some Black people are denoting we should not give that great a damn about White people; some White people are trying to play down the role racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia—be it subconscious or otherwise—all plays into this lily White set of nominees.

I am so bored with this cyclical debate that I had to slap myself with caffeine to stay awake long enough to finish this sentence. However, it’s a debate that should be had and will be had until it no longer has to. That’s not so much a wink to wanting White approval as it is making clear that those who claim to be the judge of all of us actually live up to such a standard as opposed to continuing to make whiteness serve as the American default.

To be fair, it is the general consensus that the Best Picture category (minus the film “Carol” being snubbed) is a pretty strong group of films. For those of you who want to insert Straight Outta Compton securing a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, don’t bother. That film was written by White people, and the screenplay—including some glaring omissions about the women who played vital roles in N.W.A’s ascension and suffered from violent acts at the hands of its members—is probably the worst part of the movie.

I am not shocked by any of this happening, but no less disappointed. Though I will not personally give up too much of my energy to the Academy, I do understand those who choose to. What I will argue, however, is that when it comes to this ongoing debate, the focus should be clear.

Read the rest at EBONY.

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A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


No one under the age of 40 who values their nerves gives Grammy voters the benefit of the doubt. While they certainly have awarded younger acts in major categories, more often than not, it is in categories like Record and Song of the Year. And more often than not, when it comes to the largest prize of the night, Album of the Year, it is often reserved for an artist whose critical and commercial dominance have long peaked. When someone younger does win, it is for a body of work that sounds mature (re: old) and tonally somber. If it majorly sounds youthful, audacious, loud, and unapologetic, you can count on it being passed over.

It’s why both Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock have bested Kanye West twice in this category, and why Beyoncé was passed over last night in favor of Beck’s Morning Phase. Beck’s album is just as critically lauded as BEYONCÉ, though in terms of impact, it’s not even close.

Although he jumped the stage in jest at the time, Kanye West was very much upset that Beyoncé did not win, telling E! News in an interview after the telecast, “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.”

It’s a nice thought—Black artists boycotting a show that continues to treat them like a date that’s good enough to sleep with, but not to introduce to your family – though it’s highly unlikely to happen. Ever gracious, Beck said in response, “I thought she was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé!”

Beck’s album was loved, but matter how you feel about his win, it has very little to do with him. When is the last time a Black girl singing (and rapping, at select points) won Album of the Year at the Grammys? Yes, Beyoncé now has 20 Grammys, but they’re largely relegated to R&B categories; she’s been cheated out of major awards in the past. She’ll probably win Album of the Year 20 years too late for some album that consists of performing jazz standards with Jay Z and Blue Ivy. Meanwhile, some other 20 or 30-something Black act will be in the position she was yesterday.

And this is why I enjoy the BET Awards more than the Grammys.

As for the Grammys, and its biggest winner, Sam Smith: yawn.

Again, Sam Smith can sing, but his Coke Zero version of soul is too blasé for my taste, and after that whole Tom Petty fiasco, I’m even less impressed. Grammy producers had better pacing for the show than in year’s past, though everything felt too ballad-heavy. The most energetic performance of the night belonged to 56-year-old pop deity and eternal attention whore, Madonna. Even so, she’s finally beginning to show signs that her eight-count ain’t what it used to be.

The seriousness of the Grammy set list worked in some areas. Katy Perry spotlighted domestic violence through her performance, though admittedly, I was thrown off by a few things: Her sounding good live; her wearing Solange’s wedding dress; White people doing spoken word and praise dancing.

Read more at EBONY.

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To their credit, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences didn’t give Black people any pretense that the show wasn’t going to piss a bunch of us off. All but one of the hip hop and R&B categories were given before the telecast began, and for the most part, the winners in each category elicited some variation of “hell no” as a response. Based on the majority of the winners, many of them won for not necessarily being the best in their category but, rather, for being the Black name that old White men best recognized.

For example, you seem like a doll, Alicia Keys, but there’s a reason why Girl On Fire is your lowest selling album to date. Likewise, I love Rihanna like she loves a Swisher Sweet, but her winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” aka “Best Of Those New Blacks” over Tamar Braxton, Mack Wilds, Fantasia, and Salaam Remi seemed wrong. Is there no safe place for any straight up R&B artist?

No, unless you’re Justin Timberlake, who conveniently picked up an R&B Award (Best R&B Song, “Pusher Love Girl”) while also scoring a nod for “Suit & Tie” in a pop category. Now, if any Black act sang that same song, it’d be relegated to the Best Traditional R&B category (which went to Gary Clark, Jr.’s “Please Come Home.” Congrats to him and to Lalah Hathaway, who took Best R&B Performance for Snarky Puppy’s “Something.”)

Speaking of things that don’t belong, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took every rap category (Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance), minus the one award that went to Jay Z (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, with Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail”), plus Best New Artist

Now, much of the online commentary about Macklemore’s essential sweep was, “You already know how it is, so why are you acting surprised?” You know, I’m never surprised when it rains, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be bothered if I get too wet going outside.

For some of you “awards don’t matter,” but to many others they do which is why it can be both unsurprising and yet still glaringly offensive to see Macklemore best Kendrick Lamar in rap categories.

For the record, no, it’s not Macklemore’s fault that he benefits from White privilege, and yes, he’s a peach for acknowledging he has it. Nonetheless, if people want to complain about a so-so spoken word artist posing as a rapper getting major awards for a mediocre product in comparison to a much better emcee, so be it. No one, especially not a Black person, needs to toss on a cap and rush to defend Macklemore.

Never forget: He is a White man. Not only that, a White man doing a Black art form. No thinkpiece formed against him shall prosper.

As for the Grammys overall: insert your big yawn here. This show was geared more so towards White men over the age of 50 who are heavily into rock and country music acts past their prime. For those folks, last night’s award show probably turned that cherry out. When it comes to the rest of us, we had far less highlights.

Among them was Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performance of “Drunk in Love.” To be honest, while it was one of the better performances of the night, Beyoncé herself has done much, much better in other settings. One assumes her and her husband’s thought process going in was, “You raggedy, Kendrick Lamar-snubbing folks are even lucky we bothered to grace y’all with our presence.” If so, right on, girl, and shout out to you for throwing up Third Ward on stage and sipping on brown liquor in the front row of the show. Your Black is beautiful.
The others:

Pink: Alas, like Ciara had the matrix, she has spinning in the air like a Ringling Sister. Yes, it’s impressive, but she does this bit a lot. Oh well.
See you next flip.

Taylor Swift: Many of you hate her, but her offbeat bop to “Drunk in Love” and Kendrick Lamar’s set was fun to watch.

Read the rest at EBONY.

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Sadly, whatever locksmith Frank Ocean called to help him find the right key to sing didn’t make it in time for his performance at the 2013 Grammys. It was a missed opportunity for the consistently brilliant singer-songwriter albeit still not-that-great performer to impress those who might not know much about him. Despite that, Frank’s stock will only continue to rise given that unless he starts writing lyrics along the lines of “GLEEP GLORP FLEEBLE FLABLE ZIP ZOP ZAM!!” there will remain a demand for his forward-leaning R&B.

Of course, some immediately started to argue otherwise mere seconds into his less-than impressive presentation. Upon the first botched note before that large audience – ZIP ZOP ZAM!! – his biggest detractors wasted no time pouncing. I could quote the critiques verbatim, but they all boggle down to blah, blah, he’s only poppin’ ’cause of that gay ass letter, he is overrated, back in my day we had real sangers, yadda, yadda, more bullshit.

I’m not going to make any excuses for Frank Ocean’s performance. Visually it was stunning, but the rest was anything but. Either way, it was arguably his most important performance thus far. To see a handsome, Grammy-award winning Black man sing about being in love with another man is something that will stay with those struggling for one reason or another with the realities of their sexual orientation for a very long time. Not to mention those who have overcome such struggles themselves. No offense to those men who rock their stiletto pumps in the club and serve as the human equivalent of Beethoven on basic cable for everyone’s amusement, but Frank Ocean represents something different and largely missing from the public sphere.

Regardless of how he chooses to identify himself, he is the only other famous Black male entertainer who has admitted an attraction to men besides RuPaul. Maybe his nerves got the best of him and his rendition of “Forrest Gump” yesterday. Even so, him standing there and being daring enough to sing that song ought to be appreciated on some level.

If you disagree, fine, but I do wish some folks would learn to limit their criticism to their levels of knowledge on a given subject.

If you have never taken the time to actually listen to Nostalgia, Ultra or channel ORANGE, do humanity a favor and shut the fuck up. Seriously, how can you criticize anything you haven’t bothered to experience yourself? How lazy in thought are you? As talkative as I am, I don’t speak on something I know nothing about because I don’t believe in being an intellectual fuck nigga. If you want to be heard, discuss something else you’ve dissected.

There is way too much access to his music courtesy of the Internet for you not to take in before you begin trolling.

The same goes for any subject, for that matter. Quit it. Now.

Likewise, dead the declarations that Frank Ocean is only successful because of a tumblr post where he acknowledged his first love was a man. Next week marks two years since the release of his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. You can read about it here, but since reading has proven to be taxing for so many of you, let me help you even more. Basically, in frustration with his record label not even bothering to give him so much as a recording budget after signing him, Frank recorded and released an album-quality body of work. Almost immediately, word of it spread all across the Internet — netting him the attention of music fans, critics, his more successful peers, and ultimately his actual record label who had staffers trying to sign someone already apart of the fold.

He essentially created his own success – nothing related to a sword fight – which is why channel ORANGE was already a buzzed about album before the “revelation.” Why this readily available information remains unknown to the “gay for pay” theorists is a testament to why some people need their keyboard privileges monitored and/or revoked.

Don’t let the popularity of the word “shade” fool you: Gay Black men are not that beloved.

The next time you try to argue this fuck ass point, ask yourself this: “How many openly gay, bi, or whatever one deems their love of the peen Black men do I actually see on TV? Film? Music? With books?”

Someone had to step up, but there was no guarantee it would immediately garner them anything other than a spectacle. I’m readily available to offer additional feedback on the lingering plight of gay Black men if needed.

Again, Frank Ocean needs to see about a vocal coach, some honey, tea, and a creative director to step his performing cookies up. Yet, when it comes to the “I don’t like the music I never listened to” folks, fall down a well. And if you’d be so kind, take your “Frank only made it as a gay” cousins in crocks of shit with you.

I wish God would grant me the power to shake the stupid out of the whole lot of you. Call it a blessing.

Edit: You can watch video of Frank Ocean rehearing his Grammy performance below. Much better.

Frank Ocean 2013 – Tuesday from Lumentech on Vimeo.

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One of the most interesting things to me about the BET Awards is how each and every year a batch of surly for sport Negroes whine about how awful the network is and how they’re seemingly doing us all a favor by watching something beneath them in the interest of keeping up with the sheep on social media. It’s hilariously ironic to me how folks act as if the BET Awards are the government cheese block to their Kobe beef.

Well, as recent reports have confirmed “kobe beef” isn’t all that real ’round these American parts and the same can be said about most of the complaints leveled against the show. As much as people talk about paltry budgets, anyone who used to be an VMA enthusiast can see how far that show has fallen from priority at MTV headquarters. When it comes to ignoring trends, obvious hits, and other various entertainment realities, the Grammys are the king, queen, prince, princess, duke and duchess of that shit for sure. I don’t think anyone in America has given that great a damn about the American Music Awards since, since…uh, I don’t know, when Apu and Aladdin were the hottest toons around. And seriously, as cute as The Soul Train and Source Awards were on occasion, they were not the most gushed about awards ceremony in their heyday either.

Have the BET Awards been good every year? No. Is it still the best awards show around? Certainly. What bothers me most about the criticism is how often self-loathing it sounds. I mean, some of you very people complaining about the BET Awards are about as complimentary to the race as a watermelon seed your damn selves. Seriously, I could leap around a Mormon church with a drumstick in hand screaming “NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA” and still display a greater sense of pride about my race than many of the people picking at their own just because it’s the thing to do. Many sound like they’re suffering from an inherent inferiority complex. Knock it off already. You sound fucking pathetic.

With that said, now that I’ve addressed select Negroes’ inner Uncle Ruckus, let’s move on with the actual show.

(more…)

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I haven’t actually seen any of those I used my birth canal before I was economically or emotionally ready to do so shows on MTV, but I do know the network that I used to worship for their music coverage makes far money on those than they do airing videos we only will watch once on YouTube. Most of you have known this, too, for quite some time. So if that is common knowledge why do we collectively feign dismay over the Video Music Awards?

I am guilty of this personally, as I wondered aloud why the cast of Jersey Shore (another show I have never watched) were the first guests for the pre-show. I know that one of them is a DJ for the robot formally known as Britney Spears, but I suppose if she has so little to say about her own music these days why should he even bother? Then came all of these random people I’ve never heard of sounding like strep throat, moving like pharmaceutically-enhanced dick stiffness, or being all around underwhelming.

This is the new tradition of the show, though, which is why I don’t blame MTV for changing their post-VMA show twitcon to an image of Beyoncé clutching her newly confirmed baby bump. If you can’t get music right you might as well highlight a pregnancy. Especially if that’s what your network is increasingly known for anyway.

But alright y’all, I will try to recap this show as best I can because memories of it sleep as I shift my interests towards something items like getting my life together and deciding what items from the Popeye’s menu I shall order in celebrating of Beyoncé bringing new life into the world.

(more…)

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Each year the BET Awards roll around and the usual suspects round out the typical responses. The instant rebranding of the ceremony as the EBT awards. The whining about how the show lost its luster several years ago. Or the wild accusation that the telecast represents the downfall of black America.

Much of this criticism to me is the verbal equivalent of perpetual jock itch. Seriously, folks, if the show is that cheap, so unbearable, and damning to your race do yourself a favor and don’t bother watching. Yes, that is a trite solution but no less trite that what the comments it’s in response to.

Just so we’re clear, though you can find my name around those online parts it doesn’t sway my opinion one way or the other. Trust me. That said, I didn’t find the show to be bad. Initially I held off on doing a review as I wondered whether or not it more enjoyable to me because I was at the venue.

Then I thought about it. and realized some people just like to complain. Sometimes fair, other times because everyone else is doing it. Most know damn well the VMAs haven’t been consistently good since Lauryn Hill cared what you thought and all the other ones aren’t usually worth mentioning at length. Which leaves us here. So everybody, let’s gather ’round and discuss this, shall we?

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There comes a point when you have to stop feeling sorry for someone and speak plainly. To wit: Britney Spears the performer sucks now and I wish the mainstream press would give up the act about her already. As soon as I heard word that she would be performing at the Billboard Music Awards, I knew how the post-show headlines would look. Bullshit headers like, “Britney Sizzles With Rihanna on Stage.” If by sizzle you mean draw blank stares from people who can remember Britney before she succumbed to sedation, consider my eyes set ablaze.

Rihanna looked amazing as usual and sounded okay at best per usual. She still danced like she was ready for her shift at the Puss and Boots to end, but at least she sang live. And you know, at least she bothered to move her body at all. Whatever, by now we know what to expect. Loud knocks and that’s enough for me.

Still, Britney Spears made Rihanna look like Tina Turner after being hooked up to an IV of Red Bull by comparison. I like her and find her to be sweet, but seriously what is the point of Britney Spears anymore?  If you can’t dance, you should at least sing. And if you can’t swing a pillow with energy maybe it’s best you just go lay on one.

(more…)

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