Stop Lying About Where You’re Really From

Whenever I meet someone from my hometown of Beyoncéland—or Houston, if ya formal—I typically greet that person with eagerness and the kind of warmth only a real southerner can understand. Then I ask a very important follow up question: What part of Houston are you from?

For those of you are unfamiliar, Houston is a mammoth of a city. In terms of size, Houston is like pre-workout regiment Rick Ross while the rest of the nation’s major cities are Jhené Aiko by comparison. For further clarity, Dan Solomon recently wrote inTexas Monthly, “A trip from Northwest Houston to Southwest Houston, in other words, is the equivalent of a trip from the Pacific Ocean into the middle of the San Francisco Bay.” So as large as the H is, if you tell me you’re from Houston and then when asked for specifics namedrop The Woodlands or League City, there is no other conclusion but this: Your ass is not from Houston. Trust me, other native Houstonians feel me on this.

I’ve been told I’m “rude” for pointing this out, but since my finger is already wagging, I may as well continue “The Mr. Waggering Finger World Tour” and air additional grievances.

I don’t have a problem with major city metropolitan residents. More times than not, you’ve probably lived the life Aunt Helen wanted for Will when she shipped him out of Philly, or at the very least, the kind of middle class home James Evan died trying to get for Thelma and his two annoying sons. Your parents should be applauded for that. Nonetheless, claim your actual city of residence as opposed to what’s 60-90 minutes away.

The same goes for people who say they’re from ATLANTA (very few of the actual residents of that city acknowledge the T’s existence) when it’s more like Alpharetta.

Now, the only thing worse than pretending to be from Houston when you’re really from Beaumont (an entirely different town over yonder on I-10) is to be from a nicer part of Houston, but try to front like you’re from the hood. God bless Beyoncé, but she is part of the reason why so many people want to act like they’re from Third Ward.

Read the rest at Complex.

How To Tell When An Article Is Fake

As a decent enough human being, I, like many of you, try very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. Yet, the Internet makes that extremely difficult as many of your cousins, ex-classmates, and significant others (and side pieces) prove themselves to be just as gullible and uninformed as you assumed most to be. There are many fine examples of this across social media, but the one that vexes me most – and serves as the central theme of this post – is posting fake ass news stories and foolishly passing them off as real news.

Y’all.

Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet for you to access via someone else’s Wi-Fi to do this. But instead of just being condescending and insulting, I’m going to also offer tips on how you and yours can tell when an article is fake. After we’re done here, promise me you’ll stop doing that shit. And you’re welcome.

Since people love conspiracies – especially about life-threatening diseases – there is always some site that Bill Nye, The Science Guy would spit on trying to sucker you into clicking their link and boosting their Adsense dollars courtesy of some story about the man hiding the cure for AIDS in Scrooge McDuck’s vault of gold coins. Don’t act like a Republican when it comes to science related stories. I beg of you.

Read the rest at Complex.

Complex: You’re My Friend, But I Hate You Online

There is no polite way to say to a friend, “I enjoy you just fine in person, but as far as your online persona goes, I want to reimagine Kirk Franklin’s ‘Stomp’ all over your phone and whatever other product you own with Internet access. Why? Because I fucking hate you online, bitch.”

Thanks to the implosion of social media and our collective crackhead-like addiction to it— combined with the growing need to overshare—I’m learning things about my friends that I would’ve never known, or at the very least, would’ve taken a very long time to notice.

For example, while I’m not as averse to having respectful conversations about religion and politics with my friends, I’m a choosey lover when it comes to that, and even then I prefer to keep such chatter to a minimum. And yet, whenever I go to Facebook (in a time machine to share my articles), my homepage might as well be called the “Hallelujah For Hosanna” bulletin board. That’s fine for the most part, but there’s always that freak for Jesus who wants to go Commando Christian and thump everyone upside the head with their Bible. Where is Moses to part your ass from my feed?

Worse are the people who know as much about politics as a three-hour old baby. Then again, I suppose I’ll take that person over the YouTube false prophets who swear Satan co-wrote“Partition” and is trying to take over the world, one D’ussé purchase at a time. There are too many libraries still open for anyone to be so damn stupid.

Then there’s Twitter, where diarrhea of the thoughts has a daily orgy.

Friend, I hate that you’re casually sexist, homophobic, or in some cases, racist.

Friend, I hate that you think being a mean-spirited, miserable asshole is amusing. I’m sure the other mean-spirited, miserable assholes are coaching you on, but you’re not going to want to share a cot in hell with them.

Friend, I hate that you think you’re Iyanla Vanzantwhen, in real life, you’re about two mistakes away from ending up on MaurySteve Harvey, or some other daytime talk show for people who need to cut out the bullshit and get right.

Friend, I absolutely hate that you’re one of those people who shames broke people. If I went by Twitter, I would assume everyone is sipping the finest Kool-Aid from diamond encrusted red solo cups as they tweet from your Italian villa. Do you know how hard it is for me to hold back the urge to say, “How are you talking about broke folks when you’re paycheck to paycheck like my ass?” Or in some cases, credit card scam to credit card scam.

Read the rest at Complex.

Oh, Mariah

At one point do you look in the mirror and say, “I’m too old damn for this bullshit?” I will always and forever cherish Mariah Carey. I love this woman the way she loves all things prepubescent; the way Hoda and Kathie Lee love wine o’clock; the way Rick Ross loves a good tall tale (insert aggressive grunt here). As a matter of fact, I am singing “Honey” aka a legendary ditty about going down while writing this. My dedication to Mimi is unwavering, but I did look at this pictures and feel a little sad.

I know, I know. Mariah is who she is. I get it. Still, girl, what? Leave it to Mariah Carey to challenge the limits of my progressivism.

Why does she look like the old whore of Candyland?

I’m all for a woman of a certain age owning her sexuality. Mariah is getting older, but that doesn’t mean “that pussy old, that pussy creaky.” Yet, here I sit stumped. Mimi, a bra made out of Valentine’s Day candy? I mean, that’s probably fun for a horny diabetic ready for a night of sex themed around “titties and treats,” though I’m not sure this should’ve made its way to the ‘gram.

Like, when is someone going to say, “Mariah, you’re not Blanche Devereaux yet, but you’re about two or three birthdays away from Samantha Jones territory. Maybe it’s time to stop dressing like a tween gon’ wild?”

I guess not anytime soon. What is the theme of this video? Tinkerbell’s sex dreams? Oh, Mariah. That said, I do like her new single “We Still Belong Together On The Top Of The Charts” “You’re Mine (Eternally).”

I also absolutely adore her in this interview with “The Breakfast Club.” She is so ridiculous and it’s always pleasant in radio interviews.

Not so much select visuals. I suppose you have to take the good with the bad. Why do I get the feeling she’ll be swimming in a pool full of Sweet Tarts in her 50s? Wait, why am I even acting surprised by any of this? Mariah Carey is a part crooner, part cashew. I would love it if someone would reel it in, but that’s like mission improbable.

Lamb forever, but…oh, fuck it.

Clutch: No Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke Aren’t Making Better R&B than Blacks

Just because something sounds right doesn’t mean that it is. Likewise, repetition doesn’t bolster credibility. So as much as I appreciate Tank trying to tackle the current state of R&B, all I can do is shake my head at what’s recently come out of his talented mouth.

Speaking with Black Hollywood Live Network, Tank addressed a number of issues he feels face contemporary R&B in an ever-changing music industry. Now, he wasn’t totally wrong when he noted how some artists – say, Rihanna – are often wrongly categorized as R&B despite their music having little rhythm or blues encompassed in its composition simply because the complexion is enough to make a connection. He’s also correct when he says this about Alicia Keys’ Girl On Fire Grammy winning Best R&B album despite it collecting dust at various Starbucks locations across the country: “Alicia Keys is very popular in the back room. It probably wasn’t even a matter of what the record sounded like or who influenced it.”

However, there are two points argued in that interview that both do the Nae Nae over my last two nerves. The first is, “We have to get back to making R&B for everybody. Not just for one place in time. Not just for the bedroom. Not just for the bathroom.”

Then came this: “We have to get back to that. Making that kind of music. ‘Happy.’ So we can sing on the Oscars, along with Pharrell, who’s… him, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake who are leading the charge in R&B music. We can’t hate! We can’t hate on what it is! The truth is what it is. And Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake are doing R&B music better than us. We need to catch up.”

Actually, I pretty much reserve the right to hate everything you just said, Tank, and all of the nonsense that has fueled their rise and given you a false sense of security in your assessment of your Black peers.

I’m not convinced that songs about sex and partying are the problem with why R&B has floundered overall in recent years. If you flip to any pop station, you’ll find plenty of sexual innuendo and ditties about tipping to a party. Sure, you could argue that there could be a bit more balance, but even the quickest scan of any of the R&B charts on Billboard will show there’s a wide array of representation of voices in terms of both topics and tonsils.

Or better yet, maybe you shouldn’t be basing your opinion solely on what’s terrestrial radio at all. Either way, there is plenty of good R&B music to find if you so desire.

You have newcomers like Mack Wilds, Sevyn Streeter, Jheno Aiko, August Alsnia, or any of the acts featured on last year’s Saint Heroncompilation. None of those acts sound like the other – particular if you look past the singles and listen to their works in full. More established – Kelly Rowland, Ciara, Fantasia, John Legend, Janelle Monáe – all released solid efforts last year. As much as people bemoan reality TV, it has allowed artists like K. Michelle and Tamar Braxton second chances at stardom. Ditto for 1990s veterans such as Toni Braxton and SWV.

And then there’s Beyoncé and her last album.

Meanwhile, Robin Thicke released a so-so album led by a hugely popular single that borrows heavily lifting from Marvin Gaye while Justin Timberlake released two albums that were met with larger sales than Black acts, but reviews ranging from mix to widely panned. These may have enjoyable music, but they’re not leading the genre nor are they pushing it forward. The latter honors should go to more deserving artists like Miguel and Frank Ocean.

Read the rest at Clutch.

EBONY: [THE WEEKLY READ] Dear ‘Housewives’- Gay Men Aren’t Purses

For a show that likes to parade itself as gay friendly, this entire season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta has been an exhaustive exercise in casual homophobia. Of course, the minute you throw out a term like “homophobia,” the guilty parties will be quick to shout, “I’m not homophobic! I have plenty of gay friends.” But, homophobia, like any prejudice, has levels to the s*it.

In the same way that racism isn’t solely determined by whether or not one hangs up nooses, shouts “Sieg heil!” in secret, or dons Blackface, one doesn’t have to call a gay person a faggot to know that not-so-deep down, there’s some level of intolerance inside of you. One thing that’s been clear about this show all season long is that in terms of weaponry, one’s sexual orientation is just another easy tool to pull out when trying to inflict pain.

See Porsha Stewart Williams, who now suddenly wants to hurt her ex-husband, Kordell Stewart, by fueling the gay rumors that have apparently followed him for several years now. Unfortunately, she forgets that we all have eyes and ears, and thus, saw her working hard to keep her marriage alive despite these newfound fears she conveniently developed right in time for the season to begin filming. Funny what feelings rejection will bring out.

Now if such a gay friendly show has no issue with gay men, why was this idea of Kordell being gay (he denies it), such an easy way to question his manhood several times over?

I suppose I’ll pose that question to Porsha’s reality TV show friend and fake new neighbor, NeNe Leakes, who decided to disparage Kenya Moore’s friend Brandon as “queen” and “girl.” First of all, if we’re talking about a person with courage, it is not Christopher Williams towering over a woman in confrontation; it is Brandon, who got up in defense of his friend. But I suppose because Brandon has a little lightness to his voice and a preference for penis that he might as well be a woman.

Who am I kidding, though? NeNe is no stranger to faking jacks herself.  On this same episode she tells Kenya Moore that “you lucky you ain’t got yo’ ass kicked.” Remember when NeNe had that domestic violence charity? (Insert Dwight Ebanks’ sinister laugh here.)

What’s most grating about NeNe’s contempt for queens, though, is the fact that she along with some of the other cast members, owe so much of their success to biting the ever-living hell out of gay Black men, and in particular, those “queens” NeNe speaks so sorely about. On another cringe-worthy episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that aired in December, Cynthia Bailey tries to explain the concepts of “shade” and “reading” to would be new show regular, Mynique. Cynthia asks, “Do you have any gay friends? Like gay guy friends, like queens or anything. That’s good ‘cause you gonna need those.”

The show’s usage of gay Black men as accessories has always been an annoyance, but season six has taken many to a new level of frustration with the outright expression of disdain for gay men when seeking retaliation.

Sadly it’s not just select stars from The Real Housewives of Atlanta that’s guilty of biting gay men for a come up and then condemning them. Everything about Tamar Braxton minus those “dot coms” can be traced to some Black person who’s been serving on the stoop of the big gay rainbow. And yet, on the first season of Tamar & Vince, when she had a disagreement with a gay magazine editor, what did she do? Make fun of his lisp, naturally. More, during the test run of The Real, she spoke of her disdain of dressing up little boys as “girls” – on more than one occasion.

Yeah, a purple onesie on a baby boy doesn’t mean he’s going to grow up to want a Quanell over a Quisha, and even if he did, if you have no problem building the popularity that gave you a second chance of a music career off the mores of effeminate men, why so worried when it looked to be all good a week ago during the taping schedule.

Read the rest at EBONY.

Tito and Jermaine Braxton Gotta Let Janet Live

It’s becoming increasingly harder for me to tolerate Braxton Family Values when Toni and Tamar aren’t the focus. Okay, Trina is cool most of the time (however, girl, do R&B and get back with Gabe), but besides that, no. What was initially a show about five hilarious sisters has flipped to something like watching Rebbie, Tito & Jermaine hate on Janet after Control took off. The sisters can play coy about it in the press all they want, but I’m not kin to any of these people and I’m not lying on any of their behalves.

The biggest problem of the show lies with the sister with the biggest nose (no shade as I have the biggest teeth among my siblings): Towanda Braxton.

Now, Yolanda Adams Braxton has spent pretty much the entire run of this show doing her part to make sure we share her resentment towards Tamar. I mean, Tamar is basically the term “doing the most” on steroids and with a silicone injection so we didn’t really need help in that regard (full disclosure: I’m a Tamartian most of the time). No matter as howvever one feels about Tamar, at this point this show has been on long enough for us to draw our own conclusions about her.

Ditto for her spinoff show. Which reminds me: Hey, Yolanda Adams Braxton. Tamar has a successful spinoff based on he appearance on Braxton Family Values. What does that tell you? I’ll give you a hint: After you solve the riddle, you ought to be hearing Tamar’s voice saying, “You tried it.”

And oh, did you ever try it a few episodes ago when you tried to compare your sister achieving a lifelong goal with her passing gas.

Tamar had every right to ask, “Hey, Towanda, I went to your 40th birthday party, do you think you could come see one of my shows? Did you buy my album? Why didn’t you call or text me to say congratulations about it hitting number one on the R&B charts?”

You would’ve thought Tamar had told Towanda, “I know when you were little girls, you dreamt of being in my world. Don’t forget it, don’t forget it. Respect that, bow down, bitches.” As Vince rose from under the stage to yell, “CROWN!”

Instead of just acknowledging that she should have congratulated her sister directly versus some random shout out on social media, Towanda just sits there letting the salt clogging her heart thwart her from showing common human decency. Worse, in the confessional, she whines about Tamar purportedly always “needing” someone’s attention.

This woman fixed her mouth to say, “You want me to always send you a text when you do something? Congratulations, you just had a big fart.” She also mentioned her taking a shit. First of all, maybe you’re thinking about your gas or the type of material presently filling up your evil thoughts, but woman, take some Gas X and say a little prayer to somebody up above and cut that shit out.

Traci Braxton is no better. We already knew she was a bit jealous of her sister, too, but she also sat there with a stank look on her face as Tamar ultimately cried on the following episode about how alone she felt because she didn’t have the support of her sisters. Well, minus Trina, who has proven to not be as bad as her evil sisters who need to step the hell off the TV screen.

Even now, when these three do interviews and Tamar goes up, Towanda goes out of her way to highlight that Tamar is the baby of the family. Look here, Towanda, it’s not so much Tamar being the baby of the family as it is you being an insecure, mean spirited, jealous somebody.

Anyone who knows about The Braxtons as a singing R&B trio and can recall Tamar back when she was singing “No Disrespect” and why a dude wasn’t getting none (with Amil breathing in the background) realizes her struggle. If people who don’t even like her, but realize how hard it is for someone of Tamar’s age getting a 19th chance at stardom and actually attain it this time and be happy for her, why can’t you?

Sure, you gave Trina some love about Barchicks, but even that contained a bit of shade. Why not celebrate your other sister? Why do you have to frown when she asks if you could spend a day or two on tour with her and watch her live her dream?

By the way, Towanda, if not for Tamar and Vince’s production company and Toni’s celebrity, no one would still know you outside of that one story about you getting arrested for writing bad checks.

And Traci, I know for the longest time you were Left Behind Braxton so God bless you for this show giving you some hope, but stop trying to make fetch happen with “TrayBirds.” Also, stop copying Black gay men and trying to be the “sassy” one. Your sister already did that. Besides, we already have you pegged as the sister who stayed in Murrlyn, but is now trying to flip this reality show notoriety into something. No takebacks.

The best part of last night’s episode was Trina’s conversation with Tamar over what it’s like being a new mom on the road. That was sisterhood at its best. Towanda is giving us the opposite end and it’s exhausting.

These women have to either work out their issues, or some of them need to be replaced with some Braxton cousins. I’m over it. They’re acting like the family members you don’t bother yourself with until the holidays.

If not, we can just make SWV Reunited a two hour show.

EBONY.com: [THE WEEKLY READ] About Those Sherri Shepherd Comments…

When I first heard that Sherri Shepherd had offered some sort of variation of “the love the sinner, hate the sin” soundbite regarding homosexuality in a recent interview, I assumed she conveyed the sentiment in some asinine way—just another stop on her “Damn, I Did I Say Something Stupid Again?” tour. Then I actually watched the clip in question and had no desire to tag myself into her online pouncing. If anything, I saw it as an opportunity to have meaningful dialogue that might help the Jesus Freak and Hedonist Homosexual sects of humanity come together.

But then I remembered what planet I lived on and what field I currently earn a living in. Having a conversation that might actually move us forward is cute and all, but nobody’s clicking on that. Hell, I’m surprised some of these sites didn’t go with the header: “SHERRI SHEPHERD SAID GAY PEOPLE AIN’T S**T AND NEITHER IS BEYONCÉ! #BEYHIVE”

So what did Sherri Shepherd say that caused so many people to want to beat her with her Bible?

Well, when asked what she felt was the biggest misconception about her, she said, “I think people don’t know my heart. I think people feel I’m very judgmental. I think people feel I’m very homophobic. If they knew me, and knew my heart… You grow up being a Christian and you grow up believing homosexuality is a sin (and that) you’re going to hell if you’re a homosexual. This is something that they teach in churches. So it’s something that I grew up believing.”

Heavens to Murgatroyd: Sherri Shepherd just described the majority of our experiences.

She added: “I might not agree with your lifestyle, but I love you. You may not agree with my lifestyle, but you love me…I don’t say it’s a choice. If you tell me, ‘Sherri, I was born gay,’ OK. I’m not gonna argue with you, because I can’t tell you how you feel and what’s going on inside. I’m trying to make it into heaven by the skin of my teeth…I don’t know who I’m gonna see. So if you tell me you’re born [gay], I’m not gonna argue with you. And I absolutely respect you for that. I just ask that people respect how I feel, [I] respect how you feel and and we can have a great dialogue.”

She’s since apologized in light of how her views her presented, but I’m not sure if that was necessary. Now had Sherri said something to the effect of, “You booty chasing mistakes of God, may you and your cooter for cooter like minded abominations spend all of eternity in Satan’s sauna,” then perhaps I might’ve had the urge to shake the table. However, this is probably one of the more thoughtful explanations I’ve ever heard her give, especially when it comes to her faith.

Sherri Shepherd sat there and said she was raised a certain way, but doesn’t challenge people on whether or not they were born gay as it is not her experience, and then followed that with a call for respectful dialogue. So what did she get in response?  Much of it was “you had a baby out of wedlock,” “you are on your second husband,” blah, blah, blah, “you’re going to hell with me, heifer.”

Although I understand and share the occasional urge to hope a lightning bolt hits the forehead of a so-called Christian who uses their faith as a weapon, I also believe that some people have to accept that another person’s point of view on dogma is not necessarily them calling for a certain kind of sinner’s total damnation.

Sherri reminds me of so many people in my life, including my own mother. I love my mama dearly, but she does not agree with my “lifestyle choices” either. We do not discuss my sexuality, and for the foreseeable future, it’s best that we don’t. She wants me to go back to being a regular churchgoer who goes on to fall in love with a woman (other than Beyoncé) and produce grandbabies. Meanwhile, I called Sunday’s Seahawks vs. 49ers game the “Bae Bowl.” (Hey, Russell Wilson, and good morning, afternoon and night to you, Colin Kaepernick.) Needless to say, this particular prayer of my mother’s shall go unanswered.

In any event, while I don’t agree with her or Sherri, I genuinely believe neither hates me. Both of them are like many Christians who have not figured out how to reconcile what they’ve been taught to believe with the gay people who they care for or who are a major part of their lives. And while Americans are now more tolerant of gay people than ever before, there is no immediate mobilization to have this great spiritual debate on how to reconcile Christian doctrine with “the gay.” At best, there are only some progressive clergymen and Christians here and there doing their part.

Read the rest at EBONY.com.

TIME Ideas: Black Gay Men Are Still Invisible

Whenever I read about this mythical place in which a person’s sexuality is no longer taboo, in the wake of a handful of states allowing marriage equality, I often think to check the balance of my credit card. I would love to be able to afford to go to such a wondrous place. Unfortunately, reality quickly smacks me upside the head. There’s no way I could ever enter such a utopia — given that the only people allowed admittance are white, upper middle class white gay men. (Oh, and maybe the occasional straight “ally.”)

Months ago, I read David Carr’s essay in which he asserted “now that gay marriage is a fact of life, a person’s sexual orientation is not only not news, it’s not very interesting.” I chalked that up to him being a straight, white guy who didn’t know any better. However, Brandon Ambrosino recently lent credence to Carr’s possibly misguided remarks by noting, “Carr’s is a welcome reminder of the progress we often forget we’ve made. A person’s gayness isn’t a talking point, and his alleged gayness ought never be since it takes us back to an era when it was culturally acceptable to shame a gay person as a curious oddity.”

For the record, it’s still culturally acceptable to shame a gay person as a curious oddity. Otherwise, any conversation about a public figure’s sexuality would reflect that on its own. What really bugs me about this conversation, and all those like it, though, is that marriage equality is often the sole basis on how to weigh progress.

Should I meet the R&B singer or NBA player of my dreams, I’d love to get married and have all of the legal protections that come with that institution in all of the 50 states. Nonetheless, when I think about actual progress, as a gay Black man I can’t be silly enough to base “how far we’ve come” on where I can get married. I can see same sex marriage being legalized nationwide — but at present moment, I have other things on my mind to worry about.

We can start with the one-sided representation of the LGBT community.

Although Black people have traditionally been portrayed as the boogiemen and boogiewomen of gay rights (disproportionately opposed to gay marriage, on the whole), a Gallup poll nonetheless found that “Blacks are more likely to identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender than any other racial or ethnic group in the nation.” A year before that, the Census Bureau highlighted that gay couples “in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.”

And yet, who are the faces of gay families in the media? I recall Stephen Marche’s review of the now cancelled NBC comedy, The New Normal, in which he claimed that, “Gay people are becoming too boring for television.” Well, maybe the ones we’re stuck with are.

Read the rest at TIME Ideas.

Esquire: On Kanye West’s Voice and The Year in Cultural Appropriation

No matter what any of his more ardent and equally ill-informed fans might suggest, Kanye West’s complaints about the fashion industry are as bogus as a pair of counterfeit Gucci sunglasses picked up in Chinatown. His constant shouts of being outright wronged due to racism have been discounted by fashion writersreal students of design, and people of color alike. Though racism in the fashion industry is undeniable, Kanye’s own failures within that world can be more easily attributed to hubris.

Yet even if he is an imperfect spokesperson on the subject of racism, Kanye West is the only person of his clout actively using his platform to speak on the frustrations that come with being a black creative. If there’s any lesson to be learned from this year in pop culture, it’s that even in 2013, black culture is widely appealing and plenty profitable so long as the person commodifying it isn’t a person of color. In that respect, Kanye is right to be pissed off that brands can bank off our aesthetic and point-of-view but make it so difficult for us to do so on our terms and with similar success. Still, it’s ironic to see him feign shock over this revelation, as if it hasn’t happened repeatedly in his own world of music.

By now everyone has heard about how Miley Cyrus has appropriated aspects of southern black culture and used black women as props in her videos and performances, but as exhausted as many are of hearing about it, so, too, are black people of having to explain why it’s offensive. The same goes for explaining the problems with her more “evolved” peers like Lily Allen, who are just as guilty of calling for respect as a woman as they exploit the bodies of their black female brethren.

It’s already happening again. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Bieber explains of his R&B music, “I’m very influenced by black culture, but I don’t think of it as black or white… It’s not me trying to act or pose in a certain way. It’s a lifestyle — like a suaveness or a swag, per se. But I don’t really like to say the word ['swag'] anymore. It’s kind of played out.”

Get it? Blackness is a “lifestyle,” a testament to his new “don’t give a f— what they say” mantra. By the way, Justin, “swag” is “played out” because of people like yourself “borrowing it” and then deciding something that’s been around for a very long time is essentially over because you’ve become bored with it.

Not that it matters. The same way Justin Timberlake can go top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Suit & Tie,” which is typically known as an “urban adult contemporary” track, the Mileys and Biebers of the world can get crossover airplay for their spins on black music. Meanwhile, with the noted obliteration of black radio, when black artists do it they are relegated to far less airplay on select stations. It’s exactly why no matter how annoying it was to hear Usher abandon R&B to go be Uncle EDM and party with all the rave kids, it was understandable because it seemed like a shrewd survival strategy.

R&B may be rising again and, admittedly, produced the biggest single of the year, but it came by way of Robin Thicke (with Marvin Gaye’s ghost in the background, allegedly). And this same burden has bled over to other facets of pop culture. Many outlets were surprised that The Best Man Holiday did so well at the box office, as if Think Like a Man didn’t happen just last year. They must’ve also forgotten the Eddie Murphy-led Boomerang decades prior, which proved that a black romantic comedy could make a lot of money like all the other rom-coms.

Likewise, these days everyone talks of “shade” and “boots” and “get your life” and other terms that entered mainstream culture without the faces of the black gay men who coined them.

It’s so interesting that, as a writer, I am told by certain outlets that my ideas are “rigid” and my references too “in-group.” And yet if a white guy writes about rap or R&B with the same sensibility and slang to boot, he’s “cool” and “culturally aware.” Even in this space, my words mean more to the general public than they do if published in a black media outlet.

Read the rest of the essay at Esquire.com.