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The most sensible thing Raven-Symoné has ever said on The View is arguably the announcement that she would be leaving the show and returning to acting.

The announcement itself is not surprising. Raven-Symoné had already been relegated to appearing only once a week, but on Thursday, she revealed her absence was rooted in a reboot of her hit Disney series, That’s So Raven. As both lead actress and executive producer, she’s too busy. So bye-bye-bye to The View.

If I were her publicist, I would be doing every single dance I’ve ever seen on Vine (R.I.P.) in celebration. Free from this show and focused on acting, Raven-Symoné’s likability can be salvaged. As of now, her work on the talk show has been the equivalent of Donald Trump’s presidential bid soiling his brand.

When Raven-Symoné played Olivia on The Cosby Show, I found her adorable – even if she kind of made Rudy Huxtable obsolete. As one of The Cheetah Girls and the star of That’s So Raven, she provided my oldest niece endless joy. However, the more she teetered off script as a panelist on The View, the greater urgency I had for a real racial draft.

Like the time she defended Elisabeth Hasselbeck for asking a loaded question about Sandra Bland: “I do not judge every single white person in the history of America for something that they did 17 million years ago.”

Or the time she said this about Rachel Dolezal, aka Fake Ass Freddie Brooks: “It’s the same thing dealing with transgender, [Rachel Dolezal] said she’s felt like she’s Black since she was 5 years old, we’ve had to have these conversations with transgender, and other identity social unbalances in the brain.”

There’s also the following declaration: “I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea.” Raven-Symoné ultimately apologized for this stance on “ghetto names,” which had her lending her Black face to the issue of job discrimination. Yes, with a name like Raven-Symoné.

Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, she spoke about a Black teenage girl who was a victim of police brutality in a South Carolina classroom: “The girl was told multiple times to get off the phone. There’s no right, or reason, for him to be doing this type of harm, that’s ridiculous, but at the same time, you gotta follow the rules in school.”

She also wasn’t sold on Harriet Tubman being on the $20 dollar bill: “I don’t like [the idea of having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill]. I think we need to move a little bit more forward.” To her credit, Raven-Symoné did name Rosa Parks one of the alternatives, but I imagine the ancestors remain displeased.

Raven-Symoné also made the mistake of co-signing Mike Huckabee’s criticisms of Beyoncé, quipping, “I just need somebody to put some pants on when people are performing nowadays.”

And who can forget when she spoke on behalf of Univision host Rodner Figueroa, who was fired after comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to a character from Planet of the Apes. “Don’t fire me from this right now, but some people do look like animals,” she argued on the show.

Read the rest at Essence.

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It’s not Madea money, but as far as box offices grosses go, Moonlight is off to a very solid start.

 Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins’ beautiful queer coming-of-age drama made $414,740 its opening weekend. Screening in just four theaters, that comes out to an impressive $103,675 per-location-average.

As Forbes ’ Scott Mendelson notes, it’s one of only 26 film to earn more than $100,000 per theater, and one of even fewer that wasn’t an early Disney release.

This weekend, Moonlight expands to theaters in Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Washington D.C., before, eventually, making its way across the country.

Of course, a strong showing in L.A. or New York does not guarantee a film will yield similar results nationwide.

So, a plea: go see it.

Help Moonlight make its $5 million budget back and then some. Prove that now, more than ever, there is a need—and an audience—for wider representation of LGBT people of color.

Whenever there is a black-centered project on a mainstream platform—be it a film or TV show—there is a sense of urgency. Those of us that are black and aware know how quickly major studios and television networks can dispose of us. We know our visions are quickly relegated to the “niche” category should we dare include more than a speck of color.

The burden is even even greater when you’re black and not straight: So often we as gay people of color are told our stories don’t have wide appeal. Sadly, even some who purport to care about African-American narratives don’t share that same sense of urgency if the story focuses on something other than straight men.

Read the rest at NewNowNext.

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Despite previous reports to the contrary, the NFL has not confirmed that Lady Gaga will headline Super Bowl LI in February. To Gaga’s credit, if she were booked for the gig, she’d likely pull out all the stops. I can easily see her flying into the NRG Stadium in Houston on the backs of flying monkeys that worked for Evilene in The Wiz. I’m sure she’d try to up the ante and upstage previous performers who’ve given us iconic Super Bowl moments. She’ll probably nag Jesus – the Black one and maybe the one as depicted in Jesus Christ Superstar – for a duet with Prince’s ghost and Elton John. That would be super, but I think we can wait another year or three to see all that?

I think next year’s Super Bowl halftime show headline performer ought to be Jennifer Lopez. More than all the names we’ve heard associated with the event, Gaga and Adele, Lopez deserves this moment. She is known for multiple things – acting, dancing and fashion, but what I love most about Jennifer Lopez is her work as a performer. I have often referred to her as “Paula Abdul’s Revenge” and “Paula Abdul, If She Could Have Kept Herself Together.” Trust me, there are not many compliments from a gay man born in the 1980s higher than that.

It is the reason why her Las Vegas residency is doing so well. In August, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Lopez set a milestone when she made more than $1 million in box office sales for her residency at Planet Hollywood. The previous record holder? The Legendary Ms. Britney Spears. As Robin Leach noted in that report, “I think it now places J.Lo neck-and-neck with Celine Dion at Caesars Palace.”

It’s because Jennifer Lopez is one of the premiere performers of her generation, and well, even the generation that follows. At 47, Lopez dances better than many of her contemporaries. This would include Lady Gaga, though I would advise her Little Monsters from threatening my life for being factual. We saw this when she hosted the 2015 American Music Awards. You still see it if you look at any clip of her performing during her Vegas residency.

Now, considering she is 47 and the reality that life can be a hateful heifer, I would like to see Lopez do the Super Bowl when she can still dance full out. As much as I enjoyed Madonna’s Super Bowl performance, I do remember her slipping for a second. She played it off, but had she taken one wrong step and we would’ve watched LMFAO rushing to pick her back up. I need Lopez dancing down with her good knees!

And Lopez has an impressive and expansive catalog to choose from, so that’s another check mark. I want to see her include her hits like “I’m Real,” “If You Had My Love,” “Ain’t It Funny,” “Waiting For Tonight,” and “Get Right.” Of course, she has to do “On The Floor” and bring out Pitbull, a man that has somehow managed to be the favorite of suburban moms (the hood remembers the old stuff, though). And to her credit, Lopez’s voice has gotten much, much stronger over time (thank you, Marc Anthony) so we can even get treated to some live vocals, too.

Read the rest at VH1.

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As soon as I found out about the death of Shawty Lo — the 40-year-old Atlanta rapper who died in a car crash on September 21 — I got out of bed and ran in place, in tribute. While fans saluted Lo on Twitter and offline, by playing 2007’s Bankhead anthem “Dey Know” and going through tracks from his dense back catalog like “Dunn Dunn” and “Foolish,” during my salutatory jog, my mind went to snap music’s mid-aughts zenith, and a personal favorite from that time: “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me.”

A founding member of D4L, Shawty Lo was most aware of his position within the group. “Basically my role was like that of Baby from Cash Money,” he told Billboard in 2007. “I got some street finances and made the group and the label happen, I put a verse down here and there, but that was it.”

So it was. Even on “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me” — a seesawing, riot of a song — you don’t hear Shawty Lo until about three minutes in, and even there, he merely reiterates his position, rapping, They know I’m Lo, I’m CEO/ Got stacks on deck/ I pop, I roll.

Fabo, ever charismatic, rightfully garnered the most attention from D4L during that period, but if not for Shawty Lo’s money, this track, which served as the group’s debut single, would have never solidified the snap movement. Though the foursome went on to chart mainstream success with “Laffy Taffy,” it was “Betcha Can’t Do It Like Me” that earned them an audience early on.

Now, looking back on Lo and the snap era he helped engineer, there’s often mention of the pushback that the movement faced then. Frankly, in the South, most of us weren’t paying the criticism much mind. There are certain stigmas about the role of southern rap in hip-hop and whether or not the crunk era or the snap movement soiled its history. Much of that comes from non-southerners who hold a purist, snooty view of the culture. Of course, everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion, but those opinions don’t need to be awarded more value and focus than they deserve.

Read the rest at The FADER.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, is it really that big a deal to have had sex with a celebrity? It doesn’t happen to the average person, but to disclose that information as if you are a special snowflake isn’t remarkable—especially after books like Karrine Steffans’ Confessions of a Video Vixen, reality shows like Basketball Wives and Love & Hip Hop, Internet message boards like Lipstick Alley, and gossip outlets like The Shade Room.

There is an insatiable need for all things celebrity, but declaring you smashed someone famous and are therefore worthy of special recognition feels as old as the days you needed a college email account to join Facebook. Still, to 20-year-old Brazilian college student Jady Duarte and the tabloids that enable her, it was a worthy tale. Duarte gave an interview—excuse me, an EXCLUSIVE interview—to The Daily Mail about how she had sex with Olympian Usain Bolt.

According to her, he “pestered her” for sex using the Google Translate app. Breaking news: A man who wants to have sex in a foreign country uses technology to do so. Moreover, Bolt apparently snuck Duarte into the Olympic Village “under the noses of security.” And this just in: Duarte claims that Bolt insisted on listening to Rihanna’s “Work” during sex. So he likes to have sex to music. Ohmigod, next think you’ll tell me he ejaculated during sexual intercourse, too!

Duarte went on to express disappointment that Bolt did not keep his alleged promise to take her on another “date.” “I really thought we had something going,” she said. “But now I can see that he picks up women as quickly as he picks up gold medals.”

Girl. Girl. Girl. Did you really think this? If so, email me and let me create a Spotify and/or Apple Music playlist for you. I want you to never be that gullible in this life again.

I say this because she admittedly knew who the Bolt was before they had sex. And based on this story, she knew she could cash in on having sex with him. If that is the case, she could’ve easily Googled more intel along the way to find out he had a girlfriend, too, thus confirming their tryst was a one night stand. Consensual sex between two adults is just that, but knowing a situation for what it is might save you a lot of time, or in Duarte’s case, fake heartbreak for a story.

I do not begrudge Duarte for having sex with Bolt. Bolt having a girlfriend and cheating on her with Duarte is his problem and their issue. People have the right to lead lives that mirror SWV songs. But I am curious as to whether or not this moment of attention is worth an eternity of her Google searches being largely centered on the night she smashed a famous athlete.

Read the rest at Complex.

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The ample praise bestowed upon the likes of Young Thug, Jaden Smith, and other Black male entertainers for their often notably gender fluid style is both deserved and occasionally overblown. The latter has very little to do with them, however. As celebratory as it is to see famous Black men rise above the hypermasculinity often forced upon each of us, it is technically nothing particularly new but nonetheless unnoted. 

If you take a gander over at images of artists like The Isley Brothers decades ago, you will see that how some of the members dressed then could easily be described as gender fluid, gender queer, androgynous, and any other term that would denote someone not giving a fuck about whatever rigid gender norms suggests how they should dress. The same goes for the likes of disco artist Sylvester, and of course, the legendary Prince, whose unapologetic aesthetic forever changed the way the world viewed Black men. While in some respects, it’s right to describe these men as “ahead of their time,” it’s important to add that these Black men existed in a time that was more favorable to their styles.

What makes acts like Young Thug seem new to many is that for at least nearly three decades now, a singular version of Black masculinity was largely populated to the masses via a very specific strain of hip hop being the dominant force in popular culture. Now, there are men who have grown up within that culture pushing back on that. What separates Young Thug from both his contemporaries and predecessors, though, is that he is now not only defining what it means to be a Black man on his own terms, but ignoring the concept of gender altogether.

That is a much more powerful statement to make, and given his current stature, a sizable contribution to the culture.

As he explains in a video for Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 campaign, “In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”

For some artists, style is often a tool of provocation. A man putting on a dress will certainly garner attentionespecially if he is Black and especially if he is a rapper. However, whatever folks may find of Young Thug’s intentions, his words in this ad matter more than any dress he’s ever donned.

This is a Black man with the moniker Young Thug saying that he does not believe in gender. For many children and young adults who now have the space to feel somewhat freer in expressing their frustrations with societal norms that don’t speak to them, they now have someone like a straight rapper named Young Thug publicly lending credence to their argument.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Toward the end of 2014, vicious and very much hateful people worked quickly to spread isolated, unedited vocals of a Mariah Carey holiday performance that was not her best (to say the least).

We know Mariah loves herself some Christmas, but unfortunately, when she performed “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting special on NBC, she sounded like she had gargled with a lump of coal (no shade). Many folks took absolute glee in this spectacle.

In one post about the performance, a writer wrote: “Remember when Mariah Carey could sing? Most millennials probably can’t.”

As a millennial, let the record show that this is an absolute damn lie. Has Mariah’s once pristine and flawless voice shown signs of decline with time and possibly pinot grigio? I would never lie and deny this, dahling. Even if I am a proud member of her Lambily family, I can acknowledge that there have been moments in which one could say that Mimi sang as if she couldn’t fulfill the terms of her agreement with Ursula the Sea Witch, and thus, was being punished.

However, if there is one constant about Mariah Carey, it is that her vocal talent is enduring and ready to rebound. This would include Mariah during The Emancipation of Mimi era in which she let many doubters know back then that she was not washed up. This would also include right about now.

I’m not sure what Mariah has been doing—vocal rest, a new contract with Ursula, lots of prayer and tea—but she’s sounded lovely for most of the year. There are countless videos posted on YouTubefrom her recent Sweet Sweet Fantasy international tour. Maybe Mariah doesn’t sound like the MTV Unplugged special, but she is singing as strongly as she ever has in several years.

Mariah herself has also been posting video clips from her Las Vegas residency, Mariah #1 to Infinity, at Caesar’s Palace.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I have never heard a black person speak about O.J. Simpson with any reverence outside of J.J. Evans on an episode of Good Times. And while that show was populated by black faces, what came out of their mouths stemmed from the minds of the white writers in the room. Simpson was not Muhammad Ali, or Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, or hell, Warren Moon, if you’re from Houston.

Even before Simpson’s infamous and zeitgeist-shifting murder trial, he proved to be a polarizing figure among Black people because he didn’t ever seem to associate himself with black people and blackness. Simpson was loved by white people in a way not shared by blacks—not unlike Jason Derulo’s catalog. The term “transcending race” is a myth, but one can seek to distance themselves from their identity should they secure a certain amount of fame and wealth that might appear to remove some barriers largely attributed to racism.

Simpson got his wake up call during his murder trial, and like a long-lost relative that only comes around when they need money and a good meal, his defense strategy was largely rooted in noting his race and how racism permeates our justice system. For many blacks who know this and are victims of it, it was the best way to win back our support and kinship, even if temporarily. So, while I may not have understood the gravity of the Simpson trial in its totality as a child, I did understand that feelings on Simpson’s trial and its verdict were likely shaped by your race and experiences with racism.

Similarly, your interest in the trial verdict 20 years later is, too, likely fueled by your race and how experiences associated with it shift your worldview. That’s why whenever I am asked as a writer and cultural critic why we are so obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial two decades later, my first inclination is to ask who’s we?

During that time and perhaps a few years after, I’ve witnessed black people discussing the trial in the context majorly of “He either did it or knows who did.” And after he found himself arrested for and convicted of stealing sports memorabilia, with the sentiment, “This stupid motherfucker got off the first time and look at him.” In terms of black pop culture, there was a line about Simpson’s guilt in the first Barbershop, but beyond that, Simpson more or less faded with time with us.

He served as a symbol of a black man getting away with things we typically only see white folks getting away with. But the idea of him getting away with something he did greatly irritated white people, and it is why white people have primarily led the charge in revisiting the trial some 20 years later.

In a recent roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Nina Jacobson, a producer on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story had this to say about depicting the trial on TV: “I was scared of taking on O.J. overall, as a white person, knowing this was a polarizing case. We made every effort to have an inclusive team, but ultimately, the people who began the project, it started with a bunch of white people. And we know that the case means different things to different people.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come together—from a bird’s-eye view.

In terms of artistic license, Drake has every right to continue making music about emotional immaturity. He has every right to a whiny outlook on his failed relationships (fictional and otherwise). Likewise, his most ardent fans have every right to keep quoting his songs on social media and pretending that Aubrey Graham is more emotionally intelligent than he actually is. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all grow up a little?

I am not a Drake hater. Of course, I do question how a Canadian developed a Houston accent as an adult. I also question how said Canadian became West Indian on his latest album. But petty concerns like that haven’t convinced me that he isn’t good at what he does. (I have the receipts of monetary support to prove it.) Still, time has made me wonder how anyone that close to 30 can continue thinking the way he does.

How many more songs can this man make about how he had a “good girl,” went off to do his own thing (and fuck other people freely), and found himself steaming like a hot toddy because that “good girl” lost interest? Even worse, this motherfucker has the audacity to feel a way about someone getting over him. What kind of middle school man-child tripping-over-his-hormones shit is he on? Excuse me, still on.

Gather ‘round, beloveds. I have many examples: 

“All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore/Guess that’s why they say you need family for”

Listen, when you do not meet people under platonic circumstances, do not expect them to want to be your platonic friend. I have told many a man to get the hell away from me talking about “let’s just be friends.” Bitch, I got friends. Move around.

“I tried with you/There’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you/I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do”

Okay, great. So when they move on, don’t get all pissy about it, newly beardless wonder (more wonderful with a beard, though, tbh).

“Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?/Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me?”

Because you’re emotionally manipulative.

“I gave your nickname to someone else.”

You’re also a mean-spirited child at times.

“Chasing women a distraction/They want to be on TV next to me/You cannot be here next to me/Don’t you see Riri here next to me?”

God, shut up.

“I’m way too good to you… You take my love for granted/I just don’t understand it.”

Yo, this man routinely raps about screwing over women, virtually driving them away. Wait, I have another example.

“You hit me like, ‘I know you’re there with someone else’/That pussy knows me better than I know myself”

See that?

Get the hell on somewhere yapping about being too good for anyone. Okay, you are handsome, famous, and rich. There are a bunch of folks like that on Unsung and old episodes of Behind the Music, though. Don’t get too cocky.

And we cannot forget “Hotline Bling,” which is great as a song to bop to in the club, in the car, at the gym, on a sidewalk, or wherever else it’s playing. But as a statement, the song is a prime example that 2016 is the year of our Lemonade.

Read the rest at Complex.

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The future Angela Kardashian is my new hero.

Despite feeling somewhat disrespected that the soon-to-be former Blac Chyna stole my five year plan, I’m happy that she’s engaged to Rob Kardashian. As Blac Chyna’s rep told Us Weekly, “She was very excited and loves the ring. She’s happy with him and very happy.” Indeed, they look quite happy together and part of my joy over their engagement is rooted in the likelihood that Rob’s family members are sick over it.

To which I say: SUFFER.

Remember when Blac Chyna used to be great friends with Kim Kardashian? That is, until Kim’s teenage sister started dating the father of Blac Chyna’s child and her now former fiancé, that Timon from The Lion King looking rapper known as Tyga. Blac Chyna never publicly condemned any of the parties involved—including Kim—which was very nice of her, ‘cause I would have publicly blasted all of them. Twice.

The thing with those Kardashian sisters is that they are the reality-TV equivalent of any R&B song about a woman creeping in the wings, waiting to take a friend’s man. Seriously, why is it that so many of their relationships are modeled after SWV’s catalog?

Another former friend of Kim’s, Trina, has noted in interviews and on social media how Khloe Kardashian has dated two of her former boyfriends: French Montana (HAHN!) and James Harden, of the Houston Rockets. And though Amber Rose and Kim may “text each other all the time now,” don’t forget that Amber once referred to Kim as a homewrecker who plotted on taking Kanye West from her. Kris Humphries would agree with that sentiment.

I’m not sure whether or not Blac Chyna’s intentions with the only Kardashian brother were pure initially, but I do know that the end result is this family getting done to them what they have previously done to others. This is the family that consistently flips relationships into business partnerships, so I hope that not only do Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian get married, I hope they’re at work negotiating a reality show. It’s the family way.

In fact, in Kim Kardashian’s Rolling Stone interview last year she discussed Rob, saying, “Do I think he smokes weed, drinks beer, hangs out, and plays video games with his friends all day long? Yes.” When pressed if it wasn’t more “like hookers and meth at the Ritz,” she responded: “No, no. Or he’d be skinny.”

Rob was said to be “furious” over this, but thankfully, his new fiancée is helping him out. See, Kimmy? It’s all better now. Blac Chyna is remodeling Rob the same way Kanye West ransacked your closet and put you in all those neutral tones.

So what if Kris Jenner and the rest of the family aren’t talking about the new addition to the family? Blac Chyna, Rob Kardashian, and his future mother-in-law, Tokyo Toni, certainly seem pleased. I think that’s what matters most.

Read the rest at Complex.

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