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Earlier this month, when Kim Kardashian premiered her selfie with Hillary Clinton (featuring Kanye West in the background, doing a mesh of mean mug and amusement), my immediate reaction was, “I hope she’s not trying to sell HRC on the benefits of wearing a waist trainer.”

I was guilty (as many are) of dismissing the idea of Kardashian having any legitimate interest in political and social causes. Well, none that don’t directly involve her, anyway. But as vapid as Kim Kardashian can be, there is something skeptics like me must accept: she’s been trying to show substance lately.

A year ago, Kardashian took to her site to pen a personal post that detailed how having a mixed race daughter has shed light on the realities of racism.

Kardashian wrote:

To be honest, before I had North, I never really gave racism or discrimination a lot of thought. It is obviously a topic that Kanye is passionate about, but I guess it was easier for me to believe that it was someone else’s battle. But recently, I’ve read and personally experienced some incidents that have sickened me and made me take notice. I realize that racism and discrimination are still alive, and just as hateful and deadly as they ever have been.

This earned her a resounding “duh” across the Internet, but Kardashian did go on to note, “I feel a responsibility as a mother, a public figure, a human being, to do what I can to make sure that not only my child, but all children, don’t have to grow up in a world where they are judged by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their sexual orientation. I want my daughter growing up in a world where love for one another is the most important thing.”

Her intent was to convey that motherhood is changing her, and that her eyes were beginning to open up—she’s seeing the world beyond her bubble. It’s one thing to date and marry black men, but it’s another to actually be a mother to a black child who will experience things she will never be forced to. In many ways, Kardashian has lived up to the promise of her post.

In July, Kardashian wrote on Twitter, “#WhatHappenedToSandraBland We need answers!!!! This is NOT ok! This is all shady! They need to own up to this & tell the truth!” Arguments ensued immediately, with people wondering whether or not she truly “cared.” It’s a stupid question to pose. At this rate, it should be very clear that Kardashian is methodical and hyperaware of what it means to extend her name to something be it a product or a victim of police brutality. She cared enough to bring attention to it and the end result was arguably Bland’s story being carried on entertainment programs that might’ve otherwise ignored the story.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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“Who is that girl with the big ass head?” was my first critique of Rihanna. That was 10 years ago. I was an intern at MTV News and I had absolutely no idea who she was. A fellow intern and college classmate informed me that Rihanna, who walked around smiling and with only one other person with her, was behind the new song “Pon de Replay.” After that quick informational, it was not long before I could be spotted body rolling to the track on my iPod while en route to the West Village.

I did fall in love with her debut album, Music of the Sun, which turned a decade old this month, but if nothing else, I was at least aware of her name and one of her songs. For a label, it’s a not a runaway success, though it’s not a complete failure either. It’s something: a chance to build.

The same summer, I also interned at the now defunct music magazine Blender. That was where I met another new artist who was affiliated with Jay Z: Teairra Mari. As the sole black person around, I had gone to the set and helped them find the proper lighting for Teairra’s darker skin. This included standing there, not lose my black skin while testing the lights and hold the leashes of two doberman pinschers who would be a part of the shoot. When Teairra Mari walked in, she was surrounded by a sea of handlers – many of whom who I recognized from MTV. She couldn’t have been more than 17 at the time, but I recall her being served up in attire that recalled Vanity 6.

Then, I heard her second single, “No Daddy,” blaring from the speakers. As soon as I heard the hook of that song, I could simultaneously hear her career be dropped inside a black skillet filled with hot grease. I’m surprised none of the editors sent me to go get Teairra a side of french fries.

What they got wrong about Rihanna is that she was not supposed to be the Caribbean Beyoncé. What they got wrong about Teairra Mari is that she could have been like Monica in that she was a teenager with an attitude, but within limits. Monica was Miss Thang, Not Miss Motherf**king Thang. Her first album, Roc-A-Fella Records Presents Teairra Mari, which also turned 10 this month, is a lot better than its lazy title. It was too much, too soon from a teenager, though.

Unfortunately, only one of these two singers that I saw within weeks of each other that summer had the chance to rectify their handlers’ mistakes.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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There have been many articles penned about Tinder, most recently the Vanity Fair profile entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse.” It is as hyperbolic as it is clueless. Casual sex is not new, only easier thanks to technology. The same goes for ordering food. You don’t see panic over that, so why be pressed about this? If you don’t need or want Tinder to be the Seamless for sex, then don’t use it as such. If you’d rather meet people the old fashioned way, don’t use it at all.

For those of us who actually appreciate the dating app, it can be a great way to meet people without a lot of effort. However, it could be a whole lot sweeter for the hook-up crew and those who are swiping for true love—if people used it better. Let me explain.

Picture it: Me, on my iPhone 6 that I drop way too much, scrolling through Tinder looking for, uh, love or something. As I swipe left through a sea of bugawoofs, weirdos, and White guys old enough to have voted for Ronald Reagan, I spot a bae. In my head, I instantly think, “Jesus, let us match. No, I haven’t been to church in a while, but I listen to Mary Mary’s ‘Walking” like er’day. Help me out!”

And he swiped me too! And it’s ON.

Except not much happens afterwards. Why? Because the handsome, but nonetheless useless somebody turns into a less friendly version of Casper the Ghost.

Riddle me this, my virtual boo-seeking-brethren: Why match someone – which signifies some level of interest even if nominal – only to pretend your fingers broke, your phone died, or you suddenly develop a serious case of illiteracy? I am used to having to approach people because I allegedly look “unapproachable” (code for “resting bitch face” and/or they scared and need to go to church) so I already know to make the first move. However, that doesn’t excuse not saying anything at all – even after I take the lead with a greeting.

I mean, if I wanted to be ignored, I’d take this unfriendly face of mine and go to a gay bar and get drunk – and then wait for people to speak to me and share their trifling intentions. (Insert the 100 emoji here. Two or three, if you’re feeling generous.)

If you are someone who engages in the practice of swiping in silence, I want you to know that you’re a horrible person. Not entirely as bad as Donald Trump, but very much on par with the other folks running for the Republican presidential nomination. Yes, I am being judgmental, but I am totally comfortable with that. You deserve this good contempt.

I have more complaints about Tinder.

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When I told a friend that I would be writing about Keri Hilson’s return to music, she immediately responded with the question, “Who’s looking for her to come back?”

Therein lies the issue with the singer-songwriter as she plots a return to music. Like many music writers and bloggers, I received an email announcing Hilson’s return along with a link to two new tracks, “100” and “Scream.” Months prior, the likes of Timbaland teased fans with new works like “Listen.” Around the same time, Hilson herself teased us with audio of “Dinero,” although singer Monica sold the new track far better than she did.

The songs we’ve been teased sound more interesting than what’s come in full, but whatever we do get in terms of a new Hilson album, one wonders whether or not the public cares anymore. “100” and “Scream” were leaked to the Internet in full, but in terms of volume, both generated more of a “hi and bye” than conversation. Whenever Hilson does make an official return to music, she’s got her work cut out for her.

Two years ago, the Atlanta-bred artist took to Twitter to lament about the years of “verbal abuse,” noting, “You have no idea what your hateful words could do to someone’s spirit.” She was mostly referring to the Beyoncé fans that consistently berated her for her not so subtle shots at the Queen Bey. To this day, Hilson acts as if other people misinterpreted her past comments and actions about Beyoncé.

No one did, though, and regardless of whether or not she’ll ever own up to it, the reality is Keri Hilson is responsible for her reputation as the Maleficent of R&B. Like I noted at the time, she’s been equally shady to her other contemporaries, which is why many dislike her. At the very moment, a few people are reading these lines and thinking, “But it shouldn’t matter if you like the artist. What counts most is the music.” That’s cute, but that’s never been the case— likability has always factored into one’s success. In fact, one could say in an age where buying music is a choice an increasingly less amount of people opt to make, it matters more than ever.

And to be blunt, when it came to Keri Hilson openly shading Beyoncé in public spaces, it was just a dumb decision. Not only is Beyoncé one of the biggest pop stars on the planet (and to some, the biggest), she’s also known as one of the nicest. It was like Ciara taking an unnecessary shot at Rihanna on Fashion Police. In that instance, Rihanna simply read Ciara her rights via Twitter, but both Ciara and Hilson looked like the Jan Brady to their Marsha.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I realized I wasn’t that young anymore when my oldest niece innocently asked me, “Is Aaliyah that singer who died in a plane crash?” Immediately after I answered, I went into pop quiz mode. “Do you know who Brandy is, beautiful?” Frighteningly, she had absolutely no clue–until she released a single featuring Chris Brown.

More recently, I’ve gone on dates with men born in 1990 – you can drop your judgment off right here, thanks – and openly cried out to God over their lack of knowledge about one of the greatest women to ever body roll on this Earth, Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Some of these very men have referred to me as “old.”

This can’t be life.

As youthful as I feel, I was born in 1984 and I’m getting frequent reminders that I am entering a new stage of life. Many of the albums I grew up listening to have either hit their 20th anniversary mark or they’re right on the cusp of doing so. This includes janet, CrazySexyCool, My Life, Brown Sugar, and soon, Faith and Hardcore. The same way I looked at my mama about her Chi-Lites and Whispers, referring to the group members as “pop-pops” is what’s happening to me now when I bring up UGK in certain groups. Karma is a hateful heifer.

While many folks my age crack jokes about “aunties,” as one of my friends recently reminded me, we are now the aunties. Do you know who is now doing the Tom Joyner Cruise? Trina! Yes, “da baddest bitch” is out here on the cruise shop that the super grown folks are known for attending performing “Single Again.” One of my friends is so amped about one day joining the cruise. In his mind, he thought 40 would be the perfect age, but auntie life came calling a bit sooner.

I’ll also admit that if not for the youth in my life, I’d have no idea what in the hell so many of the folks on the Twitter talk about. Like, what is a fleek? And one question I’m constantly asking: Who in the hell is this rapper that sounds like English is his fourth language?

I am only 31-years-old and while I can still drop down and get my eagle on, my pop, lock, and drop ain’t what it used to be. There’s also yoga, but that’s not the core issue. I’m just getting older and in the HOV lane to a new stage in life. An era where linen pants will sooner than later overfly my closet. Where all white parties will fill my calendar. A place where, Crown Royal and Wild Turkey will be my drinks of choice – just like so many of my uncles. Hell, I’m already halfway there if you include Crown Apple. In my defense, that is delicious and best served with ice in a mason jar.

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While at a mixer for black writers and editors earlier this week, a friend and colleague of mine was accosted by the sight of bare butt cheeks on my phone. I was not the proud owner of said behind; I was answering a text message and had no idea a flirtatious exchange had escalated to full-out sexting. My colleague and I were already too far into enjoying laughs and tequila for it to matter, but it did remind me of how exposed I am through my phone.

Yes, my financial information and other pertinent information is stored there, but also things I’m equally, if not more, concerned about getting out: my sexual secrets. This includes my visuals, conversations and other items that my friends and I affectionately classify as “ho shit.” A few months ago, I wrote about a reluctance to try out what are commonly known as “hook up apps” and how being recognized by others on the apps resulted in initial embarrassment. Initial because, after a while, I decided to not let anyone else’s stigmas burden me any longer. I am human, after all, and expressions of sexuality – in this instance, by way of a free app I downloaded on my iPhone – come with the territory.

That sort of confidence takes a long time to build up for many, and it can be hard to maintain – ergo the aforementioned “sorry about this ultra-nice butt accosting your eye sockets, girl.” While I now own my antics, I often worry if one day I’ll anger the wrong person who will literally expose every facet of my body and whatever sexual desire I’ve shared in presumed confidence. To “blast me,” which is loosely translated into embarrassing and shaming.

Throughout the year, and every year really, there are people exposed for essentially being human. This is not just limited to famous people, though not surprisingly, a celebrity sex scandal draws greater interest by virtue of name recognition. Still, in 2015, if you are sexually active and sexually free on your cellphone, you run the risk of being exposed in this manner.

But sexts have different levels of stigma attached to them. A lot of us can say we’ve seen someone’s nudes leaked to social media in fits of rage from an angry partner, or a part-time plaything. Meanness is a staple of social media, and in an era where folks just love to “shade” and “pop off,” this trend of outing people for whatever they’re into or have done is just a new facet of it.

What isn’t new is that being “different” is a more shameful thing to expose. Sex itself, particularly between two people of the same gender, can still be regarded as shameful. The same goes for being sexually drawn to someone whose gender identity does not fit into a neat little two-seat box.

If I had my way, I’d wave a magic wand and sing a solution – accept every form of sexuality, don’t be so ashamed about how you get it down – and end it with “Bibbidi-bobbido-boo.”

Unfortunately, I do not have the magic powers of an old lady in Cinderella, so it’s more likely that this  trend will only worsen with time. Perhaps such secret sharing and subsequent stigmatizing won’t happen to you, but there’s surely something about yourself on your phone that you wouldn’t want aired out. The courtesy you would want paid to you in such crisis should be extended to others. But that would be too much like right, wouldn’t it?

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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If you had asked me three years ago if I were interested in watching a reality show starring Evelyn Lozada, I might’ve cursed you out for disrespecting my eye sockets.

Lozada played an integral role in the success of VH1’s Basketball Wives and was arguably the star of the show. But she was as mean as a Disney villain more often than not. Mean as in telling the woman whose husband she bedded once upon a time while they were still married, “You’re a non [motherf–king] factor, bitch.” Lozada was also as violent as a UFC fighter, often leaping over tables to pounce on her detractors or tossing wine bottles at their heads in one of her multiple fits of rage throughout her time on the show.

She was like a Puerto Rican, professional-athlete-dating, version of Ursula, the Sea Witch, minus the singing voice.

It made for interesting television, but there’s only so long one can keep up with a shtick before it grows stale. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see Lozada’s original spinoff, Ev & Ocho, following reports that her then-new husband, Chad Johnson, had assaulted her. Though I was not exactly a fan of Lozada’s, I did take issue with her Basketball Wives antics being used to justify her reported assault. This would include ESPN anchor and piss-poor commentator on social issues Stephen A. Smith engaging in victim blaming. Whatever Lozada did on Basketball Wives has no bearing on what allegedly happened in the car ride with her now-former husband.

Even so, with that criticism came an opportunity, and she certainly seized upon it. My initial reaction to Lozada doing Iyanla Vanzant’s Fix My Life was cynical: damage control and potentially parlay this “new Evelyn” into another television show.

In hindsight, motivation doesn’t matter.

I finally watched Lozada’s new series on OWN, Livin’ Lozada, and I—surprisingly, perhaps not so surprisingly—love it.

For the longest time, I thought of her as a jackass, too, into sucker punching people. Then again, her former reality vehicle never allowed for a fuller depiction of who she was. And also, maybe she wasn’t ready for one, either.

On Livin’ Lozada, Lozada is tackling her role as mother to a 2-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter, itching to launch her own brand and take control of her own life. On this show, Lozada has to grapple with wanting to have more children, but realizing that at the age of 39, time is not on her side. Enter her revealing on the series premiere that she became pregnant, only to find out later that she suffered a miscarriage.

There is no pretense about the issue of Lozada’s temperament, either. She is working on controlling her anger issues, and in many respects she has done a good job. However, she still has her moments (as many of us do). I actually find her commitment to cursing profusely endearing.

For skeptics—including me—who wondered how Oprah Winfrey would manage to align her initial vision of the network with Evelyn Lozada’s having a show, the answer is clear: easily.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Unless you’re a perfect specimen (spoiler alert: you’re not) chances are your respective bae score fluctuates based on diet, exercise, alcohol levels, or plastic surgeon. We’ve all been there, and there’s no better source to inspire and/or depress us into stepping our cookies up than Instagram. As of late, most of my thirst has been directed in the direction of Drake.

For many of you out there, Drake was already a lusty figure in your life. Yeah, I was never completely there. Sure, he was cute from certain angles – when his face is tilted to the right to be specific – and if you’re into obsessing over Aaliyah, then certainly I can see the appeal. I did enjoy his guest hosting duties on Saturday Night Live last fall because I noticed he has great legs, but I never wanted to toss my draws his way the in the intensity that others desired to.

Now I am a changed man.

I used to say Drake looked like Captain Caveman. Before you ask, I look like Dale from Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers. I’ve also been told that I resemble Buster Bunny from Tiny Toon Adventures because you know, big ass teeth. So there. I’m playing fair.

Like Captain Caveman, Drake looked like there was some morsel of cuteness there, but he wasn’t putting in the extra work to drive it home.

In the last few weeks and months, something is noticeably different about Aubrey Graham. For starters, that stomach of his is so flat and tight. His arms are so big. And his chest: I’d like to give every God the glory for it.

Read the rest at VH1.

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There have been times where I am alone in my home clutching a glass of wine and contemplating when my life will resemble one long loop of Toni’s Braxton’s Find Me A Man or one of the many other celebratory R&B tracks about finding true love that I enjoy. And sure, there are moments where the thought of boo-less life makes me feel as bitter as a post-breakup Rob Kardashian Twitter tirade.

However, I have the good damn sense not to ever reveal these thoughts on social media – and certainly not at length. Yet I increasingly see folks I know whine about their single status online. It is by far one of the most obnoxious traits of social media users, which says a lot, given there are so many varying ways to come across as a terrible person on the internet.

People are free to express themselves as ever they see fit, of course. As a wise pop star once sang: “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself.” If you are guilty of complaining about being single on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapcat, Vine and every other social media app invented, ask yourself this very important question: is my complaining going to make me any less single?

Have you ever seen someone ranting and raving about not having a boyfriend or girlfriend and said: “I’m so turned on by this display of bitterness” Or: “Oh, baby. Your lack of self-awareness touches my soul. Let me take you out to dinner and find out exactly why no one wants you.”

If you answered yes, you just told me a lie. Stop it. Stop it right now.

The answer is no with a hell in front of it because it’s not hot to have a personality that mirrors that taste of grapefruit.

Admittedly, I have trashed men on Twitter before for reasons that include not being able to speak in complete sentences without pausing for a water break, being a sexist jerk, or making you regret not having the power of teleportation. In my defense, I blast awful people all the time. It’s just a fun little hobby of mine.

But you’ll never catch me lamenting at length about how upset I am that Trey Songz, Frank Ocean, Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Williams or Michael B Jordan have failed not only to propose marriage, but even take me on a date. Nor do I talk about how, since moving to New York City, I’ve had so-so experiences with dating in the city.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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To be lauded as a legend is one thing, but what good are kudos if you can’t even drive freely down the road you paved? As much as we revere Lil’ Kim —and as much success as she’s enjoyed— those who came after her are the ones who truly benefited from the fruits of her labor. If you’re having doubts, just look at Nicki Minaj’s massive crossover appeal. But Lil’ Kim was also ahead of her time musically, and one album stands above all others.
When The Notorious K.I.M. was first released, there were certain songs that I loved. And I still love them, starting with “Suck My Dick,” which still feels like the perfect response to the street harassment many women contend with from idiotic men. There’s also the title track, which snatches Foxy Brown bald within the first minute. There are others, but many of the tracks were not that fierce – exactly why I didn’t completely get the album as a whole. It was not nearly as gritty as her debut, Hardcore, or her work with Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Such was Kim’s intent.

After the success of her first album, it was clear that Kim had a bigger budget to work with and a larger vision for herself. That resulted in bigger wigs, more expensive looking videos, and far more polish. The Notorious K.I.M. fell victim to several leaks –even more surprising given it was the very late 1990s– which resulted in the album’s release date being pushed back several times. This was partially to combat the bootlegged tracks that found their way to mixtapes, fan Web sites, and the radio— but also to deal with the mounting criticism over a more commercial sound.

In April 2000, Entertainment Weekly wrote about the delays facing The Notorious K.I.M. and quoted one “well-known hip-hop publicist” complaining about the dozen tracks that had already leaked, saying, “It’s very pop and doesn’t have a street edge. People are going to think, ‘Who are you trying to be, Lil’ Kim or Mandy Moore?”’ Now, name that female rapper who has had to deal with similar complains in this decade (*cough* Nicki *cough*). Then compare the success of her pop tracks with the pop offerings Kim dropped 15 years ago.

Some of these tracks – including her cover of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” with RuPaul – did not make the final cut. And part of Lil’ Kim’s additional recording did add more of a “street edge” to the final product. Still, Kim’s sophomore effort remained a glossier and far more commercial affair. Some of it was done quite cleverly, a la “How Many Licks” featuring Sisqó, which samples the theme from the TV series Knight Rider. Others, like the Pat Benatar-sampling “Don’t Mess With Me” and the album’s lead single, “No Matter What They Say,” were more overt.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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