This Is Why I Call You Left Behind Braxton

I imagine that for years, whenever Traci Braxton would stand in her kitchen in Murrlyn, frying pork chops or steaming crab legs with just a little bit too much of Old Bay, she was fuming over the fact that the world of rhythm and blues paid her ass dust. So, in some respects, I applaud Left Behind Braxton for making the most of the attention Braxton Family Values has yielded her. If we’re being totally honest with ourselves, besides Tamar Braxton, Traci has maximized this reality show fame the most.

Yes, Trina Braxton has released two singles – “Party or Go Home” and “Gametime” – but given that she’s damn near 40 and cannot dance a good got damn, someone should have told her it’s far too late in her life to go and try and be Kesha. As for Towanda Braxton, for all that initial talk Yolanda Adams Face had about becoming an actress, I haven’t seen her in so much as a Ora Quick commercial.

Meanwhile, Traci has secured an online radio show — this despite having one of the worst accents and speech patterns in history. And now she has a full fledged album, which doesn’t sound bad or even cheap. It even features duets with artists I’ve actually heard of like Raheem DeVaughn. She’s even put out a video, which I plan to never watch again, but I must say, looked like it was on a Keyshia Cole, the early years budget and a bae as the lead.

All that said, kudos to you, Traci, but let’s make sure we keep one thing clear: When you really get down to it, there’s a reason Toni never asked you to be a doo wop pop pop chick. Bless Traci’s heart, but what in the absolute fuck is this?

In this performance, she looks like somebody’s drunk auntie at a karaoke. Or better yet, she’s giving me “What if Shug Avery fell off the wagon and forgot 10 of her steps?” Traci is so jealous of Tamar, but much of that likely is rooted in her wishing she was Tamar. That would explain her really terrible attempts at also copying gay slang and all other banjee related antics on the show. If Tamar were in AP courses, Traci is in the remedial ones held in the temporary buildings in the back of the school. You know, so they are free to slob on each other in a safe space.

God bless her since that album is coming out next week no matter how abysmal her stage game is, but Traci Braxton needs work. On her singing. On her dancing. On any and everything related to being a recorded artist.

Seeing Is Believing: Does the Public Need to See Crime Videos?

Despite pleas from the family, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will not release surveillance footage surrounding the shooting death of John Crawford III. Crawford’s father, John Crawford II, says the footage make it clear in no uncertain terms about what happened in that Beavercreek Wal-Mart. Speaking with The Guardian, Crawford II claims, “It was an execution, no doubt about it. It was flat-out murder. And when you see the footage, it will illustrate that.”

DeWine has argued that releasing the footage would be “playing with dynamite” and prevent any trial from being fair. And yet, the narrative about what preceded Crawford III’s death remains: He, with his Black and menacing self, walked around the store brandishing a gun, forcing them to believe that they were under direct and imminent threat. That gun turned out to be a BB gun for sale in the store and the person who called 911 has since recanted his story. Also speaking with The Guardian, Ronald Ritchie now says, “At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody.” Ritchie, maintains Crawford was still taking the toy gun and “waving it around,” but he nonetheless soiled the minds of a potential jury pool, too – his own ability to bend the truth be damned (his claims of being an “ex-marine” have been proven false.)

Nonetheless, a Beavercreek police spokesman maintains their version of events, claiming in a statement: “Preliminary indications are that the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances.”

I bet, but a tape will likely confirm what most of us already know: this death should not have happened.

Personally, I don’t have to see video footage of a horrific incident when the surrounding details are crystal clear. I feel confident in concluded that based on the facts, an unarmed Black man lost his life for no good reason. The same goes for knowing that now former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice assaulted his then fiancée, Janay Palmer and that justice was not served by the NJ prosecutor, nor by a permissive NFL commissioner. But while I don’t need to see the gory details of something in order to comprehend its ugliness, but I do recognize that this is the case for others.

For varying reasons – lack of empathy or the effects of being bombarded with desensitizing imagery for far too long – many often have to see horror to interpret it as such.

Yes, in a perfect world, it should not have required TMZ leaking footage of Ray Rice knocking out his partner, stepping over her as if she did not matter in the least to him, and spitting on her motionless body to get the public riled up to the extent to which even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may soon find himself unemployed, but it did. The same can be said of the site publishing photos of Rihanna after her brutal beating from then-boyfriend Chris Brown. Had we not viewed those images, Chris Brown might’ve been able to sing about disloyal “hoes” mere months after the incident as opposed to five years.

That does not in any way make TMZ a crusader. They are not releasing this sort of footage out of the goodness of their hearts. It is about profit and securing it through wetting the public’s insatiable appetite for all things celebrity. Still, no matter their intentions, their actions have yielded real consequences for abusers and those who enable them for those who may have otherwise simply skated by.

There is an obvious cost to that, though. Rihanna did not want the world to see those pictures. The same can seemingly be said about Janay Palmer Rice. Victims often do not want to be viewed as such. Not to mention, there is gross embarrassment in having your victimization ready available for consumption to anyone with an Internet connection.

Read more at EBONY

Stop Being So Dumb About Domestic Violence

Whenever I want to give up on humanity and manage to avoid a conversation with family, I can always count on the Internet to renew my interests in seeing the absolute worst in people. If I need a lil’ extra something-something to really make me cynical, mass media and the numerous insensitive, hallow-thinking, and misogyny-pushing minions they employ are there to pitch in. Case in point, the aftermath of TMZ leaking additional footage of now-former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice violently assaulting his then-fiancée, Janay Rice, and the varying insensitive, cruel, and downright stupid responses to an issue that requires more nuance, larger empathy, and certainly less simpletons talking.

For starters, men invoking the name of Solange and her elevator aggression in order to deflect from the fact that Ray Rice had absolutely no business knocking out Janay cold and stepping over her like she was absolutely nothing.  This is akin to cries over the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial to counter claims of a racially biased criminal justice system.

Okay, fellas, sure, Solange should have kept her hands to herself, but this doesn’t negate that when it comes to intimate partner violence, men are the primary aggressor.

Likewise, it does not excuse Ray Rice for mishandling whatever “provocation” anyone feels he had before assaulting his now-wife. If you’re a man — especially one as strong as a pro football player — you are able to diffuse a situation without resorting to the violence Ray Rice did. You do not have to punch a woman in the face. It does not matter whether Solange did a powerhouse wheel kick on Jay Z’s head in front of Jesus and threatened to smack him with a Bible if he sassed her too.

Men are mostly responsible for domestic violence and it is the responsibility of men to make it pain and clear that in no certain terms is it okay to beat your partner.

Then there are the village idiots who find a woman being beaten something worthy of “humor.”  Enter the jovial fools who anchor the morning masochism that is FOX News’ “Fox & Friends.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade joked, “I think the message is, take the stairs.” After Dumb finished, Dumber co-host Steve Doocy responded, “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

I think the real message is awfully apparent: Some people in front of the camera belong in the back of the bus heading to some job that has nothing to do with broadcast journalism.

Not to be outdone are the people who believe the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL “overreacted” for their handling of Rice (his release from his contract, indefinite suspension). One of those folks with the loudest bullhorn is serial woman beater Floyd Mayweather, who argued, “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households, also. It’s just not caught on video, if that’s safe to say.”

“Worse” instances of domestic violence doesn’t make what Ray Rice did any less reprehensible.

From Mayweather’s despicable perspective, the severity of punishment ought to be based on just how much damage the abuser does. But considering Mayweather’s history – as noted by Deadspin, “having been convicted of, pleaded guilty or no contest to, or pleaded down from at least 15 combined counts of domestic violence, battery, harassment, stalking, and violating a protective order” – one can’t be surprised. Or mortified, for that matter.

Floyd Mayweather is a misogynist with a history of aggression against women, but he is protected by his celebrity and power. As is Mark Fuller, a sitting federal judge in Alabama, who was also caught on videotape beating his wife at a hotel only to be given the lightest of taps on the wrist that’ll allow him a prompt return to the bench without a record.

Read the rest at NewsOne.

Why Isn’t Janelle Monáe A Bigger Star?

Given her level of talent, range, and yes, beauty, why isn’t Janelle Monáe a bigger deal by now? Her gifts as a singer, songwriter, dancer and overall performer are certainly worthy of larger notoriety. The fact that she opts not to present herself in a way that is ultra sexualized is the antithesis to the current musical landscape that so many say we need (and rightfully so) – making her by default a much more interesting figure than many of her peers.

Janelle Monáe doesn’t have to be as big a star as Beyoncé, Rihanna or Nicki Minaj, but why has she yet to reach the stature of even more apt peers like Frank Ocean and Miguel?

In a then hotly contested review of The Electric Lady, former New York music critic Jody Rosen offered an explanation as to why Monáe’s press doesn’t match the performance of her music: her image may be a wee bit too conceptual, and her music, too referential. In a rebuttal over at Flavorwire, a seemingly very offended Tom Hawking claimed that Rosen pigeonholed her and proceeded to offer a bunch of other musings performed in the key of Kumbaya. It’s a testament to how defensive some fans get when something “different” is criticized, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

While I’ve been a Janelle Monáe fan since the days of The Audition and Metropolis-Suite I: The Chase, thus far it’s her skill as a performer and eye for visuals that stand out most. That’s not unlike her contemporaries, but the difference is that they have the songs to propel them to stardom.

I enjoy her mesh of influences, but when packaged as near 20-song albums, it comes across as both too much two-fold: derivative and inconsistent. Neither of which match the grandiose concepts they’re packaged with.

I wonder what difference a little more cohesion and simplicity would make.

Read the rest at VIBE.

Pull It Together, Keyshia Cole

Keyshia Cole’s marriage has crumbled, and judging from her Instagram postings—increasingly centered on the codependent themes of “fuck love” and “men ain’t shit”—she doesn’t seem to be at the place Oprah would deem “her best self.” For the fans dismayed by Keyshia’s last few albums—the so-so Woman to Woman and the oh so disappointing Calling All Hearts, respectively—her personal pitfall has inspired hope about her professional future. This is largely fueled by the belief that, like her musical mother Mary J. Blige, her happiness watered down her music.

Yet, very few people sang along with me about slapping a bitch like Rick James, and even I joined the chorus in ignoring other recent Keyshia releases, “Next Time (Wont Give My Heart Away)” and “She,” which is one of those bandwagon bisexual-themed songs that typically wears on the last nerve of anyone sitting alongside the LGBT rainbow.

During a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, Keyshia Cole was asked why some of her new singles weren’t connecting. She said she didn’t know, but I have an idea: They’re not especially great. It has nothing to do with the sentiment in her songs, be it anger or unabashed joy; it’s an issue of how these songs are structured.

The same goes for the post-happy Mary J. Blige albums (2005’s The Breakthroughexcelled) that hardcore fans supported out of loyalty, but tossed aside in their heads in favor of the first three or four albums. Mary has since found her way. The decent Think Like A Man Too soundtrack, the very interesting collaboration with Disclosure, and word of a new project in which she will record a whole album in London consisting of works solely crafted by U.K.-based producers.

Mary is no longer singing from the very bottom of her soul, but her music is not immediately bottom barrel because of it. That suggests focus and effort, which is Keyshia’s new songs thus far have appeared to lack.

Read the rest at VIBE.

Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Response to Rumors: Flawless

The way Beyoncé and Jay Z have managed to straddle the line between not letting the public completely starve from lack of details about their private lives, while keeping us as far away from their bedroom as possible, is impressive. It’s a level of control even the biggest celebrities of the day don’t typically get to exercise anymore.

However, more recently, the media vultures and those that soil so many conversations on Twitter have collectively swarmed around the Carters—pressed to find out if the pretty picture they’ve portrayed all these years is real. And while the rumor mill continues to grind out imaginary Jay and Bey topics to feed itself, the Carters are perfecting their poses and laughing at us all.

Leading the charge is the New York Post’s Page Six column, which swears, on a thousand copies of Dangerously in Love, that the end is nigh for Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marriage. That prediction has since spilled over to daytime on programs like The Wendy Williams Show and other media outlets looking to cash in on the click bait.

Yet as rumors and speculation began to swirl, the Beyoncé information balloon began to contract.

Having learned the lessons from previous unwanted depictions, Beyoncé has learned to control the narrative and react to unwanted attention on her own terms. This was especially evident in Beyoncé’s HBO documentary (not really) Life Is but a Dream, in which she told the story of her life through a glorified Instagram filter.

Or in other words, she and her husband have learned that if you’re going to be trolled, you might as well troll back.

Case in point, Beyoncé quipped in the newly released remix to “Flawless”: “We escalate, up in this bitch like elevators. Of course sometimes s–t go down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator.”

This recalls other reactions to rumors circling all things Beyoncé and Jay Z. For example, whether or not their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, was truly carried by Beyoncé, or if her conception and subsequent delivery mirror the storyline on Halle Berry’s new show, Extant.

Even if we saw video of the birth, I imagine some people would still argue that because those two are so rich, they probably tapped someone from the Avatar production team to put a clip together. Oh, wait, the public has since moved on to Blue Ivy’s hair and whether or not Child Protective Services ought to be called in to bring a comb.

Which led to Jay rhyming, “They even talk about your baby crazy,” on “Picasso Baby.”

Meanwhile, when it came to the rumors about the state of her marriage, Beyoncé didn’t give an interview or pen some blog post; she took to Instagram to upload pictures with captions like, “My favorite hue is Jay Z Blue.” There are clips as recent as this past weekend of them dancing together onstage and gleefully smiling at each other.

Even this didn’t stop the speculative articles from discussing Beyoncé the divorcee. In one story, a crisis coach was quoted: “She is going to be the most powerful woman in the world, hanging out with Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey and Blue Ivy and talking about being a single mom. The goddess suddenly becomes even more relatable to women everywhere.”

To be fair, when you see Beyoncé’s sister re-enacting “Street Fighter” in an elevator with an unwilling participant in Jay Z, there is reason to pause and wonder if there’s a problem in the relationship. Even so, they collectively released a statement back in May that spoke of accountability and reconciliation.

Naturally, this was not enough to appease folks because it didn’t include details about where Solange learned to roundhouse kick, whether or not she made Jay Z bleed, and if so, what might his blood type be?

Read the rest at The Root.

 

Float.

I’m sitting at my desk in my increasingly uncomfortable office chair drinking red wine while listening to Anita Baker. For someone in desperate need of a vacation, but months away (at the very least from taking one), I’ll take whatever temporary moments of escape I can get. For years now, editors and many of my fellow writers have referred to me as a machine due to the way I’ve been able to churn out assignment after assignment. Maybe, but I think it’s about time someone put me in the shop.

Last week, Cord Jefferson wrote yet another very good essay, this time on how tiresome it can be writing about racism over and over again. It’s worth the read, and as someone who, too, writes about race a lot, I can attest to the sentiment. For one of the outlets I regularly write for, I often joke to my friends that they might as well give me a column called “That’s Racist with Michael Arceneaux.” My way of tackling what I often think are worthless targets is to simply make fun of them. Even so, I’d much rather go with the Mariah Carey method of dealing with a complete waste of space: “Ain’t gon’ feed you, I’mma let you starve.”

I wish dealing with racism was the least of my problems, though.

Since graduating from college and actually collecting checks for my writing, I’ve tackled pop culture, politics, music, celebrity gossip, sexuality, race, satire, and social media. I am happy I’ve been allowed to write about so much. Not everyone can be versatile, or at least, be convincing at. That doesn’t negate exhaustion, however. Like, I’m not necessarily over writing, but I am somewhat tired of a few things.

The aforementioned writing about idiotic racists, but also subject matter I can classify as either “dumb shit” or “silly shit” or “patronizing shit.” I came across an article entitled “The Internet has a content diversity problem.” In it, the writer basically takes shots at varying publications for following into the listicle vortext in response to the chase for clicks. I’m somewhat conflicted on that. Do I think “sharebait” has further contributed to the decline of people’s attention spans and their desire to read anything more than 500 words that might require them to think? Yes. Nevertheless, for a bunch of people stuck in cubicles and offices at least three hours too long, I can understand the desire to read something easy breezy.

Plus, I’ve contributed to the problem ’cause those pay the checks. And honestly, writing a “dumb list” is a lot harder than people realize. It can be a challenge to make any piece look like easy reading.

I’m less annoyed by the list than I am this growing subgenre of online journalism that’s basically “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad, Son.” It’s like watching people race to out politically correct the other in an effort to sound more evolved than the next. There are plenty of things to get mad about, but so many seem insincere because it pays to rage. A lot of it comes across a lot like masturbation. As in, let me patronize you, oooh, baby, baby, they’re so bad, but your point of view, so-so-so good.

I don’t wake up everyday wanting to be “mad.” I want to make people laugh and make people think. If some people deserve a roasting, so be it — just don’t position it as “moving the debate” forward. That would require a level of respect, and gasp, nuance, which so many writers seem to lack.

Then there are the “LET ME ENRAGE YOU ON PURPOSE AND THEN PRETEND I ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO SAY BECAUSE MY ATTENTION WHORING ASS GOT THE ATTENTION I SO DESPERATELY WANTED.” Fuck off twice, please.

In any event, I found it more interesting that a writer is complaining about diversity in content but only cited works from mainstream publications. That’s not surprising, but no less dually ironic and irritating.

What I’m personally sick of is having to chase for a check. I’m even more sick of having to churn out more than ever because though there may be an across the board wage depreciation, the publishing industry has really made an effort to take advantage of it. Even when I am offered the chance to write something that actually excites me, I have to contend with the reality that I have to be careful where I pitch it ’cause motherfuckers ain’t trying to pay the way they did even six months ago much less two years.

And yes, sometimes I do feel like Beyoncé being forced to cover Keri Hilson’s catalog due to increasingly stupid and/or lazy readers. 

You know, a lot of the time I get told, “I’m so proud of you for living your dream.” I know the intent is complimentary, but I sometimes wince anyway. Yes, I’ve written a lot of things I’m particularly proud of – this year included – but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m living my dream. I’ve accomplished select goals, but my dreams are too big to truly embrace a statement I find hyperbolic.

I could go on, but I’m about to switch to Anthony Hamilton and perform “Float” in my apartment.

A few weeks ago, while watching Oprah’s Master Class with Whoopi Goldberg, she said something to the effect of, “Do what you have to do until you no longer have to.” That’s something I continue to tell myself, though I do know I have to push (and get it right) to do more things worthy of my talent (that pay better). Even if I feel tired. Even if I increasingly get upset by the state of the biz. Thankfully, there are people every now and then who remind me that in the midst of the noise, my voice still stands out. I appreciate that. More than most will ever understand.

On and On

When my friend emailed me the video for Tinashe’s “2 On,” I immediately got nostalgic. “Oh, this is like a Mýa video” was the response I shot back. He agreed and we proceeded to share our eagerness over dancing making a slow but steady comeback. Months would go by before I really got into this song, and now that I have, all I can think after watching this performance is damn, Ciara should’ve hooked up with DJ Mustard before he blew up.

Congratulations on the baby and all of that, CiCi, but while I bought your album, not many other people did. As I’ve mentioned a couple hundred times, Ciara’s problems with trying to reclaim past relevance are multiple, but at the core the girl simply has not only hookless music – a sin for any artist, much less an R&B/pop girl – but it lacks distinction. If Ciara’s content with allowing Jazze Pha to waste his time meeting with LaTavia over music that’ll likely never been penned, sang, recorded, or performed, the least she could’ve done is hooked up with a rising producer who could help her revisit a winning template. No, Mike Will Made It doesn’t count, mostly because a), he didn’t do the whole album, and b), he doesn’t really do uptempos much or that well and Lord knows a Ciara project full of vocals ain’t her Mega Millions Ticket to the top of Billboard.

I bring up Ciara because I think much of why I still held on to her despite obvious signs to “RUN, BITCH, RUN!” stemmed from me wanting another girl besides Beyoncé to keep dance alive. And before you dare even question it, yes, Beyoncé is very much the only girl out here keeping dance alive. You could argue that about Lady Gaga and her crypt keeper and rhythm style of dance, too, but I bought ARTPOP and y’all didn’t so no one is paying her much mind right now.

That said, as a child who grew up on Janet, Madonna, Paula Abdul, TLC, Aaliyah, Rosie Perez, and basically umm, everyone besides Brandy and Monica and their four left feet (at the time anyway), I like my 8 counts, extensive choreography, p-pops and twerks. 

Ciara can still dance down, but it’s not happening again so I’m sending a special hey, girl, hey to Tinashe.

She sort of looks like Tiny with a fantastic nose job. More importantly, this girl is getting it in this performance and can even sing a lil’ bit while doing so. I don’t particularly care about the latter part, but I admire the fact that she doesn’t sound like a dog with throat cancer when singing after all that dancing. Someone tell this woman to master the art of the Janet Jackson pre-recorded live vocal and I’m sold.

As for her actual voice goes, I imagine that somewhere Cassie is looking at her and Jhené Aiko and thinking, “What the fuck, universe?” Oh well to that, too. Bottom line: I need some dancing girls with catchy music and now I can add Tinashe to the list of maybes. 

Free idea: Some major label needs to stop playing and scoop up Danity Kane. Then some network ought to give them a new reality show. After that, drop a successful album (or successful enough by today’s standards) and throw them on a theater/small arena tour with Tinashe as an opening act. Or if Jennifer Lopez decides to tour again, maybe those two acts can join the bill. Lord knows Jennifer is another keeping dance alive.

 

Her. She Is LaTavia. The Elusive Chanteuse.

I haven’t written much about R&B Divas: Atlanta (as opposed to R&B Divas: LA last summer) because I’m not being paid to. That aside, I’ve been meaning to tackle LaTavia Roberson’s storyline on the show. Bless this woman’s heart as I know she’s been through it since the day she turned on MTV and saw that she got fired on her day off. Still, for the life of me, I do not understand how a person so hell bent on not singing is on a show all about singers who sing all the damn time.

Watching her these past few weeks have been so draining. Thus far, LaTavia has been giving me Claudette Ortiz sadness, only LaTavia made sure to do her hair and dress for the cameras rolling in front of her face. But hell, at least Claudette wanted to sing. Her issue was that she couldn’t afford a babysitter or something. You wanted to root for her, and while I felt the same with LaTavia at the beginning, lately I’ve just been like, “Girl, why are you even still here? Did Mona Scott-Young tell you ‘No thank you, but God bless!’ or something?

I’m glad I procrastinated/got distracted/took damn long/waited to take on this subject, though. This post is coming later than I intended for it to, but I’ve come to realize when writing about certain topics, or in some cases, making certain life choices, things happen when they are supposed to as opposed to when you think they ought to. Had I published this even a week ago, I would’ve missed this footage of LaTavia actually opening her mouth to sing surfacing online.

Now, some of your mean ass cousins have wasted no time in being assholes for the amusement of other lifeless strangers who get wet by wrecking havoc on the comments section/mentions of a celebrity’s social media account. Y’all. Did y’all even wait three minutes before deciding to say to LaTavia, “Why do you sound like Patsey during the whipping scene of 12 Years A Slave?”

I don’t think LaTavia sounds bad here. I will acknowledge that she indeed let a big ass yell at the very end of this extremely short clip, but she could easily be doing a vocal exercise. I mean, if you let your vocal chords sit in the kind of decade-long coma the way LaTavia did, you need to stretch those muscles out. They’re ashy and rusty, remember.

LeToya Luckett has improved as a vocalist. As has Kelly Rowland. Okay, some of the time. LeToya Luckett has definitely maintained a consistency of improvement in the studio and live. Kelly is back-back, forth and forth with hers. God bless. Even Beyoncé has had to grow as a singer. That’s just how it works. 

LaTavia wasn’t the strongest vocalist in the group, but she wasn’t the weakest singer in life either. She has a heavier tone to her voice — something I wish she embraced sooner than she seemingly has. Like, have you fools never heard of “Practice What You Preach?” LaTavia should continue to work on her voice and realize her destiny as the melodic Tone Loc with Barry White sprinkles.

LaTavia can get better so long as she continues to open her mouth and try to sing.

For her, such a thought put fear in her heart. From the looks of it, she’s managed to get over it. Good for her. We all get in our own way at times. Some are worse than others, but not many know when to step out of the way.

Scared Old Men, Modern Style, and the Perceived Feminization of Black Men in Hip-Hop Via Fashion

Whenever you pick the brain of someone like Lord Jamar about hip-hop’s ills, he’ll give you minutes-long rants about how the “feminization” of hip-hop is destroying both the culture and the Black men who contribute to it. His most recent display of this sad lil’ shtick was an interview he gave to Vlad TV earlier in the month about rapper Young Thug daring to wear something that looks an awful lot like a dress. When asked about it, the former Brand Nubian emcee flatly said, “I’m not feelin’ him. The more feminine shit that you do, the more you’re going to have to do other shit to try to prove your manhood.”

I’ve always found homophobia (which is in a deeply committed relationship with misogyny) within the hip-hop community to be especially laughable. As Aaron McGruder used to routinely point out in the pre-TV days of The Boondocks, this is a genre of music in which its biggest stars are greased muscle men instructing other men to suck their dicks. On top of that, many of these guys are adorned in so much jewelry you’d think Liberace had a bunch of unidentified bastard seeds. Meanwhile, a common narrative of rap is, was, and perhaps may always will be to drive home the point that women—excuse me, bitches—ain’t shit.

We are collectively a very He-Man woman hating society, though, so I can’t dismiss Lord Jamar as some sort of outlier like a Five Percenter or one of those Black Israelites who every Sunday on 125th and Lenox disparage Islamic men for wearing “dresses” and, like Lord Jamar, act as if femininity is some terrorist organization hell bent on the annihilation of Black men.

Yes, Lord Jamar may be one of the harsher and outspoken critics of the “feminization” of Black men, but he’s no less guilty than many of the other people who griped over Kid Cudi wearing a crop top at Coachella. The same goes for those who roasted Kanye West for wearing a kilt. Sure, you could sweep some of the critics aside as “jokes,” but it all ultimately plays into the sentiment that when you are a man—particularly a Black one—you are limited in your personal expression for the sake of preserving your manhood.

To Lord Jamar and others, manhood is a performance. One’s personal style is a part of that act and the minute you deviate from the collective acceptance of masculine ideals, you are worthy of ridicule, condemnation, or the very least, be questioned about your manhood, an all-too common occurrence that deserves re-examination.

In a piece entitled “metrosexuality is dead, thank god for that,” Anders Christian Madsen celebrates the end of the early 2000s trend and credits the likes of David Beckham, Jared Leto, and Zac Efron for showing (white) men that it’s okay to break from the mold. Similar pieces have been written in celebration of Kanye West, and perhaps over time, Kid Cudi, Young Thug, and others may receive similar accolades for doing the same for Black dudes.

This undoubtedly spooks the hell out of the Lord Jamars of the world, but what frightens me mostly is that ultimately, we’ve still yet to challenge how exactly we should judge one’s manhood.

If you are gay, you are used to the idea that some men may view you as less of a man for your attractions; however, we’ve reached the point where a straight guy could literally be swimming in a pool of vagina and he’d still be considered less of a man and boxed in because of a crop top or a kilt.

Read the rest at Complex.