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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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Am I a terrible person because I watched Janet Jackson announce her second tour delay due to family planning and thought, “But, baby girl, what about these concert tickets?”

Before Beyoncé and her blond, freestyle braids took control of my life and thigh muscles, there was Janet Jackson, the patron saint of the butterfly, the master of the dookie braid, and the queen of the whisper. Janet Jackson has taught me many things throughout my life, so I was ecstatic to see her perform on the Unbreakable World Tour. That was supposed to happen in February, only she postponed the date until August due to surgery. Now Damita Jo is pulling out another doctor’s note to excuse herself from that tour date and all other dates.

I am so happy that Janet and her billionaire bae of a husband, Wissam Al Mana, are going to start a family—especially considering Janet is 49. I have no idea how this is going to happen, but as NeNe Leakes once said, “They make ’em when you got the coin.” Still, this couldn’t have been the first time the two thought about this, so why touch me, tease me with a tour she seems to not really care all that much about?

The way she’s treated this tour is a lot like how she has treated her latest album, Unbreakable. It was an album seven years in the making and reunited Janet with longtime collaborators, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Moreover, there was a press release that went out touting Janet’s new label, Rhythm Nation Records, which touted her as “arguably the first female African-American recording artist to form her own record label.”

The album’s first single, “No Sleeep,” went on to become her longest-running No. 1 song on the adult R&B song chart—a reminder that the blacks will hold you down even after a white man pulls off part of your shirt, exposing your breast in front of a billion people and leaving your career and a nipple out in the cold. The album has the nerve to be pretty damn decent, too. Certainly better than the material she recorded with Jermaine Dupri.

And then what happened? The hell if I know. Janet gave us one video and not another peep. Legend has it she shot a video for my favorite track from the release, “Dammn Baby,” but where is it? Probably in the closet with the tour wardrobe she apparently won’t be putting back on anytime soon.

I completely understand why Janet Jackson would be over the music industry. She was wronged after her Super Bowl performance and she struggled for a while to regain footing. If not for the support of her most loyal fans—a smooth millions of folks across the world—her legacy wouldn’t have endured as well as it has. However, it’s that support that helped launch her comeback—a comeback that now seems to ending with, “Never mind. Bye, y’all.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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When it comes to the long discussed sequel to Waiting to Exhale, there is an obvious issue: Whitney Houston is dead. Houston’s voice and celebrity made her such a key component of the film. How does one go on without her?

In 2012, a FOX 2000 executive revealed that the sequel would indeed go on and argued that Houston would want it that way. A year late Waiting To Exhale co-star Angela Bassett echoed the sentiment, telling The Huffington Post: “In my heart, I love Whitney and her work and the time that we shared together. Her role and her presence was just so important. I have a hard time replacing someone else in her shoes. I guess they wouldn’t have to do that. We would have to just come up with a brand new friend.”

And then we heard not much of anything for a few years until author Terry McMillan, who penned both Waiting To Exhale, and its sequel, Getting To Happy, said in 2015, “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I really don’t.” As for why it was “dead in the water,” McMillan added, “It’s been horrible since Whitney [Houston] passed away for a whole lot of reasons. FOX wanted to basically eliminate that character altogether from the story. How they thought that was going to work, I don’t know.”

In a recent interview with Hollywood Live, another Waiting To Exhale co-star, Loretta Devine, revealed that not all hope is lost and that McMillan is still working on the sequel.

As for who they would get to replace Houston, Devine had no particular actress in mind, but noted, “Oh they have so much new young, great talent so it would be limitless girls that could do it.” McMillan once mentioned Viola Davis as a very intriguing addition to the cast. Davis certainly commands a certain star power and while she can’t exhale, shoop shoop like Nippy, it could still be a good fit.

Whomever they get or don’t get, though, the sequel should be made, that’s a clear position for me. For a lot of people, the success of The Best Man Holiday changed minds with respect to creating sequels for sacred films we typically prefer to remain in our good memories as is. However, a more important condition related to the making of this sequel hinges on the creators writing a compelling enough script that allows us to see realistic and relatable growth in the original cast. I think it’s important for the film industry to offer a film that allows Black women of a certain age to have their lives depicted on screen behind the roles of the matriarchs in this much-loved story.

I want to see actresses like Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett get the treatment Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep have in Nancy Meyers movies. They are women over 50, who are still sexual, self-motivated and vibrate. They still have relationship goals as they continue their pursuit of happiness. Their lives are captivating yet accurately complex. It’s a failure on the industry at large for not really offering any characters comparable to that for Black women. If the makers of the film offer anything less than that it would be a tragic mistake resulting in tepid support for the sequel. It’s a condition for making the film that I think most fans would agree is a non-negotiable aspect that we won’t budge on.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Here’s what’s fascinating about Caitlyn Jenner: Since undergoing her transformation, she has gone from being part of the most fortunate and privileged group on the planet—wealthy, white, and male—to a community which is more susceptible to violent attacks, poverty, and varying forms of discrimination than any other. Despite her status as a trans woman, Caitlyn is still rich, still white, and certainly more famous than ever. Even so, she is considered a minority now, and one shouldn’t expect the demographic shift to go completely smoothly. On the other hand, who would have thought she’d have the hubris to step into the spotlight and serve as a de facto spokesperson for a community which, as it turns out, she knows very little about.

Perhaps it’s problematic to reduce a woman to one voting issue. But when that woman is outspoken on national TV, and positioning herself as a representative for others like her—one who is already more privileged than many people she represents—yes, she should be held to a different standard.

To her credit, though, Caitlyn Jenner wants to learn. And through her reality show, I Am Cait, she is getting schooled by her trans sisters on national television. Yet there is a stubbornness to Jenner that is increasingly painful to watch. During the show’s season premiere, which aired earlier this week, Jenner defiantly defended the GOP as a party of tolerance.

 In a heated debate, trans activist and writer Jennifer Finney Boylan asked Jenner who among the GOP presidential field would be most supportive of trans people. In response, Jenner claimed, “All of ‘em.” Jenner said this without adding “SIKE!” or howling in ironic laughter. Instead, Jenner continued, “None of the Republicans say, ‘Oh, I hate trans people,’ or, ‘I hate gays.’ Nothing like that. They do more, ‘I want a thriving economy so every trans person has a job.’”
When Boylan noted that conservatives were behind efforts to repeal the anti-discrimination ordinance known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), that offered broad non-discrimination protections, Jenner said, “Don’t go there.” Jenner went on to say, “Republicans and conservatives are not these horrible people out there trying to oppress people… I don’t know anything of what they said down there, but I’m not blaming it on Republicans and conservatives.”
Jenner admits she knows nothing “of what they said down there,” but speaks on the issue anyway. Meanwhile, Boylan was right: Conservatives and religious leaders managed to defeat the anti-discrimination ordinance by preying on voters’ transphobia with signs like “NO MEN in Women’s Bathrooms.”
Interestingly enough, when the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton came up, Jenner dismissed her, arguing, “[Hillary] couldn’t care less about women. She cares about herself.”
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When I found out that Remy Ma would be joining the cast of Love & Hip Hop: New York, I was concerned.

Is that the kind of show most conducive to a woman who was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison for shooting someone in the stomach in a dispute over money and who now finds herself on parole? I wanted Remy to flourish in her post-prison life, so I didn’t find it wise to put her in a situation in which she might have to crack open the skull of some adversary on the show with a bottle of Myx Fusions Moscato Peach. Granted, had it happened, I would be at home texting my friends, “B–ch! Did you see that?” But I surely would’ve felt bad about her parole violation after the fact.

Thankfully, Remy Ma has more or less behaved to the best of her abilities. Part of that has to do with her own maturation, but a whole whopping serving of that has to do with her better half, Papoose. Unlike Stevie J, Kirk Frost, Rich Dollaz, Peter Gunz, Lil’ Scrappy, Benzino, Nikko and every other man featured in this franchise, Papoose is actually uplifting his partner, as opposed to giving her reason to turn on the saddest Mary J. Blige and Keyshia Cole songs of their catalogs.

Papoose is the President Obama to their Donald Trump.

Papoose is not cheating on her. Papoose is not making her feel insecure. All Papoose wants to do is enjoy his wife now that she’s back among the free population, and build on their family. Moreover, he constantly warns her to watch who she hangs with—namely the “stiletto expert” Rashidah Ali. Do not ask me what a “stiletto expert” is. I don’t know.

I don’t think Rashidah Ali is that bad, but I will say you don’t put people on parole in situations that might have their violations recorded and broadcasted to millions of people. While I don’t ever-ever-ever-ever want to go to prison, if I did, I would want a Papoose in my life. If I ever ended up on papers (probation, parole, hell, one too many parking tickets), I would want a Papoose in my life.

If I ended up on a Love & Hip Hop, I would want a Papoose in my life. With Papoose, you don’t have to curse another woman out over sleeping with your man. Or throw a drink in another woman’s face for the same offense. Or threaten to punch another woman over taking her man. Or find a wack man to make your other wack man feel jealous. Or take that wack man and shoot a porn with him.

Like, with Papoose, you’re only crying tears of joy. He is living proof that while the show might be a tsunami of terrible men and the women who foolishly keep fornicating with them, there is an alternative. The closest we had to this on this show was Momma Dee’s ex-husband, Ernest, and hell, she sent him to jail for stealing from her.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Confused—that was my first reaction to any fawning over Sage The Gemini’s since deleted Instagram post publicly begging his ex, Jordin Sparks, to return his calls and take him back. Like, have I forgotten how to read? No, that couldn’t be it—hence a follow-up inquiry: What low-standards island do the whole lot of y’all live on? Do you need me to call for a rescue team?

Perhaps I’m showing both my age and high self-worth score, but please do not excuse a passive-aggressive public guilt trip to be the anything even remotely close to romantic. Yeah, yeah, Sage says a lot of nice things in the post, but he ultimately tells on himself when he says: “But yea this shit is crazy i just wanna tell you I’m still being a good boy just incase you come to your senses.”

You see that? “Just incase you come to your senses.” Boom: Got him. Ring the alarm: This is a run, sis, run situation.

While I salute Sage on his wonderful display of nice-nasty, this is a manipulative act masquerading as a sweet gesture. This is not humility. Sage is letting his entitlement and overall arrogance show when he uses the phrase “come to your senses.” It’s also a one-sided way of talking about the fallout of a relationship—to the general public, no less. She clearly left for a reason, sir, but go ahead and play the part of man fighting for love without acknowledging whatever it is they got you banished from phone answering privileges in the first place.

Not knowing when to leave well enough alone, Sage has followed up with the IG post by releasing a song entitled “I’ll Keep Loving You.”

Bruh.

Bruh.

Bruh.

If I had a creep meter, the shit would implode right about now.

We’ve been here before. Recall that in 2014 Robin Thicke dedicated an entire album to his then estranged wife, Paula Patton. He called the album—not ironically—Paula. (Patton finalized her divorce from Thicke in March 2015.)

On the singer-songwriter/Marvin Gaye enthusiast’s efforts, Ross Scarano said it was a teachable moment, writing: “The idea is that if we keep talking about sexist, misogynistic behavior, if we keep revealing how ideas that seem to have sprung from the very ground—‘Of course you try some grand gesture to win back your love, dude. That’s what women want!’ —are actually warped and creepy and wrong, maybe things will get better. We could all ignore what Robin Thicke is doing. Or we could keep talking about why he’s wrong and maybe that will help.”

In this instance, Sage the Gemini has missed the lesson, thus a child left behind. Unfortunately, some don’t see it that way, meaning Sage is looking like the nice guy while Jordin Sparks gets heckled by strangers online.

One comment left under Sparks IG reads: “Call him Jordin. I know you gotta take ‘one step at a time’ and that love always feels like a ‘battlefield’  but just ‘look into your heart’ and ‘now tell me’ that y’all didn’t have that ‘casual love’ and he didn’t make you feel like you were ‘walking on snow?’ Y’all relationship hit a rough patch but ‘you gotta want it’  just as bad as he does. He’s not gonna give up on you because he believes you’re ‘worth the wait’ and men, ‘they don’t give’ up. How’s he gonna breath with ‘no air?’ He just wants to be ‘next to you.’ So go ‘double tap’ his picture cause you know he’s on your heart like a ‘tattoo.’ I just put all her songs in a sentence.”

We noticed, beloved.

Read the rest at Complex.

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