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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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I’ve made it clear that I understood booking Madonna for a Prince tribute at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was BS in theory. So, now after actually watching the tribute last night, believe me when I tell you that I am reveling in all my truth the day after. God bless Madonna because I am a fan, but that tribute was not it. It was not even a lil’ bit of it.

The first problem with the tribute was song selection. I understand that Madonna really, really likes to sing, and to her credit, has worked hard over the years to maintain the voice that she has. Unfortunately, that voice remains incapable of delivering the emotion attached to the Prince songs she opted to cover. I wish she had hit her girl, Ursula The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid on the hip and asked for a solid in order to secure a better voice for the occasion. Or, you know, Madonna could have just danced through a bunch of Prince’s uptempo tracks while others – including, I don’t know, some of the folks Prince worked with extensively over the years – would be left to handle the heavy weight.

Let’s talk about the set list, shall we? Madonna should have been covering “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” or hell, even “Raspberry Beret.” Not, by any stretch, the two she opted for: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain.” Speaking of the former, why exactly was Madonna singing the Sinead O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U?” If you’re going to sing a Prince song, sing the Prince song the way Prince actually sang it.

Beloved, WYD?

And what was with that cheap added instrumentation behind the track? Prince, the legendary and extremely gifted musician, would not have been pleased with such dollar-store sounding trickery. I know the always touring Madge knows better.

Speaking of well-meaning intentions going the way of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, why was Madonna dressed more like Liberace than the Purple One? Let’s reflect more on this: Madonna, queen of the visual, dressed like Michael Douglas’ body double in Behind the Candelabra for a Prince tribute.

Beloved, WYD?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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In theory, I can understand why Madonna was asked to pay tribute to Prince at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday.

When it comes to stars of a certain era—specifically the mid-1980s—there was a trinity: Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. No stars could command their level of fame. No other acts at the time were matching their successes. No one could match their musical, visual and cultural contributions at the time. They all embody a period in music that the industry will never experience again.

MTV understood this, which is why Madonna introduced Michael Jackson’s tribute in 2009. They are giants, and now only one stands. And despite what some of your cousins on social media have suggested, Madonna and Prince were quite cordial with each other. After all, they did collaborate on the track “Love Song” on Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, but it wasn’t very good, so let’s forget it happened by the end of this sentence. Yes, they’ve sniped at each other over the years, but that’s shady queens for you. Just last fall, Madonna and her entire tour entourage went to Paisley Park to see Prince perform.

But even if Madonna paying tribute to Prince is understandable, many find it wrong, and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from the hosts of this year’s show, Ludacris and Ciara—who are cementing themselves as more-colored Pitbull and Paula Abdul, respectively—this year’s show reads as mighty white. The only black performer is Rihanna, who, not so coincidentally, is the only black girl who has managed to secure any crossover radio airplay in recent years. All that does is remind me of how much the industry marginalizes black women in music, which pisses me off. Then this show has the nerve not to even promote RIHANNA in the commercials. Who are the folks in charge of advertising? Round them up, and Smithers, release the hounds.

And, in the one segment for a legendary black artist, you ask Madonna to pay tribute to him?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Billboard Awards Executive Producer Mark Bracco said: “Listen, I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and everyone can have their own opinion, but I will say that we are honored and could not be more excited for Madonna to be on the show and to pay tribute to someone that was her friend and her peer and her colleague. I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Look, I love Madge. I still listen to Bedtime Stories, Erotica and Hard Candy regularly. If you live in Harlem, you’ve likely heard my rendition of “Take a Bow.”

Still, what is she supposed to do? Before anyone tries to drag Madonna for her singing, let’s remember that Vanity was no songbird. I can get jiggy with her covering Prince’s raunchier tunes, but knowing Madonna, she is likely going to re-create Prince’s buttless pants at the 1991 Video Music Awards while singing “Gett Off.” Speaking of stunts, when it comes to Madonna, it will likely be all about Madonna.

Regardless of what she sings, though, it won’t eclipse the reality that in order to properly pay tribute to Prince, you have to keep the spirit of him and his music in mind. Prince was said to have been adamant about having black women involved in previous tributes to his musical legacy. A few years ago, when BET honored him, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle were all included. When he performed at the Grammys in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” he performed with Beyoncé.

Read more at The Root.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, I have a simple, albeit pointed, question for those purchasing tickets to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in concert: the hell do you expect?

In her now infamous response to online critiques about her perpetual lateness, Ms. Hill took to Facebook to write: “I don’t show up late to shows because I don’t care. And I have nothing but Love and respect for my fans. The challenge is aligning my energy with the time, taking something that isn’t easily classified or contained, and trying to make it available for others.”

This is one of the most comically eloquent ways of trying to spiritualize trifling behavior that I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Hill on that. Nevertheless, to be respectful to is honor the time the people who keep you fed, housed, and in line with the IRS, who spent their money on you. Couple that with a contract and a commitment to a show, that ought to be more than enough to align one’s energy with time.

In any event, a debate ensued underneath the post whether or not Ms. Hill is in the wrong. You can count me in on the side that says she’s more wrong than Azealia Banks most days on Twitter. That said, while I do believe artists have a responsibility to show up on time, when it comes to the case of Ms. Hill, by now, hasn’t everyone picked up a pattern?

Here is what you get when buy a ticket for a Lauryn Hill concert: the potential that she may not appear on stage until the crack of midnight, if at all. If she does decide to actually perform, not only might you experience a shortened set due to her lateness, you will also be subjected to schizophrenic versions of the songs that prompted you to buy tickets to see Ms. Hill almost 20 years after the release of her debut album to begin with.

Or, you may get a surprisingly gorgeous cover of a Sade classic. Who knows? The only certain thing with her is uncertainty about what you will be subjecting yourself to. When it comes to attending a Lauryn Hill concert, you are essentially playing a scratch-off lotto ticket with the hopes of being entertained.

By now, you know, however, the Grammy award winning singer, rapper, and CPT time personifier is not the only act ruffling the feathers of fans.

I love Janet Jackson like I love fried chicken, butts, and my student loan lenders not calling or emailing me; however, mama irked the absolute hell out of me deciding in the middle of a world tour that she wanted to plan a family at the age of 49. Oh, I hear you: “STOP BEING INSENSITIVE.” You know what’s insensitive? Starting a world tour, then stopping it and pushing back the dates only to then decide to delay it again.

Janet Jackson announced this tour in May 2015. It stopped not long after. The show was set to return in 2016 and may not get under way again until 2017. Well, if she keeps her word. We have no reason to conclude she will. Janet Jackson was fortunate enough to refund fans. To her credit, so has Ms. Hill.

Read more at EBONY.

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#LEMONADE The Visual Album Is available now on iTunes, Amazon and TIDAL.

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


Michael Arceneaux: hooks is entitled to her opinion; I’m entitled to mine

As great a fan of Beyoncé as I am, I know no one is above criticism. Still, I find it equally fascinating and frustrating that bell hooks – the same person who once wrote so gleefully about Lil’ Kim and now champions the likes of Emma Watson – can in turn be so contemptuous about Beyoncé, and in separates cases, artists like Nicki Minaj.

hooks’ continuous condemnation of femininity is a petty critique gussied up with academic pretension. The idea that being ultra feminine is anti-intellectual is more damaging and reductive a sentiment than anything shown in Lemonade.

It’s also mighty rich for a woman who labeled Beyoncé a “terrorist” to now complain about female violence. By the way, when you’re as controlled an act as Beyoncé is, there’s something to be said about her allowing herself to publicly show that level of anger.

And someone who sells books and gives speeches at premier universities should also know that just because something is designed to make money doesn’t inherently mean it is corrupt or compromised. Then there is the reality that how we hurt and how we heal vary. This was her way and art is not intended to discuss such matters in absolutes. I imagine the same goes for Beyoncé’s ideas of feminism, the celebration of women, and femininity in general. bell hooks is free to continue feeling otherwise, but I’m glad the rest of us are not bound to.

You can read the entire roundtable over at Feministing.

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There are two types of men in this world: those that are comfortable with listening to music created by a woman without feeling any sense of threat to their masculinity, and the alternative—a neanderthal that assumes the second you listen to the sound of a woman singing or rapping, your penis longs for a sword fight.

This is not a new concept, but like most things triggered by the biggest pop star in the world, Beyoncé, it only becomes more prominent once she releases something. Insecure men scatter out like roaches in a RAID-less house the second the light flickers on.

One message that responded to this stuck out to me.

I’m embarrassed for any man who thinks listening to a woman’s music is a test of his sexuality or masculinity.

This would include numerous tweets sent out over days following the release of Lemonade.

And last year.

And the year before that.

Of course, I’ve heard this over time in classrooms, locker rooms, and barbershops. I mean, there are men who worship Future the same way gay men and Adele worship Beyoncé. Or name any superstar athlete of the past half century here.

I appreciate videos like this because more times than not, you have to make light of the idiocy suffocating you. However, this addiction to hypermasculinity is vile no matter the form. Even if it’s as silly as a Beyoncé song, the root issue still hinges on the idea that, to some, you are less of a man for appreciating the art of woman. Well, a certain kind of woman. One is ultra feminine (yet strong), one who caters specifically to Black women (yet has proven again and again she can literally go as hard as her male contemporaries).

Read the rest at VH1.

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There are very few conversations I find more cringe-inducing and exhausting than the debate over whether or not it is best for a black student to attend a predominantly white institution of higher learning or one that is historically black.

Everything ain’t for everybody, and not enough people on either side of the issue know to respect that stance. Even so, as much as I try to steer clear of these debates, there is a certain disingenuous argument when it comes to those who choose to attend a black college or university that irritates me. It is this idea that to attend one is to escape from “the real world.” Moreover, it is the idea that being in a majorly black setting means that you are surrounded by sameness.

They are both sentiments seeped in stupid, marinated in fallacy and broiled in the false belief that the white man’s ice is cooler.

The Talk’s Aisha Tyler is the latest example of this, and it’s a pity that she would use her platform to perpetuate falsehoods about what it means to attend a black school. Speaking with Money magazine, Tyler called on black students to be “be brave” and enroll in schools where there have been incidents of racism. Why? Well, to help white students evolve from their racial prejudices.

Tyler argued, “When incidents of discrimination happen, that is the real world. You know, if someone doesn’t write something nasty on your dorm door, that doesn’t mean they are not thinking it.”

Well, anyone black and awake in this country knows that. Besides, if you’re a member of a minority group, you have your entire life to contend with someone’s biases against you and the various ways in which they will manifest. Why is it so important to rush to it sooner rather than later?

Though Tyler notes that you should “decide what you can tolerate,” she goes on to say, “What would we be like if black people didn’t go into the heart and didn’t try to change things? We would have made no progress in the country. Bravery is the engine of change.”

In other words, be the academic equivalent of Viola Davis in The Help. To quote my King Beyoncé, “N–ga, nah.” I am sick of people—especially other black folks—putting the onus to curb white racism on its victims. No black student—particularly those likely going into debt to advance in a society that actively tries to make sure they don’t—ought to be overly concerned with fixing someone else’s stupid.

While you can respect those who decided to do what’s best for themselves—in Tyler’s case, attending the prestigious Dartmouth College—the use of the word “brave” is troubling because it suggests that those who don’t make this choice are behaving in ways that are cowardly.

As for her advice for black high school students, Tyler offered this: “Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t pick a college that replicates what you did in high school. Test yourself in an unfamiliar context so that you can learn to succeed no matter where you are placed, so that you know you can excel.”

This weekend I will celebrate my 10-year college reunion. As I’ve explained to many people, Howard University is the most diverse setting that I’ve ever been in. To limit the definition of “diversity” to race is to belittle and trivialize a term that has always been far broader than the likes of Tyler will ever give it any credit for being.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have as a much of a shot at becoming the Democratic and Republican nominees for president as Iggy Azalea does at being honored at next year’s Black Girls Rock.

And yet both Sanders and Cruz continued to dance with delusion despite more and more evidence that this just isn’t their election cycle to become president. It’s sore-loser season for the candidates and their supporters. To quote Rihanna, “Poor dat.”

Earlier this week, Sanders told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on New Day about his chances of scoring the nomination, saying, “It’s a narrow path, but we do have a path. And the idea that we should not contest in California—our largest state, let the people of California determine what the agenda of the Democratic Party is and who the candidate for president should be—is pretty crazy.”

I agree with Sanders on certain matters. He should not leave the race. He should try to do well—if not win—in California. He should stay in the race to push the Democratic agenda to better resemble real progressive politics, instead of the Republican-lite “triangulation” that Hillary Clinton and her husband push. Moreover, Sanders does not owe it to Clinton to convince his voters to support her for president in a general election.

However, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sanders spoke of winning the nomination by way of superdelegates—a stance that seems completely antithetical to the spirit of his campaign. At this point, Clinton is hundreds of regular delegates ahead of Sanders and is millions of votes ahead in the popular vote. In other words, the revolution Sanders spoke of has limits—winning by turning to “the establishment” would contradict his outsider ideology. It would make him no better than the people he purports to be better than.

Sanders’ wife, Jane, has said, “At the end, you know, we’re not calling superdelegates and saying, Will you switch your vote?” And yet it’s been reported that Sanders has personally called some undecided superdelegates to win their support. Meanwhile, Clinton’s superdelegates have complained about being harassed by Sanders’ supporters.

Y’all. Y’all. Y’all. It’s one thing to keep on keep-keeping on, but it’s another to behave like a soft-baked bitch about it.

What frustrates me about Sanders at this juncture of the campaign is that there hasn’t been any real self-reflection, and, by extension, admission of failure on his part. As a southerner, I was vexed as hell by his repeated dismissal of his southern state losses. The typical southern Democrat isn’t white or conservative, but black and moderate-to-fairly-progressive depending on the region. Perhaps it’s due to him being a fairly new Democrat, but you don’t diss the most dedicate voting bloc of the Democratic Party—especially when you don’t mind championing your victories in lily-white states that are as much a Red State as Mississippi and Georgia are. Likewise, while it’s true that poorer Americans vote less, of those that did, they voted more so for Hillary Clinton. That means 1) Sanders’ populist message failed to connect with the poorer voters that do vote, 2) he failed to reach those that do not.

In sum: aww man, homie, your bad.

Read the rest at Complex.

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A recent image uploaded by the legendary Lil’ Kim highlighted a nearly decade-long struggle many of her fans have faced: Lil’ Kim has been an ongoing challenge for those of us who love her, but love our blackness more; for fans who are grateful to her for the impact she’s had on our individual lives, but in many cases are hurt, if not enraged, by what she’s done to herself.

It may not be the nicest sentiment, but it is no less true: I love the Lil’ Kim I hear from my speakers, but I struggle with not judging the sight of the one I often see today.

The latter forces me to confront the reality that someone I idolized for her strength and command of her sexuality doesn’t like the way she looks. That makes her a bit of a walking contradiction. Many of us who felt partially raised by Lil’ Kim are struggling to make sense of that.

Lil’ Kim, the one who made women and gay men alike more comfortable with their own sexuality with the overt display of hers, is an everlasting symbol of strength. Lil’ Kim, the pioneering female rapper who paved the way for the sort of pop-rap fusions whose perks are now enjoyed by many who came after her, is a testament to individuality and innovation. But there’s that other Lil’ Kim we’ve all had to bear witness to.

The one who sometimes speaks in an unnatural, almost caricature-like voice when she surrounds herself with the likes of the Kardashians — well, anyone white. A voice that sounds so foreign to her black-girl-from-Brooklyn cadence that we all love so much. This other Kim is the person who piles on so much makeup to disguise her brown skin in order to present a lighter hue.

It is unclear as to whether or not Lil’ Kim has fallen into the poor habit that is skin-bleaching. In many cases, she looks like she’s just piled on makeup and applied various filters to her images in order to best show off the facade online.

Whatever she’s doing with her skin, it’s quite apparent the intent is to give off the aesthetic attributed to light-skinned women, or white women period, all the same.

This other Kim is befuddling and angering, because it is a complete contradiction to the one so many of us championed.

And yet, in all my anger, I do question the role we may have played in her obsession with removing the most overt traces of blackness in her face. We are often far too cruel to people we deem pitiful. We see someone hurting, and not only do we kick them when we they are down, we watch them fall lower from our blows and pile on the pain with our laughter.

This is largely evident on social media, were many, in true Twitter form, were quick to cast judgement:

Read the rest at Mic.

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would sooner have a threesome with David Duke and the ghost of Barry Goldwater than vote for Donald Trump, but there is something about his political ascension that I find somewhat inspiring.

Not the racism. Not the misogyny. And no, not the xenophobia. Trump’s frontrunner status reminds me – an ambitious but not exactly patient person – that dreams can come true, just not necessarily when I say they should.

There is an old saying: “It’s not the appointed time, but the anointed time.” It’s rooted in the Biblical passage, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” I have not been to church since the last Destiny’s Child album, but that sentiment speaks to me, and Trump’s trajectory this campaign season has served as a demonstration of that wise advice: wait for your time, however long that may be. Then seize it.

Trump, who won five more primaries on Tuesday, has been teasing a presidential run on and off since 1987. As in, Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions on record are a year older than the man I hope one day helps me play out my Beyoncé happily-ever-after scenario (although if he does me dirty, he’ll get the Lemonade treatment, too). I was impressed by Trump after reading Politico’s February profile of the reality star and real estate mogul’s plot-by-plot campaign to become a credible presidential contender.

Sure, Republican voters ought to know better than to be so enamored with a clownish political novice, but that’s not his fault. The point is, timing is everything, and Trump was shrewd enough to finally run when he had an actual chance at winning.

There are other examples of people achieving success later in life. I’ve loved watching Wendy Williams, whom I used to listen to on the radio, go off to daytime, succeed immensely and broaden her brand farther than past naysayers – who wondered whether her unfiltered radio style would translate well in the daytime TV format – ever expected. Similarly, I like that Viola Davis is finally being treated as the exceptional talent that she is, leading a primetime network show as a black actor in her 40s after years of actively working in Hollywood, too often relegated to supporting roles.

But there is something about Donald Trump’s political takeover that I find particularly motivating. He’s been thinking about this for nearly three decades now, but minus the false start in 2000, when he considered running as part of the Reform party, he stuck more with his businesses and television career. And somehow, this novice with no experience gauged his moment, and he has managed to yap his way into a credible chance at becoming president. It’s frightening, yes, but I still find it motivating for pursuing my own goals.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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