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Mere moments into her edition of “Iyanla Exclusive,” Karrueche Tran, answered the question I and many others wondered: Why in the hell would she elect to do this show? Tran answered by telling the also curious Iyanla Vanzant, “I want my voice to be heard.” As much as the public has judged her for relationship with on again, off again boyfriend Chris Brown to mistreat her, it’s easy to understand why.

Unfortunately, “Iyanla Exclusive: Karrueche Tran” wasn’t the best forum for an otherwise reasonable goal. Based on her manager’s interjection at one point during the interview, those closed to Tran began to draw the same realization.

Iyanla Vanzant, who I often like to Mama Odie from The Princess and the Frog, is that auntie I never tell my business to ’cause I know it’s only a matter of time before I say, “Girl, gon’ and leave me alone.”

Based on what little viewing of the show I’ve seen in the past, Vanzant has a knack for putting the onus of dating a problematic man onto the woman. Sure, we have to all recognize what is it about us that draws these people, but one part of life—particularly when you’re 26-years-old—is learning to see who you mesh with and who you don’t. That times time. It’s all about trial and error. Very few have their romantic lives figured out in their mid-20s.

And for all her stabs at Tran for dating Chris Brown, presumably because he’s rich and famous, Vanzant sounded like an elder stateswoman of “Team Breezy” with some of her line of questioning. Say, “Where was Chris Brown taking you to dinner?” What soul searching can be taken out of that inquiry, beloveds?

In others, Vanzant just sounded judgmental—notably when she asked Tran, “Did you sleep with him too fast?” Also: “So are you clear you are famous by association?”

It is also came across extremely low and petty to question Tran when she says Brown loved her. Maybe he didn’t know how to love her because he’s so broken himself, but it felt unnecessary to project doubt onto that sentiment.

And spare me the “daddy-less daughter” commentary and that acronym for bitch, which is apparently a “Broad In [Total] Control of Herself.”

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Here’s a movie premise that you may have heard before: an uptight, corny white man finds a Magical Negro to save him. In this instance, the Magical Negro is called upon to toughen up the corny white man before he goes to prison and suffers a decade of unwanted anal penetration. The movie stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, and it begins with Will Ferrell sobbing profusely as Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” plays. Fuck this movie.

Get Hard tries to highlight the reality that there are two very different sides to Los Angeles. The problem is that it does so in the most cartoonish way possible. Ferrell plays James King, a millionaire working in the finance industry, who is engaged to his boss’s daughter and is named partner in his firm. Then, dun-dun-dun, he is suddenly arrested for fraud and sentenced to the harshest sentence: 10 years at a maximum security prison. His would-be father-in-law says he will make sure his “investigators” find the real culprit.

I’ll leave you one guess on where this predictable ass movie leads you with that “investigation.”

Meanwhile, Darnell Lewis, played by Hart, cannot secure a home loan in order to lead his family into a better life, one that doesn’t include his young daughter being scanned with a metal detector at her South Central elementary school.

James and Darnell only know each other because Darnell works at the car wash in the garage of James’ office building. Before James is convicted, there is a scene where Darnell, in a hoodie, approaches James’ car whereupon James begins to scream and cry for help. Once James realizes Darnell is holding his keys though, he assures him he would do the same thing if he was white. Typical white people proverb.

Later, after James finds himself abandoned by his fiancé and Darnell discovers him sleeping in the trunk of his own car, they come up with a mutually beneficial deal: James will be taught how to survive in prison and Darnell will get the $30,000 needed for a down payment on a home.

You know, because, “They fucking in San Quinton. Everyone gets the dick.”

The “hilarity” of it all is that Darnel knows absolutely nothing about prison. He is not one of those kind of blacks; he’s just black. James merely stereotyped him. How funny.

This recalls a piece Jazmine Hughes wrote for The New Republic and discussed on the “Another Round” podcast on the problem with white people poking fun at themselves. In theory, self-deprecation is good, but there are levels, not to mention a certain level of self-awareness required in order to make such attempts not come off irritating as hell. This movie does not have such awareness.

What good is poking fun at racial stereotyping if you have to rely on so many of those same damn stereotypes to tell a story?

To that end, fuck this movie.

Yes, “White People Be Like” James, but white people also enjoy financing bullshit movies like this. It gives a wink to white idiocy while continuing to perpetuate falsehoods about black people without any real challenge to the status quo.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Less than 60 seconds into Trina’s debut album, the high-pitched rapper squeaked the following declaration: “This ain’t no bullshit I’m selling you.” By the end of the song, Trina says, “You ain’t heard? Fuck nigga, I’m da baddest bitch.” It’s a talking point that carried over to the next song and title track, “Da Baddest Bitch.” It’s also a talking point that’s followed Trina for her entire rap career.

In an Entertainment Weekly review of the album, Trina is described as “nasty as Lil’ Kim used to be” and celebrated for positioning herself as “the new queen of randy hip-hop tales in which sex is a contact sport played by rival genders.” The review was an A-, though while I’m not sure where that ranking stands today, the album is surely memorable to many all the same.

To this day, I can still gleefully recite the lines, “X-Rated/Elevated/Buttnaked/And I’d probably fuck your daddy if ya mammy wasn’t player hating.” The one about “letting him eat it while my period on,” too, even if it’s not applicable.

To this day, I regret not following Trina’s advice: “I got game for young hoes/Don’t grow to be a dumb ho, that’s a no-no/See if you off the chains/Stay ahead of the game, save up buy a condo.” It surely beats the student loan debt I’ve amassed for a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.

To this day, I will listen to “Off the Chain With It,” “Ain’t Shit,” “Off Glass,” and “Bitch I Don’t Need You” with as much excitement as I did when I first heard them in high school. To this day, you cannot convince me that “Pull Over” is not one of the best-written songs in American history.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Da Baddest Bitch, and on the heels of that anniversary comes news that she has signed a new record deal that will be a joint venture with her own label, Rockstarr Music Group.

Trina’s commercial success has never been as sizable as her contemporaries like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown. They were multi-platinum successes with their respective debut albums whereas Da Baddest Bitch went gold. Her follow-ups continued to net sales within that frame, and yet, despite never being as huge a draw as any of them in their prime, she is musically more viable than they are in 2015. The same goes for Trick Daddy, who initially introduced us to Trina in 1998 by way of “Nann Nigga.”

Yes, Lil’ Kim can still command me and others in an arena to recite her classics line for line, but when her remixes to today’s hits play, the audience channels Helen Keller and Beeker from The Muppets.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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What is it about “Empire,” the Fox series about a family of music moguls that wraps up its first season this week, that makes the show so addictive? It might be the juicy plotlines; Taraji P. Henson’s ferocious and charming portrayal of Cookie Lyon, the estranged matriarch of the family; the so-bad-it’s-almost-good soundtrack, produced by Timbaland; or some combination of all three. The soapy drama, which debuted in January, was the highest-rated new series on television this season. Its ratings and audience numbers have risen each week the show has aired — a phenomenon that is practically unheard-of. Fox has already renewed the series for a second season.

The appeal of “Empire” is widespread — roughly 15 million people watch every week — but according to Nielsen, the show resonates particularly strongly with black viewers, who make up 62 percent of its primary audience. NPR’s Code Switch blog called the “Empire” success a “particular achievement for a show with an almost entirely black cast.”

As the first season draws to a close, I reached out to several writers, academics and cultural thinkers to talk about their favorite “Empire” episodes, characters and controversial themes. — Jenna Wortham

Michael Arceneaux, cultural critic, on the portrayal of homophobia

Lee Daniels has every right to draw from his personal life in “Empire,” as he does in a pivotal scene in which Lucious Lyon throws his son Jamal into a trash can after catching him wearing his mother’s high heels (something Daniels’s own father did to him when Daniels was 5). But he makes the mistake of using what happened to him as justification to perpetuate the notion that the black community is significantly more homophobic than every other.

As a gay black man myself, I understand how hurtful it is to see the people who’ve given you life struggle with the way you were born. There is a Lucious Lyon, however, in every community. That’s what makes it so grating to hear Jamal Lyon recite lines like: “He’d never pick me…. Too much homophobia in the black community.”

When Jay Z speaks in favor of marriage equality and Kanye West and A$AP Rocky speak out against homophobia, it’s hard to believe Jamal’s declaration. Or consider Jay Z and West’s collaborator Frank Ocean, whorevealed his bisexuality on Tumblr shortly before releasing his debut album and has maintained his support within the hip-hop community and the black community at large. Daniels himself has found success as a filmmaker, with “The Butler” and of course, this show.

I’d rather not politicize ”Empire,” but Daniels has gone out of his way toargue that his show is “exposing” black homophobia. In fact, all he has really done is show that he’s better at directing than he is doling out social commentary. Homophobia is rooted in two key factors — religion and misogyny — and neither are exclusively black problems. I’m open to dissections of homophobia within the black community in popular culture but not under the pretense that our homophobia has magical powers.

Read the rest at the New York Times magazine.

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Although I share Justin Charity’s sentiments about the Empire soundtrack, based on the sales projections [Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this piece, this happened.], the fish fry I went to ’bout a week ago, and audience members of The Wendy Williams Show, no one gives a damn about our thoughts and feelings about how awful much of the music on the show is. Very much like the other FOX musical-based drama before it, Glee, with great success comes the opportunity to jump on the money train heading straight for the Billboard charts. Now, just because the chance is there doesn’t mean it will happen—see copies of Lea Michele’s album collecting dust at a store near you—but it does beg the question, “Who on this show could really make a way in real life?”

I’m here to answer.

Terrence Howard, a.k.a. Lucious Lyon

Do you remember Terrence Howard’s debut album, Shine Through It? It was fucking hilarious. I imagine he thought he was going to be the coffee shop or Shug’s Juke Joint equivalent of Jamie Foxx’s solo career, but ultimately, no one bought his album and most people blocked it from memory. It’s not that Terrence Howard cannot sing or is not musically inclined. He has a voice, but like, Marsha Ambrosius, sings as if he’s doing so while inside of a haunted house. I imagine Howard is itching to put that perm back in and give singing another go. Don’t go chase waterfalls; please stick to the soundtrack cuts that you’re contractually obligated to commit to. No more.

Bryshere Gray, a.k.a. Hakeem Lyon

My hate for “Drip Drop” has been remarkably strong. However, I have to confess my sins: When Bryshere Gray made an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, I joined the moms, gays, and homegirls in dancing and reciting “Drip Drop” line for line. Does that mean I think Gray, who will go by Yazz when he releases music, will be as big as the rapper Hakeem is on the show? I won’t go that far, but Rae Sremmurd is out here flourishing, so with the right beat and hook, maybe Yazz can score a couple of hits as Roscoe Dash Jr., Tyga the futureSVU-storyline version.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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For weeks now, Empire and its ever-expanding base of viewers have been teased about its inaugural season’s finale — most notably, that “everything will change.” Considering Lucious Lyon could drop dead any second now and more than one character has come face to face with the barrel of a gun, a shocking death is not out of the question. Now, I don’t have much in the way of making solid predictions outside of knowing when my Internet service will go out (at any moment, at any given day) or that there will be baes at the gym (part of the reason I joined that location). Nonetheless, I’ve been tasked with leading the guessing game so here I go, here I go (if you heard Mystikal’s voice, you get two points). The characters we believe have the highest chance of dying in the season finale are:

1. Hakeem’s flattop.

This is more like wishful thinking on my part. I don’t have a problem with the flattop. Hell, I rocked a curly one back in the early ’90s. But, watching Hakeem rock this flattop makes me feel old – and I’m too young to feel old. I don’t know if Hakeem’s hairstyle will die, but it should for that selfish reason alone. Besides, since Iman Shumpert (I didn’t know who he was either, no shade) is out here claiming that Hakeem and Tiana are based on him and Teyana Taylor (in vain, for the most part), I think it’s best we all start over.

2. Boo Boo Kitty

Based on the previews of next week’s finale, Anika tries to fight Cookie, which means it’s more than likely that Cookie will beat her down to the white meat and her debutante self will die. I don’t have beef with Anika personally. I mean, she’s not screwing my former no good husband who left me to rot in jail. However, she always tries Cookie and now that she’s gotten physical with a woman who did hard time, well, God bless her.

3. Vernon Turner

He gets on Lucious Lyon’s nerves and we all know what happens when a non-blood relative does that. Don’t we, Bunkie? (Remember, that was Cookie’s cousin.) So Lucious will try to strangle him or something, then the ALS will kick in, leaving him to grab his gun and shoot him before Vernon manages to catch his breath and help Lucious catch the fade. If this happens, I’ll be super sad. Like, Torres died on New York Undercover, and now more than a decade or so later, his partner finally joins him at the big precinct in the sky.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It’s 7:00 a.m., you’re feeling barely alive, and you need a mighty jolt of caffeine to properly prepare you for the morning. Is that the best time to talk to your server about institutionalized racism and white supremacy? Would you like a shot of espresso coupled with a brief chat about the tenets of racial equality? Or that Oprah chai I keep hearing about?

I don’t want any of these things, so for all of CEO Howard Schultz’s intentions, I’m not sure what pushing Starbucks baristas to talk race with the stores’ customers will accomplish.

On the company’s website about the #RaceTogether initiative, the site explains that Schultz saw what was happening in cities like Ferguson, New York, and Oakland and felt that, “We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America.” However, “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”

So, you’d like to discuss race in America based on instances of racial unrest tied to discrimination in the aforementioned cities, but “not to point fingers or to place blame.” In essence, this is encouraging banter but not serious or arguably meaningful conversation.

How American, indeed.

To have a real conversation about race in America is to discuss racism. Without looking at an issue wholly, you are having nothing more than superficial dialogue. It would be like first date conversation, only the kind the results in you never seeing that person again. Ever.

To be fair to Starbucks, the store does notable charity work and is now helping some of its baristas cover the costs of college. This comes across as an extension of their commitment to community. Even so, for many a working class or poor neighborhood resident, a new Starbucks is the first sign that a change is going to come — that will more than likely displace them. The CEO of Starbucks would probably find himself in an awkward conversation discussing this reality. Can you imagine what a barista might face if they write “#RaceTogether” on a cup and someone dares to inquire?

Speaking of these baristas, already there is a hashtag #StarbucksRaceTheory in which someone and likely others will share their experiences with uh, racially insensitive Starbucks workers. Most of them are not equipped to discuss such complicated matters. They’re collecting a check (that should probably be bigger) and the customers just want caffeine (to go collect a check that should probably be bigger, too).

We should not complicate this formula to assuage the guilt of white liberals. White liberals who are diverse in their worker base, but not in their executive offices. Per the Starbucks website, one partner said, “The current state of racism in our country is almost like humidity at times. You can’t see it, but you feel it.” Many of us feel it damn near every day of our lives. What is your barista going to do about it? What makes you think I want to talk about it anyway?

Read the rest at NewsOne.

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Unless he was offering direct flights to and from heaven, there was no way in hell Creflo Dollar was going to successfully raise $65 million for a new Gulfstream G650 jet via his own website.

Despite that harsh reality, the Rev. Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all pulled his campaign only because the online commotion that his outrageous request had caused resulted in absolute ridicule. But as shameless as Dollar may have seemed, he is not an aberration in terms of how people are exploiting online charity.

I can understand fundraising to cover medical bills or even the cost of some creative endeavor, but how have we gotten to the point where people feel comfortable turning to strangers to support their every want and desire no matter how superfluous?

Take, for instance, Jameelah Kareem, who set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that she could fly to Las Vegas for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Kareem’s initial goal was to raise $1,500 (which she did), only she subsequently decided to extend her campaign and shift the remaining dollars raised to a former high school classmate who apparently needs to cover some medical bills related to breast cancer.

That gesture sounds lovely or something, but they do not negate Kareem’s initial intentions, which are audaciously superficial.

Or there’s the case of Azel Prather Jr., who recently launched a GoFundMe initiative to collect airfare to fly to Miami to “save his relationship with his girlfriend.” Prather, who works in marketing and apparently “has a knack for comedy,” scored an interview by the Washington Post for his efforts. Ah, there’s the real win.

There are worse campaigns than this, though. Some are presumably created in jest, hosted by people aiming to cover the cost of a Hennessy bottle or those professing that they are tired of being broke or in need of money for breast augmentation, intending to properly tip strippers or just wanting white privilege. But if their crowd actually donated, each fund seeker would have undoubtedly gleefully taken the contributions and spent them accordingly.

For example, there’s the woman who successfully crowdsourced her $362 Halloween cab ride from Uber. And then there’s the man who netted $55,000 to make potato salad. It’s not their fault that folks gave them money. Yet I somewhat resent them for inspiring the foolish aforementioned.

And while some of these stunts scream comedy, others are taking advantage of crowdsourcing and are completely serious in their intentions. I’ve stumbled across GoFundMe pages seeking help to cover the cost of immigration fees, baby showers and college tuition.

Read the rest at The Root.

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There’s a difference between making a declarative statement and dancing around one.

So while I totally respect Jussie Smollett’s choice to offer the former during a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, I find the narrative surrounding it a bit misleading. Every headline I’ve read speaks to Smollett ‘coming out’ as gay, but to come out as gay is to explicitly say so. Smollett did no such thing, and if anything, stayed true to his previous promise of keeping his private life just that.

Yes, during their conversation, which carried over backstage and was subsequently released to the world online, Smollett had this to say any suggestion that he was closeted: “There’s never been a closet. That I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don’t have a closet, but I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.”

I live in a studio apartment in Harlem, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I’m more sexually attracted to Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, or somewhere in between.

Now, when Ellen offered, “You’ve never pretended to be anything that you aren’t,” Smollett did add, “Ever, ever. So lets not read into it the wrong when I say that I don’t talk about my personal life, I’m saying that. But it is in no way to hide or deny who God made me. Ya know?”

In other words, I’m not ashamed of who I am (whatever that is), but I don’t want you people in my damn business either. Fair enough, but again, is that coming out or just expressing a desire not to be categorized incorrectly one way or the other? Smollett did add, “My mama knows. My Mama likes me a lot. And yes I take her to the ‘Sound of Music’ sing-along every, single year. So, any questions?”

I have one: Did Queen Latifah write this?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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Three months ago, I sat in my bed frustrated with myself. I was upset at all the life choices I’d made up until this point. Physically and mentally exhausted, I ran out to get an energy drink; I’d needed a caffeine-enriched charge to help meet a deadline. And then it happened: later, rushing to the bathroom, I tripped and went hip-first into my desk, knocking the energy drink onto my laptop, its red liquid bleeding into my keyboard.

Although the rest of the laptop was intact, the keyboard stopped working, which meant the assignment would have to be written on an iPhone.

I called the only person who felt right at the time: my mother. Sensing the urgency in my voice, she immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” Before I went into detail, I made a request: “Can you please just listen to me and let me finish? I only want to get this out.” “Okay, baby,” she said.

The last twelve months have been trying. I’m either doing a lot of the things I’ve always longed to do or, if nothing else, inching closer to goals I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember. But it has not come without certain costs. To freelance write for a living is to often play the role of a sadist to your emotions. I regularly joke to my friends and in interviews that I am a writer and bill collector.

Months ago, my bills amounted to several thousands. It was not an unusual situation for me, but one I was tired of dealing with and one I am actively working towards avoiding as I advance in my career. I’m in better standing now, but still paying back the debt I built working with media companies whose existence became the bane of mine.

It took several months for it to happen, but the anger that was boiling underneath finally gave way to the sadness buried even deeper. As the tears began to fall, my mom could not resist her natural inclination to fault my decisions. Crying has never been easy for me, and as soon as my mom interrupted, I stopped.

The exercise lasted less than 10 seconds.

As proud as she is of what I have accomplished, and what other achievements await, her vision for my life is different from the one I presently live. Ideally, I’d be working in a field more secure (finance, corporate law, medicine), one that would make all her sacrifices worth it. I would also be straight and married with kids. We’d all attend mass regularly, and she’d have us over for Sunday dinners. I might even be back in Houston. Maybe not directly under her, but close enough (in Houston, traveling long distances within the city limits is normal).

But I am none of these things. I will never be any of these things.


I came out to my mother in 2009 after I penned an essay about two black boys who hung themselves within the same month. They’d wanted to escape the anti-gay taunts, and the kind of world that supported such behavior, that haunted them. In writing the essay, my sexuality was a statement of fact; prior to this, my love of men only existed as speculation.

Her response to my coming out was nasty, and we didn’t speak to her for weeks.

In February, I called her. Not much had changed since then, but I felt compelled to warn her that I was writing about being a black gay man, and that it would reach people she knew. A photo is going to be included, I said. (Translation: I look just like you and we bear the same surname; your co-workers, your friends, your sisters, and your girls at the beauty shop will all know I’m your son.) In telling her, I tried to be respectful about her beliefs. I tried to talk about God and difference of opinion. Regardless of how she feels, I told her, I do think God is using me, in some way, to help create dialogue.

“Am I happy that you’re gay?” she responded. “No. I’m sorry it happened to you. Am I hurt that you’re still gay? Yes, because I feel responsible.”

I’m not sure why she feels responsible. In her mind, maybe she thinks me being gay is a response to me being raised in house that included a violent and volatile alcoholic father. I made peace with her rationale—”I thought you needed a father; I also did not want to end up on welfare”—a very long time ago.

Months passed before we spoke again.


When she heard me cry, she did what any mother would do: she attempted to provide comfort. But it only irritated me. It somehow became about my need to go to “God’s house,” after which she subtly suggested that my struggles were linked to my sexual urges. She then offered to pay to have my laptop fixed. Too proud, I declined. But she wouldn’t accept it.

One thing I respect immensely about my mom is her faith. What she fails to grasp, however, is that the religion that saved her is my living hell. I don’t necessarily know what I believe in anymore. When I pray, more times than not, I believe someone is listening. There are also the rare times I wonder if I’m talking to myself in the dark.

Read the rest at Gawker.

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