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In the past, my dating life was a mix of Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion and the sadder Mary J Blige songs that you can somehow still dance to. And yet, things have slowly but surely gotten better – a direct result of me making important changes. As I’ve gotten older, I have been more vigilant about noticing the signs that a man might be a loser and promptly taking the exit ramp.

This includes things like never dating a man who doesn’t know how to use “your” and “you’re” correctly. I don’t want to be a snooty writer, but I also don’t want to invest in flirting with a person who didn’t pay attention in third grade. Similarly, though it may be a struggle, I will try my best to avoid checking a guy’s social media feeds before actually getting to know him. It’s like looking at a person through a filter that’s not as favorable as he thinks it is.

But the one I most adamant about sticking to – and I have encouraged everyone I know to act accordingly: I will never date another person who does not like Beyoncé.

If there is one mistake I made repeatedly in the past, it was looking past this fatal flaw. Of all the men I’ve dated, the worst have all disliked Queen Bey.

I am a gay black man from Houston, Texas. Beyoncé is my Lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, end and body roll to me. I should have known better than to ever bother with such haters.

Before I started rejecting Beyoncé haters, I first tried dating some men with the fatal flaw by avoiding the subject. More than once, one tried to pick a fight with me about Beyoncé. They knew I bow down to Queen Bey, but they tried, still, to coerce me into standing on the wrong side of history. Remember that New York Times review of her debut album entitled: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti?” Who wants to end up sounding that ridiculous?

However, as an original member of the #Beyhive (its editorial director, if you will), I’ve long known that some people will fight a good thing. So I gave some men the benefit of the doubt, thinking that I could help them blossom into Beyoncé lovers – starting with the B’Day album. Because seriously, how can you not like Beyoncé? To me, if you don’t love Beyoncé, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to be a super fan, but if you don’t like at least five Beyoncé songs, I don’t trust your judgment.

That sounds crazy to Beyoncé deniers, whom I refer to as Beythiests.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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

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

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

Kardashian wrote:

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at Fusion.

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A year ago, I told everyone I know – plus anyone strolling by my little Internet corner – to give Teyana Taylor a chance and listen to her debut album, VII. Based on the majority of online videos of her most recent performances, gay Black men heeded the call best. Thanks a lot for your efforts, gentleman. Now it’s time for the rest of y’all to play catch up.

Fortunately, the very good but incredibly underlooked album is still available. Even better: Teyana Taylor has released a new EP, VII #thecassettetape 1994. Like VII, the songs are heavily influenced by ’90s R&B and features producers like Da Internz, JR Rotem, J Hill, among others. The references are far more direct as Taylor pulls from the following classic songs from that era and reimagines them: BBD’s “Poison,” Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Anniversary,” and K.P. and Envyi’s “Swing My Way.”

There is also my favorite track from the EP, “Your Wish Is My Command,” produced by Domo and Kanye West. It reminds me most of what I’ve come to appreciate about Teyana Taylor: tangible growth in her vocal ability and a clearer direction on what to do with it.

Some have expressed that such direction is a little too nostalgic and referential. I tend not to agree with that (at least, not yet), but it does not counter that Teyana Taylor is making some of the most interesting R&B out there. It’s sensual, it’s flirty, and it all sounds like it’s coming from someone who naturally got to that stage in her personal life as opposed to it being forced upon her in her professional work.

The only thing is that more people need to be paying attention to what Teyana Taylor is offering. It’s understandable why audiences may have be initially skeptical of her music— she was introduced via a reality show centered around extravagant teen parties, and whatever music she released was far and between. But at this point, she has a solid mixtape, an impressive debut album, and now a very good EP under her belt.

Read the rest at VH1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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

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

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

And he swiped me too! And it’s ON.

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

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

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

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

I have more complaints about Tinder.

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As much as I understand how important it is to her legacy, I’m often frustrated with how much Faith Evans’ narrative is focused on being the widow of The Notorious B.I.G. That is not just limited to mainstream media outlets where a name that impactful all but assures some level of overshadowing. It often happens in hip-hop circles, too. The interviews may no longer be centered solely on her life with Biggie, but the subject comes up and occasionally dominates all the same. It’s frustrating because it tends to malign the singer-songwriter into Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday terrain.

It’s a pity because today, on the 20th anniversary of her debut album, simply named Faith, many tend to forget the most important fact about Faith Evans: she is one of the best of her generation.

I didn’t know her name at the time, but whenever I listened to Mary J. Blige’s groundbreaking My Life (my all-time favorite album), I certainly knew Faith’s voice. Her voice complimented, and in some cases, overpowered Blige songs like “You Gotta Believe” and “I Never Wanna Live Without You.” As both a singer and songwriter, Evans’ contributions helped make My Life what has since proven to be Blige’s greatest work. A year later, Faith struck out on her own.

The album, largely helmed by Chucky Thompson, is a gorgeously sung collection of mid tempos and ballads. Thanks to singles like “You Used To Love Me” and “Soon As I Get Home,” the album went on be certified multi-platinum.

As many will remember, Blige took offense to the handling of Faith Evans.

On that rift, Chucky Thompson said in an interview:

“When you got talent like Faith, she catches on and she can take it somewhere else. There was one time when people were comparing her with Mary. The thing that makes them different is that Mary knows the old school, she knows quietstorm; you can sit with her and she’ll tell you every classic song on the radio. Faith knows nothing about classic, but she knows all the gospel records, so her vocal background is gospel. I did the albums back to back with two different personalities. I was able to separate the two but yet it was coming from the same camp.”

In 2010, Faith herself said in an interview:

“My thing is from earlier on the fact that I worked heavily on that album before my album came out. I mean, you know, in terms of my vocals being there so there’s a concurrent sound so that when I did come out with an album, they might’ve felt like, ‘Okay, that sounds like Mary’s album,’ but it was because my voice was on there, too, probably.”

The end result was Mary J. Blige having her vocals removed from additional album printings of their duet, a remake of Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” They may work together again. They may not. Regardless, even without Mary’s vocals on “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the revamped version proves that Faith never needed to pretend to be Mary J. Blige to get ahead.

When you listen to Faith, you can tell there is a shared core between Blige and Evans – soul – but not much else. Look to the jazz-influenced “Give It To Me,” the gospel background recanting “Thank You Lord” interlude, or the much softer brand of R&B found on “Reasons.” Faith has her own point of view and it was fleshed out excellently on her first complete body of work.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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There is an ever-increasing debate about the importance of the album in the digital era, which places far greater significance on the singular than the cohesive. For lovers of both the album and R&B – another sect of music facing its own questions of relevance – very few examples of why both still are very much important come better than Teedra Moses. The singer songwriter released her first album, Complex Simplicity, in 2004 and only now has given fans her sophomore offering, Cognac and Conversation.

For those unfamiliar, Moses was originally signed to TVT records, at the time more known for acts like Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz and the Ying Yang Twins than then her wavy brand of R&B. A brand that might not have come out booming at the time, but had meaningful impact to fans stateside and broad. The same goes for her varying co-signers, notably Raphael Saadiq and Rick Ross, the latter of which appears on the new album and has offered Moses spaces to lend her vocal talent on Maybach Music-related releases.

Moses’ label may not have handled her remarkable debut well, but that never stopped those who heard it to spread it as gospel. And pine for another album. Moses has actually released plenty of other music since then – mixtapes, singles here and there, and more recently, an EP. Yet, there is nothing like an album.

Now that we have Cognac, the obvious question becomes whether or not it was worth the decade-long wait. The answer is just as obvious. If you have traveled with Moses on this lengthy journey to release a sophomore project, you know by now her main collaborator from the debut, Paul Poli, is gone. There is an obvious shift sonically and has been for some time now. Moses’ voice, ever soothing but nonetheless strong in its simple delivery, was always the guiding force, but Paul facilitated through different channels.

For this album, she explained in a previous interview, “Some people who made a record on my album have never published a record in their life. But it’s good stuff and that’s what matters to me.” Indeed, what matters most – the voice and words that drive them – remain intact.

It’s love. It’s sex. It’s romance. It’s remorse. It’s all the intricacies of intimacy. It’s moving words that reel you in back into a more uplifted reality. And all of it is gorgeously sang.

And for me, Cognac and Conversation instills certain nostalgia. It takes me back to being a college junior writing his first album review and doing his first interview for Howard University’s The Hilltop, both centered on Teedra Moses. I remember hearing her first album and being blown away, feeling like I discovered something amazing and wanting to tell as many as possible.

Read more at EBONY.

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Before his interview on Huffington Post Live with Marc Lamont Hill, the longest time I can recall listening to T.D. Jakes speak was during a recent episode of Braxton Family Values. And yet I found myself somewhat impressed by how he toed the line with respect to reconciling his place as a member of the clergy with the Supreme Court’s decision that made marriage equality a reality nationwide. As previously reported, the conversation started when Hill fed the Potter’s House pastor a viewer question: “Do you think the black community and the LGBT community can coexist?”

Jakes’ answer was thoughtful and nuanced and reflected one key truth I wish more Americans—Christian and otherwise—were more aware of: The United States is not a Christian nation.

So in response to that inquiring mind wondering how WWJD and LGBT mesh together, Jakes noted that “public policy does not reflect biblical ethics.” It’s a point Jakes first shared in a sermon in June following the Supreme Court’s announcement. Yes, one might imagine that the comment “the world being the world and the church being the church” may have been eye-roll-inducing, but what followed was what mattered most.

“The Supreme Court is there to make a decision on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans; they are not debating Scripture,” Jakes told his congregation and, once again, HuffPost Live viewers. It’s a lesson a bakery owner just learned after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that his family bakery cannot refuse to make cakes for same-sex couples. There are your beliefs and there is the law of the republic in which you live.

For some reason—be it earwax buildup, lack of ability to properly comprehend words being said or some combination of the two—many misconstrued Jakes’ remarks. Some took Jakes’ words as an endorsement of marriage equality. In response, Jakes released a statement, both on Facebook and to the site that initially played the role of spin doctor.

On Facebook, Jakes said, “I have come to respect that I can’t force my beliefs on others by controlling public policy for taxpayers and other U.S. citizens.” Moreover, he added, “Jesus never sought to change the world through public policy but rather through personal transformation.”

Even in the interview, regarding whether Christians collectively will come to let go of stigmas attached to same-sex relationships, just as they evolved on slavery (justified throughout the Bible), Jakes said perhaps, but “the argument has to be theological, not sociological.” There are plenty of Christians already having this argument. The same can be said of Islam, most notably in a New York Times op-ed titled, “What Does Islam Say About Being Gay?

It is an argument worth having. In the meantime, though, whatever you believe as far as same-sex marriage goes, in this country it is determined by interpretation of the Constitution, not the Old or New Testament. That is what Jakes was stressing, and it’s an important sentiment to stress. Jakes even went one step further, making clear not to paint all gays or all Christians under one broad stroke, advising LGBT members of faith to seek a church that would be more accommodating to them. As in, while Jakes has “evolved” and professes to be still “evolving,” one can go find Christian fellowship in a place that’s already there.

Read the rest at The Root.

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To the delight of many—and presumably, her boyfriend, Tyga, who at long last can say he has a girlfriend who can legally consent in the state of California—Kylie Jenner is 18. Based on images from Instagram and the word of TMZ, the youngest of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians clan is having quite the celebration. Although she can now vote, buy cigarettes, and date her 25-year-old rapper boyfriend without fear of SVU-like investigation, a new age does not wipe away the last two years of her life and what it all represents.

For starters, it will never not be despicable how much of the media chronicled the relationship of a teenage girl with an adult male. As I have written previously in this space, there was a cutesy quality to the manner in which Kylie and Tyga’s relationship was chronicled. There is nothing endearing about a grown man dating a child, no matter how that child presents herself to the public.

Speaking of said presentation, while it is not my place to police someone else’s expression of sexuality, I can take issue with how those in the media have capitalized on it. These are various headlines taken from several mainstream publications before Kylie turned 18:

 

 

Again, all of this is before she turned 18. Before. Why was more not made out of adult men and women writing headlines about a 17-year-old girl using the words “sexy” and “seductive” while referring to her “curves,” “boobs,” and “big booty”? Many will argue that Kylie was just being a typical teenager. That may be the case, but that does not excuse the media going out of its way to further sexualize a minor.

Read the rest at VH1.

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For much of last night’s GOP presidential debate, I found myself playing Rae Sremmurd’s “Up Like Trump” in my head. The chances of me voting for Donald Trump for president are about as likely as me extending an invite to Rick Santorum to film my gay honeymoon, but I take great joy in him exposing the current state of the GOP presidential primary system for the crock that is. Trump’s persona makes him a standout, but substantively, he is no less silly or vile than his peers and the party’s base.

As the Beyoncé of the crowded field, the first question went to him—and it was loaded as they come. Trump was asked if he would support the eventful Republican presidential nominee and forgo a third party bid, which he has teased of running in recent weeks. Ever defiant, Trump answered, “I will not make the pledge at this time.” Why would he? He’s not the only person putting himself ahead of party.

After all, if these 17 Republicans running for president were genuinely about their party, they would have taken cues from the nasty 2012 GOP presidential primary and only declared candidacies if they had the means and organization. Many of them do not, but they’re in the race anyway. A presidential run can lead to book deals, talk show radio contracts and FOX News contracts, among other things.

The likes of Ben Carson know this, which is the only conceivable reason he’s running for president. Carson danced around the questions the majority of the time and always leaked “grateful to God” when the buzzer rang, momentarily freeing him from the farce. With his plans to create a tax system based on tithing, defense of torture, and pleas for us to look beyond color, Carson was more so running for America’s next Black friend.

Despite having actual experience in government, the others were just as asinine. Mike Huckabee—a master of presenting evil ideas with a smile—made comments like, “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.” This was his answer to a question about transgender rights in the military, noting we don’t have time for “social experiments.” Yeah, like letting another religious zealot run the country.

When asked about his position on forbidding abortion even in the case of a mother’s life being threatened, Governor Scott Walker told FOX News’s Megyn Kelly, “I’ve got a position that’s in line with everyday America.” Walker said this seconds after Kelly introduced a statistic disproving that very notion. Then there is Senator Ted Cruz, who gleefully shouted about him never being for amnesty.

The only memorable thing about Chris Christie and Rand Paul’s respective performances involved their mini tit for tat over the Patriot Act. Paul was Drake, Christie, Meek Mill. Both should have run four years ago. Oh well.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio was quite prepared with his answers, though conveying sincerity still isn’t his strong suit. And when it comes to his fellow Floridian, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, he wasn’t bad, but not particularly memorable either. Though he was initially seen by his family as the Beyoncé to George W. Bush’s Ciara, the Jackie album, his political gaffes (five and growing) and so-so energetic levels during a debate will ultimately prove that “Dubya” is the superior politician. That is, if you haven’t been convinced of the obvious yet.

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