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At the time of its release, the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack was extolled as “The Chronic of R&B albums.” In his Los Angeles Times review, journalist (later turned screenwriter) Cheo Hodari Coker wrote, “Like Dr. Dre’s rap opus, it’s basically one writer-producer’s vision as delivered by a variety of voices.” Indeed, Babyface managed to successfully wrangle some of the most premiere R&B vocalists of that day with newcomers we’ve since never heard from again to offer a dynamic set of songs that span every facet of R&B yet manage to still flow seamlessly forever.

As most know, Whitney Houston delivered the subtle yet sensational “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop),” the heartache-inducing “Why Does It Hurt So Bad,” and that call ya homegirl and tell her you love her duet “Count On Me” with CeCe Winans. Then there was Brandy’s sweetly sang crush-themed “Sittin’ Up In My Room” along with Toni Braxton’s “Let It Flow,” which was initially intended for Houston but thankfully found a home with Braxton’s beautiful alto.

I still listen to all of these songs regularly. The same goes for TLC’s “This Is How It Works,” which I think ranks as one of the best songs of their catalog that very few outside of core fans acknowledge. Ditto for SWV’s “All Night Long,” which I hope the still going strong girl group puts back into their playlist. Faith Evans should do the same with “Kissing You.”

I don’t know what ever happened to the singer Shanna, but if anyone has a way of reaching her, tell her I’m eternally devoted to “How Could You Call Her Baby.” Please also send my regards to For Real in reference to “Love Will Be Waiting At Home.”

And even though she’s mostly scatting for much of “Wey U,” the song highlights Chanté Moore’s sensational voice (even in its modest presentation here) and makes me wonder what might’ve been for her music career had she worked with more songwriter-producers on the level of Babyface.

Before you stab me, I could never, and would never forget Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry.” It was Mary at her finest – highlighting her vocal growth and making everyone in the song’s path ready and willing to burn down their partner’s car (even if they didn’t have one at the time).

This album is not only one of the best R&B albums ever, it takes me back to a period in my childhood when soundtracks were often the best albums of the year.

The album suffers from its own growing stigmas of being a relic, but the soundtrack has been virtually extinct for some time now. When I talk to younger friends and relatives, they don’t truly grasp the concept. They don’t have a Waiting To Exhale soundtrack. They don’t understand others either: soundtracks for The Bodyguard, Above The Rim, Jason’s Lyric, Space Jam, Boomerang, Set It Off, Sunset Park, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, and so on.

There are no longer top-notch movie soundtracks anymore. They’re not even moments like the song “U Will Know” from the Jason’s Lyric soundtrack or “Freedom” from the Panther soundtrack where the top male and female acts of R&B would unite for some necessary song the times call for.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I’m very well aware of how painful it can be to be harshly criticized by your own. Nevertheless, it’s imperative we don’t take our anecdotes to improperly assess the greater community. That’s why after watching K. Michelle’s interview with B. Scott, I couldn’t help be disappointed in both her and those who made her feel the way she does.

The subject of K. Michelle’s infamous relationship with Idris Elba came up, and according to the very talented singer-songwriter, it was Black women who condemned her most over it.

Ever candid, K. Michelle explained: “I thought it was disgusting, the backlash that I got from Black women. My whole career, the women that I fight for have been the women that attack me. And, it’s crazy—because when I told about my abuse, Black women attacked me. And they said I was a liar. And then when the reports came out, [they’d say] ‘oh, I always believed you!’ That doesn’t heal that scar that you called me a liar for two years and I’m trying to be a role model.”

The Memphis reality television star went on to discuss the aftermath of her eight-month relationship, adding: “We parted on mutual terms, so I never bashed him and I never will. When I sang about what it was, it was Black women. They were [tweeting] him, and were like, ‘Eww, she’s not good enough for you.’ It was bad. They’d [say things] like ‘Eww, he would never…’ or ‘Eww, why are you dating someone like that?’ ”

I will not challenge the validity of K. Michelle’s question, but I will ask one thing: Who is your core demographic, beloved? When I think of K. Michelle’s core fan base, I include myself, but I think more so my sister, my homegirl and my auntie (who used to love Millie Jackson). When I see people discussing K. Michelle on social media, they don’t look like Miley Cyrus. So sure, Black women might’ve been K. Michelle’s harshest critics, but are these not the same women majorly buying her albums and filling the venues of her concerts?

These comments come on the heels of K. Michelle taking to Instagram to declare: “I believe I’m not Black or White but I’m actually a mermaid. I believe there is no talent required to be in the music industry. I believe the color of my skin shouldn’t determine the genre of my music!”

I believe in miracles and love’s the miracle. She also added that she likes a handsome White man. I enjoy Ryan Phillippe’s everything, but I also know I’m a Black man, not King Triton. There’s a sense of self-loathing here and it’s unsettling.

Unfortunately, K. Michelle is not the only singer I’m a fan of recently guilty of this bad practice.

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I refuse to relinquish my dedication to the text message.

In recent months, I’ve come across relatives, friends and men I have dated who seem to have issues with texting – or more pointedly, returning a message I sent. “I don’t like to text,” they tell me, or, “You write too much.” Heaven forbid I don’t stop at “WYD. HRU.” For those who actually enjoy typing words out in full, this would be, “What are you doing?” and “How are you?”. Both of these abbreviations are disgusting, for the record.

If you’re kin I barely speak to outside of holidays or old classmates who I sometimes forget are still alive (listen, adulthood is stressful), by all means ping me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever other social media service I am ignoring but likely signed up for. I like that social media brings many people who otherwise would never connect together.

But I increasingly loathe that it gives people a false sense of intimacy. As in, just because you see whatever I choose to share on social media doesn’t mean you know me. Likewise, you responding to something I put on the internet is not anything close to hitting me back on words said directly to you – it’s ignoring me. No one wants to feel ignored and the fact that I now can visibly see what you are doing on social media in real time as you ignore me is infuriating.

So if you’re a close friend or, even more importantly, a person I am dating, I will not bend on this. Respond to my text. I repeat: respond to my text.

I don’t understand why this task is difficult for people. After all, you’re on your phone either way. The way you can scroll through every social media app you’ve downloaded is the same way you can look to “messages” on your phone, read said messages and you know, respond to them. Why is this a challenge? Spoiler: it’s not.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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On last night’s Empire, Cookie got hers, Hakeem’s new boo got a much needed lesson on how to properly sell it from his old bae while Jamal and Lucious fixed their so-so singles. Meanwhile, I was staring at my TV wondering what exactly is going on with the show. I was not alone. Check social media. In any event, let’s talk it out as a family, folks.

Who can blame Cookie for wanting to spend the day in bed with Laz?

Last night’s episode kicked off with Taraji P. Henson being paid to act out one of my fantasies: being in bed with Adam Rodriquez. As a fellow Bison, I want to salute Taraji for making sure Cookie completely sold the bliss that I imagine comes with bedding Adam. The hater in me wants to boo, hiss, though. Pardon my petty.

That said, so they spent the entire day in bed together, but she didn’t notice that UT Longhorn on Laz’s back? Did she not inspect that body at any portion of the daylong sexcapade? I’m not understanding how she didn’t notice that at any point and subsequently karate chopped him in the neck before whipping out the pistol she keeps near her birth control.

Is anyone surprised that Cookie wants to name a concert “Cookie’s Cookout?”

She is supremely Black. I say that with great admiration and respect. Salute, auntie.

Did you hear how pitiful this Lucious song sounds?

I know by episode’s end, a flashback with his crazy ass mama (played wonderfully by Kelly Rowland) gave him inspiration for his song with Def Noap, but the song still sucks in real life. Boom. Boom. Boom. Bang. Bang. Bang. Hell. Hell. Hell. No. No. No. And for inquiring minds, no, it is not the new “Drip Drop.” It could never be.

Was that older gentleman Lucious turned to supposed to be the equivalent of Quincy Jones?

I kept calling him Quincy Jenkins on the Twitter.

Who wrote Destiny’s Bilingual Child’s single?

I cackled like hell when those girls sang, “We sippin’ bottomless mimosas.” That song sounds inspired by Twitter on Sunday morning, early afternoon and Instagram, all-day Sunday. It was not it. Not even a little bit.

Don’t we need more Tiana?

We have not been getting enough of Teyana Taylor as Rihanna on Empire. All we got last night was her trying to train the lil’ meek one Hakeem has a hard-on for to be less LaTavia on R&B Divas and more Beyoncé any day of the week. I know on the episode, that actually happened, but let’s get one thing clear: no one in New York would’ve stopped what they were doing to hear her Spanish version of “I Will Survive.”

Honestly, in that scene, Hakeem won because this man had his old girl teach his new girl how to rock it. How is that life?

Read the rest at VH1.

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justin-bieber-purpose-cover-2_rume6gI already had my suspicions, but for any lingering doubt about the intent of Justin Bieber’s latest album, Purpose, it becomes clear by the second track: it’s about redemption.

On “I’ll Show You,” Bieber sings, “My life is a movie and everyone’s watching. So let’s get to the good part, and pass all the nonsense.” Bieber wants to finally put aside all of the antics that caused his name to become more synonymous with terms and phrases like “obnoxious,” “reckless” and “next Lindsay Lohan” than “singer” and “entertainer.” Bieber wants your forgiveness to allow him to move on, y’all. So that way he can return to the path of successfully transitioning from child star to adult one. Bieber was well on his way with the under-appreciated Journals but got sidetracked — majorly by the real life growing pains.

“I’ll Show You” reminds me of Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me,” only Bieber seems far more present and self-aware when he croons lines like, “It’s like they want me to be perfect, but they don’t know I’m hurting.” Well, we learned as much from his apology tour that started earlier this year with his Comedy Central Roast. Now, we have Purpose.

Perhaps he is wee bit too hard on himself (look no further than the title track) because in the age we live, one’s transgressions – particularly when you are someone as famous as he is – are less forgettable than they used to be. Also, he’s 21. The fact that far too many put that kind of pressure is part of the problem.

Whether or not Justin Bieber reaches his “best self” in his early 20s (please feel free to laugh at such a notion) remains to be seen, but as far as Justin Bieber the singer goes, Purpose shows more than enough signs that he’s going to be quite alright. I’m more excited than ever about his musical future.

My initial fear going into was that Bieber’s voice, while pleasing to the ears, can sometimes venture towards monotonous if the production is not versatile enough. My fears are alleviated on track after track. There is a singular theme and overall vibe, but enough variance to where Purpose doesn’t sound like one long song. And to his credit, Bieber has grown as a singer.

I was not ready for the falsetto and high notes offered in “No Sense.” Definitely had to check his birthday to see if I was tip toeing towards dirty old man territory. Nor was I properly prepared for the immediate body rolling the very adult “Company” called on. By the end of the album’s first half, it dawned on me that Justin Bieber has made the male commercial R&B album that I’ve longed for all year. There have been plenty of releases this year that fall into the category, but those offerings – like those from The Weeknd and Miguel – push R&B past its limits.

Purpose features songs I wish Usher would have made — quite the compliment to bestow to his former mentee. It’s also the musical progression I wanted for Chris Brown. Unfortunately, with the deluxe edition being 20 songs, there are some missteps.

Read the rest at VH1.

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For portions of tonight’s episode of Being Mary Jane, I found myself relating to Mary Jane Paul and that frightened the hell out of me. You know, because more often than not, Mary Jane behaves like a terrible period. I’ll get to why in the breakdown in a few, but let it be known that this was another great episode of what is increasingly proving to be the show’s best season yet.

What would Rev. Jesse Jackson do?

I found it hilarious that after Mary Jane’s boss shut down her plans to return to her show, she made a $5,000 donation to the Rainbow Coalition and immediately asked to speak to Jesse Jackson. And then after the Rainbow Coalition rep failed to get Mary Jane what she wanted on her schedule, she improvised by speaking her return into existence in front of a camera crew. Isn’t it funny how Don Lemon in stilettos often decries those who complain about racism when met with challenges only to run to one of the biggest Civil Rights leaders ever when in need?

By the way, I’m surprised she called Jesse and not Rev. Al Sharpton. I’m assuming those past few weeks of blackmail have left her unable to afford the other good reverend. Do what you gotta do, girl.

Don’t you hate when people put you on speaker without telling you?

I’m assuming Kara had no choice but to put Mary Jane on speaker with their boss, Greg, but whew, when Mary Jane referred to him as “fat ass,” I let out an audible gasp. Then I just laughed my ass off as Greg called her into his office for that stunt she pulled about going back to work on Monday. Listen, for all those times Mary Jane admonishes others for their lack of effort, it was a cackle to hear Greg run down her many list of offenses. It lit a spark under Mary Jane that perhaps she had become too comfortable in her spot. You can tell Marisol put fear into her as she reminded her that no matter how good you are, you are essentially replaceable.

Is Shug Avery going home to glory?

What was with those random coughs Mama Helen had on the episode? Did she fall and take a tumble? Are they trying to prepare us for her death? Or some serious illness, perhaps? Neither option should be on the table. I never got over Big Mama from Soul Food’s death. I refuse to accept Helen being anything but healthy and ready to snatch you bald while rocking her good wig.

Nicey is such a brat.

So, while I’m not entirely sure if Jill Scott is old enough to play Nicey’s mom, I did appreciate her reminding Nicey that it’s about time she grows the hell up. I understand she didn’t have the best luck in terms of parents, but that girl has spent two seasons not doing a damn thing and expecting the world. That’s partially her father’s fault, but she needs to pull it together.

Nicey’s mom may be lying about doing Nicki Minaj’s hair (she does the dancers’ hair, which is fine), but she has a job doing something she loves. She offered to help put her kid on and Nicey can’t be bothered to put together a portfolio. In 2015! Nicey, you could’ve created an Instagram account to show off your work. I definitely have dated someone who did the same. I like her, but she’s trifling.

Read the rest at VH1.

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If People magazine is the Bible, and Us Weekly, the Quran, then celebrity gossip site Hollywood Life is more or less a pamphlet that a poorly dressed, almost comically incoherent religious zealot tries to hand you while en route to a subway platform. The site is not taken seriously for a reason—majorly rooted in them not reporting anything that even sounds remotely plausible. Despite this knowledge, when I read the story that Meek Mill allegedly wants Nicki Minaj to collaborate with Lil’ Kim, I remained intrigued.

According to the site’s source, Meek Mill told Nicki Minaj “if she got together with Kim in the studio and came up with a collab, they’d own rap!” The source goes on to add, “He reminded Nicki that they’re in business for money, not for feuds! Nicki loves her dollars more than her A-1 steak sauce.” And apparently “she’s thinking really hard as to whether she can stomach working with Kim.”

Be very clear: I don’t believe any of this shit.

For one, Meek Mill is unfortunately still taking jabs at Drake despite Drake metaphorically not only beheading him, but proceeding to bounce his chopped-off head like a basketball only to kick it down a rolling hill of failure. So, as far as the letting-go-of-the-petty-for-the-sake-of-profit plan goes, it’s not one likely pushed by the Philly MC.

Meanwhile, there’s also the reality that Nicki Minaj doesn’t need a Lil’ Kim collaboration to make money. Nicki Minaj just wrapped a tour, sells plenty of Myx Moscato, has since sold a television show, and well, you can turn on the radio at any moment and it will not take long to hear Nicki’s voice emanating from your speakers. I imagine someone at this very moment wants to toss out her album sales. Before you do that, be very clear that while they are not Pink Friday numbers, she is still moving more units than a lot of your favorites in 2015.

As for Lil’ Kim, many are willing to go back and forth all day on whether or not she is still the Queen Bee. I don’t especially care anymore; she’s a queen and a legend no matter where you place her now. She doesn’t have to chase radio anymore; her status is cemented. I long for a Lil’ Kim comeback, but if one does happen, it doesn’t require the assistance of Nicki Minaj to happen. She just needs better material than we’ve heard on recent mixtapes.

All those reality checks aside, I want this rumor to be true despite the overwhelming evidence that it is far from it. I wish Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim could manage to put their differences aside and come together. And not just because it’d be nice to see the original Beehive and Team Minaj end their virtual knife fight on social media.​

Read the rest at Complex.

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In terms of music, most speak of the ’90s, ’80s, and the ’70s with great reverence. That is not the case for the 2000’s thus far as many describe the decade as “some ole bulls–t” or some variation of the sentiment. It was a decade of great disruption – hello, illegal downloading – but it was not a total loss. There were some good moments here and there. Hello, Beyoncé’s solo career. Even so, it feels like decade full of one L after another. Here are my grievances. Feel free to add on.

Ciara and Ludacris should have made an album together.

Before I go on, do me a solid and stop booing and hissing at me. Hear me out, why don’t you? Recently, I was at the gym dancing inappropriately to Ciara’s “High Price” featuring Ludacris when it hit me that these two have amazing chemistry. See also “Ride” and “Oh.” Ludacris is out here looking like LL Cool J Jr. with Lionel Richie’s face. Meanwhile, Ciara is the Black Kardashian, and no, that’s not a compliment. These two have past their peaks in music, but I do wish they would worked together and become the sweet tea and chicken biscuits version of Ashanti and Ja Rule.

We would have protected Britney Spears better.

I get emotional when I think about this, but it’s a shame that no one made sure Britney Spears was safe and stretched on the set of the “Outrageous” video with Snoop Dogg. This is when she hurt her knee, which was when her rhythm went missing; when she linked with K-Fed; when the brilliance of Blackout was overshadowed by her seemingly disconnection from planet Earth. God, it hurts just to write about it. I LOVE YOU, BRITNEY.

The girl group would not have died.

With all due respect to Fifth Harmony, not enough people care, though that’s not their fault. Of course, the early 2000’s had a wave of girl groups – well, majorly Destiny’s Child, but you get it – but after that, the girl group became a bit of a relic. As someone who obsessed over SWV, Xscape, En Vogue, Kut Klose, The Spice Girls, and knew of those who worshipped at the altar of TLC and other girl bands, it’s a shame that we collectively let the girl group enter “throwback Thursday” terrain.

I speak for many when I say the world – and Capitol Records specifically – owes Cherish a huge apology.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I wish I lived in this mythical world in which being a gay Black male was a one-way ticket to immeasurable success.

Ever since Frank Ocean publishing a letter revealing he was once in love with someone of the same sex played a pivotal role in his success, I’ve seen many argue that it was nothing more than a marketing ploy to boost his career. And if they don’t argue it was a marketing ploy, at the very least the admission is categorized as one that gives Ocean some sort of advantage over his contemporaries. This would include your average social media simpleton and some of Ocean’s recording artists peers, including Miguel and, more recently, Wale.

Indeed, during an appearance on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, co-host Angela Yee asked Wale whether a gay artist can be successful in hip-hop.

Wale said in response: “If a dude was gay, man, he’d get a Grammy,” Wale said. “They’re gonna make fun of them. They’re gonna throw their Twitter jokes… but in the next three years, there’s probably gonna be a dude who’s not even gay that’s just like ‘Man, this is my last resort’… But nah, I would sign a gay rapper if he was dope. ‘Go ahead man, go do that thing. Go do them Versace fashion shows.’ ”

The Versace quip is interesting, given that although hip-hop remains heavily hypermasculine (as do most things in our culture), it’s always been overtly masculine rappers shouting out the gayest of fashion designers. In any event, Wale went on to cite Frank Ocean, declaring that he was “pushed to the moon” before later adding, “He got the Grammy joint, everything… People look at it like you a hero, you a pioneer.”

He has since tried to “clarify” by way of repeating himself in different phrasing.

Wale’s revisionist history does negate the reality that, although Frank Ocean’s celebrity may have magnified following his admission, his Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape was a critically-acclaimed smash that was on many a music critic’s year-end list—cementing him as a rising star the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z, and others immediately wanted to work with. As long as Frank Ocean stuck to the themes that wowed people, he was going to become a star no matter what.

Likewise, many tend to forget that Ocean’s letter came not long after a writer who heard his debut album, Channel Orange, early and proceeded to interject rumors about the singer-songwriter’s sexuality onto the Internet.

What grates me most, though, is Wale’s sentiment about what it’s like to be gay in America right now: “People are probably going to go bad on me for saying this, but it’s an advantage to be gay in this country right now. That’s just the fact of the matter.”

Many share this sentiment, and I invite them all to report directly to the seventh circle of hell in a winter coat.

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You will get no argument from me about the plight of the contemporary R&B artist. A number one R&B album on the Billboard 200 here and there does not rule out how much the deck is stacked against them in this climate—particularly if you are a black woman (yes, even Beyoncé). Even so, I believe in aiming your grievances in the appropriate direction, which is why I’m already cringing at what lies ahead in Adele season. People are frustrated that black singers very rarely get to enjoy massive success doing distinctly black music as they did decades prior.

However, Adele is not the best example of how a white face can sell more with a black sound.

Adele is not like Iggy Azalea, or Macklemore, or any other white person borrowing from black cultural traditions. I’m perplexed that people even consider what Adele does to be soul or anything reminiscent of black music. In 2012, Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt accused Adele fans of being racist. Speaking with LA Weekly, Merritt explained, “She really has a lovely voice, but I only get suspicious when people get excited about British people who sound like American black people.”

Merritt went on to add, “Basically she sounds like Anita Baker. And people are not, you know, wild and crazy about Anita Baker.”

No the fuck Adele doesn’t.

As a child who reportedly (by my older sister) would cry in the car as a toddler when an Anita Baker song ended on the radio (then got home and cried again until it was played on a record player), I take great offense to this. I invite Stephen Merritt and others who share this sentiment to listen to Anita Baker’s One Night Only live album (now on Spotify). If anything, this is an example of racism in that white people get extra credit for simply showing up. It’s a similar problem I had with GQ christening Sam Smith “the new face of soul.” I imagine Jon B and Remy Shand are still somewhere pissed about that.

Ain’t no soul there, bih.

Adele has a lovely voice, but it does not possess the grit, fluidity, and genuine soulful tone of a singer like Anita Baker. Frankly, outside of “Rolling in the Deep,” which I suppose has a little kick to it—enough to get Aretha Franklin and many a black auntie to stomp their feet in salute—Adele is not at all soulful sonically or vocally.

Nevertheless, the “Adele sounds black” narrative has returned forcefully but is no less fraudulent a stance.

Read the rest at Complex.

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