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If I could describe Blackbird in three words, I would choose “protect your neck.” The movie is a little over 90 minutes long, but has a miniseries’ worth of materials to work though within that minuscule amount of time. The film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, penned by Larry Duplechan.

There is a kidnapping, an unplanned teenage pregnancy, and subsequently, an abortion. There is the issue of interracial dating, statutory rape, and a suicide attempt. However, of those myriad of issues, the driving force of the story (helmed by director Patrik-Ian Polk) is Randy Rousseau, and his struggles to embrace his homosexuality and his devout Christian faith. If that wasn’t enough, all of this is set in a small town in Mississippi. Because life is not hard enough for these people.

Polk has Rousseau, played by Julian Walker, introduce this conflict in a way that is vulgar as it is hilarious. During a dream sequence, Randy the choir boy is performing and suddenly joined by his crush. There are hints of homoeroticism in their exchange, but the hints turn into screams as Randy’s crush disrobes himself and Randy and the two proceed to make out inside of the church for all of the congregation to see. Ultimately Randy wakes up from his wet dream that we are made abundantly clear is wet by his ejaculation.

It is a common sleep pattern for Randy, and while depicted provocatively, likely resonates with many a Jesus-loving gay boy who knows what it’s like to awaken “soaked in sin”—present company included.

Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique portrays Randy’s mother, Claire Rousseau, grief-stricken and haunted by the kidnapping of her daughter. Upon learning of Randy’s sexuality – again, in especially blunt fashion – Claire condemns her son and faults him for his sister’s disappearance. Having your Christian mama fault your biology for some unforeseen circumstance is another aspect of this film that’ll likely resonate with select moviegoers.

While there is surely a lot going on, and arguably, too much in a short amount of time, there are lot of aspects of this movie that make for interesting watching. It’s always hilarious to see closeted gay men deny themselves. Say, Randy quipping defiantly, “I’m not bitchy. I’m in the choir.” Whatever you say, sis. The same goes for Randy trying in vain to be ‘delivert’ from his sexuality by way of his equally virginal friend, Crystal.

Likewise, Blackbird does remind you of what a gifted dramatic actress Mo’Nique is. More often than not, unapproving parents, and in particular, mothers, are portrayed, and thus, judged harshly for not simply falling in line with their children’s homosexuality. Even if wrong in their position, it is often rooted in this notion of a child’s soul being more important than the life they lead on Earth.

Read more at EBONY.

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Who in the fuck does Mimi Faust think she’s fooling?

Mere seconds into the season premiere of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, I was already over Mimi and her bullshit. After all of the embarrassment Stevie J put her through, she decides to start a business with him? A management company at that! She can’t manage to stop playing herself, and he can’t manage to stay sober. Watch out, Roc Nation. The Diddy and Kim Porter of the South got next.

Mimi is obviously still in love with Stevie J, which explains why she has found a way to be with him intimately even if it is under the pretense of a business venture. Mimi, you are another sad love song wrecking my brain like crazy.

Mimi Faust Management’s first potential client is rapper Tiffany Foxx. Some of you might recall her from an awful song and video featuring a Lil’ Kim sing-songy verse I try to forget out of respect for a legend. If you are keeping score, Tiffany Foxx worked with Lil’ Kim and now wants Mimi Faust and Stevie J to handle her career. I’m laughing.

In between trying to manage artists, Mimi unveiled plans to release a book. It’s shit like this that makes me question why I even bother learning how to read. Do I have to have sex with Nikko to get a book deal? Pass me the shower rod. Wait, I’d sooner lick a New York City sidewalk on the mustiest day of the year than screw slime.

Speaking of Nikko, he may no longer be with Mimi, but he is still trying to leech off of her. He pops up at the photo shoot for her book cover to inform her that she signed a contract giving him 25 percent of her book royalties. In response, Mimi says she was not in her right mind when she signed that, thus refuses to honor the deal. Uh, that is not how contracts work, beloved. This woman made a baby with someone who worked with Puffy in the 1990s. How does she not know to read her contracts? Why is she so hopeless?

I bet half of the book is going to be about Joseline. I understand why Mimi doesn’t fancy the Puerto Rican Princess, but at what point will this woman realize that Stevie J was not in the studio working on tracks with Jesus before Joseline entered his life? Mimi, if you think a scoundrel like Stevie J needed Joseline to introduce him to drugs and bad behavior, you are crazier than you swear Joseline is.

Sadly, last night Joseline was discussed often but not seen. Joseline’s whereabouts are unclear, but Mimi and her cast mates remain thirsty as hell about her.

We also got insinuations that Joseline is being shady to her old pals. Enter some new girl named Diamond who, like Joseline, is getting off the pole for good in order to pursue her rap dreams. Dawn, the booking agent who has half of Traci Braxton’s face, tells Diamond that her old co-worker is probably ignoring her texts because she doesn’t want the competition. Dawn needs to go find herself some business and better wigs.

As for Joseline’s reunion show behavior, Stevie J and Benzino were responsible for that brawl. Joseline was basically siding with her man, and ever the hood girl, could not be stopped once she popped off. 100 emoji.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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I’m often weary of criticizing Scandal for two reasons: I love Shonda Rhimes and I fear Shonda Rhimes. Shonda’s clap back is one of the smoothest in all the land. She will get you together in 140 characters or less as she sells ABC her billionth TV show all while writing and producing the other 200 shows she currently has on air. And I really, truly adore Kerry Washington.

With the niceties out of the way, I can now get to the question at hand: How much longer can Scandal go on? I was excited about the start of season four, but as I complained for weeks, I hated the kidnapping storyline. It was cute for maybe one episode — the midseason premiere — but it dragged on and on and on to the point where I called out to God and Beyoncé to give me the power to reach through the screen and save her my damn self.

Thankfully, that ended, but now we are back to Rowan Pope’s return and a battle for the future of B613. Doesn’t that feel a bit like deja vu only without Jay Z and an awkward dance break in the middle of nowhere? I’m all for tying up loose ends, but this show needs a lot of conflict resolution. As in, Olivia needs to find out that her father killed her BFF. Liv has to make up her mind about Jake so he can either stay or truly run off into the sunset.

Then there is Fitz and that eternal “will they or won’t they” angle — that’ll likely always be a part of the show so we will have to just roll our eyes together. But the rest can be fixed. Speaking of fixing, Scandal could probably go on forever if it returned to its original vision as Olivia Pope the fixer. Maybe it’s too far gone at this point, but I have enjoyed Olivia fixing people’s problems in the midst of the other bizarreness. I’d rather Liv fix my life than Iyanla.

Insert 100 emoji here.

And maybe, just maybe it’s time for a major cast shakeup. Bring in some new OPA associates. Let Huck’s crazy ass go be crazy as s–t in suburbia. Let Quinn get herself a new life and an advanced degree. My girl may be a killer, but perhaps she could utilize those skills as a lobbyist or something. Same skill set, to be honest.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I squandered my 20s by not having enough sex. If I were rating my sex life in that decade through emoji, I behaved like the yellow one with his eyes closed and a straight line where a smile should be. I should have acted more like a cross between the eggplant and the one no one I know uses to signify raindrops. I wish I had been more of a slut, and while I am well aware that it is never too late to join the team, there are certain consequences that come with lateness. For me, that is a sense of stunted development.

I reflected on my struggle with intimacy, and its source, an early exposure to AIDS — by way of my AIDS-stricken uncle’s funeral when I was just six years old — in an essay for xoJane in 2014. After that, I decided to correct the problem. Strangers online were encouraging in a “You go boy, don’t press eject on your erections anymore!” fashion, but some of my friends – the gay male ones – were a bit more pointed in their commentary. I remember one person in particular advising to “be a better gay,” and get laid without the getting-to-know-you process. What followed was the suggestion to try “the apps,” which I admittedly rolled my eyes at.

Hook up apps like Jack’d and Grindr are an acquired taste. For the longest time, I didn’t like anything about them. In my mind, I am a Beyoncé, so to partake in the apps – which are basically like Seamless for sex – felt degrading, like lowering myself to the level of former Destiny’s Child member turned reality star who refuses to sing on air (LaTavia Roberson).

And then I had a change of heart.

For months, I flirted with the idea of meeting people, only to punk out. “These motherfuckers could be crazy” were the exact words I used. Ultimately, I truly gave in.

The first time I actually met someone from Jack’d, which is described as a “gay men’s social network” but is majorly used for what I would describe as “ho shit,” I thought it was going to end with me becoming the inspiration for a future episode of Law & Order: SVU. In my profile, I make it very plain that such a scenario is not ideal, my bio reads: “I don’t ever want to end up the inspiration behind an episode of Law & Order: SVU.”

Once we finished and he exited, I could no longer find my keys, prompting my suspicion that this man, whatever his name was, was good with his mouth but not at following directions. I was suddenly paranoid and sure he had stolen my keys and was planning to return to my apartment to slit my throat. Or something.

After two hours of searching my (not that large) apartment, I found my keys in a kitchen cabinet.

What’s most interesting about this story is that when it comes to hook up apps, this is not the most embarrassing one.

Not long after that incident, people started recognizing me.

I was using “Slim Shady” as a screen name on Jack’d, but getting messages like: “Hey, Michael. I love your blog, The Cynical Ones! You’ve been such an inspiration to me.” Other inquiries were related to whether or not I was “@youngsinick from Twitter,” and again, came conversations about my work as a freelance writer.

I never dawned on me that to some — namely those younger or around the same age as me — I am one of the few working gay black male writers they know. I’m not nearly on the level I want to be, but I am not necessarily living in obscurity as I thought, either.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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The “racial slur” accusations and “double standard” charges hurled by the media and from angry corners of Twitter after Andrew Harrison’s hot-mic moment last weekend are evidence of just how perverted our nation’s race conversation has become. The University of Kentucky sophomore, on the heels of his basketball team’s first and only loss of the season, was caught muttering “F— that nigga” under his breath when a teammate was asked about opponent Frank Kaminsky during a post-game news conference.

Harrison blundered when he dropped the f-word in a formal setting and on an open microphone. It was a 20-year-old’s stupid mistake, and his apology should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. Headlines indicted Harrison(a black guy) for using “a racial slur” against Kaminsky (a white guy). Then came whining from across the Internet that Harrison was the beneficiary of a double standard, because his use of the word didn’t result in his expulsion or his being branded a racist. The same day, these critics noted, news broke that a University of South Carolina student was suspendedafter a photo of her writing the plural of the n-word on a white board went viral.

To make such claims is to be willfully obtuse. After years of such trite debates, it should go without saying: Context matters. White people invented the word to disparage black folks. Using it to blame black people for ruining some formerly lily-white institution is an American pastime. It’s in that context that the University of South Carolina student scrawled the plural of the n-word as the first in a list of things ruining the school’s wi-fi (illogical, but I guess she’s still learning, or something). It’s in that context that students at Bucknell University were expelled for a radio broadcast that included the n-word, along with racist comments like “black people should be dead” and “lynch ‘em.” And surely, that was the context for members of University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who were recorded singing that racist little ditty about “hanging them from a tree.” Contrary to some ridiculous claims, those SAE boys didn’t learn that context from any rapper.

In those types of circumstances, the n-word is used to exclude, demonize and terrorize a group of people. It’s dishonest to try to lump in Andrew Harrison with that form of systemic racism. Even though this rationale upsets some, including some black people who are vehemently against the use of the word under any circumstance, it’s nonetheless true. Those critics argue against reclaiming or redefining the n-word slur, using the derivative Harrison used. But it is clear that among those who do use that derivative, particularly millennials, the connotation is not the same. In that context, it’s used not as a racial slur, but as a comparatively benign and generic reference to another individual.

If someone finds it a burden that white people cannot use “the n-word” without inciting anger, they operate from within a bubble filled with entitlement, privilege and delusion about what real racial burdens in America look like. It’s exhausting to have to repeatedly explain somethingthat ought to be so easy to understand. The fact that we continue to have this debate, over whether black people should be able to repurpose a slur that is not their own invention, speaks to whose interests still dominate the race narrative.

Read the rest at the Washington Post.

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It’s a shame how a moment you’ve been waiting for for so long finally comes and when it does, you nearly miss it due to newfound indifference. I have waited for a new Jodeci album since I went into my sister’s box of CDs and took her copy of The Show, the After-Party, the Hotel. I have obsessed over Jodeci since I was child (full disclosure: I was barely alive when their first album was released). In second grade, when a group of my friends and I all pretended to be Jodeci, I was Mr. Dalvin. I still listen to “Come and Talk to Me” regularly. The same goes for their fantastic second album, Diary of a Mad Band.

I love Jodeci.

And yet, once I actually remembered that the group’s new album, The Past, the Present, the Future, was out, I was petrified to listen. None of the songs the group put out prior to the album’s release—“Nobody Wins” featuring B.o.B, “Every Moment,” and “Checkin for You”—were worth more than one-and-a-half listens. So, when it was time for me to listen to the album in full, I called up Crown Royal Apple and prayer warriors to get me through it.

I’m so glad I did because this album is one you will have to work hard to forget for the sake of preserving all of your positive memories of Jodeci. This album ain’t it. Not even a little bit of it. It’s not even half the “i” in “it.”

The song’s opener, “Too Hot,” sounds like it was dug out of a box labeled “1998.” In fact, when you hear the line, “Pretty face like Lauryn, body like Mya,” you’re almost certain that this song was written before Willow Smith was born.

When the lyrics don’t sound old, they come across as eternally gross. This album screams “songs your nasty uncle you could never be alone with” music. On “Those Things,” you hear the line, “Maybe later on I can get my tongue in your mouth (WET AND DEEP, GIRL).” I immediately want to reach for hand sanitizer after writing that. The song itself borrows lines from “Come and Talk to Me” and “Freek’n You.” It just makes you sad for the good days, now confirmed to be forever gone.

A lot of lyrics are just corny. Take the hook for “Stress Receiver,” which goes, “You are my stress reliever, my sex receiver.” Jodeci was never a group known for subtlety, but there was always something especially cool about them. Unfortunately, this is their 20-year high school reunion and life has beat it completely out of them.

There’s also the sad reality of their depleted voices. Well, Mr. Dalvin never sang (he raps a little on the new album, and in sum, no) and Devante served as the producer and writer. That means K-Ci and JoJo did most of the legwork, and whew, do they have arthritis. You notice it mostly on “Jennifer,” which by the way, sounds like the two made the entire thing up as they went along. It also sounds like a fake ass “Lately,” for what it’s worth.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I felt like Tamar Braxton’s sister and reality-show archnemesis, Towanda Braxton, while watching the youngest Braxton and co-host of The Real shed tears after complaining how hurtful it is to be compared to a character from The Muppets. Tamar was boo-hooing over two people—Chris Brown and K. Michelle—she opted out of naming for insulting her appearance with that description. Nasty as that sounds, Tamara essentially victimized herself without adding total context—namely, what prompted both of them to feel the need to insult her in the first place.

Although I tend to think that Towanda is too mean to Tamar on Braxton Family Values, I do agree with her when she says that Tamar can dish it out but can’t take it. I’m a fan of Tamar’s—I’m talkingstill-listening-to-her-2000-debut-album fan—but I was not moved by Tamar’s tears because of one pivotal lesson I was taught early in life: Punks jump up to get beat down.

Don’t talk about anyone if you’re not prepared for the repercussions.

I imagine that fellow singer and reality star K. Michelle felt the same, since she pointed out on Twitter, “Every action warrants a reaction. You can’t go and start a fight with someone then when they reply cry and play victim.” K. Michelle has firsthand knowledge of this: The two started a feud after Tamar proceeded to take shots at her over K. Michelle’s claims that Memphitz, the now-estranged husband of Tamar’s friend Toya Wright, abused her. Even after K. Michelle essentially called for a truce, Tamar continued taking shots at her—including in a since-deleted tweet criticizing K. Michelle’s performance at the 2015 BET Honors.

Did K. Michelle have to respond to Tamar’s insults by insulting her personal appearance? No. Was it out of line? Sure. Yet, despite being well into adulthood, Tamar still fails to grasp the reality that when you go out of your way to publicly criticize someone, you have to be prepared for whatever comes your way thereafter. Not everyone will respond the same way. Such is life. Get over it.

K. Michelle didn’t have to talk about Tamar’s appearance, but Tamar didn’t need to interject herself into another woman’s claim of abuse, either. Likewise, while she can shed tears about being called a Muppet by K. Michelle and Brown, she ought to reflect on some of her own bad behavior. In response to Brown’s admittedly childish retort to Tamar’s and The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon’s criticism of his relationship with Karrueche Tran, Tamar proceeded to describe Brown’s behavioras “queenish” and to question his manhood.

One thing that continues to irritate me about Tamar is that she will go out of her way to use “queen” as a pejorative, as if her entire shtick isn’t a combination of mores and customs associated with a sect of gay black men and BET’s animated homegirl Cita.

Read the rest at The Root.

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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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