Clutch: No Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke Aren’t Making Better R&B than Blacks

Just because something sounds right doesn’t mean that it is. Likewise, repetition doesn’t bolster credibility. So as much as I appreciate Tank trying to tackle the current state of R&B, all I can do is shake my head at what’s recently come out of his talented mouth.

Speaking with Black Hollywood Live Network, Tank addressed a number of issues he feels face contemporary R&B in an ever-changing music industry. Now, he wasn’t totally wrong when he noted how some artists – say, Rihanna – are often wrongly categorized as R&B despite their music having little rhythm or blues encompassed in its composition simply because the complexion is enough to make a connection. He’s also correct when he says this about Alicia Keys’ Girl On Fire Grammy winning Best R&B album despite it collecting dust at various Starbucks locations across the country: “Alicia Keys is very popular in the back room. It probably wasn’t even a matter of what the record sounded like or who influenced it.”

However, there are two points argued in that interview that both do the Nae Nae over my last two nerves. The first is, “We have to get back to making R&B for everybody. Not just for one place in time. Not just for the bedroom. Not just for the bathroom.”

Then came this: “We have to get back to that. Making that kind of music. ‘Happy.’ So we can sing on the Oscars, along with Pharrell, who’s… him, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake who are leading the charge in R&B music. We can’t hate! We can’t hate on what it is! The truth is what it is. And Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake are doing R&B music better than us. We need to catch up.”

Actually, I pretty much reserve the right to hate everything you just said, Tank, and all of the nonsense that has fueled their rise and given you a false sense of security in your assessment of your Black peers.

I’m not convinced that songs about sex and partying are the problem with why R&B has floundered overall in recent years. If you flip to any pop station, you’ll find plenty of sexual innuendo and ditties about tipping to a party. Sure, you could argue that there could be a bit more balance, but even the quickest scan of any of the R&B charts on Billboard will show there’s a wide array of representation of voices in terms of both topics and tonsils.

Or better yet, maybe you shouldn’t be basing your opinion solely on what’s terrestrial radio at all. Either way, there is plenty of good R&B music to find if you so desire.

You have newcomers like Mack Wilds, Sevyn Streeter, Jheno Aiko, August Alsnia, or any of the acts featured on last year’s Saint Heroncompilation. None of those acts sound like the other – particular if you look past the singles and listen to their works in full. More established – Kelly Rowland, Ciara, Fantasia, John Legend, Janelle Monáe – all released solid efforts last year. As much as people bemoan reality TV, it has allowed artists like K. Michelle and Tamar Braxton second chances at stardom. Ditto for 1990s veterans such as Toni Braxton and SWV.

And then there’s Beyoncé and her last album.

Meanwhile, Robin Thicke released a so-so album led by a hugely popular single that borrows heavily lifting from Marvin Gaye while Justin Timberlake released two albums that were met with larger sales than Black acts, but reviews ranging from mix to widely panned. These may have enjoyable music, but they’re not leading the genre nor are they pushing it forward. The latter honors should go to more deserving artists like Miguel and Frank Ocean.

Read the rest at Clutch.

EBONY: [THE WEEKLY READ] Dear ‘Housewives’- Gay Men Aren’t Purses

For a show that likes to parade itself as gay friendly, this entire season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta has been an exhaustive exercise in casual homophobia. Of course, the minute you throw out a term like “homophobia,” the guilty parties will be quick to shout, “I’m not homophobic! I have plenty of gay friends.” But, homophobia, like any prejudice, has levels to the s*it.

In the same way that racism isn’t solely determined by whether or not one hangs up nooses, shouts “Sieg heil!” in secret, or dons Blackface, one doesn’t have to call a gay person a faggot to know that not-so-deep down, there’s some level of intolerance inside of you. One thing that’s been clear about this show all season long is that in terms of weaponry, one’s sexual orientation is just another easy tool to pull out when trying to inflict pain.

See Porsha Stewart Williams, who now suddenly wants to hurt her ex-husband, Kordell Stewart, by fueling the gay rumors that have apparently followed him for several years now. Unfortunately, she forgets that we all have eyes and ears, and thus, saw her working hard to keep her marriage alive despite these newfound fears she conveniently developed right in time for the season to begin filming. Funny what feelings rejection will bring out.

Now if such a gay friendly show has no issue with gay men, why was this idea of Kordell being gay (he denies it), such an easy way to question his manhood several times over?

I suppose I’ll pose that question to Porsha’s reality TV show friend and fake new neighbor, NeNe Leakes, who decided to disparage Kenya Moore’s friend Brandon as “queen” and “girl.” First of all, if we’re talking about a person with courage, it is not Christopher Williams towering over a woman in confrontation; it is Brandon, who got up in defense of his friend. But I suppose because Brandon has a little lightness to his voice and a preference for penis that he might as well be a woman.

Who am I kidding, though? NeNe is no stranger to faking jacks herself.  On this same episode she tells Kenya Moore that “you lucky you ain’t got yo’ ass kicked.” Remember when NeNe had that domestic violence charity? (Insert Dwight Ebanks’ sinister laugh here.)

What’s most grating about NeNe’s contempt for queens, though, is the fact that she along with some of the other cast members, owe so much of their success to biting the ever-living hell out of gay Black men, and in particular, those “queens” NeNe speaks so sorely about. On another cringe-worthy episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta that aired in December, Cynthia Bailey tries to explain the concepts of “shade” and “reading” to would be new show regular, Mynique. Cynthia asks, “Do you have any gay friends? Like gay guy friends, like queens or anything. That’s good ‘cause you gonna need those.”

The show’s usage of gay Black men as accessories has always been an annoyance, but season six has taken many to a new level of frustration with the outright expression of disdain for gay men when seeking retaliation.

Sadly it’s not just select stars from The Real Housewives of Atlanta that’s guilty of biting gay men for a come up and then condemning them. Everything about Tamar Braxton minus those “dot coms” can be traced to some Black person who’s been serving on the stoop of the big gay rainbow. And yet, on the first season of Tamar & Vince, when she had a disagreement with a gay magazine editor, what did she do? Make fun of his lisp, naturally. More, during the test run of The Real, she spoke of her disdain of dressing up little boys as “girls” – on more than one occasion.

Yeah, a purple onesie on a baby boy doesn’t mean he’s going to grow up to want a Quanell over a Quisha, and even if he did, if you have no problem building the popularity that gave you a second chance of a music career off the mores of effeminate men, why so worried when it looked to be all good a week ago during the taping schedule.

Read the rest at EBONY.

VIBE: ‘Love & Hip-Hop New York’ Reunion Pt. 2 Recap: Tears Of A Clown

If I could describe part two of Love & Hip Hop: New York’s reunion in song, I’d go with the following tracks: Mary J. Blige’s “Everyday It Rains,” Eve’s “Love Is Blind,” K. Michelle’s “Can’t Raise A Man,” Banggaz’s “Run Up Get Done Up,” and any especially misogynistic rap track released within the past 20 years – or maybe all of them.

Yes, last night’s #LHHNY closer was another exercise in exhaustion and despondency. And while I’ve enjoyed the fourth season of Mona’s Madhouse, I’m so glad we’ve reached the end. I feel like I need therapy with the rest of the whole cast. Whew. Sh’mon with the Atlanta version of this franchise, Vh1. I need some laughter after all of this sadness. —Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick)

1. Tears Of A Clown

Much like Tara, it took Amina Buddafly three teaspoons of total humiliation for her to finally understand that she cannot change the womanizing ways of Peter Gunz. Like any person in love, Amina wanted her feelings and her relationship with Peter validated. As in, “I’m not just like any of the women you cheated on Tara with.” To Amina’s credit, Peter did marry her so there must’ve been something about their relationship that made her “special.” Clearly, not special enough because Peter made it apparent that no woman in his life compares to Tara and had he known that Tara still had feelings for him, he would’ve never married Amina.

I almost felt bad for Amina when she pulled out that pissy pregnancy test out of her bra and threw it in Peter’s face to confirm that she’s carrying his child, thinking maybe that would be his aha moment and he’d really own where he is in life and the woman living it with him. Nope. Peter doesn’t hug her when Amina says she’s pregnant. Instead, he pouts and ultimately walks away. Amina just sits there, looking like a gumbo comprised of pity, sour grapes and damn, I fucked my life up.
Now one on one, Mo’Nique asks Tara if she has anything to say to Amina. Tara says, “I feel bad for you. I feel bad for you that at 30, the man you’ve married can’t hold your hand and hug you when you tell him that you’re pregnant.” Damn. That hurt my feelings. Worse, after talking to Tahiry backstage, Peter asks Mo’Nique to speak to Tara alone. Not surprisingly, Amina throws a tear-filled fit, demanding to hear exactly what Peter says to Tara.

Peter gives a tearful apology (through his black sunglasses), saying he thought doing the show would be beneficial to him, Tara and Amina, and he never intended to hurt Tara because she deserves better. He apologizes for the humiliation he put her through, noting that he would never do it again because he’s removing himself from her life. Afterwards, Tara tells Mo’Nique: “I feel bad for him. I feel bad that life has not taught him to be a better person.” More, “And now he left our household searching for an outlet and how this outlet has turned to another household that he now needs to run from.”

You know, Tara is really adept at slanging these retweetable, enlightened ass quotes.

I think their segment, and for that matter this entire three-ways-of-trife storyline can be best summed by what Peter told Tara backstage: “What kind of father am I? If you’re not good to their mother, then you’re not a good dad. Shit is just fucked up. I’m just…disgusted with myself.”

As you should be, sir. As you should be. Oh yeah, he also said earlier in the episode, “I’m too old to be acting like this.” Now if you know all of this, Peter Gunz, will you finally do something about it?

Read the rest of the recap at

Clutch: All Hail SWV

Over the years, the members of SWV themselves have admittedly felt underrated. They have right to considering that despite more than 15 million albums and racking up numerous hit singles on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts, SWV has never won a Grammy nor or is their catalog honored for what it was: the most cohesive of any R&B girl group of the 1990s.

There is not a single bad album in SWV’s catalog – including their holiday collection and their mishandled 2011 comeback album, I Missed Us.

TLC may have had the bigger hits, but by 3D it was clear that TLC was missing a key element, or at the very least, a new sound and image to steer them in another direction. Lil’ Mama and the same old two-step isn’t going to save matters either, sorry. En Vogue may be the most vocally talented group of all time, but their albums have been so-so and their incessant infighting has thwarted their potential shot at enjoying another round of success. There’s also Xscape, but they, too, act like the other one stole both their pocketbooks and their bae. That’s not happening again, and even if it did, I’m not convinced enough would care.

And of course, I’ll shout out the lost girl groups of the 1990s: Kut Klose, MoKenStef, Changing Faces, Shades, Sista, etc. Y’all came, y’all sang about three songs we liked and then you went away. Rest in peace.

Needless to say, as someone who still listens to SWV – particularly the hedonist, sexual songs that Coko now refuses to sing – I’m all for them enjoying a boost in relevance by way of their WeTV reality show, SWV Reunited.

When I first heard about their show, I had a cautious excitement. These sort of back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot ‘cause I’m on a basic cable reality show can go one of two ways. It can offer a much needed boost ala Tamar Braxton or it can highlight exactly why a particular recording artist quickly faded from memory. See, Kelly Price, Nicci Gilbert, and hell, most of the R&B Divas not named Faith Evans.

However, SWV Reunited is a little bit of both, only unlike some of the other R&B stars of the past to have hit reality TV, there’s far more self-awareness than we’ve previously seen. It makes for a better reality show, and as a fan, only intensifies my desire to see them enjoy new success in a different era. Here, we see three women who started out as friends turn into co-workers who could barely stomach each other, but took that shot of Pepto Bismal for the sake of getting a check.

To some degree, you get the sense that they all understand they’re better together than they are separate (you all should’ve given Coko’s solo debut Hot Coko more love, though), which explains the show. Still, it’s evident that they don’t want to hate each other. They want to improve their working relationship, and if possible, their friendship.

Read the rest at Clutch.

EBONY: [THE WEEKLY READ] To the Woody Allen Defenders

In an essay entitled “Don’t Express Doubt About Woody Allen’s Guilt, or These Columnists Will Condemn You,” Eric Sasson says of those who have defended Allen in the wake of allegations that he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, in the 1990s resurfacing: “There is nothing terribly surprising about a journalist expressing this kind of uncertainty. It is, after all, our jobs to question, to investigate, to form opinions about what we find while still retaining a healthy degree of curiosity, and even doubt, regarding the subjects we write about.”

No, but the same can be said of opinion writers giving their opinions. From the title alone of Sasson’s piece, there’s an employment of victimization here to help deflect those people criticized from being held culpable for their words and actions. Make no mistake, though. If there is any victim in this situation, it’s not anyone writing an essay about it.

To Sasson’s point about the role of a journalist, I’d like to think that media professionals and outlets would know by now how difficult the culture makes it for alleged victims of abuse to speak out and act accordingly. As in, while you’re more than welcome to maintain some nominal level of doubt, there ought to be something inside of you that says, “I shouldn’t put a woman’s firsthand account of her alleged abuse on the same playing field as a wordy defense from a man who has a financial interest in making sure Woody Allen’s reputation isn’t any more soiled than it already is.”

The Daily Beast was well within its right to publish Robert B. Weide’s piece “The Woody Allen Allegations: Not So Fast,” though as problematic as the essay was, equally troubling was how many journalists rushed to lend credence to it.  Sure, Weide “got the facts straight” in that he made sure to pinpoint that Allen was never technically married to Mia Farrow, but he nonetheless was her longtime partner and started a relationship with her when she was still a teenager. More, Weide swears he doesn’t hate Mia – he even follows her on Twitter! – but goes out of his way to highlight her sexual indiscretions as a means to delegitimize the potential rape of her child.

Weide is a jerk with an agenda and dressing up bad sentiments with nice phrasing doesn’t alter that. These “journalists” are stressing their “impartiality” under the guise of “just doing the job,” but to the rest of us, you’re fishing for reasons to incite doubt in the words of the alleged victim in order to continue luxuriating in your own biases without challenge.

The same goes for Barbara Walters after she noted on The View: “I have rarely seen a father as sensitive, as loving and as caring as Woody is and Soon-Yi to these two girls I don’t know about Dylan. I can only tell you what I have seen now.”

What Walters has seen has no bearing on what’s being alleged. I mean, what did you expect, Barbara? For Woody Allen to start molesting children right in front of you? Would that have made it better? Apparently not, as she discounted Woody’s statutory rapey relationship with Soon-Yi because it was “mutual.”

She goes on to echo a talking point from many of Allen’s apologists: That Dylan Farrow is only bringing up the allegations now to soil Woody Allen’s Oscar campaign. Even if it that were the case, so what? There is never a wrong time to out a pedophile. This complaint is akin to the “Why you bringing up old sh*t?” lodged at the Village Voice over its revisiting of R. Kelly’s past allegations of molestation.

Read the rest at EBONY.  

VIBE: ‘Love & Hip-Hop New York’ Reunion Recap: Breakups To Makeups

Last night, those poor unfortunate souls known as the cast of Love & Hip Hop: New Yorkgathered for their reunion special. Well, all of them minus K. Michelle, who was probably on somebody’s stage singing about cognac and screwing someone like she’s trying to pay bills. Fair enough. After all, it wasn’t like she was really part of this season’s narrative anyway.

Now if you were looking for growth, humility and reconciliation, you should’ve been watching the OWN Sunday morning programming you have sitting on your DVR. This was the Love & Hip Hop: New York reunion, and if you’re familiar with this group of reality personalities, you know how hardheaded they’ve shown themselves to be all season long. Maybe self-realization will come in part two. Until then, here are some thoughts on part one of Love & Hip-Hop New York: The Reunion. —Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick)

1. Why Are You Here, Mo’Nique?

Before we got into the reunion, Mo’Nique tries to answer the burning question in many people’s minds: “Why in the hell are you here?” Before she became an Oscar-winning actress, Mo’Nique worked with VH1 as the host of Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School. Not to be all saddity about it, but Queen Latifah scored only an Oscar nomination and the only check she collects from Viacom is the one for executive producing Single Ladies. And Jennifer Hudson has been hollering on stage and on the big screen ever since her win.

To be fair, Mo’Nique does explain that on one faithful Saturday afternoon, she found herself so enthralled with the show. Let her tell it, she realized “what an adventure it was.” Call me cynical, but I bet that was after she had already signed the contract and VH1 shipped her homework. She tries to make it seem like her being there is some sort of noble act, but rumor has it she’s alienated many people in Hollywood, and to quote Young Jeezy, “And Georgia Power won’t give a n*gga lights free.”

2. “Hi, I’m Here, Too”

Poor Cyn Santana. If I were her, I’d use this cheap fame to get on that Evelyn Lozada career and relationship plan and keep it moving. Her relationship with Erica Mena has always seemed like a farce, though I will say that Cyn appears to be legitimately into Erica. However, on Erica’s end, it just seems like she found a girl that looks like her and then decided to treat her the way she felt Rich should have treated her.

As Cyn said so herself, “All I hear is ‘Rich, Rich, Rich, Rich, Rich.’” Yes, and even I’m sick of it. Mo’Nique tries to talk to all three, but we all knew how that was gonna go down even before it happened. Erica yells at Rich in sheer rage – proving just how much she still cares for him. Meanwhile, Cyn sits there wondering if she turned into Casper The Spanish Ghost.

The Cyn vs. Rich over Erica portion of the reunion takes up a significant portion of the broadcast. But yeah, they’re not worth obsessing over. Cyn herself says backstage,
“They’re clearly still in love with each other. This is nothing new.” Then figure out what you’re gonna do, Cyn, and save us all from their “Will they? Won’t they?” asses.

Oh, and Erica: “I didn’t ask for this.” Girl, whatever. You are the maker of your madness. Your hair was cute, though.

Read the rest at VIBE


Happy Even If You Worry I’m Going To Hell

I almost allowed someone to spoil this moment for me. That someone being my mother. I love my mama dearly, but my sexuality bothers her. My insistence on talking about it bothers her even more. The whole idea that not only was I born with a penis and drawn to other individuals in possession of one, I have the gall not to be ashamed of that frustrates her beyond belief. And the fact I even act on that desire sometimes? Sourpuss squared.

Professionally, I had a very good 2013, and from the looks of it, I’ll enjoy an even better 2014.  I don’t have everything that I want, but I am learning to accept that nothing ever comes to me on my timeframe. Ever. I work extremely hard and have sacrificed so much. Now, at a few months shy of turning 30, I see light. I’ve spent a very long time waiting for that.   I’m not getting in my own way as much. People are coming to me with new opportunities, and when they come, I’m excelling. I remain hard on myself, but I’m making progress on that, too.

I feel good about being on, Vulture and I’m so proud of the work I’m doing at and other places.

I love that I have a personal essay in the new issue of ESSENCE and one of my best friends in the entire world – a person who has always believed in me and pushed me to keep fighting – was my editor. It feels good. And I love, love, love that my work is in a magazine with Oprah on it. Oh, and the boo thang in head, too.

In my mind, my essay being in ESSENCE with Michael Bae Jordan on the cover brings us closer together. Shut up, I said “in my mind.”

But what I hate, and still very much grapple with, is that I can’t really share my good news with the people who should be closet to me.

I came out to my mother after an essay I wrote about two Black boys who hung themselves within the same month to escape the anti-gay taunts that haunted them.  The only reason I told her was that the essay went viral and was smacked right in the middle of the site that at the time was her go to Web page. Her response was nasty and I didn’t speak to her for weeks.

Not much has changed since 2009 and we don’t talk about my sexuality. It’s usually for the best because she has a mouth and so do I. However, I gave her the courtesy to inform her about this ESSENCE essay since it’s a widely read publication that has my big head literally on the page of my work.

I tried to be civil. I tried to talk about God and difference of opinion. I stressed that I think no matter how she feels and how I stopped going to church, I do think God is using me in someway to help create dialogue. I write about politics, pop culture, sexuality, culture, race, and because a check is involved, celebrity bullshit. But I have put myself out there to help people. Most of the gay Black writers people admire are good and dead.

I never wanted to be the ‘gay writer,’ but I also don’t want to be true to myself when I know that we’re not nearly as evolved as well pretend to be.

My mom’s response was not surprising, but no less disheartening before it ultimately irritated the living fuck out of me.

“Am I happy that you’re gay? No. I’m sorry it happened to you.”

“Am I hurt that you’re still gay? Yes, because I feel responsible.”

I so wanted to quote “***Flawless” in this moment. Respectful southern boy, though.

There was also a bit about my extended family potentially abandoning me, though I could really give a less fuck about that. As I explained to her, where were they when the drunken monster known as my father was giving us all hell? Weren’t they judging your other straight children’s life choices? Better yet, of all those people, who is the one with a college degree that actually got out of the hood, did something and stuck with it?

Exactly. So who gives a fuck about what anyone thinks, much less them. Oh: no shade.

Anyway, that wasn’t about me. That was about her and how she feels and what my work and my growing presence as a writer means to her. That’s her issue, not mine.

Thankfully, my beautiful and always loving sister made me feel better. I am not a crier, but I broke down a minute. I was mad about that because I didn’t want to give her or anyone that satisfaction.

My mom says she loves me and won’t abandon me. I believe her. Nonetheless, she is embarrassed and she wishes I were straight. I understand why she is the way that she is and why her point of reference to all things gay is so full of sin and death and the like.

She is not a monster and can be the sweetest person imaginable.

I love her dearly. She humanizes the ignorance gay people face throughout the world. In some respects, I’m grateful to that because it’s made me a better thinker and a stronger person. Ultimately, though, her opinions about what my work means only go so far. Like on the scale of Destiny’s Child, her thoughts and her feelings about my career are Farrah Franklin. Mine are Beyoncé, obviously.

Seriously, I know myself. I know my voice. I am always being reminded of what my words – no matter the theme or tone – mean to people. I know my value.

No one is “using” me to be a “spokesperson.” She of all people ought to know not I am my own damn person, always have been and always will be. Hell, I wouldn’t be a Howard grad, ex-LA transient, or current Harlemite had I listened to her.

Maybe one day she will evolve. Maybe she won’t. Whatever happens, I will die knowing I lived my life as I saw fit and I went for mine no matter what anyone said — including the person who gave me life.

I have fallen on my face several times, but again, things seem to be turning around. I don’t care who isn’t happy about that because I’m happy. That’s why I’m back to enjoying this moment and all the moments that are to come.

P.S. Since we’re on God, Jesus, and the Saints, shout out to all of them and my editor, the lovely Charreah, for making sure my picture turned out okay. Y’all. That was hell week when I took this. I was doing so much work, not getting any sleep, and I didn’t even have a fresh lineup. I damn sure wouldn’t have mentioned this at all if I looked like a bugawolf in the magazine. That line up will be together the next time, though.

Beyoncé would never. [THE WEEKLY READ] Macklemore Ain’t MY Savior

A debate can go one of two ways: wonderfully impactful or a painful waste of everyone’s time. Whenever the former happens, it’s usually due to the fact that people on both sides can respect the other person’s stance and where it stems from. It can get even better when those with opposing views can be bothered to dip his or her pinky toes outside of their respective bubbles. I feel like this should go without saying, but again, folks on Al Gore’s Internet remind me every single day that even the most simplest idea needs constant repeating.

So while I appreciate the passion behind Bradley Stern’s piece “Same Love: On Madonna, the Gay Community and Why That Macklemore Performance Mattered,” I want to spray it with Raid max Bug Barrier all the same. Stern’s essential grip is that he feels as if some gay people on social media were being too snarky if not too petty to see the bigger picture of Macklemore’s Grammy performance of “Same Love.” Perhaps Stern’s time is limited as he appears too busy to try and figure out why some folks refuse to shut up and think like him.

Stern writes: “I would encourage writers, YouTubers and Twitter personalities to step outside their reactionary bubble and recognize the greater good: Stop tearing down the people who are waging the same battle, whatever you suppose their true intentions actually are. Madonna? Macklemore? Please. These aren’t our real enemies.”

He goes on to say: “The real enemies are the homophobic politicians and world leaders committed to outlawing LGBT ‘propaganda.’ There are real, horrifying events happening every single day in the world — and if you truly believe the biggest problem is that a straight White man ‘using us’ for record sales by publicly supporting LGBT equality on a nationally televised awards show in front of a tearstained audience, then you’re not genuinely fighting the same fight.”

This essay is so White, I imagine he had to slather it with sunscreen before letting the ideas out his brain.

I will say that the most entertaining part of Stern’s Father Knows Best-themed musing is when he gets to the part in which he decides to offer a “history lesson” that is drenched in vanilla and devoid of a circular view.

Yes, Madonna was a pro-gay rights advocate promoted HIV/AIDS awareness long before it happened, but by that same token, this is also the culture vulture who got “inspiration” from Black and Latino gay men on the ball scene and went on to make millions while many of those very people died penniless and still largely marginalized. Oh, and keeping up with the “history lesson,” while HIV/AIDS awareness has done wonders with respect to saving so many gay men from certain death, there are very recent reports that prove how much of those efforts weren’t directly aimed at gay men of color.

Bottom line, though, is that Stern is operating from the space that suggests allies are above reproach because us gays just ought to be happy some heterosexuals are profiting off of the hurdles homosexuals face in our lives.

It reminded me of a tweet that was sent to Saeed Jones, the LGBT editor over at Buzzfeed over the weekend.

Read the rest at EBONY

EBONY: 2014 Grammy Awards: The Highs and (Mostly) Lows

To their credit, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences didn’t give Black people any pretense that the show wasn’t going to piss a bunch of us off. All but one of the hip hop and R&B categories were given before the telecast began, and for the most part, the winners in each category elicited some variation of “hell no” as a response. Based on the majority of the winners, many of them won for not necessarily being the best in their category but, rather, for being the Black name that old White men best recognized.

For example, you seem like a doll, Alicia Keys, but there’s a reason why Girl On Fire is your lowest selling album to date. Likewise, I love Rihanna like she loves a Swisher Sweet, but her winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” aka “Best Of Those New Blacks” over Tamar Braxton, Mack Wilds, Fantasia, and Salaam Remi seemed wrong. Is there no safe place for any straight up R&B artist?

No, unless you’re Justin Timberlake, who conveniently picked up an R&B Award (Best R&B Song, “Pusher Love Girl”) while also scoring a nod for “Suit & Tie” in a pop category. Now, if any Black act sang that same song, it’d be relegated to the Best Traditional R&B category (which went to Gary Clark, Jr.’s “Please Come Home.” Congrats to him and to Lalah Hathaway, who took Best R&B Performance for Snarky Puppy’s “Something.”)

Speaking of things that don’t belong, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took every rap category (Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance), minus the one award that went to Jay Z (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, with Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail”), plus Best New Artist

Now, much of the online commentary about Macklemore’s essential sweep was, “You already know how it is, so why are you acting surprised?” You know, I’m never surprised when it rains, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be bothered if I get too wet going outside.

For some of you “awards don’t matter,” but to many others they do which is why it can be both unsurprising and yet still glaringly offensive to see Macklemore best Kendrick Lamar in rap categories.

For the record, no, it’s not Macklemore’s fault that he benefits from White privilege, and yes, he’s a peach for acknowledging he has it. Nonetheless, if people want to complain about a so-so spoken word artist posing as a rapper getting major awards for a mediocre product in comparison to a much better emcee, so be it. No one, especially not a Black person, needs to toss on a cap and rush to defend Macklemore.

Never forget: He is a White man. Not only that, a White man doing a Black art form. No thinkpiece formed against him shall prosper.

As for the Grammys overall: insert your big yawn here. This show was geared more so towards White men over the age of 50 who are heavily into rock and country music acts past their prime. For those folks, last night’s award show probably turned that cherry out. When it comes to the rest of us, we had far less highlights.

Among them was Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performance of “Drunk in Love.” To be honest, while it was one of the better performances of the night, Beyoncé herself has done much, much better in other settings. One assumes her and her husband’s thought process going in was, “You raggedy, Kendrick Lamar-snubbing folks are even lucky we bothered to grace y’all with our presence.” If so, right on, girl, and shout out to you for throwing up Third Ward on stage and sipping on brown liquor in the front row of the show. Your Black is beautiful.
The others:

Pink: Alas, like Ciara had the matrix, she has spinning in the air like a Ringling Sister. Yes, it’s impressive, but she does this bit a lot. Oh well.
See you next flip.

Taylor Swift: Many of you hate her, but her offbeat bop to “Drunk in Love” and Kendrick Lamar’s set was fun to watch.

Read the rest at EBONY.

Drake Is Bae

For the longest time, I’ve maintained that Drake looks like feet. However, after watching Aubrey host last week’s episode of SNL, I now have to acknowledge that I now have a foot fetish. While discussing my newfound attraction, I was accosted via text by a beloved homegirl, who went in:  “What?!?!!!?!!! You spent the last 3 years talking shit about [redacted]‘s boo, now you tryna hit it?!?!?!”

Me: “Yup.”

Listen, the Lord isn’t done with me yet, so if it takes me a little longer to see what others see, so be it. It started a few months ago when I decided to buy tickets to Drake’s “Would You Like A Tour” tour. Initially, I was more interested in seeing the Hulk Hogan of R&B, Miguel, perform. And since we’re going with wrestling analogies, I imagine Future would be the Hacksaw Jim Duggin of rap based on his flow.

Anyway, I was a big Drake fan around So Far Gone, but my interest in him began to wane once I found him draining. There’s only so many “I’m whining about the fame I wanted” tracks I can stomach and as I’ve written in the past, I hate the messages of songs like “All Me” and “No New Friends.” Plus, like many rappers, he left much to be desired as a performer.

But, I have to give the man credit: He has improved tremendously. The energy at Barclays during Drake set rivaled that of other bigger stars I’ve seen in concert — including Our Lady of the P-Pop, Beyoncé, her husband Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Prince, etc. Aubrey Graham is a star. A star with really great arms. Arms that look great in person and on an arena big screen.

So perhaps this shift has been going on for some time now, but last Saturday cemented it: Drake is bae.

Like, he shaved his face, took some singing lessons, and showed some thigh — all of which had me going kicking my leg a few times during select points of the program. For, uh, reasons.

I love that he, as Danyel Smith pointed out in an essay for ESPN can take “absolute comfort with being both “biracial” and “black,” pop and hip-hop, corny and cool.” I’ve never seen him in his role as Wheelchair Jimmy, but based on SNL, he ought to act more. I already have a project in mind. Now he still sort of favors the cartoon Captain Caveman, but that’s fine. It’s not like I’m not Dale from Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers with a splash of any famous cartoon rabbit.

If only Drake were gay. I’m so into him that I’m willing to participate in the seance he does to communicate with Aaliyah every third full moon. I suppose I should go tuck my feathers in. Birdgang, fuck with it.

P.S. I wrote about Sasheer Zamata’s SNL debut, too, over at Complex. Click here to read.