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Recently, for The Guardian, Naomi Campbell shared an excerpt from a limited edition, two-volume book that chronicles her life as a groundbreaking and highly successful supermodel and all of the opportunities stemming from that. Yet, for all that is shared in the excerpt—her as a supermodel, her speaking with world leaders as a contributing editor to various publications—the article’s title homes in on what I’ve come to see as a well-meaning but no less flawed line of thinking. The title in question is, “Naomi Campbell: ‘At an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to be twice as good.’”

Campbell writes: “When I started out, I wasn’t being booked for certain shows because of the color of my skin. I didn’t let it rattle me. From attending auditions and performing at an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.”

Picture it: Me, yawning at both the headline and the sentiment that inspired it. Of course, Campbell is not the only person who echoes this statement. However, I’ve only heard the “twice as good to get half as much” mantra by the mediums of pop culture or the bougie Black folks I encountered later in life after attending Howard University. As a child, not a single person ever told me this. I thank my Lord and Gyrator Beyoncé every single day for this.

Growing up, I was told to be great, but not from the perspective of doing so in order to attain an imbalanced portion of what some white person was getting for half the effort. When I think a lot about my childhood—well, besides the chaotic portions that often consumed it—I now have a greater respect for many of the values my mom instilled in me.

I did not grow up with a lot of money at all, but I was never raised to believe that there wasn’t anything I could not do. My first doctor was Black. My first dentist was Black. I had a Black priest when I was still a practicing Catholic. I went to Black schools, and when my mother aspired for me to go to a better school, it was not some white-populated institution; it was a private Black school. She couldn’t afford it, but the school of her choosing denotes that something simply being white did not constitute as better.

Was racism explained to and experienced by me? Certainly. However, I never thought that to be Black, I had to be twice as good as a white person. Likewise, I never operated under the impression that in order to see myself, I had to see it through the lens of whiteness or the prejudices forced upon me by white supremacy.

White people were just not the factor.Being Black was always enough. To be fair to Naomi Campbell, she has always advocated for the inclusion of more Black models. And Campbell takes great pride in being Black. Still, when I hear people—good intentions or not—play into this kind of folklore, I find it troubling and saddening. No one should ever define themselves in that way. None of us should put that kind of unnecessary pressure on any nonwhite person.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I have never heard a black person speak about O.J. Simpson with any reverence outside of J.J. Evans on an episode of Good Times. And while that show was populated by black faces, what came out of their mouths stemmed from the minds of the white writers in the room. Simpson was not Muhammad Ali, or Michael Jordan, Jim Brown, or hell, Warren Moon, if you’re from Houston.

Even before Simpson’s infamous and zeitgeist-shifting murder trial, he proved to be a polarizing figure among Black people because he didn’t ever seem to associate himself with black people and blackness. Simpson was loved by white people in a way not shared by blacks—not unlike Jason Derulo’s catalog. The term “transcending race” is a myth, but one can seek to distance themselves from their identity should they secure a certain amount of fame and wealth that might appear to remove some barriers largely attributed to racism.

Simpson got his wake up call during his murder trial, and like a long-lost relative that only comes around when they need money and a good meal, his defense strategy was largely rooted in noting his race and how racism permeates our justice system. For many blacks who know this and are victims of it, it was the best way to win back our support and kinship, even if temporarily. So, while I may not have understood the gravity of the Simpson trial in its totality as a child, I did understand that feelings on Simpson’s trial and its verdict were likely shaped by your race and experiences with racism.

Similarly, your interest in the trial verdict 20 years later is, too, likely fueled by your race and how experiences associated with it shift your worldview. That’s why whenever I am asked as a writer and cultural critic why we are so obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial two decades later, my first inclination is to ask who’s we?

During that time and perhaps a few years after, I’ve witnessed black people discussing the trial in the context majorly of “He either did it or knows who did.” And after he found himself arrested for and convicted of stealing sports memorabilia, with the sentiment, “This stupid motherfucker got off the first time and look at him.” In terms of black pop culture, there was a line about Simpson’s guilt in the first Barbershop, but beyond that, Simpson more or less faded with time with us.

He served as a symbol of a black man getting away with things we typically only see white folks getting away with. But the idea of him getting away with something he did greatly irritated white people, and it is why white people have primarily led the charge in revisiting the trial some 20 years later.

In a recent roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Nina Jacobson, a producer on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story had this to say about depicting the trial on TV: “I was scared of taking on O.J. overall, as a white person, knowing this was a polarizing case. We made every effort to have an inclusive team, but ultimately, the people who began the project, it started with a bunch of white people. And we know that the case means different things to different people.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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Earlier this month, Page Six reported that Beyoncé and Jay Z’s long-rumored duets album will arrive in earbuds around the world “very soon.” The news was met with mixed emotions: It seems some fans were less than thrilled about the idea of an album-length session of post-Lemonade couples counseling.

But why are we assuming that’s what this album will be? For all we know, it’s a bunch of up-tempo party tracks. Given that it’s been 10 years since Beyoncé’s fantastic B’Day, I’d be all for that. Failing that, I’m happy to entertain an album on which Jay Z explains in detail why Becky with the good hair ain’t worth a court-mandated visitation schedule for him and Blue Ivy. I don’t know what’s on this album, and neither do you. But I’m open to finding out, considering the pair’s well-established musical chemistry. Besides, any member of the Beyhive should know by now that there is no such thing as too much Beyoncé in the world.

The real reason I love the idea of a Jay Z and Beyoncé joint project, though, is that it could help usher in a new era for the duets album — a format that has tragically fallen by the wayside in our culture. Yes, duets still exist. No one dares disrespect the magic Ja Rule and Ashanti once made, or what Ciara and Ludacris did further down the country. However, none of those duos created a stand-alone project. Two of the aforementioned are hosting awards shows instead of performing at them.

More recently, we’ve enjoyed duets from Nick Jonas and TinasheAriana Grande and The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber and Halsey. But none of them have given us anything close to the magic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell produced in the 1960s. In 2013, Maxwell announced plans to go there with Alicia Keys, telling Billboard, “We’re definitely working on an EP that’s sort of Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell.” Three years later, we haven’t heard a peep from either about the project.

So, yes, I would love to hear a duets album from Beyoncé and her husband. While we’re at it, isn’t it about time that Drake and Rihanna quit playing and offered us their own duets album?

Apologies in advance to all those who bow before Aubrey Graham — I’d rather pretend Views never happened.

Read the rest at MTV News.

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“Thots & Thoughts” is a column in which musings on dating, sex, race, religion, and politics all come together—from a bird’s-eye view.

In terms of artistic license, Drake has every right to continue making music about emotional immaturity. He has every right to a whiny outlook on his failed relationships (fictional and otherwise). Likewise, his most ardent fans have every right to keep quoting his songs on social media and pretending that Aubrey Graham is more emotionally intelligent than he actually is. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all grow up a little?

I am not a Drake hater. Of course, I do question how a Canadian developed a Houston accent as an adult. I also question how said Canadian became West Indian on his latest album. But petty concerns like that haven’t convinced me that he isn’t good at what he does. (I have the receipts of monetary support to prove it.) Still, time has made me wonder how anyone that close to 30 can continue thinking the way he does.

How many more songs can this man make about how he had a “good girl,” went off to do his own thing (and fuck other people freely), and found himself steaming like a hot toddy because that “good girl” lost interest? Even worse, this motherfucker has the audacity to feel a way about someone getting over him. What kind of middle school man-child tripping-over-his-hormones shit is he on? Excuse me, still on.

Gather ‘round, beloveds. I have many examples: 

“All of my ‘let’s just be friends’ are friends I don’t have anymore/Guess that’s why they say you need family for”

Listen, when you do not meet people under platonic circumstances, do not expect them to want to be your platonic friend. I have told many a man to get the hell away from me talking about “let’s just be friends.” Bitch, I got friends. Move around.

“I tried with you/There’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you/I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do”

Okay, great. So when they move on, don’t get all pissy about it, newly beardless wonder (more wonderful with a beard, though, tbh).

“Why do I settle for women that force me to pick up the pieces?/Why do I want an independent woman to feel like she needs me?”

Because you’re emotionally manipulative.

“I gave your nickname to someone else.”

You’re also a mean-spirited child at times.

“Chasing women a distraction/They want to be on TV next to me/You cannot be here next to me/Don’t you see Riri here next to me?”

God, shut up.

“I’m way too good to you… You take my love for granted/I just don’t understand it.”

Yo, this man routinely raps about screwing over women, virtually driving them away. Wait, I have another example.

“You hit me like, ‘I know you’re there with someone else’/That pussy knows me better than I know myself”

See that?

Get the hell on somewhere yapping about being too good for anyone. Okay, you are handsome, famous, and rich. There are a bunch of folks like that on Unsung and old episodes of Behind the Music, though. Don’t get too cocky.

And we cannot forget “Hotline Bling,” which is great as a song to bop to in the club, in the car, at the gym, on a sidewalk, or wherever else it’s playing. But as a statement, the song is a prime example that 2016 is the year of our Lemonade.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I’ve made it clear that I understood booking Madonna for a Prince tribute at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was BS in theory. So, now after actually watching the tribute last night, believe me when I tell you that I am reveling in all my truth the day after. God bless Madonna because I am a fan, but that tribute was not it. It was not even a lil’ bit of it.

The first problem with the tribute was song selection. I understand that Madonna really, really likes to sing, and to her credit, has worked hard over the years to maintain the voice that she has. Unfortunately, that voice remains incapable of delivering the emotion attached to the Prince songs she opted to cover. I wish she had hit her girl, Ursula The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid on the hip and asked for a solid in order to secure a better voice for the occasion. Or, you know, Madonna could have just danced through a bunch of Prince’s uptempo tracks while others – including, I don’t know, some of the folks Prince worked with extensively over the years – would be left to handle the heavy weight.

Let’s talk about the set list, shall we? Madonna should have been covering “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” or hell, even “Raspberry Beret.” Not, by any stretch, the two she opted for: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain.” Speaking of the former, why exactly was Madonna singing the Sinead O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U?” If you’re going to sing a Prince song, sing the Prince song the way Prince actually sang it.

Beloved, WYD?

And what was with that cheap added instrumentation behind the track? Prince, the legendary and extremely gifted musician, would not have been pleased with such dollar-store sounding trickery. I know the always touring Madge knows better.

Speaking of well-meaning intentions going the way of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, why was Madonna dressed more like Liberace than the Purple One? Let’s reflect more on this: Madonna, queen of the visual, dressed like Michael Douglas’ body double in Behind the Candelabra for a Prince tribute.

Beloved, WYD?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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In theory, I can understand why Madonna was asked to pay tribute to Prince at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday.

When it comes to stars of a certain era—specifically the mid-1980s—there was a trinity: Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. No stars could command their level of fame. No other acts at the time were matching their successes. No one could match their musical, visual and cultural contributions at the time. They all embody a period in music that the industry will never experience again.

MTV understood this, which is why Madonna introduced Michael Jackson’s tribute in 2009. They are giants, and now only one stands. And despite what some of your cousins on social media have suggested, Madonna and Prince were quite cordial with each other. After all, they did collaborate on the track “Love Song” on Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, but it wasn’t very good, so let’s forget it happened by the end of this sentence. Yes, they’ve sniped at each other over the years, but that’s shady queens for you. Just last fall, Madonna and her entire tour entourage went to Paisley Park to see Prince perform.

But even if Madonna paying tribute to Prince is understandable, many find it wrong, and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from the hosts of this year’s show, Ludacris and Ciara—who are cementing themselves as more-colored Pitbull and Paula Abdul, respectively—this year’s show reads as mighty white. The only black performer is Rihanna, who, not so coincidentally, is the only black girl who has managed to secure any crossover radio airplay in recent years. All that does is remind me of how much the industry marginalizes black women in music, which pisses me off. Then this show has the nerve not to even promote RIHANNA in the commercials. Who are the folks in charge of advertising? Round them up, and Smithers, release the hounds.

And, in the one segment for a legendary black artist, you ask Madonna to pay tribute to him?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Billboard Awards Executive Producer Mark Bracco said: “Listen, I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and everyone can have their own opinion, but I will say that we are honored and could not be more excited for Madonna to be on the show and to pay tribute to someone that was her friend and her peer and her colleague. I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Look, I love Madge. I still listen to Bedtime Stories, Erotica and Hard Candy regularly. If you live in Harlem, you’ve likely heard my rendition of “Take a Bow.”

Still, what is she supposed to do? Before anyone tries to drag Madonna for her singing, let’s remember that Vanity was no songbird. I can get jiggy with her covering Prince’s raunchier tunes, but knowing Madonna, she is likely going to re-create Prince’s buttless pants at the 1991 Video Music Awards while singing “Gett Off.” Speaking of stunts, when it comes to Madonna, it will likely be all about Madonna.

Regardless of what she sings, though, it won’t eclipse the reality that in order to properly pay tribute to Prince, you have to keep the spirit of him and his music in mind. Prince was said to have been adamant about having black women involved in previous tributes to his musical legacy. A few years ago, when BET honored him, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle were all included. When he performed at the Grammys in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” he performed with Beyoncé.

Read more at The Root.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, I have a simple, albeit pointed, question for those purchasing tickets to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in concert: the hell do you expect?

In her now infamous response to online critiques about her perpetual lateness, Ms. Hill took to Facebook to write: “I don’t show up late to shows because I don’t care. And I have nothing but Love and respect for my fans. The challenge is aligning my energy with the time, taking something that isn’t easily classified or contained, and trying to make it available for others.”

This is one of the most comically eloquent ways of trying to spiritualize trifling behavior that I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Hill on that. Nevertheless, to be respectful to is honor the time the people who keep you fed, housed, and in line with the IRS, who spent their money on you. Couple that with a contract and a commitment to a show, that ought to be more than enough to align one’s energy with time.

In any event, a debate ensued underneath the post whether or not Ms. Hill is in the wrong. You can count me in on the side that says she’s more wrong than Azealia Banks most days on Twitter. That said, while I do believe artists have a responsibility to show up on time, when it comes to the case of Ms. Hill, by now, hasn’t everyone picked up a pattern?

Here is what you get when buy a ticket for a Lauryn Hill concert: the potential that she may not appear on stage until the crack of midnight, if at all. If she does decide to actually perform, not only might you experience a shortened set due to her lateness, you will also be subjected to schizophrenic versions of the songs that prompted you to buy tickets to see Ms. Hill almost 20 years after the release of her debut album to begin with.

Or, you may get a surprisingly gorgeous cover of a Sade classic. Who knows? The only certain thing with her is uncertainty about what you will be subjecting yourself to. When it comes to attending a Lauryn Hill concert, you are essentially playing a scratch-off lotto ticket with the hopes of being entertained.

By now, you know, however, the Grammy award winning singer, rapper, and CPT time personifier is not the only act ruffling the feathers of fans.

I love Janet Jackson like I love fried chicken, butts, and my student loan lenders not calling or emailing me; however, mama irked the absolute hell out of me deciding in the middle of a world tour that she wanted to plan a family at the age of 49. Oh, I hear you: “STOP BEING INSENSITIVE.” You know what’s insensitive? Starting a world tour, then stopping it and pushing back the dates only to then decide to delay it again.

Janet Jackson announced this tour in May 2015. It stopped not long after. The show was set to return in 2016 and may not get under way again until 2017. Well, if she keeps her word. We have no reason to conclude she will. Janet Jackson was fortunate enough to refund fans. To her credit, so has Ms. Hill.

Read more at EBONY.

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#LEMONADE The Visual Album Is available now on iTunes, Amazon and TIDAL.

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


Michael Arceneaux: hooks is entitled to her opinion; I’m entitled to mine

As great a fan of Beyoncé as I am, I know no one is above criticism. Still, I find it equally fascinating and frustrating that bell hooks – the same person who once wrote so gleefully about Lil’ Kim and now champions the likes of Emma Watson – can in turn be so contemptuous about Beyoncé, and in separates cases, artists like Nicki Minaj.

hooks’ continuous condemnation of femininity is a petty critique gussied up with academic pretension. The idea that being ultra feminine is anti-intellectual is more damaging and reductive a sentiment than anything shown in Lemonade.

It’s also mighty rich for a woman who labeled Beyoncé a “terrorist” to now complain about female violence. By the way, when you’re as controlled an act as Beyoncé is, there’s something to be said about her allowing herself to publicly show that level of anger.

And someone who sells books and gives speeches at premier universities should also know that just because something is designed to make money doesn’t inherently mean it is corrupt or compromised. Then there is the reality that how we hurt and how we heal vary. This was her way and art is not intended to discuss such matters in absolutes. I imagine the same goes for Beyoncé’s ideas of feminism, the celebration of women, and femininity in general. bell hooks is free to continue feeling otherwise, but I’m glad the rest of us are not bound to.

You can read the entire roundtable over at Feministing.

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There are two types of men in this world: those that are comfortable with listening to music created by a woman without feeling any sense of threat to their masculinity, and the alternative—a neanderthal that assumes the second you listen to the sound of a woman singing or rapping, your penis longs for a sword fight.

This is not a new concept, but like most things triggered by the biggest pop star in the world, Beyoncé, it only becomes more prominent once she releases something. Insecure men scatter out like roaches in a RAID-less house the second the light flickers on.

One message that responded to this stuck out to me.

I’m embarrassed for any man who thinks listening to a woman’s music is a test of his sexuality or masculinity.

This would include numerous tweets sent out over days following the release of Lemonade.

And last year.

And the year before that.

Of course, I’ve heard this over time in classrooms, locker rooms, and barbershops. I mean, there are men who worship Future the same way gay men and Adele worship Beyoncé. Or name any superstar athlete of the past half century here.

I appreciate videos like this because more times than not, you have to make light of the idiocy suffocating you. However, this addiction to hypermasculinity is vile no matter the form. Even if it’s as silly as a Beyoncé song, the root issue still hinges on the idea that, to some, you are less of a man for appreciating the art of woman. Well, a certain kind of woman. One is ultra feminine (yet strong), one who caters specifically to Black women (yet has proven again and again she can literally go as hard as her male contemporaries).

Read the rest at VH1.

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There are very few conversations I find more cringe-inducing and exhausting than the debate over whether or not it is best for a black student to attend a predominantly white institution of higher learning or one that is historically black.

Everything ain’t for everybody, and not enough people on either side of the issue know to respect that stance. Even so, as much as I try to steer clear of these debates, there is a certain disingenuous argument when it comes to those who choose to attend a black college or university that irritates me. It is this idea that to attend one is to escape from “the real world.” Moreover, it is the idea that being in a majorly black setting means that you are surrounded by sameness.

They are both sentiments seeped in stupid, marinated in fallacy and broiled in the false belief that the white man’s ice is cooler.

The Talk’s Aisha Tyler is the latest example of this, and it’s a pity that she would use her platform to perpetuate falsehoods about what it means to attend a black school. Speaking with Money magazine, Tyler called on black students to be “be brave” and enroll in schools where there have been incidents of racism. Why? Well, to help white students evolve from their racial prejudices.

Tyler argued, “When incidents of discrimination happen, that is the real world. You know, if someone doesn’t write something nasty on your dorm door, that doesn’t mean they are not thinking it.”

Well, anyone black and awake in this country knows that. Besides, if you’re a member of a minority group, you have your entire life to contend with someone’s biases against you and the various ways in which they will manifest. Why is it so important to rush to it sooner rather than later?

Though Tyler notes that you should “decide what you can tolerate,” she goes on to say, “What would we be like if black people didn’t go into the heart and didn’t try to change things? We would have made no progress in the country. Bravery is the engine of change.”

In other words, be the academic equivalent of Viola Davis in The Help. To quote my King Beyoncé, “N–ga, nah.” I am sick of people—especially other black folks—putting the onus to curb white racism on its victims. No black student—particularly those likely going into debt to advance in a society that actively tries to make sure they don’t—ought to be overly concerned with fixing someone else’s stupid.

While you can respect those who decided to do what’s best for themselves—in Tyler’s case, attending the prestigious Dartmouth College—the use of the word “brave” is troubling because it suggests that those who don’t make this choice are behaving in ways that are cowardly.

As for her advice for black high school students, Tyler offered this: “Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t pick a college that replicates what you did in high school. Test yourself in an unfamiliar context so that you can learn to succeed no matter where you are placed, so that you know you can excel.”

This weekend I will celebrate my 10-year college reunion. As I’ve explained to many people, Howard University is the most diverse setting that I’ve ever been in. To limit the definition of “diversity” to race is to belittle and trivialize a term that has always been far broader than the likes of Tyler will ever give it any credit for being.

Read the rest at The Root.

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