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Despite previous reports to the contrary, the NFL has not confirmed that Lady Gaga will headline Super Bowl LI in February. To Gaga’s credit, if she were booked for the gig, she’d likely pull out all the stops. I can easily see her flying into the NRG Stadium in Houston on the backs of flying monkeys that worked for Evilene in The Wiz. I’m sure she’d try to up the ante and upstage previous performers who’ve given us iconic Super Bowl moments. She’ll probably nag Jesus – the Black one and maybe the one as depicted in Jesus Christ Superstar – for a duet with Prince’s ghost and Elton John. That would be super, but I think we can wait another year or three to see all that?

I think next year’s Super Bowl halftime show headline performer ought to be Jennifer Lopez. More than all the names we’ve heard associated with the event, Gaga and Adele, Lopez deserves this moment. She is known for multiple things – acting, dancing and fashion, but what I love most about Jennifer Lopez is her work as a performer. I have often referred to her as “Paula Abdul’s Revenge” and “Paula Abdul, If She Could Have Kept Herself Together.” Trust me, there are not many compliments from a gay man born in the 1980s higher than that.

It is the reason why her Las Vegas residency is doing so well. In August, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Lopez set a milestone when she made more than $1 million in box office sales for her residency at Planet Hollywood. The previous record holder? The Legendary Ms. Britney Spears. As Robin Leach noted in that report, “I think it now places J.Lo neck-and-neck with Celine Dion at Caesars Palace.”

It’s because Jennifer Lopez is one of the premiere performers of her generation, and well, even the generation that follows. At 47, Lopez dances better than many of her contemporaries. This would include Lady Gaga, though I would advise her Little Monsters from threatening my life for being factual. We saw this when she hosted the 2015 American Music Awards. You still see it if you look at any clip of her performing during her Vegas residency.

Now, considering she is 47 and the reality that life can be a hateful heifer, I would like to see Lopez do the Super Bowl when she can still dance full out. As much as I enjoyed Madonna’s Super Bowl performance, I do remember her slipping for a second. She played it off, but had she taken one wrong step and we would’ve watched LMFAO rushing to pick her back up. I need Lopez dancing down with her good knees!

And Lopez has an impressive and expansive catalog to choose from, so that’s another check mark. I want to see her include her hits like “I’m Real,” “If You Had My Love,” “Ain’t It Funny,” “Waiting For Tonight,” and “Get Right.” Of course, she has to do “On The Floor” and bring out Pitbull, a man that has somehow managed to be the favorite of suburban moms (the hood remembers the old stuff, though). And to her credit, Lopez’s voice has gotten much, much stronger over time (thank you, Marc Anthony) so we can even get treated to some live vocals, too.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Although the nucleus of Love & Hip Hop is supposed to be the dramas involved with the music industry and those who date within in it, each franchise largely shifts its focus toward the latter. Still, in the midst of all the madness that’s happening, there is music made that eventually floats into space. When most acknowledge this, they typically defer to K. Michelle, the only singer who has truly used the platform bestowed upon her to launch a legitimate and successful music career. That’s understandable, though there have been other cast members who have released a pretty good song or two.

As a lover of songs best categorized as “thot bops,” I’ve monetarily supported or at least given a Spotify spin to the following: Atlanta’s Thi Thi and Karlie Redd; New York’s Mariahlynn and Cardi B (the closet one in reaching K. Michelle’s feat); and Hollywood’s Masika. No one, however, has given me greater joy with her musical pursuits than former nurse and pimp-turned-singer and now rapper Momma Dee. The same goes for her music, which is comical to the point of parody but nonetheless enjoyable.

In 2014 Momma Dee released her first single, “I Deserve.” When it comes to Momma Dee’s singing voice, I would describe it as Anita Baker with a severe case of laryngitis and one hell of a head cold. The video for the single managed to amass more than half a million hits—impressive for a woman who will likely never be asked to perform at the Soul Train Awards.

That hasn’t stopped Momma Dee from performing, though. For “I Deserve,” Momma Dee launched a full-scale single-release party that offered audiences a genuine concert. As in, one with a full band and set list that included covers of songs like Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” and Anita Baker’s “I Apologize.” It was not horrible. That said, most folks only remember the concert happening because while Momma Dee was performing, her tooth fell out.

That is the gift of Momma Dee: She’s being completely serious about her singing dreams but cannot help making you laugh your ass off at her. Another example of this would be the holiday concert that followed her single-release party. Momma Dee sort of sings like someone who makes noises that sound like singing more than she actually sings. In her defense, if you turn on the radio or your Discover Weekly playlist, you’ll hear the same thing from many contemporary acts.

Whatever one makes of her talent doesn’t negate its entertainment value. For that reason alone, I want this woman to continue trying to make “fetch” happen with her pursuit of music stardom for as long as humanly possible. So much so that I’ve actually purchased her new single, “In That Order.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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When Boyz n the Hood premiered 25 years ago in July 1991, it was met with a string of violence. At least 25 incidents were reported in more than 800 theaters nationwide. But even in the face of that violence, and the media’s implications that Boyz was entirely to blame for it, director John Singleton never wavered from his movie’s message. In what was called a “hastily called news conference,” Singleton said the acts of violence were “indicative of the degeneration of American society, not a reflection of my film, which is about family, love and friendship.” Singleton went on to fault a society “breeds illiteracy and economic deprivation… There’s a whole generation of people who are disenfranchised.”

As far as those who committed the violent acts, Singleton said, “There’s a certain segment of the population that wants you to do what you’re doing to each other. But we don’t have time for that.”

Boyz n the Hood brought a certain awareness to gang life that had been missing from film and media. So often is mainstream culture and society talking at black people; Boyz n the Hood was black folks speaking for themselves. The film examined race and gender—notably black masculinity—with complexity, which decades later, proves to be a difficult task for far too many.

Even before he became a celebrated and iconic film director, John Singleton had the confidence to call out bullshit when he saw it. While he was a film student at the University of Southern California, Singleton attended an advance screening for the movie Colors. During a post-screening Q&A, Singleton told one of the film’s producers, “You advertise this movie like it’s about my community, and it’s really about two white cops. It’s not about what’s really going on there.”

When Boyz n the Hood was released in theaters, I was barely six years old. I saw the film by way of my sister, who was often my access point into what was pivotal in culture at the time but not especially kid-friendly. So, much like The Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” released around the same time as John Singleton’s iconic film, I was consuming imagery and narratives that required a sort of thoughtfulness and maturation only time could provide.

That said, young or not, there were some things I could pick up on in those moments.

Despite him proving to be more of a chaotic figure in my life, I knew that like Tre Styles, I was still considered very fortunate to be a black boy child with my black male father in my life to others around me. I knew of people like Doughboy, who, after serving time in time in prison, quickly returned to old habits. In the coming years, I came across figures like Ricky, whose athletic prowess was their only real means of escaping an area that offered little much in the way of options of attaining real social mobility. And while my hood was not as chaotic as what was happening in South Central Los Angeles, I knew of drugs, gangs, and young black men losing their lives to gun violence (in some cases, only a few streets over from me) just like those characters.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Older black women are, by and large, my happy place. They often prove themselves to be incredibly honest, wonderfully hilarious and the very best of blackness. I have had an affinity for the group I describe as “black aunties” since I was a child who obsessed over his literal black aunties. However, it is often hard to find a black auntie in the space of social media outside of hilarious memes or videos in which their children or other younger relatives opt to share them unto the world.

Thankfully, more black aunties are joining social media. Of course, Jackée Harry is the belle of the ball on Twitter, followed by the legendary Anita Baker. I’m sure there are a bunch of mature women on Facebook, but their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews typically ruin that platform for me five minutes into a home page scan, so never mind that. Now, when it comes to Instagram, without a shadow of a doubt, Tina Knowles Lawson is the best f–king thing to ever happen to Instagram.

She is literally your 60-plus black mom on IG, and I mean that in the best of ways. Like, your mom before she became your mom, and your mom after she got her life back once your ass moved the hell up out of her house. I’ve always known Ms. Tina to be a national treasure, if for no other reason than what is the gift of her talented daughters, but her social media presence has taken me to more places than I Am … Sasha Fierce.

Read the rest at The Root.

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It happened when Michael Jackson died. It happened shortly after Whitney Houston’s death. It happened to Prince after he died suddenly. It has since happened to Muhammad Ali. I fear it will be a fate met one day by the likes of Beyoncé, Steph Curry, Rihanna, and LeBron James.

“It” is when white media exalts fallen Black public figures for “transcending race” in an attempt to honor them.

“It” will never not be disingenuous. It will always be another superficial attempt to address racism. It will always be a glib statement earning the rightful eyeroll of Black people everywhere.

One problem with the notion of “transcending race” is that it immediately connotes that being Black is some sort of barrier. Why does one need to transcend who they are? This turn of phrase is meant as a compliment, but it is anything but. It is a well-meaning—but no less dishonest—way of describing Black men and women who have accomplished so much in the face of adversity.

Why does one need to “transcend” their Blackness for mainstream a.k.a. white consumption? When I hear well-meaning white folks write or utter this phrase, I can’t help but chuckle at how self-absorbed they’re being. Instead, they should say ,“I got over my own biases” and embraced X Black celebrity.

Be real, beloved, and spare us the bullshit.

All of the aforementioned Black celebrities were unapologetically Black. Moreover, none of them ever escaped the systemically unfair battle against any living, breathing, and especially thriving Black person.

Read the rest at Complex.

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would sooner have a threesome with David Duke and the ghost of Barry Goldwater than vote for Donald Trump, but there is something about his political ascension that I find somewhat inspiring.

Not the racism. Not the misogyny. And no, not the xenophobia. Trump’s frontrunner status reminds me – an ambitious but not exactly patient person – that dreams can come true, just not necessarily when I say they should.

There is an old saying: “It’s not the appointed time, but the anointed time.” It’s rooted in the Biblical passage, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” I have not been to church since the last Destiny’s Child album, but that sentiment speaks to me, and Trump’s trajectory this campaign season has served as a demonstration of that wise advice: wait for your time, however long that may be. Then seize it.

Trump, who won five more primaries on Tuesday, has been teasing a presidential run on and off since 1987. As in, Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions on record are a year older than the man I hope one day helps me play out my Beyoncé happily-ever-after scenario (although if he does me dirty, he’ll get the Lemonade treatment, too). I was impressed by Trump after reading Politico’s February profile of the reality star and real estate mogul’s plot-by-plot campaign to become a credible presidential contender.

Sure, Republican voters ought to know better than to be so enamored with a clownish political novice, but that’s not his fault. The point is, timing is everything, and Trump was shrewd enough to finally run when he had an actual chance at winning.

There are other examples of people achieving success later in life. I’ve loved watching Wendy Williams, whom I used to listen to on the radio, go off to daytime, succeed immensely and broaden her brand farther than past naysayers – who wondered whether her unfiltered radio style would translate well in the daytime TV format – ever expected. Similarly, I like that Viola Davis is finally being treated as the exceptional talent that she is, leading a primetime network show as a black actor in her 40s after years of actively working in Hollywood, too often relegated to supporting roles.

But there is something about Donald Trump’s political takeover that I find particularly motivating. He’s been thinking about this for nearly three decades now, but minus the false start in 2000, when he considered running as part of the Reform party, he stuck more with his businesses and television career. And somehow, this novice with no experience gauged his moment, and he has managed to yap his way into a credible chance at becoming president. It’s frightening, yes, but I still find it motivating for pursuing my own goals.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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I was only two months old when Prince reached the commercial peak of his career with Purple Rain. So, my earliest memories of the iconic musician may make those fortunate enough to experience him sooner wince. This would include watching Jack Nicholson dance to “Partyman” in the movie Batman, and a few years later, seeing Prince expose his bare butt at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

I found the former fun, and the latter, strangely alluring. Nevertheless in either instance, I didn’t really understand what was before me. I knew Prince was someone to revere because I saw vinyls of albums like Purple Rain, Sign O’ The Times, and Parade spread across various parts of my home. Prince was something special, but I was too young to see why. He was not the kind of act a young child necessarily gets.

Michael Jackson was easier to digest for a child, especially one named after him. Michael Jackson was incredibly kid-friendly. He made things like Moonwalker and Captain EO. Prince, on the other hand, was anything but PG. Prince required a certain maturation — one that compelled you to know what norms he was challenging, what buttons he was pushing, and what experiences he sang about that are only accessible with age and with living.

Prince sang about sex fluidly. It was love and sex, it was spirituality in unison with sex versus in conflict. It was also sex in its absolute rawest form. Sex was cool. Sex was fun. Sex was a connection. Sex was whatever you wanted to be at the time. I had to reach the point in my life where I could understand that. Once I did, like so many others before me, I fell in love with his art.

As a gay black man, I appreciate that Prince did not cower under the rigidness of the hypermasculinity all too often thrust upon us. He confidently wore a G-string on an album cover, exposed his butt on national television, wore heels, and embraced androgyny. Prince was not a person who fixated on appearing “hard” or “tough”; he opted instead to show the greatest strength that is being comfortable in your own skin.

Many have long joked that Prince was as pretty, if not prettier, than the beautiful women he dated. That was often the case, but behind any chuckles about that lies the fact that the artist never bowed to anyone else’s idea of how his manhood should be presented. He was not making overt political statements with gender-bending aesthetic. Prince was just being.

That can often be a revolutionary act on its own, but this is especially true for Prince, a black man. For anyone who argues that this is standard fare today, I invite you to pull out a magnifying glass and give our culture a closer look. There aren’t many modern-day black male entertainers like Prince. They may sound like him because his works are highly influential and innovative, but name a heterosexual entertainer walking around in high heels, eyeliner, and pants that could easily be rocked by your sister or auntie. At least, there isn’t one that enjoys the kind of stature and commercial success that Prince enjoyed at his peak.

Now, name a gay black guy doing that.

I hear your silence. The sad reality is most black male entertainers can’t even get away with wearing one of Luther Vandross’s old glittery jackets without having their sexuality questioned. Odell Beckham Jr. — a professional football player — can’t dance in peace without his manhood and sexuality being called into question.

But this is what separates Prince from everyone else: he didn’t give a damn. His sexuality was not defined by the gender norms of others. He was an individual in every sense of the word. Prince lived by his own standard.

Read the rest at Teen Vogue.

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The future Angela Kardashian is my new hero.

Despite feeling somewhat disrespected that the soon-to-be former Blac Chyna stole my five year plan, I’m happy that she’s engaged to Rob Kardashian. As Blac Chyna’s rep told Us Weekly, “She was very excited and loves the ring. She’s happy with him and very happy.” Indeed, they look quite happy together and part of my joy over their engagement is rooted in the likelihood that Rob’s family members are sick over it.

To which I say: SUFFER.

Remember when Blac Chyna used to be great friends with Kim Kardashian? That is, until Kim’s teenage sister started dating the father of Blac Chyna’s child and her now former fiancé, that Timon from The Lion King looking rapper known as Tyga. Blac Chyna never publicly condemned any of the parties involved—including Kim—which was very nice of her, ‘cause I would have publicly blasted all of them. Twice.

The thing with those Kardashian sisters is that they are the reality-TV equivalent of any R&B song about a woman creeping in the wings, waiting to take a friend’s man. Seriously, why is it that so many of their relationships are modeled after SWV’s catalog?

Another former friend of Kim’s, Trina, has noted in interviews and on social media how Khloe Kardashian has dated two of her former boyfriends: French Montana (HAHN!) and James Harden, of the Houston Rockets. And though Amber Rose and Kim may “text each other all the time now,” don’t forget that Amber once referred to Kim as a homewrecker who plotted on taking Kanye West from her. Kris Humphries would agree with that sentiment.

I’m not sure whether or not Blac Chyna’s intentions with the only Kardashian brother were pure initially, but I do know that the end result is this family getting done to them what they have previously done to others. This is the family that consistently flips relationships into business partnerships, so I hope that not only do Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian get married, I hope they’re at work negotiating a reality show. It’s the family way.

In fact, in Kim Kardashian’s Rolling Stone interview last year she discussed Rob, saying, “Do I think he smokes weed, drinks beer, hangs out, and plays video games with his friends all day long? Yes.” When pressed if it wasn’t more “like hookers and meth at the Ritz,” she responded: “No, no. Or he’d be skinny.”

Rob was said to be “furious” over this, but thankfully, his new fiancée is helping him out. See, Kimmy? It’s all better now. Blac Chyna is remodeling Rob the same way Kanye West ransacked your closet and put you in all those neutral tones.

So what if Kris Jenner and the rest of the family aren’t talking about the new addition to the family? Blac Chyna, Rob Kardashian, and his future mother-in-law, Tokyo Toni, certainly seem pleased. I think that’s what matters most.

Read the rest at Complex.

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When I found out that Remy Ma would be joining the cast of Love & Hip Hop: New York, I was concerned.

Is that the kind of show most conducive to a woman who was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison for shooting someone in the stomach in a dispute over money and who now finds herself on parole? I wanted Remy to flourish in her post-prison life, so I didn’t find it wise to put her in a situation in which she might have to crack open the skull of some adversary on the show with a bottle of Myx Fusions Moscato Peach. Granted, had it happened, I would be at home texting my friends, “B–ch! Did you see that?” But I surely would’ve felt bad about her parole violation after the fact.

Thankfully, Remy Ma has more or less behaved to the best of her abilities. Part of that has to do with her own maturation, but a whole whopping serving of that has to do with her better half, Papoose. Unlike Stevie J, Kirk Frost, Rich Dollaz, Peter Gunz, Lil’ Scrappy, Benzino, Nikko and every other man featured in this franchise, Papoose is actually uplifting his partner, as opposed to giving her reason to turn on the saddest Mary J. Blige and Keyshia Cole songs of their catalogs.

Papoose is the President Obama to their Donald Trump.

Papoose is not cheating on her. Papoose is not making her feel insecure. All Papoose wants to do is enjoy his wife now that she’s back among the free population, and build on their family. Moreover, he constantly warns her to watch who she hangs with—namely the “stiletto expert” Rashidah Ali. Do not ask me what a “stiletto expert” is. I don’t know.

I don’t think Rashidah Ali is that bad, but I will say you don’t put people on parole in situations that might have their violations recorded and broadcasted to millions of people. While I don’t ever-ever-ever-ever want to go to prison, if I did, I would want a Papoose in my life. If I ever ended up on papers (probation, parole, hell, one too many parking tickets), I would want a Papoose in my life.

If I ended up on a Love & Hip Hop, I would want a Papoose in my life. With Papoose, you don’t have to curse another woman out over sleeping with your man. Or throw a drink in another woman’s face for the same offense. Or threaten to punch another woman over taking her man. Or find a wack man to make your other wack man feel jealous. Or take that wack man and shoot a porn with him.

Like, with Papoose, you’re only crying tears of joy. He is living proof that while the show might be a tsunami of terrible men and the women who foolishly keep fornicating with them, there is an alternative. The closest we had to this on this show was Momma Dee’s ex-husband, Ernest, and hell, she sent him to jail for stealing from her.

Read the rest at The Root.

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The lesson for how to live your best life is buried in an SWV album deep cut.

On the track “Give It to Me” from the R&B trio’s first album, It’s About Time, Coko sings:

“I’m a type of girl with class But, you never know what you can get ‘Till you go and ask for it I was shy, but now I finally see All you have to do is (just ask) For anything you want (It’s yours) you get right to the point (If love) is what you really need, don’t be shy Just say, ‘Boy give it to me…right now’”

This song is essentially about requesting dick without fear, but the verse can apply to any other obstacle one might face. I listen to this song regularly. The same goes for the rest of SWV’s catalog.

As the group celebrates the release of its latest album, Still, I increasingly think about how SWV don’t get their just due. The term “underrated” has been abused to death, but there are certain things about SWV that do often go unrecognized—namely how sex positive their music has been through the years.

TLC has always been praised for being socially aware and frank about sex in music, particularly in Left Eye making the promotion of condoms a central part of her look at the start of their career. Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown have long been honored (and in some cases criticized) for their embracement of sexuality in their work. Even Adina Howard has a documentary that speaks to sexual liberation.

I salute them all, and you will never get me to speak ill of “T-Shirt and Panties,” but one of the best songs about oral sex, “Downtown,” came from SWV. This doesn’t even include its multiple remixes—the Wet Remix, the Jazzy Radio Mix, the Street Radio Mix—that each best the original. No one has ever been that convincing about the consumption of vagina in song. Give these women the respect they deserve.

So much of the songs from their debut album were tied to women being in control of their sexuality i.e. “Anything,” “It’s About Time,” and “Blak Pudd’n.” Already, I’m sure some would greet this claim with noting that most of these songs were penned by their main collaborator at the time, Brian Alexander Morgan. That hasn’t stopped other women from getting credit for work that might’ve been penned by men, though. This includes the aforementioned artists in addition to groups like Salt-N-Pepa, who didn’t pen a lot of their classic songs that are strong and urgent in their sexual agency.

Nevertheless, even after Morgan stopped working with the group, two of the members—Coko and Taj—started writing their own lyrics and the tone didn’t change. If anything, they were even more aggressive in their songs going forward.

Look no further than one of my favorite songs from the group, “You’re the One,” which is now 20 years old and one of the finest contributions to a sub genre of the R&B tradition: fucking your man music.

Read the rest at Complex.

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