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In the past, my dating life was a mix of Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion and the sadder Mary J Blige songs that you can somehow still dance to. And yet, things have slowly but surely gotten better – a direct result of me making important changes. As I’ve gotten older, I have been more vigilant about noticing the signs that a man might be a loser and promptly taking the exit ramp.

This includes things like never dating a man who doesn’t know how to use “your” and “you’re” correctly. I don’t want to be a snooty writer, but I also don’t want to invest in flirting with a person who didn’t pay attention in third grade. Similarly, though it may be a struggle, I will try my best to avoid checking a guy’s social media feeds before actually getting to know him. It’s like looking at a person through a filter that’s not as favorable as he thinks it is.

But the one I most adamant about sticking to – and I have encouraged everyone I know to act accordingly: I will never date another person who does not like Beyoncé.

If there is one mistake I made repeatedly in the past, it was looking past this fatal flaw. Of all the men I’ve dated, the worst have all disliked Queen Bey.

I am a gay black man from Houston, Texas. Beyoncé is my Lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, end and body roll to me. I should have known better than to ever bother with such haters.

Before I started rejecting Beyoncé haters, I first tried dating some men with the fatal flaw by avoiding the subject. More than once, one tried to pick a fight with me about Beyoncé. They knew I bow down to Queen Bey, but they tried, still, to coerce me into standing on the wrong side of history. Remember that New York Times review of her debut album entitled: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti?” Who wants to end up sounding that ridiculous?

However, as an original member of the #Beyhive (its editorial director, if you will), I’ve long known that some people will fight a good thing. So I gave some men the benefit of the doubt, thinking that I could help them blossom into Beyoncé lovers – starting with the B’Day album. Because seriously, how can you not like Beyoncé? To me, if you don’t love Beyoncé, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to be a super fan, but if you don’t like at least five Beyoncé songs, I don’t trust your judgment.

That sounds crazy to Beyoncé deniers, whom I refer to as Beythiests.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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“Who is that girl with the big ass head?” was my first critique of Rihanna. That was 10 years ago. I was an intern at MTV News and I had absolutely no idea who she was. A fellow intern and college classmate informed me that Rihanna, who walked around smiling and with only one other person with her, was behind the new song “Pon de Replay.” After that quick informational, it was not long before I could be spotted body rolling to the track on my iPod while en route to the West Village.

I did fall in love with her debut album, Music of the Sun, which turned a decade old this month, but if nothing else, I was at least aware of her name and one of her songs. For a label, it’s a not a runaway success, though it’s not a complete failure either. It’s something: a chance to build.

The same summer, I also interned at the now defunct music magazine Blender. That was where I met another new artist who was affiliated with Jay Z: Teairra Mari. As the sole black person around, I had gone to the set and helped them find the proper lighting for Teairra’s darker skin. This included standing there, not lose my black skin while testing the lights and hold the leashes of two doberman pinschers who would be a part of the shoot. When Teairra Mari walked in, she was surrounded by a sea of handlers – many of whom who I recognized from MTV. She couldn’t have been more than 17 at the time, but I recall her being served up in attire that recalled Vanity 6.

Then, I heard her second single, “No Daddy,” blaring from the speakers. As soon as I heard the hook of that song, I could simultaneously hear her career be dropped inside a black skillet filled with hot grease. I’m surprised none of the editors sent me to go get Teairra a side of french fries.

What they got wrong about Rihanna is that she was not supposed to be the Caribbean Beyoncé. What they got wrong about Teairra Mari is that she could have been like Monica in that she was a teenager with an attitude, but within limits. Monica was Miss Thang, Not Miss Motherf**king Thang. Her first album, Roc-A-Fella Records Presents Teairra Mari, which also turned 10 this month, is a lot better than its lazy title. It was too much, too soon from a teenager, though.

Unfortunately, only one of these two singers that I saw within weeks of each other that summer had the chance to rectify their handlers’ mistakes.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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As much as I understand how important it is to her legacy, I’m often frustrated with how much Faith Evans’ narrative is focused on being the widow of The Notorious B.I.G. That is not just limited to mainstream media outlets where a name that impactful all but assures some level of overshadowing. It often happens in hip-hop circles, too. The interviews may no longer be centered solely on her life with Biggie, but the subject comes up and occasionally dominates all the same. It’s frustrating because it tends to malign the singer-songwriter into Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday terrain.

It’s a pity because today, on the 20th anniversary of her debut album, simply named Faith, many tend to forget the most important fact about Faith Evans: she is one of the best of her generation.

I didn’t know her name at the time, but whenever I listened to Mary J. Blige’s groundbreaking My Life (my all-time favorite album), I certainly knew Faith’s voice. Her voice complimented, and in some cases, overpowered Blige songs like “You Gotta Believe” and “I Never Wanna Live Without You.” As both a singer and songwriter, Evans’ contributions helped make My Life what has since proven to be Blige’s greatest work. A year later, Faith struck out on her own.

The album, largely helmed by Chucky Thompson, is a gorgeously sung collection of mid tempos and ballads. Thanks to singles like “You Used To Love Me” and “Soon As I Get Home,” the album went on be certified multi-platinum.

As many will remember, Blige took offense to the handling of Faith Evans.

On that rift, Chucky Thompson said in an interview:

“When you got talent like Faith, she catches on and she can take it somewhere else. There was one time when people were comparing her with Mary. The thing that makes them different is that Mary knows the old school, she knows quietstorm; you can sit with her and she’ll tell you every classic song on the radio. Faith knows nothing about classic, but she knows all the gospel records, so her vocal background is gospel. I did the albums back to back with two different personalities. I was able to separate the two but yet it was coming from the same camp.”

In 2010, Faith herself said in an interview:

“My thing is from earlier on the fact that I worked heavily on that album before my album came out. I mean, you know, in terms of my vocals being there so there’s a concurrent sound so that when I did come out with an album, they might’ve felt like, ‘Okay, that sounds like Mary’s album,’ but it was because my voice was on there, too, probably.”

The end result was Mary J. Blige having her vocals removed from additional album printings of their duet, a remake of Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” They may work together again. They may not. Regardless, even without Mary’s vocals on “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the revamped version proves that Faith never needed to pretend to be Mary J. Blige to get ahead.

When you listen to Faith, you can tell there is a shared core between Blige and Evans – soul – but not much else. Look to the jazz-influenced “Give It To Me,” the gospel background recanting “Thank You Lord” interlude, or the much softer brand of R&B found on “Reasons.” Faith has her own point of view and it was fleshed out excellently on her first complete body of work.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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Dear JoJo,

Do you remember me? We met during Grammy Awards weekend 2010 at some event and I interviewed you and told you how some boy I was so in love with put me onto your music? India Arie was there, having her handlers tell people that she didn’t want to talk to press as Justin Bieber ultimately took all of the press’ attention anyway. Does any of this ring a bell?

No? Okay, well my point is that you’re my favorite white girl next to Tina Fey so I really want to talk to you about a recent tweet I saw.

Well, girl, where is the baby? She should be filling out her FAFSA soon, taking in warnings from her older relatives about the burden of student loans. Now, I know you had to endure a lengthy legal battle with your former label, who effectively held your music hostage. When we did get pieces of new music, their useless selves didn’t do much with it.

I will never, ever let Blackground get away with allowing “Demonstrate” not to reach its full potential. And yes, I do know you have released two mixtapes and an EP to calm the nerves of impatient fans like me. But, but, but: It’s been too long now. Where is the music that I can purchase on iTunes?

Notice I said purchase and not stream. I’m already thinking about ways I can best support your new product. When is the single coming? When is the video for that single coming? Repeat these questions for the second single. Then answer me about the album release date.

Read the rest at VH1.

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“I told you about sex when you were three,” my mother explained to me in her typical matter-of-fact fashion. I had asked her about when I had first learned about sex.

It made perfect sense because, even as a very young child, I can’t recall a time in which I did not I understand the mechanics of sex, at the very least, in the context of where babies came from. My mom is a devout Catholic, but she’s also a registered nurse who takes care of new mothers, meaning she sees plenty of pregnancies, including those from minors. Right after I asked, she went into a quick lesson about how to put on a condom and mentioned a banana. I remember saying, “I’m not having sex anytime soon.” I was barely a teenager, and while my hormones were raging, the same could be said of my body— the round belly and fat deposits on my chest screamed “the training bra soon cometh.”

My father has always been in my life—for better and for far worse—but we have never had a conversation about sex. Ever. The only sex-related question he’s ever asked me was well into my 20s—he wanted to know if I was gay. Even if I said something sooner, it’s wasn’t like he was going to go out of his way to find a pamphlet detailing the pleasure and pains of gay sex.

I did take a health class in 11th grade that vaguely referenced sex education, but as the wave of pregnant girls in my high school swelled, there was not much in the way of wisdom shared and it was too little, too late, anyway.

So yes, while I understood sex in terms of procreation, I knew embarrassingly little beyond that. But, like many things I was intrigued by as a child—religion, whatever I saw on the news, and the various warnings of doom and gloom that I saw on episodes of Captain Planet—I wanted to know more. I don’t know many people who can say they have talked with great frankness about sexuality with their folks. Many of us, however, can say we’ve been largely influenced by the images we’ve seen in film and television and the music we grew up listening to.

If there’s a pop cultural figure that played an integral role in my sexual education, it was Janet Jackson.

When the janet. album was released, I was only nine-years-old. I vaguely knew what she was singing about, but I didn’t have any meaningful understanding of what exactly I was singing along to. What I did know, though, was that I could not stop staring at one of her dancers, Omar Lopez, with excitement. If you don’t remember this man, he was the one Janet Jackson groped in the “If” video. He’s also the beautiful man who played the male lead in TLC’s “Creep” video. Omar Lopez is a legendary bae and one of the first real tests of my heterosexuality.

Spoiler alert: I was defeated.

Read the rest Complex’s NTRSCTN.

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Unless you’re a perfect specimen (spoiler alert: you’re not) chances are your respective bae score fluctuates based on diet, exercise, alcohol levels, or plastic surgeon. We’ve all been there, and there’s no better source to inspire and/or depress us into stepping our cookies up than Instagram. As of late, most of my thirst has been directed in the direction of Drake.

For many of you out there, Drake was already a lusty figure in your life. Yeah, I was never completely there. Sure, he was cute from certain angles – when his face is tilted to the right to be specific – and if you’re into obsessing over Aaliyah, then certainly I can see the appeal. I did enjoy his guest hosting duties on Saturday Night Live last fall because I noticed he has great legs, but I never wanted to toss my draws his way the in the intensity that others desired to.

Now I am a changed man.

I used to say Drake looked like Captain Caveman. Before you ask, I look like Dale from Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers. I’ve also been told that I resemble Buster Bunny from Tiny Toon Adventures because you know, big ass teeth. So there. I’m playing fair.

Like Captain Caveman, Drake looked like there was some morsel of cuteness there, but he wasn’t putting in the extra work to drive it home.

In the last few weeks and months, something is noticeably different about Aubrey Graham. For starters, that stomach of his is so flat and tight. His arms are so big. And his chest: I’d like to give every God the glory for it.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Lil’ Kim is many things. She is an incredible rapper. She is a pioneer. She is a legend. She is a visionary. She is an amazing colored wig collector. She is the proud owner of a rabid core group of fans who will threaten to slaughter you on social media (true story). She is an inspiration to many of your favorite female rappers of today. Insert your shade here. There’s plenty to go around.

Of the many honors Kimberly Jones has earned, my favorite would be her place as one of the most sexually liberated recording artists in history. Kim’s catalog is full of sexually explicit content, but arguably her best is “Big Momma Thang” from her debut album, Hardcore.

The song, which will turn 20 next year along with the rest of the album, kicks off its first with the declaration, “I used to be scared of the dick, now I throw lips to the shit.”

I was 12 when this song came out, and I remember having to secure the album by way of Columbia House’s mail-order music club. For those of you too young to remember what the hell a CD player is, back in my day, we typically had to leave our homes, go to a magical place called a record store and purchase an album in physical form. However, some hating ass folks – let’s call them parents, in this instance – didn’t want their children buying “adult material.” So, scheming kids such as myself got around that by way of the aforementioned mail-order music club.

I had already obsessed over the now infamous Hardcore promo poster which featured Lil’ Kim spread-eagle in a pose a friend of mine branded “THE THOT WAR POSE.” We both mean this as a compliment, by the way. That poster piqued my interest, but some of that was forced. Lil’ Kim was the talk of every damn man around me, regardless of age, and much of my thoughts were centered on being jealous of not being invited to dance with Kim on the escalator in the “No Time” video as opposed to what filled out her leopard bikini.

So when Hardcore arrived and “Big Momma Thang” came on, I was both enticed and mortified. Her boldness was intriguing, but her line about being afraid of the dick hit a little too close to home. As my hormones started to speed up, so did the reality that my math was essentially one plus one equal homosexual. Once I became older (or age appropriate to listen, blah, blah), my appreciation for the line, the song, and what Kim has rapped about in her career intensified.

Read the rest at VH1.

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No one should ever strive for perfection because even if you manage to reach the tippy top of excellence and all the success that comes with it, the only direction you can go after is down. I wish Mariah Carey’s handlers—namely her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola—understood this early on given now, on the anniversary of her eponymous debut album, so many people write about the Mariah of today with contempt. And if not contempt, pity.

She is not the perfectly package Mariah of yore. The one who could hit every note with a seemingly superhuman-like level of ease. The one who stormed the charts with one of the best debut singles ever in “Vision of Love” and went on to notch three more number one singles—a feat that had not been reached since the Jackson 5. And she did all of this while dressed like the sweet girl who finds her prince charming in some boring romantic comedy. You know, one starring Tom Cruise or Patrick Swayze that amassed a fortune in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The bulk of the songs featured on Mariah Carey, Mariah’s debut album that came out 25 years ago today, fit perfectly for the soundtracks of all these types of films.

That’s why as impressive a singer Mariah Carey proved to be at the time and for many, many years that followed, I was never a huge fan of this version of her. Sure, I enjoyed watching her sing down on Saturday Night Live and The Arsenio Hall Show. The same goes for her fantastic edition of MTV Unplugged. However, her music along with her image, were just a wee bit too bland for my liking.

She was like The Cosby Show: cute, safe, and wholesome. Meanwhile, real life is over on A Different World.

“Vision of Love” is great, and “Someday” along with a few other songs were cute, but even as a kid, I got the sense that Mariah was holding back in the early 1990s. Mariah has confirmed this theory time and time again through the years. The very second she got a taste of creative freedom, she traded in those big dresses for short skirts and took her music to edgier—well, blacker—terrain. She worked with rappers and incorporated pure R&B into her songs.

I didn’t truly become a Mariah Carey fan—fine, lamb—until The Butterfly album. That was Mariah talking about love, but also sex, heartbreak, and yes, identity only not in ways that screamed suburbia and after-school-special backdrop music. This version of Mariah appeared to have a lot more fun and be far less inclined to come across as having it all together.

That’s why I hope that in the future, Mariah frees herself from having to perform all of her No. 1 hits—particularly those on her debut album. So many of them are attached to the perfect, balladeer version of Mariah. It is true that her voice is not what it used to be—or is like “decaying manufacturing machinery” as some would describe it. She cannot perform “Vision of Love” as well as she used to. Mariah can still do a pretty good rendition of it, but consistency remains a challenge.

Even so, I don’t look at her and think, “Poor Mariah.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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There will never, ever be another Janet Jackson.

Mega stardom of her kind is increasingly hard to reach, especially if you are a black woman. There is Beyoncé, but even she can no longer claim to have the sort of radio dominance Janet once commanded—though that’s more so a testament to the diminished influence of “urban” music than Yoncé’s catalog. She’s also more an amalgamation of several pop stars of yore—Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Michael and Janet Jackson, respectively—than a singular artist. There is also Rihanna, but she’s long noted that she desires to be more of a “Black Madonna.”

Both dance (one way more energetically than the other), but neither offer the sort of choreography that made Janet Jackson the iconic pop star she is today.

I’m sure some people would now like to interject Ciara, who I’ve jokingly said in the past could’ve been some country-fried-steak version of Damita Jo. I wish Ciara the best in all her future endeavors, but she lacks vision, cohesion, and for all intents and purposes, blew whatever chance she had at becoming a behemoth in music. At this stage of her career, she’s more like a Kardashian who can dance.

Nonetheless, there is hope of an artist who can at least encompass some of Janet’s best qualities for a new generation.

If there’s anyone who might be able to muster what Janet Jackson meant to me growing up, it is the 22-year-old singer Tinashe. Whenever I say this to someone, I’m often met with one or two response: “Who?” or “That ‘2 On’​ girl?” These are fair reactions, but not necessarily credible ones.

For starters, Tinashe has made her love of Janet Jackson very clear. In an interview with The Cut, Tinashe was asked about “How Many Times,” a track that features Future and is a sample of the Janet classic “Funny How Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.” Tinasheexplained, “I listened to her all the time growing up, and she was definitely one of the people I idolized from a dance perspective, to performance, to music videos, to the music, just all around.”

If you listen to her very well done debut album, Aquarius, the previous mixtapes she released prior (which she wrote and produced on her own), you can tell The Velvet Rope is likely Tinashe’s favorite Janet album. She confirmed that last summer with theGrio, noting, “I would tell my future kids that if they wanted to know what artist represented R&B, it would be Janet. The Velvet Rope-era Janet was my favorite.”

I’ve seen complaints that perhaps Janet influences Tinashe a wee bit too much in terms of both style and vocal arrangement. Younger acts tend to draw heavily from those who inspire them, but for a woman who has been the dominant force of her own creative direction, one imagines those are more kinks needed to be worked out in her own development. If you listen to Tinashe’s excellent new EP, Amethyst, one thing should be certain: She has a distinct point of view.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Yesterday, one of my all-time favorite albums, janet., turned 20. Despite only being barely nine at the time of its release, this still makes me feel very old. I don’t appreciate that, but what can you do? In any event, I wrote about the album’s 20th anniversary, what it means to be, and more importantly, how I believe it represents a missing part in the world of pop — especially from our current Black girl pop acts.

If you haven’t seen it already, you can click here to read the piece in full over at EBONY.com.

Although I’ve once again turned into a deadbeat dad towards this here blog, I have been writing. A whole lot. Plus apartment hunting in New York, which if you don’t know, is one of the most complicated experiences ever. Oh, how I wish I were rich. Life would be so much easier.

Anyway, more work by me in recent weeks.

I’ve been writing recaps (sort of) of my favorite show, Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta for Complex.com. I’ve also done a few other lists for them, including one about my other favorite soap opera, Scandal. You can click here to thumb through some of what I’ve been doing.

There’s also my EBONY.com column, The Weekly Read. Recent targets include some former Caribbean pop star who swears Jesus endorsed her mayoral bid and Ms. Lauryn Hill. PepsiCo got it, too, and I did manage to sneak something in on Mister Cee. And political sprinkles as always elsewhere.

Yeah, click around for the cause.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go cue up this YouTube clip and do the butterfly. Well, and daydream about Omar Lopez.

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