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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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This year has proven to be one of resurrection for many an artist who maintained a high-priced condo in the land of “Throwback Thursday” and “Flashback Friday.”

Ja Rule and Ashanti have unveiled plans for new music, tour, and a film. I’m not sure who asked for any of that, but hey, “Always On Time” was a big deal a decade or so ago. Likewise, Will Smith and the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff have announced plans for a tour next summer. My auntie and your uncle will be in thang, lit like bic. We can’t leave out Puff Daddy, who sometimes goes by Diddy but suburban moms only know as “J.Lo’s ex-boyfriend” and his looming new album. And of course, there is Janet Jackson, who thus far has enjoyed quite the celebrated return.

Yet, on June 28, 2015, the world received a fantastic and still very flexible look at what could be, only we haven’t heard much since then. To that end, one wonders: Can we get a Lil’ Kim comeback going? I want it and I want it now.

Lil’ Kim has not released a studio album in 10 years. She has released three mixtapes within this period – 2008’s Ms. G.O.A.T., 2011’s Black Friday and 2014’s Hardcore 2k14— but those don’t count (or at least should not). To me, those represent Kim’s decline which included distributing albums via PayPal, feuds withRemy Ma and Nicki Minaj, along with Kim’s noticeably altered physical appearance becoming a major distraction.

Nonetheless, when she performed alongside Puffy at the BET Awards, Lil’ Kim reminded me that above all, she is a great performer— arguably one of the best hip hop performances, male or female. Kim has been actively performing across the country for some time now, proving that not only does she still have it, she might be able to give us more with better material.

Note: I am saying with better material, which means quality producers that can give her the sort of production value her studio albums made us accustomed to hearing. So, we have to get producers like Pharrell on board (the “How Many Licks” remix is an under-appreciated gem) or some hungry youngins’ itching to reach wider audiences (like Kanye West at the time he worked on Kim’s sophomore album).

As far as her appearance goes, Kim looked lovely at the show and has been looking the best I’ve seen her in years. That’s as good as it’s going to get, so let your old photos go and accept where we are today. Now, that butt of hers has expanded into cartoonish measurements. But you know, if Kimberly Jones wants to make her butt cheeks as big as a Scion xB and live her life as Black Betty Boop, that’s her choice. Frankly, I don’t care anymore.

I just want Lil’ Kim to get another chance at creating new music and adding to her legacy.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It is a simple sentiment, but no less genuine: It is so nice to see people excited about Janet Jackson again.

As we await the formal release of the pop icon’s new album, Unbreakable, I can’t help but note that this is the first time in an awfully long one that we’ve been in the midst of anything reminiscent of the mania that used to surround her projects. Where people are not merely curious to hear a new Janet album, but giddy and excited. Where fans and news outlets alike speak of Janet’s new music with great anticipation. Where she is truly appreciated once again by the masses.

Part of the excitement is rooted in this being the first new studio album from Janet in seven years. Even so, the album that precedes Unbreakable, Discipline, was not greeted with as much excitement. The single, “Feedback,” was one of the youngest Jackson family member’s strongest singles of the last decade. There was also “Rock With U,” which, much like many of Janet’s best dance-pop offerings, was ahead of the curve, but not as successful as similar works from her expansive catalog. Neither made the impact they should have, but might have with another star at the time.

Before that was 20. Y.O., which produced the R&B hit “Call On Me” featuring Nelly. I tend to pretend that that duet never happened, but it landed at number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It’s a feat not worth dismissing, but it does speak to the reality that any musical success Janet has enjoyed in the past decade has been relegated to R&B and dance charts. Those have long been her staples, but so have the pop charts.

2004’s Damita Jo did not follow the success of 2001’s All For You, though it was a more cohesive offering. To this day, I curse the world for not appreciating the Kanye West-produced single “I Want You.” Janet’s other albums were admittedly inconsistent, but the same can be said of her contemporaries — only she was given less passes.

Due to that wayward nipple and sexist double standards, much of Janet’s past decade was overshadowed by scandal. The reality is that, as Janet’s star dimmed following the Super Bowl, it was her core group of fans who kept her name alive. Janet did go on to tour, and thanks to Tyler Perry, net more success as an actress, but she was once someone as big as brother Michael and Madonna. But people failed to treat Janet as such.

Read the rest at VH1.

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