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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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ave you ever wondered to yourself, “I wonder what the life of my proctologist’s wife is like?” Or question whether or not your gynecologist can curse like a sailor and fight like Ronda Rousey? Would you want dating advice from your dentist? Ever curious to know if the doctor who tells you to cut down on pork chops is just as anal with her girlfriends about their weight?

I’ve never wondered any of these things, but I give all the glory to those at FremantleMedia and Bravo who had the vision to ask themselves these questions. If not for them, I would not have the joy in my life that is Married to Medicine. The show, which premiered back in March 2013, chronicles the lives of women in the Atlanta medical community. Some of them are actual doctors themselves, while others are married to them.

I was not an immediate fan of the show. There are only two things I recall from the show’s inaugural season. The first was a fight between original cast member and co-creator of the series Mariah Huq and Toya Bush-Harris, who got into a brawl at some fancy event by the pool of the sole white cast member’s house. Toya talked about Mariah’s mama, so, you know, punks jump up to get beat down, or whatever. The mama in question, Lucy, jumped into the fight and proceeded to smash Toya’s head repeatedly with her purse.

It’s not that I can’t stand the sight of a physical fight on reality TV, but I did expect this show to offer more along the lines of sophisticated shade, as opposed to UFC realness. I mean, let VH1 have its thing. In any event, the only other thing I remember about the show’s first season was being annoyed as hell by Mariah and Toya’s sounding like every overzealous black gay man I’ve ever met—another cliché that I did not need more of.

Then something changed for me during the second season. They toned it down a bit, found some balance between shade and fight to the death, and—gasp—actually showed more of the women with medical jobs working. Imagine that. It’s all made for a much better show.

Along with those changes, they added the woman who has come to be my absolute favorite thing on television: Dr. Heavenly.

Dr. Heavenly reminds me of those Southern black women who chop you up like brisket, only with wit and a smile that almost makes it endearing. What makes her quips even more digestible is that her elementary-school-age daughter gives her a dose of her own medicine.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I can’t remember where I was body rolling – the gym, a bar, a subway car or a random sidewalk in Harlem – but while turning up to Destiny’s Child, I had an epiphany: everything you need to know about love and relationships can be found in their catalog. Like, every facet of love, relationships, and as country folks would say, “relations.”

So, since I refuse to listen to the majority of the other bammas out here doling out advice by no other virtue than them being famous, I would like to share with you my love syllabus as prepped by all past members of Destiny’s Child—except for Farrah, because her whispers on that one song don’t count. No shade.

When you see a bae and your eyes can’t make a run for it: “Perfect Man”

 For those of us who are told we look “unapproachable,” or just people who live by the virtue “closed mouths don’t get fed,” Beyoncé so gorgeously advised in the bridge of this international bonus track from Survivor:

All you ladies listening if you ever have the chance/ To run into your definition of that perfect man/ Don’t be blinded by how fine the man is/ And miss the chance that might be your last/ Make him understand that he’s your perfect man

Heed her warning, beloveds.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It was love at first ass shot.

Sebastian, played by Ryan Phillippe, rose from the pool after failing to seduce virgin Annette, played by his now ex-wife, Reese Witherspoon, in Cruel Intentions. For the life of me, I could not understand why Annette did not immediately start singing the lyrics of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and proceed to play out the song with him.

He was butt-ass naked and it was a sight to behold. It was such a sight that I don’t remember much else about the movie. Something about obnoxious teenagers and some demure girl whose cherry they wanted turned out? Oh, and two of the girls kissed each other. Good for them.

Whatever the case, for a teenage boy in conflict with his same-sex attractions, Sebastian’s bare cheeks air-drying post-rejection is the only scene that matters.

For the record, I had to wait and see Cruel Intentions on video. I got to see some R-rated movies by way of my cool older sister (Friday, for example), but no one would take me to see movies like Cruel Intentions. It was an early lesson about the role “the haters” will play in one’s life.

It was probably for the best, though. Once I had the movie on VHS (it was a dark time in home entertainment, children born in the 1990s) and got to that scene, I paused the tape and stared at the screen for several minutes. My mouth, open. My eyes, glued to his cheeks. I went on to take the advice T-Boz from TLC shared with me in 1996 about self-pleasure.

I knew I was attracted to boys around the age of six. Will Smith is actually my first celebrity crush, but he was squeaky clean on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air so much of my thoughts were, “Oh, you look nice… in that stupid looking jacket your fictitious private school has you wearing.” An NBC sitcom in the 1990s could never offer the same sort of temptation and titillation many of Phillippe’s movies did.

After that, I tasked myself with finding other movies that included Phillippe’s nudity—notably 54, released a year prior to Cruel Intentions.

The film 54 was my first real glimpse into gay male sex. I tended to stay clear of porn online. Not because I didn’t know how to hide the evidence from a tech-savvy mom—porn just doesn’t do a whole lot for me (Tumblr porn is cool, though). No shade to the hard-working adult entertainers of the world.

It’s a shame that so many of the original scenes of the movie were cut in its original theatrical release. I saw bootleg versions of select scenes—including Phillippe kissing co-star Breckin Meyer—but even in the heavily edited version, I got the gist. I had never seen what those attractions looked like when expressed—especially not from someone I couldn’t help but fawn over. As a result, I got a whole lot closer to accepting the gay within.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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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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