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I grew up knowing of female rappers from all over. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Yo-Yo, Mia X, and Queen Latifah were huge names who could boast of platinum and gold albums. But by the late 2000s, women’s visibility in hip hop had steeply declined.

Then, a Queens-bred rapper by the name of Nicki Minaj released her second mixtape, Sucka Free. Minaj would go on to single-handedly revive women’s presence in hip hop and be the only woman in several years to break out as a star who could boast of mainstream success. Given Minaj’s success with her debut album, the double platinum smash Pink Friday, conventional wisdom suggests that should have opened the door to other female rappers.

We did get Iggy Azalea and “Fancy,” though the Australian white woman laying claim to the same cadence as, say, the southern Black rapper Diamond of Crime Mob fame has roundly been dismissed as gimmicky at best. Maybe she’ll score another hit—or maybe she’s the female Vanilla Ice. As for Azealia Banks, well, self-destructive behavior has made her the new Foxy Brown, but without the hits.

When it comes to veterans, Remy Ma has enjoyed a resurgence recently thanks to her time on Love & Hip Hop: New York and, more importantly, the success of her single with Fat Joe, “All The Way Up.” A joint album with Fat Joe is due by year’s end and plans of a solo album are also afoot; Remy is enjoying the kind of stardom we expected before she served an eight-year prison sentence. There’s also Lil’ Kim, who will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her debut album, Hardcore, next month, and released a mixtape this year that was her best in quite some time.

Minaj remains the only woman with star power like that of her 1990s and early 2000s predecessors. But as far as women in rap go, it hasn’t been this great in years. And the shift comes courtesy of the many new female rappers who have entered the space.

Admittedly, it may be hard for many to notice that. The music industry is still in transition: in the past year, streaming has become the U.S. recording industry’s biggest revenue source; artists are less ambivalent about bypassing major record labels and working as independent acts; and the Internet is a better barometer of who’s hot than terrestrial radio. Even so, there are so many women releasing great rap music right now; it’s a noticeable pattern that deserves greater recognition and, for the artists who make it up, larger support.

One obvious success is Young M.A., whose single “OOOUUU” has amassed more than 45 million views on YouTube, and earned nods from Beyoncé and remixes from Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma. Young M.A. also appears in a newly released Beats By Dre ad, alongside Minaj, Pharrell, and other luminaries. That on its own is impressive, and her short spot—in which M.A. checks out another woman—is also groundbreaking. In the past, an out queer female rapper was a rare thing, yet in 2016, a Black lesbian who does not cater to male sexual fantasies is enjoying a breakout year.

She is not the only queer rapper, thankfully.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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When Nicki Minaj took to Twitter this week to announce a new album, titled Pick My Fruit Out and featuring tracks like “Fruit Loops” and “Bananas (Harambe Interlude),” one could quickly deduce that she was clowning around. Pick My Fruit was a joke, but it called attention to the fact that it’s been nearly two years since she released The Pinkprint, her finest album to date, and that her fans are rightfully ready for new music. Apparently, the wait won’t be much longer—Minaj’s new Marie Claire cover story promises that she has a new album on the way.

Which leaves us to speculate: what will the album sound like? With Minaj, it’s always hard to say.  As a member of #TeamMinaj, I have some hopes (and fears) for what Minaj’s fourth release will have to offer. This is, of course, very Laptop Label Head of me, but it’s all said with love, beloveds.

Trim the tracklist.

The Pinkprint is Minaj’s best complete body of work because she finally managed to deftly bridge her rap songs with tracks catering to her pop leanings. That said, there are still a smooth six songs that could have been left out.

I love Cash Money, but their model of album-making is stuck in the CD era. Their modus operandi is to give you at least 20 tracks. That was cool ten years ago, because it truly gave fans their money’s worth for an album. In the age of streaming, though, it just comes across as too much. Yes, there are those who call the album a relic and continue to argue we live in a singles world, but when I think of a rapper as iconic as Minaj, what separates her from rappers of yore is an undeniable classic record. Being more selective about tracklisting and sequencing will get her there.

Think of it as a meal. We all have our greedy moments, but in this instance, it’s like you’re getting fried fish, ox tails, chicken wings, turkey legs, and then it’s like 19 sides awaiting you after that. You don’t need it all.

Less pop, more rap. No shade.

In August, London On Da Track told Complex that he was in the studio with Nicki Minaj, but noted that the songs were more on the pop side than rap. Please reconsider this, or, at the very least, can we place a small cap on the number of pop songs on NM4? Yes, “Super Bass” was a huge hit, and helped Minaj reach fans who might’ve otherwise taken far longer to access her (if they ever were going to), but please, oh please, Nicki, not too many of those.

I would love an album of Nicki Minaj just straight rapping throughout. Hell, give me Beam Me Up Scotty, squared. No “Starships” please. Please. I said please. Please. I said it again.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Frank Ocean set himself up when he announced an album release date he could not live up to.

It had already been years since Ocean first amassed a fanbase after his career-launching mixtape and Grammy-award winning album. To his credit, he’s one of the few men with music rooted in the rhythm and blues tradition who sings about love tenderly, feelings honestly, and desire earnestly—a stark contrast from his contemporaries who write songs for dance and escape, but don’t necessarily offer much in the way of emotional intelligence. Ocean, by and large, was part of a trinity: him, Miguel, and The Weeknd, who were pushing the genre forward sonically but lyrically helping it return to a time when men had something to say besides, “I secretly wish I were a rapper.” But the other members of said trinity have released new music since their breakout work—Ocean is the only one seemingly dragging his feet with that new-new.

Ocean could have easily been like Sade and effectively release new music whenever he felt compelled to, but he didn’t. Instead, he announced not only a new album, but a release date and some sort of publication to go with it. Revelations such as those only stoke the fire of anticipation. Simply skipping out on those obligations doesn’t make fans any less anxious. If anything, it ups the ante on Ocean to deliver music to satisfy their needs.

Still, when it comes to what artists owe their fans, I don’t think Frank Ocean owes us anything besides his best. But when you maintain dual identities—Black and artist—there are typically additional expectations assigned to you.

Ocean is a Black man, and in the year he’s taken to release his anticipated sophomore effort, Boys Don’t Cry, a lot has happened to America’s socio-political landscape, prompting some to wonder whether or not these issues will be tackled on the album. 

Yet, that question feels more like projection. Has Frank Ocean really given us any reason to believe he would dive deeply into racial unrest and other political issues of the day? Granted, he has written Tumblr posts about Donald Trump and homophobia related to the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, but 1) that’s Tumblr, and 2) there’s no indication that’ll be reflected in his music. That expectation speaks to one that Black artists of every medium face: that we are to engage in the Black body, our Black bodies, as political all the time.

That we, as Black people in a world that so often shows value in Black culture but disdain for actual Black people, must speak on whatever injustice or oppression is happening.

Just this morning, I was tweeted about an article I wrote largely in jest, “Don’t you have something more important to write on?” My writing ranges from the serious to the very-much-less-than in subject matter, but make no mistake: I owe nobody anything but what I give them. The same applies to Frank Ocean and every other Black artist.

Read the rest at Complex.

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For the first time in several years, there are black-centered sitcoms that don’t make me want to cry out to Negro Jesus in agony. Up until very recently, all we had were the Tyler Perry-helmed shows, which worked for certain sects within our community, but like the reality-TV shows I actively consume on VH1 and Bravo, they are an acquired taste. There were a few that popped up here and there on networks like BET and TBS, but y’all didn’t watch them (and I don’t blame you). Things are much better now thanks to ABC’s ever brilliant Black-ish and NBC’s increasingly valuable The Carmichael Show.

However, there is another show that offers a smart, nuanced glimpse into a black family that doesn’t get enough attention.

Executive-produced by LeBron JamesSurvivor’s Remorse (the third season starts Sunday) centers on the life of a young professional basketball player and how he—along with his family—deals with the pressures of his newfound celebrity and wealth. Jessie T. Usher plays Cam Calloway, the basketball star; RonReaco Lee plays Reggie Vaughn, Cam’s cousin and business manager; Teyonah Parris plays Missy, Reggie’s wife; Erica Ash plays M-Chuck, Cam’s sardonic, lesbian sister; and the incomparable Tichina Arnold plays Cassie, Cam’s mom. Mike Epps plays Julius, Cam’s uncle and the embodiment of every crazy black uncle who would behave this way if his nephew made the league (or at least won a really big prize from a scratch-off ticket).

As for the fate of Uncle Julius, who closed the show’s second season in crisis, let’s just say that while I won’t spoil Sunday night’s season premiere, the comedian-actor has been more forthright.

On its surface, the plotline might sound too familiar—i.e., Entourage—but Survivor’s Remorse has far more depth. What I appreciate about it is that much like Black-ish and The Carmichael Show, SR not only depicts black families in varying incarnations but also addresses issues that directly impact black folks, like racism and classism. And notably, outside of one episode in the first season that saw the family attend a church in Atlanta, black homophobia is not categorized as some monstrouslike entity as it is on shows like Empire.

In 2014 Mike O’Malley, the showrunner of the series, told Slate that he wasn’t trying to make a comment on that aspect; however, when it comes to M-Chuck: “I thought it would be interesting for him to have an older sister who was also a great athlete and who was fiercely protective of him. I also wanted to show that it just wasn’t an issue for them that she was a lesbian.”

And when asked about her being an aspirational character, O’Malley noted: “I’ve met many gay and lesbian folks who are like that. They’re just out there. I think that maybe what’s different is that she’s doing it out in the world. She’s not doing it in the confines of a cloistered setting. She’s not ashamed, and she’s not going to explain it away.”

This season, the show continues to take on its overarching theme—dealing with the reality of newfound wealth and fame—but dives into other issues that speak to the times. In episode 4, “The Age of Umbrage,” the show chronicles our current media climate—including social media—and how any public figure’s remarks can be easily taken out of context, breeding scandal. In the next episode, “The Photo Shoot,” Teyonah Parris’ character reflects on how colorism has affected her life and makes what is ultimately a controversial decision while on the job.

Read the rest at The Root.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at Complex.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when people are encouraged immensely to boost their calorie intake, credit card debt and alcohol levels (so long as they’re not driving; we frown upon that). It’s also the period in which each of us can do a little inventory—namely in the form of New Year’s resolutions—and figure out how to make our next year better than our present. Some people frown upon this practice, but those people are annoying and joyless.

With that in mind, I’m here to share plenty of resolutions and hopes for the New Year—only none will be directly related to me ’cause that’s not your business.

1. Rachel Dolezal will get the hell on somewhere with her white self.

I don’t want to hear this woman’s name ever again. She is white with weave and an aggressive tan. She thought she was going to be some transformative figure with her shtick, but at this point, all she’s done is add names to black folks’ enemies list and get put on blast by the co-hosts of The Real.That’ll be cute for a future episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now? In the meantime, go be white in private, Fake-Ass Freddie Brooks.

2. People will stop pretending that Jaden Smith is a philosopher.

Some of your cousins give this lil’ boy way too much life with that psychobabble he spouts. I’ve read that Jaden has secured a book deal, so this post does seem moot. However, I have high hopes that enough folks will finally realize all this teenager does is mouth off a bunch of religious texts from Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and Xenu that were tossed in a Crock-Pot and cooked slowly—like some stew that you think is good for you but will only prove to ravage your stomach (only in this case, it’s your brain).

3. Donald Trump will become the GOP presidential nominee or, at the very least, the Ross Perot of the 2020s.

I’m not voting for that fool with the foolish hair, but I am firm in my stance that he is nothing more than the modern Republican Party set to a higher volume. He is no less bigoted or unserious than his competition; he’s merely more entertaining and appealing to their core audience. He’ll also ruin any chance for a Republican to win next November. So, go ’head with your bad (head of hair) self!

4. Frank Ocean will release a new album.

Even Adele is like, “Damn, homie. What’s good on that new project?” I’m paraphrasing, but the point is, she feels me and is, also, tired of the wait.

5. Kanye West will finally release his new album.

I’m less excited about this, majorly because it will lead to Kanye talking in public, and I’ve made clear my thoughts on the David Koresh of rap’s racial musings. But I’m still curious to hear what he’s been working on.

6. Rihanna will drop Anti.

I love Rih-Rih, but this has got to be one of the biggest mishandled projects from a major pop star in recent memory—and maybe ever. That aside, I need new Rihanna music in my life. My workout has not been the same, and the same goes for my body-roll-drop combo. Like, sis, stop playing with my spirit and hand over the new-new already. If the masses don’t like it, just go back to your usual and drop 17 more albums by the end of this sentence. I miss you; mean it.

7. The physical fighting will stop on The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

I watch Love & Hip Hop, so I’m obviously fine with my glorified soap operas sometimes giving me teases of UFC. However, not if it doesn’t fit the premise of the show. The Real Housewives of Atlanta is supposed to be about rich women—real or imagined, in some cases—who co-exist in the cattiest of ways. Cattiness is fine, but in the past two seasons, I’ve seen kicks to the stomach, punches thrown in the air and other antics that recall the let-out of a hood club. I don’t like it. I want them to take it back down to level 5, versus their current wave, level 57.

Read the rest at The Root.

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As excited as I am for Kendrick Lamar and select nominees for the 2016 Grammy Awards, I don’t trust its major voting bloc – old, white men – to truly get it right. Need proof? How about last year’s choice to not award Beyoncé Album of the Year for her groundbreaking and very much excellent self-titled album. Or you know, most years the show is aired. To that end, I opt now to relish in the Compton-bred emcee netting a historic 11 nominations – including those in major categories like Album of the Year and Song of the Year. That many nods makes Kendrick Lamar the most nominated rapper for any Grammy year and second overall to Michael Jackson, who once netted 12 nods in a single year.

Let us rejoice now as it can only go down from here.

Meanwhile, here is a run down of what I think this year’s Grammys got right and wrong.

Some people are complaining about Madonna and Prince not getting nominated for their most recent albums.

I don’t know why, though, but God bless them.

Was “Hotline Bling” snubbed?

This is actually a travesty of the highest order. However, before we get mad at the show, this is Drake’s fault. Complex spoke to Bill Freimuth, head of the Grammys, about the perceived snub. “It turns out that ’Hotline Bling’ was never entered into our process by the label,” Freimuth said. “That song came out, and it took a long time for it to build into the hit that it became. I think our members just didn’t foresee the incredible success that that song has had, and they focused instead on his other work. Any one of our members can enter anything so long as it’s eligible, and ’Hotline Bling’ was certainly eligible.”

So it’s your fault, Aubrey.

D’Angelo netted a “Record of the Year” nod.

Full disclosure: I forgot Black Messiah ever happened and proceeded to go back to D’Angelo’s first two studio albums and live EP. However, “Really Love” is a really nice song despite one barely understanding what in the hell he’s saying. It’s great for soul music to be recognized to that level. That said, I want The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” to win.

“7/11” was robbed.

A little disappointed that “7/11″ wasn’t nominated for Best Song You’ve Ever Been Blessed With, Bitch, but it’s okay. It’s that in my heart. I am somewhat furious that “Feeling Myself” didn’t score a nod. I find that unforgivable.

The Internet gets their due.

The Internet’s Ego Death is by far one of my favorite releases this year, so I am overjoyed to see that they scored got a nod for “Best Urban Contemporary Album.” If you don’t know what in the hell that category means, I totally understand. It’s a stupid name but it loosely translates into “What The Blacks Putting Out Music These Days Are Up To Now.”

No love for the Love & Hip Hop artists.

K. Michelle’s album, Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart, is phenomenal and deserved some recognition. And if you’ve noticed, Omarion is none too pleased over “Post To Be” being overlooked. I saw that he compared himself to Jesus on Twitter. I am nothing else to add here.


I’m very upset about this. Oh, and some people are very vexed about Lana Del Rey only receiving one nomination. That’s my business, but you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

Go Jazmine Sullivan, go!

I’m almost certain that The Weeknd will get all of the awards she’s up for, but Reality Show is a strong album and “Let It Burn” is such an excellent song. I want more attention paid to Jazmine Sullivan.

Read the rest at VH1.

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If you’ve watched the video for Adele’s new single, “Hello,” you may very well need a lifeguard to save you the pool of tears you’re presently drowning in. Adele is the mother of melancholy, and given it’s been nearly five long years since the British singer-songwriter has released an album, we are right on the tip of what will surely be another long reign. To that end, you need to start preparing now. Adele, like winter, is coming, and both forces are known to make you sink into sadness. You need to prepare your heart, your mind, and for many of the people reading this, your loins. Allow me to help.

1. Buy the necessary supplies.

Once 25 drops and you give it that first, full listen, you’re likely to end up curled up in bed, boo-hooing like hell. You will think about an ex. You will be thinking about all of the shoulda, coulda, wouldas of your life. You may very well want to go slow dance with a 1987 Buick Regal in the street (please call a suicide hotline first, though). Get your tissues ready. Have your cable bill and Netflix and Hulu subscriptions all paid. Chances are you’re not going to want to leave the house, so you might as well prepare for the sulking as best as possible. Just tip your Thai food delivery driver well. He is not the one who broke your heart.

2. Have contraception on hand.

It is very much probable that you will end up sending or be sent a “Hey, stranger” text message. These messages are more often than not, annoying as hell. However, the temperatures are dropping (unless you live in California), so with cuffing season and a sad Adele album comes the increased chances of a slip up. Based on “Hello” alone, I’m already willing to give some ain’t s–t person a temporary chance. We are in peak drunk text and ugly cry seasons. Prepare yourselves accordingly, beloveds.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It is fascinating yet quite transparent that the loudest critics of Amber Rose and her upcoming SlutWalk, which will be held tomorrow (October 3) in Los Angeles, only reaffirm her mission with their language.

Last month, Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning aired a segment dissecting the event, and one man commented, “I mean, I feel like she’s trying to glorify sluts in general and she feels like she’s trying to put up girl power behind it to make women feel like it’s okay to be this way. And I understand—be all you wanna be—but be it in private.”

After that, he quite predictably proceeded to say that he did not want his daughter to be receptive of such a sentiment. Then came a disingenuous statement from the show’s host, Ebro Darden: men are called sluts and hoes, too, and it is just as bad. Sure, but the idea that it carries the same sting and subtext is a falsehood. That is, unless I missed a separate announcement from NASA that not only does Mars have liquid water, but a community in which slut shaming is a gender-neutral sport.

Meanwhile, the argument that it’s okay to “be all you wanna be” but in “private” is its own comically reductive notion. Why does one’s sexuality have to be private? We do not live in some puritanical society. If we did, a radio station like Hot 97—which plays a whole lot of sexually charged hip-hop and R&B tunes—would not exist.

Moreover, there are plenty of women who do not broadcast the sordid details of their sexual experiences; they are often vilified for having the same sexual desires and urges as men anyway. Women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t in that way. Can we not be children and pretend the “silence is golden” rule would cancel out misogyny and patriarchy? The sooner we do, the faster we can have adult conversations about the way women and men are judged differently on their sex lives.

Since then, I have seen these same talking points posted across social media—majorly from men, but there have been some women echoing this, too. Remember kids: women can be victims of patriarchy, too. They are just as wrong.

To her credit, Amber Rose has done a very good job of explaining her intentions with SlutWalk. On the site, the event is listed as the promotion of “a zero tolerance policy on all hateful language, racism, sexism, ableism, fat-shaming, transphobia, or any other kind of bigotry.”

Read more at EBONY

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When I found out that Timbaland had signed the highly buzzed Tink to his label, Mosley Music Group, I was excited. If you heard her mixtapes, Winter’s Diary 1 and 2, or anything she released via her SoundCloud at the time, you knew the Chicago teen had something special to her. Something, that if cultivated and shared correctly, could give hip-hop a much-needed new female star.

Given his statute, Timbaland is certainly capable of helping Tink become that star. He is the man who took Aaliyah to a heightened level of creativity; Justin Timberlake into superstardom; artists like Keri Hilson, Nelly Furtado, and others to have their moments.

Later, I heard the first Timbaland-produced offering from Tink, “Around the Clock,” and thought about some of the other acts who found less success with Timbaland—namely Ms. Jade. Then I became afraid not long after. If you’re under the age of 25, you presumably haven’t the slightest clue about the Philadelphia native or her one and only major studio album, Girl Interrupted.

While promoting the 2002 album, Ms. Jade said of her music: “Most music has a message, and as an artist I wanted to throw that out there. I’m a real person, and I know what it’s like going through stuff like relationships and working hard. It’s cool to dance, but you also have to let people know that you work hard for what you’ve got.”

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities when I read Tink tell CR Fashion Book recently, “I feel like I’m the voice for my generation, especially for women. My album is a day in the life of a normal human being, and that’s why I know it’s going to connect because I’m not dancing around the truth.”

Though one could rightly argue that this sort of phrasing is standard, the two do have the commonality in trusting the same man to achieve that mission. And I am beginning to think both may be wrong in doing so. Timbaland’s musical legacy cannot be denied, nor would I try to say otherwise as a major fan. Still, sometimes two good people don’t mesh well together.

As of now, Tink has released a few songs with Timbaland and the results have been mixed at best.

Read the rest at Complex.

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