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When Janet Jackson decided to stop depriving us of her splendor, I was elated. “No Sleeep” was her best single in years and managed to be a successful launch for her Unbreakable album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Then came the other part of her comeback: the world tour. You know, the one she abruptly stopped because she decided to have a baby at 50.

When Janet announced that the tour was going to be on hold as a result of one of the best medical miracles money can buy, even her most ardent fans asked for a refund, understandably assuming that Janet was going to circle back and tell us, “I can’t butterfly right now, you guys. I’m breast-feeding.”

However, Janet is indeed back—for the newly rechristened State of the World tour. Tickets for the tour, which begins in September, are now for sale, but as much as I love me some Janet Jackson, I have a few concerns I want to address. Keep in mind, I’ve already purchased my tickets, and the goddess is free to tell me to go fuck myself and enjoy whatever she gives me.

She’s Janet Jackson, so I will, but I have a few requests all the same.

Now, I noticed from the clips of the then-Unbreakable tour that Janet was far more subdued in her appearance than she had been in years past. Moreover, she was curiously skipping select lines in some of her biggest hits. For example, she definitely wasn’t singing about spotting a nice package and needing to ride it, as echoed on “All for You,” anymore.

It was a bit disappointing. Girl, you better sing about riding that dick. You’re Janet fucking Jackson. Of course, she was said to have converted to Islam after marrying her now soon-to-be-ex-husband, Wissam Al Mana.

Last month, New York Post’s Page Six quoted a source that touched on Al Mana’s influence on Janet’s tour.

“She thought he had become too controlling during the pregnancy, and she had already allowed him to dictate her appearance and even the way she performed at concerts,” the source explained. This also translated to her music videos.

The source added,“It drove her crazy, and she felt she was losing her fan base.”

If you’re still stanning for Janet Jackson, you’re in it for the long haul. That said, while those genie pants she wore didn’t scare us off, if Janet is so inclined to bring that old thing back, please do so on the tour. Even if she doesn’t want to let those breasts back out and back her infamous ass up on someone who is ideally as fine as her old dancer, the legendary Omar Lopez, can we at least get some costume changes?

Like, you’re Janet Jackson.

I have seen Janet Jackson in concert, premarriage to Wissam Al Mana. It was an absolute spectacle. I miss the spectacle. Bring the spectacle back, Damita Jo. Give me all of the costume changes and all of the tricks onstage. Gimme, gimme more, essentially.

Read the rest at The Root.

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When Mary J. Blige filed for divorce from her husband and manager, Kendu Isaacs, last summer, my reaction was admittedly trifling. I texted one of my best friends: “Oooh! The new album is gonna be lit, girl!” She responded in kind, and together, we were equal parts terrible.

No, a marriage of 12 years ending is not good news. Feel free to pour out a little brown juice right here in memoriam. But when you are an artist like the legendary Blige, whose greatest work has come from a place of pain, and whose art has forever served as a soundtrack for fans with their own troubles, well—it will be lit.

Not all share this sentiment. Recently, on The Wendy Williams Show, Wendy Williams updated viewers with the latest tawdry details of Blige’s divorce, commenting: “I don’t want to hear a whole bunch of boo hoo crying on the new Mary J. Blige album regarding Kendu and the relationship…that’s the same song she’s been singing all her career.”

Williams is entertaining, but praise every deity ever known for keeping her out of Blige’s most recent studio sessions.

For one, when you’re the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, as Blige was anointed at the beginning of her career some 25 years ago, pain is your greatest asset. That doesn’t necessarily mean Blige herself has to drown in misery for the sake of her fans. But she drew us in with bittersweet reflections in What’s The 411?, cemented an unwavering bond via My Life, and literally invited us to witness her romantic pleas with Share My World and Mary. Her divine songs centered on hurt are what we show up for. So, it’s unsurprising to longtime fans that Blige’s forthcoming album, arriving at a difficult time in her personal life, is her strongest in years.

Blige has recently been making the media rounds in support of her forthcoming album, Strength of a Woman, out on April 28, and has been quite candid that the initial inspiration for the project was wanting to save her marriage.

You hear this on the album’s first two releases, “Thick Of It” and “U + Me (Love Session).” While the thread of heartbreak is classic Blige, these cuts aren’t throwbacks by any means; Blige is a master of staying true to herself while remaining current. When I first heard the former, I immediately thought of the smooth indignation of relative newcomer Bryson Tiller. But then I remembered: Blige was rap-singing long before Tiller even arrived at middle school. She doesn’t need to make a play for freshness.

Read the rest at Elle.

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I conducted an informal poll of trusted homies about the state of America’s Next Top Model by asking one simple question: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I mention Top Model? Most answered “Tyra Banks,” while a few mentioned infamous phrases from the show, like, “We were rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!” However, there was another response that was as astute as the first: “Is that still on?”

For those who missed the news, after a 12-year, 22-season run on the CW, the show was relaunched on VH1 with a new host in Rita Ora. Although many struggled to understand how Ora, a singer-actress person with a solid stylist, became the host of a modeling competition, America’s New Top Model opened season 23 with 1.7 million viewers—a five-year high for the series—and enjoyed a slight rise in the ratings in the following weeks. By all accounts, minus the matter of a Top Model contestant accusing Ora of bias because she dated Ora’s ex Calvin Harris, Ora was a success.

Still, while the show has been renewed by VH1 for another season, Ora is out and Tyra Banks is back in. In a statement, Banks said:

I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the intensity of the ANTM fan base whose deep affection for the show led me to have a change of heart. After giving it a lot of thought, I realized that remaining behind the camera wasn’t enough because ANTM is woven into my DNA.

Sure, but it also doesn’t hurt that Banks is on a bit of a TV comeback as she takes over for Nick Cannon as host of America’s Got Talent. Couple that with a show that’s now safe to return to, and it’s like FABLife never happened. Although Banks’ return to the show is welcome, it alone doesn’t address all the reasons viewers fled the show in droves to begin with. The show needs its nucleus, but it also might want to two-step back into the basics of what made it a hit in the first place.

When Top Model’s cancellation was announced in October 2015, a number of writers analyzed the show’s longtime success and, subsequently, what variables helped give way to its erosion. Noting that Top Model hadn’t enjoyed a traditional cycle/season since No. 16, Adrienne Raphael wrote at The Atlantic:

In short, ANTM went from an industry competition to a branding pageant—from a more straightforward contest that promised the winner a modeling career to one that promised the winner a large Internet following. The prize still includes a modeling contract with an agency (for Cycle 22, it’s NEXT Model Management) and a spread in a fashion magazine (now Nylon, rather than Vogue Italia). But gone are the camp and self-awareness that once characterized the show—now, it’s a hashtag-heavy, emoji-laden battle of the brands. On the one hand, this departure mirrors a realistic shift that’s taken place in an industry that increasingly rewards familiar faces with built-in fanbases. On the other it detracts from the fun, insular fantasy world ANTM worked so hard to create.

Also make note that by cycle 22, it had been the third time that women and men were competing against each other. Worse, the show had started relying a whole lot more on themes such as “British Invasion.” Some found the over-the-top theatrics of the show still enjoyable, though.

Most recently in Cycle 21—the same cycle as Lacefront McBeard—our impeccably flamboyant host Tyra Banks blessed a female model with a half-black, half-blonde “skunk” hair dye job, thinking it edgy. But the lace front beard, or beard weave as Tyra called it—and what it stands for—is the sole reason I continue to indulge in Tyra’s immaculate circus.

Nothing tops it, and yet the beauty of Top Model is that millions of similar examples exist (Tyra once had the male models dress up in women’s clothing and vice versa for a pointless role reversal challenge). The lace front beard is a symbol of everything magical and horrible about this show. I cannot stop watching or else I’ll die. I’m sure of it.

I’m so glad Hope is alive, but by cycle 21, I, along with other formerly avid Top Model viewers, had long since checked out.

Read the rest at The Root.

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As a lover of the subgenre of R&B I describe as “Eff-that-ninja music,” Keyshia Cole is a pioneer. Keyshia’s entire catalog more or less keeps within this prism, but her first two albums are her strongest efforts. On her debut album, The Way It Is, Keyshia was basically that girl with Kool-Aid-red hair who would literally curse you out in song. In other words, a woman after my own heart.

On her sophomore offering, Just Like You, Keyshia had the same spirit, though she was noticeably a bit more polished—not unlike a ratchet (self included) who has toned it down after a loving black co-worker hits her on the side, like, “Sis, if you want a promotion, you’ve got to switch it up a little.” Or, better yet, she wants to fast-track her career to be like Mary J. Blige after white people discovered her and the word “dancerie.”

Unfortunately, after that, inconsistency took over. Her third album, A Different Me, was OK . Her fourth, Calling All Hearts, was not. The fifth, Woman to Woman, was not the best, but not the worst. No, no, her sixth, Point of No Return, has those bragging rights. After that 2014 release, Keyshia revealed that she had gone independent and she instantly became a punch line in select online social circles. I’m talking about you people who said she was selling fish plates outside the Grammys. I love fish plates, but that wasn’t right, y’all.

Now Keyshia is back on a major label after signing with Epic Records and, seemingly, is due for a big comeback. What will certainly help in those efforts is her decision to join the cast of Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood. Keyshia shared the news via Twitter, and when asked what compelled her to join the show, she explained, “I want to touch bases with the essence of my fans again.”

High-siddity people made light of this quote, but it’s honestly one of the most self-aware things I’ve heard an artist say about the climate and her fan base in a long time. At least she’s not picking up a glow stick and making rave tunes like Usher did a couple of years ago. There are other blacks I could name, but I don’t want to be jumped at a future NAACP Awards.

I like Keyshia Cole most when she is singing about trifling men via songs with catchy hooks, and telling me all of her business courtesy of a reality show. Before K. Michelle used reality TV to resuscitate her fledgling career as a recording artist, there was Keyshia Cole, star of BET’s Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is. By sharing the details of her life—including her drug-addict biological mother, her adopted mother and her strained relationships with her sisters—Keyshia was able to cultivate a fan base. She got people to care about her in ways that her old record label arguably never could have.

There are plenty of artists whose music I enjoy but couldn’t give a decimeter of a damn about when they’re out of the studio. Though I don’t necessarily need to know a lot about an artist’s personal life, in the case of Keyshia Cole, knowing what she’s been through led me to develop an affinity for her that will, if nothing else, always leave me open to hearing her new music.

Now, I didn’t like it when Keyshia Cole tried to come for Beyoncé about “Bow Down/I Been On,” but I’m assuming she’s made penance with Black Jesus.

Whatever the case, Keyshia is smart to realize that the Love & Hip Hop franchise is hugely popular and essentially another opportunity to get folks invested in her life and, by extension, her new music. Her second BET series, Keyshia Cole: All In, didn’t do the trick, but I trust in Monami and Eastern, who produce LHH.

As for the Love & Hip Hop franchise itself, it’s so good to know an artist that I have actually heard of has signed on. In the past, some have been Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday or, at the bare minimum, someone on the rise. Ever so increasingly, though, it’s been a lot of, “Where in the hell did you come from and why are you here?”

On a recent episode of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, quite a few viewers were left bored out of their mind, since we had to watch some woman claiming to be the CEO of a nail salon (insert laugh track here) beef with her assistant and marketing director (insert laugh track here) and some Asian girl from Instagram who thinks she’s the next Cardi B, when she’s likely to end up being a less poppin’ Shekinah.

Read the rest at The Root.

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During a recent appearance on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, Queen Latifah revealed that there has been discussion about a revival of Living Single. While some of us were immediately joyful about seeing the return of Khadijah James, Regine Hunter and Maxine Shaw and hearing the phrase, “Put some beans in that oven,” others were naturally skeptical. After all, we did see the Shaft reboot, which, for some odd reason, is getting yet another reboot.

Still, given the boom of white-led revivals and reboots in recent years, it’s about time that black shows cash in on nostalgia and Hollywood’s total disinterest in original ideas. With that in mind, I’ll be playing the role of fake-ass development executive and outlining potential reboots of previous Negro-focused programming of yore. If you hate me playing the role of melanin-enriched Andy Cohen, that’s fine, but remember this, beloveds: This shit still sounds better than a second Shaft reboot. Can you dig it?

Homeboys in Outer Space

We don’t invite back the original characters, only the title. In the revamped version, we get a sci-fi drama about black people who venture to another planet after the 45th president of the United States of America, Mango Zedong, blows up the damn world. They leave white people—and, thus, most of their troubles—behind in a new world they build from scratch. Put this on Netflix so they can really talk their shit.

Girlfriends

I feel like Tracee Ellis Ross is too busy for this, but we really need to see this show back, if for no other reason than that Toni and Joan have got to make peace. Also: William needs to tip out of the closet. No shade.

Moesha

After six seasons, the show ended on a cliffhanger—incredibly insulting, given how instrumental the series was in making UPN matter as long as it did. Brandy herself was asked about this and said: “I don’t know what happened, and I feel so bad because, you know, so many of the fans, they’re mad about that. That’s not the way you end a show that’s been on for six years. So, I’m sorry, y’all.”

You know, looking back, Moesha Mitchell was annoying as all hell. I still loathe that brat for turning down a free car just because it was a Saturn. She’s like a middle-class Vanessa Huxtable who behaves like Donald Trump Jr. during his terrible-twos stage.

In any event, in a revival, it’s worth exploring what happened. In my mind, Dorian’s friend kidnapped Myles, killed him, and 20 years later, we come to see a less obnoxious, humbled Moesha working in media. As for who was pregnant, it was Niecy, and she takes a more prominent role in the show.

Now, with respect to Kim Parker, she fell off with both of them, got colored contacts and a terrible wig and ended up a sad reality star. The new season would focus on the trio renewing their friendship. If Sheryl Lee Ralph and William Allen Young are available, they can come back, only I feel like Dee Mitchell would be on her Tina Lawson after divorcing Mathew Knowles.

New York Undercover

Ideally I’d like to forget the horrific last season of this show and bring Eddie Torres back from the dead. Unfortunately, the illegally streamed YouTube episodes don’t lie, so we have to deal with the conditions we’re given. To that end, J.C. Williams should play an Olivia Benson-like leader of a new squad. It would be interesting to see a minority-centered crime show, notably in an era in which law enforcement increasingly targets minorities. And we need to figure out how to bring in George Gore II and Lauren Vélez.

Family Matters

I only want this show to come back on a limited 10-episode run in which Steve Urkel has been placed in a mental institution because, let’s be honest, that nerd was a stalker, and when he became Stephan Urkel, that was a sign that he needed to be committed. Let Little Richie be his psychiatrist. And, no, Eddie Winslow cannot come back because he’s going to try to sing again.

Also: We need to find out what happened to the youngest sister who went upstairs and never came down.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I imagine that Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi are lovely white people, but that doesn’t make the formal rollout of their new TV Land late-night show Throwing Shade any less grating. And before anyone else mentions it for the umpteenth time: Yes, plenty of us are well aware that these two have been using that title for some time.

The show initially launched as a podcast in 2011 before moving to Funny or Die, which then produced 80 episodes after acquiring it in 2013. The duo recently completed a 17-city tour last summer. For them, this run—including the pilot order to series order—likely feels like hard work paying off.

So?

No one should deny them their journey, but that doesn’t make this news any less of a reminder that black cultures and subcultures can yield much more success when delivered from the mouths of white people. Nor does it exclude them from the recognition that their work ethic notwithstanding, white folks continue to collect cash and cheers from our creativity.

“This amazing, weird brainchild of Erin and Bryan translates perfectly into a weekly late-night show,” TV Land Executive Vice President of Development and Original Programming Keith Cox explained to the Hollywood Reporter. “We can’t wait to see them take on the most recent and ridiculous news of 2017.”

That turn of phrase—“weird brainchild”—makes one want to fall down before a picture of Black Jesus and cry out, “WHY?!”

Although the Throwing Shade trailer makes clear that Safi is gay, he is a white gay—thus he came late to the shade room like the masses. Cox should be singing the praises of gay black men like Dorian Corey and the other gay black men of that ballroom era. The same goes for the gay black men who not only have continued on with that subculture but have expanded it with our wit and brilliance. It is gay black men who built that bridge; Gibson and Safi are simply cruising across it.

 Per the show’s site: “From Funny or Die, it’s Throwing Shade! The new late show that treats politics and pop culture with much less respect than they deserve is coming to TV Land in January!”

Oh. OK. If you say so, sis.

I don’t want to begrudge Gibson and Safi. I’m fully aware that subcultures typically cross over into the mainstream—a process now expedited with the advent of social media. That said, word of their show doesn’t feel any less insulting.

Read the rest at The Root.

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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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