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When I got a press email announcing a new season of Basketball Wives LA, I was legitimately surprised. I’d assumed VH1 decided to take this show out back, shoot it and put it out of its misery to make room for new blood on its programming slate. You know, the humane thing to do.

The original franchise, based in Miami and launched in 2010, went on to glory in 2013 after five seasons—two of which were too many. Given its Los Angeles spinoff’s befuddling last season, I thought it was clear to all that it’s time to be like En Vogue and give it up, turn it loose on this show. Who was going to make up the cast? Certainly not any actual wives of professional basketball players at this point, but maybe a woman who got at least three DMs from a ball player on Instagram? What else could these women possibly have to argue about?

Yet, after recalling my days in catechism and recently listening to Mary Mary songs chopped and screwed, I decided to give this show another chance and find the answers to these questions. Moreover, I wanted to ponder whether or not this show still has any purpose.

So, who is on the show? Malaysia Pargo, Brandi Maxiell, Jackie Christie plus the imports from the now-deceased Miami version, Shaunie O’Neal and Tami Roman all return. Draya Michele gave up on the show midway during its last run, so best of luck to her, the swimsuits and trying to land that Evelyn Lozada-like spinoff. Mehgan James of Bad Girls Club fame is gone, though she promises she’ll return to TV soon. James was probably too much of an insurance risk even by this show’s standard.

There are two new cast members: D.J. Duffey, who dates a basketball agent, which I guess technically fits the bill, and Angel Love, a registered nurse who has three degrees and a baby with a Washington Wizards player. Duffey is a Dallas native and play-sister to Brandi, only she doesn’t get along well with Brandi’s BFF, Malaysia Pargo. Judging by the season preview, she will punch you in the face if you force her to. I wonder if she’s from Oak Cliff?

As for Angel Love, she is on a “break” from her boyfriend and said that if her man is cheating, she doesn’t want to know about it. She’s basically a very pretty girl with the same lil sad tale we’ve heard so many times on this show. I wish her well in her future endeavors, but Toni Braxton didn’t release “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” for nothing. Learn, girl.

What do these women bicker about? The same damn things from the previous season. Listen, it’s cute that we all pretend Shaunie O’Neal can fire her co-workers because she has an executive-producer credit, but that’s not exactly true or all that interesting. Like Royce Reed on the original Basketball Wives, Brandi was not fired for daring to talk slick to Shaunie, so spare us this storyline. Producers could’ve gone on a scavenger hunt in the Shade Room for better material.

Malaysia is still gorgeous, though she seems unnecessarily catty. Was this filmed before she received her divorce settlement? You know what? Never mind. I like Malaysia, and she will show up at your event in sweats ready to square up. I’m going to spread positivity with her.

Oh, Jackie Christie is still Jackie Christie. We learned that when checking her man for infidelity, she inspects his testicles. Listen, if you have to do a scratch and sniff or grab a measurement cup, you don’t have enough trust in your relationship. Yeah, I’m single, but I’m also not Inspector Gadget with a mate’s junk. Jackie later noted that her first husband was white and she enjoyed the smell of his white hair.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Does the world need a saved version of The Real?

According to Jamal Bryant, a co-host of The Preachers, “There’s never been more of a need for a show like this.” The faith-based panel show, currently on a three-week test run in New York and Los Angeles, features “four outspoken preachers known for their unique takes on pop culture, news events and spirituality.” The four are Bryant, John Gray, E. Dewey Smith Jr., and Orrick Quick. Considering that Bryant is the same man who has employed phrases in his sermons such as “sanctified sissies,” while quoting Chris Brown’s “These hos ain’t loyal” lyric, there’s legitimate reason to find his claim of The Preachers’ necessity rather dubious.

Mere minutes into the show’s first segment on debut day, such suspicions were confirmed.

During a discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, while Smith did acknowledge the role racism plays in policing, he discussed the work of his law-enforcement-working uncle before asking, “Does a black police officer’s life matter?”

Then, Quick offered the following analogy: “If you have three children and one of them breaks curfew, would you punish all children? So my question is why would we punish every police officer as if they pulled the trigger?”

A better question is why would one want to contribute to the false narrative that critics of bad policing are generalizing all who work in law enforcement?

After that came Gray, who acknowledged that he had been racially profiled in his “very nice neighborhood” in Houston while he sat in his car parked in his driveway. When Bryant asked the panel what should be done moving forward, Gray decided that instead of being “bitter” and “disillusioned,” he would opt to “go to the police department with gifts to introduce myself.” Gray also thanked the police for what they do, noting it was “his job to initiate peace and be the bridge-builder.”

A cameraperson then panned to an applauding group of nonblack women, none of whom will likely ever have to know what it is like to feel tortured by those who have taken a sworn oath to serve and protect all. It may be Gray’s job to initiate peace as a pastor, but such rules do not apply to black people who find themselves judged guilty due to bigotry by someone donning a badge.

Throughout the premiere episode and in numerous interviews and promos touting the show, it was celebrated that there is now a show with four men—notably black men—on TV. However, like the talk show hosted by Tyrese and Rev. Run on OWN earlier this year, we know that being black, or being black and male alone, is not enough. Do we need a homophobic pastor with this large a platform? Do we need black clergymen preaching messages of docility to hurting black folks on national television?

What good is your melanin count if your messaging is messy?

Read the rest at The Root.

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While there is no confirmation about reports that the entire cast of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta has been fired, I do know that after the latest season of the hit reality series, something’s gotta give. For years now, LHHATL has been my favorite Negro telenovela, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I used to. Like, watching the last 12 episodes has been the equivalent of arriving at the fish fry hungry, only to be served cold pieces of tilapia (I prefer hot fried catfish, FYI).

Let’s gather ’round and count the mistakes:

1. Way too much focus on the King family.

Make no mistake: LHHATL is still a hit series and, for many of us, a viewing ritual. However, it’s very easy to go from “I plan around this show” to “Oh, girl, let the DVR catch it.” (This means you, Empireseason 2.) To be fair, I believed that the franchise needed new players, but that does not mean we needed to be bombarded with their personal problems mere seconds into the new season.

We went from a very long first date to shacking up within months. Now I feel kidnapped by them. Though the King family seems interesting—America’s Most Wanted alum, baby mama drama, psycho girlfriends—why have we spent so much time on these new folks? And what kills me about this is that in the end, most of them won’t be back next season. Scrapp Deleon is in prison, and his mama is facing 30 years for identity theft. So all of that was for naught.

Put some money on their books and put Tommie in anger management. Then be done with them. God bless or whatever.

2. D. Smith should just go back to producing.

I was quite excited about the idea of a transgender woman being on the show, but what’s most interesting about this season of the show is that although there’s been interesting, progressive conversations about gender and sexuality, D. Smith hasn’t been involved in most of them. D. Smith had every right to be offended by Waka Flocka’s transphobic comments, but her questioning his wife, Tammy Rivera, turned into a real-life back-and-forth fight in the comments section of the Shade Room.

Listen, D. Smith has major credits, but on this here franchise, Tammy Rivera and she are co-workers—and Tammy has a higher job title. I do find it fascinating that trans people get to be like everyone else on the show—aka an almost-villainlike character—but other than that, D. Smith has been depicted as just unnecessarily combative. There could have been some good conversations about tolerance and subtle forms of bigotry, but again, they were lost in the petty sauce.

As for those actual, progressive conversations I was referring to, those honors go to Mimi’s ex, Chris. I’m not sure Chris identifies as genderqueer, but that was essentially the breakdown given. Some of the best scenes of this show consisted of Mimi, Chris and Ariel discussing sexuality and gender identity on a couch over wine they probably got from Target. And that’s no shade. Target has a decent selection.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Bless her heart: It’s been mighty rough for Tamar Braxton within the last year.

Not only was she forced to leave Dancing With the Stars because of a life-threatening health crisis, but her very good album, Calling All Lovers, caught the fade from consumers. Now one of the biggest breaks in her post-Braxton Family Values career—a slot on the hit daytime talk show The Real—has come to an abrupt end. While the official announcement claims that it was a mutual decision, the first outlet to report the news notes that Braxton was fired—something Braxton’s own fiery Instagram post suggests, since it claims “backstabbing.” Braxton didn’t name names, but she did unfollow everyone on the show except for her now-former-co-host-closest-to-the-ideals-of-Jesus, Tamera Mowry-Housley.

Quoting what it describes as a “very reliable source” (Wendy Williams suggested that it was Loni Love on Monday’s edition of The Wendy Williams Show), Love B. Scott reported: “Tamar Braxton just got fired from The Real. She wasn’t reading too well with the audience and sales people didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers. Also, production found her too difficult to deal with.”

Of course, when one reads phrasing like “didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers,” certain sensitivities are triggered. One of those includes the notion that maybe, just maybe, Tamar was too loud, and her rolling neck too active, to shill, oh, I don’t know, diet products, kale chips, Cheetos or whatever else daytime TV typically advertises. My people, my people. I feel you, but not in this instance.

Let’s be clear about The Real: Everyone on this show is loud minus Tamera, so while Tamar may be the real-life version of BET’s old cartoon character Cita, Loni Love has a volume set just as high (Jesus’ alarm clock).

As a longtime fan of Tamar Braxton’s (I listen regularly to the first album she pretends never happened), I think this is a teachable moment because I can totally see why Tamar might have gotten the boot. For one, she wasn’t always the most pleasant person on the panel. Her eyes rolled as hard as my body does after my sixth tequila drink (save the judgment) and the DJ turns on Beyoncé’s “Sorry.” She tended to talk over her fellow panelists. She could be dismissive here and there of their feelings, too.

In sum, she treated her co-workers the way Towanda Braxton claims she treats her sisters. The problem, though, is that there is no Mama Braxton to come and save her from their criticism. Moreover, these are co-workers, not kinfolk. Production doesn’t have to put up with you, especially once they realize that they don’t need you to survive. So as special as Tamar Braxton is and as magnetic a personality many find her, we’re all dispensable.

Shoutout to Star Jones and Rosie Perez.

I’m not Iyanla Vanzant, but I have a few suggestions for the littlest Braxton.

Read the rest at The Root.

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I’ve made it clear that I understood booking Madonna for a Prince tribute at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was BS in theory. So, now after actually watching the tribute last night, believe me when I tell you that I am reveling in all my truth the day after. God bless Madonna because I am a fan, but that tribute was not it. It was not even a lil’ bit of it.

The first problem with the tribute was song selection. I understand that Madonna really, really likes to sing, and to her credit, has worked hard over the years to maintain the voice that she has. Unfortunately, that voice remains incapable of delivering the emotion attached to the Prince songs she opted to cover. I wish she had hit her girl, Ursula The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid on the hip and asked for a solid in order to secure a better voice for the occasion. Or, you know, Madonna could have just danced through a bunch of Prince’s uptempo tracks while others – including, I don’t know, some of the folks Prince worked with extensively over the years – would be left to handle the heavy weight.

Let’s talk about the set list, shall we? Madonna should have been covering “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” or hell, even “Raspberry Beret.” Not, by any stretch, the two she opted for: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain.” Speaking of the former, why exactly was Madonna singing the Sinead O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U?” If you’re going to sing a Prince song, sing the Prince song the way Prince actually sang it.

Beloved, WYD?

And what was with that cheap added instrumentation behind the track? Prince, the legendary and extremely gifted musician, would not have been pleased with such dollar-store sounding trickery. I know the always touring Madge knows better.

Speaking of well-meaning intentions going the way of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, why was Madonna dressed more like Liberace than the Purple One? Let’s reflect more on this: Madonna, queen of the visual, dressed like Michael Douglas’ body double in Behind the Candelabra for a Prince tribute.

Beloved, WYD?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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Of Beyoncé’s talents, her greatest might be her ability to make so many black women feel good and recognized in a world that actively tries to make them feel everything but. She makes my sister feel powerful, and my nieces feel beautiful and capable of achieving anything. She comforts, excites, and empowers my female friends in ways no man ever could. More often than not, Beyoncé makes art explicitly for black women. Of course, the rest of us are welcome to partake and enjoy, but her mission is clear.

Her short film, LEMONADE, which serves as the visual component of her album of the same name, is now the greatest example of this. LEMONADE is an hour-long account of personal heartbreak and perseverance that serves as an ode to black womanhood. It is for black women who have been handed lemons all their lives and manage to make something better of it all the same.

The film is incredibly ambitious. It spans several locations, urban and rural, intimate and expansive. We watch her levitate; writhe in water; leap from a building; take bats to some presumably trifling man’s car. She also rents a stadium that has hosted the Super Bowl like it’s a PO box.

There are other feats, too. Say, managing to wear black and yellow and looking stunning, as opposed to my normal association: a big ass bubble bee. Serena Williams, a spectacle for many wonderful reasons, makes an appearance, twerking for the Queen while Beyoncé pays subtle homage to the tennis star’s illuminating cover on a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.

And the looks! So many looks. The styling, the makeup, and the hair are all impeccable. One minute Beyoncé looks like she stepped off the runway, the next it’s as if she’s fresh from knocking the teeth out of the mouth of a side chick. Minutes later, her attire and stage setup suggest she’s summoning Satan for the turn up.

It’s sensory overload in the best way imaginable.

And like the “Formation” video, it’s black as fuck. Like that video, there are so many facets of blackness on display—Southern American blackness in particular. You might have to be from Texas or Louisiana to relate fully; I take immense joy in watching my fellow Houston native ride a horse down the street ever so casually. The same for the sight of marching bands and majorettes. This is everyday to many of us and it will never not be endearing how Beyoncé keeps how she grew up so close to her while also sharing it with the world.

Now, like many, there are numerous moments in which one wants to shout out, “What the hell did you do to Beyoncé, Jay Z?!” Follow up question: Do we need to put you back in an elevator with Solange, big homie?

Read the rest at Complex.

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Beyoncé shocked the world on Saturday night, but in some ways, her sixth album, Lemonade, isn’t all that different from its predecessor.

Like the Houston native’s eponymous fifth LP, Lemonade arrived after a lengthy bout of uncertainty: The album appeared on Tidal without warning, assuaging frantic fans with new tracks and captivating visuals to match. Lemonade also mirrors the structure of Beyoncé, with slow, haunting production that gives way to harder beats and a more intense delivery from the singer. Then she settles back down a bit, offering midtempo tracks and poignant ballads.

That said, the difference between Lemonade and Beyoncé is much like the difference between Beyoncé and 2011’s 4: The artist took something pretty damn amazing and had the audacity to make it even better.

Lemonade feels fuller because it features a wider range of emotions. Both albums deal with love; only here, someone not named Beyoncé screwed up, and it’s evident from the opening line of the album: “You can taste the dishonesty/It’s all over your breath as you pass it off so cavalier.”

Beyoncé is pissed, and angry Bey is a treat more listeners might finally appreciate thanks to this album. On her sophomore effort, B’Day, Beyoncé released “Ring the Alarm,” which was right in its tone and delivery – “I been through this too long/But I’ll be damned if I see another chick on your arm” – but nonetheless missed the mark: The song’s materialistic lyrics (“She gon’ be rockin’ chinchilla coats if I let you go …”) made it seem hollow. Here, her fury hits home because it stems from what feels like real heartbreak. This album isn’t about a chinchilla fur; it’s about figuring out what to do in light of broken promises.

On “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Beyoncé sneers, “Who the fuck do you think I am?/You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.” Next comes “Sorry,” where she informs us, “Me and my baby, we gon’ be alright/We gon’ live a good life/Big Homie better grow up.”

There’s already debate as to whether or not Beyoncé would really expose marital problems – namely her husband’s infidelity – to the masses. It’s hard to parse whether or not some of the material references her experiences with Jay Z, or her father, Mathew Knowles, or perhaps an imaginary scenario that’s serving as good practice for a future dramatic role she hopes will secure her an Oscar nomination.

Whatever the backstory, she sounds dead serious when she says, “I’mma fuck me up a bitch,” and, “If you try this shit again, you gon’ lose your wife.” Anyone who swings a bat like that means what they say. The same goes for the longing in the gorgeous “Love Drought,” the sadness that’s echoed in “Sandcastles,” and the joy of rejuvenated love in “All Night.” Lemonade feels like a breakup record, but there is forgiveness at its conclusion.

Read more at Rolling Stone.

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It is no secret that black creatives bear the burden of prejudices assigned to them for no other reason than complexion. We can be marginalized and segregated while simultaneously noticing that our white brethren are free to navigate numerous spaces—even the ones we’re by and large told to sit tight. Unfortunately, black women deal with this on an even greater scale than black men.

Black men—rappers and select singers alike—are still heard on multiple formats on radio. Meanwhile, if you want to hear a black woman, your options are far more limited. A few have openly discussed this—notably Jazmine Sullivan, who recently acknowledged her frustration with the likes of Adele enjoying superstardom while she of equal talents and gifts is not as lucky. However, no contemporary black female artist has been as vocal about her vexation with the state of the music industry and black women’s role in it than K. Michelle.

Last November, the Memphis-bred singer-songwriter and reality star announced an album title that further ignited conversation: I Ain’t White, But I Hope You Like. When asked about the title on Twitter, K. Michelle explained: “I’m sick of executives telling me I can’t sing certain songs because I’m black. I grew up on country, let me sing.”

Around that same time, K. Michelle took to Instagram to write: “Have you heard an amazing URBAN ballad on your Urban radio stations lately? Nope. You won’t without a fight. We have to sing songs like Fuck a man, about drugs, and sex all day in order to get mainstream radio play. I was JUST told by an executive that NO ONE wants to sign a Black woman soul artist, because they can’t promote it or make their money back.”

Despite those obstacles, K. Michelle has managed to enjoy some creative growth even if it may seemingly come with compromise. To wit, K. Michelle’s third album now has a different and far less polarizing title in More Issues Than Vogue. I prefer the original title, but the album does offer material that speaks to the critique of I Ain’t White, But I Hope You Like.

“If It Ain’t Love” is a country-influenced tune, though to K. Michelle’s credit, she showed her love of country via “God I Get It” from her last album. But, there are songs like “Make The Bed,” a duet with Jason Derülo that screams “Top 40 can get it.” It’s a good song though not the sort of track I would expect to hear from K. Michelle. The same applies the album’s lead single, “Not A Little Bit.”

Of course, there is plenty of familiarity to be found overall.

While she may not want to be burdened with having to record trap-inspired tracks solely because she is a black artist, there are elements scattered across the album. You hear it on “Ain’t You” and “Nightstand.” What works to K. Michelle’s benefit is that unlike many of the mindless artist flooding the market with cloning, she has a very distinct point of view and voice. Likewise, there is a certain wit and frankness to her lyrics that make every song undeniably hers. Say, on “These Men,” in which K. Michelle sings, “Then I tried Idris [Laughs.] and he still can get it/Even if he ain’t shit.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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When I saw the first commercial for The Carmichael Show, I had very little interest in watching the show. As happy as I was to see another Black show on network television, it looked a wee bit too familiar. My feelings on multi-camera sitcoms are akin to Kanye West’s thoughts on suit jackets and CDs: I’m over them. Multi-camera shows tend to be a bit less inventive and too reliant on television tropes that feel far beyond passé in 2016. Simply put, I was not into the idea of checking out Throwback Thursday TV.

However, after watching The Carmichael Show’s six-episode run that aired last summer by way of Hulu, my feelings have changed. Unlike Donald Trump on any given debate stage, I can admit that I was wrong. Mr. Trump should listen to more Mary J. Blige and K. Michelle. It would change his life.

In any event, the show is still very much a standard family sitcom. Its premise is pretty banal: Jerrod (played by comedian Jerrod Carmichael) finds himself torn between his liberal, therapist-in-training girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West) and his old-fashioned parents, blue-collar dad Joe (David Allen Grier) and Jesus-praising mama Cynthia (Loretta Devine). Jerrod and Maxine move in together and hilarity ensues between them and Jerrod’s family.

And yet, while The Carmichael Show has a simple plotline, it is not a simplistic show. Likewise, while its multi-camera format may feel familiar, the show harkens back more so to family sitcoms of the 1970s than the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s. Shows like Good Times and All in the Family tackled issues like racism, classism, and poverty, whereas many of the shows that came in the following decades did not. That is, with the exception of sitcoms like Roc in the early 1990s, which was the first TV show to feature a gay wedding, and Everybody Hates Chris, the early 2000s sitcom that made chronicling racism a priority. Outside of those, though, most Black-centered sitcoms have relatively played it safe in terms of pushing storylines tied to social and/or political issues.

Shows like ABC’s black-ish, Survivor’s Remorse on Starz, and now The Carmichael Show are bringing back a level of awareness that had been missing from Black TV. black-ish is superb television and in its second season, shown itself to be in a league of its own, but as others have pointed out, The Carmichael Show took on Black Lives Matter and gun violence first. The TCS also tackles politics, gender and sexuality. It’s episode guide confirms that each show tackles a particular subject with titles like “Protest,” “Gender,” “Gentrifying Bobby,” and “Prayer.”

To wit, in last night’s season two preview, the subject of cheating surfaces and Jerrod notes the double standard applied to men and women: “Hillary Clinton’s running for president, and we think she’s weak because she should have left,” he says. “But if Bill Clinton walked through that door, we’d all go, ‘Oh my God, it’s Bill Clinton!’”

Read the rest at VH1.

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You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.

No one is as equal parts gracious and commanding while essentially saying “fuck you” as Beyoncé is.

She may no longer communicate the way many would her prefer her to—i.e. interviews—but she is increasingly making sure her voice gets heard. Beyoncé’s new song “Formation” takes numerous shots, each one finding a deserving target. For anyone who thinks there is a secret, evil organization in which Satan and some Scooby Doo-like villains are trying to poison the minds of the masses via secret symbols in videos for songs like “Freakum Dress,” Beyoncé just offered you a sip of shut the hell up. Sip, sip, bitches.

Likewise, for those who engaged in the anti-blackness that questioned Beyoncé’s choice in spouses and the hair texture of her daughter, she couldn’t give any less of a damn. She likes her baby’s Afro and she is perfectly fine with her husband’s Jackson 5 nostrils. Y’all can go fly directly to hell if you don’t like it, and that includes some black folks, too, who are as equally guilty as others for perpetuating the notion that black in every shape, form, and texture is not beautiful.

And then there is the gorgeous, powerful scenery throughout the video.

The biggest pop star of her generation opened her latest video with the drowning of a New Orleans police car. That is two-fold a critique of the treatment of black New Orleanians during Hurricane Katrina and the continued onslaught of state sanctioned violence aimed squarely at black women, men, and children.

The shot of that young black boy in a hoodie before a row of cops in SWAT gear with their hands up will stay with me forever. As will that cop car sinking into the water as Beyoncé lays on top of it. For any cop or cop supporter who finds themselves offended by that imagery, imagine what it is like to be black in this country and rightly fear that you could easily be lying in a pool of your own blood from some trigger-happy, hateful police officer protected by a system that devalues black life.

Meanwhile, for those who are offended when Mr. and Mrs. Jay Z/Mr. and Mrs. Beyoncé don’t speak on social and political issues, look what Houston’s finest just did here. She commented on everything. While dancing down. Over a Mike WiLL Made-It production, which by the way, did not include his tag.

Even that tidbit along with the rest of the information proves Beyoncé is powerful and will wield that power however she sees fit.

No one is as important a pop star to me as Beyoncé. Beyoncé is getting her just due for creating what is being hailed as a very pro-black song and video in “Formation,” but the truth about Beyoncé is that she’s always been very black. She’s been very consistent with offering the world a very specific strain of blackness: black, Southern, and country. This strain has not always been as welcomed as others. She makes no apologies for who she is nor should she.

Read the rest at Complex.

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