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Mere moments into her edition of “Iyanla Exclusive,” Karrueche Tran, answered the question I and many others wondered: Why in the hell would she elect to do this show? Tran answered by telling the also curious Iyanla Vanzant, “I want my voice to be heard.” As much as the public has judged her for relationship with on again, off again boyfriend Chris Brown to mistreat her, it’s easy to understand why.

Unfortunately, “Iyanla Exclusive: Karrueche Tran” wasn’t the best forum for an otherwise reasonable goal. Based on her manager’s interjection at one point during the interview, those closed to Tran began to draw the same realization.

Iyanla Vanzant, who I often like to Mama Odie from The Princess and the Frog, is that auntie I never tell my business to ’cause I know it’s only a matter of time before I say, “Girl, gon’ and leave me alone.”

Based on what little viewing of the show I’ve seen in the past, Vanzant has a knack for putting the onus of dating a problematic man onto the woman. Sure, we have to all recognize what is it about us that draws these people, but one part of life—particularly when you’re 26-years-old—is learning to see who you mesh with and who you don’t. That times time. It’s all about trial and error. Very few have their romantic lives figured out in their mid-20s.

And for all her stabs at Tran for dating Chris Brown, presumably because he’s rich and famous, Vanzant sounded like an elder stateswoman of “Team Breezy” with some of her line of questioning. Say, “Where was Chris Brown taking you to dinner?” What soul searching can be taken out of that inquiry, beloveds?

In others, Vanzant just sounded judgmental—notably when she asked Tran, “Did you sleep with him too fast?” Also: “So are you clear you are famous by association?”

It is also came across extremely low and petty to question Tran when she says Brown loved her. Maybe he didn’t know how to love her because he’s so broken himself, but it felt unnecessary to project doubt onto that sentiment.

And spare me the “daddy-less daughter” commentary and that acronym for bitch, which is apparently a “Broad In [Total] Control of Herself.”

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Here’s a movie premise that you may have heard before: an uptight, corny white man finds a Magical Negro to save him. In this instance, the Magical Negro is called upon to toughen up the corny white man before he goes to prison and suffers a decade of unwanted anal penetration. The movie stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, and it begins with Will Ferrell sobbing profusely as Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” plays. Fuck this movie.

Get Hard tries to highlight the reality that there are two very different sides to Los Angeles. The problem is that it does so in the most cartoonish way possible. Ferrell plays James King, a millionaire working in the finance industry, who is engaged to his boss’s daughter and is named partner in his firm. Then, dun-dun-dun, he is suddenly arrested for fraud and sentenced to the harshest sentence: 10 years at a maximum security prison. His would-be father-in-law says he will make sure his “investigators” find the real culprit.

I’ll leave you one guess on where this predictable ass movie leads you with that “investigation.”

Meanwhile, Darnell Lewis, played by Hart, cannot secure a home loan in order to lead his family into a better life, one that doesn’t include his young daughter being scanned with a metal detector at her South Central elementary school.

James and Darnell only know each other because Darnell works at the car wash in the garage of James’ office building. Before James is convicted, there is a scene where Darnell, in a hoodie, approaches James’ car whereupon James begins to scream and cry for help. Once James realizes Darnell is holding his keys though, he assures him he would do the same thing if he was white. Typical white people proverb.

Later, after James finds himself abandoned by his fiancé and Darnell discovers him sleeping in the trunk of his own car, they come up with a mutually beneficial deal: James will be taught how to survive in prison and Darnell will get the $30,000 needed for a down payment on a home.

You know, because, “They fucking in San Quinton. Everyone gets the dick.”

The “hilarity” of it all is that Darnel knows absolutely nothing about prison. He is not one of those kind of blacks; he’s just black. James merely stereotyped him. How funny.

This recalls a piece Jazmine Hughes wrote for The New Republic and discussed on the “Another Round” podcast on the problem with white people poking fun at themselves. In theory, self-deprecation is good, but there are levels, not to mention a certain level of self-awareness required in order to make such attempts not come off irritating as hell. This movie does not have such awareness.

What good is poking fun at racial stereotyping if you have to rely on so many of those same damn stereotypes to tell a story?

To that end, fuck this movie.

Yes, “White People Be Like” James, but white people also enjoy financing bullshit movies like this. It gives a wink to white idiocy while continuing to perpetuate falsehoods about black people without any real challenge to the status quo.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Although I share Justin Charity’s sentiments about the Empire soundtrack, based on the sales projections [Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this piece, this happened.], the fish fry I went to ’bout a week ago, and audience members of The Wendy Williams Show, no one gives a damn about our thoughts and feelings about how awful much of the music on the show is. Very much like the other FOX musical-based drama before it, Glee, with great success comes the opportunity to jump on the money train heading straight for the Billboard charts. Now, just because the chance is there doesn’t mean it will happen—see copies of Lea Michele’s album collecting dust at a store near you—but it does beg the question, “Who on this show could really make a way in real life?”

I’m here to answer.

Terrence Howard, a.k.a. Lucious Lyon

Do you remember Terrence Howard’s debut album, Shine Through It? It was fucking hilarious. I imagine he thought he was going to be the coffee shop or Shug’s Juke Joint equivalent of Jamie Foxx’s solo career, but ultimately, no one bought his album and most people blocked it from memory. It’s not that Terrence Howard cannot sing or is not musically inclined. He has a voice, but like, Marsha Ambrosius, sings as if he’s doing so while inside of a haunted house. I imagine Howard is itching to put that perm back in and give singing another go. Don’t go chase waterfalls; please stick to the soundtrack cuts that you’re contractually obligated to commit to. No more.

Bryshere Gray, a.k.a. Hakeem Lyon

My hate for “Drip Drop” has been remarkably strong. However, I have to confess my sins: When Bryshere Gray made an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, I joined the moms, gays, and homegirls in dancing and reciting “Drip Drop” line for line. Does that mean I think Gray, who will go by Yazz when he releases music, will be as big as the rapper Hakeem is on the show? I won’t go that far, but Rae Sremmurd is out here flourishing, so with the right beat and hook, maybe Yazz can score a couple of hits as Roscoe Dash Jr., Tyga the futureSVU-storyline version.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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There’s a reality show starring two Black women working in music that relies upon several familiar tropes within the genre: infidelity, family strife, finding balance between work and family, seemingly shady business partners, and the pursuit of greater celebrity. However, very few tackle these issues the way WeTV’s Mary Mary does. The show, which launched its fourth season last night, stars Mary Mary members and sisters Erica and Tina Campbell.

The two handle conflict differently because as gospel artists, they are not able to curse people out, throw wine bottles, or snatch each other bald. If either of them did on their reality show, “the Saints” would surely soil their legacy and send them directly into the saturated land of secular music. As an avid viewer of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem if the Marys did any of the aforementioned, though it is refreshing to see that they do not.

All reality shows need conflict to work, and if the aim is to be truly successful, lots of drama. Mary Mary offers both, but again, without any of the behavior that your more respectable cousin would deem “ratchet.” Feel free to insert your “amen” here. Or a “boo, hiss.” Whatever’s clever, beloved.

Last season, Tina Campbell had to grapple with the reality that her husband, Teddy Campbell, has been unfaithful. Tina revealed this in her EBONY cover story, but as we learned in season three, had no idea that his infidelity included numerous women spanning several years. Her level of anger was equally measured to the number of times in which he played her.

In many ways, Teddy is Saved Stevie J, but Tina is no Mimi or Joseline. She threw him out and contemplated divorce, and while she ultimately decided to take him back, she did not pretend Jesus would lock her out of heaven if she decided to end her marriage because her husband broke his vows several times over.

Read more at EBONY.

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No one under the age of 40 who values their nerves gives Grammy voters the benefit of the doubt. While they certainly have awarded younger acts in major categories, more often than not, it is in categories like Record and Song of the Year. And more often than not, when it comes to the largest prize of the night, Album of the Year, it is often reserved for an artist whose critical and commercial dominance have long peaked. When someone younger does win, it is for a body of work that sounds mature (re: old) and tonally somber. If it majorly sounds youthful, audacious, loud, and unapologetic, you can count on it being passed over.

It’s why both Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock have bested Kanye West twice in this category, and why Beyoncé was passed over last night in favor of Beck’s Morning Phase. Beck’s album is just as critically lauded as BEYONCÉ, though in terms of impact, it’s not even close.

Although he jumped the stage in jest at the time, Kanye West was very much upset that Beyoncé did not win, telling E! News in an interview after the telecast, “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé.”

It’s a nice thought—Black artists boycotting a show that continues to treat them like a date that’s good enough to sleep with, but not to introduce to your family – though it’s highly unlikely to happen. Ever gracious, Beck said in response, “I thought she was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé!”

Beck’s album was loved, but matter how you feel about his win, it has very little to do with him. When is the last time a Black girl singing (and rapping, at select points) won Album of the Year at the Grammys? Yes, Beyoncé now has 20 Grammys, but they’re largely relegated to R&B categories; she’s been cheated out of major awards in the past. She’ll probably win Album of the Year 20 years too late for some album that consists of performing jazz standards with Jay Z and Blue Ivy. Meanwhile, some other 20 or 30-something Black act will be in the position she was yesterday.

And this is why I enjoy the BET Awards more than the Grammys.

As for the Grammys, and its biggest winner, Sam Smith: yawn.

Again, Sam Smith can sing, but his Coke Zero version of soul is too blasé for my taste, and after that whole Tom Petty fiasco, I’m even less impressed. Grammy producers had better pacing for the show than in year’s past, though everything felt too ballad-heavy. The most energetic performance of the night belonged to 56-year-old pop deity and eternal attention whore, Madonna. Even so, she’s finally beginning to show signs that her eight-count ain’t what it used to be.

The seriousness of the Grammy set list worked in some areas. Katy Perry spotlighted domestic violence through her performance, though admittedly, I was thrown off by a few things: Her sounding good live; her wearing Solange’s wedding dress; White people doing spoken word and praise dancing.

Read more at EBONY.

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When Jazmine Sullivan finally returned with new music via “Dumb,” featuring fellow PhiladelphianMeek Mill, the moment sort of came and went. It’s not that people haven’t been yearning for her return since she took to Twitter exactly four years ago to say she was taking time away from music; but the track did not command attention the way previous offerings like “Need You Bad” and “Bust Your Windows” did.

Recently, Sullivan was asked if “Elevatorgate” involving Solange, Jay Z, and Beyoncé had something to do with the single’s lack of attention in an interview with Power 105’s “The Breakfast Club.” Sullivan answered: “I did feel like that situation kind of took away from it, but it’s cool. I got a lot more songs on the album that I personally think are doper.”

The Carters and Sister Knowles don’t have anything to do with it; it’s evident by the reaction to the “doper” songs.

Excitement was there for other offerings like “Forever Don’t Last,” which is simple in its production (just acoustic guitar and vocals) but far more of a statement because it’s Sullivan at her best: painting a picture with her lyrics, capturing the tone of breakup perfectly with her voice, and letting both carry the song. However, on the other release from her new album, Reality Show,“Mascara,” Sullivan sings with the immediacy and flair of a rapper.

“Yeah, my hair and my ass fake, but so what? I get my rent paid with it.”

Initially, I likened the track to Amy Winehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps.” Yet, Sullivan is not bashing “those kind of girls” the way Winehouse once skewered. The point of Reality Show, and perhaps, Sullivan’s mission moving forward, is to lend voice to women who often find themselves the subject of conversation, but never with a microphone. In theory, that’s the purpose of reality TV, though as VH1, Oxygen, and Bravo have taught us, that isn’t always the case.

Read the rest at Complex.

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After the airing of the comically abysmal Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, Lifetime and first-time director Angela Bassett had it pretty easy when it came to their Whitney Houston biopic: just don’t be as awful as that movie and reap the benefits of low expectations. 

In that respect, Whitney won; it is not terrible, and if nothing else, watchable. However, a movie about an artist as captivating on and off stage as Whitney Houston deserves more than just passable competence (and that’s being generous). Similarly, if you’re going to call the movie Whitney, it should not come across as a project that would’ve been served better had it been called The Miseducation of Bobby Brown

We knew Whitney would cover the first five years of Whitney Houston’s tumultuous relationship with the “Kang of R&B,” Bobby Brown, but none of us were clued into how skewed the narrative would play in Bobby’s favor. In this movie, Bobby was some wide-eyed second tier singer who behaved as if he hadn’t ever been anywhere when he met Whitney. This, despite the reality that Bobby Brown had been famous since he was a very young teenager as a part of New Edition and netted his own colossal fame as a solo act in the 1980s.

That’s the least mind-boggling of the twists, though.

This sweet, suburbanized Bobby Brown remained sober with Whitney until well into an hour after the movie started. By comparison, Whitney and her nose were regularly deep snow diving within the first half hour. And she noticeably got high whenever Bobby pissed her off.

As for Bobby, you know, he was just a sweet man. He loved Whitney so much and did everything he could to make her feel her best self. Ever the gentleman, he unselfishly supported her booming career as his declined. Both Whitney and Bobby have made statements that counter that talking point, but why bother with accuracy when making a movie about someone’s life? At one point, I was waiting for Bobby to leave Whitney to go hang out with Jesus and MLK at Oprah’s house.

I am not one of those people still clinging to the pristine, upper class girl image that Clive Davis crafted for Whitney Houston. Nor do I believe Bobby Brown was a monster that brought Whitney down. Bobby could’ve very well been just a casual drug user and alcoholic who through his relationship with Whitney became a hardcore user.

Either way, what we see in Whitney feels unfair to its namesake.

Read the rest at Complex.

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When it comes to plastic surgery, there’s a thin line between Kelly Rowland and Lil’ Kim, any face after the La Bella Mafia album.

The general consensus is that some cosmetic work looks better than others, but far too often and more frequently than ever do we forget than it’s about choice and no matter how we feel about it, there should be some level of respect for people choosing to do as they please with their bodies. For Danity Kane standout turned solo artist Dawn Richard, she unfortunately finds herself routinely ostracized for her noticeably slimmer nose.

Last month, seemingly fed up with it, she took to Instagram and posted: “Same people saying this ‘she was prettier before’ crap are the people that said I was a tranny in 2009. Make up your mind lawd. Meanwhile I’m really a cyborg ( I see this post went over damn near everyone’s head) lmao.”

And on Twitter, she responded to a fan who wrote “God don’t recognize you,” with “as long as the checks still recognize me we good.”

Amen.

Her clap back has not stopped the criticism. With every new Instagram upload comes a virtual back and forth about her new nose. One user left the comment, “The fuck u done to your nose?”

The answer is simple: what she wanted to do with it.

But, when it comes to surgery, particularly when a Black person does it and the target is their nose, the projections creep in. On some level, it’s understandable. One of the most famous Black families ever – the Jacksons – saw an overwhelming majority of its members chop their noses down substantially. Their father, Joe Jackson, beat it into their psyches that their broad, especially Black noses was a trait to cry over as opposed to celebrate – sending them all running to surgeons at light speed.

Some got noticeably carried away and now the stigma applies to any famous Black person who follows suit. And as previously mentioned, Lil’ Kim has remixed her face to the point where she is completely unrecognizable from the woman we met in 1996. Yes, many of us have stigmas about big noses, but maybe it’s time we learn to give our peers the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t know why Dawn Richards decided to change her face. On some level, maybe the criticism – transphobic and audaciously ugly – got to her and sparked her desire to change. In 2012, Dawn was asked about the hardships darker skinned Black women face in R&B (in a very bleak period for the genre at that) and while discussing major labels liking her work but weary of signing her noted, “Why would you take a risk on a brown girl? There’s no brown girl considered pretty right now poppin’ in the game. A dark skinned game. Kelly Rowland? There are, but I’m talking about in that crossover world. They’re not allowing it.”

I don’t know if the new face is in conjunction with the promotion of her new album, Blackheart, out this week, or if it’s mere coincidence.

I am sure of a few things, though. Her work appears tasteful; she looks pretty, though she was a standout before the smaller nose. Even if the work is connected to the pressures of being a Black woman trying to excel in the entertainment industry, she should not be attacked relentlessly for doing what she thought was best to deal with the burdens of a disease she didn’t create. There’s also a difference between sending someone a positive affirmation in the name of promoting self-love and policing someone’s body.

Read more at EBONY.

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The best part of Empire’s second episode is the same as last week’s series premiere: Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson). She’s rude as hell, abrasive, and randomly shows up at other people’s houses and asks for bacon. In other words, she’s perfect. Now, the worst part of this show thus far is the music we’re being subjected to between scenes, but let’s accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Cookie and Lucious continue to wrestle over control of Empire Entertainment, but more specifically, the fate of their two sons: Jamal and Hakeem. Cookie arrives at Lucious’ estate to demand that Jamal, the icky gay one in Lucious’ eyes, be allowed perform at the opening of Leviticus, Lucious’ new club. Just like Hakeem. Lucious says no and Cookie blurts out in front of Lucious’ new wife, Anika, that it was her $400,000 in drug money that launched Empire Entertainment.

Lucious reminds Cookie that she signed a nondisclosure agreement, though one wonders why he, an ex-drug dealer himself, would think an NDA would spook a woman who just did hard time for a drug charge.

Meanwhile, we learn that Cookie and Lucious’ other son, the scheming suit Andre, has bipolar disorder. He’s not taking his meds, though, so his wife pushes him to do so as best she knows how: by seducing him and performing fellatio…with a bib. That’s like head for neat freaks, but if that’s a turn-on for some people, salute.

Speaking of illnesses, Lucious’ assistant, Becky, uses his bathroom and after nosily looking up his prescription meds, realizes that her boss has ALS. No one else can know, Lucious explains, and since Becky seems loyal, it’ll be a while before the rest find out. One quick note: I’m glad Lucious lost the perm, but can we get Becky a new wig?

Andre may not be taking his meds, but he’s still pitting his parents and siblings against each other in a power grab. When Cookie’s assistant Porsha—who is amazing, by the way—suggests that Jamal come out via press conference, Andre tells Lucious, who instantly gets pissed and threatens to cut Jamal off financially.

Lucious tells Jamal that if he comes out, Empire Records will lose artists. This is where it gets tricky. On one end, we watch Lucious apologize to President Obama when Hakeem’s video of him acting an ass and trashing POTUS go viral, which suggests this show is set in 2015. But then we’re met with some homophobia in hip-hop scenario that reads as dated. Yes, there is homophobia in hip-hop, and in the black community too, but in 2015 would a gay artist on a label really scare a bunch of rappers away?

Some would immediately answer yes, but over the years Jay Z has voiced support for marriage equality while rappers like Fat Joe, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, 50 Cent and others have disavowed homophobia. Frank Ocean’s success is pretty much a testament that the tide is changing. I’d love to compare this to the worlds of country and rock music.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I’ve been recapping the Love & Hip Hop franchise for about two years now, though I intentionally didn’t seek out trying to write about the newest season of its flagship, Love & Hip Hop: New York.

As much as I enjoy Atlanta and now Hollywood, the New York edition tends to depress me. Even in the mess of Atlanta, there is a lot of humor there. Hollywood, too, only as the season dragged on, I noticed it was getting funny in “Ha ha, I’ll be dead soon, so fuck you pain, I’m leaving anyway” fashion. But with New York, it’s just sad on top of sad.

Like, I can find the humor in the neighborhood drunk saying outlandish things at the gas station, the liquor store, and the Church’s chicken drive-thru. However, it becomes less funny when you tell me he’s actually a schizophrenic who is self-medicating. Yes, I’m speaking from experience, and yes, I think this perfectly explains why I’m weary on writing about New York. I have been watching, though, and I have a few thoughts, particularly about the most recent episode.

Yo, these motherfuckers put the r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u in ridiculous.

For starters, there is Diamond, who admittedly went to New York without her child to live with a man she dated from a distance for two years. Oh, and she wants to pursue modeling because of course she does. They are so close as a couple, and yet, Diamond never told Cisco that she has a baby that’s old enough to say, “Mama, I want some McNuggets with a girl toy.” Once she arrives in New York, this boyfriend sets her up to live with someone else.

I don’t even know you and I hate you…

Once she finally decides to tell her “boyfriend” about the baby she had more than ’bout a week ago, he spazzes on her and proceeds to belittle her and whatever lil’ relationship they had. He has trust issues, which Darryl Strawberry’s daughter just triggered. But surprise, surprise, this man has a baby his damn self and he made it while the two were “dating.”

Diamond’s mama is like, “Bitch, I told you about this man. Bring your ass home.” Diamond doesn’t want to come home, but her mama wants to find him on the street. I like Diamond’s mama. Can she be on this show? She looks like Yolanda Adams, but without the wealth. So tanned, older Mimi Faust.

That’s no shade because based on mama’s conversation with Diamond’s sort of boo thang, she slaps the shit out of people with brass knuckles.

This man is not even the worst person on this show.

That contest is between Peter Gunz and Erica Mena.

The thing about Erica and Cyn’s relationship is that it was always like Tia and Tamera pretending to be lesbians, minus the incest aspect. They’re literally the same person – Latina women looking for a come up by way of companionship – so it was only a matter of time before another person’s genitalia smacked one in the mouth, and the other, in the heart. Cyn is mad at Erica because she licked champagne off the ass of another woman at a club party she got paid some money to “host.” Erica becomes mad at Cyn after he gay homeboy claims Cyn is fucking some dude in Dyckman.

What I like about Cyn is that she calls Erica on her bullshit. Plus, she’s really, really fine. I don’t swing that way, but I definitely wouldn’t mind forming an exploratory committee.

Now, my fellow Bison Yandy: Girl, look at your life and look at your choices.

I mean, yes Mendeecees is bae and kind of bae, but he’s on bond awaiting a drug related trial with the fucking feds. So, with that intel in mind, why would Yandy gleefully show up to the basketball court with a gift wrapped positive pregnancy taste? First of all, that’s one of the most hood sentences I’ve ever typed. Like, even more than, “My pops has gold trim and is still talking about stabbing niggas at 60.”

Even Mendeecees is telling Yandy how he love the kids, but I caught a case, remember? In response, she still grins to say, “Well, I mean, I’ll bring the kids to see you in prison.” He’s like yo-yo-yo, don’t say no shit like that. Wait, did I just top the most hood sentence honors already?

Then there is Tara, who swears she’s taking romantic getaways with the man who cheated on her and married someone else after spending his entire life being an unattainable bachelor “for the kids.” She fixed her mouth to say, “We are going to give the boys something to remember.” Yes, because your young children need to remember you backing your ass up on daddy in the Caribbean.

And because Peter has no soul, he lied to his wife, Amina, about his whereabouts. He told Amina’s ditzy self that he hopped on a plane to work on a deal for “an energy drink in Trinidad.” He used this as an opportunity to try and get back with Tara, and at one point, told her to own up to the reality that if she weren’t still interested in him, she wouldn’t have gone on that trip.

That seemed to spark the light her ass needed to finally blow up on his cheating ass. It was the best Tyler Perry scene ever. Think: If Tyler knew what he was doing.

Bottom line, she yelled at him a lot – deservingly so – and took a butcher knife to his bullshit. She let him know, “I want you to leave me the fuck alone. I gave you time.” Yes, Tara. Exhale, shoop shoop.

As for Chrissy, that white woman with Chink Santana, aka the dude who worked with Ashanti when the world really cared is a lot, what in the hell is this supposed to be? She comes out of nowhere to claim she was the Heidi Fleiss of the hood during the Reconstruction era and that Erica used to work for her. It’s not that I couldn’t see Erica as an escort; I could see that shit without my contacts. However, I believe Erica when she says that woman just wants to use her for camera time.

With respect to her relationship problems: Your boyfriend is married; case dismissed.

See everyone in Atlanta.

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