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If I could describe Blackbird in three words, I would choose “protect your neck.” The movie is a little over 90 minutes long, but has a miniseries’ worth of materials to work though within that minuscule amount of time. The film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, penned by Larry Duplechan.

There is a kidnapping, an unplanned teenage pregnancy, and subsequently, an abortion. There is the issue of interracial dating, statutory rape, and a suicide attempt. However, of those myriad of issues, the driving force of the story (helmed by director Patrik-Ian Polk) is Randy Rousseau, and his struggles to embrace his homosexuality and his devout Christian faith. If that wasn’t enough, all of this is set in a small town in Mississippi. Because life is not hard enough for these people.

Polk has Rousseau, played by Julian Walker, introduce this conflict in a way that is vulgar as it is hilarious. During a dream sequence, Randy the choir boy is performing and suddenly joined by his crush. There are hints of homoeroticism in their exchange, but the hints turn into screams as Randy’s crush disrobes himself and Randy and the two proceed to make out inside of the church for all of the congregation to see. Ultimately Randy wakes up from his wet dream that we are made abundantly clear is wet by his ejaculation.

It is a common sleep pattern for Randy, and while depicted provocatively, likely resonates with many a Jesus-loving gay boy who knows what it’s like to awaken “soaked in sin”—present company included.

Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique portrays Randy’s mother, Claire Rousseau, grief-stricken and haunted by the kidnapping of her daughter. Upon learning of Randy’s sexuality – again, in especially blunt fashion – Claire condemns her son and faults him for his sister’s disappearance. Having your Christian mama fault your biology for some unforeseen circumstance is another aspect of this film that’ll likely resonate with select moviegoers.

While there is surely a lot going on, and arguably, too much in a short amount of time, there are lot of aspects of this movie that make for interesting watching. It’s always hilarious to see closeted gay men deny themselves. Say, Randy quipping defiantly, “I’m not bitchy. I’m in the choir.” Whatever you say, sis. The same goes for Randy trying in vain to be ‘delivert’ from his sexuality by way of his equally virginal friend, Crystal.

Likewise, Blackbird does remind you of what a gifted dramatic actress Mo’Nique is. More often than not, unapproving parents, and in particular, mothers, are portrayed, and thus, judged harshly for not simply falling in line with their children’s homosexuality. Even if wrong in their position, it is often rooted in this notion of a child’s soul being more important than the life they lead on Earth.

Read more at EBONY.

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Who in the fuck does Mimi Faust think she’s fooling?

Mere seconds into the season premiere of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, I was already over Mimi and her bullshit. After all of the embarrassment Stevie J put her through, she decides to start a business with him? A management company at that! She can’t manage to stop playing herself, and he can’t manage to stay sober. Watch out, Roc Nation. The Diddy and Kim Porter of the South got next.

Mimi is obviously still in love with Stevie J, which explains why she has found a way to be with him intimately even if it is under the pretense of a business venture. Mimi, you are another sad love song wrecking my brain like crazy.

Mimi Faust Management’s first potential client is rapper Tiffany Foxx. Some of you might recall her from an awful song and video featuring a Lil’ Kim sing-songy verse I try to forget out of respect for a legend. If you are keeping score, Tiffany Foxx worked with Lil’ Kim and now wants Mimi Faust and Stevie J to handle her career. I’m laughing.

In between trying to manage artists, Mimi unveiled plans to release a book. It’s shit like this that makes me question why I even bother learning how to read. Do I have to have sex with Nikko to get a book deal? Pass me the shower rod. Wait, I’d sooner lick a New York City sidewalk on the mustiest day of the year than screw slime.

Speaking of Nikko, he may no longer be with Mimi, but he is still trying to leech off of her. He pops up at the photo shoot for her book cover to inform her that she signed a contract giving him 25 percent of her book royalties. In response, Mimi says she was not in her right mind when she signed that, thus refuses to honor the deal. Uh, that is not how contracts work, beloved. This woman made a baby with someone who worked with Puffy in the 1990s. How does she not know to read her contracts? Why is she so hopeless?

I bet half of the book is going to be about Joseline. I understand why Mimi doesn’t fancy the Puerto Rican Princess, but at what point will this woman realize that Stevie J was not in the studio working on tracks with Jesus before Joseline entered his life? Mimi, if you think a scoundrel like Stevie J needed Joseline to introduce him to drugs and bad behavior, you are crazier than you swear Joseline is.

Sadly, last night Joseline was discussed often but not seen. Joseline’s whereabouts are unclear, but Mimi and her cast mates remain thirsty as hell about her.

We also got insinuations that Joseline is being shady to her old pals. Enter some new girl named Diamond who, like Joseline, is getting off the pole for good in order to pursue her rap dreams. Dawn, the booking agent who has half of Traci Braxton’s face, tells Diamond that her old co-worker is probably ignoring her texts because she doesn’t want the competition. Dawn needs to go find herself some business and better wigs.

As for Joseline’s reunion show behavior, Stevie J and Benzino were responsible for that brawl. Joseline was basically siding with her man, and ever the hood girl, could not be stopped once she popped off. 100 emoji.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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I’m often weary of criticizing Scandal for two reasons: I love Shonda Rhimes and I fear Shonda Rhimes. Shonda’s clap back is one of the smoothest in all the land. She will get you together in 140 characters or less as she sells ABC her billionth TV show all while writing and producing the other 200 shows she currently has on air. And I really, truly adore Kerry Washington.

With the niceties out of the way, I can now get to the question at hand: How much longer can Scandal go on? I was excited about the start of season four, but as I complained for weeks, I hated the kidnapping storyline. It was cute for maybe one episode — the midseason premiere — but it dragged on and on and on to the point where I called out to God and Beyoncé to give me the power to reach through the screen and save her my damn self.

Thankfully, that ended, but now we are back to Rowan Pope’s return and a battle for the future of B613. Doesn’t that feel a bit like deja vu only without Jay Z and an awkward dance break in the middle of nowhere? I’m all for tying up loose ends, but this show needs a lot of conflict resolution. As in, Olivia needs to find out that her father killed her BFF. Liv has to make up her mind about Jake so he can either stay or truly run off into the sunset.

Then there is Fitz and that eternal “will they or won’t they” angle — that’ll likely always be a part of the show so we will have to just roll our eyes together. But the rest can be fixed. Speaking of fixing, Scandal could probably go on forever if it returned to its original vision as Olivia Pope the fixer. Maybe it’s too far gone at this point, but I have enjoyed Olivia fixing people’s problems in the midst of the other bizarreness. I’d rather Liv fix my life than Iyanla.

Insert 100 emoji here.

And maybe, just maybe it’s time for a major cast shakeup. Bring in some new OPA associates. Let Huck’s crazy ass go be crazy as s–t in suburbia. Let Quinn get herself a new life and an advanced degree. My girl may be a killer, but perhaps she could utilize those skills as a lobbyist or something. Same skill set, to be honest.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It’s a shame how a moment you’ve been waiting for for so long finally comes and when it does, you nearly miss it due to newfound indifference. I have waited for a new Jodeci album since I went into my sister’s box of CDs and took her copy of The Show, the After-Party, the Hotel. I have obsessed over Jodeci since I was child (full disclosure: I was barely alive when their first album was released). In second grade, when a group of my friends and I all pretended to be Jodeci, I was Mr. Dalvin. I still listen to “Come and Talk to Me” regularly. The same goes for their fantastic second album, Diary of a Mad Band.

I love Jodeci.

And yet, once I actually remembered that the group’s new album, The Past, the Present, the Future, was out, I was petrified to listen. None of the songs the group put out prior to the album’s release—“Nobody Wins” featuring B.o.B, “Every Moment,” and “Checkin for You”—were worth more than one-and-a-half listens. So, when it was time for me to listen to the album in full, I called up Crown Royal Apple and prayer warriors to get me through it.

I’m so glad I did because this album is one you will have to work hard to forget for the sake of preserving all of your positive memories of Jodeci. This album ain’t it. Not even a little bit of it. It’s not even half the “i” in “it.”

The song’s opener, “Too Hot,” sounds like it was dug out of a box labeled “1998.” In fact, when you hear the line, “Pretty face like Lauryn, body like Mya,” you’re almost certain that this song was written before Willow Smith was born.

When the lyrics don’t sound old, they come across as eternally gross. This album screams “songs your nasty uncle you could never be alone with” music. On “Those Things,” you hear the line, “Maybe later on I can get my tongue in your mouth (WET AND DEEP, GIRL).” I immediately want to reach for hand sanitizer after writing that. The song itself borrows lines from “Come and Talk to Me” and “Freek’n You.” It just makes you sad for the good days, now confirmed to be forever gone.

A lot of lyrics are just corny. Take the hook for “Stress Receiver,” which goes, “You are my stress reliever, my sex receiver.” Jodeci was never a group known for subtlety, but there was always something especially cool about them. Unfortunately, this is their 20-year high school reunion and life has beat it completely out of them.

There’s also the sad reality of their depleted voices. Well, Mr. Dalvin never sang (he raps a little on the new album, and in sum, no) and Devante served as the producer and writer. That means K-Ci and JoJo did most of the legwork, and whew, do they have arthritis. You notice it mostly on “Jennifer,” which by the way, sounds like the two made the entire thing up as they went along. It also sounds like a fake ass “Lately,” for what it’s worth.

Read the rest at Complex.

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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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Last fall, Nick Jonas sang the same lines every white child star clamoring to maintain relevancy as an adult entertainer recites while promoting his debut solo album.

In one interview, he claimed, “At times, it is surreal looking left and right and not seeing my brothers.” Those are likely the same lines Justin Timberlake fed his *NSYNC band mates when he departed the group—while dually stifling laughter about JC Chasez sharing similar plans for solo stardom. In a separate interview, Jonas said of his self-titled debut album, “The sound of the album is kind of an alternative pop/R&B feel.” He proceeded to note “I’ve got soul as my roots in the vocal space” while referencing Stevie Wonder and Prince—two artists all acts reference to convey seriousness and artistry.

However, Jonas also referenced the Weeknd and Jhené Aiko, and it’s an important distinction because it has given him space to exist within a particular strain of R&B where he might actually fit. Jonas did not prove that so much on the album itself—it’s far more “alternative pop” than R&B—but has so on subsequent remixes of “Jealous” and “Chains.” Each is accompanied by someone who falls somewhere in between the ever-expanding definition of R&B, Tinashe and Jhené Aiko, respectively.

There is something here. The same goes for his recent covers of Aiko’s “The Worst,” Frank Ocean’s “Novacane,” and Kanye West’s badly sung but at least lyrically sweet nod to his daughter, “Only One.”

While I somewhat cringe at the phrase “alternative R&B” and similar names that scream “Ooh, I’m so different,” there is a certain bareness to it—and that differs substantially from what the likes of K. Michelle are offering. Frankly, that bareness gives singers who are more equipped to coo and whisper than sing a more fitting space to exist in. Conversely, it lets the likes of Nick Jonas really shine because though he may not be the most soulful person around, he can certainly carry a much higher note than the people he’s been covering in the studio and on the road.

This is different from say, Miley Cyrus, who despite working with Mike WiLL Made-It on Bangerz, proved that an ability to sing doesn’t mean one should try singing everything. Her annoying caricature of black music and culture got attention, but musically she continues to be at her best when she’s jocking Dolly Parton.

And I don’t care how many times mainstream publications declare this: Sam Smith is not the new face of soul. If that’s soul singing, a pumpkin spice latte goes perfectly with a plate of oxtails, black-eyed peas, and greens. Sticking a black choir behind you doesn’t make you or your song soulful. That’s a lesson Nick Jonas should also carry with him. I watched the video for his gospel twist to “Jealous.” God bless him, but that should never happen again.

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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A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


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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