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In a recent interview, Barry Jenkins was asked if he felt pressured to “make something representative, to tell the big story?” The director and screenwriter behind the beautiful Moonlight responded, “I think there was an element of that. The movie is about very specific characters, in a very specific neighborhood, going through very specific ordeals. In that specificity there’s something universal, but also there’s a statement on the black experience.”

There is a burden typically placed on black creatives. Rarely, if ever, are we allowed to share works that speak to specific experiences. Our art often has to forgo the individualistic in favor of the collective for the sake of selling a point to the masses. In Moonlight, which is loosely based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the movie does indeed address universal themes like love, friendship, identity, and manhood. But there is much specificity in how they are explored. When it comes to the black experience, Moonlight tackles subjects like hypermasculinity and addiction in the aftermath of the War on Drugs. Those are issues that have uniquely impacted the black community at large, though I wonder if those who see the film and (rightfully) praise it will know that is not the only black experience.

A.O. Scott, chief film critic of the New York Times, recently said, “In the prestige movies that court critical and academy approval, Black people are often symbols and symptoms, their stories parables of pathology, striving and redemption.” For directors like Nate Parker, his intent with The Birth of A Nation was to offer imagery speaking to black strength, but as his past comments on why he would never play a gay character suggest, he, too, falls victim to the idea that only certain types of black characters warrant celebration.

As much as I enjoyed Moonlight, it does fit neatly into the kind of black movies Scott notes, that net critical and Academy approval. I’m troubled that some of our stories only make it to the mainstream when they feature pathologized imagery like the crack addicted black woman or the sad gay black man. Still, one hopes that those who see Moonlight and find it moving come to realize the black experience and the gay Black experience can be more than this. In the meantime, this movie at least offers nuance and complexity to characters and stories like these.

It’s best to view Moonlight as it presents itself: as a coming of age story of its protagonist, Chiron. The film is divided into three chapters chronicling Chiron’s journey to manhood. Chiron, who is played by three different actors, is the child of a crack-addicted mother, being raised in a poor neighborhood in Miami.

In the first third of the film, we’re introduced to Chiron, or Little as he’s called then, who’s much smaller than the other boys surrounding him. As a result, he is perceived as soft and subsequently picked on. While running away from antagonizers, he escapes into an abandoned home (serving as a crack house) where he soon meets Juan, played by House of Cards alum Mahershala Ali. Juan, along with his girlfriend Teresa, played by Janelle Monae, take care of Chiron in ways his mother Paula doesn’t. There is a poignant scene in this segment in which Chiron asks Juan what a “faggot” is—a term he learned from his mom. Juan points to it as a term used to dehumanize gay people. When Chiron asks if he’s gay, Juan, after looking at Teresa, let’s him know that is something he’ll have to figure out on his own.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Normally, I do not tolerate rosé slander, but in Alfred’s case, I can understand the frustration. If you’re a rapper booked for an appearance at the club, you should get more than free wine. That man deserved brown liquor, damn it.

Righteous indignation aside, Alfred’s got to work on that attitude. Does he want to be in the club? Based on his variety of grimaces, nah, but he’s getting paid to be there, so he should treat it like the job it is. He does declare, “I don’t trust niggas in the club.” I mean, duh, but my point stands.

Not that many people appear to be familiar with Paper Boi, and of the few who do know him, the response is equal parts salty and stank. Alfred has got to get that game face together or else the “for bookings” portion of his social-media-account bios will go largely ignored. He is new to all this, so maybe there’s something to be said of a learning curve. I’m southern, though, so it ain’t too high ’round my way.

Alfred needs to be more like Darius. People just buy him free drinks. Of course they do! He is what the kids would describe as “good energy.” When he got up to bop, I was like, “HE THINK HE ME!” If you didn’t read that in a hoodrat tone, go back and reread the sentence.

Now, Alfred not getting any free Crown Royal Apple aside, his other problems include a shifty promoter who planned to screw him over. Earn is the manager, so handling that is technically his responsibility. Perhaps it’s a familial trait, but Earn hates the club, too. He calls it a “money suck.”

Earn’s other keen observation include “Somebody smells like Wendy’s double stack.” Whoever wrote this line, I appreciate your specificity. That’s like me saying someone smells like a half-eaten No. 2 combo from Whataburger and two puffs of Newports. Anyhow, Earn is chasing this promoter around the club, asking for the $5,000 owed to them. The man literally escapes into a secret room to avoid coming off the appearance fee.

In the meantime, Earn greets a bartender who very quickly gets him together. As he complains about the club, she asks if she can offer him a bit of advice. “Leave,” she advised. “No one is keeping you here, but if you’re at the club, then deep down you want to be at the club. You’re not special.”

This woman deserves a round of applause. I hate dealing with people who go on and on about the club while they’re at the club. Take your ass home then! That’s why I hate that song “Here” by Alessia Cara. The door works well when you open it, girl.

And while bottle service tends to be an overpriced hustle, the bartender is correct in excusing that, too. As she says, “Everyone needs to feel special sometimes.”

Like the G that she is, the bartender slips Earn a note (after pouring several shots that he didn’t need since he can’t hold his liquor), letting him know that you need to pull the fire alarm to get into the sleazy promoter’s back room. Once Earn slips inside, though, he is promptly shut down. You see, the promoter claims that Paper Boi exceeded his alcohol order limit, required extra security because he is a “thug,” and didn’t perform as promised. So what does Earn end up getting? Only $750.

Earn ain’t exactly threatening, so he takes that money and goes back outside with the face of a sad-dog meme. By the time he finds his cousin, though, he’s riled the hell up. Alfred is in a mood, too: He was already bothered that another rapper with real money and popularity overshadowed him, then got vexed by the fact that his section was besieged with a bunch of folks he didn’t know. Alfred kicked them all out, but did offer to let the women stay. Of course, those women left anyway.

Alfred likes one woman in particular, but when he asks for her number, she shut him down, telling him to follow her on Instagram. She has a boyfriend, it turns out, but promises to check out Paper Boi’s music on SoundCloud. When Alfred felt a way, she kept it funky. She knew he wanted to party with a cute girl like her, so her services are done.

Pissed about everything, Alfred storms into the back room, punks the hell out on the promoter, and gets the money he was promised. “Wow,” the promoter says moments after he leaves. “That boy’s gonna be a star.” He then tells a woman he works with to call the police.

By the time Earn and Alfred and friends make it to another spot to eat, they learn via the television that Paper Boi is wanted for armed robbery in connection to a shooting outside the club. Also, one of Darius’s friends recorded Alfred manhandling that promoter with his phone, further confirming why you can’t trust niggas in the club.

This episode is great all around, but I do have one lingering complaint: WHY WERE PEOPLE NOT JUMPING AROUND WHEN “KNUCK IF YOU BUCK” WAS PLAYING? What kind of blacks in the club don’t lose their mind to that Crime Mob classic? Hell, I stood up and started jumping while watching the episode. Those extras ain’t real.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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When I saw that tonight’s Atlanta episode was entitled “B.A.N.,” I thought it was an acronym about “bitch ass niggas,” which promptly had me body rolling at my desk to Sevyn Streeter. Alas, “B.A.N.” actually stands for Black American Network, a fictional television channel that’s the love child of PBS and Bounce TV. And on that network is Montague, a low-budget panel show starring Franklin Montague (Alano Miller). The dude looks like Ed Gordon’s nephew by marriage.

“B.A.N.” comprises an entire episode of Montague that’s centered on transitions. To start, Montague wants to explore the “growing outlook on accepted sexuality and its effects on black youth and culture.” That sentence alone elicits fear, given most discussions related to black folks’ views on sexuality being drowned in stereotypes about how us colored people are so much more homophobic and transphobic than everyone else.

The show-within-a-show features the one and only Paper Boi as a guest along with a white woman named Dr. Deborah Holt (Mary Kraft), who is introduced to as a trans activist. According to Montague, Alfred was invited to the show because, during a recent tweet storm, he said he wouldn’t sleep with Caitlyn Jenner. When asked if he would explain the statement, Alfred’s initial response is a simple “Nope!”

After a follow up, however, he goes on to declare, “I just don’t think I have to have sex with Caitlyn Jenner ’cause y’all said so.” Montague volleys a leading accusation guised as a question: “So how long have you disliked trans people?”

“Man, I just found out they exist,” Alfred answers. Montague won’t let it go, quoting some Paper Boi lyric about Caitlyn Jenner. Alfred fires back by saying he’s just rapping and shit, you know, before highlighting that the host doesn’t know all of his catalog. Has Montague ever even heard “Illuminati Sex” before?

Sidenote: How in the hell is “Illuminati Sex” not a real song?

In any event, Deborah very much plays into familiar Negro pathology. She claims that Alfred plays into “cultures of exclusion and power.” She then blames hip hop for Alfred’s attitudes, albeit with a slight twist: This time, issues with masculinity are supposedly the problem, rather than widespread homophobia or transphobia.

“Please, please. Tell me about myself,” Paper Boi quips.

Deborah most certainly does. “Black men aren’t ready to accept the implications of a trans accepting culture,” she says. Even if this is a parody, it’s unfortunate that so many believe this idea. The Montague panel reminds us that many white liberals are as guilty as their conservative counterparts in generalizing black people. What Deborah does is right on par with Donald Trump watching two episodes of Good Times, then declaring that all black people live under hellish conditions in the inner city.

Likewise, I must say that Paper Boi not wanting to smash Caitlyn Jenner is an extreme example of an ongoing media trend: When a person of note makes controversial comments, critics are ready to pounce. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in some cases, the outrage goes way too far. Is it worth ascribing a belief to Alfred that he may not hold? Of course not. Advocacy is important, but plenty of folks see it as a come up so they trot out terms like “problematic” in an effort to appear more enlightened than thou. When people make mistakes, you should correct them, but only within reason.

Although I appreciated the humor employed to shoo-shoo away blanket generalizations about black people and our thoughts on sexuality and gender, the next Montague segment almost negates those efforts. It’s a story called “Trans-racial,” which features a black man named Antoine Small who says that deep down inside, he is a thirty-something white man named Harrison Booth. Reminds me of a bunch of black dudes along the Florida-Georgia border.

“I’ve always felt different,” he tells the interviewer. “I go to the store and movies and just be thinking to myself, ‘Why am I not getting the respect that I deserve?’ And then, it just hit me: I’m white. And 35.”

The segment follows Harrison as he begins transitioning by doing a bunch of “white things.” He practicing ordering an IPA at bars. He wears thick brown leather belts. He’s also planning surgery for a “full racial transition.”

Now, I did laugh at his mama’s response to it all: “I’d love to wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, everybody. I’m Rihanna.’ But I ain’t.” But it’s all strange to watch if you’re familiar with the likes of Rachel Dolezal, who I long ago dismissed as a fake-ass Freddie Brooks from A Different World. According to some of Dolezal’s apologists, if one can argue the sex they were assigned at birth does not speak to their true gender, then why not race too?

Race is a social construct. Race is complicated. Nonetheless, gender has historically been far more fluid and varied outside of Western ideals. I didn’t necessarily expect Atlanta to invoke the hijras of India, but I do wish the fundamental differences between this T-Pain-looking black man and those of Dolezal’s ilk were better explained. You know, for the folks watching at home who might not get it.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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How many Black lesbians can you count on television? There’s Kima Greggs on The Wire, but that show’s been over for years.

Ditto for The L Word, which gave us Bette Porter. There’s Anika Noni-Rose’s character Jukebox on the recently concluded last season of Power, but although she was a standout, she was nonetheless a guest star. In the film, the scarcity of Black lesbian visibility is even worse. My only immediate reference was the superb but largely overlooked 2011 film Pariah.

Although Black people were found to self-identify more as LGBTQ than other groups by a Gallup poll in 2012, so much of how the entertainment industry represents the community is lily white. Black lesbian visibility is lacking, so it’s not surprising that Black lesbians themselves have had to force a change.

The award-winning documentary The Same Difference focuses on this much-overlooked group and examines the impact that internalized homophobia and the stubborn clinging to gender roles have on Black lesbians. The film, directed by Nneka Onuorah, was initially released in June 2015 but will premiere tonight on CentricTV in celebration of National Coming Out Day.

While it’s important to celebrate people owning their truth, it’s just as vital to examine what exactly they’re coming out to.

Over the course of an hour, we learn that while there are varying labels women in the community identify with—gender nonconformist, stud and AG (related to women who are considered more masculine), trans, femme-aggressive (as in a woman who switches between masculine and feminine roles), and so on—there remains a binary that boxes in far too many. Those limitations can result in slights from other lesbians, and, in some instances, violence. At one point in the film, one lesbian reveals that she was jumped and told, “You’re too pretty to be stud.”

Moments into Onuorah’s film, you hear the declaration, “We are conditioned to categorize ourselves.” Throughout the documentary, we see how this happens by way of purported rules among the community: “Must be stud or femme, nothing in between,” “No stud on stud,” “No bisexuals,” and “No pregnant studs.”
To a gay Black man, parts of The Same Difference feel familiar—like the way heteronormativity plays such a pivotal role even in non-heterosexual spaces, and how so many people who are not straight look to straight relationships as the basis for their romantic and sexual relationships. So many of the women in the film conform to the idea that if one appears like “the man,” they take on certain roles both sexually and in terms of who more or less “leads” the relationship.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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At the end of September, Rob Kardashian got mad at his sisters and posted the phone number of one of those sisters, Kylie Jenner, on Twitter. (Chyna did the same to Kardashian a few days later). Kardashian has seven million followers—making his actions all the more petty and immature. It’s been reported that he did this in retaliation for Blac Chyna not being invited to a baby shower thrown for him. She was not invited because the two had apparently “broken up.” Excuse me—they’re said to “not be in a good place,” though he’s still Snapping shots of Chyna’s pregnant belly. He’s also gone back to liking Kim Kardashian’s pictures on Instagram, if that means anything.

Who knows what will happen next, but when it comes to the foundation of his new reality show and looming new life as a father, one wonders: Will we ever learn the real foundation of Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna’s relationship?

There are timelines going around, but there’s nothing specific about what actually got those two together and has him back in the public eye. Most onlookers have assumed that Rob, who has admittedly gained a significant amount of weight due to depression, and in the past, has taken public shots at siblings like Kim Kardashian, found a perfect partner in Blac Chyna, whose friendship with Kim went sour once her then teenage sister, Kylie Jenner, started dating her ex and father of her son, Tyga. That assumption is totally plausible, and for Chyna’s sake, many have saluted her for doing to the Kardashian clan what the sisters are often criticized for doing to others. But while the couple has more or less trolled and frustrated the Kardashians in the past, now both sides are selling us reconciliation, and through the spinoff, Rob & Chyna, a happy ending.

However, now that we’re a little over midway into Rob & Chyna’s first and short season (and likely only), the question of what exactly brought these two together matters more because from the looks of the show, they may have their baby, but they just might not make it as a couple.

Whatever the outcome, for Chyna, she ought to be fine. From what we gathered via social media, but more noticeably in the TV medium, she is confident, acts with purpose, and is quick to let you have it if you wrong her in some way.

Then there is Rob, who acknowledges that he continues to struggle with his confidence. He more or less behaves like Eeyore on the show. On the first episode, we see this as questions Chyna about people texting her—assuming she is communicating with other men—only to later learn that it’s him who is talking to other women. On the second episode, he bails on plans to travel with Chyna to a hosting gig abroad. Rob doesn’t feel comfortable in how certain clothes fit on him and he does not want to be met with a barrage of photographers, spreading images of himself to the world that he struggles with witnessing in the mirror. On the third, he goes with her to her hometown, but wallows in self-pity up until he lands there.

As far as Chyna goes, I’m glad she is gaining in notoriety. I love that she’s on the E! network having conversations about unseasoned chicken, referring to Kris Jenner as “Ms. Kris” as so many of us Black folks were raised to address our elders, and showing off more Black women than the Kardashians ever have (despite consistently playing off Black vernacular, Black woman’s aesthetic, and so on). I’m elated to see that her mom, Tokyo Toni, and all that energy will be a fixture on the show. For her, this show—already a ratings winner—is an unabashed win.

Rob’s fate is far less certain.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Who knew one neck roll had so much power?

Earlier in the week, various outlets were speculating that The Real might be on the verge of cancellation in light of declining ratings—purportedly sparked by the absence of Tamar Braxton, who was abruptly fired from the show earlier this year.

Well, to be fair to the show, some of these outlets were citing a bad-ratings story published by The Wrap in September 2014. True enough, the show started to sag a bit in 2014, but just a month later, it was being celebrated for besting the likes of Meredith Vieira’s now canceled show in ratings.

However, there is a more recent story about how the show is once again suffering from a ratings drop that has it matching its series low. It remains to be seen whether the show will bounce back as it has in the past—although, if you’ve followed the new season thus far, it might not be surprising to see this show remain in struggle mode.

While the remaining four co-hosts—Tamera Mowry-Housley, Jeannie Mai, Adrienne Bailon and Loni Love—are all lovely people, there is something noticeably missing from the show. That something is the former co-host who sat farther to the left and who continues to be what I feel is the real-life version of that old BET-made animation known as Cita.

Whatever one makes of the youngest Braxton sister, she’s certainly never been dull. Now more than ever, I miss her interjecting her opinion whenever the mood suited her. The same goes for her beginning statements with, “I mean … ” and “Welll … ” and “Tuh, girl … ” Ditto for her rolling her eyes and sucking her teeth.

Wait. I cannot forget my favorite: the very high-pitched, “You tried it!”

Thing is, if you’re going to copy The View, which birthed the basis of this show, as well as The Talk and others, you’ve got to be committed. What both The View and even The Talk understood is that when you create a winning formula, you have to commit to it. For The Real, it’s five different types of women on one panel.

Mowry-Housley is the nice, polite Christian woman who married that nice man from Fox News. Mai is that spunky person with the mom who could easily do her job and everyone else’s, TBH. Bailon is loud, no longer a Cheetah Girl from 3LW, and does a great job emulating Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” strut at the beginning of the show. Love is loud, cracks jokes and will, I guess, fuss at you when necessary to spread viral content online.

Well, they’re all loud—except for Mowry-Housley—but with Braxton’s absence, now more than ever, we can tell that not all loud people are created equal. Who remembers when 702 sisters Irish and Orish Grinstead tried to continue on with the group without Meelah, replacing her with a singer named Cree Le’More? They recorded the lead single “Pootie Tangin’” for the Chris Rock film Pootie Tang, which flopped, and then Meelah ultimately came back.

The Real without Tamar Braxton is basically the song “Pootie Tangin’.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Have you ever felt pangs of jealousy while reading Baller Alert, Lipstick Alley, or The Shade Room? During Van’s awkward and (somewhat) contentious dinner with an old friend, I certainly felt that way. In this world of wage stagnation and student loans, who wouldn’t want to be like Teairra Mari and boast about having a sponsor?

We learn a lot about Van through Jayde, a friend she’s known since childhood. As “Value” makes clear, these women have taken entirely different directions with their lives. For Van, it was making a baby with the Princeton dropout who manages a guy who’s the Coke Zero equivalent of Rick Ross. As for Jayde, she’s pretty much guaranteed to land a spot on WAGS or Basketball Wives L.A. She only does two things: date rich athletes and enjoy the perks that such a life entails.

We meet Jayde at an upscale Thai restaurant — presumably of her choosing — as Van arrives late. When Van sits down, Jayde compliments her hair before asking if she got it did at Fernando’s, as per her recommendation. Van did not, noting that Fernando’s is probably too expensive anyway. While the two settle into small talk, we learn that Jayde flew into town on a private jet. “Not like the nice PJ,” she adds. “One of those rent-a-PJs.” How humble of her to play down the fact that she flew private, but not the premiere way to fly private.

Jayde is in town to see a special NBA friend, but no, not that last NBA guy she mentioned to Van. This is new booty, a new line of credit. After she leaves Atlanta, she’ll be heading to London, though she hates London because the rainy weather makes her hair frizzy. She loves Paris, though.

Beginning to get the idea? The waiter comes by, and Jayde orders a bottle of wine rather than drink by the glass. Van rolls her eyes as soon as the words leave her friend’s mouth, but, girl, if she’s paying, enjoy that free liquor. That said, Jayde is quite snooty. When Van requests chopsticks, she snickers and explains that Thai people don’t use chopsticks — only Americans think such a silly thing. The condescension practically drips from her voice. Van should’ve told Jayde to shut her black ass up then and there.

Van’s patience does wear thin when the subject of Earn comes up. Shady or not, I was with the homegirl when she quipped, “Y’all are funny. You two are funny.” Sorry, but it’s true. Van and Earn are funny because they aren’t together, but they sleep and live together. It would seem wise to honor the “no sex in the champagne room” rule for such a situation, but different strokes, I suppose.

As Van gets defensive, Jayde gets a bit more lethal. “You used to make fun of girls like you,” she says. Then comes the sermon: “Women need to be valuable. Black women have to be valuable.” Bring it home, Janye! “Why are you messing around with this broke-ass nigga?” In this moment, she sounds like so many Kandi Burruss songs penned for TLC and Destiny’s Child.

Jayde also flips her bang and gets cocky as she defends her way of life. Van seems skeptical, so she lays it all out. “The NBA players I fuck with fuck with me because I provide a service and I am worth it,” Jayde says. “I am cultured, intelligent, and beautiful and that is hard to come by.”

Okay, now she sounds like the woman who Jazmine Sullivan was singing about on “Mascara.”

Van pops back, reminding Jayde that not everyone shares her values. It is like watching a Kardashian group chat try to take on Solange’s new album. An awkward silence follows, as Jayde carefully takes her phone, checks for good lighting, and snaps a photo of the meal for Instagram. Earlier, she pulled up her IG account to show off photos from all the places she’s visited. Girl, you know damn well Van saw them already.

Anyhow, Van dips after the NBA friend and his not-so-cute buddy show up. (“He’s like a lawyer or something, I think,” Jayde offers.) As she walks through the parking lot, Jayde rolls up and tries to convince her to stay. Van reminds her that she would always fix her up with the ugly one. Yeah, she seems like the type. Why are these two people even friends?

Read the rest at Vulture.

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In creating her latest album, A Seat at the Table, Solange Knowles set a simple, but ambitious goal. Solange was asked to describe A Seat at the Table (out today), in a fan Q&A on Twitter. While her last release, 2012’s the True EP was intended to “provoke joy” and “to challenge what we know as Pop.” On this new album, however, Solange intended to “provoke healing” and lead the listener on a “journey of self-empowerment.”

After just one day, it’s clear that she succeeded. A Seat at the Table is an incredible album.

Opener “Rise” directs the audience to “fall in your ways so you can’t crumble,” and then the makes good on its own command. ASATT is an insider’s conversation in the form of a gorgeously sung, perfectly sequenced, and well produced album, an LP made in the spirit of Aretha Franklin’s Young, Gifted and Black.

ASATT’s lyrics often read like the Twitter timeline of a smart Black person. There’s so much being said here that’s voiced, day in and day out, by anyone who is Black, aware, and trying to maintain sanity and a positive sense of self in a society that constantly tries to strip us of both. If the visual component of Beyoncé’s LEMONADE is a celebration of Black womanhood, A Seat at the Table is an album addressing the Black community at large. ASATT speaks to the angst and frustration shared by all of us—and doesn’t shy away from the root of the struggle.

This album was made to heal and encourage Black people, not explain to white people why Black people need healing and encouragement.

For the first time, it looks like we’ll have both Knowles sisters with albums worthy of year-end top ten lists. LEMONADE and ASATT complement each other, a one-two punch from the most powerful family in music. We deserve our Michael and Janet and, in 2016, Beyoncé and Solange have indisputably ascended to the thrones.

A third voice guides the album. Master P recounts the tale of his New Orleans empire, No Limit Records, across many of the interludes on ASATT. In particular, his recollection of a fight with his brother over an offer of $1 million from a white executive for his label and label on “For Us By Us” stands out. Master P explains he rejected the money because he knew he was worth much more than that.

Percy Miller remains an icon to many because of what he accomplished with No Limit and beyond (Foot Locker stores, gas station, real estate, and sports management company)—all while maintaining ownership and without pursuing a mainstream audience. He made music for his people, and now there are southern Black artists like Solange to follow his lead, as well as document the oral history of one of the most storied Black entrepreneurial icons.

ASATT chronicles many facets of the Black experience in its interludes alone. As Master P puts it, “Black kids have to figure [it] out—we don’t have a rehab to go to. You gotta rehab yourself.” Her father, Mathew Knowles, describes the anger created by segregation and his experience as one of the first young students to deal with integration efforts in the South on “Dad Was Mad.” Her mother and Queen of Instagram, Tina Knowles, elegantly explains why celebrating Blackness and Black culture is not anti-white. White fragility often interrupts Black affirmation. But, just like her mama, Solange won’t coddle white feelings.

On “Mad,” Solange and Lil’ Wayne articulate Black folks’ righteous indignation. Solange explores it further, and more pointedly, on “Don’t Touch My Hair.” And again on “Junie.” On “F.U.B.U.,” Solange takes a moment to address her white listeners directly: “Don’t feel bad you can’t sing along/Just be glad you got the whole wild world.” My heathen ass wanted to shout.

Read the rest at Complex.

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The trailer for it may have been awkward, but once you actually watch Mary J. Blige’s interview with Hillary Clinton on her Apple Music talk show, The 411, in full, you’re likely to find out it’s rather innocuous.

The memes surrounding the image of Blige and Clinton in what looked to be an emotional moment were funny. As were the jokes fired off about Blige presumably bursting into song. However, there was a bit of a visceral reaction to the image of Blige, a black woman, singing in front of Clinton, a white woman, though that actually says more about their own discomfort with certain behavior in front of white people than about Blige herself. Heaven forbid a singer burst into song.

The editing was misleading and, arguably, damaging in the presumption it gave people, but fret not, Negroes and those who fancy themselves allies. Blige is not referring to HRC as “Miss Hillary” during the interview; nor is she telling Clinton, “Pardon the watermelon on my breath.”

What you get between the two is more or less a daytime-talk-show interview on a pay music site. It also plays into the growing trend of outlets having famous people interview other famous people. Sometimes it works; other times, not so much.

Before it begins, it’s clear that Clinton is on friendly terrain. Blige explains before the Democratic presidential nominee arrives, “What inspires me most about Secretary Clinton is that she’s a woman and she’s running for president.”

When Clinton arrives, she compliments Blige about her glasses. Full disclosure: They are fly. Later, Blige compliments Clinton about the ivory suit she wore when she made history by becoming the first woman to accept a major party’s nomination for the presidency. To be fair, Clinton’s suit was white-party excellence.

The questions Blige poses to Clinton are noticeably easy in the beginning. Like, “What do you want people to know about who you really are?” Another: “How has your faith guided you in this process?”

Then come Blige’s inquiries about the role Clinton’s mother played in her life; the relationship she has with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton; and what it’s like being a grandmother.

Now, as for the singing that brought so much attention, context is key. That moment didn’t happen until 18 minutes into the interview, when Blige notes that she’s about to sing a 16-year-old song (“American Skin [41 Shots]”) by Bruce Springsteen. She sings well, despite revealing that she’s worried about how she’ll sound; and then the two have essentially a Hallmark moment. They clutch each other’s hands and Clinton extensively rehashes lines we’ve already heard when she’s been met with similar questions about police brutality.

Blige was not crooning “Pull up your pants and be nice to the po-lice” ideology, which just goes to show what people learn when they wait to see something in full before reacting to it.

We are now at least two decades into the practice of presidential candidates appearing on talk shows to reach out to voters. This encounter was another instance of this, only in digital form. Blige, surprisingly, did note that black people feel that racism gave way to noted obstructionism toward President Barack Obama’s administration, and she asked whether sexism will deal Clinton a similar fate. Did Clinton give MJB the deets on her plans to potentially take executive power to unprecedented levels if need be? No, but what did you expect?

Speaking of expectations, no one should fault Blige for this interview. And as to whether or not Clinton is willing to enter less friendly environments to talk more about policy and how the policies pushed by her husband affected black people, duh. Clinton is not about to go knock on Michelle Alexander’s door and ask for a chat.

Politicians, particularly those, like Clinton, struggling to get key voting blocs to feel enthusiastic about this election, are going to avoid goofing up. Even Obama, in the last stretch of his presidency, ain’t exactly sitting down with anyone to talk about his deplorable record on deportation. That doesn’t mean those questions cannot be posed, though. They just need to be posed by the right people.

Read the rest at The Root.

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In tonight’s episode of Atlanta, racial politics are tackled in three distinct ways. In one instance, white people decide Darius isn’t worth their empathy. In another, Earn is mistaken for another black man, despite no evidence that they look similar. In the last one, Alfred’s dark skin, build, and music give way to biases that prevent him the chance to show who he really is.

Oh, and there’s a black Justin Bieber. But we’ll get to him soon enough.

While Paper Boi and Earn go off to a charity basketball game, Darius spends his time at the shooting range. The visual of Darius tipping to the gun store for playtime immediately made me miss the South. I know, I know — America needs gun control. I’m with y’all. However, leisurely trips to the gun range are very much a thing in many parts of the country. I’m still vexed you can’t go on a date to the shooting range in New York City without jumping through so many hoops. Sad!

Anyhow, Darius opts to use the image of a dog rather than a human target. The sight of him shooting a dog baffles other people at the range, and soon enough, two white men walk over to Darius to complain. “You can’t shoot dogs,” says one of the men, who needs to mind his business, before he starts whining about how his kid could have been there. Why would your kid be at the gun range, beloved?

Darius, played so well by Keith Stanfield, raises a fair question in response: “Why would I shoot a human target?” It’s a reasonable concern, though it doesn’t do much in the way of persuading this guy. “I’m not gonna let you shoot a fucking dog in here,” he says.

Moments later, another man who seems to be of Middle Eastern descent jumps into the argument. After siding with Darius, he proceeds to criticize the angry dog-lover for shooting a Mexican target. “America has taken so much. No more!” he declares. “A revolution will rise from within. Blood will spill!”

Darius waits a beat before his follow-up: “Well, I didn’t say all that, but, you know.”

Although Darius’s point is valid, it doesn’t matter. The store owner interrupts the conversation, points a gun at him, and escorts him right on out the door. Except for the lazy stereotyping of a Middle Eastern person — which is quite a bad look for Atlanta — the sequence is a funny illustration of double standards. I’ve often borne witness to white people advocating for animal rights before they do similarly for human beings, especially darker humans. PETA is a fine example of this occurrence, given how the group compares animal abuse to the African slave trade.

Darius could have been practicing to shoot Cujo, but heaven forbid a dog is shot instead of human target. This white man just can’t muster up a thoughtful response to Darius’s inquiry. Why is it okay to shoot at a human target, but not Scooby-Doo’s third cousin? He doesn’t care to answer. He just wants Darius to stop.

Moving on to Earn. While Paper Boi is hooping at a charity basketball game, his cousin/manager finds himself hobnobbing with agents, managers, and lawyers for the rich and famous. (Or, at least, the famous adjacent.) It all happens by accident, of course: An older woman (played by Jane Adams) mistakes Earn for a former colleague named Alonso, talks him up, and invites him to join her in the lounge upstairs. Sensing a business opportunity, Earn decides to play along.

In my mind, this Alonso guy looks like Earn’s polar opposite. I’ve certainly experienced such meritless comparisons myself. During Labor Day weekend, someone told me that they thought I looked like Usain Bolt. A Twitter troll once claimed that I looked like Chris Brown with Down syndrome. The point is, some people think us blacks all look alike even when we don’t share the slightest resemblance. Maybe this woman is an alcoholic. Maybe Earn truly does have a doppelgänger. I doubt it, though, and I’m done trying to excuse white people for thinking all black people look the same.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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