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If reports of NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak’s return to The Real Housewives of Atlanta are true, praise everyone on high because this season has been long, draining and worrisome. Some of the cast members are guiltier than others for that, and in the spirit of their nastiness, here is a ranking of everyone who’s irritated me from least to “Girl, you’re the absolute worst.”

Cynthia Bailey

Cynthia is the least bothersome cast member of RHOA. When she first joined the show, she was attached to NeNe Leakes like a ring to a nipple, which was a bit frustrating to watch when she would introduce things like the very ridiculous friendship contract. A long time has passed since then, though, and honestly, the most annoying thing about the former model has been her ex-husband, Peter Thomas. Peter liked being on this show way too much, until he didn’t. You noticed this at the end of the third edition of the reunion when Peter snatched off his mic and stormed away from the set.

Hopefully, now that the two are no longer a pair, he can keep away. If he finds another reality-TV show to be on—a highly plausible scenario—good for him. I won’t be watching it, but if Uncle Ben-face wants to trash-talk and throw brown rice on another forum, so be it. Just keep him away from RHOA, Cynthia and Todd Tucker, who is his heir apparent in the “This Negro really wants a fucking peach” aspect of this show.

For her next season, I hope Cynthia goes on some dates and meets less-cantankerous men. Don’t loan this new man any money, either, Ms. Bailey. The Lord obviously doesn’t find that to be the best option for you.

Shereé Whitfield

When Shereé got her peach back, I was so happy because if nothing else, Lady Whitfield is great for a good confessional drag and one-liner; see: “Hell to the nah to the nah-nah-nah.” That said, though she has been a longtime favorite of mine, she was a bit of a letdown this season. As the self-appointed bone collector, Shereé spent most of her time this season telling everyone else’s business. Much of that has to do with the fact that she doesn’t seem to have as much going on.

What frustrates me about Shereé is that she let other cast members do the hustles she should’ve been jumped on. Like, how is Shereé in possession of that body and not out here training celebrities and releasing top-selling fitness videos? Instead, all we got was another damn season of her talking about Chateau Shereé. I don’t know if Chateau Shereé is in her name or her mama’s name; nor do I know if the property is done being saddled with liens. Honestly, I’d rather Chateau Shereé settle all of that shit, once and for all, so that she can move on from the storyline and spare us in the process. And with that peace of mind, maybe she’ll find something more to talk about that’s actually about her.

I’m rooting for you, Shereé, and your fine-ass son. Bring him back anytime you want. Not just because he’s fine, but because he at least has a damn storyline based on himself. Learn from your offspring.

Kandi Burruss

As happy as I am that Xscape is finally back together, The Real Housewives of Atlanta has long suggested to me that Mrs. Burruss-Tucker bears a whole lot of responsibility for why it took so long for a proper reunion. Kandi is cool, but Kandi is also petty, and unlike a lot of you motherfuckers across social media, I don’t like petty.

Here is what bugs me about Kandi: She lets everyone around her drag the fuck out of her fellow cast members, then feigns aloofness about why people feel she may have issues with them that she won’t explicitly state herself unless it’s already a fight happening.

I don’t want to hear her employees take digs at other people. I don’t want to see her mama dressed like Inspector Gadget in a scene as she minds someone else’s business. None of those people have peaches; thus, why are we constantly subjected to them? Their thoughts and feelings about Kandi’s business shouldn’t matter so much, but they do because they tend to speak for Kandi.

Kandi should ask Tiny to join the show so that, at the very least, she can have a friend to hang out with. Like, how many more scenes must we see of Kandi’s employees talking noise about her co-workers during their breaks?

Now, Kandi has been treated terribly this season, but that doesn’t negate the fact that Todd talks too much. So does her mama. So does Don Juan, no Bishop. So does that other one whose name I can’t recall but I won’t Google because she ain’t on this damn show and I shouldn’t see her so damn much. Enough.

Porsha Williams

Bless Porsha’s heart, but all too often, she speaks as if the inside of her brain consists of a bunch of sedimentary rocks. I didn’t like her when she first joined the show because she was judgmental toward the other women while being married to that terrible man. After life humbled her and she put on a freakum dress, she tried to stop acting like she wasn’t in a Trillville video years ago.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Even for the most dedicated Mary J. Blige fan, news of a new album might not necessarily trigger the excitement it used to. Blige has managed to continue to be largely successful through her albums and subsequent tears, but the newer material has often been the equivalent of catfish that you let cool for too long. Like, it’s not bad, and indeed, it’s still nourishing, but you prefer it hotter, like you’re used to.

Thankfully, Blige’s most recent release, Strength of a Woman, has me singing “Temperature’s rising … ,” only not like that pervert you’re now thinking of.

In lieu of a traditional review, here are all of the reasons to love this album and where Blige is going in her career.

She is mad as all hell.

In the first 30 seconds of “Set Me Free,” the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul sings: “Tell me how you figure that you made me and you gave me what I had before I met ya/Ain’t gon’ have it when you gone?/And how you fix your mouth to say I owe you when you had another bitch and taking trips and shit with my money/You must done lost it/Nigga, you won’t get a dime.”

Mary J. Blige hates the fuck out of her soon-to-be ex-husband, Kendu Isaacs. To wit, she also sings on the same song, “There’s a special place in hell for you/You gon’ pay for what you did to me.” While I try to figure out if I can conduct a séance to help Blige get the revenge on her deadweight that she deserves, I am appreciating the anger.

She sounds current, but not pressed to keep up with the times.

What I liked about this album’s first two releases, “Thick of It” and “U & Me (Love Sessions),” is that each song sounds current without trying too hard. Not everyone is as successful with similar pursuits. See Mariah Carey’s “I Don’t.” Bless her heart.

In any event, this pattern continues on other tracks, like “It’s Me” and the instant body-roll-inducing “Telling the Truth,” featuring Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood. However, my favorite example of this is “Glow Up,” featuring DJ Khaled (basically just breathing), Missy Elliott (not first-place verse, but honorable mention is better than a participation award), and the Beyoncé of Migos, Quavo. Quavo and Blige are (somewhat) strangely sublime together. I’m surprised that Blige hasn’t recorded with Future yet, but after “Glow Up,” I would not be opposed to more MJB-Quavo collaborations. It is by far my favorite track because it’s basically a fuck-you to Isaacs that you can aggressively bop to in the club.

Speaking of, with this track and the overall album, Blige sounds like the cool auntie versus that desperate auntie who ferociously tries to prove to all that she’s still got it. Some of us know this auntie: the one who invites herself to the club with you after Thanksgiving dinner. That is not my Mary J. Blige. My Mary J. Blige is the one I can’t wait to bring because this album slaps and I can’t wait to buy her the finest cognac and join her in that same ass dance she does (which is legendary choreography, TBH).

There are plenty of songs to cry to at the concert.

I cannot wait to join, at the looming tour, the aunties, the gay uncles, the white people who discovered her sometime between the Elton John sample and first hearing of the word “dancerie,” and the straight black men forced to come because they’ve done messed up with their girls once again. Like, I’ve already prepared my frown and sway while holding a cup of cognac to “Thank You.” I know I will be waving one hand in the air to “Indestructible” as Blige ministers to the crowd. Depending on the set list, I may shed a tear or 19 to “Survivor.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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At one point during the season premiere of Basketball Wives, the returning Evelyn Lozada asks a very poignant question: “Why the fuck am I here?” One of my favorite colored-people proverbs comes to mind:

A check is a check.

Although Lozada successfully managed to flee VH1 and go on to OWN to star in her own show, the family-themed and far less contentious Livin’ Lozada ended after two seasons. So, while Lozada is presumably not hurting for much as far as money goes (being on TV for a while plus being engaged to a baseball player ought to come with a certain cushion), she is a television personality. It helps to be working on a television show when you’re a television personality. Plus, it is very likely that VH1 waved a wad of money her way to convince her to come on home and help save a series on the decline.

Last year I wrote “Basketball Wives LA: The Thrill Is Gone,” which addressed how dull and draining the show had become. Evelyn may have briefly wondered why she subjected herself to this show all over again, but plenty of longtime viewers didn’t give a shit. We’re just glad you’re back, OG Puerto Rican royalty.

Evelyn’s comeback begins exactly how you’d expect: with her stunting. We see Evelyn during her weeklong run as a guest host on The Real. Shaunie O’Neal, elated to have another co-star she actually wants to film with, joins her backstage. What do they talk about? Tami Roman, naturally.

For weeks now, VH1 has been teasing Evelyn’s return by reminding us of her volatile relationship with Tami. Evelyn and Tami were cool until it was revealed that Evelyn slept with Tami’s then-estranged husband. Evelyn told Tami that she knew nothing about her and that she was a “nonmotherfucking factor.” That resulted in one of Tami’s trademark sucker punches, and a brawl that was quickly stomped out by security.

Thing is, the two got along swimmingly later on, but once Evelyn left the show, old wounds quickly resurfaced. All these years later, Tami is still salty about it and won’t stop talking about. Literally, Tami spends most of the episode trying to label Evelyn a ho. A fake ho. A dishonest ho. A ho-ass ho. Ho, ho, ho, she wants to toss a lump of coal at her head for being a ho.

Tami clings to the “Evelyn is a ho” narrative because it’s seemingly the one thing in her mind that places her above Evelyn. Tami is probably calling me a bitch now, but it’s not my fault she can’t take Evelyn. Tami has come a long way since her start on this show: The wigs and weaves are better; the dresses look less Rainbow; she stopped buying loosies. You would think she would find peace in that. She’s like the embodiment of Monica’s After the Storm.

But no, Tami keeps taking shots. At one point, she questions Evelyn’s relevance. Tami may have been on reality TV for two decades, but Evelyn has managed to score two spinoffs. Tami is making folks laugh in a bonnet on Instagram. Granted, the shit is funny and should be a show, but madam, really?

As for Evelyn, she says she sees darkness when she looks at Tami. You know, I have often likened Evelyn to a Disney villain who throws bottles in the club, but she is on to something. Evelyn is a baddie, and it is entertaining as hell to see how she makes Tami sick by merely breathing.

However, before their confrontation at the ’70s mixer (don’t ask), Jackie Christie decides to tag herself in for beef with Evelyn. Jackie is mad at Evelyn because Evelyn donated to the GoFundMe her estranged daughter launched for her son, who was severely burned. Who gets mad about charitable donations?

Bless her heart, Jackie Christie still makes up reasons to be angry with someone so she can get screen time. Like, Jackie Christie literally makes up stories in her head to feel a part of a group. Can you imagine a show with her and Kenya Moore? It would be the most annoying show ever.

Read the rest at The Root.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at The Root.

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Whenever I watch The Real Housewives of Jack and Jill Potomac, I have to ask myself if I really like this show or if I merely hate myself. Between their racial politics, color complexes and obsession with pretending that Potomac is the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area’s equivalent of St. Barts (select dictators certainly think so), even hate-watching can feel draining. Yes, Potomac is a very affluent area and, of course, the Real Housewives franchise is all about hamming up one’s wealth, but bougie black people are some of the most exhausting people on this increasingly less-green earth.

RHOP is like watching the after-hours of an HBCU (think Howard, Hampton or SpelHouse) alumni gala in real time. Like, you’re watching stuck-up black folks feign the kind of pedigree typically flexed by white people only. Why subject yourself to that torture? Well, you wait around ’cause you know brown liquor and “Blow the Whistle” will eventually loosen their tight asses the hell up already, and they’ll entertain you.

That’s basically how I feel about this show: Get them drunk already so they can stop faking like they belong on The Royals. That critique aside, I’m sitting here reviewing the season premiere, so congratulations, ladies. Y’all got me watching no matter how much shit I talk.

Now, let’s discuss these new taglines.

Gizelle:

Word on the street is I’m still the word on the street.

Girl, you can’t do better than that? Anyone who looks like Vanessa Williams should try harder. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’ve never seen Vanessa Williams’ performance of “Running Back to You” on The Arsenio Hall Show.)

Karen:

Potomac put me on a pedestal and the view is spectacular.

What I appreciate about Karen, who favors Tina Knowles if Tina Knowles were a villain in a live-action adaptation of some Disney classic, is that she knows what this franchise is supposed to be like, so she gives it her best shot each and every time. Salute, Whitney Houston.

Robyn:

Don’t let the green eyes fool you: I’m as real as they come.

Robyn always seems to be going through a lot, so maybe she didn’t have enough time to think of something better than a reference to her green eyes. Bless her heart.

Charrisse:

Why cry over spoiled milk when you can laugh over champagne?

This is Junior Varsity Karen, but she made an effort.

Ashley:

I’ve played by Potomac rules, but now it’s time to play by my own.

Unlike Ashley.

As for what these women have been up to, I’m mostly interested in how much Gizelle and Charrisse now hate each other. Gizelle and Charrisse are like Kim and Whitley if they remained frenemies and kept a toxic relationship going well into their 40s. Gizelle is mad at Charrisse for insinuating that she was a whore during the RHOP reunion. Charrisse is vexed at Gizelle because during Gizelle’s appearance on Watch What Happens Live, Gizelle revealed that Charrisse had a lil’ boyfriend (a fireman, to be exact) at the same time her soon-to-be ex-husband was out thotting in New Jersey.

So, for much of the episode, we see these two go at each other through other people. When they finally do have direct confrontation, it lasts for mere minutes, with neither one of them bothering to say, “My bad for putting your business on the street.” Instead, we got Gizelle claiming that Charrisse’s line, “Don’t let this zip code fool you,” was borrowed from a song that doesn’t exist.

Their beef is dumb. Charrisse, if that’s your girl, don’t insinuate that she’s out here laying it low and spreading it wide. I mean, if she is, that’s her business. Gizelle, you know you were retaliating, so own it, own it, own it, like Lisa Rinna, and repair the friendship. Or hate each other and entertain us. Whatever floats y’all’s dinghy.

Meanwhile, Gizelle has moved to a new house but would like a man with money and a big dick.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Who told Iggy Azalea to stop working with black people from Atlanta and pretending to be the love child of Charli Baltimore and Diamond from Crime Mob?

Although “Fancy,” that fake-ass DJ Mustard track, was a monstrous hit, beyond that song, the only other decent ones Azalea ever managed to release were “Pu$$y” and “Murda Bizness,” featuring T.I. Those were the songs that first gained her national attention and a small but solid and eager fan base.

Make no mistake—her fraudulent blaccent has annoyed me quite a few times—but a bop is a bop, beloveds. Yes, cultural appropriation is bad, I should know better, yadda-yadda. That said, if you’re going to steal our shit, steal it correctly. Give me an ole’ nasty, problematic bop. When the ancestors greet me with their disappointment, I need them to at least know it was for something I danced to emphatically.

Sure, “Black Widow” featuring Rita Ora was a hit, but it made a suspicious character—why does an Australian white girl sound like that?—even more gimmicky and, subsequently, all the easier to dismiss.

Those generic pop hits are exactly why Azalea has been trying for more than a year now to bring that old thing back. Well, trying and failing miserably … bless her heart. This would include the singles “Azillion” and “Team.” Those songs sound like the kind white people make when they want to sound a lil’ black, but not too black. They’re more or less the audible version of greens purchased from Neiman Marcus.

Sadly, the same goes for her latest release, “Mo Bounce.” If someone tells you that this song slaps, tell them that you will be praying extra hard that Obamacare is not repealed and the health industry is not thrown into disarray, because they need medical attention. This song ain’t it. It’s not even a lil’ bit of it.

It’s not lit or even in possession of the slightest flicker. The newly released music video isn’t much better. It reminds me of a commercial from a major company desperately trying to look cool to young people. Wait, is that basically a Black Eyed Peas video? Please advise.

In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, Azalea apologized for the delay of her new album and claimed that she was starting the project all over again.

“I promise you I had my whole record down and I scrapped the entire thing. It was good stuff; it’s not even that it was bad!” she explained. “I just had a lot of life changes right before I was supposed to drop my album, and I thought, ‘You know what? This is no longer reflective of what I want to say or what I want to talk about or who I am.’”

Translation: None of my singles were taking off and the label was like, “Oh, girl. Start over. We need that Vanilla Ice-meets-Nicki Minaj money.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Nearly a month after the release of “shETHER,” Nicki Minaj has two of the most added songs on radio, while Remy Ma still tends to struggle with rapping on beat and finding a fan base who will support her beyond seven minutes.

Already, one imagines select readers will scream that I am a Minaj fan, and thus I have a biased opinion that ought to be rendered null and void. Feel free to shout it a few times more in your mind. Have a sip of water next. Great; we can all move on now that y’all have gotten it out of your systems.
Unlike many of the people who passed around “shETHER,” I listened to Remy Ma’s debut album, There’s Something About Remy; her most recent effort, the collaborative Plata O Plomo with Fat Joe; and many of the mixtapes that dropped in between, like 2014’s I’m Around and 2007’s Shesus Khryst. I’m also familiar with previous Remy Ma diss tracks aimed at Lil’ Kim, like “When I See Her” and “Dat Thing,” which, like “shETHER,” flips a famous track into a lengthy diss at some female rapper more successful than she is.

Remy can rap, but if most people can’t name five songs of hers, what does that tell you? Seven minutes can only get you so far, especially when you’re taking on someone who has been the lone dominant woman in rap for a smooth seven years. That’s why so much of her beef with Minaj feels like déjà vu, in that a lot of casual listeners will big her up for a hot diss record (or one of them, anyway) but not do anything to help her avoid a future episode about her career on TV One’s Unsung.

Worse, Remy blew it the moment she released “Another One,” a track that’s a mix of desperation and dated production while reeking of all that gas folks put in her tank for coming at Minaj. Picture Scrappy Doo swinging against a big monster, only to fall on his tiny-ass tail. This is “Another One,” only it’s scored by the sounds of 2003.

Yet, let some folks tell it, Minaj was somewhere in a corner, crying through at least two fake accents, hoping and praying to EDM Jesus that Reminisce leaves her be so she won’t destroy her career. Much of this mirrors the responses to Lil’ Kim’s “Black Friday,” which took direct aim at Minaj. Who remembers the Baltimore rapper Keys the Problem, who also dissed Minaj? She and Kim eventually became fake friends for a few seconds over a shared hatred of Minaj. I don’t know where Keys is presently, but I hope she’s having a chicken box and peace of mind.

But yes, much like now, folks swore all of this would hurt a then-rising Minaj. You know, because “real rappers” were challenging her. What actually happened was that Pink Friday went double platinum and no one listened to Lil’ Kim’s mixtape, although we all did hear the barrage of disses Minaj sent by way of her singles or songs she was featured on.

The same will happen soon enough, which means that for much of 2017, on various radio formats and at various clubs and bar mitzvahs, many will be singing along with lines bashing Remy Ma.

For some, that is not real hip-hop. As someone from the South who very much enjoys Southern rap, I’ve heard cries of what is and isn’t hip-hop as far back as the original airings of Tiny Toon Adventures. In sum, fuck all of that. Minaj has taken a similar approach, and we see how that’s turned out.

Coincidentally, these are the very folks who have never given Minaj her due and very likely never will. The types who will tout many of the great women in rap of yore, but not contend with the notion that a more contemporary market wasn’t all that accommodating to female rappers who didn’t occasionally board a starship (for the record, I fucking hate that song). The kind who will continue to force themselves to believe that Minaj’s ex Safaree Samuels is the Mister Geppetto to her Pinocchio.

Pop quiz: If Web Browser was so instrumental in making her, why hasn’t he made himself a rap star?

These are the ones who exalt “shETHER” but don’t have much to say about Remy Ma outside the context of, she lit up Nicki Minaj’s ass for several minutes over an instrumental that perfectly encapsulates their love of all things Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday.

I listened to “shETHER” on Soundcloud, too, and my mouth fell open. Remy hurt my feelings. Even so, will I be playing that in the future? No, and it’s unlikely that many others will, either.

That’s why, as adorable as it was to see Remy Ma dressed like a classy hood auntie at her best frenemies’ funeral and declare her rival dead on daytime TV, Nicki Minaj is doing just fine—so fine that now her old music is rising in sales. But if you’re going to diss someone twice in a few days, why bother apologizing for your actions after the fact?

“I do not condone or recommend the tearing down of another female,” Remy Ma said on BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast. “That’s not what I do. Anybody that knows me knows that I embrace females. I always want to do some girl-oriented thing. I think we work so much better when we work together and when we help each other.”

Remy referred to Foxy Brown as a “deaf bitch” on “shETHER,” and based on the snippet that leaked, the legendary hearing-impaired emcee sure heard it.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Whenever I hear skinfolk exclaim that they are exhausted by slave-related stories, my immediate reaction traditionally is to extend to them the invitation to shut their black asses up. About a year ago, though, I inadvertently behaved like the kind of people I have written about. The kind who more or less profess to be “slaved out.”

I received an email from a publicist about a new WGN America series titled Underground. The show was described as a 10-episode, hourlong vehicle that would take “viewers on a pulse-pounding journey with revolutionaries of the Underground Railroad and [tell] the unflinching story of a group of courageous men and women who band together for the fight of their lives—for their families, their future and their freedom.”

I put my fist in the air, but I wasn’t ready to commit.

Underground, which debuted last March, enjoyed record-breaking ratings for WGN America (pushing its average ratings up 1,000 percent) and managed to perform well through the season finale. Clearly, it built a sizable and committed fan base for a reason. Even so, I told myself that I would get to it when I got to it—like a student loan payment from time to time.

I didn’t make a real effort to watch the show until days after Sweet Potato Saddam was elected president. I lasted all of seven minutes before I turned it off and continued my timeout from white folks. I didn’t want to disappoint Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who stars as Rosalee on the show and whom I have adored since the short-lived On Our Own and the impeccable Eve’s Bayou. Same for John Legend, who serves as an executive producer and will appear on camera in the second season.

But hey, they’re black; I’m sure they could understand. In hindsight, I now have a better understanding of why some may be reluctant to watch anything slavery-related. As much as slavery is a part of American history, asking marginalized people to revisit past trauma as they grapple with their own is a lot. Wanting to not revisit certain aspects of history when solely trying to be entertained does not mean one is disregarding it completely.

That said, after having finally watched the first season of Underground, I can admit that I have cheated myself.

The show is fantastic. The acting is phenomenal. The scripts are well-written. Everything is well-shot, and there are little details found in each episode that suggest a lot of thought went into making this show as authentic as possible.

Also, what makes Underground different from most slavery-themed works is that while the realities of slavery are not glossed over, in terms of narrative, this show is much more akin to your typical television drama than it is to 12 Years a Slave. As The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II notes of Underground, “The first season owed a debt to The Walking Dead as much as it did to Roots.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Midway through the last season of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, I started to hear Beyoncé’s voice: “I’m through with it/Through with it (love)/I’m finally giving it up.” While I love my Negro telenovelas, the previous season was not up to par. It had a bunch of new folks whose problems I didn’t care about, and in terms of the fake-fake, some of those random losers were making LHHATL the television equivalent of a crab cake full of weird fish and breading. I’ve been to Maryland too many times, beloved, so that shit is nasty to me.

Many of us entered the season premiere with trepidation, but praise Trap Jesus, I didn’t want to quit in the middle of the show and go turn on MSNBC and face a more ridiculous reality.

Now, some of the cast members still need to be rounded up and sent to go find themselves either some business to stay on the show or be pointed toward a new career path. The same goes with folks delivering their lines as if they’re performing Little Red Goes to the Hood (this is an actual play I starred in, FYI). But, again, it’s much, much better.

The show begins with the Puerto Rican Princess doing a sexy pregnancy shoot, letting us know that she doesn’t need Stevie J to keep her career going. Maybe not, but isn’t it crazy how Cardi B basically became the rap star some of us envisioned Joseline becoming? There is no reason Joseline shouldn’t already be the bilingual Jacki-O. How has she not been on a Gucci Mane track already? I’m so angry.

In any event, Joseline may not need Stevie J for professional guidance, but she does request those child support checks because her baby will require good schooling, nice clothes, quality health care and whatever else her mama thinks her daddy ought to be paying for (damn right).

Not long after, we catch a glimpse of Stevie J working out in a boxing gym, saying his relationship with Faith Evans (insert laugh track here) didn’t work out (shocker) and that he’s back in Atlanta. Translation: “We finished filming the first season of my spin-off, so Faith went back to finding other ways of generating promo for her forthcoming album with her late husband.” And piggybacking off that show and its storylines, Stevie continues to question the paternity of Joseline’s baby on the season premiere.

The nerve of Stevie J—who has a gang of kids and is a thot on every single show we see him on—to insinuate that Joseline is so fucking slutty that her baby could be his or on the cashier at Wingstop that gives her extra lemon-pepper wings. If you’ve got a dick that active, you have no right to level those accusations without at least acknowledging irony.

Joining in on that particular Joseline pile-on were Mimi, Rasheeda, Tammy and Ariane. While having drinks (presumably Myx Moscato and watered-down Crown Apple), they sat around and talked about Joseline the whole damn time. Some things never change.

What was most hilarious, though, was that after Mimi introduced us to Melissa—a very polite lesbian who works as a club promoter and a friend to Joseline—Mimi had the nerve to say in the confessional that Joseline better keep her name out of her mouth. Girl, you spent a whole scene worried about what’s in Joseline’s womb, and that’s what you want to declare after the fact? Did you bump your head on that shower rod, sis?

As for Tammy, she explains that she has separated herself from Waka Flocka and his wayward dick. I don’t care, but if this means we get more of Deb Antney, I’ll indulge.

When it comes to Ariane, she doesn’t seem to have much purpose on this show outside of being Mimi’s friend. Mimi doesn’t have anything going on, so, c’mon, pretty woman, what else you got? Wasn’t Ariane a singer last season? Where is that single we kind of heard her play? Where is its follow-up?

Ariane should be on this show selling herself as the Lesbian Bryson Tiller or the LGBTQ Dej Loaf.

I’ll get to Rasheeda in a minute, but keeping with the theme of purposeless characters, Tommie’s drunk, violent ass is back on the show. At one point, Tommie says that people forget that she is a mother of two. We forget because she never mentions her children on the show. Hell, she shouldn’t because she ain’t nothing but a CPS public service announcement.

Not much has changed about Tommie. She continues to cry without visible tears. Based on the previews, she remains a violent, angry person in desperate need of a 12-step program, a praying grandmother and an email chain with a producer from Iyanla: Fix My Life.

Read the rest at The Root.

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As a wave of sighs, boos, hisses, and expletives flooded various homes and social media platforms in the wake of Beyoncé losing every major category at this year’s Grammy Awards, a familiar sentiment surfaced just as swiftly: “What did you expect?”

The rhetorical question is rooted in the history of the most celebrated music awards show we have. It is a history that has long highlighted the fact that the Recording Academy has little interest in amplifying black art outside a few designated genre categories.

When Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost out to Adele’s 25 on Sunday night, some suspected vote-splitting was behind the upset. I think it was just white people being white—like they always have been.

Here is a list of the 10 black artists that have won the night’s biggest honor, Album of the Year, since the show’s inception in 1957:

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (1974), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1975) Songs in the Key of Life (1977)
Michael Jackson: Thriller (1984)
Lionel Richie: Can’t Slow Down (1985)
Quincy Jones: Back on the Block (1991)
Natalie Cole: Unforgettable With Love (1992)
Whitney Houston: The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack (1994)
Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1999)
Outkast: Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2004)
Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company (2005)
Herbie Hancock: River: The Joni Letters (2008)

It is a shockingly paltry sum, especially since many were basically handed the award long past their prime and for works that arguably catered more to the taste of the Grammys’ suspected older white male voting body. In more recent years, innovative works from the likes of Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and, of course, Beyoncé, have lost in this category to artists such as Daft Punk, Taylor Swift, Beck, and Mumford and Sons. It therefore was not surprising to me that in a world in which Taylor Swift has two Album of the Year Grammy Awards and Prince has none, Lemonade lost to 25, a far more palatable album (to white people, anyway).

What’s even more frustrating about the Grammy Awards is that it purports to be more evolved on race than the Oscars. Last year, Neil Portnow, CEO and president of the Recording Academy, was asked about inclusion in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign. In his comments to Variety, Portnow projected a certain moral superiority:

The music community really is much more inclusive because of the nature of the collaborations. Also because of the nature of the proliferation of influences of one genre into another over time. It’s the history of how music has evolved from the very beginning.

Portnow sounds like a member of the Democratic National Committee touting the inclusion of the party while promoting the DNC. Sure, they present splotches of color in primetime, but the reality is that even though black women keep the Grammys alive, they don’t have enough of them in real positions of power. Because the organization don’t value them as much as claim to. Because they celebrate diversity only in superficial terms. That’s just how it’s always been.

That said, something did feel slightly different last night—largely because someone white at least alluded to the blatant biases that consume Grammy voters. Adele, who basically runs the British wing of the BeyHive, used her acceptance speech time (twice!) to profess appreciation for Beyoncé and Lemonade. “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humble and very grateful, but my artist of my life is Beyoncé,” she explained. “This album for me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental.”

Some took issue with this comment of hers: “The way you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel is empowering. And they stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have.”

Those folks need to be quiet.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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