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You don’t have to convince me about the power of Michael Jackson. His name is Michael Joseph Jackson. Mine is Michael Joseph Arceneaux. I was born in 1984, i.e. 25 years after the debut Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 and two years after the release of the record-breaking, worldwide smash and hugely influential Thriller album. For many – notably 1980s babies and the pop stars they’ve seen produced – he is a template and a genre of music unto himself.

Still, there is one point that should be obvious but apparently continues to go over people’s heads: there will never be another Michael Jackson.

However, that doesn’t stop people from either comparing themselves to Michael Jackson or allowing other people to do it for them.

Nick Cannon recently took to Instagram and uploaded an image that drew the ire of anyone with some damn sense. In what he called “The Perfect Equation,” it argued that Michael Jackson and 2Pac equal Chris Brown. In the caption, Cannon argued, “A lot of times we don’t realize or acknowledge our treasures while we still have them with us. We wait until they are gone to appreciate their power.”

I have never supported Mariah Carey more than I do in this moment.

Let’s be very clear that while the sentiment “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone (Joni Mitchell never lied)” is true, it doesn’t apply here. Michael Jackson was the biggest pop star on the planet. 2Pac was a hugely successful rapper with a burgeoning career in Hollywood. Both sold tens of millions of albums. Both were critical and commercial successes until the day they died. Both, however, faced some serious allegations leveled against them and the world reacted accordingly. Such is life.

Chris Brown is indeed talented, but even before “the incident” with Rihanna (as in, the physical assault of her), he was in no way shape or form comparable to them. He was on the verge of wider success, but even under heavy controversy and criticism, manages to be one of R&B’s greatest successes. That’s good for him, but as far as being a creative goes, Chris Brown is basically a light skinned Bobby Brown rather than the second coming of Michael Jackson.

And to be perfectly quite honest, if nothing else, Bobby Brown gave the world Don’t Be Cruel. Chris Brown doesn’t even have that, so don’t you dare keep comparing to Michael Jackson just because Chris Brown can dance. He doesn’t even dance like Michael Jackson, for the record.

People use Michael Jackson as a measuring stick of an artist’s worth. The problem with that is most folks have no real appreciation for who Michael was beyond an amazing dancer with some cool videos.

Take for instance, the other person who is now being compared to Michael Jackson: The Weeknd.

You know, I’ve come to embrace the gloomy Canadian’s music. It’s like American Horror Story meets sex and drugs. I even appreciate how candid he is about his pursuit of mainstream popularity. Nevertheless, paying homage to Michael Jackson on songs like “Can’t Feel My Face,” “In The Night,” or his remake of Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” a new Michael Jackson does not make. Don’t let the great stab at karaoke fool you.

Read the rest at VH1.

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bill-cosby-ebony-magazine-november-coverHow important is a symbol? For those who continue to defend Bill Cosby amidst accusations of rape from over 50 women, what matters most is not the dignity of those women and them rightfully seeking retribution, but the symbolism behind Cosby’s greatest success. Sadly, they have now been emboldened in their shortsighted stance by one of the cast members ofThe Cosby Show. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Malcolm-Jamal Warner employed the “bigger picture” defense in his condemnation of Ebony magazine’s latest cover.

“[The cover is] contributing to the stereotypical image that society has of the broken black family and the shattered black family,” Warner explained to host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “And to take something that… for 20 [or] 30 years has been what we have held up as the black family that we all want to aspire to, in terms of the love that we don’t see when we see black families in the media—to take that image and to shatter it, it’s disappointing to a lot of us.”

Cosby may have only been Warner’s dad while in character, but he certainly passed along some delusions of grandeur. Nonetheless, it’s a point of view expressed by many, though it feels flawed for numerous reasons. Not to take away what the Huxtables meant to some people, but I never felt comfortable with the idea that in order for non-black people to see black folks beyond trite tropes, they had to see them within the constrains of an upper middle class nuclear family. The same goes for that family being the one “we all want to aspire to.”

Even if that were actually the case, in 2015, we have President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their two children, Sasha and Malia Obama. Likewise, we have Beyoncé, Jay Z, and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter. For those who need to see an image of black families depicting what is perceived to be “traditional,” and thus, a model worth aspiring to, there are other options.

Meanwhile, a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center shows that the majority of American kids under 18 are not being raised in a “traditional” family—defined as two parents in their first marriage. Only 46 percent of children now live in such a lifestyle. The rest are raised by single parents, parents who cohabitate, stepparents, and grandparents. Moreover, there are gay parents; and according to a new study by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas, same-sex parents spend significantly more time with their children than their heterosexual counterparts.

This shift reminds me of something not enough people acknowledge about black television: We’ve long had varied depictions of what a black family can look like.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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Mainstream publications getting their coverage of black culture wrong is about as common as Miley Cyrus referencing marijuana or Donald Trump saying something self-aggrandizing—but it never stops being frustrating. So when Elle Canada decided to label the dashiki “the newest it-item of note,” black people across Twitter did the ceremonial clapback.

First, there was righteous anger. Then came the jokes. After that, others chimed in, adding more fury and funny to the conversation. It’s a familiar cycle because lately, it seems not a day goes by without a media outlet getting something wrong about black culture.

Even before Elle diminished the history of the dashiki, a colorful garment commonly worn in West Africa, there was problematic mainstream discussion of the term “fuck boy.” Popularized by rapper Cam’ron, it’s a way to mock a man’s masculinity and describe him as weak. But when Vanity Fair tried to define the term in a recent piece about Tinder, the black community went up in arms.

Doing her best Carrie Bradshaw impersonation, writer Nancy Jo Sales, defined a fuck boy as “a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex.”

Although she notes that “the word has been around for at least a decade with different meanings,” Sales is guilty of the same sin as Elle. She references fuck boy, taken from black culture, and speaks of its importance only in terms of its relevance to white people. To wit, Sales admits that “it’s only in about the last year that it has become so frequently used by women and girls to refer to their hookups.”

As Jezebel’s Kara Brown correctly asserted, “You don’t get to change the meaning of words because all your white friends are using it incorrectly. This isn’t the evolution of language—it is an outright hijacking. And the fact that these people think they have any right to do so is white privilege of the highest order.”

There is a right way to report on a culture you aren’t part of, though.

Read the rest at ntrsctn.

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I would not be at all surprised if Nicki Minaj ultimately joined Beyoncé in her self-imposed exile from interviews with the press. On one end, you want to celebrate the fact that the New York Times magazine opted to recognize Minaj for the pop cultural behemoth she has become. And the you read the actual article and realize how ironic that this profile is for the publication’s cultural issue and the woman interviewing Minaj is clueless.

Immediately, I noticed that when naming female stars of pop music, Vanessa Grigoriadis touts “Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and, as always, Madonna,” but conveniently leaves out Janet Jackson. Jackson has influenced numerous of the aforementioned names, and if we’re truly keeping it funky, actually has a song being played on the radio, unlike Madonna. Then there is Grigoriadis’ musings on female artists reclaiming the word bitch, but leaves out Lil’ Kim, who not only did that and then some, but also helped pave the way for the very pop-rap crossover stardom that Minaj presently enjoys.

But of course, she tried to tie Nicki Minaj to Lady Gaga, which Minaj not surprisingly dismissed as being “so old.”

The lack of insight is almost comical until you realize how this is yet another piece on a Black star penned by a often condescending antagonistic writer who didn’t deserve the assignment. Therein lies the frustration Minaj ultimately shared with Grigoriadis after she posed a rather sexist question about the rift between her labelmate Drake, and her boyfriend, Meek Mill, as well as the lawsuit filed by Lil’ Wayne against Baby.

Grigoriadis asked, ‘‘Is there a part of you that thrives on drama, or is it no, just pain and unpleasantness.”

And that’s when Minaj went off. Rightly so. “That’s disrespectful,” Minaj said. “Why would a grown-ass woman thrive off drama?”

Then, she really let her have it: “That’s the typical thing that women do. What did you putting me down right there do for you? ’Women blame women for things that have nothing to do with them. I really want to know why.’ As a matter of fact, I don’t. Can we move on, do you have anything else to ask? To put down a woman for something that men do, as if they’re children and I’m responsible, has nothing to do with you asking stupid questions, because you know that’s not just a stupid question. That’s a premeditated thing you just did.’’

Minaj went on to dismiss her as “rude” and a “troublemaker” before declaring, “Do not speak to me like I’m stupid or beneath you in any way.” Ultimately, the boot came: “I don’t care to speak to you anymore.’’

Still, not getting it, Grigoriadis closed this piece by opining, “I didn’t know how much of it Minaj really felt, and how much it was a convenient way of maintaining control.”

Read the rest at VH1.

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Far more often that not, when it comes to conversations about cultural appropriation, white people are the last ones who should have their hands up to speak.

In an essay for The Washington Post entitled, “To the new culture cops, everything is appropriation,” journalist Cathy Young writes about increasing media criticism of cultural appropriation as if everyone else is being hypersensitive. Young notes, “At one time, such critiques were leveled against truly offensive art—work that trafficked in demeaning caricatures, such as blackface, 19th-century minstrel shows or ethnological expositions, which literally put indigenous people on display, often in cages.”

The problem is that this argument sounds far too much like a complaint about criticizing racism. Like racism, people seem to think appropriation only exists in its ugliest form (i.e. using a slur). However, cultural appropriation, like racism, is varied and nuanced. If Young could manage to step outside of her seeming bubble and engage actual minorities in conversation, someone might’ve explained this to her.

Young’s essential gripe is that such critiques have become common “no matter how thoughtfully or positively” they’re delivered. She claims, “A work can reinvent the material or even serve as a tribute, but no matter. If artists dabble outside their own cultural experiences, they’ve committed a creative sin.”

In theory, there is some truth to this; accusations of cultural appropriation are being mounted now more than ever. Over at The Grio, Demertia Irwin wrote a piece entitled “No: African-Americans ‘culturally appropriating’ African aesthetics isn’t a thing,” refuting one writer’s misguided claims that black Americans are just as bad as white people for jumping on the “Black is cool” trend, when it comes to wearing traditional African garb.

What’s more, Young is wrong to assert that everyone’s simply overreacting. She doesn’t seem to understand why people take offense to Katy Perry and Iggy Azalea, even when the latter has been outright disrespectful when deflecting charges of cultural appropriation. Young writes, “When we attack people for stepping outside their own cultural experiences, we hinder our ability to develop empathy and cross-cultural understanding.”

Azalea is not trying to understand a different culture through her faux accent; she is performing black culture and capitalizing on an experience that isn’t her own. When critics asked the rapper why a white girl from Australia is using a southern black woman’s accent, Azalea displayed ignorance about the implications of her behavior.

Read the rest at ntrsctn.

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Terrence Howard confused the hell out of many in a recent Rolling Stone profile. In it, Howard was way too candid about his, uh, very interesting and challenging life. Such is his right. However, when it came to discussion of his past accusations of violence, I wish he had simply offered a thoughtful apology or suddenly misplaced his tongue. Unfortunately, Howard did discuss the various allegations leveled against him over the years, and claims the reputation it’s spawned help influence him to play Lucious Lyon on Empire.

“Since they see me as a bad guy,” he explains, “I’m gonna play a bad guy.”

These allegations would include: being escorted off a plane for unruly behavior; punching out strangers in a restaurant; physically abusing at least two women, including two ex-wives.

But, apparently we should boohoo for Lucious.

In a separate Hollywood Reporter profile, it is revealed that Howard has reduced his press availability—one Rolling Stone write-up too late, but I suppose better late than ever. Howard’s co-stars were reportedly advised not to comment on Howard’s troubles, including his issues over a settlement with his ex-wife. But director/Empire creator Lee Daniels opted otherwise.

“That poor boy,” Daniels said of the actor.

Daniels went on to say, “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some fu*kin’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

Such a claim immediately makes me think of remarks Chris Brown made in 2008, after he was said to have tossed a chair at a window following his interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Brown did not like being asked about his physically assaulting Rihanna, so he tweeted and subsequently deleted the following message: “I’m so over people bringing this past s**t up!!! Yet we praise Charlie Sheen and other celebs for [their] bulls**t.”

At the time, I acknowledged Chris Brown had a point, but wrote: “Unfortunately, life isn’t fair, and one would think that a millionaire, of all people, would realize that. We can’t often control what life hands us, but our real power lies in our reaction to whatever we’re dealt. It’s time that Brown accepts what he’s done and the reality that he’ll never fully be able to escape it.”

In other words, don’t hide behind racism to deflect from your misogyny.

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As much as I loved Whitney Houston, the one lesson to take from her life —and her last few years in particular— it’s to let her rest. She served us well and gave us far more of herself and her gifts than we arguably deserved. Why continue to exploit her likeness any further? Has she not already done enough?

Apparently not, according to her sister-in-law and estate executor Pat Houston. She wants Whitney Houston to continue working. Thanks to technology, the impossible is now somewhat probable courtesy of plans to offer audiences Whitney onstage by way of a hologram.

In a statement about the proposed tour, Pat Houston says the use of a Whitney hologram is “a great opportunity for her fans to see a reinvention of one the most celebrated female artists in history and to continue a legacy of performances that will not be forgotten in years to come.”

Alki David, the CEO of Hologram USA, added, “The opportunity to help share her spectacular gifts with the world again is exactly what I hoped for when I built the hologram business.”

Translation: It’s another exploitative way to make money off the deceased star.

Pat Houston had already done this by way of an ill-advised and even more ill-timed reality show. A reality show that featured Whitney’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, visibly inebriated before a national audience. Considering the outcome of Bobbi Kristina’s life, it’s even more infuriating to think about how exposed she was. Whitney Houston regretted Being Bobby Brown, so I can’t imagine she would have wanted that for her daughter.

I also highly doubt she would want this either. It appears to be yet another tactic to tacky up the legacy of one of the world’s absolute greatest voices.

No matter how good the technology proves to be, it will not be the real Whitney Houston. The vocals may be there, but the soul behind it will not. It can never truly be the experience fans deserve.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Miley Cyrus is a marvelous example of moments when white people need to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to shut up and listen when it comes to the subject of race. Or, you know, not comment at all, especially if they’re not even marginally informed about a matter with a potentially racial subtext.

In an interview with the New York Times last week, the former child star and current attention seeker decided to lend her own commentary to Nicki Minaj’s criticism of the MTV Video Music Awards for snubbing her massively popular visual for “Anaconda” this year in the Video of the Year category. When asked about it, Cyrus began with, “I saw that. I didn’t really get into it. I know there was some beef. I don’t really know.” When asked if she knew what Minaj had said, Cyrus said, “She was saying that everyone was white and blonde that got nominated, I heard? And then Taylor Swift butted in.”

When it was explained that Minaj was alluding to a double standard—Minaj having bested the sales and impact of Cyrus’ own “Wrecking Ball” video, which won in 2014—Cyrus again said, “I didn’t follow it.” If you’re keeping score, Cyrus doesn’t really know, she didn’t really get into it and she didn’t really follow it. And yet she spoke anyway.

“Not that this is jealousy, but jealousy does the opposite of what you want it to—that’s a yoga mantra,” Cyrus explained. “People forget that the choices that they make and how they treat people in life affect you in a really big way.” Repurposing the jargon she picked up from her yoga instructor, Cyrus went on to advise, “If you do things with an open heart and you come at things with love, you would be heard and I would respect your statement. But I don’t respect your statement because of the anger that came with it.”

You know, there are your feelings and then there are statistics. Statistics care not about your damn anecdotes. Just because you feel a given way about a situation doesn’t mean it’s rooted in reality. Namaste that, simpletons.

If these empty, poorly rationalized thoughts were not frustrating enough, Cyrus went on to criticize Minaj for the tone of her rightful complaints. Cyrus essentially scolded Minaj, noting, “You made it about you. Not to sound like a bitch, but that’s like, ‘Eh, I didn’t get my V.M.A.’”

Then came her “advice”: “If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it just about yourself. Say: ‘This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.’”

The interviewer noted, “I think she did say that,” but Cyrus did not waver, claiming: “What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj, is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love. You don’t have to start this pop star against pop star war.”

Cyrus’ simplemindedness irks the ever-loving hell out of me. Irked the hell out of Minaj, too. Last night, Minaj used part of the time allotted for her Best Hip-Hop Video win to address Cyrus’ criticism. Startled but still stuck on stupid, Cyrus blamed the media and life went on. Cyrus’ life affords her the luxury of being able to navigate subcultures as easily as she does the dominant one—and to be celebrated. Minaj isn’t as lucky, yet she gets lectured by a spoiled white girl, who casually drops “mammy” in her skit with Snoop Dogg, on how to talk race “the right way.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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Before his interview on Huffington Post Live with Marc Lamont Hill, the longest time I can recall listening to T.D. Jakes speak was during a recent episode of Braxton Family Values. And yet I found myself somewhat impressed by how he toed the line with respect to reconciling his place as a member of the clergy with the Supreme Court’s decision that made marriage equality a reality nationwide. As previously reported, the conversation started when Hill fed the Potter’s House pastor a viewer question: “Do you think the black community and the LGBT community can coexist?”

Jakes’ answer was thoughtful and nuanced and reflected one key truth I wish more Americans—Christian and otherwise—were more aware of: The United States is not a Christian nation.

So in response to that inquiring mind wondering how WWJD and LGBT mesh together, Jakes noted that “public policy does not reflect biblical ethics.” It’s a point Jakes first shared in a sermon in June following the Supreme Court’s announcement. Yes, one might imagine that the comment “the world being the world and the church being the church” may have been eye-roll-inducing, but what followed was what mattered most.

“The Supreme Court is there to make a decision on constitutional rights and legalities that fit all Americans; they are not debating Scripture,” Jakes told his congregation and, once again, HuffPost Live viewers. It’s a lesson a bakery owner just learned after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that his family bakery cannot refuse to make cakes for same-sex couples. There are your beliefs and there is the law of the republic in which you live.

For some reason—be it earwax buildup, lack of ability to properly comprehend words being said or some combination of the two—many misconstrued Jakes’ remarks. Some took Jakes’ words as an endorsement of marriage equality. In response, Jakes released a statement, both on Facebook and to the site that initially played the role of spin doctor.

On Facebook, Jakes said, “I have come to respect that I can’t force my beliefs on others by controlling public policy for taxpayers and other U.S. citizens.” Moreover, he added, “Jesus never sought to change the world through public policy but rather through personal transformation.”

Even in the interview, regarding whether Christians collectively will come to let go of stigmas attached to same-sex relationships, just as they evolved on slavery (justified throughout the Bible), Jakes said perhaps, but “the argument has to be theological, not sociological.” There are plenty of Christians already having this argument. The same can be said of Islam, most notably in a New York Times op-ed titled, “What Does Islam Say About Being Gay?

It is an argument worth having. In the meantime, though, whatever you believe as far as same-sex marriage goes, in this country it is determined by interpretation of the Constitution, not the Old or New Testament. That is what Jakes was stressing, and it’s an important sentiment to stress. Jakes even went one step further, making clear not to paint all gays or all Christians under one broad stroke, advising LGBT members of faith to seek a church that would be more accommodating to them. As in, while Jakes has “evolved” and professes to be still “evolving,” one can go find Christian fellowship in a place that’s already there.

Read the rest at The Root.

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To the delight of many—and presumably, her boyfriend, Tyga, who at long last can say he has a girlfriend who can legally consent in the state of California—Kylie Jenner is 18. Based on images from Instagram and the word of TMZ, the youngest of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians clan is having quite the celebration. Although she can now vote, buy cigarettes, and date her 25-year-old rapper boyfriend without fear of SVU-like investigation, a new age does not wipe away the last two years of her life and what it all represents.

For starters, it will never not be despicable how much of the media chronicled the relationship of a teenage girl with an adult male. As I have written previously in this space, there was a cutesy quality to the manner in which Kylie and Tyga’s relationship was chronicled. There is nothing endearing about a grown man dating a child, no matter how that child presents herself to the public.

Speaking of said presentation, while it is not my place to police someone else’s expression of sexuality, I can take issue with how those in the media have capitalized on it. These are various headlines taken from several mainstream publications before Kylie turned 18:

 

 

Again, all of this is before she turned 18. Before. Why was more not made out of adult men and women writing headlines about a 17-year-old girl using the words “sexy” and “seductive” while referring to her “curves,” “boobs,” and “big booty”? Many will argue that Kylie was just being a typical teenager. That may be the case, but that does not excuse the media going out of its way to further sexualize a minor.

Read the rest at VH1.

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