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Bless Justin Timberlake’s vanilla-flavored heart. In the year of LEMONADE, he’s only now realizing that it’s a new day — a time in which the things he says that the kids would describe as “problematic” won’t just float away unquestioned.

To wit, moments after Timberlake said he was “#Inspired” by remarks made by actor/activist Jesse Williams celebrating blackness and decrying cultural appropriation at this year’s BET Awards, a few Twitter users felt similarly inspired to inform the pop singer that they had not forgotten his trifling past. One tweet yielded an actual response from the *NSYNC heartthrob turned pop star: “So does this mean you’re going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologize to Janet too.”

Timberlake responded, though all he did was confirm that he likely missed key points made by Williams (while coming very close to echoing “all lives matter” rhetoric): “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realize that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

Then came more eye-roll-inducing tweets. Like the one where he plays at being the victim: “I feel misunderstood. I responded to a specific tweet that wasn’t meant to be a general response. I shouldn’t have responded anyway…”

Or the one where he opts for a patronizing tone rather than a sincere display of humility: “I forget this forum sometimes… I was truly inspired by @iJesseWilliams speech because I really do feel that we are all one… A human race.” (Again with the “all lives” mindset.)

And of course the one where he offers a weak apology: “I apologize to anyone that felt I was out of turn. I have nothing but LOVE FOR YOU AND ALL OF US. –JT”

As mighty white as all this sounds, I don’t believe cultural appropriation is the fundamental issue here. A Southern white boy from Memphis being into R&B isn’t surprising or remarkable in any meaningful way. The same goes for any child born in the 1980s who was inspired by the two of the biggest artists of that era: Michael Jackson and Prince. The white boy making music inspired by black art isn’t what’s wrong with Timberlake. It has little to do with why he enrages many of us at times.

What’s grating about Timberlake and white entertainers like him is that, for all their fandom as it relates to black culture, they don’t seem to give much of a damn about the black people who created that culture and continue to keep it alive and fresh. And, to make matters worse, these entertainers typically benefit and profit from our culture more than we ever do. The problem with people like Timberlake is that they will use their white feet and dance to Michael Jackson-indebted steps only to run back to their ivory towers when convenient.

In Timberlake’s case, this would be February 2004, in the hours that followed his Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson—the one in which Timberlake pulled at her costume to reveal her breast on live TV. Though both apologized, Timberlake did so as if he had absolutely no idea what was intended to happen during that set—opting instead to place most of the onus on Jackson.

Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that she felt Timberlake left her hanging “to a certain degree.” Only years later would Timberlake admit to this in interview with Entertainment Weekly, saying, “I wish I had supported Janet more. I am not sorry I apologized, but I wish I had been there more for Janet.”

Timberlake used Jackson’s celebrity to increase his own, and then used his privilege as a white man to let the black woman take the fall for an incident that involved both of them. Many of us will never forget or forgive what he did to Janet Jackson because it’s a reminder of how little capital black people have in this country—even if you’re as popular and as influential a star as Janet Damita Jo Jackson.

Read the rest at Complex.

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There is only so much one can glean from another’s social media accounts. Sure, there’s a lot that can be unraveled in terms of behavior and character, but these are not media in which anyone can do so in totality. So when it came to criticism about Nicki Minaj over her silence about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, much of it felt unfair, or at the very least, not appropriately contextualized.

Would I have handled critics exactly like Nicki Minaj did? No, but there was a lot of presumption in one particular tweet that sparked additional online criticism. The tweet in question read: “I’m kind of offended that Nicki could tweet about a song but can’t acknowledge the shootings in Orlando.”

Minaj subsequently unfollowed him, resulting in more questions asking why she and other artists like Drake and Taylor Swift failed to express their grievances on their respective social media accounts.

As far as Minaj tweeting about her single, let us not forget that Minaj is an artist—you know, an employee—and part of an employee’s said duties would include the promotion of their work. That said, when it comes to Minaj, Swift, and Rihanna, I do understand the notion that considering how instrumental gay men have been in their careers as fans, dancers, make up artists, hairdressers, and other professional duties, there ought to be a specific sensitivity to tragedies directly impacting the LGBT community.

It is a valid observation, though a lack of social media updates does not necessarily mean these artists don’t care. The same goes for others in media and entertainment. Just this week, I saw someone tweet at the podcast “Another Round” about their lack of response to the Orlando shooting. The podcast’s response was: “we havent recorded a full episode since it happened.”

Beloveds, don’t let the internet fool you into thinking everything is or must be instantaneous. 

While it is true that Minaj has addressed matters like the death of Sandra Bland, it was not days after her death but months after a grand jury failed to make any indictments. I don’t know if these celebrities have actually made any donations to charities in support of Orlando’s victims. Neither do you. I don’t know if these artists will ultimately issue statements about the mass shooting at a later date. Neither do you.

What I do know, though, in my own life as a gay Black man, many people handle tragedy differently. Moreover, there is no one way to handle tragedy. So when the likes of Perez Hilton attacked Minaj online, I found his sudden urgency for decency, respect for humanity, and political correctness rather dubious. After all, this is the same person who called Will.I.Am a “faggot” and “thug” and he’s repeatedly been contemptous in his criticism of Black female celebrities like Nicki Minaj. To that end, if there is a hell, that hypocritical motherfucker can dive fingers and tongue first into the seventh circle.

Read the rest at Complex.

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It happened when Michael Jackson died. It happened shortly after Whitney Houston’s death. It happened to Prince after he died suddenly. It has since happened to Muhammad Ali. I fear it will be a fate met one day by the likes of Beyoncé, Steph Curry, Rihanna, and LeBron James.

“It” is when white media exalts fallen Black public figures for “transcending race” in an attempt to honor them.

“It” will never not be disingenuous. It will always be another superficial attempt to address racism. It will always be a glib statement earning the rightful eyeroll of Black people everywhere.

One problem with the notion of “transcending race” is that it immediately connotes that being Black is some sort of barrier. Why does one need to transcend who they are? This turn of phrase is meant as a compliment, but it is anything but. It is a well-meaning—but no less dishonest—way of describing Black men and women who have accomplished so much in the face of adversity.

Why does one need to “transcend” their Blackness for mainstream a.k.a. white consumption? When I hear well-meaning white folks write or utter this phrase, I can’t help but chuckle at how self-absorbed they’re being. Instead, they should say ,“I got over my own biases” and embraced X Black celebrity.

Be real, beloved, and spare us the bullshit.

All of the aforementioned Black celebrities were unapologetically Black. Moreover, none of them ever escaped the systemically unfair battle against any living, breathing, and especially thriving Black person.

Read the rest at Complex.

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I’ve made it clear that I understood booking Madonna for a Prince tribute at this year’s Billboard Music Awards was BS in theory. So, now after actually watching the tribute last night, believe me when I tell you that I am reveling in all my truth the day after. God bless Madonna because I am a fan, but that tribute was not it. It was not even a lil’ bit of it.

The first problem with the tribute was song selection. I understand that Madonna really, really likes to sing, and to her credit, has worked hard over the years to maintain the voice that she has. Unfortunately, that voice remains incapable of delivering the emotion attached to the Prince songs she opted to cover. I wish she had hit her girl, Ursula The Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid on the hip and asked for a solid in order to secure a better voice for the occasion. Or, you know, Madonna could have just danced through a bunch of Prince’s uptempo tracks while others – including, I don’t know, some of the folks Prince worked with extensively over the years – would be left to handle the heavy weight.

Let’s talk about the set list, shall we? Madonna should have been covering “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” or hell, even “Raspberry Beret.” Not, by any stretch, the two she opted for: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain.” Speaking of the former, why exactly was Madonna singing the Sinead O’Connor version of “Nothing Compares 2 U?” If you’re going to sing a Prince song, sing the Prince song the way Prince actually sang it.

Beloved, WYD?

And what was with that cheap added instrumentation behind the track? Prince, the legendary and extremely gifted musician, would not have been pleased with such dollar-store sounding trickery. I know the always touring Madge knows better.

Speaking of well-meaning intentions going the way of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, why was Madonna dressed more like Liberace than the Purple One? Let’s reflect more on this: Madonna, queen of the visual, dressed like Michael Douglas’ body double in Behind the Candelabra for a Prince tribute.

Beloved, WYD?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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In theory, I can understand why Madonna was asked to pay tribute to Prince at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday.

When it comes to stars of a certain era—specifically the mid-1980s—there was a trinity: Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. No stars could command their level of fame. No other acts at the time were matching their successes. No one could match their musical, visual and cultural contributions at the time. They all embody a period in music that the industry will never experience again.

MTV understood this, which is why Madonna introduced Michael Jackson’s tribute in 2009. They are giants, and now only one stands. And despite what some of your cousins on social media have suggested, Madonna and Prince were quite cordial with each other. After all, they did collaborate on the track “Love Song” on Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, but it wasn’t very good, so let’s forget it happened by the end of this sentence. Yes, they’ve sniped at each other over the years, but that’s shady queens for you. Just last fall, Madonna and her entire tour entourage went to Paisley Park to see Prince perform.

But even if Madonna paying tribute to Prince is understandable, many find it wrong, and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from the hosts of this year’s show, Ludacris and Ciara—who are cementing themselves as more-colored Pitbull and Paula Abdul, respectively—this year’s show reads as mighty white. The only black performer is Rihanna, who, not so coincidentally, is the only black girl who has managed to secure any crossover radio airplay in recent years. All that does is remind me of how much the industry marginalizes black women in music, which pisses me off. Then this show has the nerve not to even promote RIHANNA in the commercials. Who are the folks in charge of advertising? Round them up, and Smithers, release the hounds.

And, in the one segment for a legendary black artist, you ask Madonna to pay tribute to him?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Billboard Awards Executive Producer Mark Bracco said: “Listen, I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and everyone can have their own opinion, but I will say that we are honored and could not be more excited for Madonna to be on the show and to pay tribute to someone that was her friend and her peer and her colleague. I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Look, I love Madge. I still listen to Bedtime Stories, Erotica and Hard Candy regularly. If you live in Harlem, you’ve likely heard my rendition of “Take a Bow.”

Still, what is she supposed to do? Before anyone tries to drag Madonna for her singing, let’s remember that Vanity was no songbird. I can get jiggy with her covering Prince’s raunchier tunes, but knowing Madonna, she is likely going to re-create Prince’s buttless pants at the 1991 Video Music Awards while singing “Gett Off.” Speaking of stunts, when it comes to Madonna, it will likely be all about Madonna.

Regardless of what she sings, though, it won’t eclipse the reality that in order to properly pay tribute to Prince, you have to keep the spirit of him and his music in mind. Prince was said to have been adamant about having black women involved in previous tributes to his musical legacy. A few years ago, when BET honored him, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle were all included. When he performed at the Grammys in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” he performed with Beyoncé.

Read more at The Root.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, I have a simple, albeit pointed, question for those purchasing tickets to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in concert: the hell do you expect?

In her now infamous response to online critiques about her perpetual lateness, Ms. Hill took to Facebook to write: “I don’t show up late to shows because I don’t care. And I have nothing but Love and respect for my fans. The challenge is aligning my energy with the time, taking something that isn’t easily classified or contained, and trying to make it available for others.”

This is one of the most comically eloquent ways of trying to spiritualize trifling behavior that I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Hill on that. Nevertheless, to be respectful to is honor the time the people who keep you fed, housed, and in line with the IRS, who spent their money on you. Couple that with a contract and a commitment to a show, that ought to be more than enough to align one’s energy with time.

In any event, a debate ensued underneath the post whether or not Ms. Hill is in the wrong. You can count me in on the side that says she’s more wrong than Azealia Banks most days on Twitter. That said, while I do believe artists have a responsibility to show up on time, when it comes to the case of Ms. Hill, by now, hasn’t everyone picked up a pattern?

Here is what you get when buy a ticket for a Lauryn Hill concert: the potential that she may not appear on stage until the crack of midnight, if at all. If she does decide to actually perform, not only might you experience a shortened set due to her lateness, you will also be subjected to schizophrenic versions of the songs that prompted you to buy tickets to see Ms. Hill almost 20 years after the release of her debut album to begin with.

Or, you may get a surprisingly gorgeous cover of a Sade classic. Who knows? The only certain thing with her is uncertainty about what you will be subjecting yourself to. When it comes to attending a Lauryn Hill concert, you are essentially playing a scratch-off lotto ticket with the hopes of being entertained.

By now, you know, however, the Grammy award winning singer, rapper, and CPT time personifier is not the only act ruffling the feathers of fans.

I love Janet Jackson like I love fried chicken, butts, and my student loan lenders not calling or emailing me; however, mama irked the absolute hell out of me deciding in the middle of a world tour that she wanted to plan a family at the age of 49. Oh, I hear you: “STOP BEING INSENSITIVE.” You know what’s insensitive? Starting a world tour, then stopping it and pushing back the dates only to then decide to delay it again.

Janet Jackson announced this tour in May 2015. It stopped not long after. The show was set to return in 2016 and may not get under way again until 2017. Well, if she keeps her word. We have no reason to conclude she will. Janet Jackson was fortunate enough to refund fans. To her credit, so has Ms. Hill.

Read more at EBONY.

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There are very few conversations I find more cringe-inducing and exhausting than the debate over whether or not it is best for a black student to attend a predominantly white institution of higher learning or one that is historically black.

Everything ain’t for everybody, and not enough people on either side of the issue know to respect that stance. Even so, as much as I try to steer clear of these debates, there is a certain disingenuous argument when it comes to those who choose to attend a black college or university that irritates me. It is this idea that to attend one is to escape from “the real world.” Moreover, it is the idea that being in a majorly black setting means that you are surrounded by sameness.

They are both sentiments seeped in stupid, marinated in fallacy and broiled in the false belief that the white man’s ice is cooler.

The Talk’s Aisha Tyler is the latest example of this, and it’s a pity that she would use her platform to perpetuate falsehoods about what it means to attend a black school. Speaking with Money magazine, Tyler called on black students to be “be brave” and enroll in schools where there have been incidents of racism. Why? Well, to help white students evolve from their racial prejudices.

Tyler argued, “When incidents of discrimination happen, that is the real world. You know, if someone doesn’t write something nasty on your dorm door, that doesn’t mean they are not thinking it.”

Well, anyone black and awake in this country knows that. Besides, if you’re a member of a minority group, you have your entire life to contend with someone’s biases against you and the various ways in which they will manifest. Why is it so important to rush to it sooner rather than later?

Though Tyler notes that you should “decide what you can tolerate,” she goes on to say, “What would we be like if black people didn’t go into the heart and didn’t try to change things? We would have made no progress in the country. Bravery is the engine of change.”

In other words, be the academic equivalent of Viola Davis in The Help. To quote my King Beyoncé, “N–ga, nah.” I am sick of people—especially other black folks—putting the onus to curb white racism on its victims. No black student—particularly those likely going into debt to advance in a society that actively tries to make sure they don’t—ought to be overly concerned with fixing someone else’s stupid.

While you can respect those who decided to do what’s best for themselves—in Tyler’s case, attending the prestigious Dartmouth College—the use of the word “brave” is troubling because it suggests that those who don’t make this choice are behaving in ways that are cowardly.

As for her advice for black high school students, Tyler offered this: “Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t pick a college that replicates what you did in high school. Test yourself in an unfamiliar context so that you can learn to succeed no matter where you are placed, so that you know you can excel.”

This weekend I will celebrate my 10-year college reunion. As I’ve explained to many people, Howard University is the most diverse setting that I’ve ever been in. To limit the definition of “diversity” to race is to belittle and trivialize a term that has always been far broader than the likes of Tyler will ever give it any credit for being.

Read the rest at The Root.

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A recent image uploaded by the legendary Lil’ Kim highlighted a nearly decade-long struggle many of her fans have faced: Lil’ Kim has been an ongoing challenge for those of us who love her, but love our blackness more; for fans who are grateful to her for the impact she’s had on our individual lives, but in many cases are hurt, if not enraged, by what she’s done to herself.

It may not be the nicest sentiment, but it is no less true: I love the Lil’ Kim I hear from my speakers, but I struggle with not judging the sight of the one I often see today.

The latter forces me to confront the reality that someone I idolized for her strength and command of her sexuality doesn’t like the way she looks. That makes her a bit of a walking contradiction. Many of us who felt partially raised by Lil’ Kim are struggling to make sense of that.

Lil’ Kim, the one who made women and gay men alike more comfortable with their own sexuality with the overt display of hers, is an everlasting symbol of strength. Lil’ Kim, the pioneering female rapper who paved the way for the sort of pop-rap fusions whose perks are now enjoyed by many who came after her, is a testament to individuality and innovation. But there’s that other Lil’ Kim we’ve all had to bear witness to.

The one who sometimes speaks in an unnatural, almost caricature-like voice when she surrounds herself with the likes of the Kardashians — well, anyone white. A voice that sounds so foreign to her black-girl-from-Brooklyn cadence that we all love so much. This other Kim is the person who piles on so much makeup to disguise her brown skin in order to present a lighter hue.

It is unclear as to whether or not Lil’ Kim has fallen into the poor habit that is skin-bleaching. In many cases, she looks like she’s just piled on makeup and applied various filters to her images in order to best show off the facade online.

Whatever she’s doing with her skin, it’s quite apparent the intent is to give off the aesthetic attributed to light-skinned women, or white women period, all the same.

This other Kim is befuddling and angering, because it is a complete contradiction to the one so many of us championed.

And yet, in all my anger, I do question the role we may have played in her obsession with removing the most overt traces of blackness in her face. We are often far too cruel to people we deem pitiful. We see someone hurting, and not only do we kick them when we they are down, we watch them fall lower from our blows and pile on the pain with our laughter.

This is largely evident on social media, were many, in true Twitter form, were quick to cast judgement:

Read the rest at Mic.

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Piers Morgan is a simpleton fortunate enough that being White, male, and straight makes his success in media nearly impenetrable. Morgan, like many people who wear lens prescribed to only allow them to view the world from their perspective, never misses the chances to complain about minorities who complain about the unfair conditions thrusted upon us. What a joy it must be to be stubbornly selfish and stupid and score profit from it.

When Nicki Minaj complained about the unfair treatment of Black women’s art at the MTV Video Music Awards, Morgan wrote a silly column that completely missed the point. When many were enraged by dashcam footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest was made public, Morgan ignorantly boasted about tweeting “#ALLLivesMatter.” Morgan has also tweeted “I love my Whiteness” in response to Black people celebrating themselves in a world that often loathes our mere existence.

When Black people complained about the lily-White Academy Awards, Morgan wrote an asinine column saying he doesn’t watch the show to be bombarded by issues like gay rights, racism, and sexual assault. You see, Morgan watches for entertainment, failing to realize the rest of us can sit around and be silent when the world is watching. So, it’s not surprising that Morgan has an issue with Beyoncé becoming more overtly political in her art.

In yet another sign that his keyboard should have committed suicide long ago, Morgan has written a new column condemning Beyoncé for not being Beyoncé in his image. However, his angle is to pretend to be care about the mothers of Travyon Martin and Mike Brown.

Writing in The Daily Mail, Piers claims: “I have huge personal sympathy for both women and there is no doubt that African-Americans have been treated appallingly by certain rogue elements within the country’s police forces. But I felt very uneasy watching these women being used in this way to sell an album. It smacks of shameless exploitation.”

Beyoncé created a short film exploring varying aspects of Black womanhood. Do you know what said aspects include? The reality that as a Black mother in America, there is a legitimate reason to worry whether or not you will have to bury your son or daughter due to some racist, trigger happy police officer protected by the law and the White supremacy that has long upheld it in this country? By the way, nothing screams “shameless exploitation” than a blithering idiot continuing to miss the point as a career strategy.

Morgan went on to describe Beyoncé as a “militant activist” and argues, “The new Beyoncé wants to be seen as a Black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second.” This sentiment recalls the insulting “compliment” some have paid Prince for purportedly “transcending race.” What they mean by that is Prince’s music got them to see past their own racism. Likewise, what Morgan fails to grasp here is that each of us that are of color are seen as that first and foremost no matter what. The only person who thinks otherwise is one who doesn’t live our experience.

Naturally, Morgan then goes on to see he prefers the “old Beyoncé” who was “less inflammatory” and displayed less “agitation.” He then has the nerve to write, “The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same.”

White people like Piers Morgan love to trot out Martin Luther King quotes as if he was the Santa Claus of Civil Rights and that the invocation of his name and a twisted interpretation of his ideology absolves them from criticism of their inherent bias.

Read more at EBONY.

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I have just one and very much sincere question for those responsible for guiding Chris Brown’s career:
Do you still actually like him? Yes? No? Circle one.
I’ve watched the trailer for Brown’s upcoming documentary, Welcome to My Life, and if I were in Breezy’s circle, I would advise him to take the tape, destroy it, bury it, and pretend it never happened. Beyond the optics of the doc itself (its production value recalls afterschool specials I used to record on my mama’s VCR) I think if Brown has taught us nothing else, it’s that for him, silence is golden.
In the film, we hear the narrator claim, “He went from being America’s sweetheart to public enemy number one.”
Yes, we know much of that has to do with him physically assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. Some people will never forgive him for that — even if Rihanna herself has. That may strike some as unfair, but for others, Brown has continued to show himself to be a volatile and often vicious figure, thus incredibly unlikable.
Consider the reported physical altercations with Frank Ocean and Drake. There are also stories floating around, like say, him getting in shouting matches with his former girlfriend, Karrueche Tran. Then there are his combative social media habits, which ultimately prove that Brown needn’t talk to us anymore about anything besides his music.
Chris Brown has engaged in online battle with comedians, talk show hosts, bloggers, ex-girlfriends, actors, and other recording artists. Brown has also shown made statements that are sexist, transphobic, and give the distinct impression that he is, well, not a particularly nice person.
The reality is you don’t have to be an especially nice person to be successful – especially as an entertainer, but of course there are limits to what folks will put up with in the public eye. The documentary seems intent on two things: telling Chris Brown’s side of the story about his life in a more intimate way, which is designed to make him more appealing to the masses. However, we’ve long known Brown’s story. Perhaps too long.
I distinctly remember Brown’s interview on former Tyra Banks’ daytime talk show in which he described the abuse he witnessed as a child. It’s evident how much that shaped his life, but while many can understand how a Chris Brown is made, Brown himself has not done a whole lot to display that he has tried to take full control of his anger issues.
To that end, what good would yet another “inside look” into his life do? Does anyone on Team Brown remember his “The Real Chris Brown” video from 2012 in which he declared, “I’m a little drunk, so I’m going to be honest. You don’t all really get the real Chris Brown. I like to be honest.”
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