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I want to be white for a day. For no other reason than I am curious to know what it’s like to be christened a king despite offering only a pauper’s level of effort. Sam Smith can certainly sing, but as far as being a soul singer goes, he ranks right up there with soul legends like Bette Midler and Lance Bass. However, because he’s white, he is handed the crown by virtue of simply walking in the room.

Enter Smith’s GQ profile, which is titled “The New Face of Soul.” In it, writer Amy Wallace describes Smith’s debut album, In the Lonely Hour, as “part funky falsetto, part gospel-infused electronic pop.” This is both majorly hyperbolic and highly irritating. How does that combination even translate to “The New Face of Soul?”

GQ’s christening recalls Forbes last year publishing the piece, “Hip-Hop Is Run by a White, Blonde, Australian Woman.” After noted pushback, the article was changed to “Hip-Hop’s Unlikely New Star: A White, Blonde, Australian Woman.” The latter title made more sense, but the former is the sort of clickbait that drives traffic.

One imagines GQ knew that sort of bold proclamation would generate interest as soon as the article made its way online. I would love it if these mainstream publications would stop trolling Black people online, but I have to acknowledge that GQ is not the first to make this inept claim about Sam Smith.

Last year, VIBE deemed Smith “the ruler of soul.” In response, I wrote at the time, “Sam Smith can sing, but if Luther Vandross is collard greens and smoked turkey, Sam Smith is kale with the wrong kind of hot sauce. That’s cute if you like the latter, but never mistake it for the former.”

If you’re familiar with the Foxy Brown track “I Can’t” featuring Total, this is the part where you should sing, “Say it again, say it again. Say it again, say it again.”

Yet, here we are, still having to discuss Soul Zero being hailed as the savior of a genre he isn’t even a genuine participant in.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Had the pleasure to be on SoPOPular with Janet Mock once again, participating in the “Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique” segment, talking State of the Union, Lifetime’s Whitney, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Click under the hood to watch parts one and two.

(more…)

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When Jazmine Sullivan finally returned with new music via “Dumb,” featuring fellow PhiladelphianMeek Mill, the moment sort of came and went. It’s not that people haven’t been yearning for her return since she took to Twitter exactly four years ago to say she was taking time away from music; but the track did not command attention the way previous offerings like “Need You Bad” and “Bust Your Windows” did.

Recently, Sullivan was asked if “Elevatorgate” involving Solange, Jay Z, and Beyoncé had something to do with the single’s lack of attention in an interview with Power 105’s “The Breakfast Club.” Sullivan answered: “I did feel like that situation kind of took away from it, but it’s cool. I got a lot more songs on the album that I personally think are doper.”

The Carters and Sister Knowles don’t have anything to do with it; it’s evident by the reaction to the “doper” songs.

Excitement was there for other offerings like “Forever Don’t Last,” which is simple in its production (just acoustic guitar and vocals) but far more of a statement because it’s Sullivan at her best: painting a picture with her lyrics, capturing the tone of breakup perfectly with her voice, and letting both carry the song. However, on the other release from her new album, Reality Show,“Mascara,” Sullivan sings with the immediacy and flair of a rapper.

“Yeah, my hair and my ass fake, but so what? I get my rent paid with it.”

Initially, I likened the track to Amy Winehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps.” Yet, Sullivan is not bashing “those kind of girls” the way Winehouse once skewered. The point of Reality Show, and perhaps, Sullivan’s mission moving forward, is to lend voice to women who often find themselves the subject of conversation, but never with a microphone. In theory, that’s the purpose of reality TV, though as VH1, Oxygen, and Bravo have taught us, that isn’t always the case.

Read the rest at Complex.

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My immediate reaction to Kendrick Lamar’s interview with Billboard magazine was to add his name to the list of stars who need to be sent to the Island of Wayward Negroes. A list that includes names like Don Lemon, Whoopi Goldberg, and the “labels” one herself, Raven-Symoné. Well meaning or not, Lamar invoked God to defend Iggy Azalea and respectability politics to partially excuse law enforcement’s collective assault on Black people. The rapper from Compton sounded like one of those AARP-aged Blacks who thinks the Lord will deliver us from evil (aka white supremacy) the second we pull up our pants and leave that white woman who’s really just trying to make an honest living via a pop-rap career alone.

When asked about the killings of Black men and women at the hands of police officers last year, Lamar did acknowledge that Michael Brown’s death should’ve “never happened,” only he added, “But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting— it starts from within.”

Lamar took the complex problem of institutionalized racism and offered up the equivalent of an inspirational meme found on Instagram as a solution.

It’s bad enough when white people tell us that the onus of racism is on the victim to fix and not the culprit, but it is particularly bothersome when someone who looks like us makes that same case— to a mainstream outlet, no less.

It does not matter if you dress like an investment banker or someone who has used a payday loan to get by: If you are Black, racism will reduce to you pigmentation and the prejudices that will follow.

The same can be said if you speak as eloquently as President Barack Obama or as rambly and somewhat incoherent as my new musical play cousins, Rae Sremmurd.

However, as disappointed as I am in Lamar’s answer, upon more reflection I’m more inclined to sign up for a book club than send him an itinerary for a permanent trip to a far away land. In the profile, Billboard’s Gavin Edwards writes, “Surprisingly for such a hyperliterate lyricist, Lamar is not much of a reader, saying that he mostly learns by talking to people from different walks of life.”

As great as conversation is, so are books in tackling complicated matters like racism. Hopefully, Lamar will learn that having respect for one’s self does not matter if the person with power has no regard for you or your life. That aside, Lamar’s comments about Azalea remain irksome.

When the Australian rapper came up in the interview, Lamar said, “She’s doing her thing. Let her. People have to go through trials and tribulations to get where they at. Do your thing, continue to rock it, because obviously God wants you here.”

Again, hokey language being used to de-legitimize credible complaints about racially-motivated biases.

To be fair, Lamar’s cousin is Los Angeles Lakers star Nick Young, who is dating Azalea — and that puts him in an awkward position. Still, while it’s one thing to not go out of your way to insult  a family member, it’s another to argue that someone is ordained to perform in audible Blackface.

I don’t like when people use God as a shield for their half-thought out musings. I also have a hard time thinking God really gives that great a damn if Azalea builds a fortune biting the flow of Charli Baltimore and the voice of Diamond on a track that sounds like discount DJ Mustard.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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People like Republican politician Mike Huckabee remind me of the personal pitfalls one endures when they lead a life in which they think sex works best in missionary and with a marriage license for the sole purpose of procreation. The former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister also reminds me of the virtues of shutting the hell up and minding one’s business.

However, Huckabee has a long history of telling others what they should and should not be doing — most notably, women who dare to take ownership of their sexuality. He won’t stop any time soon with the promotion of his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. Huckabee aims his God and gun at various targets, though his critiques of Beyoncé have drawn the biggest headlines.

The book seems to read as exactly as it sounds, so I look forward to kicking it over once I spot in the clearance aisle. In it, Huckabee slams Beyoncé for her “obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics,” and though he says she’s a “terrific dancer,” he suggests that some of her choreography is “best left for the privacy of her bedroom.” People with no rhythm are such a nasty bunch.

Huckabee goes on to criticize Jay Z, explaining, “Jay Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?”

Here’s a better question: Why does Beyoncé need her husband’s permission to be sexual? Huckabee went on to criticize the Obamas, especially First Lady Michelle Obama, by targeting both her parenting skills and her healthy eating initiative for children, quipping that when it comes to Beyoncé’s music, “If lived out, those lyrics would be far more devastating to someone’s health than a cupcake.”

Actually, I’m almost certain safe sex between two consenting adults is far healthier than eating a cupcake— at least the former is exercise and gluten free.

Joining Huckabee in the “White Men For Policing A Black Woman’s Body” squad is former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Last month, Duke bashed Minaj’s purported “disgusting and horrific and violent and drug-drenched” music: “Why do people blame blacks like Minaj? Because Minaj wouldn’t be a pimple on somebody’s rear end except for the fact that she is promoted by the Jewish record producers and the media, the mass media, the powerful media, that promotes absolute degenerates like her.”

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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On Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the fantastic Janet Mock’s new show, So Popular, which airs on MSNBC’s Shift.

The segment was called “How the media portrays gay men of color” and was based on Lee Daniels’ new show, Empire. Lee Daniels says he is using the show to both feature a different kind of Black gay man on TV while “exposing” homophobia in the Black community. You know, ’cause no one ever talks about that.

It was so much fun and I’m glad Janet let me pitch this. And if you want to check out the article referenced in the segment, you can do so here.

Segment is below.

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After the airing of the comically abysmal Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, Lifetime and first-time director Angela Bassett had it pretty easy when it came to their Whitney Houston biopic: just don’t be as awful as that movie and reap the benefits of low expectations. 

In that respect, Whitney won; it is not terrible, and if nothing else, watchable. However, a movie about an artist as captivating on and off stage as Whitney Houston deserves more than just passable competence (and that’s being generous). Similarly, if you’re going to call the movie Whitney, it should not come across as a project that would’ve been served better had it been called The Miseducation of Bobby Brown

We knew Whitney would cover the first five years of Whitney Houston’s tumultuous relationship with the “Kang of R&B,” Bobby Brown, but none of us were clued into how skewed the narrative would play in Bobby’s favor. In this movie, Bobby was some wide-eyed second tier singer who behaved as if he hadn’t ever been anywhere when he met Whitney. This, despite the reality that Bobby Brown had been famous since he was a very young teenager as a part of New Edition and netted his own colossal fame as a solo act in the 1980s.

That’s the least mind-boggling of the twists, though.

This sweet, suburbanized Bobby Brown remained sober with Whitney until well into an hour after the movie started. By comparison, Whitney and her nose were regularly deep snow diving within the first half hour. And she noticeably got high whenever Bobby pissed her off.

As for Bobby, you know, he was just a sweet man. He loved Whitney so much and did everything he could to make her feel her best self. Ever the gentleman, he unselfishly supported her booming career as his declined. Both Whitney and Bobby have made statements that counter that talking point, but why bother with accuracy when making a movie about someone’s life? At one point, I was waiting for Bobby to leave Whitney to go hang out with Jesus and MLK at Oprah’s house.

I am not one of those people still clinging to the pristine, upper class girl image that Clive Davis crafted for Whitney Houston. Nor do I believe Bobby Brown was a monster that brought Whitney down. Bobby could’ve very well been just a casual drug user and alcoholic who through his relationship with Whitney became a hardcore user.

Either way, what we see in Whitney feels unfair to its namesake.

Read the rest at Complex.

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When it comes to plastic surgery, there’s a thin line between Kelly Rowland and Lil’ Kim, any face after the La Bella Mafia album.

The general consensus is that some cosmetic work looks better than others, but far too often and more frequently than ever do we forget than it’s about choice and no matter how we feel about it, there should be some level of respect for people choosing to do as they please with their bodies. For Danity Kane standout turned solo artist Dawn Richard, she unfortunately finds herself routinely ostracized for her noticeably slimmer nose.

Last month, seemingly fed up with it, she took to Instagram and posted: “Same people saying this ‘she was prettier before’ crap are the people that said I was a tranny in 2009. Make up your mind lawd. Meanwhile I’m really a cyborg ( I see this post went over damn near everyone’s head) lmao.”

And on Twitter, she responded to a fan who wrote “God don’t recognize you,” with “as long as the checks still recognize me we good.”

Amen.

Her clap back has not stopped the criticism. With every new Instagram upload comes a virtual back and forth about her new nose. One user left the comment, “The fuck u done to your nose?”

The answer is simple: what she wanted to do with it.

But, when it comes to surgery, particularly when a Black person does it and the target is their nose, the projections creep in. On some level, it’s understandable. One of the most famous Black families ever – the Jacksons – saw an overwhelming majority of its members chop their noses down substantially. Their father, Joe Jackson, beat it into their psyches that their broad, especially Black noses was a trait to cry over as opposed to celebrate – sending them all running to surgeons at light speed.

Some got noticeably carried away and now the stigma applies to any famous Black person who follows suit. And as previously mentioned, Lil’ Kim has remixed her face to the point where she is completely unrecognizable from the woman we met in 1996. Yes, many of us have stigmas about big noses, but maybe it’s time we learn to give our peers the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t know why Dawn Richards decided to change her face. On some level, maybe the criticism – transphobic and audaciously ugly – got to her and sparked her desire to change. In 2012, Dawn was asked about the hardships darker skinned Black women face in R&B (in a very bleak period for the genre at that) and while discussing major labels liking her work but weary of signing her noted, “Why would you take a risk on a brown girl? There’s no brown girl considered pretty right now poppin’ in the game. A dark skinned game. Kelly Rowland? There are, but I’m talking about in that crossover world. They’re not allowing it.”

I don’t know if the new face is in conjunction with the promotion of her new album, Blackheart, out this week, or if it’s mere coincidence.

I am sure of a few things, though. Her work appears tasteful; she looks pretty, though she was a standout before the smaller nose. Even if the work is connected to the pressures of being a Black woman trying to excel in the entertainment industry, she should not be attacked relentlessly for doing what she thought was best to deal with the burdens of a disease she didn’t create. There’s also a difference between sending someone a positive affirmation in the name of promoting self-love and policing someone’s body.

Read more at EBONY.

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The best part of Empire’s second episode is the same as last week’s series premiere: Cookie (played by Taraji P. Henson). She’s rude as hell, abrasive, and randomly shows up at other people’s houses and asks for bacon. In other words, she’s perfect. Now, the worst part of this show thus far is the music we’re being subjected to between scenes, but let’s accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Cookie and Lucious continue to wrestle over control of Empire Entertainment, but more specifically, the fate of their two sons: Jamal and Hakeem. Cookie arrives at Lucious’ estate to demand that Jamal, the icky gay one in Lucious’ eyes, be allowed perform at the opening of Leviticus, Lucious’ new club. Just like Hakeem. Lucious says no and Cookie blurts out in front of Lucious’ new wife, Anika, that it was her $400,000 in drug money that launched Empire Entertainment.

Lucious reminds Cookie that she signed a nondisclosure agreement, though one wonders why he, an ex-drug dealer himself, would think an NDA would spook a woman who just did hard time for a drug charge.

Meanwhile, we learn that Cookie and Lucious’ other son, the scheming suit Andre, has bipolar disorder. He’s not taking his meds, though, so his wife pushes him to do so as best she knows how: by seducing him and performing fellatio…with a bib. That’s like head for neat freaks, but if that’s a turn-on for some people, salute.

Speaking of illnesses, Lucious’ assistant, Becky, uses his bathroom and after nosily looking up his prescription meds, realizes that her boss has ALS. No one else can know, Lucious explains, and since Becky seems loyal, it’ll be a while before the rest find out. One quick note: I’m glad Lucious lost the perm, but can we get Becky a new wig?

Andre may not be taking his meds, but he’s still pitting his parents and siblings against each other in a power grab. When Cookie’s assistant Porsha—who is amazing, by the way—suggests that Jamal come out via press conference, Andre tells Lucious, who instantly gets pissed and threatens to cut Jamal off financially.

Lucious tells Jamal that if he comes out, Empire Records will lose artists. This is where it gets tricky. On one end, we watch Lucious apologize to President Obama when Hakeem’s video of him acting an ass and trashing POTUS go viral, which suggests this show is set in 2015. But then we’re met with some homophobia in hip-hop scenario that reads as dated. Yes, there is homophobia in hip-hop, and in the black community too, but in 2015 would a gay artist on a label really scare a bunch of rappers away?

Some would immediately answer yes, but over the years Jay Z has voiced support for marriage equality while rappers like Fat Joe, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, 50 Cent and others have disavowed homophobia. Frank Ocean’s success is pretty much a testament that the tide is changing. I’d love to compare this to the worlds of country and rock music.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Mitt Romney has as strong a shot of becoming the next president as NeNe Leakes does becoming the 2015 Miss Teen USA.

Based on previous interviews, Romney seemed to be aware of his chances at once again becoming the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Throughout 2014, Mitt Romney was asked the following: “Are you going to run in 2016?” Each time, the former Massachusetts governor, 2012 Republican presidential nominee, and 2008 Republican presidential primary candidate loser answered no.

The reasons why varied.

On CBS’s Face The Nation, Romney said he wasn’t thinking about himself in the 2016 race, but rather, “No, I’m thinking about the people who I want to see running for president, and there’s quite a group.”

In an interview on The Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, Romney was frank about why he wouldn’t bother, explaining that was his “belief that someone else stands a better chance of winning than I do.

When hit again with this question on FOX News Sunday last November, Romney repeatedly said, “I’m not planning on running.” One month prior, his wife, Ann Romney, ‘Completely. Not only Mitt and I are done, but the kids are done. Done. Done. Done.”

So much for that.

According to MSNBC, a source close to Mitt Romney revealed, “He’s more open to it, based on all the encouragement he’s received.” It was not a declaration; more like  a not so subtle nod to potential GOP donors that if they’re willing to throw some money behind him, he’s willing to give it another go. And then Romney himself became more blunt about his interest.

On Friday, Romney reportedly told a “room full of powerful Republican donors” that “I want to be president.” As for his wife, she has changed her mind and is now “very encouraging.” His sons are said to be conflicted and split down the middle — proving at least two of the Romney sons have a more realistic view of the world than their parents.

Even the often-obtuse head of the RNC knows this is a bad move. The New York Times reports that at this month’s Republican National Committee fundraiser at the Union League Club in New York City, Reince Priebus did his part “to remind donors deluded by a Romney repeat run just how terrible a campaign Romney ’12 was.”

As much as Romney’s massive wealth was made an issue, it wasn’t so much the problem as was Romney’s failure to understand the world outside his own privileged life. The “47 percent” comment hurt, but so did the manner in which he spoke about diversity–the infamous “binders full of women” remark is perhaps the most noteworthy example.

Then there were campaign stops like the one Romney made in 2012 at a West Philadelphia charter school. There, Romney said, “I come to learn, obviously, from people who are having experiences that are unique and instructive.” What he actually did, though, was lament about the importance of having a two-parent household — which should’ve earned him a dunce cap that day, given that former President George W. Bush’s Healthy Marriage Initiative had already proven itself to be a failure.

This is why as “eccentric” as many (rightfully) find him, Rand Paul makes more sense on addressing inequality than relics like Mitt Romney.

And given the way Romney interacts with Black kids, I’m so not keen on the prospect of Romney visiting a community center and asking, “So can you guys show me and Ann how to twerk?”

Read more at EBONY.

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