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As the city of Baltimore deals with what many have considered inevitable – conflict between the community and law enforcement boiling over onto the streets – its mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, finds herself rushing to clarify controversial comments she made about the protesters.

Over the weekend, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said of protests on Saturday, “It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we tried to make sure they were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we gave those who wished to destroy space to do that, as well.”

In response to criticism, Rawlings-Blake took to Facebook to write:

“I did not instruct police to give space to protesters who were seeking to create violence or destruction of property. Taken in context, I explained that, in giving peaceful demonstrators room to share their message, unfortunately, those who were seeking to incite violence also had space to operate.”

Unfortunately, this is not the comment that’s most troubling. Even if Rawlings-Blake meant she allowed some people to act out their rage for the sake of possibly preventing more, so be it. Rawlings-Blake noticing anger is not the problem. Her lack of regard for those who are angry and why – i.e. her constituents – is the real disappointment.

During a press conference on Monday night, Rawlings-Blake said:

 “I’m a lifelong resident of Baltimore and too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for. Tearing down businesses.

Tearing down and destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years. We are deploying every resource possible to gain control of the situation and to ensure peace moving forward.”

As a life-long resident turned mayor of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake should know better than anyone that the frustration turned into rage that gave way to rioting was decades in the making. It is the result of jobs fleeing the city in favor of cheaper labor abroad; a war on drugs that was only successful in taking Black men off the streets to the delight of the now booming private prison industry; a police department that has such an extensive history of brutality that it has spent millions upon millions to pay victims off. Many ofthose payoffs are just a few years old.

As a politician, Rawlings-Blake ought to also be keenly aware of how “thug” is often employed by critics of Black people in thinly veiled racist rhetoric. More often than not, “thug” is a substitute for “nigger” and while I’m not surprised to see a Black face echo a white supremacist sentiment, it is no less disappointing.

How dare she bear witness and preside over a police department that has long been known to harass Black people and find the nerve to call them “thugs” without also acknowledging that they’re pissed over the thuggery of the Baltimore Police Department? It’s like the Baltimore Police Commissioner calling on parents to “take control of your kids” as he fails to control his police department.

Then there is President Obama, who in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, once again called on the nation to “do some soul-searching.” Obama then joined Rawlings-Blake in condemning the “criminals and thugs who tore up” Baltimore Monday night, arguing, “They’re not making a statement.” I certainly think a statement was made, though it seems Obama, Rawlings-Blake, and Maryland Governor Hogan have stuck their fingers in their eyes and proceeded to chant, “La-la-la-la.”

By the way, Obama lamented over “communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men.” It’s a feeling echoed by Kentucky senator and Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul. How patriarchal. How hallow. How boring. I’d rather Obama lecture Hogan given he’s the one proposing to cut $35 million to Baltimore City schools.

To hell with all of their moralizing. This country was stolen from its original inhabitants and built on the backs of African slaves held in captivity. It presently oppresses descendants of those people both socially and economically. So when it comes to Obama’s call for America to “do some soul-searching,” one wonders what soul America has ever proven to have?

Read the rest at NewsOne.

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On the series premiere of Oxygen’s The Prancing Elites Project, a woman posed a well-meaning but otherwise stupid question to Adrian Clemons, Kentrell Collins, Kareem Davis, Jerel Maddox and Tim Smith, who make up the dance team known as The Prancing Elites. The woman, spotting the group standing as attendants rather than performers, wondered, “Why aren’t y’all out there?” Kentrell, the stern, no nonsense captain of the dance squad, was blunt: “GIRL, YOU KNOW WHY!”

She sure did, only sometimes people want to assume the best even when their worst fears are right in front of them. The new series chronicles the gender-bending group’s attempts to simply do what they love without ridicule from residents of their native Mobile, Ala. For anyone who’s frequented a gay club in the south primarily attended by other Black people, you are familiar with the sight of a group congregating at some point to J-Set. J-Setting, is a style of dance popularized by the Jackson State University marching band dance team, the Prancing J-Settes.

I’ve seen plenty of men do the moves of majorettes inside of gay clubs. I know for a fact that on many a Friday or Saturday night at a gay club, this is their chance to do what makes them happiest in peace. Many of them practice for it during the week to make sure the moment counts. No matter if they’re wearing sequins, dancing in a way that reads as “feminine,” and bearing faces that are “painted for the gawds,” be clear that it takes a lot of balls to step out of your comfort zone to do something you know will tick other people off.

And if we’re being completely honest, I, too, used to be obsessed with the way majorettes in marching bands danced. I have copied those moves before, only in the secrecy of my own room. Even if I’ve come to accept my homosexuality, I’ve had struggles with reconciling sexual preference with my sense of masculinity. These five individuals are far more secure than many of their critics and supporters.

Yes, they’ve netted some notoriety by way of a retweet from Shaquille O’Neal, numerous national television appearances, and on the premiere, an on-air fan out starring NeNe Leakes. Even so, when it comes to those within their community, their remains much resentment— which curbs them from performing at local parades. They’re open to opportunities outside of that, but they’ve modeled themselves after marching band dancers. Clearly, they want to be able to dance and march in parades.

Despite being met with rejection, we see Kentrell convince them to put on their uniforms and perform albeit on the sidelines. In response, they’re greeted with boos and hisses from parade goers. As their agent explains to them, they are rejected primarily under the pretense that they are not “family friendly.”

Because many idiots continue to conflate sexual orientation immediately with sex. Because men and women who do not behave as they are socialized to are perceived as seedy. At one point, Adrian cries, explaining, “I just feel like I have this disease that no one wants to be around.” Fortunately, some of the people cry with them, pushing them to keep going. This includes a mom, a very young girl, and a dad who reminds me of the Brawny man.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Note: Though Bruce Jenner has now identified as a woman, he has not yet elected to be identified under a new name or by female pronouns, so as a result, I’ve used male pronouns.

Even if some of Diane Sawyer’s questions to Bruce Jenner seemed banal to those already familiar with the facts that gender identity and sexual orientation are not mutually exclusive or the notion that our rigid definitions of gender are damaging, the reality is the general public remains largely ignorant. We don’t talk about gender enough; we don’t talk about sexuality enough; we don’t acknowledge the complexity in either.

This is why television remains such a powerful medium in familiarizing the masses with issues foreign to them and why pop cultural icons like Jenner make for the perfect ambassadors. What Jenner did was powerful and when his reality series premieres this summer, he will be using his platform to make meaningful contributions.

These are all good things, and yet, some have since expressed that it’s not good enough. Over the weekend, I saw various people on my social media feeds try to challenge the notion that Jenner was “brave,” arguing instead that he’s “privileged.” I think it’s cute when people learn new terms and phrases and proceed to use and abuse them. It’s on trend.

You don’t quantify someone’s level or bravery. Having access and excess does not negate consequences with being vulnerable. At one point in his life, Jenner represented the height of masculinity, and in an interview he didn’t owe anyone, told the world that he privately loathed it because it’s not who he was. Saying that was brave.

Not only was he adamant about his story being just that, he took a minute to acknowledge the very marginalized groups often ignored — namely Black trans women. Bruce’s interview was about Bruce, but he decided to use that space to speak out for those who don’t command such level of celebrity.

Jenner elected to publicly discuss a deeply personal issue that has followed him throughout his life at a time when the issues of the trans community are only now being brought to the forefront – mostly thanks to the work of actressLaverne Cox, writer and television host Janet Mock, and collegiate athlete turned activist Kye Allums. Jenner’s interview with Sawyer now takes those efforts one-step further.

A celebrated Olympian and actor turned patriarch in a hugely popular reality TV show phenomenon, Jenner is in a unique position in that his generational appeal is varied, thus making his decision to reveal that he is a transgender woman all the more powerful. He didn’t owe us any of that, and while there is work to be done, let’s not taint this contribution.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Is soon as it was reported that Jesus’ purported favorite fallen quarterback, Tim Tebow, had signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, I knew someone would bring up Michael Sam and the notion of unfairness.

Enter the Outsports headline: “Tim Tebow signs with the Eagles and America asks, ‘How in the $%@& is Michael Sam not with a team?’” There is a bit of irony in the criticism that Sam would be too much of a “distraction” in a league filled with them, but maybe, just maybe, Sam is also very much at fault for his very brief stint in professional football. Though it’s admirable that Sam elected to be the face of gay football players, it’s fair to argue that he may have coveted the spotlight a wee bit too much and his manner of attaining it served him no purposes—especially when his skills on the field had yet to position him as a must-have player.

Like many, I was happy to read about someone black and a college football star saying that he is gay in such an important space like the New York Times. But then there was the follow-up piece in the paper that detailed Sam’s life more vividly, notably his somewhat strained relationship with his father, Michael Sam Sr., over his sexuality. After that, word of an announced and subsequently postponed OWN “docuseries” (read: classier title for reality show) chronicling Sam’s quest to be the first openly gay NFL player.

I appreciated Sam’s candor at the time. I remain grateful for his attempt to help refute the perception that to love another man automatically makes one effeminate and therefore unable to excel in a sport like football (which he did as a collegiate player). In hindsight, Sam’s rollout was more fitting for the release of an R&B album than the start of a career in the NFL. Then again, all Frank Ocean did with respect to acknowledging that he, at one point in his life, loved a man waspublish a couple of paragraphs about the experience on Tumblr. Ocean then proceeded to let the music speak for itself.

To that end, the last thing I read about Michael Sam the football player was back in March, when he reportedly had a very bad day at the NFL veterans’ combine. As one agent told TMZ, “My real honest opinion is that he was flat-out horrible. He did not belong out there.” Another added, “Here was a chance to show his determination and dedication, and the GMs didn’t see that. I think there’s a chance he could play in the Canadian Football League. He sells tickets. He attracts fans. And from there you never know.”

Will Tim Tebow be as terrible as most considered him before he exited the league? That is probable, but one thing is for certain: Much of his headline-generating antics of the past have died down over time.

By comparison, Michael Sam signed on for a season of Dancing With the Stars. I get it; the rent is high and if your footwork can’t cover it for the Dallas Cowboys or St. Louis Rams, then you might as well collect a check from ABC in the meantime. Nonetheless, that’s a show all too welcoming of football players, though typically ones who have already accomplished enough in the NFL.

I do not totally knock Sam’s decision to do that show, but I do take issue with the way he described other gay NFL players in the league last month. As reported by Charean Williams at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Sam explained, “I am not the only gay person in the NFL. I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.”

The invocation of “courage” to separate him from other players reeks of hubris and self-righteousness. That may have not been Sam’s intention, but it speaks to an overall problem many—gay and straight—have with him. Representation remains an issue for minorities collectively, but one thing we should all remember is that none of us living on the outliers of what constitutes the mainstream—heterosexual, cisgender, white as the sheets of a bigot—owe anyone a damn thing.

Read the rest at The Root.

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If I could describe Blackbird in three words, I would choose “protect your neck.” The movie is a little over 90 minutes long, but has a miniseries’ worth of materials to work though within that minuscule amount of time. The film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, penned by Larry Duplechan.

There is a kidnapping, an unplanned teenage pregnancy, and subsequently, an abortion. There is the issue of interracial dating, statutory rape, and a suicide attempt. However, of those myriad of issues, the driving force of the story (helmed by director Patrik-Ian Polk) is Randy Rousseau, and his struggles to embrace his homosexuality and his devout Christian faith. If that wasn’t enough, all of this is set in a small town in Mississippi. Because life is not hard enough for these people.

Polk has Rousseau, played by Julian Walker, introduce this conflict in a way that is vulgar as it is hilarious. During a dream sequence, Randy the choir boy is performing and suddenly joined by his crush. There are hints of homoeroticism in their exchange, but the hints turn into screams as Randy’s crush disrobes himself and Randy and the two proceed to make out inside of the church for all of the congregation to see. Ultimately Randy wakes up from his wet dream that we are made abundantly clear is wet by his ejaculation.

It is a common sleep pattern for Randy, and while depicted provocatively, likely resonates with many a Jesus-loving gay boy who knows what it’s like to awaken “soaked in sin”—present company included.

Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique portrays Randy’s mother, Claire Rousseau, grief-stricken and haunted by the kidnapping of her daughter. Upon learning of Randy’s sexuality – again, in especially blunt fashion – Claire condemns her son and faults him for his sister’s disappearance. Having your Christian mama fault your biology for some unforeseen circumstance is another aspect of this film that’ll likely resonate with select moviegoers.

While there is surely a lot going on, and arguably, too much in a short amount of time, there are lot of aspects of this movie that make for interesting watching. It’s always hilarious to see closeted gay men deny themselves. Say, Randy quipping defiantly, “I’m not bitchy. I’m in the choir.” Whatever you say, sis. The same goes for Randy trying in vain to be ‘delivert’ from his sexuality by way of his equally virginal friend, Crystal.

Likewise, Blackbird does remind you of what a gifted dramatic actress Mo’Nique is. More often than not, unapproving parents, and in particular, mothers, are portrayed, and thus, judged harshly for not simply falling in line with their children’s homosexuality. Even if wrong in their position, it is often rooted in this notion of a child’s soul being more important than the life they lead on Earth.

Read more at EBONY.

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Who in the fuck does Mimi Faust think she’s fooling?

Mere seconds into the season premiere of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, I was already over Mimi and her bullshit. After all of the embarrassment Stevie J put her through, she decides to start a business with him? A management company at that! She can’t manage to stop playing herself, and he can’t manage to stay sober. Watch out, Roc Nation. The Diddy and Kim Porter of the South got next.

Mimi is obviously still in love with Stevie J, which explains why she has found a way to be with him intimately even if it is under the pretense of a business venture. Mimi, you are another sad love song wrecking my brain like crazy.

Mimi Faust Management’s first potential client is rapper Tiffany Foxx. Some of you might recall her from an awful song and video featuring a Lil’ Kim sing-songy verse I try to forget out of respect for a legend. If you are keeping score, Tiffany Foxx worked with Lil’ Kim and now wants Mimi Faust and Stevie J to handle her career. I’m laughing.

In between trying to manage artists, Mimi unveiled plans to release a book. It’s shit like this that makes me question why I even bother learning how to read. Do I have to have sex with Nikko to get a book deal? Pass me the shower rod. Wait, I’d sooner lick a New York City sidewalk on the mustiest day of the year than screw slime.

Speaking of Nikko, he may no longer be with Mimi, but he is still trying to leech off of her. He pops up at the photo shoot for her book cover to inform her that she signed a contract giving him 25 percent of her book royalties. In response, Mimi says she was not in her right mind when she signed that, thus refuses to honor the deal. Uh, that is not how contracts work, beloved. This woman made a baby with someone who worked with Puffy in the 1990s. How does she not know to read her contracts? Why is she so hopeless?

I bet half of the book is going to be about Joseline. I understand why Mimi doesn’t fancy the Puerto Rican Princess, but at what point will this woman realize that Stevie J was not in the studio working on tracks with Jesus before Joseline entered his life? Mimi, if you think a scoundrel like Stevie J needed Joseline to introduce him to drugs and bad behavior, you are crazier than you swear Joseline is.

Sadly, last night Joseline was discussed often but not seen. Joseline’s whereabouts are unclear, but Mimi and her cast mates remain thirsty as hell about her.

We also got insinuations that Joseline is being shady to her old pals. Enter some new girl named Diamond who, like Joseline, is getting off the pole for good in order to pursue her rap dreams. Dawn, the booking agent who has half of Traci Braxton’s face, tells Diamond that her old co-worker is probably ignoring her texts because she doesn’t want the competition. Dawn needs to go find herself some business and better wigs.

As for Joseline’s reunion show behavior, Stevie J and Benzino were responsible for that brawl. Joseline was basically siding with her man, and ever the hood girl, could not be stopped once she popped off. 100 emoji.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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I’m often weary of criticizing Scandal for two reasons: I love Shonda Rhimes and I fear Shonda Rhimes. Shonda’s clap back is one of the smoothest in all the land. She will get you together in 140 characters or less as she sells ABC her billionth TV show all while writing and producing the other 200 shows she currently has on air. And I really, truly adore Kerry Washington.

With the niceties out of the way, I can now get to the question at hand: How much longer can Scandal go on? I was excited about the start of season four, but as I complained for weeks, I hated the kidnapping storyline. It was cute for maybe one episode — the midseason premiere — but it dragged on and on and on to the point where I called out to God and Beyoncé to give me the power to reach through the screen and save her my damn self.

Thankfully, that ended, but now we are back to Rowan Pope’s return and a battle for the future of B613. Doesn’t that feel a bit like deja vu only without Jay Z and an awkward dance break in the middle of nowhere? I’m all for tying up loose ends, but this show needs a lot of conflict resolution. As in, Olivia needs to find out that her father killed her BFF. Liv has to make up her mind about Jake so he can either stay or truly run off into the sunset.

Then there is Fitz and that eternal “will they or won’t they” angle — that’ll likely always be a part of the show so we will have to just roll our eyes together. But the rest can be fixed. Speaking of fixing, Scandal could probably go on forever if it returned to its original vision as Olivia Pope the fixer. Maybe it’s too far gone at this point, but I have enjoyed Olivia fixing people’s problems in the midst of the other bizarreness. I’d rather Liv fix my life than Iyanla.

Insert 100 emoji here.

And maybe, just maybe it’s time for a major cast shakeup. Bring in some new OPA associates. Let Huck’s crazy ass go be crazy as s–t in suburbia. Let Quinn get herself a new life and an advanced degree. My girl may be a killer, but perhaps she could utilize those skills as a lobbyist or something. Same skill set, to be honest.

Read the rest at VH1.

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I squandered my 20s by not having enough sex. If I were rating my sex life in that decade through emoji, I behaved like the yellow one with his eyes closed and a straight line where a smile should be. I should have acted more like a cross between the eggplant and the one no one I know uses to signify raindrops. I wish I had been more of a slut, and while I am well aware that it is never too late to join the team, there are certain consequences that come with lateness. For me, that is a sense of stunted development.

I reflected on my struggle with intimacy, and its source, an early exposure to AIDS — by way of my AIDS-stricken uncle’s funeral when I was just six years old — in an essay for xoJane in 2014. After that, I decided to correct the problem. Strangers online were encouraging in a “You go boy, don’t press eject on your erections anymore!” fashion, but some of my friends – the gay male ones – were a bit more pointed in their commentary. I remember one person in particular advising to “be a better gay,” and get laid without the getting-to-know-you process. What followed was the suggestion to try “the apps,” which I admittedly rolled my eyes at.

Hook up apps like Jack’d and Grindr are an acquired taste. For the longest time, I didn’t like anything about them. In my mind, I am a Beyoncé, so to partake in the apps – which are basically like Seamless for sex – felt degrading, like lowering myself to the level of former Destiny’s Child member turned reality star who refuses to sing on air (LaTavia Roberson).

And then I had a change of heart.

For months, I flirted with the idea of meeting people, only to punk out. “These motherfuckers could be crazy” were the exact words I used. Ultimately, I truly gave in.

The first time I actually met someone from Jack’d, which is described as a “gay men’s social network” but is majorly used for what I would describe as “ho shit,” I thought it was going to end with me becoming the inspiration for a future episode of Law & Order: SVU. In my profile, I make it very plain that such a scenario is not ideal, my bio reads: “I don’t ever want to end up the inspiration behind an episode of Law & Order: SVU.”

Once we finished and he exited, I could no longer find my keys, prompting my suspicion that this man, whatever his name was, was good with his mouth but not at following directions. I was suddenly paranoid and sure he had stolen my keys and was planning to return to my apartment to slit my throat. Or something.

After two hours of searching my (not that large) apartment, I found my keys in a kitchen cabinet.

What’s most interesting about this story is that when it comes to hook up apps, this is not the most embarrassing one.

Not long after that incident, people started recognizing me.

I was using “Slim Shady” as a screen name on Jack’d, but getting messages like: “Hey, Michael. I love your blog, The Cynical Ones! You’ve been such an inspiration to me.” Other inquiries were related to whether or not I was “@youngsinick from Twitter,” and again, came conversations about my work as a freelance writer.

I never dawned on me that to some — namely those younger or around the same age as me — I am one of the few working gay black male writers they know. I’m not nearly on the level I want to be, but I am not necessarily living in obscurity as I thought, either.

Read the rest at Fusion.

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The “racial slur” accusations and “double standard” charges hurled by the media and from angry corners of Twitter after Andrew Harrison’s hot-mic moment last weekend are evidence of just how perverted our nation’s race conversation has become. The University of Kentucky sophomore, on the heels of his basketball team’s first and only loss of the season, was caught muttering “F— that nigga” under his breath when a teammate was asked about opponent Frank Kaminsky during a post-game news conference.

Harrison blundered when he dropped the f-word in a formal setting and on an open microphone. It was a 20-year-old’s stupid mistake, and his apology should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. Headlines indicted Harrison(a black guy) for using “a racial slur” against Kaminsky (a white guy). Then came whining from across the Internet that Harrison was the beneficiary of a double standard, because his use of the word didn’t result in his expulsion or his being branded a racist. The same day, these critics noted, news broke that a University of South Carolina student was suspendedafter a photo of her writing the plural of the n-word on a white board went viral.

To make such claims is to be willfully obtuse. After years of such trite debates, it should go without saying: Context matters. White people invented the word to disparage black folks. Using it to blame black people for ruining some formerly lily-white institution is an American pastime. It’s in that context that the University of South Carolina student scrawled the plural of the n-word as the first in a list of things ruining the school’s wi-fi (illogical, but I guess she’s still learning, or something). It’s in that context that students at Bucknell University were expelled for a radio broadcast that included the n-word, along with racist comments like “black people should be dead” and “lynch ‘em.” And surely, that was the context for members of University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who were recorded singing that racist little ditty about “hanging them from a tree.” Contrary to some ridiculous claims, those SAE boys didn’t learn that context from any rapper.

In those types of circumstances, the n-word is used to exclude, demonize and terrorize a group of people. It’s dishonest to try to lump in Andrew Harrison with that form of systemic racism. Even though this rationale upsets some, including some black people who are vehemently against the use of the word under any circumstance, it’s nonetheless true. Those critics argue against reclaiming or redefining the n-word slur, using the derivative Harrison used. But it is clear that among those who do use that derivative, particularly millennials, the connotation is not the same. In that context, it’s used not as a racial slur, but as a comparatively benign and generic reference to another individual.

If someone finds it a burden that white people cannot use “the n-word” without inciting anger, they operate from within a bubble filled with entitlement, privilege and delusion about what real racial burdens in America look like. It’s exhausting to have to repeatedly explain somethingthat ought to be so easy to understand. The fact that we continue to have this debate, over whether black people should be able to repurpose a slur that is not their own invention, speaks to whose interests still dominate the race narrative.

Read the rest at the Washington Post.

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It’s a shame how a moment you’ve been waiting for for so long finally comes and when it does, you nearly miss it due to newfound indifference. I have waited for a new Jodeci album since I went into my sister’s box of CDs and took her copy of The Show, the After-Party, the Hotel. I have obsessed over Jodeci since I was child (full disclosure: I was barely alive when their first album was released). In second grade, when a group of my friends and I all pretended to be Jodeci, I was Mr. Dalvin. I still listen to “Come and Talk to Me” regularly. The same goes for their fantastic second album, Diary of a Mad Band.

I love Jodeci.

And yet, once I actually remembered that the group’s new album, The Past, the Present, the Future, was out, I was petrified to listen. None of the songs the group put out prior to the album’s release—“Nobody Wins” featuring B.o.B, “Every Moment,” and “Checkin for You”—were worth more than one-and-a-half listens. So, when it was time for me to listen to the album in full, I called up Crown Royal Apple and prayer warriors to get me through it.

I’m so glad I did because this album is one you will have to work hard to forget for the sake of preserving all of your positive memories of Jodeci. This album ain’t it. Not even a little bit of it. It’s not even half the “i” in “it.”

The song’s opener, “Too Hot,” sounds like it was dug out of a box labeled “1998.” In fact, when you hear the line, “Pretty face like Lauryn, body like Mya,” you’re almost certain that this song was written before Willow Smith was born.

When the lyrics don’t sound old, they come across as eternally gross. This album screams “songs your nasty uncle you could never be alone with” music. On “Those Things,” you hear the line, “Maybe later on I can get my tongue in your mouth (WET AND DEEP, GIRL).” I immediately want to reach for hand sanitizer after writing that. The song itself borrows lines from “Come and Talk to Me” and “Freek’n You.” It just makes you sad for the good days, now confirmed to be forever gone.

A lot of lyrics are just corny. Take the hook for “Stress Receiver,” which goes, “You are my stress reliever, my sex receiver.” Jodeci was never a group known for subtlety, but there was always something especially cool about them. Unfortunately, this is their 20-year high school reunion and life has beat it completely out of them.

There’s also the sad reality of their depleted voices. Well, Mr. Dalvin never sang (he raps a little on the new album, and in sum, no) and Devante served as the producer and writer. That means K-Ci and JoJo did most of the legwork, and whew, do they have arthritis. You notice it mostly on “Jennifer,” which by the way, sounds like the two made the entire thing up as they went along. It also sounds like a fake ass “Lately,” for what it’s worth.

Read the rest at Complex.

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