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Although I share Justin Charity’s sentiments about the Empire soundtrack, based on the sales projections [Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this piece, this happened.], the fish fry I went to ’bout a week ago, and audience members of The Wendy Williams Show, no one gives a damn about our thoughts and feelings about how awful much of the music on the show is. Very much like the other FOX musical-based drama before it, Glee, with great success comes the opportunity to jump on the money train heading straight for the Billboard charts. Now, just because the chance is there doesn’t mean it will happen—see copies of Lea Michele’s album collecting dust at a store near you—but it does beg the question, “Who on this show could really make a way in real life?”

I’m here to answer.

Terrence Howard, a.k.a. Lucious Lyon

Do you remember Terrence Howard’s debut album, Shine Through It? It was fucking hilarious. I imagine he thought he was going to be the coffee shop or Shug’s Juke Joint equivalent of Jamie Foxx’s solo career, but ultimately, no one bought his album and most people blocked it from memory. It’s not that Terrence Howard cannot sing or is not musically inclined. He has a voice, but like, Marsha Ambrosius, sings as if he’s doing so while inside of a haunted house. I imagine Howard is itching to put that perm back in and give singing another go. Don’t go chase waterfalls; please stick to the soundtrack cuts that you’re contractually obligated to commit to. No more.

Bryshere Gray, a.k.a. Hakeem Lyon

My hate for “Drip Drop” has been remarkably strong. However, I have to confess my sins: When Bryshere Gray made an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, I joined the moms, gays, and homegirls in dancing and reciting “Drip Drop” line for line. Does that mean I think Gray, who will go by Yazz when he releases music, will be as big as the rapper Hakeem is on the show? I won’t go that far, but Rae Sremmurd is out here flourishing, so with the right beat and hook, maybe Yazz can score a couple of hits as Roscoe Dash Jr., Tyga the futureSVU-storyline version.

Read the rest at Complex Music.

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For weeks now, Empire and its ever-expanding base of viewers have been teased about its inaugural season’s finale — most notably, that “everything will change.” Considering Lucious Lyon could drop dead any second now and more than one character has come face to face with the barrel of a gun, a shocking death is not out of the question. Now, I don’t have much in the way of making solid predictions outside of knowing when my Internet service will go out (at any moment, at any given day) or that there will be baes at the gym (part of the reason I joined that location). Nonetheless, I’ve been tasked with leading the guessing game so here I go, here I go (if you heard Mystikal’s voice, you get two points). The characters we believe have the highest chance of dying in the season finale are:

1. Hakeem’s flattop.

This is more like wishful thinking on my part. I don’t have a problem with the flattop. Hell, I rocked a curly one back in the early ’90s. But, watching Hakeem rock this flattop makes me feel old – and I’m too young to feel old. I don’t know if Hakeem’s hairstyle will die, but it should for that selfish reason alone. Besides, since Iman Shumpert (I didn’t know who he was either, no shade) is out here claiming that Hakeem and Tiana are based on him and Teyana Taylor (in vain, for the most part), I think it’s best we all start over.

2. Boo Boo Kitty

Based on the previews of next week’s finale, Anika tries to fight Cookie, which means it’s more than likely that Cookie will beat her down to the white meat and her debutante self will die. I don’t have beef with Anika personally. I mean, she’s not screwing my former no good husband who left me to rot in jail. However, she always tries Cookie and now that she’s gotten physical with a woman who did hard time, well, God bless her.

3. Vernon Turner

He gets on Lucious Lyon’s nerves and we all know what happens when a non-blood relative does that. Don’t we, Bunkie? (Remember, that was Cookie’s cousin.) So Lucious will try to strangle him or something, then the ALS will kick in, leaving him to grab his gun and shoot him before Vernon manages to catch his breath and help Lucious catch the fade. If this happens, I’ll be super sad. Like, Torres died on New York Undercover, and now more than a decade or so later, his partner finally joins him at the big precinct in the sky.

Read the rest at VH1.

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It’s 7:00 a.m., you’re feeling barely alive, and you need a mighty jolt of caffeine to properly prepare you for the morning. Is that the best time to talk to your server about institutionalized racism and white supremacy? Would you like a shot of espresso coupled with a brief chat about the tenets of racial equality? Or that Oprah chai I keep hearing about?

I don’t want any of these things, so for all of CEO Howard Schultz’s intentions, I’m not sure what pushing Starbucks baristas to talk race with the stores’ customers will accomplish.

On the company’s website about the #RaceTogether initiative, the site explains that Schultz saw what was happening in cities like Ferguson, New York, and Oakland and felt that, “We at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America.” However, “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”

So, you’d like to discuss race in America based on instances of racial unrest tied to discrimination in the aforementioned cities, but “not to point fingers or to place blame.” In essence, this is encouraging banter but not serious or arguably meaningful conversation.

How American, indeed.

To have a real conversation about race in America is to discuss racism. Without looking at an issue wholly, you are having nothing more than superficial dialogue. It would be like first date conversation, only the kind the results in you never seeing that person again. Ever.

To be fair to Starbucks, the store does notable charity work and is now helping some of its baristas cover the costs of college. This comes across as an extension of their commitment to community. Even so, for many a working class or poor neighborhood resident, a new Starbucks is the first sign that a change is going to come — that will more than likely displace them. The CEO of Starbucks would probably find himself in an awkward conversation discussing this reality. Can you imagine what a barista might face if they write “#RaceTogether” on a cup and someone dares to inquire?

Speaking of these baristas, already there is a hashtag #StarbucksRaceTheory in which someone and likely others will share their experiences with uh, racially insensitive Starbucks workers. Most of them are not equipped to discuss such complicated matters. They’re collecting a check (that should probably be bigger) and the customers just want caffeine (to go collect a check that should probably be bigger, too).

We should not complicate this formula to assuage the guilt of white liberals. White liberals who are diverse in their worker base, but not in their executive offices. Per the Starbucks website, one partner said, “The current state of racism in our country is almost like humidity at times. You can’t see it, but you feel it.” Many of us feel it damn near every day of our lives. What is your barista going to do about it? What makes you think I want to talk about it anyway?

Read the rest at NewsOne.

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Unless he was offering direct flights to and from heaven, there was no way in hell Creflo Dollar was going to successfully raise $65 million for a new Gulfstream G650 jet via his own website.

Despite that harsh reality, the Rev. Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all pulled his campaign only because the online commotion that his outrageous request had caused resulted in absolute ridicule. But as shameless as Dollar may have seemed, he is not an aberration in terms of how people are exploiting online charity.

I can understand fundraising to cover medical bills or even the cost of some creative endeavor, but how have we gotten to the point where people feel comfortable turning to strangers to support their every want and desire no matter how superfluous?

Take, for instance, Jameelah Kareem, who set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that she could fly to Las Vegas for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Kareem’s initial goal was to raise $1,500 (which she did), only she subsequently decided to extend her campaign and shift the remaining dollars raised to a former high school classmate who apparently needs to cover some medical bills related to breast cancer.

That gesture sounds lovely or something, but they do not negate Kareem’s initial intentions, which are audaciously superficial.

Or there’s the case of Azel Prather Jr., who recently launched a GoFundMe initiative to collect airfare to fly to Miami to “save his relationship with his girlfriend.” Prather, who works in marketing and apparently “has a knack for comedy,” scored an interview by the Washington Post for his efforts. Ah, there’s the real win.

There are worse campaigns than this, though. Some are presumably created in jest, hosted by people aiming to cover the cost of a Hennessy bottle or those professing that they are tired of being broke or in need of money for breast augmentation, intending to properly tip strippers or just wanting white privilege. But if their crowd actually donated, each fund seeker would have undoubtedly gleefully taken the contributions and spent them accordingly.

For example, there’s the woman who successfully crowdsourced her $362 Halloween cab ride from Uber. And then there’s the man who netted $55,000 to make potato salad. It’s not their fault that folks gave them money. Yet I somewhat resent them for inspiring the foolish aforementioned.

And while some of these stunts scream comedy, others are taking advantage of crowdsourcing and are completely serious in their intentions. I’ve stumbled across GoFundMe pages seeking help to cover the cost of immigration fees, baby showers and college tuition.

Read the rest at The Root.

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So a week and a half ago, I appeared on HuffPost Live’s Midweek Cocktail Chatter with Josh Zepps, talking about the lily white Oscars (with Black sprinkles in the audience), white women demanding we thank them for all that we’ve done, and a drug mostly white gay men are using thus far. I got to sip a hot toddy, which I needed at the time. It’s been so cold here, beloveds. Unnatural.

In any event, clips below the hood.

(more…)

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There’s a difference between making a declarative statement and dancing around one.

So while I totally respect Jussie Smollett’s choice to offer the former during a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, I find the narrative surrounding it a bit misleading. Every headline I’ve read speaks to Smollett ‘coming out’ as gay, but to come out as gay is to explicitly say so. Smollett did no such thing, and if anything, stayed true to his previous promise of keeping his private life just that.

Yes, during their conversation, which carried over backstage and was subsequently released to the world online, Smollett had this to say any suggestion that he was closeted: “There’s never been a closet. That I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don’t have a closet, but I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.”

I live in a studio apartment in Harlem, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I’m more sexually attracted to Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, or somewhere in between.

Now, when Ellen offered, “You’ve never pretended to be anything that you aren’t,” Smollett did add, “Ever, ever. So lets not read into it the wrong when I say that I don’t talk about my personal life, I’m saying that. But it is in no way to hide or deny who God made me. Ya know?”

In other words, I’m not ashamed of who I am (whatever that is), but I don’t want you people in my damn business either. Fair enough, but again, is that coming out or just expressing a desire not to be categorized incorrectly one way or the other? Smollett did add, “My mama knows. My Mama likes me a lot. And yes I take her to the ‘Sound of Music’ sing-along every, single year. So, any questions?”

I have one: Did Queen Latifah write this?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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Three months ago, I sat in my bed frustrated with myself. I was upset at all the life choices I’d made up until this point. Physically and mentally exhausted, I ran out to get an energy drink; I’d needed a caffeine-enriched charge to help meet a deadline. And then it happened: later, rushing to the bathroom, I tripped and went hip-first into my desk, knocking the energy drink onto my laptop, its red liquid bleeding into my keyboard.

Although the rest of the laptop was intact, the keyboard stopped working, which meant the assignment would have to be written on an iPhone.

I called the only person who felt right at the time: my mother. Sensing the urgency in my voice, she immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” Before I went into detail, I made a request: “Can you please just listen to me and let me finish? I only want to get this out.” “Okay, baby,” she said.

The last twelve months have been trying. I’m either doing a lot of the things I’ve always longed to do or, if nothing else, inching closer to goals I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember. But it has not come without certain costs. To freelance write for a living is to often play the role of a sadist to your emotions. I regularly joke to my friends and in interviews that I am a writer and bill collector.

Months ago, my bills amounted to several thousands. It was not an unusual situation for me, but one I was tired of dealing with and one I am actively working towards avoiding as I advance in my career. I’m in better standing now, but still paying back the debt I built working with media companies whose existence became the bane of mine.

It took several months for it to happen, but the anger that was boiling underneath finally gave way to the sadness buried even deeper. As the tears began to fall, my mom could not resist her natural inclination to fault my decisions. Crying has never been easy for me, and as soon as my mom interrupted, I stopped.

The exercise lasted less than 10 seconds.

As proud as she is of what I have accomplished, and what other achievements await, her vision for my life is different from the one I presently live. Ideally, I’d be working in a field more secure (finance, corporate law, medicine), one that would make all her sacrifices worth it. I would also be straight and married with kids. We’d all attend mass regularly, and she’d have us over for Sunday dinners. I might even be back in Houston. Maybe not directly under her, but close enough (in Houston, traveling long distances within the city limits is normal).

But I am none of these things. I will never be any of these things.


I came out to my mother in 2009 after I penned an essay about two black boys who hung themselves within the same month. They’d wanted to escape the anti-gay taunts, and the kind of world that supported such behavior, that haunted them. In writing the essay, my sexuality was a statement of fact; prior to this, my love of men only existed as speculation.

Her response to my coming out was nasty, and we didn’t speak to her for weeks.

In February, I called her. Not much had changed since then, but I felt compelled to warn her that I was writing about being a black gay man, and that it would reach people she knew. A photo is going to be included, I said. (Translation: I look just like you and we bear the same surname; your co-workers, your friends, your sisters, and your girls at the beauty shop will all know I’m your son.) In telling her, I tried to be respectful about her beliefs. I tried to talk about God and difference of opinion. Regardless of how she feels, I told her, I do think God is using me, in some way, to help create dialogue.

“Am I happy that you’re gay?” she responded. “No. I’m sorry it happened to you. Am I hurt that you’re still gay? Yes, because I feel responsible.”

I’m not sure why she feels responsible. In her mind, maybe she thinks me being gay is a response to me being raised in house that included a violent and volatile alcoholic father. I made peace with her rationale—”I thought you needed a father; I also did not want to end up on welfare”—a very long time ago.

Months passed before we spoke again.


When she heard me cry, she did what any mother would do: she attempted to provide comfort. But it only irritated me. It somehow became about my need to go to “God’s house,” after which she subtly suggested that my struggles were linked to my sexual urges. She then offered to pay to have my laptop fixed. Too proud, I declined. But she wouldn’t accept it.

One thing I respect immensely about my mom is her faith. What she fails to grasp, however, is that the religion that saved her is my living hell. I don’t necessarily know what I believe in anymore. When I pray, more times than not, I believe someone is listening. There are also the rare times I wonder if I’m talking to myself in the dark.

Read the rest at Gawker.

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There’s a reality show starring two Black women working in music that relies upon several familiar tropes within the genre: infidelity, family strife, finding balance between work and family, seemingly shady business partners, and the pursuit of greater celebrity. However, very few tackle these issues the way WeTV’s Mary Mary does. The show, which launched its fourth season last night, stars Mary Mary members and sisters Erica and Tina Campbell.

The two handle conflict differently because as gospel artists, they are not able to curse people out, throw wine bottles, or snatch each other bald. If either of them did on their reality show, “the Saints” would surely soil their legacy and send them directly into the saturated land of secular music. As an avid viewer of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem if the Marys did any of the aforementioned, though it is refreshing to see that they do not.

All reality shows need conflict to work, and if the aim is to be truly successful, lots of drama. Mary Mary offers both, but again, without any of the behavior that your more respectable cousin would deem “ratchet.” Feel free to insert your “amen” here. Or a “boo, hiss.” Whatever’s clever, beloved.

Last season, Tina Campbell had to grapple with the reality that her husband, Teddy Campbell, has been unfaithful. Tina revealed this in her EBONY cover story, but as we learned in season three, had no idea that his infidelity included numerous women spanning several years. Her level of anger was equally measured to the number of times in which he played her.

In many ways, Teddy is Saved Stevie J, but Tina is no Mimi or Joseline. She threw him out and contemplated divorce, and while she ultimately decided to take him back, she did not pretend Jesus would lock her out of heaven if she decided to end her marriage because her husband broke his vows several times over.

Read more at EBONY.

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Michael Arceneaux, EBONY.com contributor and Master of Shade, calls out five of his biggest gripes from the past week. Rejoice and be read. Follow Michael @youngsinick.

1. These Gordons Ain’t Loyal: In “Have you no shame?” news, it wasn’t totally surprising to find out that members of Bobby Brown’s family were trying to shoot a reality show that included footage of them at the hospital where Bobbi Kristina Brown lies in a vegetative state. After all, Bobby probably hasn’t so much as sent them a free bottle of his BBQ sauce and chicken fryer mix. However, when it comes to her play brother and fake husband, Nick Gordon, you would hope more for him and his respect for Bobbi Kristina. Unfortunately, word has gotten out that Nick is set to appear on Dr. Phil and will be discussing his battles with his bae’s dad and her kinfolk. If this man had any respect for Bobbi Kristina, he’d be somewhere lighting a candle for her instead of contributing to the very kind of nonsense that made her live so problematic to begin with.

2. You Cannot Beat The Gay, Beloved: Andrew Caldwell, aka the man who says he was “DELIVERT” from homosexuality, is tip toeing back on his infamous declaration that went viral like a shot of Kim Kardashian’s ass cheek. In a new interview, Caldwell shares, “I feel that, if I was delivered, God should deliver me more. But I know it takes a process. But I think it is going a little bit slow. I want God to work on my mannerisms. I want God to stop the switching…talking like a woman.”

My immediate reaction to this is “Girl, bye,” but we have to acknowledge that men – Black men particularly – are often pressed by the larger community (this includes you, whites) to maintain a certain level of hypermasculinity. To not embody that is to be less than, or what misogynists call, feminine. Nonetheless, we are who we are and there’s nothing about femininity that is less than. It takes a secure man to realize this, so here’s hoping the Lord blesses him with a clue to he can go back to twerking to Beyoncé’s “Check On It” in peace.

Meanwhile, Caldwell added that he truly wants to be “delivered,” explaining, “Continue to pray for me because I am going through a lot each and every day.” I’m praying this time next year he’s at the gay club getting his life and realizing his life will be lived better when do so honestly. God bless, saint.

3. That Girl Raps Better Than You All The Time, Bro: For all his talent, Kanye West irritates the living hell out of me. Case in point, a guest lecture he delivered at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. He said many stupid things – including this idea that classism is new and that is supersedes racism – but I also want to focus on his sexist backhanded compliment to Nicki Minaj.

Reflecting on “Monster,” Kanye said: “One of the most memorable things about MBDTF was Nicki Minaj, and the fact that she kicked my ass, on my own song, on one of the best albums…the best album – I’m just saying what the critics said – of the last 25 years. The best album of the past 25 years that I spent a year and a half making, out there. I was exiled from my country, it was a personal exile, but exile. To come back and deliver my magnum opus of a work, and to be outshined…to be beat by a girl, basically.”

When one uses “beat by a girl,” the connotation is that it is the worst thing ever because women are less than men. In reality, though, for all his wit, vision, and talent as a producer, as a rapper, he leaves a lot to be desired – starting with him failing to rap on many of the various beats he crafted. So I’m not sure why he’s surprised that Nicki Minaj bested him given she’s a superior emcee to most of her contemporaries – men and women alike and him included.

Read more at EBONY.

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