Float.

I’m sitting at my desk in my increasingly uncomfortable office chair drinking red wine while listening to Anita Baker. For someone in desperate need of a vacation, but months away (at the very least from taking one), I’ll take whatever temporary moments of escape I can get. For years now, editors and many of my fellow writers have referred to me as a machine due to the way I’ve been able to churn out assignment after assignment. Maybe, but I think it’s about time someone put me in the shop.

Last week, Cord Jefferson wrote yet another very good essay, this time on how tiresome it can be writing about racism over and over again. It’s worth the read, and as someone who, too, writes about race a lot, I can attest to the sentiment. For one of the outlets I regularly write for, I often joke to my friends that they might as well give me a column called “That’s Racist with Michael Arceneaux.” My way of tackling what I often think are worthless targets is to simply make fun of them. Even so, I’d much rather go with the Mariah Carey method of dealing with a complete waste of space: “Ain’t gon’ feed you, I’mma let you starve.”

I wish dealing with racism was the least of my problems, though.

Since graduating from college and actually collecting checks for my writing, I’ve tackled pop culture, politics, music, celebrity gossip, sexuality, race, satire, and social media. I am happy I’ve been allowed to write about so much. Not everyone can be versatile, or at least, be convincing at. That doesn’t negate exhaustion, however. Like, I’m not necessarily over writing, but I am somewhat tired of a few things.

The aforementioned writing about idiotic racists, but also subject matter I can classify as either “dumb shit” or “silly shit” or “patronizing shit.” I came across an article entitled “The Internet has a content diversity problem.” In it, the writer basically takes shots at varying publications for following into the listicle vortext in response to the chase for clicks. I’m somewhat conflicted on that. Do I think “sharebait” has further contributed to the decline of people’s attention spans and their desire to read anything more than 500 words that might require them to think? Yes. Nevertheless, for a bunch of people stuck in cubicles and offices at least three hours too long, I can understand the desire to read something easy breezy.

Plus, I’ve contributed to the problem ’cause those pay the checks. And honestly, writing a “dumb list” is a lot harder than people realize. It can be a challenge to make any piece look like easy reading.

I’m less annoyed by the list than I am this growing subgenre of online journalism that’s basically “Tell ‘Em Why You Mad, Son.” It’s like watching people race to out politically correct the other in an effort to sound more evolved than the next. There are plenty of things to get mad about, but so many seem insincere because it pays to rage. A lot of it comes across a lot like masturbation. As in, let me patronize you, oooh, baby, baby, they’re so bad, but your point of view, so-so-so good.

I don’t wake up everyday wanting to be “mad.” I want to make people laugh and make people think. If some people deserve a roasting, so be it — just don’t position it as “moving the debate” forward. That would require a level of respect, and gasp, nuance, which so many writers seem to lack.

Then there are the “LET ME ENRAGE YOU ON PURPOSE AND THEN PRETEND I ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING MEANINGFUL TO SAY BECAUSE MY ATTENTION WHORING ASS GOT THE ATTENTION I SO DESPERATELY WANTED.” Fuck off twice, please.

In any event, I found it more interesting that a writer is complaining about diversity in content but only cited works from mainstream publications. That’s not surprising, but no less dually ironic and irritating.

What I’m personally sick of is having to chase for a check. I’m even more sick of having to churn out more than ever because though there may be an across the board wage depreciation, the publishing industry has really made an effort to take advantage of it. Even when I am offered the chance to write something that actually excites me, I have to contend with the reality that I have to be careful where I pitch it ’cause motherfuckers ain’t trying to pay the way they did even six months ago much less two years.

And yes, sometimes I do feel like Beyoncé being forced to cover Keri Hilson’s catalog due to increasingly stupid and/or lazy readers. 

You know, a lot of the time I get told, “I’m so proud of you for living your dream.” I know the intent is complimentary, but I sometimes wince anyway. Yes, I’ve written a lot of things I’m particularly proud of – this year included – but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m living my dream. I’ve accomplished select goals, but my dreams are too big to truly embrace a statement I find hyperbolic.

I could go on, but I’m about to switch to Anthony Hamilton and perform “Float” in my apartment.

A few weeks ago, while watching Oprah’s Master Class with Whoopi Goldberg, she said something to the effect of, “Do what you have to do until you no longer have to.” That’s something I continue to tell myself, though I do know I have to push (and get it right) to do more things worthy of my talent (that pay better). Even if I feel tired. Even if I increasingly get upset by the state of the biz. Thankfully, there are people every now and then who remind me that in the midst of the noise, my voice still stands out. I appreciate that. More than most will ever understand.

Black Gay Celebs, White Partners: What Does It Mean?

We’ve reached the point in which Black gay people can now complain about Black gay folks dating Whites as opposed to their own just like their heterosexual brethren. In some ways, that does suggest some nominal level of progress. In others, it just makes me want to turn up Mariah Carey’s new album to tune all of y’all the hell out.

In an essay for the Washington Blade entitled “Why do Black gay celebs have white partners?” Orville Lloyd Douglas, tells us why he’s mad, son, over so many of the LGBT public figures of color having melanin-challenged partners. Douglas writes, “There is a paucity of Black gay public figures who are out and since images are important in society, the few Black gay celebrities are sending the wrong message.”

This includes Michael Sam, who Douglas says “he felt disappointed” after the sight of Sam kissing his “White twink Boyfriend Vito Cammisano” upon word that he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Douglas goes on to question whether or not Michael Sam would be “celebrated as a hero to the LGBT community if he had a Black boyfriend?”

Well, that depends on what one defines as the LGBT community. As I’ve mentioned here and across the Internet as much as humanly possible, in 2012 Gallup confirmed that as far as America goes, LGBT identity is highest among those who are younger, not White and lower income earners. A year prior, the New York Times highlighted that gay couples of color are twice as likely to be raising children than whites – mostly in the South, FYI.

Yes, Black people identify as gay more than whites, so to answer Orville Douglas’ question, I believe Michael Sam would so long as we wouldn’t be basing our assessment of the LGBT community solely though the lens of the white, upper-income earning men who continue to be the face of our collective group.

I do get the crux of Douglas’ complaint. Images do matter, though I think Douglas’ complaint about the lack of representation of gay Black couples has a lot to do with the lens in which he chooses to view it. For starters, since its immediate relaunch, EBONY.com has worked to give Black members of the LGBT community a voice – including issues related to love and sex.

Also, one of my favorite Tumblrs, fckyeahblackgaycouples, is dedicated to showing nothing but the very displays of love Douglas is looking for. Earlier this year, Kordan, Kaleb, and their blended family became an Internet sensation after the world discovered them and all that adorableness surrounding them.

And for the life of me, I never understood why R&B Divas Atlanta didn’t get more credit for them showing a healthy, loving Black lesbian couple in Monifah, and her partner, Terez. Okay, “Touch It” was a long time ago, but handclap for a Black network showing Black love of a sort most aren’t used to all the same.

Speaking of that, for someone who complains about Black gay public figures following “the white gay standard,” Douglas subjects his readers to a bunch of stereotypes about Black gays that he was clearly spoon-fed from the other side of the rainbow.

Douglas describes Sam’s mama as a “stereotypical pious Black woman” as he theorizes that “due to the homophobia in Black culture, some Black gay people just want to be accepted and I can understand that. Some Black gays believe to assimilate into the white gay mainstream they can obtain social acceptance.”

Raise your hand if you think the key to social acceptance for any person of color is to run to a white person? If your hand is up, do the following steps: Slap yourself silly. Rinse and repeat.

That leads me to the biggest gag of this entire diatribe: Orville Douglas is the same person who wrote a piece called “Why I hate being a Black man” and also once argued that we “need to get over slavery movies.”

He doesn’t seem to like himself or his own people all that much, so it’s surprising to see him suddenly write a call to arms in this fashion. You can’t see me, but I’m over here sitting at my desk chuckling like Miss Sophia at Mister’s table.

Read more at EBONY

Why Has R&B Become So Misogynistic?

If there’s any artist who can best describe the troubles facing R&B – at least from the XY chromosome side – it’s Bobby V. I know, I know: “Are you about to quote Chingy about the state of hip-hop next?” Fair enough, but you can’t deny the bop that “Anonymous” brought, nor does Bobby V’s current place in the genre negate the accuracy of his criticism.

Speaking with Rolling Out, Bobby V. lamented over how R&B has gone “all the way hip-hop” and how that has essentially left many singers “out the door.” How can one maintain some level of success in this climate? Bobby V explained, “Of course, you can make an R&B song degrading women and saying some negative things and that may work. Because it seems like those are the R&B songs that are working now, which is a little sad to me. But I’m not that kind of guy.”

Not being that guy has a lot to do with his not being among the men who currently dominate radio. Among those that do fit very nicely into Bobby V’s recipe for relevancy in this rap-centric world of R&B, look no further than Chris Brown, who despite being every bit the screw up in the recent years, has managed to maintain his star (albeit a dimmed one) largely based on his ability to combine his knack for penning hooks with the aggression, and more importantly, misogyny that fuels so much of rap. So far, it’s a winning combo.

Even if you believe Chris Brown needn’t be judged for the violent beating he gave Rihanna five years ago, one wonders how that same person has been able to successfully exploit his clear contempt for women for profit. His kindred spirit in troublemaking, Bobby Brown, would’ve dared sing a line like that. That is, not if he wanted to get radio airplay.

Those days are over now, though, as Chris Brown is free to do 8-counts in the carnival while crooning about broke bitches and disloyal hoes. Chris has managed to flip Who Hurt You ‘N B into a successful sub-genre of R&B.

Sadly, he’s not the only guilty party. There’s also Trey Songz, who now sings about bitches and disses women based on whether or not they’re wearing cheap shoes. And of course, The-Dream, who is a pioneer in “I hate women, but I’m going to market my music mostly to them” music. Others dibble and dabble when convenient – Usher in recent years, newcomers trying to make their mark – and some like R. Kelly, are just well…you know.

Read the rest at VIBE.

A Lamb’s Listening Session

As much as it frustrates me, Mariah Carey’s recent struggles to score her trademark top hit single, and now, a sluggish start for her excellent Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse, makes sense. As my friend and literary bae, Rich, pointed out in his review at Gawker, much of Mariah’s public imaging is associated with her success. So, the failure of her seven or so first singles (to be fair, “#Beautiful, which did sell a million copies despite not climbing relatively high on the Hot 100) and her netting the lowest first week sales for an album ever is relevant. It’s no less annoying, though.

Well, depending on who’s doing the dissecting. No, Mariah is not the top seller she once was, but for those trying to discredit her over 2009+ record, it feels like some bratty child beating Bruce Jenner in a race now as if he isn’t and forever will be the gold medal winner of the decathlon.

Rihanna may very well take Mariah’s no. 1 singles record from her, but it would be tainted given Mariah was never just a featured artist on her hits and hers were amassed over a much lengthier period. And Mariah will now and forever will be the biggest selling female artist of all time. There’s no changing that, so if it matters that much to her and anyone else, she’ll always be the belle of the ball in some respect.

Personally, I don’t especially care anymore. I think if nothing else, this is all a sign for Mariah to let the music mesh with her maturation. She could go do a jazz album and likely be the biggest winner of the Grammys at night. She could tap all of the people she paved the way for – too many to name – and use them to sell the way so many of them have exploited her template. This means you Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and again, so many others.

Or she can just do what she did with this album: Make a fantastic project for those who continue to be as passionate about her music now as they were then. And make no mistake, Mariah’s 2000s catalog is a lot stronger than many of her critics give her credit for. Then again, when were critics ever especially kind to Mariah Carey?

That aside, have never done a track-by-track review, but a friend and lamb requested and now I am finally obliging.

“Cry.”

Initially, the only thing about the opener of Mariah’s 14 album was the punctuation in the title. I didn’t think it was a bad song, but I wasn’t circling any of the moons surrounding the planet resides on over it either. A few days later, something changed. I paid more attention to the lyrics and Mariah’s delivery and suddenly the song resonated with me differently than it did in those first listens. There’s a level of vulnerability in this song – namely that acknowledge of one’s own fault in the decline of a relationship – that made me think about my own recent dealings. Damn you, Mariah. In the best way imaginable.

Also: She sounds fantastic.

“Faded”

I love that she’s singing the “Mike Will Made It” tag. God, I love this woman so much. This song isn’t what I expected to hear from a Mimi x Mike Will Made It collaboration, but it’s one of my favorites on the album. Again, this song makes me feel a way. What the fuck, Mariah? Must you always make me simp so hard motherfuckers want to toss my head in their bosom? I miss bae.

“Dedicated” feat. Nas

BUT THAT’S YOUR NOSTALGIA.

I immediately fell in love with this song. She had me at “I’ll just sit right here and sing that good old school shit to you. I won’t fool you. I won’t make you be my own. And oh, baby, you know.” I like that Mariah worked with a young producer like Hit-Boy, but didn’t go chasing trends. Well, not on this track anyway. She sounds exactly what she is on this song: A 40-something woman who is mature, but not menopausal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Madonna. It’s just..here, Mariah sounds sweet and funny and confident. “Dedicated” reminds me of “Candy Bling,” a damn gem if there ever was one. Shut up. It is a gem. So is this song. Gems, dahling. Gems.

“#Beautiful” feat. Miguel

This song came out 100 years ago and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. If anything, I love it even more now that I’ve had to revisit it. It still sounds like a Miguel song featuring Mariah Carey, but it’s sublime. I wish they had worked together more on this album. Surprised Mariah didn’t reach out again given “#Beautiful” sold a million copies and made it all the way to the Top 20 on the Hot 100 — not Mariah’s best overall, but certainly her best chart performance in years.

“Thirsty”

This song is basically “Mulattos In Paris.” The song’s purpose is, was, and forever shall be to make you bop. Mission accomplished, girl. My bop was immediate. When I heard “UH, YA THIRSY. UH, YA THIRSTY. UH, YA THIRSTY.” my ass was sold. READ, QUEEN MIMI. I’m literally saying that as I type it. I’m such a stan.

One thing about post-maudlin ass ballad Mariah Carey is that you’ve discovered how good she is at reading the fuck out of people. See “Heat” and “Obsessed,” which is one of the all-time best diss records ever. Shut up, it is. How can you not cackle at “Outside the club, @ing me constantly?” And her laughing at “Oh, you a G now?”

Neither is as great as “Them chickens is ash and I’m lotion,” but acceptable all the same.

“Make It Look Good”

There is so much going on in this one song and it’s all good. “Look at what you got me going through. Can’t help myself because you make it look good.” Another song that has me in my feelings. This is melodic masochism. Whatever, sing that shit, Mimi, and play the harmonica, Stevie Wonder.

Side note: “Make it look gooder than them other fools.” So my little brother used to say “gooder” and it used to make me cringe. Looks like you won, Marcus. Fuck it.

“You’re Mine (Eternal)”

This is not a bad song and because it’s sandwiched in between two tracks from the album that I love, I find myself always listening to it. Still, one wonders what possessed her to release this as a single? It’s like a half-assed attempt at duplicating some of the other great 00s in her catalog. Which reminds me: Why was “Yours” not released? Why was yours featuring Justin Timberlake not released? This is Charmbracelet era, non-lambs.

You see how I’m talking about 2002 instead of this song because I already forgot about it (as I’m listening to it now)? Exactly. It’s cute or whatever, I guess.

“You Don’t Know What To Do” feat. Wale

THIS. IS. MY. SHIT. This is by far one of her best songs in years. Why was this not released eons ago? Even if it didn’t perform well, you’d be a damn fool to deny how good it is. Perfectly retro, beautifully sang, and Wale doesn’t make me want to call security to have him escorted off the track.

“Supernatural”

This is adorable squared and not just because of #dembabies making a grand appearance on the track. I mean, who doesn’t like singing words like “dissipate” in a song? You never let me down, Mariah. Also, I am glad that Monroe is already using words like “chanteuse” to describe herself. That little girl is going to be her mother on steroids. I kind of get the feeling that Moroccan will be a star, too, if for no other reason than he carries Mariah Carey’s genes, which one assumes to be dominate.

“Meteorite”

Too busy to write a lot of sentences as I have to get up and spin around while holding a glass of sangria. I’ve come to realize that I like house music far more than I ever thought. This song is fantastic and Mariah should record more tracks like them. Well, technically she already did with those 9000 dance remixes she has, right? Well, you get what I mean. Glad Mimi reunited with Q-Tip for he gives her the best shit, every time. Word to “Honey.”

But no really, I’m about to get up and spin. Dance like those old gays I saw at some Harlem park last summer at a “We Didn’t Die!” celebration. No shade.

“Camouflage”

I always forget what this song sounds like until I hear it. I’m one of those Mariah fans who doesn’t actually like a lot of her ballads. You know, “Hero” ain’t the shit I listen to. I’m all about post-Butterfly Mariah Carey. Well, select works from Daydream have a special place on my iTunes, but I’m touch and go with other earlier album cuts. So, by the time I get to the end of a Mimi album – which is where she now sticks a lot of these sort of songs – I’m kind of like, eh, I guess, girl. I do like this, though. I just don’t rush to hear it. This reminds me of “Outside,” which is a compliment.

“Money ($ * / …)” feat. Fabolous

FUCK YES, MARIAH.

Know that I am obsessed with Mariah singing, “Hit-Boy on the beat, oh yeah, that’s timeless.” Obsessed. Why you so obsessed with me obsessed. I rewind back to that part repeatedly all of the time. This is a favorite. I just finished balling up my fists thinking about how great this song is.

“One More Try”

I don’t care about this song. Sorry, Mariah Carey. CC: George Michael.

“Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can’t Give Up Now)”

Cute. Don’t make that face. This means a lot from a heathen. On to the next track. Shout out to Jesus, though.

“It’s a Wrap” feat. Mary J. Blige

Is this from the never saw the light of day Memoirs of An Imperfect Angel remix album? The acting at the beginning is quite bad, but I love Mary J. Blige so much so I’ll just say whatever, ma’am, you brought it home when you said “shiiiiiit.” “It’s A Wrap” is one of my favorites from Mariah’s last album so to add another one of my all-time favorites to it is just swell to the kid.

I will note that you folks laughing at Mary J. Blige for singing “acquiescent” ain’t even a fraction of a shit. Mary sounds great.

“Betcha Gon’ Know” feat. R. Kelly

I’m surprised Mariah bothered to record with Pissy given he’d be the type to take advantage of her “eternally tween” persona. Why couldn’t we have just gotten “The Impossible” with Jodeci? Ugh.

“The Art of Letting Go”

This still ain’t it.

“Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse”

Mariah, you did not draw that picture at three-years-old. You know what? Maybe you did. Perhaps you should paint more and have a gallery showing. Anyway, you for damn sure are not elusive. I love you like a holiday Duncan Hines yellow cake, but you’re about as elusive as an attention starved selfie-addict on Instagram posting a wordgram that reads “PLEASE LOOK AT ME, BITCH. PLEASE!”

In sum, Mariah Carey’s album is great. Her best in years. She should be proud.

On and On

When my friend emailed me the video for Tinashe’s “2 On,” I immediately got nostalgic. “Oh, this is like a Mýa video” was the response I shot back. He agreed and we proceeded to share our eagerness over dancing making a slow but steady comeback. Months would go by before I really got into this song, and now that I have, all I can think after watching this performance is damn, Ciara should’ve hooked up with DJ Mustard before he blew up.

Congratulations on the baby and all of that, CiCi, but while I bought your album, not many other people did. As I’ve mentioned a couple hundred times, Ciara’s problems with trying to reclaim past relevance are multiple, but at the core the girl simply has not only hookless music – a sin for any artist, much less an R&B/pop girl – but it lacks distinction. If Ciara’s content with allowing Jazze Pha to waste his time meeting with LaTavia over music that’ll likely never been penned, sang, recorded, or performed, the least she could’ve done is hooked up with a rising producer who could help her revisit a winning template. No, Mike Will Made It doesn’t count, mostly because a), he didn’t do the whole album, and b), he doesn’t really do uptempos much or that well and Lord knows a Ciara project full of vocals ain’t her Mega Millions Ticket to the top of Billboard.

I bring up Ciara because I think much of why I still held on to her despite obvious signs to “RUN, BITCH, RUN!” stemmed from me wanting another girl besides Beyoncé to keep dance alive. And before you dare even question it, yes, Beyoncé is very much the only girl out here keeping dance alive. You could argue that about Lady Gaga and her crypt keeper and rhythm style of dance, too, but I bought ARTPOP and y’all didn’t so no one is paying her much mind right now.

That said, as a child who grew up on Janet, Madonna, Paula Abdul, TLC, Aaliyah, Rosie Perez, and basically umm, everyone besides Brandy and Monica and their four left feet (at the time anyway), I like my 8 counts, extensive choreography, p-pops and twerks. 

Ciara can still dance down, but it’s not happening again so I’m sending a special hey, girl, hey to Tinashe.

She sort of looks like Tiny with a fantastic nose job. More importantly, this girl is getting it in this performance and can even sing a lil’ bit while doing so. I don’t particularly care about the latter part, but I admire the fact that she doesn’t sound like a dog with throat cancer when singing after all that dancing. Someone tell this woman to master the art of the Janet Jackson pre-recorded live vocal and I’m sold.

As for her actual voice goes, I imagine that somewhere Cassie is looking at her and Jhené Aiko and thinking, “What the fuck, universe?” Oh well to that, too. Bottom line: I need some dancing girls with catchy music and now I can add Tinashe to the list of maybes. 

Free idea: Some major label needs to stop playing and scoop up Danity Kane. Then some network ought to give them a new reality show. After that, drop a successful album (or successful enough by today’s standards) and throw them on a theater/small arena tour with Tinashe as an opening act. Or if Jennifer Lopez decides to tour again, maybe those two acts can join the bill. Lord knows Jennifer is another keeping dance alive.

 

Her. She Is LaTavia. The Elusive Chanteuse.

I haven’t written much about R&B Divas: Atlanta (as opposed to R&B Divas: LA last summer) because I’m not being paid to. That aside, I’ve been meaning to tackle LaTavia Roberson’s storyline on the show. Bless this woman’s heart as I know she’s been through it since the day she turned on MTV and saw that she got fired on her day off. Still, for the life of me, I do not understand how a person so hell bent on not singing is on a show all about singers who sing all the damn time.

Watching her these past few weeks have been so draining. Thus far, LaTavia has been giving me Claudette Ortiz sadness, only LaTavia made sure to do her hair and dress for the cameras rolling in front of her face. But hell, at least Claudette wanted to sing. Her issue was that she couldn’t afford a babysitter or something. You wanted to root for her, and while I felt the same with LaTavia at the beginning, lately I’ve just been like, “Girl, why are you even still here? Did Mona Scott-Young tell you ‘No thank you, but God bless!’ or something?

I’m glad I procrastinated/got distracted/took damn long/waited to take on this subject, though. This post is coming later than I intended for it to, but I’ve come to realize when writing about certain topics, or in some cases, making certain life choices, things happen when they are supposed to as opposed to when you think they ought to. Had I published this even a week ago, I would’ve missed this footage of LaTavia actually opening her mouth to sing surfacing online.

Now, some of your mean ass cousins have wasted no time in being assholes for the amusement of other lifeless strangers who get wet by wrecking havoc on the comments section/mentions of a celebrity’s social media account. Y’all. Did y’all even wait three minutes before deciding to say to LaTavia, “Why do you sound like Patsey during the whipping scene of 12 Years A Slave?”

I don’t think LaTavia sounds bad here. I will acknowledge that she indeed let a big ass yell at the very end of this extremely short clip, but she could easily be doing a vocal exercise. I mean, if you let your vocal chords sit in the kind of decade-long coma the way LaTavia did, you need to stretch those muscles out. They’re ashy and rusty, remember.

LeToya Luckett has improved as a vocalist. As has Kelly Rowland. Okay, some of the time. LeToya Luckett has definitely maintained a consistency of improvement in the studio and live. Kelly is back-back, forth and forth with hers. God bless. Even Beyoncé has had to grow as a singer. That’s just how it works. 

LaTavia wasn’t the strongest vocalist in the group, but she wasn’t the weakest singer in life either. She has a heavier tone to her voice — something I wish she embraced sooner than she seemingly has. Like, have you fools never heard of “Practice What You Preach?” LaTavia should continue to work on her voice and realize her destiny as the melodic Tone Loc with Barry White sprinkles.

LaTavia can get better so long as she continues to open her mouth and try to sing.

For her, such a thought put fear in her heart. From the looks of it, she’s managed to get over it. Good for her. We all get in our own way at times. Some are worse than others, but not many know when to step out of the way.

Scared Old Men, Modern Style, and the Perceived Feminization of Black Men in Hip-Hop Via Fashion

Whenever you pick the brain of someone like Lord Jamar about hip-hop’s ills, he’ll give you minutes-long rants about how the “feminization” of hip-hop is destroying both the culture and the Black men who contribute to it. His most recent display of this sad lil’ shtick was an interview he gave to Vlad TV earlier in the month about rapper Young Thug daring to wear something that looks an awful lot like a dress. When asked about it, the former Brand Nubian emcee flatly said, “I’m not feelin’ him. The more feminine shit that you do, the more you’re going to have to do other shit to try to prove your manhood.”

I’ve always found homophobia (which is in a deeply committed relationship with misogyny) within the hip-hop community to be especially laughable. As Aaron McGruder used to routinely point out in the pre-TV days of The Boondocks, this is a genre of music in which its biggest stars are greased muscle men instructing other men to suck their dicks. On top of that, many of these guys are adorned in so much jewelry you’d think Liberace had a bunch of unidentified bastard seeds. Meanwhile, a common narrative of rap is, was, and perhaps may always will be to drive home the point that women—excuse me, bitches—ain’t shit.

We are collectively a very He-Man woman hating society, though, so I can’t dismiss Lord Jamar as some sort of outlier like a Five Percenter or one of those Black Israelites who every Sunday on 125th and Lenox disparage Islamic men for wearing “dresses” and, like Lord Jamar, act as if femininity is some terrorist organization hell bent on the annihilation of Black men.

Yes, Lord Jamar may be one of the harsher and outspoken critics of the “feminization” of Black men, but he’s no less guilty than many of the other people who griped over Kid Cudi wearing a crop top at Coachella. The same goes for those who roasted Kanye West for wearing a kilt. Sure, you could sweep some of the critics aside as “jokes,” but it all ultimately plays into the sentiment that when you are a man—particularly a Black one—you are limited in your personal expression for the sake of preserving your manhood.

To Lord Jamar and others, manhood is a performance. One’s personal style is a part of that act and the minute you deviate from the collective acceptance of masculine ideals, you are worthy of ridicule, condemnation, or the very least, be questioned about your manhood, an all-too common occurrence that deserves re-examination.

In a piece entitled “metrosexuality is dead, thank god for that,” Anders Christian Madsen celebrates the end of the early 2000s trend and credits the likes of David Beckham, Jared Leto, and Zac Efron for showing (white) men that it’s okay to break from the mold. Similar pieces have been written in celebration of Kanye West, and perhaps over time, Kid Cudi, Young Thug, and others may receive similar accolades for doing the same for Black dudes.

This undoubtedly spooks the hell out of the Lord Jamars of the world, but what frightens me mostly is that ultimately, we’ve still yet to challenge how exactly we should judge one’s manhood.

If you are gay, you are used to the idea that some men may view you as less of a man for your attractions; however, we’ve reached the point where a straight guy could literally be swimming in a pool of vagina and he’d still be considered less of a man and boxed in because of a crop top or a kilt.

Read the rest at Complex.

Elliot Rodger and the Dangers of Male Entitlement

Whenever a disturbed White man or boy with easy access to guns goes off and commits mass murder, the nation collectively hangs its head low and looks for ways to humanize this brand of monster.

This happens for numerous reasons. The most obvious being that when you’re White, you are afforded the luxury of not being immediately deemed the kind of brut that all of the “others” are depicted as. Never mind that White men are primarily responsible for these shorts of mass killings in recent years.

Likewise, when the subject of mental illness comes up, it often feels like a cheap method of deflection given those suffering from mental illness are found to be more likely to be victims of violence than they are perpetrators. Of course, it’s easier for most politicians to pay lip service to the plight of mental illness than take on the gun industry that has allowed angry idiots like Elliot Rodger access to the weaponry flooding our country.

The same goes for the fact that if everyone truly cared about servicing the needs of the mentally ill— this means you, NRA when facing backlash—-we’d all be pushing for mental health spending to be restored to pre-Reagan administration levels.

That said, there was clearly something wrong the mind of Elliot Rodger. Something is awry if you want to go out and kill a bunch of people. Even so, this campaign to make him seem less “crazy” doesn’t minimize the reality that there is a culture present that emboldens people like him to operate under the unfortunate impression that he deserved certain privileges— which spurred him to harm those who would denied him what he felt he was owed.

As Rodger himself said in his disturbing final video, “Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity.”

And what exactly did humanity do to him? He explained: “For the last eight years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me.”

Rodger also spoke of representing the “true alpha male.”

There are other reports now that show he was not wealthy, but had access to those with money— making him all the more resentful of things he didn’t have. Insensitive or not, but boo damn hoo to this miserable pariah of society. If there is a hell, may be he sitting directly on a hot coal in the seventh circle as he awaits being dropped in a deep fryer.

I’ve read that his family tried to intervene before the rampage, but somewhere along the way, I wonder if someone ever informed him that his genitalia did not give him some sort of magical power to get whatever attention from girls he thought he was owed. Having a male orga is not the same thing as holding the key to whatever it is you think you’re entitled to. Patriarchy has many a pitiful sap confused about life and how it should work.

It gives these the men idea that women are something to be won—which is all about their perceived source of power, and ultimately, their sense self worth. Rodgers himself said, “I deserve girls much more than all those slobs.” Combine that with the sort of rampant misogyny that continues to plague us and we’re all potentially prone to die at the hands of some emotionally scared lunatic who can find a gun as fast as he can a fast food restaurant. All because he wasn’t getting any.

And when I say misogyny, I’m referring to folks like Glenn Beck, who days after Rodger’s killing spree, aired a rape comedy skit to peddle the theory that not as many women are raped as studies suggest.

Worse, as Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams notes in a recent piece, there has been unfair treatment of the “evil bitch” Elliot Rodger claims is the inspiration behind his acts of murder. Ever classy, the New York Post ran bikini pictures of the woman in question and deemed her “the aspiring model whose childhood rejection of Elliot Rodger lit the fuse that turned him into a murderous madman,” subtly shading the fact that she “barely remembers him.”

Expecting restraint from the New York Post is about as reasonable request as me holding a kiss-in at a KKK rally, but that doesn’t make the publication’s decision to run that story that way – along with her name – to be any less despicable. It plays right into the sort of warped frame of thinking that helped provoke Elliot Rodger.

Read more at EBONY

How Reality TV Save The R&B Star

Raise your hand if you knew about K. Michelle back when she was dropping mixtapes with Mary J. Blige-inspired titles and sang about whooping her abusive man’s ass and smacking the shit out of a hater? Now, do me a favor and stop lying. There were only about 12 of us around back then and I remember every single one of their names.

As talented as K. Michelle is, if not for Mona Scott-Young and her most popular Negro telenovela, Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta, K. Michelle’s ascension as the millennial Millie Jackson likely would’ve never happened. Sure, a great voice coupled with pain-centered subject matter often is a golden ticket to success in R&B, but it’s by no means a guarantee.

Indeed, K. Michelle had trouble finding an audience and that was only further complicated by the problems she faced with her then record label, Atlantic Records, who didn’t appear to know exactly what to do with her. While K. Michelle may currently be banging on Keyshia Cole’s window with a “Girl, I’m coming for your spot!” without reality television, she may have ended up like Shareefa. (No shade, Shareefa. “I Need A Boss” and “Cry No More” remain staples on my iPod.)

Likewise, the same K. Michelle was aided by reality TV, numerous other R&B singers can currently thank the medium for their newfound relationship with relevance.

Take K. Michelle’s rival, Tamar Braxton, who spent more than a decade chasing her dreams of solo success only to find it after rolling her neck profusely to the amusement of WeTV viewers. For those of us who bought her debut album, Tamar, way back in 2000, we knew what a talent she was. Not many cared, though, and they had no inclination to, until they actually got to know her by way of a weekly television series.

Others, say, KeKe Wyatt, Lil’ Mo, or any other member past and present of TV One’s R&B Divas can say the same. Even when it comes to acts arguably past their prime, a la SWV, reality TV has allowed them to reconnect with their fan bases if not build all new ones.

Interestingly enough, Toni Braxton was vocal about her hesitance to do reality television – worrying that it might’ve further devalued her star, particularly after filing for bankruptcy a second time. Those fears are understandable, but in hindsight, Toni Braxton can now boast of being on a hit television show for a fledgling cable network. That has afforded her the chance to routinely promote herself and her projects – including new music – on various major media outlets.

More often than not, once an artist gets their chance, they secure whatever bit of success they can muster and then ride off into the sunset or whatever Tom Joyner cruise booking they can get. Some aren’t even that lucky. Word to R&B Divas, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

While I understand reality TV – particularly with respect to representation of Black women – is a touchy subject, I’ve long wondered why very few note that it’s been damn good overall to R&B singers for several years now. So much of the conversation (to my annoyance) is told through the context of “You’re ruining the race, you’re embarrassing Barack, Michelle, Claire & Heathcliff,” “Stop fighting!” and “Sophia didn’t die so Oprah could live in a world with Joseline Hernandez.”

Yes, it can be problematic, but it hasn’t been all bad – especially in this instance.

Read the rest at VIBE.

DK3 Forever

Just when I was ready to put Danity Kane’s comeback in the “Girl, I Guess Not” pile alongside Lil’ Kim’s mixtape/album/consistent good make up day plans and Trey Songz’s music being good again, I woke up to the ladies’ new single “Lemonade.”

Now, because the beat matters so much to me, I was already with the women – however many of them, but we’ll touch on that in a few – and their new track despite it being very early in the morning when I first heard it. But when I got to Shannon’s bridge, my body rose from its slumber to roll down to the ground.

If you didn’t know, Shannon Bex is the silent slayer. She may not be as loud as Dawn Richard and Aubrey O’Day, but she is not outmatched in terms of vocals and for damn sure not on stage. See “Strip Tease” and any recent Danity Kane performance at a gay event. I love you, Shannon.

Also, shout out to Dawn Richard for dropping that Eureka’s Castle brand of R&B she’s so into as a solo artist. I like “different,” but she goes so left that it’s too much. Conceptual art is great, but leave the wizards to Harry Potter sometimes, girl. Glad you’re back home, ma’am.

I’ve been listening to “Lemonade” all day, non stop. Stripper kicking on the sidewalk to it. Stripper kicking and bopping hard to it in the gym, too. Please ask the Latino gym bae who just dyed the top of his hair the color of light skinned brown Black girl brown for proof. After you ask him, find out if he gets down. If so, put me on. Please? I see a bright future — complete with Blatino kids.

Anyhow, I want fetch to happen for this Danity Kane reunion. I hope they get a reality show. A reality show on a good network. And may the reality show be entertaining as all hell. Perhaps they could even briefly feature the ex-member or members of Danity Kane. Get those ratings; get that label; collect these coins; make girl groups pop again. In that order.

Okay, so maybe there are now only three members since only three lil’ girls are featured on the cover and I only hear three women on the song. To be honest, I don’t especially care. No shade to the chubby one whose name I can’t remember…oh wait, I Googled Aundrea, but while her voice is lovely, she hasn’t been getting it on the stage. I don’t blame her weight. After all, Beyoncé keeps a dancing big girl around her. Hell, I been told y’all that one day I hope to be able to afford two big girls who can follow me around and dance with me to Lil’ Wayne’s “Did It Before” on command. That’s my word.

So yeah, it’s not because she likes In and Out, she’s just a lil’…well, if she’s still in the group, I hope she stays a little bit longer in rehearsal and the dance studio in the Valley. If not, oh well. I think people tend to romanticize how girl groups work due to spoiling in the 1990s. Listen, girl groups are good for kicking members out left and right. Danity Kane, who we may now see as DK3, may be no different. I’m fine with that so long as the songs knock. And if “Lemonade” is any indication of what Danity Kane’s musical future looks like, I’m sold.

This song is perfect for lifting your leg in the air and twerking while showering. True story. I want to be somewhere this summer in the American Apparel sweat hoe-shorts (shut up, everyone says men need to show more thighs for the goons this summer), a tank, some new tats dancing to “Lemonade” like a classy stripper. And I promise to make that happen.

Great work, ladies!

Edit: Aundrea with the good voice is pregnant, thus at least partially why her slow wind was a lil’ slower than others and why she’s leaving the group. So, I’m going to hell, but congratulations, girl! DK3 is basically Beyoncé, Kelly on a great day and a better dancing LeToya. Sold. Happy family planning, Aundrea!