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When I typically think of black Republicans, I put them in a basket of deplorables alongside Beyoncé haters (Beytheists), people who prefer KFC over Popeyes (tasteless) and people who walk too damn slow on highly trafficked streets (move!). Like, how do you trust anyone black who puts his or her trust in George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush? I have more faith in strangers at an Atlanta bar with my credit card.

However, after the leaking of Colin Powell’s emails, I am making room in the icebox where my heart s’posed to be for this conservative of color. I’ll never forget the role he played in the Iraq War, but after reading his thoughts about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I’ll at least invite him to a fish fry. I won’t eat his potato salad, though.

For one, Powell’s blunt emails speak to the larger idea of how we black folks keep up appearances in corporate or, in this case, government settings, when, in reality, we can’t stand most of the fools around us. I now have the image of Powell going to the State Department and White House, giving his colleagues a smidgen of a smile and gracious nod, only to go back to his office and fire off emails with the subject, “This idiotic piece of s–t.” Or: “I hate her. I hate him. I hate all of them. UGH.”

Powell is absolutely correct about the hubris of Clinton and about Trump being an “international pariah” and “national disgrace.” I concur about Dick Cheney typically coming across as a “scary idiot,” and the Republican Party being a “reality show.” I’m also curious to know whether he and Condoleezza Rice ever wanted to jump Donald Rumsfeld.

Still, what’s really changed my mind about Powell is that I never knew how much I needed a shady, mean old Jamaican man in my life until now. Actually, shady old people in general. I lost my grandparents years ago, and while our love was deep and pure and other old Mariah Carey lyrics, what I loved most about them was that they used to say whatever the hell was on their minds—especially my grandmother. About any issue. About all people.

My mom is starting to enter this no-f–ks-given stage of life, but she’s Catholic, so she tends to feign guilt about whatever flies out of her mouth. I need someone older and, thus, more likely to just call someone out, take a sip of water or Paul Masson peach brandy, and call the next person out. I now believe that Colin Powell is that person, and I need someone to forward him this essay so that he can become my play paw-paw and email buddy.

You just know that Powell has far more to say about this election. I need to know what Powell makes of the following: Kellyanne Conway, who lies as well as Beyoncé does everything; Reince Priebus, the Jackie Christie of political operatives; Donald Trump, any day of the week, based on whatever inane and/or insane comment he’s made; and Hillary Clinton, in general.

Moreover, who are these alleged women Bill Clinton is smashing? Is he using vegan condoms? And for some reason, I bet Powell watches Power. Does he hate Angela and Tariq, too?

Read the rest at The Root.

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We’re watching two separate journeys on Atlanta. Earn’s story is about how he might overcome being broke as hell to provide a better life for himself and his family. Of course, he can only accomplish this feat by latching onto his cousin Alfred’s burgeoning rap career. As for Alfred, we’re witnessing the story of an artist who must navigate fame and all that comes with it.

“The Streisand Effect” continues to develop each of these threads, though yet again, Alfred is more the driving force than Earn. The episode begins with both of them standing in a parking lot — no gun violence this time — as they talk about a potential song. (“Pussy relevant, so intelligent” is a sample line, if you’re curious.) Seconds later, a racially ambiguous character named Zan walks up to Alfred and says, “My nigga.” Alfred gives pause, like most black people would, and asks, “Are you even black?”

Zan says yes, though for much of the episode, others wonder about his exact background. Is he Dominican? (Which you know, is a nationality, not a race, but I get what they’re angling at.) Or maybe he’s half-Chinese? Is he Indian? If so, as one of Alfred’s friends notes, “I don’t like Indian dudes who say ‘nigga.'”

Neither do I. If you’re not a part of the diaspora and none of your kinfolk can be traced to those slave ships, keep that word out of your month. But yeah, I don’t know what Zan exactly is, but I do know that he’s an annoying jackass. Kudos to actor Freddie Kuguru, who plays the part extremely well. In any event, Zan introduces himself to Alfred and Earn, asks them to pose for Instagram, Snapchat, and every other social-media app known to man, and then makes his exit. The next morning, though, Zan starts talking shit online about Paper Boi — which drives Alfred crazy.

Earn tells him not to worry about it, but as many of us know, that’s easier said than done. It is incredibly difficult to avoid the temptation to curse out annoying strangers online. Sure, it is “just the internet,” but trolls are trolls because they know exactly which buttons to push.

Zan definitely knows how to drive Alfred crazy. In one scene, he posts a picture of Alfred holding a trash bag next to the dumpster while his energetic voice narrates, “Oh, look, I found all my mixtape! Let me put them back where they belong!” You get the message: Alfred’s mixtapes are trash.

Maybe I’m giving Zan’s method of trolling too much credit. You don’t have to spend much time on the internet to find crueler examples of trolling, but it’s effective enough in the episode’s story line. To wit, Alfred cannot stop watching Zan’s antics. He checks his YouTube page while pumping gas. He shows his Vine clips to friends at the pool hall. He obsesses over every video Zan uploads to clown him.

More commentary from Zan: “The first L this dude took is naming himself Paper Boi,” and “This is the problem with rap right now: Every nigga can’t sell drugs.”

Alfred feels a way ’cause, you know, he actually does sell drugs, but as his friend at the pool hall reminds him, he needn’t be concerned. It’s not like you want everyone knowing you hustle, right? I guess it’s just the principle. Then again, if you’re a rapper and you sell drugs, but you can’t take someone playing you online, you’re about to have a hard-ass road ahead.

Moments later, an older bartender who looks like he listens to nothing but Zapp, Angela Winbush, and Earth, Wind & Fire realizes he knows Zan and where he works. So, Alfred rolls up to his job at the pizza spot. Zan is not shaken in the least. He greets Alfred with a grin and extends his hand.

Alfred tells him that they need to talk. Zan is totally casual about it: “Yeah, sure, we can talk. I just gotta deliver this [pizza], though. Ride with me, we’ll talk.” There’s a little black boy sitting in the back of the car, by the way, but we’ll get to that CPS case in a second. After they hit the road, Alfred wastes little time getting to business.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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As the creator of The Wire, David Simon enjoys a certain degree of praise—if not deification—for addressing how the drug war affected the city of Baltimore, and by extension, multiple cities across America. Simon’s work highlighted how that war was racist and exercised a certain level of social and class control on all it was waged against. It highlighted the systemic failures of government and law enforcement on black people—failures not typically analyzed and depicted in mass media.

But for all the good work he did with The Wire, his other show Treme, and as a journalist before going into television, it does not absolve him from wrongdoing. You can advocate on behalf of black people and still wrong black people. Simon did that yesterday with a tweet, and then several other tweets.


David Simon made a mistake that offended black people, but instead of going with repentance, he opted for defiance and condescension. If he were incapable of the former, one wishes he had just dropped his phone in the toilet. It certainly would have done more for his public image this week.

White people can never say “nigga” without backlash. Because they are white. White people, especially if they are male and particularly if they are rich, are virtually afforded every known privilege in this world—minus the inability to say “nigga” without pissing black people off. You would think living with slight pauses during select moments on rap songs would be less challenging for most, yet here we are again.

After immediately being met with criticism, Simon tweeted:


Nigga, shut up.

He then added: “If context of its sarcasm on Sean Hannity being chosen interlocutor to black voters is ignored, then yes, be enraged. Can’t help.”

Simon kept using the word “interlocutor” as if it made his actions any less frustrating to black people. Simon also wrote, “Use of inappropriate racial vernacular was EXACT metaphor for use of inappropriate racial medium by DT. Gotta stand on context.” No, you need to never use “nigga,” white man.

Black people are not a metaphor. We are human beings. Nigger means something to us, and for those of us who use nigga, it means something totally different, and it is a colloquialism that is completely ours. Simon did not use nigga in a script for a black actor; he used it himself to make some larger point. In his mind, he thinks he’s advocating for black people, but if he can’t respect black people’s feelings, that says everything you need to know about him in this moment.

There’s also a bit of irony in Simon chastising Sean Hannity for leaving out black voices in a forum on race and then dismissing the feelings of black people. In that respect, they stand on two separate wings of the same fundamental belief that they alone get to dictate how we feel and how we process our thoughts and feelings. And after one too many Black Twitter users challenged Simon, he shifted to Trump and Syria.

What he did there was retreat from his purported defense of black people back to whiteness. In some write-ups about Simon’s tweet, I’ve seen musings such as, “This is David Simon, creator of The Wire, vocal critic of bad things like the war on drugs and mass incarceration, the wokest of the woke. He’s supposed to know better, man.”

My ongoing annoyance with the growing online obsession of white people who are “woke” is majorly rooted in wondering why people get so much credit for simply managing to step outside of their bubbles. That annoyance then segues into suspicion because no matter how politically aware one claims to be or how down one is assumed, that person is still white. They can always opt out of their “wokeness” and go back to sleep. The same goes for all of Simon’s online apologists on Twitter, who, too, felt compelled to explain to black people how they ought to feel.

Read the rest at Complex.

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In July, Meek Mill appeared to have had some sort of epiphany. Taking to Instagram, the Philadelphia rapper declared, “AFTER DC4 I won’t continue to rap about extreme violence!!!” Around that time, Meek had been posting about Black Lives Matter and, in that same Instagram post, he wrote, “Stop focusing on non important shit and use your platform to bring attention to these foul ways some people believe we should b treated!”

Meek also had this advice for fans: “I seen a few celebs say 1 thing about it…This the most intense it has been in years don’t let up!!!! Pay attention to these people y’all look up to too! And jump on they ass and let them know we ‘see em’ THIS SHIT IS NOT A GAME!”

The declaration came in the midst of many rappers speaking out against state-sanctioned violence and racism. And many faced the same pointed critique: How can they condemn one form of violence, while glorifying violence on record?

T.I. was asked about this recently in an interview with The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah. “I think people need to take into consideration that hip-hop traditionally has always been a reflection of the environment the artist had to endure before he made it to where he was,” T.I. explained. “So if you want to change the content of the music, change the environment of the artist and he won’t have such negative things to say.”

Meek has said similar things: “Don’t question my raps because it’s a life we lived and suffered from, I have a right to express my myself!” That he does. Still, Meek must’ve felt something to give a public pledge.

However, this month, beef with The Game appears to be bringing out the worst in Meek, returning him to old habits. After shots back and forth, the beef has culminated in Meek’s remix of Young M.A’s “Ooouuu.” Hearing the song, one wonders how he can disavow violent language because of its real world implications, while continuing to use violent hate speech?

First, if you’re writing about guns, homicide, and “trigger finger,” you’re not that committed to your own pledge. (And, before you mention it, we’re still in a pre-DC4 era. However, the album is reportedly finished and on its way this month: if Meek had set a date for a serious subject change, that time has come and gone.)

Beyond that, though, this entire song is nearly five minutes of Meek and his cronies calling The Game a faggot. At one point, Meek raps, “Strippers turned rappers look what we come to/You a faggot/My lady’ll never fuck.”

The irony here is that Meek is freestyling over an instrumental from a gay rapper. When I mentioned this on Twitter, straight Black men attempted to explain the nuances of homophobia to me, in “child left behind” fashion. It was akin to white folks trying to break down racism to us presumably confused Negroes.

Let me save everyone from repeating themselves: It’s beef; it’s hip-hop. Blah, blah, blah. There. Settled.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Last Friday, Donald Trump used his side gig—Republican nominee for president—to go back to what he’s actually qualified for—real estate—and hawk his new hotel. A few Medal of Honor recipients allowed themselves to be extras in his two-for-one informational, and one of them used the opportunity to address Hillary Clinton’s critique about a certain faction of Trump supporters. “Deplorables are also deployables,” the Vietnam veteran quipped. He did so with the widest smile on his face—just to let you know that he was pleased with himself.

Ever since Clinton uttered the phrase “basket of deplorables,” Trump’s most ardent supporters have tried to offer addenda to the claim: That they are “hardworking Americans.” They have families. And in this case, they have served their country. Fair enough. But you can be all those things and still be racist or, at the very least, be willing to support someone who is—which ultimately proves that when you get down to it, you’re not that committed to a belief in equality for all.

It is to be expected of them, but there’s also a noticeable contingent of others who have tried to take greater issue with charges of racism than with racism itself.

This would include Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who said of Clinton’s comment in a radio interview Thursday: “I think it was a wrong thing to say. I think that it ignores the very true concerns that we have about needing change in this country. I think that it was ill-advised.”

Also included would be Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who instead of joining Clinton in a shared contempt of bigotry tried to argue a double standard. Meanwhile, she two-stepped right past criticism of the fact that her running mate referred to President Barack Obama as an “Uncle Tom.”

And, of course, there were white people in media, who felt compelled to explain racism, as if they actually have to face it.

At Vox, Dara Lind wrote: “There’s a satisfying moral clarity in being able to out-and-out call people deplorable for their racist views, but there simply isn’t a bright line between ‘racist’ and ‘not racist.’ There are quiet biases, and degrees of awareness, that even people who don’t support Donald Trump—even ‘hard-working Americans’—need to be aware of. And there is more to racism than what lies within people’s hearts.”

At New York magazine, Jesse Singal argued: “But there’s a difference between people’s subjective experiences and the terms we set for the big, ongoing national conversation about racism and for social justice. Within that conversation, viewing people who hold racist views as irredeemable, and describing their beliefs in terms of moral taint, just isn’t the best way forward.”

Funny enough, when citing his relatives who may hold racist views, Singal quickly blocked anyone—specifically those of darker hues—who challenged him on this notion. Yes, this is exactly how racial harmony is achieved. In any event, Business Insider’s Josh Barro echoed similar sentiments, tweeting, “I think if we’re going to (reasonably) define racism quite broadly, then we have to think of it as a bad personal trait, not a horrible one. If most people are racist, and most people are not horrible, then many racists are not horrible.”

It’s easy for those who never have to be subjected to any variation of racism to make these arguments. None of them knows what it’s like to be stopped by a police officer and fear for your life. They haven’t the slightest clue about what it’s like to experience discrimination in terms of employment, banking and housing.

They’ll never have to contend with certain realities like the role that race plays in how black schoolchildren are disciplined. Just last week I had to hear about how my 8-year-old niece had been treated over a racist letter that she did not even write. As early as kindergarten, she asked her mother, “Why the kids with yellow hair are treated better than the ones with black hair?”

And yet, those of us who have to deal with racism are supposed to see the humanity of those who view us as less than. But the fact that racism is common doesn’t make it any less horrific and detrimental. Having racist relatives and friends doesn’t make their bigotry any less ugly. Racism doesn’t have to be a white hood. It has levels. It always has.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Jimmy Fallon is a silly man. That’s neither a compliment nor an insult; it’s a statement of fact. As a cast member of Saturday Night Live, he was best known for being unable to maintain a straight face during a joke. Fallon is a congenial goofball, which is why he ultimately was the perfect replacement for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

To Fallon’s credit, that silliness and amiable disposition has made him uniquely capable of humanizing all of his guests. Some people arguably don’t deserve such treatment, though—folks like Donald Trump, who is a bigot of the highest order, a consistent sexist, and a man who’s willingly tied his brand to the tenets of white nationalism in the same way he slaps his his name to various tall towers across the world.

Fallon has spent the last year or so making fun, and making light, of Trump, but his interview with the Republican candidate on Thursday night—the same night that Trump’s camp had to assure everyone that he isn’t still a proponent of the birther movement—was an all-time low. Already, there are articles pouring out condemning Fallon for being far too jovial with a racist than necessary. Fallon has been dismissed for “pandering” to Trump and not truly weighing the severity of the looming presidential election. As a viewer who loathes Trump and all he embodies, Fallon’s line of questioning is wince-worthy. The late-night host asked Trump hard-hitting questions like:

“Do you still want to do this?”

Of course he does.

“There’s probably kids watching. They do stay up late and watch our show. Why should they grow up and want to be president?”

Why would anyone encourage this foolish man to influence kids?

“Did you always see yourself getting into politics?”

Has Fallon never seen that clip of The Oprah Winfrey Show from 1988 in which Trump is talking about what he’d do as president? He’s been notoriously teasing a run for decades now.

“Do you think your business background helps you with campaigning?”

A shady businessman goes into politics. What could possibly happen?

“Do you pay attention to the polls?”

What planet has Jimmy Fallon been living on?

When Trump tells a story of why he orders fast food—he fears someone at a restaurant who dislikes him will do nasty things to his order—Fallon says, “I never thought about that.” What does Fallon think about? Honestly. Truly.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Very few people are more frustrating than fast-food employees who take their jobs too seriously. “Go for Broke” begins with this truth as Earn is shut down for trying to buy a kid’s meal. Why? Because he is not under the age of 14. Earn argues the politics of this silly rule, but the woman at the register doesn’t give the slightest damn: “I just made day manager and I didn’t get that title by handing out discounted meals,” she explains.

Fine, she has a job to do, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to let an adult — notably one hard up for cash — purchase a meal he can afford. Maybe if Earn thought on his feet and lied about having an imaginary cousin waiting for him outside, he would’ve been able to snag that kid’s meal. You know, ’cause I assume this chain didn’t have a 99-cent menu with a chicken sandwich made up of ankle meat.

Nevertheless, it’s a fitting opener to “Go for Broke.” Atlanta uses its third episode to chronicle how Earn and Alfred each make a living (or in Earn’s case, not much of one) and the respective costs of their decisions. For Alfred, it’s drug dealing, which his cousin only now discovers. After Earn says he’ll be getting paid that day, Alfred responds, “You only get paid on commission, though, right? Might as well sell drugs.” Earn then asks Alfred how he makes money. “Drug dealing.”

I assumed this was already known, owing to obvious optics, like his clothes, his food, and his friend Darius being taken care of all without any mention of gainful employment. It reminds me of my uncle once asking me, “When you gon’ work in a building?” There’s no laptop around, so Al ain’t freelance writing. That said, I like that Earn never made assumptions about his cousin. After Alfred tells him about his line of work, and how he’s planning a bit of a work meeting later that day, Earn offers the following advice: “Just try not to die.”

It turned out to be good counsel. When Alfred and Darius hit a parking lot for the meeting, they wind up dealing with a sudden change in venue — somewhere in the middle of what looks like the forest, near an RV filled with a bunch of dope boys. Mere moments after making their way to the meetup, Alfred and Darius witness some poor, unfortunate soul being let out of the RV. He’s in his draws. The man in charge presents him the chance to run (with his clothes back on), so off he goes into the woods, racing to get out of there before he’s fatally shot.

He doesn’t make it. R.I.P., he’ll never make the club.

The lead dealer then turns his sights to Alfred: Why does he suddenly want a huge order? He’s aware that Al was just arrested, but he’s suspicious now that he’s out and requesting more than he typically wants. Thankfully, Earn calls while all of this is happening and while on speaker, asks his cousin to put $20 into his account to pay for a pricey date with Van that he cannot afford. Alfred makes it out of the meeting alive, but the entire ordeal is yet another confirmation that despite initial perceptions about a rapper named Paper Boi, Alfred doesn’t seem as confident in his role as some would expect him to. That’s a testament to Brian Tyree Henry’s performance. The Book of Mormon alum is so adept at conveying cool and wit, but in those moments when Paper Boi feels dragged by the life he’s leading, he’s just as sharp at expressing weariness and disbelief.

Alfred’s trip into the forest was funny to watch, but I’ll be honest: I was drawn more to Earn and how complicated it is to pursue a dream when the responsibilities of adulthood begin steering you in another direction. We still don’t know why Earn and Princeton didn’t work out, but we’re witnessing how a bit of aimlessness consumes him. And in some cases, a certain lack of awareness about anything beyond his own immediate life.

Take Van entering the apartment with his daughter. He just sits there, on his MacBook Pro, not offering to help. He could’ve gotten the baby out of her arms, but he just sits there. She points this out, then proceeds to let him know that when she shares things about herself, he dismisses her. Earn in turn admits that he can be inconsiderate, apologizes for treating Van that way, and offers to take her to dinner to make up for it.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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bdayThere are many things to love about Beyoncé, but if you hail from Houston, your love tends to be shaped by the specificity of shared experiences. That love is magnified if you are closer in age: Beyoncé just turned 35 and I am 32.

When I listen to Beyoncé, I hear home. I know she’s the most celebrated singer and entertainer in the world, but she, like me, went to Welch Middle School and probably heard boys and girls doing the same slow, hazy, kind of flow heard on songs such as Lil’ KeKe’s “Pimp Tha Pen” and Big Moe’s “Barre Baby” during lunch in the cafeteria. I know Beyoncé is someone who listened to 97.9 The Box and heard the same New Orleans bounce mixes played throughout the day. When Beyoncé does her choreography, she reminds me of the same majorettes I saw at Madison High School, Yates High School and Willowridge High School football games. There is no finer example of Houston Beyoncé — her singing, rapping, dancing and art creation all seeping with the many variances of life in Houston — than her majorly up-tempo and entirely glorious 2006 B’Day, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Sept. 4, on her 35th birthday — her celebration had a Soul Train theme.

Initially, Beyoncé planned to make her sophomore album a serving of leftovers. In December 2003 — six months after the release of the good but not excellent Dangerously In Love — Beyoncé revealed to MTV News that come spring, fans could expect a sequel consisting of songs that didn’t make the final cut of her debut. Having recorded some 45 songs for that project, she explained, “I love so many songs, and they’re just kind of going to waste sitting there.” Those leftovers — including “Summertime,” “My First Time” and “What’s It Gonna Be?” — should have just gone on the first album. It would have made Beyoncé’s debut a classic. Instead, those and other mostly unheard tracks such as a “metal ballad” called Scent of You never rose from their seats as Beyoncé ultimately opted instead to record a new Destiny’s Child album, Destiny Fulfilled, and take on a role in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls. Those choices proved to be for the better. Because with her somewhat delayed second solo album, 2006’s B’Day, Beyoncé made a larger and more definitive statement as an artist.

“I’m,” Beyoncé said at the time, “happy in my life.” She was dating rapper Shawn “Jay Z” Carter. Her first solo album and the Destiny’s Child reunion album and tour had both done well. She was more or less the solo star some of us knew she could be from the terribly underappreciated “Work It Out,” from the 2002 soundtrack to Austin Powers in Goldmember. So while she often said that she herself was “boring,” she channeled feelings of rejection and being taken for granted — and created with B’Day an album that “speaks for every woman.”

How? Beyoncé, reportedly without the knowledge of her father and then-manager Mathew Knowles, booked studio time and with her chosen collaborators — Sean GarrettRich HarrisonRodney Jerkinsthe Neptunes and Swizz Beatz — and crafted an album in two weeks. She smartly made the best of the best compete with each other — to assist her in upping her own creative ante.

As integral a role as her father (and mother) played in her professional development, for Beyoncé to do this album without her dad’s knowledge was one of the first indicators that Beyoncé was capable of steering her own career. Also, consider the optics: Though all of the producers are male, this young black woman was very much in charge of her vision. The producers had distinctive styles, but all catered to Beyoncé’s taste to help create a sound all her own. Beyoncé was not simply jumping on whatever hot track was handed to her. “This is about female empowerment,” Beyoncé said of the album in 2006. “This album is different, it’s conceptual and I do things with my voice that I haven’t done before.”

On B’Day, her ideas of female empowerment varied. In some instances, it’s letting your man have it on jilted lover-themed songs such as her cover of the album’s “Resentment” or “Irreplaceable.” In others, it’s by way of consumerism and the ability to ball out as heard on songs such as “Upgrade U.” Sometimes it’s as simple as “Freakum Dress,” where she throws on something nice, tips out, and not so subtly reminds her significant other that it’s best to not lose this good thing. But in all these songs, she’s asserting control — a theme that has ultimately defined her career narrative.

Read the rest at The Undefeated.

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Earn is the kind of person who stresses everyone the hell out. Yet for all his faults, you still hope this fool figures himself out. That clearly won’t happen in “Streets on Lock,” given how the episode begins: Earn and his rapping cousin are in jail, mere hours after he got Paper Boi’s single on the radio.

While they’re sitting there, Earn turns to Alfred and says, “I’ve never been arrested before.” And he wasn’t even arrested for fighting the struggle, so it’s a big ol’ L all around. I’m not sure what I’d do if I got locked up in similar fashion. I’d probably sing Ja Rule’s “I Cry” — in my head, for safety reasons, obviously.

In another #poordat situation for Earn, Alfred is let out of jail faster than his kinfolk because someone handled his paperwork for him. When Alfred tries to see about bailing Earn out and inquires about why exactly he’s been arrested, a very matter-of-fact black women quips, “What’s the charge? Nigga, this ain’t a movie. You better wait until he’s in the system.”

His ass sure waits, too.

I love Atlanta‘s unabashed use of nigga. Maybe Paul Mooney no longer believes saying it makes his teeth white, but many of us haven’t stopped using it colloquially. Some will understand it’s the culture, others will feign confusion and whine about double standards. I’ll just be over here saying na-na-na-na-na-na, white people still can’t say it.

You hear it again when Alfred makes his way out of jail, after a thirsty cop approaches him — well, Paper Boi — and asks for a picture. At one point, he asks, “You listen to Gucci Mane? Man, I locked that nigga up.” How many Atlanta-area police officers can make similar boasts? To get a good estimate, multiply the number of lies Donald Trump has told this month by half the number of headlines featuring “Hillary Clinton” and “email.” The answer is too many damn people.

That lust for fame follows Alfred for the rest of his day. Fresh out of jail, he and his hilarious friend Darius go to grab food, and he is approached by a very enthusiastic waiter who informs him that he is “the nigga.” Why? Well, “I heard about that shoot-out you had on Twitter. You’re one of the last real rappers, man.” The waiter then goes to speak about being an old-school cat who listens to Mobb Deep and dead rappers like the Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. Not surprisingly, he also slams “singing-ass rappers” like Fetty Wap before noting it’s “good to see a rapper blow a nigga.”

The end result is that Alfred and Darius don’t just get lemon-pepper wings, but WET lemon-pepper wings with the sauce. Now, lemon-pepper wings are already a cherished meal in certain sects of the community, but with the sauce, too? Oh, you poppin’.

Before leaving, the waiter warns Alfred, “Don’t let me down. If you let me down, I don’t know what I’d do.” You’ll grow up and get over it is what you’ll do. What a picturesque visual encapsulation of the old heads: They cling to bygone days of hip-hop while bitching about how much they hate Drake, Kanye West, and artists like Childish Gambino all day long.

Of course, the scene is not exactly subtle commentary. I’m typically not a fan of shows being so overt, though in this instance, it’s not a weakness. Thank God this one doesn’t practice Tyler Perry–style moralism, in which you are beaten over the head about the way you ought to be thinking. And I suppose I’m a bit biased because I absolutely agree with the point being made. Atlanta wants to be sure that everyone knows how violence and a specific strain of masculinity can benefit rappers like Paper Boi when they’re bursting onto the scene. The same goes for another scene where Alfred sees a little boy with a toy gun, emulating the parking-lot shooting so he can be just like him.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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When I first heard Donald Glover was making a show called Atlanta, my initial response lingered on, “Uh, I don’t know about all that.” I know Glover was raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia, but as much as I’ve respected his career path, I’ve never been quite sure what to make of him. I don’t believe in measuring anyone’s blackness; it’s stupid, sophomoric, and, forever and always, incredibly boring.

Still, I’ve taken issue with previous comments he’s made about black culture, most notably how he’s referred to it as a “fight.” It’s fine to talk about hypermasculinity and homophobia within our community, but it’s just as important to properly contextualize those issues — that is, considering their roots and the outside forces at play in keeping them alive. Also, whenever I hear black people opine about liking both rap acts and emo bands, my eyes roll into the back of my head. You’re not the only one, beloveds, and plenty of us can relate to mixed tastes. Being well-spoken, being educated, and not being thuggish or “hard” does not automatically make you disconnected from the black community at large. But for whatever disconnect that’s been mentioned in the past, Glover didn’t help his case with comedy sketches like “bro rape” or the fetishizing of Asian women under his rap moniker Childish Gambino.

That is to say, past skepticism of Glover is not unwarranted. I have a few friends from Atlanta that feel a way about Glover being the person afforded the chance to make a show about their city. Such is their right, but to Glover’s credit, he certainly seized the opportunity. Atlanta is fantastic work, no matter the weariness I felt prior to viewing. Although this may be the first time I’ve seen Glover in a majorly black story, I’m happy to call a very good thing exactly what it is.

It’s impossible for me to not enjoy a show that includes the shouting of “Worldstar!” in its first 30 seconds. I became even more excited 90 seconds later, after hearing the voice of rapper OJ Da Juiceman. It’s those sort of specific references — black, and in other cases, southern and black — that make Atlanta‘s first episode function so well.

“The Big Bang” opens with a confrontation in a convenience-store parking lot — a setting for many a black man’s incarceration tale — where Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover) tries to calm down Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), his drug-dealer-slash-aspiring-rapper cousin, as he confronts a man who tore off his rearview mirror. But once we hear the sound of a gunshot, we’re quickly taken back to the previous morning, when Earn wakes up next to Van (Zazie Beetz), the mother of his daughter, Lottie.

Theirs is a peculiar relationship. Earn and Van are intimate enough that he can joke about her curry-flavored morning breath, but she soon tells him to kick in rent money and watch their daughter that night because she has a date. When Earn hears this, he looks at his adorable daughter and says, “No, this is a great environment for you.” Fair assessment, though, once you learn more about Earn, you can see why Van is exploring her options.

As “The Big Bang” reveals, Earn is a young dad and Princeton dropout presently making $5.15 an hour at an airport kiosk, where he tries to sign up people for credit cards they likely do not need. When he cuts out of work to stop by his parents’ house, he’s not allowed inside because (1) they’re tired of giving him money, and (2) he can’t even be bothered to flush the toilet. And according to his mom, who examined what should have been flushed, he needs to start consuming actual food as opposed to candy. That’s disgusting, but also, very motherly.

Back at the airport, Earn is alerted to Paper Boi by his co-worker Swiff — who some may recognize as that guy from VH1’s Single Ladies who was convicted of molestation charges — and after realizing that the rapper is his cousin, Earn quickly tries to latch onto his rising success by offering to become his manager. Paper Boi ultimately listens to Earn’s proposal, though he doesn’t waste time reminding him, “Nigga, I ain’t seen or heard from you since my mom’s funeral, and the first thing I hear out your mouth is ‘Let’s get rich.'” By the way, upon reading select reviews of Atlanta elsewhere, here’s a quick PSA: White people, he’s not calling Earn “nigger.” There is a subtle yet substantial difference. You’re welcome.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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