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I realized I wasn’t that young anymore when my oldest niece innocently asked me, “Is Aaliyah that singer who died in a plane crash?” Immediately after I answered, I went into pop quiz mode. “Do you know who Brandy is, beautiful?” Frighteningly, she had absolutely no clue–until she released a single featuring Chris Brown.

More recently, I’ve gone on dates with men born in 1990 – you can drop your judgment off right here, thanks – and openly cried out to God over their lack of knowledge about one of the greatest women to ever body roll on this Earth, Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Some of these very men have referred to me as “old.”

This can’t be life.

As youthful as I feel, I was born in 1984 and I’m getting frequent reminders that I am entering a new stage of life. Many of the albums I grew up listening to have either hit their 20th anniversary mark or they’re right on the cusp of doing so. This includes janet, CrazySexyCool, My Life, Brown Sugar, and soon, Faith and Hardcore. The same way I looked at my mama about her Chi-Lites and Whispers, referring to the group members as “pop-pops” is what’s happening to me now when I bring up UGK in certain groups. Karma is a hateful heifer.

While many folks my age crack jokes about “aunties,” as one of my friends recently reminded me, we are now the aunties. Do you know who is now doing the Tom Joyner Cruise? Trina! Yes, “da baddest bitch” is out here on the cruise shop that the super grown folks are known for attending performing “Single Again.” One of my friends is so amped about one day joining the cruise. In his mind, he thought 40 would be the perfect age, but auntie life came calling a bit sooner.

I’ll also admit that if not for the youth in my life, I’d have no idea what in the hell so many of the folks on the Twitter talk about. Like, what is a fleek? And one question I’m constantly asking: Who in the hell is this rapper that sounds like English is his fourth language?

I am only 31-years-old and while I can still drop down and get my eagle on, my pop, lock, and drop ain’t what it used to be. There’s also yoga, but that’s not the core issue. I’m just getting older and in the HOV lane to a new stage in life. An era where linen pants will sooner than later overfly my closet. Where all white parties will fill my calendar. A place where, Crown Royal and Wild Turkey will be my drinks of choice – just like so many of my uncles. Hell, I’m already halfway there if you include Crown Apple. In my defense, that is delicious and best served with ice in a mason jar.

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Bobbi Kristina Brown never had much of a chance, did she?

I feel guilty for simply posing that question, but I have more grief over what has happened to her in her short life. Though there are conflicting accounts over the marriage of her parents, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston – and who did what and to whom – the greatest sin of their romance was this: their child was victim to their chaos.

When called to reflect on Bobbi Kristina in the wake of her being discovered unresponsive in a bathtub, I said that no matter who happens to that girl, I hope that she finally founds peace. Since that time, we’ve found out more about the last days of Bobbi Kristina’s life and it only made it more apparent just how much she was in need of that. Multiple sources would confirm that the daughter of two famous addicts had her own struggles with substance abuse. She reportedly regularly used heroin, cocaine, and Xanax. She also described as a “heavy drinker” and a person who regularly “appeared to be high, slurring her words and seeming incoherent.” There are also serious questions about the young man who she chose as her partner, someone who had been loved and cared for by her mother.

There were signs of this on the now even more inappropriate reality series, The Houstons: On Our Own, which chronicled Whitney Houston’s family members in the wake of the singer’s untimely death. There was one scene in particular that featured Bobbi Kristina – who already arrived to the home of her aunt, Pat Houston, seemingly high – drinking wine and barely able to form a coherent sentence. During a confessional following that scene, Pat said, “I do not want her dealing with her mother’s passing in the wrong way.”

What Pat wanted clearly did not happen, and though we may never know exactly what did, it all ultimately serves as yet another reminder that everyone around Bobbi Kristina failed her. Of course, there is something to be said of personal accountability, and it is true that there were people within the entertainment community who tried to help her as she grieved while the public watched. I do not judge her nor should she be judged.

When you are the child of an addict, certain skill sets and life lessons often go untaught.

You also tend to carry with you so many of your parents’ burdens on your own shoulders. Those suffering from the disease of addiction can point to a specific pain from a specific source. Said pain is often transferred from parent to child and subsequently from child to their own creations. It is an ugly, vicious cycle far too many aware acutely aware of. Couple that with instant fame by way of her lineage, and it’s easy to see how what all that happened to Bobbi Kristina did.

Yes, very few people are born into fame and fortune, but what good is it if you don’t have stability around you, parents you can depend on, and a safety net that doesn’t include those willing to exploit your pain for profit?

Bobbi Kristina did not have much chance of survival – that is, beyond the vegetative state she laid in for months before her death – after it was revealed she suffered “global and irreversible brain damage.” What’s saddest, however, is that she never was provided much of a chance for a healthy life.

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While at a mixer for black writers and editors earlier this week, a friend and colleague of mine was accosted by the sight of bare butt cheeks on my phone. I was not the proud owner of said behind; I was answering a text message and had no idea a flirtatious exchange had escalated to full-out sexting. My colleague and I were already too far into enjoying laughs and tequila for it to matter, but it did remind me of how exposed I am through my phone.

Yes, my financial information and other pertinent information is stored there, but also things I’m equally, if not more, concerned about getting out: my sexual secrets. This includes my visuals, conversations and other items that my friends and I affectionately classify as “ho shit.” A few months ago, I wrote about a reluctance to try out what are commonly known as “hook up apps” and how being recognized by others on the apps resulted in initial embarrassment. Initial because, after a while, I decided to not let anyone else’s stigmas burden me any longer. I am human, after all, and expressions of sexuality – in this instance, by way of a free app I downloaded on my iPhone – come with the territory.

That sort of confidence takes a long time to build up for many, and it can be hard to maintain – ergo the aforementioned “sorry about this ultra-nice butt accosting your eye sockets, girl.” While I now own my antics, I often worry if one day I’ll anger the wrong person who will literally expose every facet of my body and whatever sexual desire I’ve shared in presumed confidence. To “blast me,” which is loosely translated into embarrassing and shaming.

Throughout the year, and every year really, there are people exposed for essentially being human. This is not just limited to famous people, though not surprisingly, a celebrity sex scandal draws greater interest by virtue of name recognition. Still, in 2015, if you are sexually active and sexually free on your cellphone, you run the risk of being exposed in this manner.

But sexts have different levels of stigma attached to them. A lot of us can say we’ve seen someone’s nudes leaked to social media in fits of rage from an angry partner, or a part-time plaything. Meanness is a staple of social media, and in an era where folks just love to “shade” and “pop off,” this trend of outing people for whatever they’re into or have done is just a new facet of it.

What isn’t new is that being “different” is a more shameful thing to expose. Sex itself, particularly between two people of the same gender, can still be regarded as shameful. The same goes for being sexually drawn to someone whose gender identity does not fit into a neat little two-seat box.

If I had my way, I’d wave a magic wand and sing a solution – accept every form of sexuality, don’t be so ashamed about how you get it down – and end it with “Bibbidi-bobbido-boo.”

Unfortunately, I do not have the magic powers of an old lady in Cinderella, so it’s more likely that this  trend will only worsen with time. Perhaps such secret sharing and subsequent stigmatizing won’t happen to you, but there’s surely something about yourself on your phone that you wouldn’t want aired out. The courtesy you would want paid to you in such crisis should be extended to others. But that would be too much like right, wouldn’t it?

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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If you had asked me three years ago if I were interested in watching a reality show starring Evelyn Lozada, I might’ve cursed you out for disrespecting my eye sockets.

Lozada played an integral role in the success of VH1’s Basketball Wives and was arguably the star of the show. But she was as mean as a Disney villain more often than not. Mean as in telling the woman whose husband she bedded once upon a time while they were still married, “You’re a non [motherf–king] factor, bitch.” Lozada was also as violent as a UFC fighter, often leaping over tables to pounce on her detractors or tossing wine bottles at their heads in one of her multiple fits of rage throughout her time on the show.

She was like a Puerto Rican, professional-athlete-dating, version of Ursula, the Sea Witch, minus the singing voice.

It made for interesting television, but there’s only so long one can keep up with a shtick before it grows stale. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see Lozada’s original spinoff, Ev & Ocho, following reports that her then-new husband, Chad Johnson, had assaulted her. Though I was not exactly a fan of Lozada’s, I did take issue with her Basketball Wives antics being used to justify her reported assault. This would include ESPN anchor and piss-poor commentator on social issues Stephen A. Smith engaging in victim blaming. Whatever Lozada did on Basketball Wives has no bearing on what allegedly happened in the car ride with her now-former husband.

Even so, with that criticism came an opportunity, and she certainly seized upon it. My initial reaction to Lozada doing Iyanla Vanzant’s Fix My Life was cynical: damage control and potentially parlay this “new Evelyn” into another television show.

In hindsight, motivation doesn’t matter.

I finally watched Lozada’s new series on OWN, Livin’ Lozada, and I—surprisingly, perhaps not so surprisingly—love it.

For the longest time, I thought of her as a jackass, too, into sucker punching people. Then again, her former reality vehicle never allowed for a fuller depiction of who she was. And also, maybe she wasn’t ready for one, either.

On Livin’ Lozada, Lozada is tackling her role as mother to a 2-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter, itching to launch her own brand and take control of her own life. On this show, Lozada has to grapple with wanting to have more children, but realizing that at the age of 39, time is not on her side. Enter her revealing on the series premiere that she became pregnant, only to find out later that she suffered a miscarriage.

There is no pretense about the issue of Lozada’s temperament, either. She is working on controlling her anger issues, and in many respects she has done a good job. However, she still has her moments (as many of us do). I actually find her commitment to cursing profusely endearing.

For skeptics—including me—who wondered how Oprah Winfrey would manage to align her initial vision of the network with Evelyn Lozada’s having a show, the answer is clear: easily.

Read the rest at The Root.

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In opening scene of I Am Cait, we see an anxious Caitlyn Jenner, well awake in the middle of the night, wondering about her place in an important movement that she’s elected to serve as a new face for.

She begins by sharing, “It’s 4:32 a.m. in the morning and I can’t sleep. In the monitor, I look crap, but anyway.” Reflecting on trans teens across the country being bullied across the country, and the trans women—notably black trans women—being murdered, Jenner explains, “I feel bad that people, especially young people, are going through this difficult time in their life. We don’t want people dying over this, we don’t want people murdered over this stuff. What a responsibility I have towards this community.”

By virtue of her celebrity and choosing to share her transition with the rest of the world, Jenner will change the minds of many about those who have struggled with gender identity. Likewise, the more she speaks and the more she lives, I imagine many of us will also continue to realize how detrimental it can be only seeing male and female so linearly. Nonetheless, my immediate reaction to Jenner’s wrestling with the weight of being a role model was: “Yeah, but you’re a Republican.”

When she still lived publicly as Bruce Jenner, the Olympian and reality TV star was quick to note allegiance to the GOP, quipping, “I believe in the Constitution.” Such a loaded remark is customary of select conservatives, though one wonders whether Jenner now equally wrestles with whether or not the Republican Party believes in her and the struggles for which she now lends voice to. At the time, Diane Sawyer asked Caitlyn whether or not there would be a willingness to engage Republican congressional leadership to support LGBT issues.

When Sawyer asked Jenner if he would be willing to ask the Republican congressional leadership to support LGBT issues. “In a heartbeat, why not?” Jenner answered. “And I think they’d be very receptive to it.”

Tax hawk Grover Norquist—who has remarkable sway to say the least over many Republicans—tweeted in support of Jenner around the time of that interview, using the phrase “solid Reagan Republican” as a descriptor.

And yet, recently, Republicans had an opportunity to lend protection to the rights of LGBT youth at a critical time and failed to do so. The Senate failed to pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act—a bill that would have prohibited public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) offered SNDA as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act. The amendment failed on a vote of 52 to 45 in a GOP-controlled Senate.

Read the rest at VH1.

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Whenever I think about the criticism bisexuals face about their sexuality, I think of Charlotte York quipping on Sex and the City, “I’m very into labels; gay, straight—pick a side and stay there.”

To those who don’t know any better, an admitted equal attraction to both sexes feels more like indecisiveness or confusion. Another awful theory tends to point to some sort of past trauma. I have been guilty of making assumptions about bisexuality. Like many gay men, I tried to convince myself that I was bisexual because in my mind at the time, “it sounded better.” And by better, I mean less stigmatizing. All too often, though, we collectively based someone else’s experience on our anecdotes. It’s as often wrong as it is unfair.

So, I could understand the frustration felt by those 12,000 people who signed an online petition over a Vogue profile of Cara Delevingne that suggested her bisexuality might just be a phase.

The original petitioner, Julie Rodriguez, said in an interview: “The idea that queer women only form relationships with other women as a result of childhood trauma is a harmful (and false) stereotype that lesbian and bisexual women have been combating for decades. How could Vogue’s editorial staff greenlight this article and publish it without anyone raising concerns about this dismissive and demeaning language?”

When asked about herself in the New York Times, Delevingne said she found the protest flattering although she saw “nothing malicious” about the article. She was, however, clear on this point: “My sexuality is not a phase. I am who I am.”

It was good that Delevigne was given a platform to address other people’s assumptions about her sexuality, but it doesn’t negate the overall problem in how media covers bisexuality.

Before she openly admitted to being sexually fluid, Miley Cyrus, who has been rumored to be dating Delevingne, was subjected to speculation about her sexuality. The language of it was noticeably pathological.

In one story for Hollywood Life, a source said of Miley, “She’s also beyond disillusioned with dating dudes right now. She thinks the majority of men are pigs and she has major trust issues. So the idea of dating a woman is very appealing right now, no one would be surprised if she does. And the first girl on her mind is Cara.”

Read the rest at VH1.

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No one with even half a clue hiding inside their head will deny the role ageism plays in the entertainment industry, particularly in the eternally image-conscious world of pop music.

So, in many respects, I totally understand why Madonna’s latest favorite collaborator, Diplo, is airing his grievances about the state of the icon’s music career. As someone still very much obsessed with the documentary Truth or Dare, Diplo is right in his assessment that, “She created the world we live in.” Likewise, Diplo is correct in noting that Madonna still manages to sell out “her tour in minutes.” However, when he tells Rolling Stone that “no one wants her to succeed,” one can’t help but boo and hiss at such a hyperbolic claim.

The same goes for Diplo’s categorizing of present attitudes about Madonna: “Madonna, we’ve been there, done that, now we’re about Kim Kardashian. Her song ‘Ghosttown’ was a guaranteed Number One for anybody else, but she didn’t get a fair shot. With ‘Bitch I’m Madonna,’ everyone said there’s no way it will go anywhere, but I’m like, ‘Screw it, it represents you more than anything.’

The song “Bitch, I’m Madonna” does indeed represent Madonna in 2015 “more than anything,” only that is exactly the 56-year-old singer’s problem. I will not deny that in terms of maintaining relevance, Madonna has two disadvantages: her age and her gender. They are similar challenges her fellow older pop singers like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson find themselves facing. It is indeed unfair how we collectively dispose of singers reach a certain age bracket.

That said, everyone has their moment and what happens after that has a lot to do with the product they present. I’m not entirely convinced that “Ghosttown” would be an easy smash for “anybody else” as Diplo argues, and while Madonna’s latest album, Rebel Heart, is her best offering in quite sometime, that’s not exactly saying much.

My favorite Madonna album is 1994’s Bedtime Stories, which Madonna acknowledged was heavenly influenced by Joi’s influential and very much ahead of its time The Pendulum Vibe, released that same year but months prior. Madonna was so influenced by that album that she tapped its executive producer, Dallas Austin, to help her steer Bedtime Stories in a similar direction. A pop star’s ability to notice trends and pull from the periphery to create works for mass consumption is a skill – one that Madonna had mastered for much of her career.

Unfortunately, with age comes a certain disconnect. For the last decade now, Madonna has been chasing trends that are either dying out or long been over. See 2008’s very good, but very much too late to the Timberland-resurgence bandwagon party Hard Candy, or 2012’s rather forgettable MDNA. This year’s Rebel Heart is no different.

Read the rest at VH1.

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When The Huffington Post announced that it would place all of Trump’s campaign coverage under the banner of “entertainment,” I found their reasoning—“Trump’s campaign is a sideshow”—to be a little too convenient. Yes, Trump campaigns in ways that don’t read as serious, and no, I can’t envision him actually winning, but how is that different than Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann? Like Trump, each topped the polls and gained national media attention only to crash and burn.

Like many that have come before him, he’s another flash-in-the-pan candidate who is performing well in presidential polls not only because it’s early—but because he hits a nerve for (and therefore exposes truths about) American voters, especially conservatives.

Trump’s celebrity should draw suspicion, but it’s not unprecedented. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in a race that included Gary Coleman and a porn star. At one point, there was even talk of amending the constitution so that he could run for president. He was compared to the party’s patron saint—another thespian-turned-politician—Ronald Reagan. The GOP has no problem exploiting celebrity for political gain when convenient and the media has no problem generating clicks and ratings over a celebrity’s entrance into the world of politics.

HuffPost says they “won’t take the bait,” but what about other past GOP presidential candidates who seem more interested in building their brand for future book deals and FOX News contracts than being commander-in-chief? They took the bait then. Why not now? Even if it feels all for show, democracy allows it.

Trump’s businessman status isn’t atypical, either. Corporate executives have long equated their ability to run a business with running government. That, along with money, is why Mitt Romney was able to secure elected office and the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, how a venture capitalist like Gov. Bruce Rauner became governor of Illinois (while also believing taxpayers have no right to know who he’s meeting with on public time), and why some Republicans being polled actually believe Trump could run the country. If Trump secures the services of a billionaire—a new prerequisite in successfully running for president—his campaign may be even more viable than it already has been.

Trump may rightly be accused of bigotry, but he’s no worse than, say, homophobia’s grand slam champ Rick Santorum, who has compared gay sex to bestiality. And genuine or not, the GOP has never had a problem playing on its core base’s prejudices to win political office. So while RNC Chairman Reince Priebus may have reportedly asked Trump to “tone down” his controversial remarks about immigration—you know, referring to Mexicans as “rapists”—this is the same party that demonizes immigrants regularly. Look at Arizona’s fervent (and eventually unsuccessful) attempts at racial profiling. Look at Iowa GOP congressman Steve King, who has compared immigrants to dogs.

Or look at the wave of “birtherism” that the likes of Trump and many, many Republicans across the country aimed at President Obama for years. There was no widespread condemnation by GOP leaders. Asking Trump to “tone down” his language won’t alter the reality that the GOP is not a friend to immigrants. Or blacks. Or women. Or gays. Or trans men and women. Or the poor.

Read the rest at Talking Points Memo.

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The impact of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” is irrefutable. When the single cover was released, it instantly went viral and spawned a series of memes that quickly spread across the Internet—one of the better contemporary examples we have to measure how impactful something is. Similarly, at a time when the music video still has to fight off the rising stigma of obsolete, the visual for “Anaconda” racked nearly 20 million views in the process—at the time smashing a VEVO record. “Anaconda” was huge both sonically and visually—further cementing what proved to be a banner year for the rapper.

Suffice to say, it ought to be relatively easy to see why Minaj was a little pissed for not netting what she felt is the honor she deserved. Regardless of how anyone feels personally about “Anaconda,” its great success negates that sentiment (as it does in most cases such as these). It was a big deal in a climate where very few things are anymore. It deserved to be nominated for Video of the Year. Maybe it should have won, maybe it should not have, but at the very least, it deserved to be a part of the conversation.

The crux of Nicki Minaj’s argument is true: Black women are highly influential in pop culture and rarely are they ever rewarded for it. 

No, awards are not everything, but the series of thoughts Nicki Minaj expressed yesterday on Twitter about a black female artist—specifically, a black female rapper—being marginalized are a continuation of frustrations Minaj has expressed throughout her career.

All too often has she been damned if she do, damned if she don’t.

When the video for “Anaconda” came out, men felt compelled to slut-shame her. Hip-hop has long been hypersexual and demeaning to women, but suddenly these men developed a conscious. So much so that they felt compelled to condemn Minaj for her choosing to take the stereotypes forced upon women who look like her and make it something all her own. Likewise, much of Minaj’s The Pinkprint promotional time was spent rightfully chiding men about their fucked up views of women in hip-hop. 

As impressive as Minaj is as a rapper, what’s most admirable about her is that she has managed to thrive despite the successful female rapper in music being a relic. She single-handedly revived that portion of hip-hop, and no, she has not gotten the credit she deserves. Some of that is her fault—a solid debut, a not-so-solid follow-up, and the best culmination of her many facets on her third offering. Even so, there are artists—notably without much melanin and/or with a penis—who still manage to get widespread celebration and acknowledgment despite having less skill than acts like Minaj.

That’s why it was frustrating watching Taylor Swift interject herself into Nicki’s moment. I don’t believe Nicki Minaj was taking any shots at Taylor Swift, but even if she felt the opposite way, the least Swift could have done is ask first before turning to lectures and victimhood. It might’ve also been a great idea for Swift to pause for a second and realize that even if she felt Nicki’s gun was aimed in her direction, she was shooting an overall disease as opposed to one of its many symptoms.

Taylor Swift essentially hit Nicki Minaj with the musical equivalent of “All Lives Matter.”

Read the rest at Complex.

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To a superficial bird, there is no greater insult than telling someone that they’re broke. So, I was not surprised that Tammy leveled that accusation at Kaleena after finding out how bad the former Diddette’s meeting with her mother-in-law, Deb Antney went. That’s exactly what she told Joseline as she proceeded to blast her Mercedes-Benz of choice.

I know what some of you are thinking: “I’ve seen your tweets, Mike. Ain’t you a member of the avian nation, too?” Yes, but I don’t have Tammy’s strain of bird flu, so there. In any event, as Tammy was escorted from the club, she told Rasheeda about Kaleena, “I already knew she was a snake bitch they day she called me and dogged you out on the phone.”

This woman is messy boots. You see, if you truly felt Kaleena was not a good friend to your friend Rasheeda, Tammy, you would’ve long told her to watch her back. This is fake. Speaking of, on calling Kaleena broke, Tammy said in her confessional, “It’s not a big deal. We all hit our rough patches.”

If it were not a big deal and you truly understood, Tammy, you wouldn’t constantly choose this brand of read to aim at folks. But okay, girl.

On the after show, Tammy claimed that we didn’t see just how disrespectful Kaleena was being towards Deb Antney. That may be the case, but I also think she was motivated by securing airtime. Either way, this was not any of her business. Also, Tammy repeatedly referred to Joseline as a man on the after show. That’s transphobic in tone and overall lazy in wit. Tammy, you’re pretty and all, but you can fall down a well all the same.

As for Rasheeda, she’s the one who apparently told Tammy about the state of Kaleena’s finances, and yet, is so-so-so mad at Kaleena for violating her trust. Rasheeda didn’t exactly deny any of this when she invited Kaleena to her studio session to discuss what went down at the club. In fact, she was absolutely obnoxious in doubling down on her hypocrisy.

This isn’t surprising, though, because as far as this show goes, Rasheeda is the worst kind of friend. She was not good to K. Michelle. She was not supportive of Karlie Redd. Now she is known to be telling Kaleena’s financial secrets but then finds herself pissed when she finds out Kaleena repeated some of her past behavior.

Rasheeda is a beautiful woman—looking like a female bae version of Superfly Jimmy Snucka. However, she has Lil’ Kim’s attitude with Rasheeda’s talent and catalog. Yeah, I heard that new Rasheeda song she played with her husband, Kirk. If this is indeed Rasheeda’s final album: Bon voyage, girl.

Read the rest at Complex.

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