On Friday, I took part in a discussion about FOX’s Empire on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. This is the audio. I’m not sure if I had a “public radio voice” here, but if so, it’s meshed with lots of “y’alls” and “nu uh.”
Even as Bobbi Kristina Brown lies silent in an Atlanta hospital room, reportedly “fighting for her life,” a wave of noise surrounds her.
In response to reports that the Houston family as well as her father, Bobby Brown, are saying their goodbyes, Brown released the contradictory statement: “If we issued a statement every time the media published a false report regarding this matter, that’s all we would be doing 24 hours a day. This is false, just as is the vast majority of the other reporting that is currently taking place.”
Meanwhile, a separate family source tells E! News that Bobbi Kristina “is not brain dead, and the Houstons and the Browns are not fighting.” They went on to explain, “There is no ‘family gathering’ today that is any different from any other day since she has been in the hospital.”
Whatever the case, some things remain undeniable: Bobbi Kristina is not well, and even in what has turned out to be the nadir of her life, she is not being left alone. It’s an unfortunate reality for anyone in the public eye, but particularly for someone who never elected to be. The world has never given the daughter of Whitney Houston room to breathe, which makes the idea that she could soon breathe her last breath all the more sadder.
My earliest recollection of Bobbi Kristina is a performance Whitney Houston did in 1997 of “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop).” During it, Whitney handed the microphone to many of her peers – Monica, BeBe Winans, and Shirley Caesar. Then came Bobbi Kristina, who was more or less trotted out on stage though she noticeably didn’t want to be there. When asked why she came out, the adorable child shrieked, “Dad, did it!”
If there’s any constant about Bobbi Kristina, it’s been this seeming desire to walk into the spotlight already laid out for her, but a slight reluctance to take those steps knowing what all it entails. This is a child born to two famous parents whose collective issues with substance abuse dominated their narrative for more than a decade. It’s one thing to read about it; it’s another to have to actually live with that.
As a result, she carried a lot with her. Just like a lot of us. And like many of us, she may not have completely dealt with much of it.
Read more at EBONY.
What will it take for some people to see that Kanye West is no longer the same person who once declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”?
For some, it wasn’t West’s comparison of his struggle with the paparazzi—likely not helped by marrying a person whose business model is largely rooted in narcissism and media attention—to the civil rights movement. The same goes for his inane assertion that “classism has replaced racism.” Neither of these infamous quotes, nor the litany of others that sound just like them, have done the trick. But maybe Kanye West’s apparently giving his blessing to A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou’s choice to include the word “n–ga” in a recent fall menswear presentation will convince people to let go and let J. Cole.
As models walked the runway in matching gray sweatpants and A.P.C.-designed Timberlands,Touitou held up a sign that read, “Last Ni##@$ in Paris.” Touitou later explained to Style.com, “I call this one look Last N****s in Paris. Why? Because it’s the sweet spot when the hood—the ’hood—meets Bertolucci’s movie Last Tango in Paris. So that’s ‘N****s in Paris’ and Last N****s in Paris.”
It’s no secret that the fashion industry often mirrors the habits of the Ku Klux Klan, only in chicer hooding. Likewise, we’ve long known that obnoxious designers and labels have a penchant for producing clothing items deep-fried in stupid. This includes Zara making pajama tops for toddlersthat bear a noted resemblance to the uniforms worn by the inmates of Nazi death camps, and Urban Outfitters releasing a Kent State sweatshirt splattered with red to signify blood, a tacky nod to the fatal shooting of students protesting the Vietnam War by Ohio National Guard members.
Not being surprised doesn’t make Touitou’s act any less frustrating. Touitou dug himself a deeper hole during the Style.com interview by adding, “Yes, I mean, it’s nice to play with the strong signifiers. The Timberland here is a very strong ghetto signifier. In the ghetto, it is all the Timberlands, all the big chain. Not at the same time—never; it’s bad taste. So we designed Timberlands with Timberland. … ”
What exactly does Jean Touitou know about the ghetto? Based on the intel he’s supplied thus far, not a damn thing. What makes this worse, though, is Touitou’s revealing the role that West played in all of this.
Touitou says, “I am friends with Kanye, and he and I presented a joint collection at the same place, one year ago, and that this thing is only a homage to our friendship. As a matter of fact, when I came up with this idea, I wrote to him, with the picture of the look and the name I was giving to it, and he wrote back immediately, saying something like, ‘I love this vibe.”’
On Thursday, after news broke of Touitou’s deeds and liberal use of the n-word, the French designer would release an apology: “When describing our brand’s latest collaboration, I spoke recklessly using terms that were both ignorant and offensive,” Touitou said in a written statement. “I apologize and am deeply regretful for my poor choice of words, which are in no way a reflection of my personal views.”
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is marred by racism. West has complained about this very issue for some time now. During a performance last year in London, West told a crowd during one of his “rants,” “I’m not going to call no names, I’m not going to say Nike or anything. I’m not dissing Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissing the Gucci group and s–t. I’m just saying, don’t discriminate against me because I’m a black man, or because I’m a celebrity, to determine that I can’t create. You know, no black guy or celebrity’s making no Louis Vuitton nothing.”
I understand black homophobia on a deeply personal level. In seventh grade, I was called a faggot by someone named Chris on the school bus. I try to never let people see me sweat, but Chris took it one step further: he said my mama was probably gay, too. You can’t talk about my mama; Chris ended up with a black eye by the time we were dropped off to school. The last time I was called a faggot was a year ago, in Harlem; three dudes were driving by and proceeded to hurl that insult and french fries. I wanted to throw a bottle at the car, but I was outnumbered and keenly aware of the multiple deaths members of the LGBT community suffered the year beforehand.
Much of my 2014 was spent wondering if I will be able to maintain a relationship with my mother because my sexuality—well, my choice to both act on my natural attractions and write freely about my orientation—remains a major point of contention. My father once asked me if I was “funny” while shaking his hand; he was not longing to hear his son say, “Yeah, pops. I’m hilarious when I’m screwing a man.”
Most of the people who have given me grief about my sexuality have been black like me, though I’ve been around mostly black people my entire life. It’s more about geographic and socioeconomic status, not inherent biases. To that end, my individual experiences do not speak for the collective. It’s dangerous to use anecdotes to diagnosis a community of its purported ills. Never forget that there is a world beyond yours.
Lee Daniels has forgotten this lesson. Two weeks ago, he explained that he wants to “blow the lid off homophobia” in the black community with his new show,Empire, using the rift between Jamal, a gay aspiring singer, and his deeply homophobic father Lucious Lyon, a record executive. Daniels might as well have added that he also hopes his hip-hop inspired soap opera would also hip music consumers to the power of the MP3. Black homophobia has been a subject of national conversation for several years now, but at this point, the conversation has long grown stale given that it’s largely a merry go-round of myth-pushing.
Daniels has every right to inject his own experiences into his art. The famed director has been candid about the homophobia he experienced as a child. His life experiences are his, but those experiences should not be exploited to make a broad criticism of the black community that is not rooted in reality and far more complicated than his soap opera suggests.
I would rather not politicize Lee Daniels’ vision, but he has elected to do so and no one who knows better can let him help continue a lie.
Daniels gets some things right, namely the hypermasculinity within hip-hop, and by extension, the black community. But a mostly a white consumer base of rap music only further highlights how we are all collectively guilty of homophobia, which is largely based in misogyny.
Therein lies the problem when I hear lines like, “He’d never pick me. Too much homophobia in the black community” on Empire.
As opposed to other communities where tolerance for the LGBT community is remarkably higher? Blacks are not the X-Men of anti-gay bigotry. We don’t have some superior level of homophobia compared to other groups.
Read the rest at Complex.
I want to be white for a day. For no other reason than I am curious to know what it’s like to be christened a king despite offering only a pauper’s level of effort. Sam Smith can certainly sing, but as far as being a soul singer goes, he ranks right up there with soul legends like Bette Midler and Lance Bass. However, because he’s white, he is handed the crown by virtue of simply walking in the room.
Enter Smith’s GQ profile, which is titled “The New Face of Soul.” In it, writer Amy Wallace describes Smith’s debut album, In the Lonely Hour, as “part funky falsetto, part gospel-infused electronic pop.” This is both majorly hyperbolic and highly irritating. How does that combination even translate to “The New Face of Soul?”
GQ’s christening recalls Forbes last year publishing the piece, “Hip-Hop Is Run by a White, Blonde, Australian Woman.” After noted pushback, the article was changed to “Hip-Hop’s Unlikely New Star: A White, Blonde, Australian Woman.” The latter title made more sense, but the former is the sort of clickbait that drives traffic.
One imagines GQ knew that sort of bold proclamation would generate interest as soon as the article made its way online. I would love it if these mainstream publications would stop trolling Black people online, but I have to acknowledge that GQ is not the first to make this inept claim about Sam Smith.
Last year, VIBE deemed Smith “the ruler of soul.” In response, I wrote at the time, “Sam Smith can sing, but if Luther Vandross is collard greens and smoked turkey, Sam Smith is kale with the wrong kind of hot sauce. That’s cute if you like the latter, but never mistake it for the former.”
If you’re familiar with the Foxy Brown track “I Can’t” featuring Total, this is the part where you should sing, “Say it again, say it again. Say it again, say it again.”
Yet, here we are, still having to discuss Soul Zero being hailed as the savior of a genre he isn’t even a genuine participant in.
Had the pleasure to be on SoPOPular with Janet Mock once again, participating in the “Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique” segment, talking State of the Union, Lifetime’s Whitney, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
Click under the hood to watch parts one and two.
— Jazmine Sullivan (@jsullivanmusic) January 23, 2015
When Jazmine Sullivan finally returned with new music via “Dumb,” featuring fellow PhiladelphianMeek Mill, the moment sort of came and went. It’s not that people haven’t been yearning for her return since she took to Twitter exactly four years ago to say she was taking time away from music; but the track did not command attention the way previous offerings like “Need You Bad” and “Bust Your Windows” did.
Recently, Sullivan was asked if “Elevatorgate” involving Solange, Jay Z, and Beyoncé had something to do with the single’s lack of attention in an interview with Power 105’s “The Breakfast Club.” Sullivan answered: “I did feel like that situation kind of took away from it, but it’s cool. I got a lot more songs on the album that I personally think are doper.”
The Carters and Sister Knowles don’t have anything to do with it; it’s evident by the reaction to the “doper” songs.
Excitement was there for other offerings like “Forever Don’t Last,” which is simple in its production (just acoustic guitar and vocals) but far more of a statement because it’s Sullivan at her best: painting a picture with her lyrics, capturing the tone of breakup perfectly with her voice, and letting both carry the song. However, on the other release from her new album, Reality Show,“Mascara,” Sullivan sings with the immediacy and flair of a rapper.
“Yeah, my hair and my ass fake, but so what? I get my rent paid with it.”
Initially, I likened the track to Amy Winehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps.” Yet, Sullivan is not bashing “those kind of girls” the way Winehouse once skewered. The point of Reality Show, and perhaps, Sullivan’s mission moving forward, is to lend voice to women who often find themselves the subject of conversation, but never with a microphone. In theory, that’s the purpose of reality TV, though as VH1, Oxygen, and Bravo have taught us, that isn’t always the case.
Read the rest at Complex.
My immediate reaction to Kendrick Lamar’s interview with Billboard magazine was to add his name to the list of stars who need to be sent to the Island of Wayward Negroes. A list that includes names like Don Lemon, Whoopi Goldberg, and the “labels” one herself, Raven-Symoné. Well meaning or not, Lamar invoked God to defend Iggy Azalea and respectability politics to partially excuse law enforcement’s collective assault on Black people. The rapper from Compton sounded like one of those AARP-aged Blacks who thinks the Lord will deliver us from evil (aka white supremacy) the second we pull up our pants and leave that white woman who’s really just trying to make an honest living via a pop-rap career alone.
When asked about the killings of Black men and women at the hands of police officers last year, Lamar did acknowledge that Michael Brown’s death should’ve “never happened,” only he added, “But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting— it starts from within.”
Lamar took the complex problem of institutionalized racism and offered up the equivalent of an inspirational meme found on Instagram as a solution.
It’s bad enough when white people tell us that the onus of racism is on the victim to fix and not the culprit, but it is particularly bothersome when someone who looks like us makes that same case— to a mainstream outlet, no less.
It does not matter if you dress like an investment banker or someone who has used a payday loan to get by: If you are Black, racism will reduce to you pigmentation and the prejudices that will follow.
The same can be said if you speak as eloquently as President Barack Obama or as rambly and somewhat incoherent as my new musical play cousins, Rae Sremmurd.
However, as disappointed as I am in Lamar’s answer, upon more reflection I’m more inclined to sign up for a book club than send him an itinerary for a permanent trip to a far away land. In the profile, Billboard’s Gavin Edwards writes, “Surprisingly for such a hyperliterate lyricist, Lamar is not much of a reader, saying that he mostly learns by talking to people from different walks of life.”
As great as conversation is, so are books in tackling complicated matters like racism. Hopefully, Lamar will learn that having respect for one’s self does not matter if the person with power has no regard for you or your life. That aside, Lamar’s comments about Azalea remain irksome.
When the Australian rapper came up in the interview, Lamar said, “She’s doing her thing. Let her. People have to go through trials and tribulations to get where they at. Do your thing, continue to rock it, because obviously God wants you here.”
Again, hokey language being used to de-legitimize credible complaints about racially-motivated biases.
To be fair, Lamar’s cousin is Los Angeles Lakers star Nick Young, who is dating Azalea — and that puts him in an awkward position. Still, while it’s one thing to not go out of your way to insult a family member, it’s another to argue that someone is ordained to perform in audible Blackface.
I don’t like when people use God as a shield for their half-thought out musings. I also have a hard time thinking God really gives that great a damn if Azalea builds a fortune biting the flow of Charli Baltimore and the voice of Diamond on a track that sounds like discount DJ Mustard.
People like Republican politician Mike Huckabee remind me of the personal pitfalls one endures when they lead a life in which they think sex works best in missionary and with a marriage license for the sole purpose of procreation. The former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister also reminds me of the virtues of shutting the hell up and minding one’s business.
However, Huckabee has a long history of telling others what they should and should not be doing — most notably, women who dare to take ownership of their sexuality. He won’t stop any time soon with the promotion of his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. Huckabee aims his God and gun at various targets, though his critiques of Beyoncé have drawn the biggest headlines.
The book seems to read as exactly as it sounds, so I look forward to kicking it over once I spot in the clearance aisle. In it, Huckabee slams Beyoncé for her “obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics,” and though he says she’s a “terrific dancer,” he suggests that some of her choreography is “best left for the privacy of her bedroom.” People with no rhythm are such a nasty bunch.
Huckabee goes on to criticize Jay Z, explaining, “Jay Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?”
Here’s a better question: Why does Beyoncé need her husband’s permission to be sexual? Huckabee went on to criticize the Obamas, especially First Lady Michelle Obama, by targeting both her parenting skills and her healthy eating initiative for children, quipping that when it comes to Beyoncé’s music, “If lived out, those lyrics would be far more devastating to someone’s health than a cupcake.”
Actually, I’m almost certain safe sex between two consenting adults is far healthier than eating a cupcake— at least the former is exercise and gluten free.
Joining Huckabee in the “White Men For Policing A Black Woman’s Body” squad is former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Last month, Duke bashed Minaj’s purported “disgusting and horrific and violent and drug-drenched” music: “Why do people blame blacks like Minaj? Because Minaj wouldn’t be a pimple on somebody’s rear end except for the fact that she is promoted by the Jewish record producers and the media, the mass media, the powerful media, that promotes absolute degenerates like her.”
On Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the fantastic Janet Mock’s new show, So Popular, which airs on MSNBC’s Shift.
The segment was called “How the media portrays gay men of color” and was based on Lee Daniels’ new show, Empire. Lee Daniels says he is using the show to both feature a different kind of Black gay man on TV while “exposing” homophobia in the Black community. You know, ’cause no one ever talks about that.
It was so much fun and I’m glad Janet let me pitch this. And if you want to check out the article referenced in the segment, you can do so here.
Segment is below.