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In theory, I can understand why Madonna was asked to pay tribute to Prince at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, airing Sunday.

When it comes to stars of a certain era—specifically the mid-1980s—there was a trinity: Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson. No stars could command their level of fame. No other acts at the time were matching their successes. No one could match their musical, visual and cultural contributions at the time. They all embody a period in music that the industry will never experience again.

MTV understood this, which is why Madonna introduced Michael Jackson’s tribute in 2009. They are giants, and now only one stands. And despite what some of your cousins on social media have suggested, Madonna and Prince were quite cordial with each other. After all, they did collaborate on the track “Love Song” on Madonna’s Like a Prayer album, but it wasn’t very good, so let’s forget it happened by the end of this sentence. Yes, they’ve sniped at each other over the years, but that’s shady queens for you. Just last fall, Madonna and her entire tour entourage went to Paisley Park to see Prince perform.

But even if Madonna paying tribute to Prince is understandable, many find it wrong, and it’s not hard to see why.

Aside from the hosts of this year’s show, Ludacris and Ciara—who are cementing themselves as more-colored Pitbull and Paula Abdul, respectively—this year’s show reads as mighty white. The only black performer is Rihanna, who, not so coincidentally, is the only black girl who has managed to secure any crossover radio airplay in recent years. All that does is remind me of how much the industry marginalizes black women in music, which pisses me off. Then this show has the nerve not to even promote RIHANNA in the commercials. Who are the folks in charge of advertising? Round them up, and Smithers, release the hounds.

And, in the one segment for a legendary black artist, you ask Madonna to pay tribute to him?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Billboard Awards Executive Producer Mark Bracco said: “Listen, I think everybody is entitled to their opinion and everyone can have their own opinion, but I will say that we are honored and could not be more excited for Madonna to be on the show and to pay tribute to someone that was her friend and her peer and her colleague. I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Look, I love Madge. I still listen to Bedtime Stories, Erotica and Hard Candy regularly. If you live in Harlem, you’ve likely heard my rendition of “Take a Bow.”

Still, what is she supposed to do? Before anyone tries to drag Madonna for her singing, let’s remember that Vanity was no songbird. I can get jiggy with her covering Prince’s raunchier tunes, but knowing Madonna, she is likely going to re-create Prince’s buttless pants at the 1991 Video Music Awards while singing “Gett Off.” Speaking of stunts, when it comes to Madonna, it will likely be all about Madonna.

Regardless of what she sings, though, it won’t eclipse the reality that in order to properly pay tribute to Prince, you have to keep the spirit of him and his music in mind. Prince was said to have been adamant about having black women involved in previous tributes to his musical legacy. A few years ago, when BET honored him, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle were all included. When he performed at the Grammys in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” he performed with Beyoncé.

Read more at The Root.

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In 2016, the year of our Lemonade, I have a simple, albeit pointed, question for those purchasing tickets to see Ms. Lauryn Hill in concert: the hell do you expect?

In her now infamous response to online critiques about her perpetual lateness, Ms. Hill took to Facebook to write: “I don’t show up late to shows because I don’t care. And I have nothing but Love and respect for my fans. The challenge is aligning my energy with the time, taking something that isn’t easily classified or contained, and trying to make it available for others.”

This is one of the most comically eloquent ways of trying to spiritualize trifling behavior that I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Hill on that. Nevertheless, to be respectful to is honor the time the people who keep you fed, housed, and in line with the IRS, who spent their money on you. Couple that with a contract and a commitment to a show, that ought to be more than enough to align one’s energy with time.

In any event, a debate ensued underneath the post whether or not Ms. Hill is in the wrong. You can count me in on the side that says she’s more wrong than Azealia Banks most days on Twitter. That said, while I do believe artists have a responsibility to show up on time, when it comes to the case of Ms. Hill, by now, hasn’t everyone picked up a pattern?

Here is what you get when buy a ticket for a Lauryn Hill concert: the potential that she may not appear on stage until the crack of midnight, if at all. If she does decide to actually perform, not only might you experience a shortened set due to her lateness, you will also be subjected to schizophrenic versions of the songs that prompted you to buy tickets to see Ms. Hill almost 20 years after the release of her debut album to begin with.

Or, you may get a surprisingly gorgeous cover of a Sade classic. Who knows? The only certain thing with her is uncertainty about what you will be subjecting yourself to. When it comes to attending a Lauryn Hill concert, you are essentially playing a scratch-off lotto ticket with the hopes of being entertained.

By now, you know, however, the Grammy award winning singer, rapper, and CPT time personifier is not the only act ruffling the feathers of fans.

I love Janet Jackson like I love fried chicken, butts, and my student loan lenders not calling or emailing me; however, mama irked the absolute hell out of me deciding in the middle of a world tour that she wanted to plan a family at the age of 49. Oh, I hear you: “STOP BEING INSENSITIVE.” You know what’s insensitive? Starting a world tour, then stopping it and pushing back the dates only to then decide to delay it again.

Janet Jackson announced this tour in May 2015. It stopped not long after. The show was set to return in 2016 and may not get under way again until 2017. Well, if she keeps her word. We have no reason to conclude she will. Janet Jackson was fortunate enough to refund fans. To her credit, so has Ms. Hill.

Read more at EBONY.

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#LEMONADE The Visual Album Is available now on iTunes, Amazon and TIDAL.

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on


Michael Arceneaux: hooks is entitled to her opinion; I’m entitled to mine

As great a fan of Beyoncé as I am, I know no one is above criticism. Still, I find it equally fascinating and frustrating that bell hooks – the same person who once wrote so gleefully about Lil’ Kim and now champions the likes of Emma Watson – can in turn be so contemptuous about Beyoncé, and in separates cases, artists like Nicki Minaj.

hooks’ continuous condemnation of femininity is a petty critique gussied up with academic pretension. The idea that being ultra feminine is anti-intellectual is more damaging and reductive a sentiment than anything shown in Lemonade.

It’s also mighty rich for a woman who labeled Beyoncé a “terrorist” to now complain about female violence. By the way, when you’re as controlled an act as Beyoncé is, there’s something to be said about her allowing herself to publicly show that level of anger.

And someone who sells books and gives speeches at premier universities should also know that just because something is designed to make money doesn’t inherently mean it is corrupt or compromised. Then there is the reality that how we hurt and how we heal vary. This was her way and art is not intended to discuss such matters in absolutes. I imagine the same goes for Beyoncé’s ideas of feminism, the celebration of women, and femininity in general. bell hooks is free to continue feeling otherwise, but I’m glad the rest of us are not bound to.

You can read the entire roundtable over at Feministing.

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There are two types of men in this world: those that are comfortable with listening to music created by a woman without feeling any sense of threat to their masculinity, and the alternative—a neanderthal that assumes the second you listen to the sound of a woman singing or rapping, your penis longs for a sword fight.

This is not a new concept, but like most things triggered by the biggest pop star in the world, Beyoncé, it only becomes more prominent once she releases something. Insecure men scatter out like roaches in a RAID-less house the second the light flickers on.

One message that responded to this stuck out to me.

I’m embarrassed for any man who thinks listening to a woman’s music is a test of his sexuality or masculinity.

This would include numerous tweets sent out over days following the release of Lemonade.

And last year.

And the year before that.

Of course, I’ve heard this over time in classrooms, locker rooms, and barbershops. I mean, there are men who worship Future the same way gay men and Adele worship Beyoncé. Or name any superstar athlete of the past half century here.

I appreciate videos like this because more times than not, you have to make light of the idiocy suffocating you. However, this addiction to hypermasculinity is vile no matter the form. Even if it’s as silly as a Beyoncé song, the root issue still hinges on the idea that, to some, you are less of a man for appreciating the art of woman. Well, a certain kind of woman. One is ultra feminine (yet strong), one who caters specifically to Black women (yet has proven again and again she can literally go as hard as her male contemporaries).

Read the rest at VH1.

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There are very few conversations I find more cringe-inducing and exhausting than the debate over whether or not it is best for a black student to attend a predominantly white institution of higher learning or one that is historically black.

Everything ain’t for everybody, and not enough people on either side of the issue know to respect that stance. Even so, as much as I try to steer clear of these debates, there is a certain disingenuous argument when it comes to those who choose to attend a black college or university that irritates me. It is this idea that to attend one is to escape from “the real world.” Moreover, it is the idea that being in a majorly black setting means that you are surrounded by sameness.

They are both sentiments seeped in stupid, marinated in fallacy and broiled in the false belief that the white man’s ice is cooler.

The Talk’s Aisha Tyler is the latest example of this, and it’s a pity that she would use her platform to perpetuate falsehoods about what it means to attend a black school. Speaking with Money magazine, Tyler called on black students to be “be brave” and enroll in schools where there have been incidents of racism. Why? Well, to help white students evolve from their racial prejudices.

Tyler argued, “When incidents of discrimination happen, that is the real world. You know, if someone doesn’t write something nasty on your dorm door, that doesn’t mean they are not thinking it.”

Well, anyone black and awake in this country knows that. Besides, if you’re a member of a minority group, you have your entire life to contend with someone’s biases against you and the various ways in which they will manifest. Why is it so important to rush to it sooner rather than later?

Though Tyler notes that you should “decide what you can tolerate,” she goes on to say, “What would we be like if black people didn’t go into the heart and didn’t try to change things? We would have made no progress in the country. Bravery is the engine of change.”

In other words, be the academic equivalent of Viola Davis in The Help. To quote my King Beyoncé, “N–ga, nah.” I am sick of people—especially other black folks—putting the onus to curb white racism on its victims. No black student—particularly those likely going into debt to advance in a society that actively tries to make sure they don’t—ought to be overly concerned with fixing someone else’s stupid.

While you can respect those who decided to do what’s best for themselves—in Tyler’s case, attending the prestigious Dartmouth College—the use of the word “brave” is troubling because it suggests that those who don’t make this choice are behaving in ways that are cowardly.

As for her advice for black high school students, Tyler offered this: “Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t pick a college that replicates what you did in high school. Test yourself in an unfamiliar context so that you can learn to succeed no matter where you are placed, so that you know you can excel.”

This weekend I will celebrate my 10-year college reunion. As I’ve explained to many people, Howard University is the most diverse setting that I’ve ever been in. To limit the definition of “diversity” to race is to belittle and trivialize a term that has always been far broader than the likes of Tyler will ever give it any credit for being.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have as a much of a shot at becoming the Democratic and Republican nominees for president as Iggy Azalea does at being honored at next year’s Black Girls Rock.

And yet both Sanders and Cruz continued to dance with delusion despite more and more evidence that this just isn’t their election cycle to become president. It’s sore-loser season for the candidates and their supporters. To quote Rihanna, “Poor dat.”

Earlier this week, Sanders told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on New Day about his chances of scoring the nomination, saying, “It’s a narrow path, but we do have a path. And the idea that we should not contest in California—our largest state, let the people of California determine what the agenda of the Democratic Party is and who the candidate for president should be—is pretty crazy.”

I agree with Sanders on certain matters. He should not leave the race. He should try to do well—if not win—in California. He should stay in the race to push the Democratic agenda to better resemble real progressive politics, instead of the Republican-lite “triangulation” that Hillary Clinton and her husband push. Moreover, Sanders does not owe it to Clinton to convince his voters to support her for president in a general election.

However, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sanders spoke of winning the nomination by way of superdelegates—a stance that seems completely antithetical to the spirit of his campaign. At this point, Clinton is hundreds of regular delegates ahead of Sanders and is millions of votes ahead in the popular vote. In other words, the revolution Sanders spoke of has limits—winning by turning to “the establishment” would contradict his outsider ideology. It would make him no better than the people he purports to be better than.

Sanders’ wife, Jane, has said, “At the end, you know, we’re not calling superdelegates and saying, Will you switch your vote?” And yet it’s been reported that Sanders has personally called some undecided superdelegates to win their support. Meanwhile, Clinton’s superdelegates have complained about being harassed by Sanders’ supporters.

Y’all. Y’all. Y’all. It’s one thing to keep on keep-keeping on, but it’s another to behave like a soft-baked bitch about it.

What frustrates me about Sanders at this juncture of the campaign is that there hasn’t been any real self-reflection, and, by extension, admission of failure on his part. As a southerner, I was vexed as hell by his repeated dismissal of his southern state losses. The typical southern Democrat isn’t white or conservative, but black and moderate-to-fairly-progressive depending on the region. Perhaps it’s due to him being a fairly new Democrat, but you don’t diss the most dedicate voting bloc of the Democratic Party—especially when you don’t mind championing your victories in lily-white states that are as much a Red State as Mississippi and Georgia are. Likewise, while it’s true that poorer Americans vote less, of those that did, they voted more so for Hillary Clinton. That means 1) Sanders’ populist message failed to connect with the poorer voters that do vote, 2) he failed to reach those that do not.

In sum: aww man, homie, your bad.

Read the rest at Complex.

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A recent image uploaded by the legendary Lil’ Kim highlighted a nearly decade-long struggle many of her fans have faced: Lil’ Kim has been an ongoing challenge for those of us who love her, but love our blackness more; for fans who are grateful to her for the impact she’s had on our individual lives, but in many cases are hurt, if not enraged, by what she’s done to herself.

It may not be the nicest sentiment, but it is no less true: I love the Lil’ Kim I hear from my speakers, but I struggle with not judging the sight of the one I often see today.

The latter forces me to confront the reality that someone I idolized for her strength and command of her sexuality doesn’t like the way she looks. That makes her a bit of a walking contradiction. Many of us who felt partially raised by Lil’ Kim are struggling to make sense of that.

Lil’ Kim, the one who made women and gay men alike more comfortable with their own sexuality with the overt display of hers, is an everlasting symbol of strength. Lil’ Kim, the pioneering female rapper who paved the way for the sort of pop-rap fusions whose perks are now enjoyed by many who came after her, is a testament to individuality and innovation. But there’s that other Lil’ Kim we’ve all had to bear witness to.

The one who sometimes speaks in an unnatural, almost caricature-like voice when she surrounds herself with the likes of the Kardashians — well, anyone white. A voice that sounds so foreign to her black-girl-from-Brooklyn cadence that we all love so much. This other Kim is the person who piles on so much makeup to disguise her brown skin in order to present a lighter hue.

It is unclear as to whether or not Lil’ Kim has fallen into the poor habit that is skin-bleaching. In many cases, she looks like she’s just piled on makeup and applied various filters to her images in order to best show off the facade online.

Whatever she’s doing with her skin, it’s quite apparent the intent is to give off the aesthetic attributed to light-skinned women, or white women period, all the same.

This other Kim is befuddling and angering, because it is a complete contradiction to the one so many of us championed.

And yet, in all my anger, I do question the role we may have played in her obsession with removing the most overt traces of blackness in her face. We are often far too cruel to people we deem pitiful. We see someone hurting, and not only do we kick them when we they are down, we watch them fall lower from our blows and pile on the pain with our laughter.

This is largely evident on social media, were many, in true Twitter form, were quick to cast judgement:

Read the rest at Mic.

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would sooner have a threesome with David Duke and the ghost of Barry Goldwater than vote for Donald Trump, but there is something about his political ascension that I find somewhat inspiring.

Not the racism. Not the misogyny. And no, not the xenophobia. Trump’s frontrunner status reminds me – an ambitious but not exactly patient person – that dreams can come true, just not necessarily when I say they should.

There is an old saying: “It’s not the appointed time, but the anointed time.” It’s rooted in the Biblical passage, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” I have not been to church since the last Destiny’s Child album, but that sentiment speaks to me, and Trump’s trajectory this campaign season has served as a demonstration of that wise advice: wait for your time, however long that may be. Then seize it.

Trump, who won five more primaries on Tuesday, has been teasing a presidential run on and off since 1987. As in, Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions on record are a year older than the man I hope one day helps me play out my Beyoncé happily-ever-after scenario (although if he does me dirty, he’ll get the Lemonade treatment, too). I was impressed by Trump after reading Politico’s February profile of the reality star and real estate mogul’s plot-by-plot campaign to become a credible presidential contender.

Sure, Republican voters ought to know better than to be so enamored with a clownish political novice, but that’s not his fault. The point is, timing is everything, and Trump was shrewd enough to finally run when he had an actual chance at winning.

There are other examples of people achieving success later in life. I’ve loved watching Wendy Williams, whom I used to listen to on the radio, go off to daytime, succeed immensely and broaden her brand farther than past naysayers – who wondered whether her unfiltered radio style would translate well in the daytime TV format – ever expected. Similarly, I like that Viola Davis is finally being treated as the exceptional talent that she is, leading a primetime network show as a black actor in her 40s after years of actively working in Hollywood, too often relegated to supporting roles.

But there is something about Donald Trump’s political takeover that I find particularly motivating. He’s been thinking about this for nearly three decades now, but minus the false start in 2000, when he considered running as part of the Reform party, he stuck more with his businesses and television career. And somehow, this novice with no experience gauged his moment, and he has managed to yap his way into a credible chance at becoming president. It’s frightening, yes, but I still find it motivating for pursuing my own goals.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

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Piers Morgan is a simpleton fortunate enough that being White, male, and straight makes his success in media nearly impenetrable. Morgan, like many people who wear lens prescribed to only allow them to view the world from their perspective, never misses the chances to complain about minorities who complain about the unfair conditions thrusted upon us. What a joy it must be to be stubbornly selfish and stupid and score profit from it.

When Nicki Minaj complained about the unfair treatment of Black women’s art at the MTV Video Music Awards, Morgan wrote a silly column that completely missed the point. When many were enraged by dashcam footage of Sandra Bland’s arrest was made public, Morgan ignorantly boasted about tweeting “#ALLLivesMatter.” Morgan has also tweeted “I love my Whiteness” in response to Black people celebrating themselves in a world that often loathes our mere existence.

When Black people complained about the lily-White Academy Awards, Morgan wrote an asinine column saying he doesn’t watch the show to be bombarded by issues like gay rights, racism, and sexual assault. You see, Morgan watches for entertainment, failing to realize the rest of us can sit around and be silent when the world is watching. So, it’s not surprising that Morgan has an issue with Beyoncé becoming more overtly political in her art.

In yet another sign that his keyboard should have committed suicide long ago, Morgan has written a new column condemning Beyoncé for not being Beyoncé in his image. However, his angle is to pretend to be care about the mothers of Travyon Martin and Mike Brown.

Writing in The Daily Mail, Piers claims: “I have huge personal sympathy for both women and there is no doubt that African-Americans have been treated appallingly by certain rogue elements within the country’s police forces. But I felt very uneasy watching these women being used in this way to sell an album. It smacks of shameless exploitation.”

Beyoncé created a short film exploring varying aspects of Black womanhood. Do you know what said aspects include? The reality that as a Black mother in America, there is a legitimate reason to worry whether or not you will have to bury your son or daughter due to some racist, trigger happy police officer protected by the law and the White supremacy that has long upheld it in this country? By the way, nothing screams “shameless exploitation” than a blithering idiot continuing to miss the point as a career strategy.

Morgan went on to describe Beyoncé as a “militant activist” and argues, “The new Beyoncé wants to be seen as a Black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second.” This sentiment recalls the insulting “compliment” some have paid Prince for purportedly “transcending race.” What they mean by that is Prince’s music got them to see past their own racism. Likewise, what Morgan fails to grasp here is that each of us that are of color are seen as that first and foremost no matter what. The only person who thinks otherwise is one who doesn’t live our experience.

Naturally, Morgan then goes on to see he prefers the “old Beyoncé” who was “less inflammatory” and displayed less “agitation.” He then has the nerve to write, “The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily. The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same.”

White people like Piers Morgan love to trot out Martin Luther King quotes as if he was the Santa Claus of Civil Rights and that the invocation of his name and a twisted interpretation of his ideology absolves them from criticism of their inherent bias.

Read more at EBONY.

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