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Earlier in the year, Mark Pitts, the president of urban music at RCA and CEO of ByStorm Entertainment (a joint venture with RCA) made me somewhat worried about Miguel’s third album. In an interview with Billboard, Pitts spoke of Miguel’s vision of the album, and part of that vision seem centered on correcting suspicions about the Los Angeles native’s sexuality. Pitts explained, “He wants people to understand who he is. He’s tired of people asking ‘who are you, what’s that, do you like girls?’ He tells me, ‘I want everyone to know I am wild, funny, edgy and love women. I need this album to connect.’”

It sparked my concern because based on Miguel’s solid debut, All I Want Is You, the excellent follow up, Kaleidoscope Dreams, or any of the mixtapes that have been released before or after these works, I believed fans (and he has plenty of those now) already had a pretty good idea of who Miguel was as an artist, and more or less, a person. To those who were unfamiliar with him prior to his breakout hit, “Adorn,” maybe there was a sense of pause (the outfits, I guess), but that’s more about their own stupidity and their limited idea of what a man – particularly a Black one in R&B – looks like. Why cater to that?

Besides, how much more convincing of one’s heterosexuality can a man who recorded a song called “Pussy Is Mine” do before he says “f**k it” and stop trying? Particularly a man who takes many cues from Prince, a guy who has worn stilettos, exposed his butt cheeks to the world, and yet, whose sexuality is as clear as the coos of the lead singer of Vanity 6. How are you going to channel Prince and worry like Mariah Carey, 2015?

If there’s any criticism to have of Miguel, it is that he is prone to overcompensation.

When you listen to Wildheart, you do get the sense that Miguel desperately wants you to know he’s straight. There seems to be a bit of an emphasis on proper pronoun usage on select tracks. Perhaps the intent to is to cement his sexual preference as previously advertised, but it can make doubters align with doth protest too much indeed. Thankfully, though, it is not as distracting as I feared.

The album is very much themed around libido, as evident in songs like “The Valley,” where the 29-year-old sings about his desire to “f**k you like I hate you.” The song is also a shout out to the Los Angeles metropolitan area that is home to much of the state’s porn industry. There’s also the modestly titled “FLESH,” which features Miguel seductively moan, “Woman, put me right where I belong.” And Wildheart’s lead single, “Coffee,” a playful ode to the morning after a sexual encounter.

Although the singer’s interest in sex (HETEROSEX WITH WOMEN) is the dominant theme of the album, it does not come across as obnoxious – which distinctly separates Miguel from his contemporaries.

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If you measured last night’s episode of Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta by sex, based on the teaser, you thought you were going to be treated to a full-fledged orgy. Instead, you got fingered with a pinky. Foreplay can be great, but not when I’m being teased with a confrontation between Joseline and this woman who won’t stop saying her name every damn week, Jessica Dime. That’s a climax, bitch. Way to overhype the confrontation, production team.

Those two didn’t engage until the very last scene, but before that took place, the show’s resident messy ass friend, Karlie Redd, set up the tension. Karlie doesn’t seem to sing anymore, and she’s not dating a rapper, so as far as her point on this show goes, she’s essentially a middleman and greeter to new cast members with no friends. Enter Jessica Dime, who while in a pool with Karlie, revealed that she and Joseline used to fool around—to the delight of their VIP guest, Stevie J. Jessica described Joseline as her “trick” and said she was all up in her kutty kat. She also added that she could’ve taken Joseline’s man as Stevie J offered to knock her up.

So, a man with noted substance abuse issues and multiple baby mamas (and the child support cases to prove it) offers to knock you up during a ho shit session where he was likely inebriated and you fix your face to say, “I could’ve had your man.” Yeah, probably for a couple of hours, but as MoKenStef let us know, “You may have had him once, but I got him all the time.”

Go ahead, sing, “YOU CAN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT.”

Jessica sounded like a cross between Safaree (bitter) and Ronnie from the Players Club (bitter and trying to get popped).

Later, Karlie linked with Joseline who, to the surprise of no one, had no issue admitting anything. Joseline “Yeah, I ate her box, but she’s my bitch. She do what I say. She ate my ass and my pussy all night when I tell her to do it.” She then advised her to live off her own name, but noted, “but you don’t have one because everybody know you as a playgirl.”

I could seriously quote this woman all day. To wit, Joseline explained when it came to tricking off Dimepenny, “I didn’t have to give you money. I just give money because you broke and you need it.”

And in the confessional there some other gems: “Bitch you could never drop a bomb on me because I am the bomb” and “There is nothing I have to tell Dimepenny unless the bitch is on her knees.”

How does this woman not have an Emmy already? Joseline ended the conversation by telling Karlie to pass word that Dimepenny can come see her in the studio. So she did while Joseline was in a session. Stevie escorted himself out of the studio and once Jessica entered the booth, Joseline told her, “I heard you been looking for me.”

We have to wait until next week to see Joseline throw a drink at Dimepenny’s head. I know, I know. We can wait together.

While we didn’t get the full Joseline and Dimepenny confrontation, we were treated to three other ones—two of which we’ve seen too many damn times already.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Before agreeing to go out on a date with me recently, the man I was interested in asked me a pressing question: “Do you know Jesus?”

Anyone asking such a question wants a particular answer. Me, with my own agenda of wanting to see this man in a more intimate setting, provided an answer that would satisfy him, while still being honest. “Yes,” I said. “I’m very well aware of Jesus. I was raised by a devout Catholic.”

Then things became trickier: “Do you accept him as your Lord and Savior?” he said. I emphatically told him yes, but the doubts about religion that have been confined in me for several years knew better.

I have long been conflicted about the role religion plays in my life — notably the strain of Christianity I was raised in. It is nothing against Jesus, personally: He comes across as having been quite the gentleman and people person, plus he liked fish. (A man after my own heart, that JC.)

Nonetheless, my indoctrinated sense of spirituality became suffocating, and a separation from having Jesus as the center of my life was the consequence. To the surprise of no one, much of my separation from Jesus centered on my sexuality. As I got older and started to look for God on my own terms, I stopped going to church. I’ve been quite vocal about this in my work. I’ve gone from someone who was once approached for the priesthood by another priest to a person who boos at the invitation of stepping inside a church.

So when I read a recent Pew Research Center survey, stating that the already large share of religiously unaffiliated millennial adults is increasing significantly, I was not surprised. There are many wonderful Christians out there and I sincerely admire their faith and how it manifests within them. Even so, as an institution and collective, I find most organized religions to be frustrating and in desperate need of a good publicist.

On a personal level, I’ve struggled with Biblical literalists. In my writing, I’ve repeatedly called on more people to challenge the Biblical references to homosexuality — highlighting that there is something to be said of allegory, nuance, historical reference, and while we’re at it, hypocrisy. With a wider public acceptance of homosexuality, comes more attempts to do just that.

Read the rest at The Liberty Project.

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If there is one thing I have learned as a working writer – notably one who writes for the Internet – it is that this climate is so conducive to constant complaining. So many of us are urged to reflect more what has yet to be done as opposed to what’s happening or what has literally just happened. Small victories are often dismissed as not being enough. In many cases, big victories aren’t always enough either.

However, if there is one thing I have struggled with throughout my life, it is knowing when to lavish in the moment and not obsess over what comes next.

There is a difference between not being content with the status quo and constantly moving the goal post to the point that you can never truly embrace progress. With that in mind, I take great pride in the historic moment that has taken place in my lifetime. I have struggled with the idea of marriage due of the examples of it in my life, but I have since challenged myself to see the possibilities. Now, it is a prospect that is real and attainable thanks to last week’s Supreme Court ruling that has made marriage equality nationwide. I will not play down this moment. Too many people have worked hard to make this happen.

Yes, some are right in their suspicions that our Black faces were likely not in the minds of many of the White LGBT members who worked toward this dream, but it’s a reward that we can now each share all the same. I respect my friends and colleagues who feel conflicted over how to be happy that they can marry, but fear that they or their brothers and sisters can easily have their lives snatched away before ever getting to that point. I understand the frustration over erasure, too.

I recognize all the continued struggles we have to fight, but I am not willing to allow our pain to cloud a cause celebration. You can be critical without falling into cynicism. You can be vocal about what still needs to happen without shouting over what just did. You can do all these things and promise to fight tomorrow.

But, but, but: you can and should celebrate the present. Sometimes tomorrow feels like eternity and I wish more people – self-included – had a better appreciation for what happens in the here and now. I am actively working to be better about it. I am using this ruling to further push myself towards that goal.

My first introduction to gay life was death. I saw AIDS by the first grade, and I have written, and will soon write in a broader narrative by way of a book, just how devastating and paralyzing that was for me. My uncle died when I was six, and for a long time, that is all I knew what being gay could be. Now, thanks to the work of so many people of every hue and the Supreme Court, my six-year-old niece will have a different vision. She now knows Uncle Mikey can get married.

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To be lauded as a legend is one thing, but what good are kudos if you can’t even drive freely down the road you paved? As much as we revere Lil’ Kim —and as much success as she’s enjoyed— those who came after her are the ones who truly benefited from the fruits of her labor. If you’re having doubts, just look at Nicki Minaj’s massive crossover appeal. But Lil’ Kim was also ahead of her time musically, and one album stands above all others.
When The Notorious K.I.M. was first released, there were certain songs that I loved. And I still love them, starting with “Suck My Dick,” which still feels like the perfect response to the street harassment many women contend with from idiotic men. There’s also the title track, which snatches Foxy Brown bald within the first minute. There are others, but many of the tracks were not that fierce – exactly why I didn’t completely get the album as a whole. It was not nearly as gritty as her debut, Hardcore, or her work with Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Such was Kim’s intent.

After the success of her first album, it was clear that Kim had a bigger budget to work with and a larger vision for herself. That resulted in bigger wigs, more expensive looking videos, and far more polish. The Notorious K.I.M. fell victim to several leaks –even more surprising given it was the very late 1990s– which resulted in the album’s release date being pushed back several times. This was partially to combat the bootlegged tracks that found their way to mixtapes, fan Web sites, and the radio— but also to deal with the mounting criticism over a more commercial sound.

In April 2000, Entertainment Weekly wrote about the delays facing The Notorious K.I.M. and quoted one “well-known hip-hop publicist” complaining about the dozen tracks that had already leaked, saying, “It’s very pop and doesn’t have a street edge. People are going to think, ‘Who are you trying to be, Lil’ Kim or Mandy Moore?”’ Now, name that female rapper who has had to deal with similar complains in this decade (*cough* Nicki *cough*). Then compare the success of her pop tracks with the pop offerings Kim dropped 15 years ago.

Some of these tracks – including her cover of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” with RuPaul – did not make the final cut. And part of Lil’ Kim’s additional recording did add more of a “street edge” to the final product. Still, Kim’s sophomore effort remained a glossier and far more commercial affair. Some of it was done quite cleverly, a la “How Many Licks” featuring Sisqó, which samples the theme from the TV series Knight Rider. Others, like the Pat Benatar-sampling “Don’t Mess With Me” and the album’s lead single, “No Matter What They Say,” were more overt.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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Most of last night’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta centered on truth, or, in Mimi Faust’s case, her ever-changing version of it. With all due respect to Our Lady of the Yell, her habit of delivering Tyler Perry play-style monologues does not alter the fact that Mimi often sounds like the kind of woman Iyanla Vanzant screams at on any given Saturday night on OWN. So, when the episode kicked off with Mimi speaking in soft voices to Stevie J about her role in the making and distribution of her sex tape, I was unmoved. Like, I literally just sipped my wine and rolled my eyes until the scene finished.

I don’t understand why Mimi felt the need to not only lie, but to continue to lie despite everyone around her nearly saying, “WE DO NOT BELIEVE YOUR LIES, WOMAN.”

That’s probably why Mimi’s bestie, Ariane, proceeded to call her out despite her ass hanging out. Yes, Ariane was modeling for Margeaux’s art show. She was in body paint, which I didn’t realize was still a thing. Margeaux claims she didn’t really know a lot of people in Atlanta, but she sent out an email blast and hoped for the best. Yeah, whatever. People in Atlanta will show up for the opening of a bottle of a Myx Moscato. Of course people were going to roll up to the film set.

In any event, Ariane heard Mimi acknowledge her part in the porn she shot with Margeaux’s husband (and her one time boyfriend) and that set her off. They yelled at each other outside, and though that may seem like cause for alarm, this is Mimi Faust we’re talking about. All that woman does is yell, scream, shout. And shoot porn, as it were.

Margeaux was unmoved by Mimi’s reveal given she told her a bold face lie one week prior. I can’t say that I blame her, but then again, Margeaux keeps trying to make fetch happen as far as Nikko being a good person goes. She needs to join Mimi in letting the lie within her die. That said, Margeaux did tell Nikko that she wants to “separate.” She did not use the word divorce, so I’m not sure of how far this “separation” will go.

Whatever the case, I hope this marks the eventual end of Margeaux and Nikko on this show. I don’t care about these two’s marriage and the only reason they’ve been around is because of Mimi. But now that Mimi admitted the obvious, can we get Smithers to release the hounds and chase these two off the premises? I wish them well in all their future endeavors, but again, I don’t care. Goodbye.

While Margeaux and Nikko were ending their strange marriage, Momma Dee’s former husband, Ernest, proposed to the woman who had him locked up for stealing from her son. Speaking of, before that fantastically fucking crazy proposal happened, Ernest had Scrappy meet him at a BBQ spot to talk about his plans. I appreciate Momma Dee’s ex-husband who she put in jail always making cast members meet him at a BBQ or wing spot. All he has to do now is take Momma Dee and the family to get a fish plate and the trifecta will be complete.

Anyway, Ernest had the perfect location for a marriage proposal: inside of a church. That is kind of genius given it would be rude as hell to turn someone down inside of a church, and even if they do, you’ve got a bunch of people willing to lay hands on you. And, you know, maybe some panties ‘cause church freaks are great comforters. Or so I’ve heard.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Early in her career, Janet Jackson’s music reflected a more demure approach towards sexuality. She was essentially a cross between Donna Martin on the original 90210 and Khia’s “Snatch The Cat Back,” if you will. Then came the janet. album (a personal favorite) where she effectively turned that cherry out. It is a personal favorite of mine because it encompassed both Janet’s social consciousness and her burgeoning sexuality. Ever since that album, Damita Jo continued to provide us sex jam after sex jam. So, in honor of her and her new sensual single, “No Sleeep,” I’m reflecting on my favorite sex songs from Our Lady of The Butterfly.

They are not ranked in any particular order, so feel free to pull your knifes back.

“Would You Mind,” All For You

 I’m almost certain I am not allowed to recite the majority of these lyrics of this song, but let me just say, there’s no finer example of how arousing a whisper and coo can be when they’re executed correctly.

“Warmth,” Damita Jo

If “Would You Mind” could reproduce, it would be “Warmth.” They’re both similar in structure, theme, and delivery, but I give not a single damn. If I can love Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande, I can love both of these songs, too.

If you’re wondering, “Moist” from this same album is the second cousin of “Would You Mind.”

“Twenty Foreplay,” Design of a Decade: 1986-1996

Pardon me, but I’m about to get a lil’ mushy here. So, the beginning of this underrated gem is very lullaby-ish and full of the sort of lovey dovey language Drake wants to have with the southern strippers who always seem to let him down. Say, my favorite line from the song, “When you wake and your smile meets mine, my day begins. You’re my inspiration. Seeing your face glow is the nicest of hellos.”

For me, when love and sex intersect, the latter is when its best. I know, I know: I sound like Mariah Carey. In any event, midway through the song, the real love themes switch to raunchiness and Janet makes the following command: “Ya made love to mind, now you gotta take me from behind.” This song is everything. Y’all best start appreciating it more.

“The Body That Loves You,” janet.

This song, like “Twenty Foreplay,” is a mix of the sentimental and sensual. And like “Twenty Foreplay,” I don’t think “The Body That Loves You” is spoken of enough.

“These are the hands that’ll touch you. These are the lips that’ll kiss you. These are the arms that’ll hold you.”

And this is the writer that’ll get you to pay homage.

Read the rest at VH1 Music.

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During an interview on the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” Obama argued that while America has made some advancement in terms of race relations, “What is also true is the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it.”

Obama added, “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”

This is a thoughtful take on the state of racism in this country, but naturally, cable news chose instead to focus on “nigger.” Earlier today, a CNN segment weighing in on whether or not it was okay for Obama to use language that is “offensive to some.” It’s been a question I’ve since noticed has been repeated on the network. Then there is Fox News, which asked the same question with a panel of four white people.

I wish I could be amused by mass media’s disingenuousness. President Obama is not the first president to use “nigger,”—he’s merely the first one not to use it as a slur. For all his work on passing civil rights legislation, former Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson let the word fly freely and routinely from his mouth. The same goes for former Republican president Richard Nixon, and for Harry Truman, when he called Adam Clayton Powell “that damned nigger preacher.”

And, you know, all those other presidents who owned slaves and expressed deep contempt for black people.

So, with that in mind, what purpose does it serve asking whether or not the first black president’s use of “nigger” in the context of a larger reflection on covert versus overt racism relevant? Because a few white people will object? Who cares? How much longer are we going to entertain thoughts of whether or not there is a double standard at play? This is a ruse of the highest order. Even if you don’t agree with the approach, black people use “nigga” in a different context than “nigger.” Whites have every other advantage over blacks; they can take the “L” on this one word.

Context is everything. It’s not like Obama greeted Loretta Lynch as his “nigga” on stage recently. (Had he done so, I’d still stick with the belief that black people can say it and white people cannot. But he did not go there.) What Obama did was remind people—many of whom needed to hear it—that racism is not just calling someone a racial slur. It’s not just about a confederate flag, either.

Read the rest at Talking Points Memo.

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One way to make me shut up.

A photo posted by Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) on

“I told you when you came out to me that you weren’t going to end up with a black man,” my sister said to me recently, laughing hysterically. I had just told her about a friend of mine predicting my future, which involved an interracial marriage, the two of us remodeling a brownstone and being featured on HGTV.

There’s nothing wrong with interracial relationships. They’ve given me Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, a few lifelong friends and plenty of men to fawn over on Instagram. In the future, romantic relationships in this country are poised to become even more multiracial, not less.

Yet, I’ve always wanted to end up with someone like me — though ideally with less student loan debt. I’m not against dating anyone else, but I want someone who not only looks like me, but also understands me.

Being black in this country often requires you to explain yourself in settings where you are the clear minority. Who wants to do that in their personal life? I don’t like having to explain why it’s okay for me to use “the n-word” and not you, or why you shouldn’t touch my friend’s hair, no matter how tempted you are. I never want to have to yell out something like “cuz I’m black b—-!!!!” the way Rihanna once did on Twitter when met with a stupid question about “nappy hair.”

I also think it’s important for gay black men to be seen romantically involved with other gay black men. I write against the notions that black people are more homophobic than other groups. I actively speak out on the representation of gay black men in mass media. I criticize the lack of visibility of black LGBT couples on television and film. I feel that it’s important to counter the caricature-like images of how black people are presented, so I’ve gotten a little uneasy about being the black guy who dates “others.”

In my dating life, I also worry about someone choosing me just because I might feed a fetish. I have never dated a white man, but I did have, uh, an encounter, with one once. I felt like I was his science fair project. Unless Ryan Phillippe drops me a line, I may never bother again.

So I have placed pressure on myself to be the change that I advocate for in my writing. I just have not been successful in that endeavor — at all.

When black people say they prefer dating outside of black, I sometimes hear self-loathing in that statement. I do not want people thinking that I hate myself, or my black features, or that I find other groups of men superior. I do not hate myself or others like me. I just have not had a lot of success with black men upon moving to New York City two years ago. 

Since that time, most of the men I have dated do not look like me. The majority of them have been Latino. I match with them mostly on Tinder. And on those other apps. (I live not too far from 125th Street, so this cannot be attributed to location.) The same goes for in person, my preferred form of meeting men.

Most of the Latinos I’ve dated resemble Marc Anthony if he ate more steak. And I feel incredibly guilty about it: I feel like I’m letting myself and other black people down.

When I told a heterosexual friend of mine currently dating a white man about my feelings, she told me: “I feel like that daily. I’m in my first healthy relationship, and it’s with a white guy.” It makes you question where and what the problem is: You, those around you, or some combination of the two.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

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bey1I was frying bacon when Beyoncé revealed that her “big announcement” for Good Morning America was something she discussed months ago: that she used a vegan diet to shed pounds and would now like to sell you the meal plan she used with nutritionist and exercise physiologist Marco Borges. I ate my bacon as planned. I had a feeling that she had something to shill rather than reveal, so unlike other certain members of The Beyhive, I was not angrily lighting up Beyoncé’s Instagram page with pizza, hot dog, pig, and chicken in protest.

But there was something about the now infamous segment that made me wince a little bit, though.

If you notice, Beyoncé did not do an interview so much as essentially email GMA a video clip she quite possibly shot from her iPhone – which they gleefully ran anyway. It reminded me of a recent New York Times story on this same subject where Beyoncé provided quotes, but not directly. Writer Courtney Rubin noted that via email, “Beyoncé wrote ‘At first it’s the little things I noticed: I had more energy’ — though, sadly, not enough to deal with a reporter asking about it on the phone, as had been promised for more than a month.” A rep explained that Beyoncé “has not answered any direct questions for more than a year.”

So I’ve noticed. Why? How long will this last?

To be fair, there have been advantages to this strategy. In “Beyoncé Exercises Control in All (Instagram) Things — and the Result Is Flawless,” Jenna Worthman writes, “In a world where Black women are largely invisible, Beyoncé has managed to become not only one of the most famous women on the planet but also one of the most followed and celebrated on the Internet.”

We are not entitled to the details of Beyoncé’s life, but Beyoncé has managed to give the public just enough to satisfy our collective insatiable need for all things celebrity. She does so on her own terms, and for a Black female celebrity to yield that level of control, it is impressive as it is admirable. Nonetheless, while that works for social media, does that level of control and choreography work as well in plain media? Especially when you are trying to enter a lane – lifestyle – that you are not known for?

Would people have been as upset with that overhyped GMA tease had it included an actual interview with Beyoncé where she could have discussed the diet while dually breezing by whatever other inane questions presented before her?

Body image, dieting, and lifestyle change are supremely personal matters. A video segment by a hugely popular celebrity can command wide attention, but when you think about celebrities who sell fitness and food products, it’s more than just that. For all those loud Jennifer Hudson commercials hawking Weight Watchers, there were several interviews to go with them. As in actual dialogue— not copying, pasting, and having the writers and producers do the grunt work.

A part of me realizes that Black celebrities – particularly those who have reached that level of stardom – can quickly be chopped down by mass media. If you find Michael Jackson too controversial an example, you can see what happened to Janet Jackson following the 2004 Super Bowl. Only now is there widespread excitement about her comeback, but for the decade that followed “Nipplegate,” it was her core fans keeping her afloat – and Tyler Perry film roles.

But, but, but: If President Obama can do YouTube and Reddit interviews, can Beyoncé return to charming talk show hosts and stans posing as journalists for a few minutes of conversation?

Read the rest at VH1.

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