The Enduring Power of Tupac Shakur

Yesterday was Tupac Shakur’s 40th birthday. And though it has been 15 years since his untimely death, the continued fascination and adoration he conjures amongst black youth (and the world, at large) is a testament to an iconic, albeit brief career that truly transcended mere beats and rhymes. Subversive, contradictory and brutally honest, Tupac’s music told the story of the young black male coming of age in the 1990’s. It is a dichotomous story; one where an appreciation for unity and consciousness within the Black community collides with capitalistic ambition and the attainment of an American dream, by any means necessary. His work spoke truth to a racist, capitalistic power structure, while at the same time attempting to usurp and dominate that structure with its own values and tools.

And that’s what made Tupac’s music so powerful and dangerous.

Beyonce's "4": THE REVIEW

It’s always dangerous when an artist has nothing left to prove.

But after winning 16 Grammy Awards, selling 75 million records worldwide, and inspiring an entire generation of female (and male) artists with her intoxicating brand of 70’s soul-meets-Hip Hop Pop, Beyonce has every right not to.

So what is initially so stunning about 4 is that it does not reflect an artist resting on her laurels. Beyonce has made the ballsy choice to push forward, to reach higher. It may not result in the number one hits and platinum plaques she (still) deserves, but she’s got enough of those.

4 is what happens when a great artist has nothing left to prove. And it is a stunning album.

Rihanna's "Man Down" Video, and the Irrelevance of the Parents Television Council

A couple days ago, Rihanna released the music video for her latest single, “Man Down,” a pop-reggae song that tells the story of a young woman’s guilt and regret after murdering a man that deeply wronged her. Check out the video below.

The cinematic clip fleshes out the song’s storyline, conveying that the root of her actions is a harrowing sexual assault in an alley after a house party. The video is expertly directed and paced for maximum impact; Rihanna is effervescent and gorgeous, interacting with friends and neighbors in her small, island town. She is innocently enjoying her life until tragedy literally emerges from out of the darkness and forces itself upon her, utterly breaking her spirit.

“Man Down” is a heartbreaking, complicated and brilliant music video.

And so of course the Parents Television Council and other useless, opportunistic, media-watchdog groups are “pissed.” Go figure.

When a Black Mother takes the Helm: Trisha Fraser is Going to Sue Pro-Life Groups

Standing stalwart face bearing the knowledge of the coming storm with melded limbs of moving muscles sensing the pending fight . . . they dig their feet, their pumps, their gym shoes into the dirt provoking . . . if not downright bear baiting the coming foe . . . yes, things begin to change when black mothers take the Helm.

As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, I want to honor one Black mother, Ms. Trisha Fraser, who “not without a fight” energy illumines the power of standing against injustice for our children.

Loosen the Ties that Once Were Nuses

There have been too many occasions in which a Black business has taken advantage of its customers for the sake of maximizing their income. A boatload majority of the support for these businesses comes from other Black people, and in effect, the profit-focused regulation creates a sad reality. Economic projects, whether entrepreneurship or achievement of employment, should always start for generating wealth on behalf of the people. I have a valid prescription since the statistics of poverty consists of mostly Blacks and Hispanics. First condition: Our thin pockets have suffered racist obstacles of entering the workforce (discrimination by names with more three syllables, etc.). Another condition: all the options for consuming are without integrity and largely without Black descent. Some bosses have formed their Black businesses correctly (with scholarships, , but they are not the point. We still have some stakeholders pocket their exploitation of Blacks without any remorse, never to contribute to the welfare of the people.

Tyler Perry Is Full Of Sh*t….

This past week, at a press conference regarding his latest Madea flick, Tyler Perry told Spike Lee to go straight to hell. Clearly fed up with discussion of Lee’s comments a few years ago regarding the “coonery and baffoonery” that is Tyler Perry’s film career, Mr. Madea finally took a stand:

“Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”

Now Perry actually has a point here. To somehow frame his work as “the problem” is actually condescending to his audience. People pay money to see what they want to see. End of story.

But then Perry went too far.

“Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ was a new version of the ‘darkie’ because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone…”


Youth as the Miner's Canaries of Democracies!

In Peter Coy’s article the Kids Are Not Alright, he quotes that democracies are “much better at managing large numbers of highly educated people” than are nations with an official leader who has absolute authority (read: autocratic countries).  Leaders of autocratic nations face the dilemma of needing an educated work force to grow their country’s economy, but with increased levels of education the possibility of political dissent grows. This point is most elaborated in the recent youth revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.  A large part of what drove Egyptian and Tunisian youth to take action were the high unemployment rates. Across the globe youth in democracies also face high (or even higher) unemployment rates, yet, they aren’t toppling their respective governments. In democratic nations like Spain and the United States,  where the youth in Spain and American minority youth’s  unemployment rates are the equivalent or significantly higher than those rates seen in Egypt and Tunisia, why are the youth not carrying out mass political demonstrations?

BEYONCE IS BACK, But Does She Still Rule The World?

She’s baaaaaaaaaack.

This past week, the hype machine went into overdrive with news of the coming storm that is Beyonce’s next album. Said to be released in June, this is a crucial moment in Bey’s career; she’s got some fierce competition for the Pop throne she once ruled with impunity.

But judging by the brief snippet of her new single, titled “Girls (That Rule The World),” and images of her ridiculously fierce get-up for the song’s highly anticipated music video, I’m thinking she’ll be alright.

MISTER CEE'S ARREST, And Rap's Fear Of A Gay Hip Hip Head

Nobody is more Hip Hop than Mister Cee.

He was Big Daddy Kane’s DJ during his prime in the late eighties. He was an early mentor to The Notorious B.I.G., even acting as an associate executive producer on his landmark debut album, Ready To Die. And he’s a longstanding radio DJ and personality at New York’s Hot 97, arguably the most famous Hip Hop radio station in the world.

It just doesn’t get much more Hip Hop than that. And unfortunately, it also doesn’t get more Hip Hop than getting arrested by the NYPD, so the intial news of Mister Cee’s arrest last week in New York City didn’t raise too many eyebrows. Getting into trouble with the law? Having your wrists cuffed behind your back? No problem. Very Hip Hop.

But getting arrested for receiving a blowjob from a 20 year-old man in a parked car? Apparently, that’s problematic. Go figure.