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.

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way": The Review

Lady Gaga’s second full-length album Born This Way opens with “Marry The Night,” one of the most epic pop songs you will ever hear. Clearly aimed to kickstart the album with the kind of massive statement MJ nailed with Thiller‘s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” “Marry The Night” opens with somber church organ and decidedly pensive vocals before erupting into a blast of synths, and never lets up. It sounds like classic Whitney Houston produced by Max Martin, and it is arguably the best song Lady Gaga has ever released. It’s that good.

Born This Way should crumble under the weight of such a masterful opening salvo (not to mention unbelievable hype), but it doesn’t. Not by a long shot.

The Stank Eye Woman Syndrome and how Black Male Privilege is to Blame: Are Black Men Really Ignorant of how they “Compartmentalize” their “Female Friends”?

So, in the traditional way in which black people begin their stories, “What had happened was . . .”

I attended this event where one of my best male friends was hosting. Upon arriving my best male friend comes and says, pejoratively and with great amusement, “Your friend is over there,” hinting to a black woman who every time I see her she gives me what I can the “stank eye.” And, if you are a heterosexual black woman you are quite familiar with either giving the “stank eye” or receiving the “stank eye.” Long story short, my best friend decides to play what I call, “The Great Black Male Conciliator.” He decides to prompt the “stank eye” woman to reconcile with me. I should state at this point in the story, I am somewhat hazy on why every time I see this woman she gives me the “stank eye.” Anyways, she comes over and tries to be nice to me and, of course, it comes across as completely disingenuous.

So, after leaving the event, it came to me why this woman continues to give me the “stank eye.” And, it has everything to do with my best friend. The “stank eye” woman romantically likes my best friend and perceives me as competition. Because she only gives me the “stank eye” when I am with him. So, I call him up and tell him this. And, of course, he denies it and says in the way black men say, “We are just friends. We worked together to get Barack Obama elected. We spent a lot of time together doing that, but we are just friends. I know for a fact she does not like me in that way.” And, all I could say was, “Bullshit, you are completely impervious [let me use a smaller word, ignorant] of the privilege patriarchy gives you as a heterosexual man.”

Which brings us to the current discussion, “Are black men ignorant to how they engage their many female friends?”

Such a Painful Black Girl Reunion: Oprah and Iyanla

As a middle school student, I remember reading Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and thinking who is this black woman to write such a book about spiritual recovery that did not mention Jesus Christ as the penultimate factor in spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, back then I was a burgeoning Christian fundamentalist who enjoyed reading big girl books that I was not suppose to read including Terri McMillan’s How Stellar Got Her Groove Back and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed. So, now to watch Iyanla on Oprah tell her story of decline made me think about what it means for Black women to tell each other the “cold” truth in a world that in some very real ways are bent on our mental, spiritual, and physical demise or at the bare minimal our collective demoralization.

An Early Valentine’s Day Post: I am My Father’s Daughter

Next week is Valentine’s Day. So, I thought I would write an early post about it from the perspective of someone (i.e. me) who deeply desires “soul abiding” relationships, but who struggles greatly in that regard.

So, you know what is troubling for me is to look in the mirror and see myself becoming like my once alcoholic father who with the help of Seagram’s Gin would make grand physically violent scenes demanding that everyone—my mother, older sister, and I—look and see him and his power. Yes, my father was a profoundly broken man who inwardly desired acceptance and, most importantly, to be loved. My father needed the healing and rejuvenating power of love. But, because he was not given those tools as a little black boy growing up in Bryan, Texas he sought to gain acceptance and love through fear and intimidation. He became an abuser.

Now that I think about it, to do what my father did requires that you find ways to cover your eyes from seeing the act and consequences of your abuse. My father used Seagram’s Gin with a hint of ice to mentally block the terror he saw in my eyes when he with bare knuckles blackened my mother’s eyes and body. All abusers—white slave owners, dictators, child molesters, rapist, and, simply, spiritually broken people—must find ways to reduce the victim to an object in order to abuse them or find ways to mute the memory of their victimization. Yep, Seagram’s Gin was my father’s choice of denial.

Indeed, my father was once a broken man and now, I, his daughter, am in many ways a broken woman.

On the Use of "Honor Student": Phylicia Barnes’ Disappearance

A gifted student from North Carolina who was visiting family in Baltimore over the holidays, Barnes was scheduled to graduate early from high school. She did not have a history of running away or being a troubled child.

The Phylicia Simone Barnes’ story is one of profound sadness and injustice on many levels. We know that when our brown and black children go missing they go missing without any national attention from the media. We also know that courageous black parents keep the search alive through their sheer determination to find their children. We also know that there is both a racialized and gendered media double standard.

We know these things.

But, do we know how to write a story—a news article—about black women’s and black girls’ disappearances or stories of violence without having to highlight how good they are, how perfect of a mother they are, how good of a student they are, and how good of a wife they are?

Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday": THE REVIEW

You might not dig her style, and you might not be feeling her lyrical content, but you’d be hard-pressed to name one female rapper that is even in the same ballpark as Nicki Minaj right now. Prior to Minaj, female rappers were a dying breed, scoffed at by major labels, in and out of prison (Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Remy Ma and Da Brat, specifically) and constantly playing second fiddle to their male handlers.

Not Minaj; she recognized that her forbearers had completely dropped the ball, so she picked it up and ran with it. A slew of magazine covers, show-stealing cameos, and baseless, hateriffic rants from Lil’ Kim have followed, and through it all she’s remained remarkably steadfast in her quest for utter domination of Hip Hop and Pop music, poised to release one of the most feverishly anticipated albums of the year.

With Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj turns the oftentimes tenuous relationship between Hip Hop and Pop music on its head, blurring the lines between them with total confidence and reckless abandon. It’ll definitely piss off Hip Hop purists; but it’s also going to be huge.

Pink Friday is brash, funny, cocky, girlie, imperfect…and kinda irresistible.

Jay-Z on "Big Pimpin": "What kind of animal would say this sort of thing?"

 

Hip Hop impresario Jay-Z can now add “author” to his long list of accomplishments. 

Co-written by friend and journalist Dream Hampton, “Decoded” will tell the story of the music mogul’s life, as well as the evolution of Hip Hop in general, by paying particularly close attention to the intricacies of Jay’s many brilliant lyrical offerings. 

While being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal about this latest project, Jay was asked about the experience of reviewing his own lyrics written down on the page (since, as you must already know, Jay-Z is famous for composing his lyrics in his head, rather than writing them down). 

Hov’s response is priceless.