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The Case for Nicki Minaj: My New Girl Crush

Posted by JD on Saturday, October 31, 2009 , under | comments (3)




Female rappers usually fade away quicker than Bad Boy Artists. By the time I heard Nicki Minaj’s name for the first time I had already given up on female rappers. Every time I’d gotten excited about a new girl MC things would quickly fall apart.

Lil Kim, who had probably the most solid album of all time by a lady rapper, had a career and image that fell apart after the death of Notorious BIG. Foxxy Brown came out of the gate strong. First featured on LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya” Remix at just 16 years old, she blew us away on Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Nigga” and continued with a solid string of hits, until her personal life began to derail. Even Lauryn Hill, whose skills and mounting problems need no reiteration here, hasn’t delivered a 2nd solo album leaving her fans confused and wondering when they’ll ever get another glimpse of the talented triple threat.

Over the years we've seen a rash of other names, some with alot of skill--Remy Ma, Rah Digga are two that come to mind. Other female rappers have served as not much more than arm and eye candy for the men. Trina, the materialistic feminist nightmare pretty girl former stripper from MIA; Charlie Baltimore, most known for her affair with B.I.G., and Eve who started strong but most of her rap buzz had fizzled by the 2nd album. The list of barely-memorable-female-rappers goes on and on.

As of now, there’s only one female emcee making an impact on radio, and she’s the subject of the typical hate her or love her controversy bestowed on most females in the rap game. Nicki Minaj, whose real name is Onika Miraj, is a 25 year old singer/rapper from Jamaica Queens who calls her girl fans Barbies and sports bright colored make-up and form-fitting clothing to drive the Barbie image home.




The first couple of promo shots of Nicki that circulated around the web made it easy to dismiss her as another girl using sex to get a pass on real rhyme skills. At first, I refused to even download her mixtape “Beam Me Up Scotty” because I was convinced that there was no way I would ever be impressed.

I was wrong.

“Beam Me Up Scotty” is a varied mix of tracks that gives us a good glimpse into who Nicki is—or at least what her image will be. In a span of 14 tracks, she successfully comes off strong, vulnerable, aware, analytical, sexy, independent, sweet, funny, creative, youthful, wise, demanding, playful, and fearless. She doesn’t fall into the traps that other female rappers have fallen into. She doesn’t pick one thing to be…sex symbol, hardcore bitch, or Hollywood glamourpuss and she doesn’t mix all of those images up at will leaving us confused. Nicki manages to show potential to be the multi-dimensional woman rapper we’ve been waiting to see.


The more I listen to Nicki the more I like her vocal approach, flow, and the way she is shaping her image. I’ve even been impressed at her interview skills, a surprise given the fact that the music industry has all but given up on developing artists into people who can say more than “amazing” or “you know what I’m saying.” At any rate, I was inspired to write this article to encourage skeptic to give Nicki a chance.

I’ll start with her voice which many critics have said is “annoying,” I can’t help but think that that’s in part because rarely do women rap in a voice that is readily identifiable as female. P Lil Kim and Foxxy have speaking voices at least 3 registers higher than their rapping voices. Nicki only occasionally dips into her lower register. People have also commented on her use of a British accent in some of her rhymes, but there are many instances in which this technique works for her. In particular, on the track “Mind on My Money” when she raps the following in near-Hackney:

Get me my limosine/all in your magazine/and when I come/ dem betta lean like Promethazine/ they say nicki nice/I'm bout my money mama/and tell Michelle I got my eye on Barack Obama/tryin to get that Madonna/you know/ Hannah Montana/and you can find me sittin Indian style with the Dalai Lama/ Konichiwa/ I get my yin and I say sayonara/I'm meditating/I'm in cahootz with a higher power

The British accent takes some of the bite of the Obama line helping it come across as playful as she intended. It fits the rhyme scheme is an attention-holding variation. In the vamp, Nicki weaves in a Buddhist chant that is immediately reminiscent of the scene in the movie “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in which Tina Turner is first introduced to the religion. Nicki shows that she can inject humor and iconic images into her rhymes.

Coincidentally, on that same song, Nicki’s co-star is Busta Rhymes. Nicki’s penchant for escalating the volume of her voice when she rhymes has drawn some fair and unfair comparisons to her mentor Lil Wayne. Nicki’s vocal inflections (not to mention her physical movements) remind me more of Busta Rhymes than Wayne. Dramatic vocal escalations and inflections are nothing new in hip hop, although Nicki might be the first female rapper to use them and certainly the first I can remember doing so effectively.

Her best use of this technique can be heard on “Itty Bitty Piggy.” This song is also arguably one of her best lyrical performances as well. In the song she raps:

And if you see itty bitty piggy in the market/Give that bitch a quarter and a cart/ tell her park it/I don't fuck with pigs like Asa Lama Lakum/I put em in a field/And I let Oscar Meyer bake’em

She escalates her voice on the last line, making the delivery more menacing than it reads. The entirety of Itty Bitty Piggy is an impressive mix of vocal exercises. She begins the song by saying “I was on a plane with Dwayne/they used to call me Whitley I go to Hillman.” Clearly the metaphor here is that she actually does fly on planes with Dewayne (Carter) but the Whitley impression she dives into makes this bar that much more interesting. The tirade she launches into at the end of the song in which she orders people to "pick her fruit out" is befitting of an image of a woman who has arrived and has a sense of humor about it.



Speaking of image, Nicki has shown a willingness to correct marketing mistakes. The first promo pic of Nicki released to the public was a lollipop guild remake of Lil Kim’s infamous "Hard Core" cover where she squats in front of the camera leaving very little to the imagination. Since then, Nicki has “classed” it up. Her recent photo shoot for Honey Magazine was a move in the right direction. She’s also stopped referring to herself as “Nicki Lewinsky” and has toned down the sexy image to a great degree, although her decision to emphasize her rear end at the BET awards created a firestorm of comments that probably did her more harm than good.

Nevertheless, Nicki’s focus on her female fans is one that should help her ride out such storms. As she moves into making videos, she should continue to focus on her female fans by staying away from the tried and true use of half-naked female video ‘models,’ or by going too-sexy and alienating her young girl fans (not to mention their parents). Her first mainstream video which was for Yo Gotti’s “Five Star Chick Remix” featuring Nicki in addition to Gucci Mane and Trina drew a lot of criticism. Her facial expressions, eye movements, and body animations were probably more dramatic than she intended. However, there’s no denying she stood out in the video, drew a contrast to the other more subdued deliveries.

Nicki has so far been able to position herself as the girl both the girls and boys want to be with. Many women, including myself, have admitted to having girl crushes on Miss Minaj. To that point, she makes many references to being bisexual at various points in the album but never goes overboard with the sexual references. Her sexuality is never handled with the blunt seriousness used by Trina and Kim—we don’t know for sure if Nicki is one of the “Girls Kissing Girls” at Gucci Mane’s party or just an innocent bystander.

Nicki keeps it playful and direct rather than nasty and explicit. In other words, there’s no bragging about being able to make a sprite can disappear in her mouth. Nicki is a millennium woman, she’s getting “more head than pigtail” not handing it out all willy nilly. One gets the impression that if doesn't much care whether her man (or woman) gets pleased or not.


Quite frankly, she’s pretty enough to avoid having to please anyone. Nicki Minaj has the sort of looks that other female rappers would (and have) paid for. I ran across a picture of Nicki and the beautiful actress Lauren London, a favorite of the boys, and the resemblance was striking. One could easily see Nicki branching out into other more visually driven projects and having no problems blending in with the mainstream beauties.

Ms. Minaj is not unaware of her internet buzz—both positive and negative. In “Still I Rise” she addresses the rumors from questions about her sexuality and ethnicity to the harsh criticism she’s been subjected to by people who haven’t even heard her rap or sing one lyric. Her ability to sing is another selling point for me. One of my favorite songs on “Beam Me Up Scotty” is “Envy.” I think she shows off some respectable singing chops on “Envy’s” chorus, and not only is this particular song lyrically solid, it’s also at points funny and poignant.

All in all, I can’t help but think that if Nicki can continue on the path she’s establishing for herself, we might be headed toward our very first female rap success story.


What do you think? Are you Happy About Nicki’s entrance into the rap game?

I am pasting the lyrics to “Envy” below, all you Nicki fans feel free to use the comment box to insert your favorite Nicki verses.


Why did you envy/Why you go against me?
When I got trendy/Why you ain't commend me?
Why when I needed it/Why you could'nt lend me?
Why you was secretive?/ frontin like you friendly
Why did you fear dat?/ held my career back
Kick it like air max/ I don't wanna hear dat
But now I see, see, see, see/ all ya run down
Nigga bettah have my money/ by sun down
Cause now when I come thru/ I'm stlyin on em
It's like I got hotta then islands on em
They say she got colder than igloos/ did she?
I'm in a GT/she in a mitshubishi
Just left Mr. Miyagi/ tell dat b*tch jump/ if that b*tch feel froggy
Cause I got one leg up. in da middle of the ring
And da b*tch betta duck. when da bell go DING!

The H in Halloween is for Hoe?




The photo on the left is a "Sexy Willy Wonka" costume. Huh?



Today is Halloween, and every year this time, thousands of women get excited about their chance to have a reason to be almost-naked in public. To wear lingerie outside of the bedroom. To give guys who will probably be dressed in their normal uniform of t-shirt and jeans but with a mask, a peep show they don’t even deserve. On twitter, @areefuhstanklin tweeted about girls putting ‘sexy’ in front of all the costumes e.g. “sexy bus driver,” “sexy police officer.” And it makes me wonder, why isn’t “bus driver” or “police officer” enough of a costume itself? And if you want an excuse to be sexy, why not dress up as a playboy bunny or some other character that actually does exist. This year, while searching for my own costume, I ran across a “sexy Raggedy Ann” and a “sexy Strawberry shortcake” SEXY STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE?!?!?!!

Somewhere along the line, Halloween went from an excuse for adults to have a little fun by getting in costume to an excuse for grown women to dress like sluts. A lot of these web sites etc. from which these ‘ladies’ are ordering costumes are actually lingerie shops and it’d be great if you ladies just admitted you were wearing lingerie rather than calling yourself a sexy maid. All in all this creates a difficult dynamic for those of us who’d rather keep their clothes in the freezing October temperatures. My Halloween plans got changed, but my previous plan was to dress up as Smurfette--Simple, white dress, blonde wig, blue long-sleeved leotard. Not sure how that would have played at the lingerie oops I mean Halloween party anyhow.


(Photo above is a Dirty Martini...get it? DIRTY??)

So let’s discuss…is the H in Halloween for hoe? Should we all just bite the bullet and strip down for Halloween’s sake?









15 abortions in 15 years...A Woman Speaks!

Posted by JD on Friday, October 30, 2009 , under | comments (1)



Picture of Irene Vilar from washingtonpost.com

I ran across an article in the Washington Post about Irene Vilar, a woman who, in 15 years, had 15 abortions. Most of the abortions happened within her marriage. In the article, she describes getting pregnant and then terminating pregnancy as a pathology related to control. In other words, having abortions became an addiction to her not unlike a drug addict or anorexic would face. Abortions gave her a sense of control--she could start a pregnancy when she wanted and also end it at will. As you can see, this pathological behavior went on for a very long time. She now has two kids and is writing a book about her experience.

This story bothered me for many reasons, but one reason in particular. I'm pro-choice and I understand why not many medical records are kept on women who have abortions linking them to the procedures they've had. Abortion is still a hotbed topic in this country, and many clinics aren't even safe due to the anti-abortion movement that tends to condone violence as a way of promoting its cause. But I also believe that we do a very poor job of taking care of mentally ill people in this country, and this woman exhibited a very dangerous pathology having abortion after abortion beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy---having an abortion at 16 or 17 weeks is edging toward cruelty. Mrs. Vilar says that she often lied to her healthcare practitioners about her abortion history etc, and was offered counseling options many times over the years. I wonder if this country will ever reconcile issue and be able to provide women with good health care as well as privacywhen it comes to this issue while still leaving enough of a trail that can stop abortion from becoming a part of a greater illness.

Like most magazine-length articles that the Post publishes, there was an accompanying chat held with this woman. One of the questions was about whether or not she is mentally stable enough now to be a good mother. The article mentions that she's considering a 3rd child (with her 3rd husband). Here's the question and how she responded:

I don't know how to say this without being rude . . . : But are you really stable enough to be a mom? I can see going through the abortion process maybe once or twice, but the utter self-absorption involved in doing it 15 times makes me wonder how you are going to handle motherhood.

And yes, I know you have a pathology, but a frequent co-occurring symptom of that is a complete inability to see the world through a lens of anything other than your own needs.

Irene Vilar: Thank you for opening your question so tactfully...I understand your question. It is a valid question. Do you think people that overcome neurotic ailments, an alcoholic, an anorexic, a depressed personality, cannot mother?

_______________________


Follow-up: No, I don't believe that a person who is depressed, neurotic ,etc., is incapable of being a good parent. We all pass on to our children our valleys as well as our peaks.

My question, which I should [have] phrased more tactfully, is how able you are to deal with motherhood? The very question of motherhood seems that it would be absolutely fraught with emotional landmines. I wish you the best of luck -- injuries dealt in childhood, like your abandonment at a very early age, can have the greatest repercussions. I struggle with motherhood and have not gone through a fraction of what you have.

Irene Vilar: Yes, thank you...Well, therapy is a major homework in healing and I committed to this for years-Motherhood has been redemptive, humbling, and a daily source of the best kind of affirmation and self-validation. I read constantly about psychology and child development and also see a therapist once a month as an anchor.



...
on how she overcame her "abortion addiction..."

Irene Vilar:
Psychotherapy, intense, three times per week for over two years, and writing this book, of course, throughout the process. Also, my husband who I married seven years ago, the father of our children, a most compassionate and tolerant man, non judgmental, the best of America is in him, a man who saw what I could become if I was given the chance...



And Mrs. Vilar's description of her forthcoming book:


I am a Puerto Rican brought up by a depressed mother whose own mother chose political struggle over mothering her. I am too the daughter of a woman who was sterilized despite herself as part of an American led experiment (developing as a result a valium addiction), who was betrayed by her husband and who had little opportunity to have access to education and who eventually committed suicide. When I graduated from high school at the age of fifteen I had one desire, to escape to America and be free to do exactly what I wanted. This meant for me that as a fifteen-year old freshman in college I did not have to submit to any rule or law when it came to my sexuality. I wanted control over my body and the way I chose to have control could not have been more terrible. I fell in love with my literature professor. He was a philosopher and self proclaimed feminist who wanted no children and thought that women should be sterile if they wanted a career and a true life of freedom. Call it an act of adolescent rebellion, the "reckless" desire to be fully a woman for a couple of days, whatever, but I "unconsciously" and systematically forgot to take my birth control pills and defied him. Thinking back through our mothers, as Virginia Wolff said, I know today that with each pregnancy I defied him as much as I defied the politics of sterilization that took my mother away from me. It was not a rational behavior, of course, when one is looking for a strategy of survival with very limited tools one uses what makes sense in a sick way. I wanted control over my body and the way I chose to have control could not have been more terrible. Getting pregnant brought a strange feeling: I could bring it on with nobody's permission and I could interrupt it with nobody's permission. Of course this did not mean that I wanted to do it again and again -- a druggie also wants to stop every time. I was a creature in suspended animation addicted to the high of agency in pregnancy and the shame of the down side, the inevitable termination built into the cycle in order to not lose him and also in order to be close to my mother, by identifying with the subjugated, powerless version of her. My blinding desire for control was at the core of my neurosis, very much like an anorexic.


Read more about Mrs. Vilar's fascinating story here. Read the corresponding chat here.

Celebrity Apprentice 3 is Looking Kind of Brown!





I don't watch TV, but still! I would have appreciated it if people would have told me that Celebrity Apprentice 3 was going to be extra dark chocolate! Darryl Strawberry, Holly Robinson Peete, Selita Ebanks, and Sinbad!

I may actually watch this season. I don't know about you, but I think the addition of more black people might change the dynamic on the show. Maybe I'll watch and review episodes on the site. I watched the first couple seasons of regular apprentice. I found it enjoyable, but like all things it got stale after a while.

Will yall be watching this season?






Mel B Goes Blonde! ... and I am NOT Happy About This!

Posted by JD on , under | comments (2)




I am all for branching out and trying new things...but I am NOT happy about this look for Mel B.

The former Spice Girl showed up to the Glaceau Vitamin Water event looking way too interesting for words. Surprising cause she usually looks beautiful. I am still in disbelief at the pics that surfaced of her bikini body.

However, this hair...chile boo! The color is all wrong, and not only that, it looks as though she didn't do a very good job of braiding down her illustrious curls. There's a huge hump on top of her head. Paris Hilton meets The Coneheads?

What do yall think about Mel's hair? Are you happy about this?

For the Love of Ray J (trailer)! Will You Watch?

Posted by JD on , under | comments (1)



I was addicted to Reality TV at one point...Flavor of Love, Real Housewives of (insert city/state), Millionaire Matchmaker, Flipping Out, Biggest Loser..I could go on and on. But earlier this year, I pretty much gave up television altogether. I was reality tv'd out. My favorite sitcom "The Game" was canceled and in constant reruns on BET, and I was behind on the only other scripted show I love "New Adventures of Old Christine" and have since been ordering it through Netflix.

I ran across the trailer for "For the Love of Ray J 2," and I think this might be the show that makes me turn my television back on. My mom, of all people, had me watching that show last season. I saw about 4 episodes, it wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. I am a Ray J fan (yeah I said it), I think he's cute. But the idea of yet another show about men pretending to look for love was unappealing to me. Don't we get enough of men doing this in real life?

If you didn't follow the first season, there was a girl named Danger with a tiger tattooed on her face. She was the target and the impetus of lots of drama, including after the show when she claimed she was pregnant by Ray J. Well she was definitely pregnant, and she shows up on Season 2 to tell Ray J's new "love interests," that she and Ray are having a baby.

I can guess this to be a ploy to see how the ladies react as VH1 as already confirmed that Ray J ain't the Papi. Beyond that, Ray J says in the trailer that the girls this season will be less over-the-top. Does this mean no strippers??

I think this season, if they want people to watch, they should definitely go for more subtle. Make it look a little more real.




Will you watch?

Cheap Accessories: The Day I Lost a Ring, And a Man

Posted by JD on Thursday, October 29, 2009 , under | comments (2)



(From August 2009)

Today I lost 4 carats of diamonds. I cried about it. Seriously, I cried. I usually only buy cheap accessories because I am afraid I’ll either break or lose them. I still remember the day I bought that ring…as the cashier rung it up, and I handed her my credit card, I kept thinking I should tell her to stop. I should put that ring back b/c 3 months from now I won’t know where it is. All I will have left of it is my credit card bill.

The last time I saw my ring, I was coming back from spending the night at this guy’s house that I’ve been getting to know for a while. I knew before I ever agreed to get together with him that night, that it was a mistake. He doesn’t care anything about me, and I’m not sure what the attraction is on my end aside from the physical.

A year ago, I said that I was done with casual dating/sex and wanted something more serious. I thought that he might be someone that I could take my time and get to know and see where it goes. But quickly, he showed himself to be a lot like other men…skiddish, suspicious, insecure, and convinced that he is a good man despite having no supporting evidence.

Even though the last time I saw my ring I was leaving his house, I still searched for it for 3 hours before texting him to see if I’d left it there. Why? Because if I had left it at his house and he hadn’t seen it, I knew he wouldn’t care enough to look. Plus this was 3 days after I’d last seen him and he hadn’t bothered to call me. At all. For any reason. Not even to see if I’m alive.

Men like him are the ultimate cheap accessory.

Although I want to be in a relationship, and I believe I have a lot to offer someone, I am still stuck in a cycle of meeting and dealing with men who are nothing but cheap accessories on an otherwise well-made life. And I am starting to believe that, much like my fear of losing an expensive item keeps me in the frugal zone, the fear of finding a good man only to later lose him somehow is part of the reason why I’ve remained single so long. Not many truly good men have crossed my path, but the very few that have didn’t get the type of attention from me they probably deserved.

I remember shopping with my mom when I was little. She would never buy anything white, no matter how much she loved it. No matter how beautiful it was, she’d touch and stare at it, hang it back on the rack and leave it in the store because life gets messy, and she didn’t want to spill anything on it. White gets dirty fast. And sometimes it’s impossible to clean.

But is the fear of messing something up or losing something a reason to never acquire items (or people) you truly want to hold on to? Relationships are messy. They get dirty fast, and sometimes, they are impossible to clean. But if it adds value to your life, shouldn’t you go for it anyway?

Losing the ring got me thinking. I only have 3 pieces of property in this world of any value: a 5 yr old German Shepherd, a 1 yr old Land Rover, and a missing diamond ring. I am still paying for all 3. And each of them has caused me fear in some way. Fear of losing my ring (I have), fear of my dog dying (he will), and fear of losing my car to some economical hardship (I could).

But I don’t regret any of these purchases because I know that I shouldn’t let fear drive my decisionmaking. Hopefully, one day I will meet a good man and it will be an offer I can’t refuse. Until then dating remains a little scary. And unfortunately I still have a couple cheap accessories that I need to lose.

The Rise of the Booty; The Demise of Black Female Self-Esteem

Posted by JD on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 , under , | comments (9)



Over the years I have struggled with my bottomless figure. I’ve always had more than enough on top; however, I never got the booty gene. Sometimes I like to joke that I don’t have a butt because Jesus knows how much you can bear. And Lawd knows if I had a booty, a lot of things would be different. Think I’m uppity now? CHILE PLEASE!

I first remember lamenting my booty-less figure in middle school--around 1995. I think that’s when booties really came in style and boys at school started to make comments about the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ This has been a major "downside" to the proliferation of black-owned media i.e. video channels and magazines. Black people are now using their own media to promote unattainable standards for black females. And I hate to admit it, but even I am a victim spending several hours of my precious time trying to figure out how to finally get the booty I’ve always wanted.

Mainstream media, which of course is owned by, features, and targets white people, has all but destroyed white female self-esteem. In every study on self image I’ve ever read, white women rate themselves as SUBSTANTIALLY less happy with their bodies than black females. Black women are less likely to have eating disorders and more likely to embrace their body’s imperfections. I work with mostly white females, and you can barely get through a work conversation--much less an office party with food--without weight becoming the focus of conversation. Black women have longed bragged about not having the serious self-esteem issues that white women tend to face.

However recent studies show that black women’s self-esteem is making sharp declines. Black women’s body image suffered dings from being largely omitted from mainstream media’s beauty ideals. Black people are still fighting to be included in mainstream fashion spreads and the like. The late 90s and 2000s marked the development of several black-owned “men’s magazines” such as King, XXL, The Source etc. These magazines began to feature nearly naked black women as a regular part of their magazine content. You think it was odd seeing the “Jet Beauty of the Week” in a bikini dripping wet in a fake rainforest with her alma mater and measurements below her crotch sandwiched between news on Al Sharpton and the latest upperclass wedding between a Kappa and a Delta?? Ha! Neo-men’s magazines took that concept to a whole ‘nother level. Give that same Jet Beauty some ambi, buttshots, low-self esteem, and a drive to be famous, spread her cheeks across a Bentley, load her photo onto a computer and enhance her enhancements and POW! Every man’s fantasy meets body image nightmare.

It’s no surprise that the rise in popularity of these types of magazines coincided with the dawn of the video hoe. No, I’m not going to use the word vixen, not only is it a silly euphemism promoted by someone who actually was, indeed, a hoe, it’s also inaccurate. Rappers largely don’t sing about provocative young ladies, they sing about groupies, hoes, sluts and the like. And if you’re in a video with a rapper singing about getting “Becky,” you couldn’t pick a worse time to defend your actions by saying “well they’re not talking about me.” Videos are a key medium when it comes to female image, cause at some point, all of them became the same shameful skin flick with not a real-looking person in sight. With today’s cinematic technology, females can be digitally altered in much the same manner that they are in photos. Booties can be made bigger, waists smaller, and skin more pleasant, among other alterations.

Fast forward to 2009 and these sorts of images are everywhere. Log onto Twitter or Myspace and all you see is one desperate black female after another falling into the trap of using her digitally (or perhaps medically) altered body for attention, and honestly, I don’t know what else. Many of them aren't even tryin to make it as "models!" Even black women who have real bodies are spreading their provocative pictures around the web. Although many may argue that they aren't seeking attention when putting up their latest beach bikini picture or sexy topless bathroom camera phone twitpic, my response is that, if you're telling the truth that's really sad. In 2009, a grown woman should understand the potential implications of choosing a photo to use on a social media site. If you haven't, that's actually worse than considering it and going with it anyway. The only good to come out of this for women is that you no longer have to have a pretty face for men to tell you that you’re beautiful. Beyond that, it worries me.



It pains me to believe that owning and distributing the very types of media from which we were once excluded could actually be contributing to issues with self-esteem. How regressive! No matter how many times the blogs put up pictures of video 'models' and stars like Kim Kardashian showing that their bodies are nowhere near as ‘shapely’ as the magazines make them appear, you still have men commenting on women’s bodies (on the web and in real life) as though anything less than what they've seen in print is unacceptable. I realize that in the long run real men accept women’s bodies without faux accoutrement. But it’d be nice if urban magazines would occasionally accept them too.

GirlFriend #2...The Dark Side of Platonic Friendship

Posted by JD on , under | comments (0)



When Pleasure P sang about Boyfriend #2 he described such a person as the man in a committed woman’s life who fulfills the sexual needs that her boyfriend/husband can’t or won’t. I love the song although I don’t believe that most women are sexual cheaters so much as emotional cheaters. If I’m in a relationship with someone, why do I need yet another man to “lay back while I do” him?

Most likely, what I’m missing is someone to spend time with me, to talk about the things that are going on my life, and perhaps even to flirt with me while giving me relationship advice. Technically, these are all things that any partner to whom you’re committed should do. But as we know, these are often the very types of behaviors that are lacking in relationships.

Getting these needs met in a relationship is the main area in which I see most of the men I know fail. For some reason, my male friends, cousins, and associates seem to almost deliberately choose women that they can’t talk to…about anything…at all…ever. I’ve seen some men who are blinded by looks, others who pick girls based on what they’re friends will say, some who are so afraid of rejection they only date girls who chase them (safe bets), and still others who really have no excuse for choosing women who are incompatible with them on a basic level.

Too many men in my life have sought to fill in the gaps of their sorry ass relationships by using me as Girlfriend #2. I have had men who were in committed relationships with OTHER women call me first when they got a promotion or wanted to share some other exciting news, ask me instead of their woman what they should do about a financial or work issue, or even spend hours on the phone or over IM with me listening to music or chatting about sports all the while allowing an undercurrent of flirtation to persist. I believe that I have spent so much time being Girlfriend #2, that it has kept me from my goal of being Girlfriend #1. Being Girlfriend #2 takes a surprising amount of energy!

I’m done with that shit.


If you think this article is about whether or not men and woman can be platonic friends, you’ve totally missed the point. It’s deeper than that. It’s about a fundamental inability or refusal by many men to choose women that can give them the emotional support and conversation they require. Yes people choose all sorts of incompatible people, but this is one particular area in which it is crucial that a man pick the right woman. One thing that I understand about men is that men need to get their conversation and advisory counsel in relationships because they can’t go to their friends and regularly share intense feelings or emotions the way that women do.

Sample conversation between two men regarding a death in one man’s family:

[Man1: What’s up with you man, you all quiet and shit.

Man 2: Nah yo’ my grandma died…crazy man.

Man 1: Oh, that’s messed up! I hate to hear that, how she pass?

Man 2: Cancer. Yeah, she had it for years so we kinda knew…but still.

Man 1: Well let me know if I can do anything man. Keep your head up.

Man 2: Yeah, Thanks man.

*sigh*

I’m not saying that all men communicate in such an empty and uncomfortable manner (yes I am)…but simply put, women more fully. My advice to men is easy to understand.

If you are a fanatic about a certain sport, why not find you a woman who likes that sport so you don’t have to argue about how much money or time you spend watching/going to the games. If you like to go to strip club and chill, why not find a woman who will accompany you or at least get a giggle out of the fact that you like it so much. If you know you like the club scene, don’t make a girlfriend out of the homebody intellectual who thinks clubs are for freaks and heathens. If you know you like to get out and explore outdoors don’t marry the girl spends all her spare time drinking and eating. And if you have ambitions to do and be a certain thing, share that with a woman BEFORE you commit in order to help her understand what a life with you would be like. That way she won’t be complaining about stuff she “shoulda knew” later on in the relationship.

You don’t have to have everything in common, but look at your life and the things you enjoy the most and find most important…pick a woman who can support those things, not just tolerate or -even worse- complaint about them. Everyday communications between two people in a couple should feel natural—some of you are straining.

Listen to me men, because at some point in time, us Girlfriend #2s are going to realized that we are being used and we will end that dynamic and find our OWN MAN to love and support and pretend to listen too, and then where will you be?

In the meantime, if you’re curious about whether you’ve been using me as a Girlfriend #2, please do not ask inquire. Just assume you have, and stop it.




Grow Up Already! Why Are 80s (and 70s) Babies Still Trying to Control Music.

Posted by JD on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 , under | comments (9)




Apparently the BET Awards aired tonight. I wasn’t at all surprised by the number of tweets that showed up on my twitter timeline criticizing today’s music for not being lyrical enough, for being too violent, or otherwise not up to par. To that I say:

F*** OUTTA HERE!

If you believe that, most likely you are 25 and above. In fact, you might even be 21 and above. And, if that’s the case, current music is not for you to like. It’s not created for you, and really, it shouldn’t be created by people much older than you. Music has always been driven by young people. Young people are the ones who have hours to spend in their rooms listening to music. They also have parents who give them allowances with which to buy music. Young people have been responsible for almost every major music movement in this country from rock n roll to hip hop.

But what happens when a generation of people refuses to grow up? When 30 year old dads are wearing fitted caps and collecting sneakers? When 40 year old mothers are saying things like 40 is the new 30? (it’s not, by the way)Then what do you get? I tell you what you get, a generation of people who, rather than satisfying themselves with marriage, family, and other cultural endeavors beyond new music, are using their free time to rain on Souljah Boy’s and his fan’s parade.

I use Soulja Boy as an example because for some reason, his music and image seem to bother people my age (27) the most. As someone who doesn’t even PRETEND to feel guilty for jigging when “Donk” comes on the radio, and who thought “Kiss Me Through The Phone” was soooo adorable, I am perplexed by the older (yeah I said it) generation’s issue with Soulja Boy. No, he’s not intellectual. No, he’s not furthering our community. No, he’s not the best rapper. Perhaps he doesn’t even deserve his success (although his hardwork and production talent is undeniable). But he is under 21. And honestly, is Soulja Boy’s sing-rapping effort in “Turn My Swag On” any more offensive to musical sensibilities than Domino’s “Ghetto Jam?,” one of the many songs from back in “my day” that I still know the words too? Is his awkward and not-quite-age-appropriate rap on “Crank Dat” that much worse than one my favorite songs “My Cadillac” by McNasD, where he raps about how his car helps him get “panties?”

I hate to say this, but there is simply something very unseemly about a bunch of near-30 year olds criticizing the musical existence of someone who is barely 19. I would also argue that Soulja Boy’s audience doesn’t and shouldn’t care what a bunch of 25+ 9-5 working stiffs think about the music they listen to on the bus ride to school or while they’re doing homework in the dorms. And, well, they shouldn’t. How would music be today, if my older cousins, parents and their friends got to decide whether Uncle Luke and 2 Live Crew were worthy of radio play? Well actually, they tried, took it all the way to Congress and failed due to the 1st amendment.


Well, thank goodness, at that time, there was an entire genre of music dedicated to people in that age range, it was called “Contemporary R&B.” Luther Vandross, Regina Bell, hell, even Whitney Houston sang for a slightly more mature audience that was halfway between giving up new music altogether and getting over the fact that hip hop was beginning to dominate the scene. Unfortunately, my generation unlike previous generations refuses to mature, and there is no such thing as Contemporary R&B anymore.




The previous generation knew when to quit. I still remember when my Dad found my very first rap TAPE. It was by a female rapper named Boss. My dad heard the blarings of “ya gotta, ya ya ya gotta, ya gotta let a hoe be a hoe” blaring from my “boom box” when he came home from work one day. He immediately demanded to listen to all my rap tapes.

OH S&%$!

At that time, I had 3 rap tapes. He took Boss' "Born Gangstaz" (who I later found out wasn't born Gansta or in CA!), Three Six Mafia’s “Mystic Styles" and Snoop Dogg’s “Doggy Style.” He took my tapes into his bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed, and put each tape into his stereo which previously had only played Gospel music, Kenny G, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross.




I stood in my parent’s bedroom doorway for 30 minutes while my Daddy listened to songs off of each tape shaking his head at some of my favorites like “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none."

I got so sick to my stomach as I realized for the first time how terrible this music must sound to tender ears like my father’s. He wouldn't get it, I thought. I didn’t know if I was going to be put out of his house or just generally cussed out and lectured. But I knew for sure my tapes would be confiscated for good.

I was wrong.

My dad took my tapes out, put them back in their cases, and handed to me and said “here, just don’t let me hear them again.”

I didn’t. I asked my mom for a pair of headphones as soon as she got home from work!
I’m not saying that older people can’t like new music. But they should be ready to accept that they will have to pick and choose.

My mom, who is 59 years old, has “Sexy Lady” by Ray J as her ring tone—except for when my Dad calls. In that case, her phone plays “A Little Bit” by 50 cent. (I’m not going to even get into that). She loves Dr. Dre, forced me to download some new R. Kelly and Jamie Foxx onto her new ipod (when did she get that?), and had me buy Warren G’s “Smoking Me Out” by Ron Isley which she played on repeat for 3 weeks when it first came out, and she almost blows my ears out when Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” comes on the radio. I can’t hear. And don’t get me started on her love of old Hot Boyz jams like "Hot Girl" and "Bling Bling."

But beyond a few standout songs and artists here and there, she’s cool just listening to her old tunes, many of which are so filthy I can’t bare to listen to them! Marvin Cease’s “Candy Licker,” and Millie Jackson’s “Slow Tongue,” Chuck Willis “Stoop Down And Let Daddy See,” and pretty much anything by Joe Poonany are on her list of must-haves. If it were up to me, I would eliminate all of this kind of music because, quite frankly, I find it to be disgusting. In fact, I hate to even link to them they bother me so!



But it’s not up to me. I let my mom and her raunchy friends listen to their stuff, although I have a permanent wrinkle in my forehead from gagging as they jig to it.

The truth is, every generation gets to have a sound. I couldn’t believe when Jay-Z, who I remember very CLEARLY saying repeatedly in response to criticism of his just-as-igorant-as-2009-music in the 90s that he was speaking to his generation. That hip hop was “music for young people.” Fast forward to 2009 and Jay-Z is a 40 year old rapper (the same age my Dad was when he took my tapes!) pronouncing musical tools used by younger artists as ‘dead,’ criticizing younger rappers for their way of dressing, and taking credit for making the game what it is even though he says the game shouldn't be what it is. Not to mention, he's still referring to himself as “Young Hov”. I’m sorry sir, at 40 you can’t be “young” anything, unless you are doing a concert at a nursing home.

I am all for encouraging musicians to be better and analyzing the impact of certain messages on our culture, but honestly, my generation needs to quit the nostalgia. Instead of embracing the music that was made for you, you are holding on to youth and control of young folk’s music with a kung fu death grip. Young people deserve to have their own sound, no matter how substandard us “old” folks may find it.

Speaking of substandard, I take this opportunity to leave you with a couple of my favorite songs from my youth. The first is one of my favorite songs of all time, I could listen to it every day.

Scarred by Luke f. Trick Daddy


Hay Crucial Conflict


69 Boys = Donkey, Donkey

When You Can't Put Your Finger On It| Bishop Eddie Long Edition




Every now and then I run across something I don't like yet I can't articulate why I don't like it. This is the segment of the blog where I give you an opportunity to either tell me why I don't like it, or tell me why I should.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you "Lost In Your Spirit" by Bishop Eddie Long aka Young Ed? (yet another thing I don't like) Anyway, here are the radio version (with rap) and his church performance of the song.




Let'em All Eat (Blogger) Beef...

Posted by JD on , under | comments (1)




I am new to the blogger world. Not just as a writer, but also as a reader. In the past, I’ve gotten all my commentary from my favorite mainstream newspaper and magazines, I’m not much into celeb gossip, (although I do run to the blogs for the latest pictures of what my favorite celeb females are wearing), and I very rarely watch Television. But since I’ve become a blogger, I’ve noticed that although there are a zillion blogs, the blogger community is very small.

Joining the community of black bloggers specifically is interesting. It’s like showing up to a party full of people who have known each other for several years—some friends, some enemies—but you don’t know anyone. Luckily, I’ve never been one afraid to saunter into a room of strangers and carve out my spot, but still…the blogger dynamic is a freaky one. And the dynamic between the Celeb Genre Bloggers (CGBs) is even stranger.

Over the past year of reading blogs more often as I contemplated starting my own, I didn’t notice any so-called “blogger beef” between the bloggers in the celebrity genre. Not because it wasn’t going on but because I considered it to be a normal part of business. It wasn’t until twitter that I realized that people don’t necessarily see it that way. There are some people who believe that black bloggers should have some sort of united front—whatever the hell that means.

Yesterday, someone tweeted a blog post by one of the Creator of the music Web site Concrete Loop. It was posted on her personal blog. She was lamenting the fact that the CGBs are not getting along. She wrote, “These petty blog beefs, twitter beefs and overall chit-chatter within the black blogging community is a waste of energy and time.”

But is it? What if the person starting the so-called beef considers it to be part of their PR strategy? As part of their brand identity? What if pointing out what’s wrong with other web sites or bloggers with whom you compete is the best way to ensure that your site lands on top? If that’s the case, starting some beef is a PERFECT way to use time and energy.

I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes with CGBs, in fact, a few weeks in to my blogger career I’m only just becoming aware of a lot of blogger issues. However, one thing I do realize is that I view my blog as part of my career and consequently a business. The fact that many black people seem to think that other black folks (even their competitors) should support them because they’re black, or because they’re black and in the same business, or because they shared tips, or spoke on IM a few times, or attended a conference together or, quite frankly, for any reason at all beyond a mutually beneficial relationship is perplexing.

This way of thinking isn’t limited to blogging unfortunately. Black people seem to want all sorts of deals (hookups) and allowances and special treatment from one another. Am I the only one who’s gone into a store only to watch a white customer receive better customer service than me because “you know how it is guurrl.” I can’t help but see this as an impediment to us furthering the businesses in our community. If you notice, I don't even have a blog roll on my site. In part, because I noticed that adding other blogs to a blog roll has become such an obligatory thing that you can't even view your favorite blogger's blog roll as real list of reading recommendations. Regardless of whether or not my blog ever becomes a success, I'm not co-signing anyone's mediocre commentary just because we are both black and blogging.

Many of us need to learn that competition isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always ethical. It isn’t always fun, and it damn sure isn’t always fair. Everyone is not going to be in praise and support of you, and sometimes you don't deserve the praise and support you believe you do, in particular from competitors. The sooner you learn that, the better. Always strive to be ethical and fair in your own dealings, but know that there will be points in which you personally behave in a manner you hope others don’t behave toward you because…well…because it’s beneficial to you at that point in time. We all do it occasionally. I'm not saying anything new here, I don't believe. I'm simply communicating a bit of business acumen.

I realize that black people see themselves as a community in a way that white people don’t—and many times this is a good thing. But it isn’t good when we attempt to hold each other to a standard to which we don’t hold white people. Can you imagine one of the Black CGBs asked Perez Hilton or Egotastic to be on the same page with them? They probably wouldn’t even respond to the inquiry! So why ask each other? I keep hearing the bloggers saying how “hard they work,” on their blog and how much “people don’t realize” as though hard work is a barrier to criticism. Any of us with a regular job knows that isn’t true.

Once again, I don’t know any of the ladies and gentlemen in the Celebrity Genre of Bloggers, and I'm certain there is a history here of which I'm not aware. However, as an outsider looking in, I don’t see why everyone in any business should feel compelled to “get along” without a clear benefit to doing so. But maybe it's just my personality. If I understood why people should go out of their way to get along, I probably wouldn't have written this.

Tyler Perry Vs. The Haters

Posted by JD on Monday, October 26, 2009 , under | comments (2)



Check out the video blog that accompanies the last two articles I've written on Tyler Perry and use (overuse) of the word "hater." As I continue with this blog I will seek to add narration where I can. Hopefully, that helps people understand the perspective with which I approach my writing. Happy viewing!

What Tyler Perry Won't Admit About His Success: His Audience is Desperate.

Posted by JD on Sunday, October 25, 2009 , under | comments (13)



Last night, Tyler Perry was interviewed on 60 minutes. I must admit I didn’t go into the interview thinking highly of Perry or his work, but I was willing to give Perry a chance to address some of the longstanding critiques I and others have waged against him. I have long found Perry’s portrayals of women demeaning, insulting, simplistic, and highly offensive. In particular, his portrayals of single black women are increasingly stereotypical and reveal some sort of deep-seated belief that men are both the reason for and solution to all of a woman’s problems.

Perry has been lambasted for his man-in-a-dress schtick (as have other male funnymen such as Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy), he’s also been criticized for the low-brow humor and overly dramatic situations in which his characters often repeatedly find themselves.

But those things are the least of my worries when it comes to Perry. What bothers me the most about Perry is the fact that he refuses to seriously consider any criticism of himself. This fact is apparent when he’s asked to respond to the statement of his detractors. It’s also apparent when you look at his work. His movies and his television shows are simply poorly written and directed. Sure, lots of screenplay writers and directors for both television and film are guilty of a bad film or script, possibly more than a few. But I dare someone to name any writer and director in history with a string of poorly executed television shows and movies that has been afforded the level of success Tyler Perry has. White Hollywood must marvel at this sort of black privilege from which Perry benefits. But Perry knows he has a very real advantage: his audience is not just forgiving, they are desperate.

There are very few television shows and movies with predominately black characters. “Everybody Hates Chris” and “The Game” are arguably two of the best written African-American comedies in television history, both were recently cancelled despite lots of support from the black community. Yet Tyler Perry’s two television shows “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne” remain on television and have a solid audience. I have seen both shows, neither are even remotely humorous. And even if they were, the characters are inconsistent, ill-conceived, and completely confusing.



For example, the Calvin Payne character on “House of Payne” played by Lance Gross is, at different times, when convenient for the story line a lazy slacker who can’t complete college, a hard-working provider for his new wife, a dork who can’t get a girl, a debonair player, a simpleton, and the only one to be able to figure out a complex problem facing the family. How can one character embody all of these characteristics? One of the first things good writers do is flesh out each character in their script's traits, habits, and relationship to other characters. This makes for believable and consistent situational dynamics. Perry doesn’t bother.

Character synopsis is too stringent for Perry’s rickety scenes. His rickshaw-writing allows characters to become whoever they need to be in the moment, rather than continuing to be true themselves despite the circumstances. It’s almost impossible to connect with Perry’s television characters due to their changeling nature. His movie characters are similarly fated; however, in his films he deliberately leads his audience and the characters through series of more and more unbelievable events in order for the character to come out completely changed in the end.

What’s most perplexing about Perry is that he claims that his stories are derived from his frame of reference, of his life growing up. Perry has spoken numerous times about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. He talks about how badly his dad beat his mom and how he used to hide from his dad’s verbal and physical abuse. But what Perry doesn’t do is explain why, if he is writing from his experience, he doesn’t write about boys who are abused. Why the heavy-handed focus on women, in particular single mothers? Abuse aside, Perry did not grow up in a single parent household. Perry very rarely tells ANY story from the perspective of the male and shies away from any meaningful relationship dynamic that doesn’t involve clear-cut deviant behavior i.e. using drugs or cheating. You’ll never see a couple argue about the laundry in a Perry film, unless the husband ends up slapping his wife and finding her cocaine in the glove compartment of the car as he drives away in a confused rage. Perry is about as subtle as a Bill O'Reilly interview.

In general, Perry approaches male/female dynamics in curious fashion. His portrayals of black men are like that of someone outside looking in, an odd technique for a male writer. The men in Perry’s films exist only as villains and saviors. They are devils and angels…axes of good and evil who, at turns, change women’s lives for better with care and protection or ruin them with selfishness and violence. And while Oprah says that Perry likes to “celebrate strong women” I would argue that he does just the opposite. Madea typically brings the biggest quotient of female strength to Perry’s films. But that strength is delivered by a male in drag, and secondly is mammified and sapphiresque. Madea ‘s character is stripped of all humanity. She has long forgotten any remorse, regret, sorrow, or sexual desire and exists only to assist in the redemption of other, weaker, though perhaps more intellectual or financially successful females. In other words, the female strength we see in most of Tyler’s work is desexualized, defeminized, and provided by someone with a penis. Female strength in Perry's world is largely both mannish and manless.


Despite how Perry likes to sell Madea as a popular prototype of older women in the South, the only characteristic she shares with most of the older black women I know is her weight. I have a hunch that most people in the south remember the Big Mama that used to cook for Thanksgiving and Christmas, that prayed in her rocking chair, went to church every Sunday, and occasionally cursed or played cards and made you turn off everything during a storm to let "God do his work." She may have been brutally honest, but she wasn’t routinely loud or tasteless. And while my own grandmother slept with a gun in her night table, she was also pretty, softspoken, and kept a male "friend." I’m not saying Perry’s Madea doesn’t exist in real life, but she is not the every- woman Perry claims.

During the 60 minutes interview, Byron Pitts questioned Perry about acclaimed African American Film-Director Spike Lee’s criticism of his work. Pitts mentioned that Lee called Perry’s work “buffoonery” that reminded him of “Amos and Andy” and was a “step back.” Perry responded by saying that he’d like to read that criticism of him to “his audience.” Talk about a side-step. Perry knows that his audience would move quickly to defend him by accusing his detractors of trying to "bring a black man down" and prevent him from telling "our" stories. Perry’s audience, as mentioned in the 60 minutes interview, is mostly female, Christian, poor and working class African Americans. This is a group of people who, as Perry likes to say, has been “overlooked” by Hollywood. Perry says that these folks like to see themselves on screen. I agree with his observation and would expand it to say that the ONLY reason that Perry is successful is because these folks do not normally get to see themselves on screen. As far as they're concerned something is better than nothing. But just because your audience will eat anything, doesn’t exonerate you from the responsibility to feed them well. In fact, it ups the ante.

I can surmise that Perry hasn’t done much study of African Americans in cinema and I suspect he never will. When confronted with Lee’s comments, he launched into some sort of pseudo upper crust accent delivered in an effort mock his critics by painting them as Ivy League sellouts out-of-touch with Real America. The same insulting dismissive method people like Rush Limbaugh use to convince poor white people to vote against their economic interest in the name of some sort of ill-placed pride in being uninformed. This is unfortunate because Perry’s audience, which has made his 8 successive mediocre films blockbusters generating $418 million dollars in profits, deserves to be provided with better quality products, even if they don’t realize it. If Perry wants to stick to his overwrought stories of abusive marriages, gun-toting grannies, crack heads and child molesters, that’s fine. But out of respect for his loyal audience he should try to write and execute them better.