R&B-The Music, The Message, The Magic

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Hi Readers,

It is that time again. Last June, I expounded a lot on the style and forms of Black music.

This year, I want to explore the message of R&B and its importance to the African American community.

Recently I was watching a series called Unsung on TV One-a station oriented towards the Black community.

One of my favorite R&B groups was featured-The Manhattans. They scored big in the late

70’s with classic hits such as “There’s no me without you”, “Kiss and say goodbye”, and “Shining Star”.

In all of these ballads, the woman is exalted, treasured and loved.

Somehow (with the exception of Baby Face and a few others) the contemporary romantic Soul ballad has become raunchy akin to its rap counterpart.

Instead of being exalted and put on a pedestal, women are referred to as jeeps, and other inanimate objects.

For instance, the R. Kelly and Notorious B.I.G. collaboration-“You must be Use to Me Spending” is a prime example of the declining positive influence of R&B music.

Please understand readers that I applaud the artistry of rap and hip hop. I just don’t always agree with its message.

Unfortunately rap and hip hop has gotten away from the positive images and messages of the late 1970’s and mid 1980’s.

It seems that the classic message of love and unity that was a cornerstone of Black popular music has been corrupted by the marriage of rap and R&B and the materialistic values that it has come to embrace.

If we are to ever sustain a vibrant community where love is the central theme, how can contemporary R&B songs such as “You Make Me Want to Leave the One I’m With” contribute to healthy Black relationships?

If we gauge the health of our community by the quality and current state of our music-then we are in T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

There may be some who would criticize our balladeers for displaying a great sensitivity towards our women.

Baby Face’s “Whip Appeal”, The O’Jay’s “We Cried Together”, The Isley Brother’s “Living for the Love of You” and “Hello It’s Me” are prime examples of the stability of Black love.

By stability, I mean these men prove disprove the myths and ideas about what qualities constitute a “Real” man.

Take note: If all of our male singers and lovers have negative and hateful messages-then our women will in turn become hateful and negative.

They are only responding in turn to the treatment they are receiving.

And readers, haven’t we had enough of the battle of the sexes between Black men and women?

Think Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale.

Critics of Black popular culture always convey that hip-hop is another form of Black cultural expression.

If that is true I guess hip hop chronicles the breakdown of the elements that has sustained our communities through the many obstacles we have faced in this country as second class citizens.

Just imagine if the singers who have often acted as our great love poets would make a conscious return to the great standards set by the mighty balladeers of our past.

Just imagine how far our community would move forward in a direction that will sustain us for generations to come.

Well, that is all for now readers. I am glad to be back after a long hiatus.

Until next time….

 

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Tyler Perry’s Cultural Pimp Juice

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Tyler Perry

Hi readers,

I just recently started watching Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots on Oprah’s network.

I must say what a startling departure from his usual television fare.

I must confess….

I am a total fan of Tyler’s beloved Madea.

Why?

I swear readers, if I didn’t know better, Madea is my grandmother reincarnated!!!!

I remember the first time I became acquainted with the Madea character.

It seemed as if Tyler Perry had a front row seat to my life.

Wow, what a brilliant storyteller……..

Ever since the introduction of this character, he has been bashed for perpetuating stereotypes of African Americans!!!!

It seems some think of Madea as a buffoon.

Tyler made an interesting observation about his Madea creation and the negative reaction to it by some.

Tyler states that he came of age in the Louisiana backwoods from a woman dominated family whereas Spike came of age in the urban North and was reared in a house with a father who was a Jazz musician.

As a 42 year old woman raised in Mississippi by my paternal grandmother, I got it right away with the Medea franchise.

For all of you TP haters out there, understand this about Madea:

As a Southern grandmother, she provides stability and strength for her community.

(Witness this in several movies when she takes in relatives and foster children)

As a Southern grandmother, she provides wisdom to sustain her community.

(Witness this in several movies and plays when her advice heals, strengthens, and nurtures)

Back to the Haves….

As I mentioned earlier, what a departure.

When I first saw the promotions and ads for the new dramatic series I was certain that Tyler was out of his element.

I mean what does a poor kid from the sticks of the Deep South know about the interior lives of the rich and famous?

And if he did have a view, it was only from that of the help!!!!

I thought his show at best would be unconvincing, tired, and trite.

Boy, was I ever wrong!!!!!!

If I didn’t know better, I testify that I was watching a reboot of the popular 1980’s Dallas.

From his rendering of the evil villain, the powerful patriarch pitted against the equally powerful matriarch, he has delivered a sure drama TV classic with a twist….

What is unique-or maybe not-about The Haves… is the depiction of African Americans in positions of power in the business world.

A welcome break from viewing wealthy African Americans as entertainers and sports starts.

Hey-any way you can make it to the top-right?

Equally fascinating is his representation of the poor African American community and the values this community still struggle to uphold.

The Black maid Hannah is my favorite character.

I love her devout honesty grounded in her deep faith.

Last night was very touching when in a poignant scene she got the evil judge/lawyer to pray with her over her wrongfully incarcerated son.

Despite the attacks from other powerful Africa Americans, Hannah holds on to her devout faith.

She has even inspired the series matriarch.

After viewing three consecutive episodes, the verdict?

Tyler has that rare cultural pimp juice!!!!!

By that I mean, he can tell stories across economic racial groups that have a universal appeal and resonate with a large swath of the public.

Tyler has proven that he is equally at home dispensing knowledge about that rare breed of Southern Black grandmothers who can keep it real and the lofty rich and famous who make scheming, cheating and lying a glamorous art form.

Spike always told angry stories from a decidedly masculine point of view.

Not to pit him against Tyler.

It is just a simple matter of two different ends of the African American experience.

One no better than the other.

It’s about time our grandmother’s got respect!!!!!!

Thanks Tyler,

Until next time……

A Rumble InThe HouseThat Oprah Built: Rae Dawn Chong VersusThe Queen Of All Media

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Hi Readers,

I have to admit that I am still reeling from Rae Dawn Chong’s verbal attacks on Oprah Winfrey this week.

It was very disconcerting to hear Chong call Oprah a House Nigger.

Wow!!!!!!!

I smirked when I first read the headlines.

Chong-a woman of mixed ancestry……

In light of recent (biracial) Black Americans opting to subordinate their Black ancestry, I thought Chong would have adopted a softer stance on the race issue.

However, after reading a synopsis of the interview, I realized that Rae’s verbal disrespect wasn’t really about race but more about jealousy and envy!!!!!!

Chong on Oprah’s Looks…..

As you know by now Oprah is no stranger to criticism concerning her looks.

Her battle of the bulge has become legendary in the annals of tabloid history.

Rae states that due to her looks, Oprah “would have been a house keeper 60 years ago.”

There is a common wisdom in some quarters that Oprah’s fame is attributed to her looks.

I remember a former professor of mine once observing that Oprah’s warm reception by white America was due to the mammy image that she conveyed.

For those of you who are unaware, the mammy is a figure of the Black women concocted by whites pining for the “good old days” right at the era of the emancipation of Black slaves in the South.

She was often very dark, and very obese.

She often looked down her nose at her fellow Blacks.

She often considered her white employees her family and spent many years sacrificing the needs of her own family (if she had one) for the needs of the white household she worked in.

I winced at his observation because I was one of a few African Americans in the class.

His words struck a chord/nerve…..why?

If I am being honest, there is some truth to his words.

I remember in the early years of her show, she used to cry with her guests and they would cry on her shoulders.

Ouch!!!!!!

Readers forgive me…….

But sometimes I couldn’t help but notice that some of her teary eyed guests would be very dainty and white.

Next to them, overweight Oprah would seem bearish.

Her bigness and her Blackness were magnified.

Rae charges that Oprah brown-nosed her way to the top.

That may be…..

However, in my heart of hearts I concede that Oprah’s meteoric rise to superstardom was and is a combination of unique talent and hard work.

Rae also charges that in her work with Oprah, she came across as the fat chick that became the teacher’s pet and wanted everyone to love her.

Uhm Uhm Uhm…….

I guess I can visualize that.

Be that as it may, I want to make one thing clear….

Oprah is NOT A SELLOUT!!!!!!!

She is definitely a race woman.

I have read articles and seen shows where she has given honor and much deserved respect to our Black icons and legends

Diana Ross….

Aretha Franklin….

Tina Turner….

Chong also went on to acknowledge that Oprah has almost singlehandedly changed the game for women of color and big women in the media.

Definitely a thin line between love and hate!!!!!

What about Oprah’s critical reception among Black women?

For me the jury is half in on that one.

I have heard on numerous occasions my sisters bashing O.

Not just my everyday sisters, but our celebrity sisters as well.

Toni Braxton on a VH1 special took Oprah to task for berating her on live television because of her tax woes.

Legendary Gladys Knight states in her autobiography that Oprah was cool and reserved towards her.

It seems that Oprah just can’t win.

I hope in her golden years that Oprah has learned or is mastering the wisdom that she can’t be all things to all people.

That the only one that she can please all of the time is herself.

On a personal note, Oprah’s success has inspired me to believe that the impossible can become possible.

Much Love O!!!!!

Until next time…….

May the Sister Circle Be Unbroken

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Housewives of Atlanta

Sisters,

Was there ever a time when we had a special bond where we could imbue each other with strength and support?

The reason I ask is because as of late, the total disregard and disrespect of Black women for each other has reached a maddening crescendo!

As I was flipping through the channels the other day, I caught the ending of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

I saw former Miss USA Kenya Moore engaged in a war of words with her fellow cohost who unceremoniously informed Kenya that she was stupid.

Kenya in turn informed her that if she continued with the insults she would “be picking here teeth up from the floor.”

Afterwards, the other ladies all engaged in verbal combat with the white male moderator looking amused.

I have to say at that moment I was ashamed of these seemingly successful Black women.

These women have been afforded opportunities denied to so many of our sisters still toiling away in abject poverty just to keep body and soul together.

I guess the reason that I was prompted or inspired to write this post after viewing that segment is because Black women are so often stereotyped by Black and White society to engage in behavior that debase us.

Come on ladies, I know you are familiar with the many ways that we are typecast:

LOUD MOUTH BITCHES….

IGNORANT BITCHES

Need I go on?

Please don’t misunderstand me.

We have our issues as well as anyone else.

If we are put upon and need to “check” the perpetrator then that is fine!!!

No matter the color or gender.

I guess my sore point is that neither party didn’t want to or have the courage to engage in constructive criticism instead of combative in your face retorts!!

Sisters,

Please know that in spite of impressive strides and gains that we have made, for all intents and purposes, the power structure in America still tries to proscribe our place in American society at the bottom of the well.

All of the women on the show are intelligent and have achieved success in mainstream America.

Although much criticized, Nene Leaks success still serves as an inspiration.

Harmful banter hasn’t just existed with this crew of high visible Black women however.

Remember Aretha’s beef with Beyoncé?

It all started with Beyoncé giving high praise to Tina Turner as the queen doing a ceremony at the Kennedy Center when Tina was one of the honorees.

At the end of her high powered performance, Beyoncé called Tina the queen!!!

Lo and behold, the anointed Queen of Soul-Miss Ree that is-went into a hissy fit!!!

I was like really Aretha? Are you serious? Am I missing something here?

Girl please!!!

I mean you are the Queen of Soul and believe me ain’t nobody taking the spot!

I was disappointed in the mini drama-created and prolonged by Aretha.

Ironically, little miss B was the grownup!!!

She showed grace and class and probably didn’t need her father’s intervention to put a harness on Aretha!

Anyway, to kill that noise, the rivalry between supermodels Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell was the row that really threatened to blow the lid off of the sisterhood!!

Uhm, I thinking at this moment that I don’t have to give you on rundown on Miss Campbell right?

Well just in case you didn’t get the memo, Miss C seems to have no problem in breaking out the can of Whoop ass whether warranrted or not!!!

Poor Tyra.

She has stated that as a novice in the high powered and high stakes world of the supermodel, Naomi made her life a living hell.

I remember watching an episode of her talk show in which the audience had to be eliminated because the memories were still too painful for her.

In her defense Naomi shifted the blame to the industry that had little tolerance for more than one successful Black model at a time!!!

See what I mean ladies?

Just think for a moment.

What if our strong Black female ancestors would have adopted this attitude?

How in the world would we have survived slavery and those injurious years of legally sanctioned apartheid?

If ever there was a time when we needed a sisterhood it is now-especially in face of the high rates of AIDS that affects us disproportionally coupled with the stress of raising the babies by ourselves!!

The sad truth is that the housewives on some level have to indulge this behavior because drama sells. Unfortunately it is at our expense.

I guess the more things change the more the stay the same!!!

Just my thoughts.

Until next time…

Family or Foe?

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Braxton sisterd

Although I have heard all of the hype from friends about the reality series Braxton Family Values, I have only recently started watching it.

Initially I was impressed with the strong bond of sisterhood on display.

Without a doubt the girls love each other very, very much.

This is evident from a VH1 documentary on Toni Braxton I saw shortly before I started watching the show.

Toni, the eldest as well as the superstar in the family, was discovered while in college and she had the idea that she and her sisters would make their mark on the music world as a family oriented group similar to the Jackson 5.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t in the cards and Toni ascended to superstar status as a solo artist.

However, she didn’t leave her sisters behind. They were never far from her as her background singers. Eventually they had a modest hit as a group on the coat tails of their big sister’s fame.

Fast forward years later, we have a glimpse into their inner lives.

I for one, love seeing positive images of black life on television in spite of my reservation about reality programming.

I personally think that some aspects of reality TV are very exploitive.

But, in this case, I like it because we see Black female empowerment.

I especially love the segments when the girls’ mother Evelyn makes an appearance.

She is a regal African American woman with such grace. And her love for her girls shines through every time.

I love how the girls call her “mommy”!

Like the real “sistah” that she is, she doesn’t hesitate to put them in check.

Troubling to me is Ms. Tamar.

As we all know, she is currently blowing up on the charts with her phenomenal hit Love and War.

I give her kudos for her current success.

Even though all the girls love their big sister Toni, I know that it must not have been easy for them being in her shadow.

And doesn’t Tamar sound a lot like Toni?

Anyway, I am shocked and somewhat disillusioned by her “Miss Thang” temperament.

It can be exhausting trying to be heard in a female dominated environment.

But still…..

She goes a tad bit overboard as the spoil brat.

She is loud and obnoxious.

I am almost tempted to believe that maybe extensive counseling should be in order.

Each sister has tried patiently to talk rationally with her in a one on one setting.

As usual she has a hostile response that necessitated the intervention of her mother in addition to a well-known therapist.

Dare I say it?

Tamar is acting G-H-E-T-T-O!

This series has the potential to be a very positive model for African American women and the African American family.

Please don’t get me wrong readers; I understand that the Black family unit is as every bit as dysfunctional as any other racial group.

We are a part of the human family and are endowed with flaws like everyone else.

However, Tamar’s behavior to me is bizarre.

I don’t fault her for wanting to have her own success away from the family. I even dig her and her hubby Vince’s new series.

I just only wish that she attains some of the grace of her big sister.

Tamar has the talent to go very far. She has a very beautiful and soulful voice.

Although her “attitude” may be in line with the whole current Hollywood scene, it could possibly be a hindrance as well.

Fame is fleeting.

We live in a world with a five minute attention span.

What’s hot today may be as cold as ice tomorrow.

For some reason, we don’t seem to be producing the superstars of yesterday who have staying power.

Anyway, this is just my opinion.

Until next time…..

TP “Unloaded”

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alexcross

I finally saw the movie Alex Cross-an adaptation of James Patterson’s novel Cross.

As an avid reader of Patterson’s books, I was elated to see another one of his books made into a film.

I remember a couple of months ago watching the trailer for the upcoming film while I was online.

Shocked!!!!

Why?

Because Tyler Perry was playing detective Alex Cross-an action hero in the Patterson series.

I immediately hit my brother up on his cell.

He registered the same shock as me.

At first it was kind of comical to see Perry so serious.

By now you can guess why it was funny to me right?

Okay one word…

MADEA!

I had plans to see the movie once it came to theaters but never got the chance.

I had intended to get it from the Redbox kiosk once it was released on DVD.

Even better, I got a copy from my local library.

This was more idea because I could keep it three days instead of the one allowed by Redbox!!!

The first night, heavy duty sleep was calling me.

Finally the second night with some much appreciated alone time, I finally got a chance to watch it.

While I can’t say I was blown away by his performance-the boy got some serious skills.

But let’s keep it real.

Right now Tyler is the man!!!

He is probably the most bankable Black filmmaker around at the present moment.

Too bad Hollywood is still playing the one at a time game when it comes to representing us.

Hence, all the hate from Spike Lee and Aaron McGruder. lol.

I viewed the special features on the DVD and noticed with interest all of the praise the author and director was heaping on my boy TP.

And, I thought what if Tyler hadn’t gained his phenomenal  fame from the Madea franchise and was just another struggling actor vying for that break out role.

Would he have gotten the part?

Honestly, in my opinion? NOT!

Hollywood is so about name recognition.

Anyway, my brother was hyped about his performance.

If you get a chance, check it out and drop back by and let me know what you think.

Who knows, our boy just might be the next top action star for the decade.

Move over Will, Denzel, Samuel..

Your boy TP is unloaded!!!

Until next time…

Black Love, Hollywood Style

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From popular lifestyle magazines, television, movies, blogs, and other media aimed at African Americans, love seems to be the most discussed topic.

Whether it’s the sisters dishing it up on the lack of good Black men, or the brothers in turn dissing the sisters for one reason or another, L.O.V.E. seems to elude us.

When it comes to love and romance, we have always taken our cue from the mainstream media.

Rarely have there been any good depictions.

There was the example of Florida and James Evans. Florida represented that school of Black woman who stood by their man in good times and bad, for richer or poorer. Lord knows, they were poor!!!

No matter, they were a Black couple worthy of emulation.

Then we had Claire and Cliff Huxtable.

He a successful doctor and she a successful lawyer.

Although they faced criticism from the Black community because their portrayal seemed far removed from the actual realities of African American life, deep down many of us in the Black community longed for the world of the Huxtables and wished we were one of those lucky kids.

If we had a reason to despair over positive images of Black love, it is off screen where the greatest amount of love run amuck takes place.

The tragic love lives of Hollywood icons such as Halle Berry, Dorothy Dandridge and Diahann Carroll can just as easily be credible as cinematic drama.

These tales of love lost is no fiction however.

Some blame the exquisite beauty of these women as to why they could never be lucky in love.

These women made it seem almost as if Black love was doomed to fail.

On the flip side there were and still are some examples of love surviving in Black Hollywood.

You had the long time marriage of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. They experienced their share of ups and downs but they succeeded.

Now we have the successful marriages of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett as well as Courtney Vance and Angela Bassett to prove that love can conquer all.

Superstars Jay-Z and Beyoncé are representing also!

The saddest example of Black love succumbing to the chopping block however is Regina King and Malcolm Jamal Warner.

Bummer….

If ever there was a couple that we could root for, it was those two.

They had everything in their favor to succeed.

They are the same age.

Both were child stars at the same time and managed to overcome the awful fate of so many child stars as they reach adulthood.

Both managed to have successful careers as adults.

Better still, both managed to avoid all of the controversy that plagues some celebrities and the intrusion into their private lives.

For a seemingly match made in heaven, what happened?

Were the pressures of Hollywood too demanding?

It just pains me to see this couple barely make it out of the starting gate to lose the race in love.

Too Bad.

As the old saying goes: All’s well that ends well!!

Until next time….

Journalicious!

A Sweet Taste of Hollywood!

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