Hypocrisy, Sexism, Racism…Kanye, Did I Miss Anything?

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Amber Rose, Kanye West

If you keep up with celebrity news, to any extent, by now you’ve heard of the back and forth interview-Twitter wars between socialite Amber Rose, her former boyfriend and my former favorite rapper Kanye West, and the Kardashian family. Tensions have always run high between Amber Rose and the Kardashians as Amber’s relationship with Kanye West ended in part due to Kanye’s involvement with the eldest sibling, Kim Kardashian.

Most recently the situation came to a boiling point when, in a mid-February interview with NY radio station Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, Amber Rose made some comments about a few family members when probed by interviewers. Khloe Kardashian took to Twitter in response, asking Amber Rose to stop talking about her family in interviews, but not before mentioning Amber Rose’s past as a stripper, adding, “don’t worry about my sister who has a career.”

However, the most interesting and headlining portion of this tit-for-tat was Kanye West’s response. He appeared on the same radio show several days later, with a few choice words about Amber.

Hypocrisy

Kanye calls out Amber Rose on her alleged promiscuity, saying that because of his relationship with Amber he had to take “30 showers” before being with Kim.

The first thing that comes to mind when one hears such a statement is simply “?”

Hypocrisy is when you attempt to slut-shame a woman for her sexual activities when your wife’s wouldn’t be known to you or the world if she had not taped her sexual activities with a random famous man and been in relationships with countless others. Since, apparently, his wife is free to have been with a million men in her past, he can not make it a crime for another woman to have the same history.

Sexism

Kanye says, “It’s hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose”.

Sexism is pinning a woman’s value on how many sexual partners she has had. Has anyone asked Kanye West how many women (and/or men) he has been with? Does anyone care?

Probably not.

His sexual past is irrelevant, as is hers.

Racism

We can not forget the difference in response when black (or black-identified) women display their sexuality versus non-black women.

Kanye, a serious as can be, considers Amber simply dirty for her sexual past. Why is her past such an issue, yet he pursued a woman with a similar background, making her his wife and the mother of his child? What is the difference?

Oh right, their racial backgrounds. Because when black women are open about their sexuality, they are relegated to the pile of unworthiness, to have fun with but not take too seriously. When white women display their sexuality they are made into idols by some, worthy of imitation.

Anything Else?

Kanye sees no issues with making a spectacle of a woman he once loved. This is one of my pet peeves: ex-bashing. Why throw your former partner under the bus because the relationship ended or because you believe you’ve found someone “better”? Those who bash their exes show the world how untrustworthy they are: lover and friend one minute, crucifier the next. We can only hope that the statements he makes about Kim if their relationship ends will be much less demeaning.

Yes, this post is a little (purposely) late. And yes, who cares about what a few over-inflated celebrities spew about each other on Twitter and radio? Well, I do, when it is the perfect chance to illustrate the way sexism and racism are perpetuated in American society, while everyone has a good laugh.

To say I’m disgusted by this display would be an understatement.

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Open Letter to Kanye West: It’s Over

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Dear Kanye,

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must admit that her dreams will never be realized. That time has come in my life with my hopes for you.

Since before most people had ever even heard of a name like “Kanye”,  I supported you. I just knew you were going to be a huge star and had talent beyond measure. I delved into the world of Kanye, learning all about this unique, charmingly irresistible individual. For years, I lived and breathed Kanye West.

Despite some bumps along the road, I never once doubted that you were a sincere and kind person. When others accused you of arrogance, I was assured that you were simply confident, yet not overly so. When others were annoyed by your temper tantrums and outbursts, I thought “how passionate and human.”

So when tragedy struck  — your mother passed, I knew it would be hard for you. You were so close to your mother; she was your best friend and greatest supporter. So when you began to act out of character, quite unlike the Kanye I’d known and loved, I excused it. Everyone deals with grief in their own way.  I hoped and wished you’d get better in time.

But you didn’t.

And it seems you never will — You are solidly the new Kanye. The new Kanye that is all about money, image, clothes, and women. The new Kanye who sells $6,000 shoes and is associated with a new woman every week. The new Kanye who thinks it’s perfectly okay to trash talk ex-girlfriends and bring them to tears.

And if that’s who you have decided you want to be, I have to accept that. I can no longer wish, dream, and hope that some day you will come to your senses and start making music that matters, start doing things that matter.  So, I’ll just have to give up my “Kanye’s #1 Fan” cap. There is no longer the Kanye I adored. It’s like you passed away.

I’ll always remember you though — the old you. I’ll still listen to your old music and reminisce, remembering the times when Kanye West was more than just another made for TV rapper.  It may take some time for my knee jerk reaction to defend you to subside to defend you. But it will in time, because all I have now are memories… It’s over.

Solemnly signed,

alee

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Article Response: Kanye Isn’t Coming Back

kanye-west-styleAnd even if he were, you don’t need him to.

Journalist and blogger Janelle Harris at The Stir recently posted a letter to rapper and producer Kanye West entitled Kanye West and I Will Never Get Married. Like myself, Janelle is a devoted and longtime fan of Kanye West. And like myself, Janelle decided to write an open letter to Kanye to express her disappointment in his massive backslide.

However, Janelle’s issue with Kanye stems not from his changing musical style or erratic behavior. Janelle calls Kanye to the table for his changing choice of women. As she muses, Janelle touches upon an often-discussed topic in some circles: colorism and the apparent exodus of black men via interracial dating and marriage:

My Dearest Kanye,

Eight years, six albums and several public fiascoes ago, I was introduced to you via “Through the Wire” and I was smitten — with your flow, your word choice, your honesty, your expressiveness…As you turned verses into albums, I really connected with not just your music but with you as a person, like kindred spirits…

So it’s been hard to watch you spiral into a stereotype that bulldogs so many Black men when they ascertain a high level of success: they dump us for the once-forbidden, still-taboo allure of the world of white girls and, if they aren’t quite bold enough to do that, they brandish the good ol’ fashioned colorism card that makes trophies out of light-skinned women. The more racially ambiguous, the better.

The bigger your name — and, can we be honest, your ego — got, the more you started interjecting little quips about race and complexion into your songs… I’m gonna need you not to be sucked into the played out patterns that too many big pimpin’ black men have perpetuated.

I understand that love can come shrouded in any color. Sure as I’m sitting here writing this, some sour commenter blinded by the overarching topic of interracial relationships is going to insist that it’s your right to date whomever you darn well please. And that it is, my dear. You certainly wouldn’t be the last brother to cross that color line and never come back… But the hem of your inner self-conflict is showing, and I think you can be saved.

The other day, my friends and I debated whether you would ever link up with another black woman…I’m wondering if a regular black girl or a chocolatey “Kelly Rowland” could ever be that masterpiece of perfection you like to praise…Look at a picture of your mama and tell me that you don’t find beauty in black women anymore…

I’ll always be a fan, Kanye. But I will be disappointed if you don’t put all that mouth to use to say something that the world needs to hear expressly said about black women: we’re desirable and sexy and art-inspiring, too.

Love, Janelle

While Janelle’s letter was well-written and honest, her concerns are not new and don’t look to be resolvable anywhere in the near future. As such, I’ve written my own letter in response to Janelle:

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Brandy Norwood

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Brandy Norwood, better known as simply Brandy, is an American singer and actress. She is one of the best-selling female artists of all-time and of the 1990s.

Brandy was born on a full moon in small town Mississippi, but grew up in Southern California with her parents and brother Ray-J. Brandy’s singing career began early — she was a back-up singer at 11 (for R&B group Immature), won a recording contract at 14, and released her first album, Brandy, at 15. Her acting career was similarly successful with Brandy securing her own sitcom Moesha; the most watched show in UPN history.

Brandy’s self-titled debut album released in 1994 has sold over 7 million copies worldwide and features the hit singles, “I Wanna Be Down” and “Brokenhearted”. Her raspy alto is widely praised, with former Red Hot Chilli Peppers guitarist John Frusciante describing it as, “multi-dimensional… you have to hear her voice with your subconscious.”

But her much-awaited second album was put on hold while Brandy focused on acting. In addition to her role as Moesha, she played Cinderella in a television remake of the classic fairytale in 1997. Singer Whitney Houston, who helped produced the film, starred as her fairy godmother.

brandy-norwoodWhen Brandy finally released her follow-up album it was an even bigger success than her first. 1998’s Never Say Never features the well-known duet, “The Boy Is Mine” with singer Monica and songs “Have You Ever?” and “Almost Doesn’t Count”. The same year she appeared in the film I Still Know What You Did Last Summer alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt, and worked as a CoverGirl.

After her sophomore album, she took another break from singing, returning in 2002 with Full Moon and a daughter, Sy’rai, from her relationship with producer Robert Smith. Her pregnancy was documented on the MTV reality TV show Diary Presents Brandy: Special Delivery. She later worked as a judge on the first season of reality talent show America’s Got Talent, but left the show after being involved in a fatal multi-car accident.

Her last two albums Afrodisiac and Human highlighted her journey from a young, inexperienced star to a multifaceted woman who has lived a life speckled with trials and triumphs. On the difference between her first albums and her later albums Brandy says,

“I just wanted to sing my heart out and connect with people. I wasn’t old enough or mature enough before to get into people’s hearts. Now I am.”

Brandy cites Whitney Houston as her number one musical inspiration — Whitney’s music video for, “How Will I Know” spurred Brandy to pursue a professional music career. She is planning on releasing a joint R&B album with her brother Ray-J.

Brandy is first cousin of rapper Snoop Dogg and close friend of tennis player Serena Williams and fellow R&B singer Kelly Rowland.

She was NBA star Kobe Bryant’s high school prom date and former fiancée of NBA guard Quentin Richardson.

singer-brandy  brandy-singer  brandy-singer  brandy-norwood

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Jill Scott is a Bigot or How to Misunderstand Racism

jill-scottBigotry and racism, they’re easy to understand, right?

A bigot is a person who is partial to their own group or way of thinking and intolerant of others. A racist is someone who believes that a person’s race is the primary deciding factor in their character, capabilities, and worth.

Sounds simple, yet it’s not.

Musicians and recent White House guests Jill Scott and Common have come under harsh criticism for comments they made in past interviews and songs. Both artists were personally invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to perform at the White House’s Poetry Night in early May 2011. And both artists have been called racists and bigots for their comments about interracial dating and marriage, particularly those involving black men and white women in the United States.

The criticisms of their comments, while well-meant, offer a perfect opportunity to show how racism and bigotry can be easily and boldly misunderstood when a person lacks proper background knowledge and experience.

First, the comments. Jill Scott comments in the April 2010 issue of Essence Magazine:

My new friend is handsome, African-American, intelligent and seemingly wealthy…I admit when I saw his wedding ring, I privately hoped. But something in me just knew he didn’t marry a sister. Although my guess hit the mark, when my friend told me his wife was indeed Caucasian, I felt my spirit…wince. I didn’t immediately understand it.’

And Common’s comments in an interview with Touch Magazine in 2005:

I don’t think there’s anything the matter with somebody loving somebody from another race but it’s almost like a stereotype that if you’ve got dreadlocks you go out with a white girl. I just feel like, as black men, we do have to be aware that every time we step out with some woman it’s setting an example for our daughters and it’s also representing something for our mothers. If you can’t really love your own, how can you really love others?

“My whole thing is that black women have been so put down – whether it’s due to the oppression of a white government or we [black men] putting our own women down. When dudes say they only gonna focus on white girls, to me, it’s like a slap in a black girl’s face. I still feel like because I’m an artist and I say certain things, I have a responsibility to let people know what I mean.”

Then, the criticism. Conservative blogger and journalist Patrick Courrielche’s response is typical:

“If [Jill Scott’s] words were put in the mouth of a Caucasian, the viewpoint would reek of bigotry.

Should Jill Scott and Common be uninvited to the White House Poetry event? At this point, probably not… But the First Lady should ask that Common and Jill Scott renounce their statements, and use the opportunity to help the black community see that many of their icons are big contributors to the racial divide that they so obviously abhor.”

What is wrong with the response of Patrick Courrielche and others? They assume that black Americans and white Americans are in equal positions in American society. That similar statements made by black and white people somehow have the same basic meaning and origin.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Best R&B Singers of the ’90s

The 1990s was my all-time favorite period for music. And it was a great period for R&B. The best-selling female R&B group of all time, TLC, were at the height of their career in the ’90s, and the longest-running #1 Billboard hit was a R&B song released during the same period. ’90s R&B continues to be one of my favorite types of music.

This is my personal list of the top 10 best R&B singers and group of the ’90s. The list is based on vocals (range, rhythm, etc) as well as style and quality of music. As always, feel free to make any suggestions.

brandy-norwood

1. Brandy Norwood is an American singer, actress, and songwriter. She is best known as Moesha from the TV show of the same name, and for her hits “The Boy is Mine” and “Have You Ever?”

Brandy has one of the most unique voices and a wide range — she is irreplaceable. She isn’t a soprano like others, but she doesn’t need to be — her raspy voice has just as much power and feeling.

mariah-carey

2. Mariah Carey is an American singer best known for her wide vocal range and series of hit singles, including “Hero” and “One Sweet Day”, a duet with Boyz II Men and the longest-running #1 single in American history.

Mariah’s “My All” is of my favorite songs ever and a classic, like so many of her ’90s ballads. Mariah was at her peak in the ’90s but hasn’t been the same since.

boyz-ii-men

3. Boyz II Men is an American male group and best-selling R&B group ever. Their hits include “End of the Road”, “Four Seasons of Loneliness”,  and “One Sweet Day” with Mariah Carey.

There will never be another Boyz II Men. The amazing combination of their voices, lyrics, and production contributed to making nearly every one of their songs historic. Favorite Boyz II Men song? All of them.

whitney-houston

4. Whitney Houston is an American singer and actress and one of the best music artists of all time, based on sales and awards. She covered Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”.

Whitney has the classic “singer’s voice”; her songs will be listened to for generations. If you haven’t heard of her, you haven’t been alive for the past few decades.

babyface

5. Babyface, real name Kenneth Edmonds, is an American R&B entrepeneur: prolific singer, songwriter, and producer. In addition to his own hits (including “When Can I See You” and “Every Time I Close My Eyes”), he wrote “End of the Road” for Boyz II Men and “Let It Flow” for Toni Braxton.

It is not an overstatement to say that ’90s R&B would not have been without Babyface.

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Vetting Celebrities

I carefully examine potential friends, partners, and even social events before choosing. Now I have to add celebrities to the Official Vetting List.

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John Mayer

Of course it never takes long for a celebrity to make headlines for poor behavior or provocative statements. TV stations, radio, and bloggers make a living from reporting the latest shenanigans by the world’s (in)famous. But it seems celebrities have become more bold about expressing and endorsing questionable beliefs and actions. For me that means making some adjustments in who I support. Too many celebrities are failing to make the grade:

Goodbye John Mayer because racism, misogyny, and homophobia is just about too much prejudice for one person. I was never fond of loud mouths.

See you around Chris Brown because domestic violence and colorism have never been on my list of issues to support. We’ll forgive you when you show some improvement.

Jill Scott, you can sit in your own corner some time. Maybe next time you’ll think before speaking for other people and setting the progress of black American women back 50 years. Not that I’m betting on it.

Some would say that it shouldn’t matter what these celebrities opinions, personal beliefs, or actions are. What matters is their product; whether they bring value through entertainment. This is partly true. Everyone is allowed their personal quirks. I’d never penalize a person for smoking cigarettes or having an anger problem. But I draw the line at a celebrity causing harm to other people through their words or actions.

Celebrities have a global audience. What they say and do has a great impact on society at large. I will not support, through viewing, buying, or requesting the products of people who are not using their platform to better society but to damage it. Negative reinforcement is sometimes necessary and, best of all, it works.

Anyone else vet celebrities?

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Mainstream Music is Bad Music?

backstreet-boys

The Backstreet Boys

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I love music, the people behind the music, and the entire creative process. Much of my favorite music is of the more esoteric, lesser known variety, but some is more mainstream. That is, popular music — Daughtry, Mary J. Blige, My Chemical Romance, and even the group that put the pop in popular music — The Backstreet Boys. Nothing wrong with that, mainstream music is as good as any other. Or so I thought. According to many, most popular music is just not good. Not only is it not good, but it’s terrible, awful trash and anyone who listens to it has poor taste in music.

I can’t deny that some of the more mainstream music and, specifically, the music artists are replaceable. They are popular today, gone tomorrow, and won’t be missed by many once their 15 months of fame is over. But amongst the mass of music and artists out there, there are some not-so-hidden gems. The Backstreet Boys really are that great of a group, no matter how much they are mocked by the “Hate Every Boy Band” crowd. The Backstreet Boys carried an age and recreated a genre of music, constantly reinvented themselves, and are still producing hits.

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Brandy Norwood

If many people like the music, how bad can it be? This is argumentum ad populum, of course — just because lots of people believe the music is good, doesn’t mean it is. However, it’s worth thinking about in this case. Many of these artists simply had lucky breaks, but some had to work to get where they are and prove themselves worthy on a large-scale. Some mainstream artists started out as the unknown, under-appreciated musician just hoping to get a chance to perform at the local coffeehouse.

One thing to wonder about those who make a habit of disliking mainstream music: what happens when their favorite artists become more popular? Does their music decline in quality as they gather more fans (possible)? If an artist is truly a stand-out, it’s probably only a matter of time before they become known on the grand stage.

Several popular artists produce great music that stands the test of time. I am not going to miss out on great music because the music is enjoyed by a wider audience.

What’s your view? Is most popular music bad?

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Open Letter to Kanye West: Please Stop Singing

kanye-west-autotuneDear Kanye (or should I say Mr. West),

I’ve noted you have taken to singing in your latest recordings, in addition to, and in priority of, your usual rapping. This would be fine, if you could actually sing. But as much as it pains me to admit, you can not.

Your use of auto-tune was grating to my ears, and surely to others; enough for them to make a petition for your quitting the use of it. But this is something far worse. You’ve attempted to become a singer without any clear vocal training. You’ve fallen into the realm of pop singers such as Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna — a mockery.

When I received your album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I wasn’t all that excited. I was already aware of your explicit, racially charged album cover. But more urgently, I’d heard your first single, “Runaway” and was less than impressed. In fact, I never listened to the song the whole way through because I couldn’t stand your singing.  Now that I have, I’m still convinced the song could be better, and the only thing that saved it was the rapping — not by you, but by Pusha T. I’m hesitant to listen to the entire album in fear of the singing that may be in store for me. This is coming from one of your earliest fans.

So please Kanye, stop singing. You are talented in many areas, but singing is simply not for you. Don’t be offended by this letter: I’m only trying to help. Your latest antics have isolated your fans, do you want your singing to drive away even more? We want the old Kanye back.

Truly yours,

alee

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Bat for Lashes

bat-for-lashesNatasha Khan (1979-), better known by her stage name Bat for Lashes, is an English songstress and multi- instrumentalist of Pakistani and English descent. Her music is a magical blend combining fantasy, historical fiction, and spirituality.

Growing up in a suburban area outside of London, Natasha took frequent trips to her father’s home country of Pakistan. Her diverse background introduced her to a wide range of cultural influences. Her father inspired her love of the otherworldly. She says of him, “When I was growing up, my Dad used to use storytelling all the time… it was very archetypal, full of symbolism and the metaphors that go through the generations with fairytales”.

When her parents divorced she turned to music. She learned to play the piano, adding the bass guitar, auto-harp, and harpsichord to her instrumental set. She cites Björk, Steve Reich and Kate Bush as her main inspirations.

As a university student, she studied music and visual arts. There she assembled multi-media work focused on performance, sound installations, and animations. But she didn’t go on to work in music or visuals, instead she initially worked as a nursery school teacher. During her time as a teacher, she began to work on what would become her first album Fur and Gold.

Fur and Gold was released in 2006 with the single “The Wizard”, and reissued in 2007. The album was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize, a music prize awarded for the best album from the United Kingdom.

Her second album, Two Suns, is a metaphorical journey of her quest to find her “knight in shining armor” and “meeting a lot of strange characters along the way”. The album was released in 2009 with its first single “Daniel” becoming a major hit in the UK.

She rereleased Two Suns in the fall of 2009 with a cover version of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”. The cover was a great success with critics and non-critics alike, with some claiming it better than the original version.

She contributed “Sleep Alone” in 2010 to the Enough Project, a campaign against genocide.

Natasha spends her time traveling all over the world, and in between lives by the sea in England.

bat-for-lashes-two-suns bat-for-lashes

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