Control

 

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Me in June 2012

About two weeks ago, I went to go see a family therapist, the first of my weekly sessions. I teared up a little bit talking about the hardships I went through as a teenager and not having any say about the direction of where I wanted my life to go. In retrospective, I would say my teenage years were far from the usual glory most people experience; deep down inside I was the unhappiest teenager probably in the world.

 

I entered high school with trauma from middle school bullying and deal with it even more up until I probably turned nineteen. I never knew why kids act the way they do. You don’t like someone. Fine. But you really have to go out your way to be as sour and grimey as possible to somebody? 🤔  I was criticized and harassed for everything about me. If it wasn’t fat-shaming, then it was I “sound white, or I’m an oreo” or “You don’t sound like a black guy.” If it wasn’t then it was because I was viewed as slow or I wasn’t perpetuating stereotypes of a boy; or a black boy for that matter. For someone of my creed to be sassy, reserved, awkward and [low-key] quirky who is an observer of life is content with myself now it was looked down upon amongst the guys which I guess why there was always a chasm between other [straight] boys and me. It made it difficult for me to mentally recover from it after high school ended and I had to deal with these naysayers less and less. At 21, I’m still trying to piece back together with my self-esteem.

It’s funny how politician Maxine Waters has said in some congressional meeting: “I’m reclaiming my time.” I say this because that is what I would honestly call the current chapter of my life. I’ve tried to look up on Google what that phrase meant, but I think it’s better than the receiver (it did go viral) interrupt the meaning themselves. For me, I believe in reclaiming my time is better using my time for important agendas and concerns and throwing all away from the bullshit. I believe this is my time (my moment) now, being able to do the things and be around the type of people I haven’t been able to in the past due to *drum roll* ….. lack of control.

I hated the two high schools that I was forced to attend and being compelled to co-exist with people I would never go out of my way to befriend had we not had to spend 7 hours of the day together for four years. Even throughout high school, I was encouraged by staff members and some students to seek careers that were outside my genuine interest. When I was senior, I was talked into going to community college instead of a four-year college where I knew I could succeed (and live independently away from my family who aggravates me on the regular). But no one believed in me. I told a staff member of a vocation services who regularly come to see students in their senior year that I wanted to hopefully buy my mom a house one day (I think I said in my 40s). I could feel the shade and wtf vibes coming from her. I went to an alternative school [for special education/troubled students], and many students either choose to go trade school or community college. Very few went to 4-year college let alone one that was away from home. But I knew deep in my heart, my direction was going to different. However, at the time my necessary wasn’t occurring.

I went to community college for a semester, and I withdrew because my heart wasn’t in it. I sunk into a deep depression. Jealously played an even bigger part. I would see on my social media (Snapchat, Instagram & Facebook) my former classmates from my first school and childhood friends, going to the colleges of their dream across the region or country for that matter. They looked like they were having the time of their lives on their posts: having artists like Trey Songz and Big Sean perform at their school, living in dormitories, meeting new people and exploring the local area. I wanted that even if it meant spending thousands of dollars in student loans to make it happen.

2015 was when I finally rebelled and convinced my mom to let me restart my college career at Newbury College in Massachusetts. I also did what I think what was best for me and take six-months off from school because I just grew tired of people. Some people told her “it was a bad idea” and “he stopped community college and now he wants to go away?” I mean I don’t know, Tamar Braxton’s first album went nowhere, and she considers her her  2013’s Love & War, album her debut because of how much it was an actual representation of herself  and not at the expense of someone’s dominance. I made the deans list my first semester at Newbury while many of my classmates failed out or were put on academic probation. Which proves the notion, it’s all about the effort and not always about the preparation. I was focused. I still am, but now I’m focused on my destiny.

My therapist said I was being controlled most of my life and now the tables turned. Among walking out my session, he said: “You are the controller of your destiny.” I then immediately thought about Janet Jackson’s Control era. After the dismal sales of her second album Dream Street, she broke away from her parents’ reign (and management) and would go on to find her own musical sound that created albums like Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, and The Velvet Rope. I wasn’t around in the 1980s obviously, but I imagine people thought she was never going to escape her brother Michael’s shadow but the gag is she did and paved her own journey to success. It’s not where you started but where you end up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNAPSHOT: AUGUST 2017

**I apologize for not doing any blogging this past month, [no shade but] I decided to actually enjoy the time I have off from school and not work myself to death when I’m not at actual work. When the summertime hits my laziness goes on 10, and my brain goes on vacation**

Date: August 6th, 2017

Where I’m Calling Home: My mama’s crib in Long Island where that’s been my home since 2001.

What I’m Looking Forward To: Enjoying the last couple of weeks I have left of summer vacation. I’m going on mini-vacation to Maryland/D.C. next week followed by a trip to NYC to see Broadway’s Chicago musical starring my childhood idol growing up — Brandy.

What I’m Dreading: All the supplies I have to go out and get for school (including the textbooks).

Exciting Things from Last Month: I got hired at CVS/Pharmacy as a Clerk/Cashier. I had a brief job as a Sales Associate at a clothing store that I was laid off from after three weeks🤦🏾‍♂️🤦🏾‍♂️. I quit Chipotle (thank god; working in fast food is not for everyone). I was offered a summer employment job in July with Nassau County’s Department of Parks and Recreation with a starting pay of $13.50/hour.

Progress on Last Month’s Goals: I didn’t get to go Panaram Music Festival (it’s whatever) and probably not the Hot 100 either. I still haven’t made a savings account

Short-Term Goals: Being an enthusiastic as possible for school this coming year. And editing projects. Try to get a camera (or at least save money towards getting one).

What’s on my playlist at the moment: More singles than straight albums I’ve been listening to. Up-and-coming R&B singer-songstress Gabi Wilson rebranded herself as an anonymous artist a la The Weeknd circa 2010 named H.E.R. The result was an A+ mellow-weary-late-night EP: H.E.R. Vol 1 and H.E.R. Vol. 2. I still love Cardi B, and her song “Lick” with Migos’ Offset is my new jam. LeToya Luckett released a new album — Back 2 Life — this summer…I’m obsessed with at least three tracks from it — the groovy fast-tempo “Show Me,” the plushy number “In the Name” and the Neptunes-sounding “My Love.” I also can’t get Tamar Braxton’s new single “My Man” out of my head, I’ll probably Snapchat myself lip-syncing to it. Honorable mention to reunited boy band New Edition’s song “If It Isn’t Love” and Camilla Cabello shoulda-been-a-hit song “Crying in the Club.”

What am I binge-watching: Being Mary Jane and Greenleaf. My new favorite television series Insecure came back this past two weeks for the second season, and I decided to watch the new season of Love & Hip-Hop: Hollywood (I have a love/hate relationship with the L&HH franchise).

Long-Term Goals: Grow my networking, learn some more adulting-skills, get an entry level job in broadcast media after college, explore downtown New Haven more since I have two more years in Connecticut, find a boyfriend.

Most Influential Person At The Moment: Cardi B

The blockbuster success of Nicki Minaj touched off a wave of a new generation of female rappers putting them back in mainstream hip-hop’s spotlight: one that stands out among the rest is Cardi B.

I admit that I was a hater of the Bronx native in the beginning. (I wasn’t an immediate fan of Nicki Minaj when she came out in 2009). Maybe the hate came from how she talked and acted whether it was on her Instagram videos or VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop. Or it could’ve been the fact I that I thought her pussy probably stinks. I believe it all came from jealousy which comes is part love if you look at it. That’s when I stopped hating and started embracing. Cardi B is someone who is famous and getting all the glory because she’s simply herself. And like any other millennials, a simple Wi-Fi connection and a phone with a camera can come in clutch.

What I think makes Cardi B stand out from other black female celebrities is her being carefree, authentic and not putting on a front. It’s not like she has to be proper because the box people are putting her in. She embraces being ratchet, loud and speaking in slang with her thick New York accent. I’m not from the hood, but I have some hood tendencies which have probably come out a lot more since she has come onto the scene. (I’ve used deadass and shmoney more times than I can remember)

She’s very open about her struggles from being homeless to stripping to even getting her butt done (which some girls are afraid to say to the world whether we already know or not). She’s comedic; I don’t know many beautiful brown girls who can have me on the floor dying because how funny their videos are. Cardi also used herself as a come-up to get to where she wants to be when it’s prevalent in the black/hip-hop industry for girls to do the opposite. The narrative generally says: I can go from being a nobody to somebody by dating an R&B/hip-hop bad boy or an NBA/NFL player. To me, that’s sounds desperate and a stepping stone for a young girl whose not secure enough make in the industry with their talent alone.

Cardi also used herself as a come-up to get to where she wants to be when it’s widespread in the black/hip-hop industry for girls to do the opposite. The narrative generally says: I can go from being a nobody to somebody by dating an R&B/hip-hop bad boy or an NBA/NFL player. To me, that’s sounds desperate and a stepping stone for young girls whose aren’t secure enough make in the industry with their talent alone. By the time 2015 hit: she had a social media following in the thousands to the point she quit stripping and could start hosting clubs.

Anyone who had doubts about Cardi’s rapping ability better check out her Red Barz Freestyle. Ever since her first Gangsta Bitch mixtape, I’ve gotten even more thirsty for more music. Some people do not take Cardi B seriously as a rapper from the lack of substance in her music or how she following the footsteps of sexual rappers a la Nicki Minaj or Trina. However, this is who Cardi B is; she’s never said she wanted to make conscious rap. When you hear her mixtapes, you’ll hear the sexual explicitness, but you’ll stay for the humor, tongue-in-cheek and plain over-the-top that Cardi possesses. She’s not discussing serious topics in her music a la Lauryn Hill or Kendrick Lamar, she just having fun and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We live in a society where as black people we have to care what white people think of us as they are the ones who have power in America. They are the ones that can “show us the other side” but also have to debunk stereotypes too. So that’s why I commend Cardi B for not watering down herself especially as we enter the Donald Trump-era. “I wanna talk at the level that people could relate to me; I’m not gonna be fake,” Cardi says in one of her Instagram videos.

At the end of the day, some woman may want to run for Congress or go to Yale University, but Cardi wants to climb her way up the hip-hop ladder. I was happy to see her leave Love & Hip-Hop as her larger-than-life is bigger than that. What’s next for the Bronx princess? TV? Movies? A talk show? Only the future can tell, but I know I’ll be watching.

 

#BARDIGANG

 

 

 

Why are people so fed up with the racism/prejudice on Grindr* and Jack’d*?

If you click on profile in Grindr, it won’t be uncommon to see a profile that says: “No blacks, No trans, No rice, no spice, no fems, no fats*. And there are gay people who come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities who feel uneasy; like they feel their dating/hookup options are limited.

My answer: Ignore these discriminators. Your options aren’t limited. If a white (or even black) guy put on their profile they don’t want a black person, that’s okay to me I probably don’t even fucking want you anyway. I know there are people in the gay community who say we shouldn’t be preferential, but that’s their opinion. I prefer dating niggas and Spanish niggas. And I don’t want to mate or date outside my race. I believe white guys aren’t as masculine as black and latino dudes. I think Derek Luke is 1000x sexier than Ryan Reynolds. No that does not make it racist me racist. The type of guy, I prefer is a cisgender masculine guy. That doesn’t make me transphobic. You have to realize for every person who doesn’t like you or type, there are people who very love your creed. I still get a lot of hit ups by many black guys, Spanish guys and even surprisingly white guys. And I’m three of things I listed above: thick (i don’t like the word fat), black and fem.

*Grindr and Jack’d are two ubiquitous gay dating/hookup apps

I Wish You Were Here: Father’s Day Edition

 

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circa the 1980s maybe?? 🤷🏾‍♂️

Today is Father’s Day, and I expect many of you guys and gals to be posting photos on social media of you and your dads, how much you love and appreciate them for taking you to your first little league game or Disneyland and what not. However, I did not have the privilege of growing up in a two-parent household or have two parents period. I am part of the 72 percent of Black children who are raised in a single parent household.

I remember last years Father’s Day, I broke down and cried. I had wished that I didn’t trigger this emotion by going onto the internet and social media that day and the next to see what I’ll never have the chance to experience or even relate to. I think at this point today future Father’s Days to come, a fire in me will be there no matter I do.

My father’s name was Kenneth Oliver Crowder Jr. He was born in August 1958 and raised Queens, New York (“where they listen to a bunch of Nas“). His mother Minnie and father Joseph moved to Queens sometime around the 40s or 50s from Alabama. My dad never went to college but did pursue trade school. He knew my mom from when they went to church as kids and ran into her again in the 1980s when she was working as a bartender in Queens, and he was delivering newspapers. I don’t know many fun facts about my dad except for that he was a fan of the New York Mets and that he loved hip-hop music. For those who don’t know. New York (particularly the Bronx) was the place that birthed hip-hop in the mid to late 1970s before reaching the masses in the 80s and 90s. I’m sure my father was into all the Golden Age/Old School Hip-Hop of that heyday. My dad married my mom who already had two kids of her own and had my brother in 1985 and me in 1996. For awhile he worked at the Marriott hotel and then worked in a deli at the hospital where I was born.

There was a time my dad and my mom were separated as he had some issues, like infidelity and “letting the streets tell him what to do.” Towards the end of the 90s, my father developed lung cancer which was caused by heavy cigarette smoking. There was nothing the doctors could do to help him succumbed to the disease on October 2, 1999.

I was only three years old, and my brother was 13. I literally have no memory of my dad while my brother does. So growing up with a single parent was normal to me. When people ask me about my brother I low-key cringe because I don’t think he’s really been the same (mentally and emotionally) every since my dad died. I’m not going to delve that much into it at this moment, but he and I have had a tumultuous relationship which is why I try to keep communication with him at a minimum as much as possible as I pray that he gets help for his issues.

I’ve always fantasized how different my life would be if my father were still around. Or even if I had a step-father or some type of father figure. Men aren’t really prevalent as parents in my family as much. Most of them, off the top of my head, either left, died or went to jail.

I remember as a kid watching sitcoms where if a child’s parent said “no you can’t do or that,” then he or she would to the other parent and ask the same thing. I imagine that would’ve been the situation if my dad was around. Maybe my dad and I would’ve gone fishing or play baseball or basketball together. Shoot then I would be in shape today.

My dad and I would’ve debated over rap music because we both share a love for it. He probably would be one of those black father’s who tries to tell me that Migos, 21 Savage or Drake doesn’t compare to his hip hop back in his day. (My mom who became an ordained minister four years ago, can’t stand rap music or anything that isn’t gospel, smooth jazz, or Sade period; she also hates music with profanity in it).

There are other things I do ponder about. Would our financial situation be better? Would, my dad, be supportive of me going to away to college? Would he have been accepting of my brother, older cousin (who’s basically like a brother to me) and I being gay? (Cause me trying to be heterosexual is like Snoop Dogg quitting the chief) Would my father have been able to tolerate his son’s uber-obsession with Beyonce and the Destiny’s Child/Knowles alumni? Would he have that birds and bees conversation with me? Would he have given me the best childhood as a loving, supportive co-parent? Sadly I’ll never truly know.

What I do know is there are times I get in my feelings because I wish he were here on earth with me. I already have trouble forming ace boon coon friendships with other black men (despite going to a mostly white campus) out of fear they will be intimidated by me being gay. I feel like parents are the first friends you have in life and my dad would’ve shown me the way in life.

Even though I’ll never a father in my life, I still want to be a father myself whether the blueprint is in hand or not. Though that’s subject to change as I have those days where I’m other people’s children and I think to myself: maybe this isn’t for me.

I’m still debating when I would have children post-college years. I’m thinking my late 30s and 40s. I pray that I’ll be married to a great husband by then and we’ll have the coins to have a surrogate mother carry our kids. At the minimum, I want two. From our sperms that we’re even.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNAPSHOT: JUNE 2017

Date: June 14th, 2017

Where I’m Calling Home: My mama’s crib in Long Island where that’s been my home since 2001.

What I’m Looking Forward To: My new internship role at Radio Free Brooklyn continuing to get more hands-on experience in my desired career field, meeting new people at work, hopefully getting some exercise and some summer relaxation but most of all, stacking this BREAD.

What I’m Dreading: Living some distance from my main college pals, being afraid of not being able to give my all, taking the Nassau County bus to and from work.

Exciting Things from Last Month: I’ve fixed this blog and have become active on it now that I have free time since I’m on summer vacation. I’m halfway done with college (71% according to my degree audit). 46 more credits to go. And my GPA is back to stabilization. I will have a new on-campus bursary (non-work study) job as a Bartels Building Manager for the Office of CSELO. I also got hired at Chipotle Mexican Grill at Nassau County’s Roosevelt Field mall. And I joined the Caged Bird Magazine team.

Current Term GPA: 3.20

Major GPA: 3.65

Cumulative: 2.89

Progress on Last Month’s Goals: I didn’t exactly have a substantial amount of goals I wanted to accomplish, but by the end of the year I knew I was going to try to get a job no matter how aggressive I had to be for this summer and the next school year. I was still going to get as much experience in broadcast journalism as much as I can despite not landing my dream internship. I made sure I was in good academic standing.

Short-Term Goals: Get a ticket to Day 1 of the Panorama Music Festival and the Billboard Hot 100 festival no matter if I get someone to come with me or not, find ways to occupy myself this summer when I have downtime, tackle my ADHD, creating a savings account, pay my tuition and get supplies ready for next year, apply for Orientation Leader position again for the 2018 summer.

What’s on my playlist at the moment: I absolutely love SZA’s new album CTRL (I love her stripped-down voice with melodic-styled neo-soul and R&B), Dancehall artist Spice’s Sheet (Raw) is my new workout song and I know all the words to Cardi B’s “Red Barz” track and Mary J Blige’s new song “Glow Up” (with Missy Elliott, DJ Khaled and Quavo) on her new album Strength of a Woman.

What am I binge-watching: I still haven’t finished 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale. I’m currently watching the second season of British comedy show Chewing Gum. I will try to continue to watch the TNT’s new show Claws. (watch out for a blog post about it)

Long-Term Goals: Grow my networking, learn some more adulting-skills, get an entry level job in broadcast media after college, explore downtown New Haven more since I have two more years in Connecticut, find a boyfriend.

Freeform’s Famous in Love is more like Famous in Young Hollywood Messiness

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Now that I’m out of school for the summer, I finally have the time to catch up on new television shows that may have premiered over the duration spring semester. I missed the new CW series Riverdale after 3 episodes. (Gotta catch up on that). While FOX’s Empire may come to an end sooner or later, I might stop watching altogether as it’s becoming more and more uninteresting to see with each episode.

In comes, the new series Famous In Love. Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family, is in need of another smash series on their roster as the pop culture phenomenon is known as Pretty Little Liars is coming to an end with its series finale premiering on June 27th. Carrying a formula similar to other Freeform shows (or teen-centric shows in general), the cast is made up of mostly unknowns which are cheaper than getting superstars (except for sexy Keith Powers whom you may remember as the co-star in The New Edition Story mini-series on BET earlier this year). However, the lead star of the show is former Disney star, Bella Thorne.

I’ve never cared to watch Disney Channel post-2009, so I didn’t know who Bella Thorne and Zendaya were on until later on when they became more relevant in the mainstream celebrity world. That didn’t happen until their show Shake It Up! ended. I started stanning out for Zendaya after she dropped her first album while Bella Thorne I didn’t care for at all. I know she took on the Drew Barrymore legacy playing the 2015 version of naive Casey Becker Nina Patterson in the first ten minutes of the MTV television reboot of Scream.

With the series Famous in Love, it seems like Bella Thorne is using this opportunity to as a stepping stone to help further distance herself from her Disney persona/audience. It’s not easy for former Disney/Nickelodeon stars to transition into adult roles that can help them be taken seriously by the industry. However, after watching five episodes, I don’t think this series does much for Bella Thorne’s post-Disney career. I’m confident to believe there isn’t that big of a gap between folks who watched Shake It Up and Sonny with a Chance to those now watching Freeform shows.

In a nutshell, the show centers around Thorne’s character Paige Townsen (without the d) who is a college student/aspiring actress in Los Angeles living in an apartment with her two best friends Cassie and Jake. Paige’s life changes when she is plucked from a cattle call and cast as the lead actress in a YA-book phenomenon turned major Hollywood film adaption called Locked. Paige stars along with:

  • Heartthrob Rainer Devon who is part Leonardo DiCaprio/part hoe
  • Alexia Green who apparently washed up (who acts petty towards Paige), desperate, and hiding that she’s bisexual
  • Jordan Wilder (played by Keith) who seems to always be in his feelings and in a love triangle dispute with Rainer
  • Tanger Turner what kind of name is that for a pop star a Rihanna/Beyonce-esque pop star who still has feelings for Wilder

Like any other teen series throughout the episodes are GAGs, twists, turns and messing-around-with-one-another as the character are all in a small world uncontrollably interconnected.

However the show looks fun to watch for a little bit, but it comes very basic, unrealistic and a little bit thought-provoking. I don’t know what the entertainment industry is like as I’ve never been in it or around it. So I could very much get an impression that people in Hollywood are straight up GRIMEY and that to become a celebrity is lose your individual soul and dignity. There are various scenes throughout the show where you see some of the young starlets doing ANYTHING to either keep their career or public image afloat. To the public, Jordan is an orphan who parents are deceased when it turns out his mom is alive and gives into her attempt to blackmail him out of thousands of dollars to keep this orphan story a secret. Then we have Alexia who gives a film director fellatio so she can get cast in this Locked movie.

The main storyline (at least this season) is unrealistic itself. So yes, Paige Townsen is going to be starring in Locked, but she breaks this news her pro-education parents (dad) who then makes a spreadsheet of how can she balance this and being a college student. We see for the next couple of episodes, Paige is BARLEY getting by completing her truckload of class assignments while participating in mandatory photo shoots and filming movie scenes day-by-day.

On behalf of being full-time college student myself, in real life, it wouldn’t be possible in any way shape or form to be able to keep up with college and shoot a major Hollywood movie at the same time. It is either you pick one or the other. Being a movie star (or the next Kristen Stewart) is not a part time job. Being a college student (with 15-18 credits a semester) itself is a full-time job despite not getting a paycheck. It is very demanding, and even if someone were to skip the extracurricular activities and events like Townsen, you still have to put in so many hours and effort into your school work while submitting it promptly. There’s a scene where Paige missed the deadline for her research paper and come to her professor’s office to try to hand it in asking if she can be excused “this one time” explaining that she’s late on the assignment because she was shooting a movie. The professor rightfully said no and gave the perfect explanation why. You would think the writers would give Bella Thorne’s character some common sense that college faculty does not put their students on a pedestal no matter if you’re about to be a movie star or replacing a member in a girl group.

Another unrealistic setting that stands out on the show is the character’s financial situation and the questionable apartment they live at. It’s gorgeous don’t get me wrong, but it’s Los Angeles, and they are college students (Cassie is on the brink of being kicked out school over the outstanding tuition bill while Jake doesn’t come from money as well). The rent for an apartment in real life like theirs has to be at least more than $1200 a month at best.

Overall, the show needs a makeover for the second season that is less cookie-cutter if that makes sense. And Belle Thorne could use a new hair color and more studious acting lessons. Thorne, who’s been famous since her pre-pubescent day, tries to play a normal character but it feels forced.

I will tell you it gets an A for diversity. Teen soap opera are increasingly getting more diverse in the representation of the character of many various races as exemplified by Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why. No longer are there Gossip Girl, and 90210-esqe shows with the token POC whose the only storyline in the show to propel their white counterparts.

There’s Something about Kehlani

http---bae.hypebeast.com-files-2017-01-kehlani-sweetsextsavage-stream-1I love R&B music. Lord knows I do, since being exposed to Destiny’s Child, 702, Aaliyah and a little channel called BET growing up in the early 2000s. Unless it happened to be on the radio, a Now That’s What I Call Music album or BET’s 106 and Park, rap was a no-no. Mom wouldn’t buy me albums that carried the parental advisory (explicit content) sticker, and it was typically rap albums. So 50 Cent’s 2003 Get Rich Or Die Tryin album was a no. Most R&B albums at that time didn’t have profanity in it from what I can remember. So I’m always eager to next biggest thing in the genre. Preferably whose R&B music is authentic and not whitewashed when it shouldn’t be. Ariana Grande has the perfect pipes for R&B, but I’m sure her record label and management feel it’s more commercially economical to have her sing R&B-sounding pop and EDM music that will guarantee her mainstream success. The biggest problem for R&B — for at least the first couple years in this decade — just wasn’t popular anymore. I sweat this was the case from 2010-2014. Mainstream pop was taken over by EDM and EDM-influenced pop music. Another major problem found is that “Black R&B acts, especially women, don’t get priority at major label anymore” unless you’re Beyonce or Rihanna (and Nicki Minaj even though she’s a rapper) whose music get’s questioned by R&B lovers on if it’s “really R&B.” When you don’t get priority on the major label, it’s unlikely that you’ll become a superstar. Sevyn Streeter performed (and slayed) at our school back in February, and while she isn’t Bey or Rih-status, she should very much be.

Now enters in Kehlani. I hear about her in 2014 (maybe early 2015) through a former classmate who played her music while we were driving who even knew her personally. At the time, Kehlani was very much still an underground artist with some buzz floating around. She played her Cloud 19 EP, which I didn’t like except for one song. However, it was the songs I didn’t like, but it was her voice caught my attention. Kehlani carries a raspy-chilly voice, a mixture of sing-talking (what Bryson Tiller does) and can belt tunes very well. When she dropped her You Should Be Here mixtape, I officially loved her as an artist and a songwriter. Her songs felt very raw; like they were from the heart. I was afraid when she announced that she would be signing with major label Atlantic Records just out of thought her music whitewashed for watered down for mainstream listeners. Like The Weeknd post-2012.

With the release of the SweetSexySavage album, this wasn’t the case. The music felt just the same if not better. Yes, it’s R&B, but it’s R&B with a witchy-edge to it. The album I feel is designed to lead the way in modern R&B. Keep the roots (for Kehlani’s generation it’s the 90s) but move with the times of musical innovation which is currently on a trap-influenced wave. Lyrically, she is defiant, vulnerable, sweet but also confident (have you heard Too Much). I’ve been listening to the album non-stop since it’s release.

Outside of her music, Kehlani’s appearance coupled with background make her unique. For a female urban R&B artist, she has an unusual appearance aesthetic. She has tattoos all over her body (including her face), a septum ring, unpredictable hairstyles (from a Caesar-inspired haircut to hair dyed blue) and by appearance comes off as racially ambiguous to the average person. She identifies as a person of color (one of her songs is called Niggas):  “African American, Caucasian, Native American, Spanish, and Filipino Native American” according to her website. (Note that I showed my 8-year-old nephew her album cover to which he said: “she looks like an elf” #Savage). What comes to most people’s minds when they think of a female urban R&B artist (post-1990s) is an African American woman. A melanin beauty queen (think Aaliyah or Ashanti) with luscious brown skin and straight hair (maybe braids or cornrows sometimes).

As far as the latter goes, I connected with Kehlani on a personal level as a young person going through many hardships before the age of twenty-two. Although I grew up more socio-economically privileged than Kehlani, I had dealt with depression, anxiety, the lack of men in my family and a desire to leave my town. I had, even more, sympathy for her when she attempted suicide after PartyNextDoor posted a pic of her on Instagram insinuating that she cheated on NBA player Kyrie Irving with him causing trolls and backlashers to attack Kehlani. Chris Brown even went as far as to make fun of her suicide attempt which made me dislike him even more than I already (low-key) do. As someone whose been down the road before, suicide attempts are never something that should be joked about ever. Maybe it’s the drugs that Chris Brown was, or he just likes to talk to be talking, but it was plain deplorable.

It made me for a moment about how millennials forget that each of us is all human who will make mistakes but shouldn’t be automatically burned (figuratively) on the cross for it.

Finally this year her life has come full circle. SweetSexySavage opened up at No. 3 on the pop 200. Now could she use more radio play?….issa yes. I’m still surprised her second single “Distraction” stalled at No. 85 on the pop charts and hasn’t even reached R&B/Hip-Hop’s top 20. The hook is insanely catchy and pays homage to the R&B music that came out in the year 2000.

Still, Kehlani continues to receive rave reviews especially after her performance at this years’ Coachella. She even steps out her day job to promote mental health, encouraging young girls out there, helping the less-fortunate and making unapologetically making political statements. Throughout it all, she’s been nothing but down to earth.

I don’t see Kehlani getting Hollywood-ized as her more and more people continue to take notice.

Female artists in urban contemporary music don’t get the same attention their male counterparts get from their label or even the success. And Rihanna and Beyonce could do but so much to as they drop album cycles every 3 or 4 years. Look at the current week’s (June 7th) Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart (where there are only two women) it’s basically a boys club.

Kehlani and TDE-signed artist SZA (who dropped CTRL on Friday) could be the antidote. Support them guys! Support them!

*Also Hold Me By the Heart will be my wedding song guys*

Also R&B singer Tinashe spoke to the Guardian yesterday and this to say about the lack of successful black females in the music industry:

“Recently, my cousin was with a friend of a friend, who was in high school, and she was like: ‘I’m a fan of Kehlani,’ but in a way that was like, ‘So I can’t be a fan of Tinashe, too.’ Then my friend posed the question, ‘Why not be a fan of both?’ It’s kind of like sport; people feel like they have to pick a side.” Suddenly she springs forward, her default laid-back demeanor temporarily out of the window. “There are hundreds of [male] rappers that all look the same, that sound the same, but if you’re a black woman, you’re either Beyoncé or Rihanna. It’s very, very strange.”

Happy Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈🌈

FullSizeRender-1One of the most important movies to me Moonlight — depicting the struggle of being a Black gay man won accolades this earlier this year. Each and every day I continue to hope that being black and queer becomes normalized and LGBTQ+phobia becomes a thing of the past in the Black community. We can’t move forward as black people in America or Europe or elsewhere if black-on-black prejudice exists.

“Black, gay men shouldn’t feel the need to conform to these archaic stereotypes. No one should have to act in a way that is unnatural – regardless of race or sexuality. We need to stop pigeonholing – not all gay men are effeminate, not all black men are masculine. Men shouldn’t feel any less ‘manly’ for being gay, or acting in ways that are not traditionally ‘masculine’, and gay men shouldn’t feel any less part of the LGBT+ community if they do not fit the effeminate gay stereotype. It’s about time we ditched these preconceived ideas of what people should look, or act like. There are no rules.”

— Jamel Sherard, Ditch the Label (2016)

Say it out and Loud and Proud:

“I am NOT your faggot”

“I am NOT your batty boy/batty mon”

“I am NOT your sissy”

“Stop calling it a lifestyle”

“Let there be Love! “Love has no Gender”

“I am NOT your black gay stereotype”

“I am NOT your gay stereotype”

“I Don’t Belong to You, I Live Life on my own Terms”

 

 

Now here’s a surprise 😘