Monthly Archives: January 2015

Whitney Houston

It took me a while before I became a Whitney Houston fan.

Unfortunately for Houston, when she made her debut, Janet Jackson was also burning up the charts.  As a middle schooler, Jackson appealed more to me with her one dangling earring, intricate dance moves, and defiant lyrics of “Control.” What young person didn’t yearn to sing that to their parents face 🙂

Whitney seemed too sophisticated to me with her ballroom gowns, huge ballads, and classic beauty. Although really, she and Janet were just a few years apart in age.

Then hip hop and r&b music merged bringing in a new wave of black female singers like Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Toni Braxton, etc.,  pushing Whitney’s style even further into the background.

As I got older, I started appreciating Whitney more. Ironically, it was right when things seemed to be falling apart for the singer. The controversial headlines about possible drug addiction and a rocky marriage to Bobby Brown.

The Lifetime movie “Whitney” (directed by Angela Bassett) airs this weekend. The film attempts to address what was the “downfall” of Houston. Was it her conservative mother? Pressures from her record label? Bobby Brown? Possible struggles with her sexuality? I guess we will never know. In any case, it was hard to see such a beautiful woman self-destruct before my eyes.

Despite her troubles, Houston will forever be remembered to me for her voice/”The Voice.”There has been an attempt to marginalize her accomplishments due to her drug usage. Yet (white) folks will cut you if you say anything bad about Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, or River Phoenix.  All died from drug related problems.

A lot of celebrities have dealt with the drug demon, but we can still recognize their talents.  There should be no exception for Whitney Houston.

Rest in peace.

Black or White Official Trailer

There is a new show on Vh1 called “Hindsight” in which a woman is transported back to the mid-90’s . The upcoming film “Black or White” makes me feel like I’ve having my own back to the past experience.

“Elliot Anderson is widowed after the car crash death of his wife. Elliot has raised his granddaughter Eloise since his daughter died in childbirth. As he struggles with his grief, Elliot’s world is turned upside-down when the child’s African-American grandmother Rowena demands that Eloise be brought under the care of her father Reggie, a drug addict who Elliot blames for the negligence that led to the death of his own daughter. Elliot finds himself deeply entrenched in a custody battle and will stop at nothing to keep his granddaughter from coming under the watch of his reckless son-in-law.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_or_White_%28film%29

Didn’t we go through this with the 1995 film “Losing Isaiah?” The film starred Halle Berry as a drug addict who abandoned her baby and said baby is saved and later adopted by a white social worker (Jessica Lange).  A custody battle ensues. There are some tweaks. In “Black or White” instead of a loving white woman we get a loving white man (Kevin Costner), a black “crackhead” father (Andre Holland), and a quirky black grandmother (Octavia Spencer).

“Black or White” is directed and written by white guy–Mike Binder. It seems Hollywood loves these “white savior” type films as “Losing Isaiah” was directed by a white man/written by a white woman.

The film looks clichĂ©. The rich white people vs the working class black people, white person not knowing how to do black hair because “it’s so hard,” the rhetoric that love is colorblind, etc. Le sigh.

It’s 2015. Is it too much to ask for black stories that aren’t centered on the love and acceptance of white characters?

Empire

Poor Taraji P Henson.

Since being nominated for an Academy Award in 2008, Henson’s career has seemed to be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Nothing significant has taken off for her. But this can be said for the majority of Oscar-nominated/winning Black women actresses. Unlike their white female counterparts, they tend to struggle. There’s been hope for Viola Davis (nominated for Academy Awards for her performances in “Doubt” and “The Help) and Lupita Nyong’o (Academy Award winner for her role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave”). Davis is currently starring on the hit show “How To Get Away With Murder” and Nyong’o is slated to star in an adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s “Americanah,” “Star Wars: Episode 7,” and “The Jungle Book.”

Henson’s acting is definitely on caliber with these women, so it’s surprising she hasn’t had her own big breakout opportunity. She may have found it in “Empire.” “A unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire.”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3228904/

I watched “Empire” on Hulu this past weekend. I thought it was okay. Also, I’m a bit turned off with Terrance Howard these days. I used to think he was a great actor, but he comes across as one-note these days. And it doesn’t help that he seems to have misogynistic feelings about women/allegations of abuse. But Henson did bring the heat with her “Cookie” character. She really is the star of the show.

There’s been criticism that “Empire” feeds into stereotypes about black folks. Well, of course it does, it’s on the FOX Network. But I also think “Empire” is just trying to capitalize on the current adult drama craze that mixes thriller/sex/murder/power/vengeance that can be found in shows like “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Deception,”  etc.

Besides side-eyeing Howard, I’ve also been side-eyeing some of the comments made by one of the creators of the show…Lee Daniels.  One of his goals  with the  show is to address homophobia in the hip hop community. Okay, cool. But his rhetoric has basically been  that the black community is more homophobic than other communities, which is not true. If that were the case, white LGBTQI folks would have wonderful coming out stories, which they don’t. The issue of homophobia is a problem in all communities.

It will be interesting to see where the “Empire” storyline goes. If it will even survive a season. It’s all over the map, right now. Henson deserves so much more, so hopefully it works out for her.

Azealia Banks

The end of 2014 brought about some lovely surprises.  D’Angelo dropped a soulful/message tinged album that gave us hope for r&b music, the Ferguson protestors  defiantly declared “it won’t be business as usual” and continued their marches/die-ins throughout the holidays, and Azealia Banks called out the erasing of black women artists in a no-holds-barred interview.

Whew!

I remember the buzz on Banks years ago. Now that I’m older, my ears can’t take too much rap music, but I did share about her upcoming music with my younger women of color friends. Then Banks disappeared from the scene. We would later learn she was having problems with her management/record label and wanted desperately to be an independent artist. She stated, “I’m tired of having to consult a group of old white guys about my black girl craft.”

In the controversial  interview this past December, Banks continued her criticism of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea and the overall “smudging” of black creativity in the current music scene. Many folks dismissed Banks as being bitter and jealous of Iggy’s success. Banks (who is very astute and intelligent) articulated the fact that she knew people saw her as “an angry black woman.” One of the stereotypes that tends to be heaped on black women who don’t smile, shut up, and accept how they are being (mis)treated.

Also many (white folks) tried to claim that Banks/black folks who rejected Iggy were being “reverse racists.” Actually, the black community tends to be very welcoming of white artists.  From George Michael, Michael McDonald, and of course the late “soul sista” Teena Marie.

A few years ago, I saw Marie in concert. President Obama had just been elected for his first stint in office. Marie gave him a shout out and started grooving to her song “Hit Me Where I Live” giving another shout out to “chocolate city.” She was off the hook. My favorite cut from Marie will always be “Square Biz.”

The reason why a white woman like Marie was embraced (or at the very least tolerated by black folks) was because she stayed in her damn lane. Marie (George Michael and the rest) never tried to put themselves above the black musicians in the r&b/soul music genre. They always gave props, honor, and respect to the black artists who came before them. Iggy doesn’t do this and this is why she gets dragged. It’s probably because she is young, but it’s also due to her white arrogance, white privilege, and white supremacist thought.

I recently listened to Banks new album “Broke with Expensive Taste” and it’s solid from start to finish. I can understand her frustration. She’s very talented and wants her voice to be acknowledged. It’s hard due to the current music industry which is determined to make white women the new black women, all the while forcing black women artists to play into rigid white standards of beauty and sing/rap about nothing. Banks wants to be free to be herself and you can’t be mad at her about that.

This is one of my jams from the album.  Banks has an interesting story behind the song “Idle Delilah.”

“Idle Delilah’s father is a famed slave owner in the early 1900’s (America). Delilah is his favorite child. Delilah’s mother Lillith knew of the hatred her father had created for himself in the town by a pro-slavery activist. One day, the white man’s slaves grow tired of his bad treatment and decide to kill his favorite daughter Delilah as payback.