Self-care is hitting pause on issue-driven social media.

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Your Opinion Might Be Killing You

This post should be relevant no matter when you come across it. You’ve no doubt contributed to “the discourse” on Facebook, Twitter or (God help you) Tumblr. At some point you’ve gotten into a debate about your beliefs, your opinion, or your general position on any given issue. And perhaps that debate devolved into something uglier, maybe a little more petty with the requisite ad hominem attacks, and suddenly you were no longer in the middle of an intelligent debate but perpetuating what has come to be known as a “dragging.”

Without sitting at someone’s computer right along with them, you can’t be exactly sure of a person’s temperament when they engage this way online. You don’t know if they’re legitimately angry and frustrated or if they’re smiling and giggling, delighted that their performance has caught on and accrued more retweets, replies and followers. But the impact of what we do in these scenarios–as a conscious, intelligent and opinionated people–will forever, regardless of the intention, be known as OUTRAGE. To be sure, not everything qualifies as OUTRAGE; some things just earn a side-eye. But this is The Internet, and it only takes a few side-eyes to qualify as a collective OUTRAGE.

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with reacting. Terrible shit is happening to us every day, and to express an opinion is a natural inclination. But there’s something to be said for pulling out from time to time, to stop caring about everyone else and care about yourself. And for those of us that don’t participate in the business of OUTRAGE, or rely on these matters as part of media work, it can be hard to qualify the investment of one’s emotional currency in these conversations. The problem is, most of us don’t believe it needs to be qualified. We have the freedom of our opinions and anyone that doesn’t want to engage with them can turn the other way. But I don’t think that kind of entitlement does us any favors.

Do a Google search for “social media stress.” There’s no way to conclude for certain that The Internet causes stress, but it can make you hyper-aware of everyone else’s issues. Being Black is stressful enough on its own without taking on someone else’s frustration. And if you are frequently “going in” on any given issue, with any given stranger whose sole objective might be to troll you, you probably need to consider if the temporary catharsis associated with being the most correct or the most clever is worth it.

I’m not interested in telling anyone what to do, but personally I’m starting to run very low on the amount of energy I can devote to identity politics, or any number of topics that persist among my online familiars. This might not be the case for you; your passion might supersede any other considerations. Your passion could also be channeled in others ways, ways that manifest in positive, real-life, tangible solutions. Who knows? But one thing I’m certain about is the extent to which I’m responsible for my own peace of mind. It’s a slight freedom I have, but a freedom nonetheless. Sometimes divesting from the echo chamber can be beneficial; you have to trust there are enough voices doing the work. A break might do you some good.

 

The 25 Greatest Bad Boy Remixes (5-1)

5. Total: “Kissing You / Oh Honey” (1996) ft. Puff Daddy

This is not a remix. Puffy has a rap verse and the requisite ad-libs but at no point does he utter the word “remix.” This is a totally different song, and another showcase for 112 and Stevie J. It was a great way to infuse energy to a song that was nearly a year old by then; the Raphael Saadiq original is far more classic, but this sequel of sorts is like comfort food, especially since the video offers up another opportunity to get the whole family together (there’s a blink-and-you-missed-it Sheek Louch cameo).

4. Jodeci: “Come And Talk To Me (Hip Hop Remix)” (1992)

The rest of this countdown represents classic remixes that, once again, surpass the original in impact. We don’t acknowledge the original version of “Come And Talk To Me” in 2015 any more than we did in 1992. It was an approach that no doubt laid the groundwork for Jodeci’s sophomore release. The group was suddenly even more Hip Hop and more street, but with a more focused style. This version tends to be a bitch to find at karaoke.

3. MC Lyte: “Cold Rock A Party (Bad Boy Remix)” (1997) ft. Missy Elliott

MC Lyte had already launched a fairly successful come back with Bad As I Wanna B. Her first two singles aligned her with Bad Boy’s main competition, Jermaine Dupri. But she came home on this remix, employing the sample-heavy sound of the time and the Missy guest spot. “Cold Rock A Party” was another hit in the Bad Boy’s ’97 streak.

2. Supercat: “Dolly My Baby (Bad Boy Extended Mix)” (1993) ft. Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, 3rd Eye

This remix is a pretty big deal in the cannon of Bad Boy posse cuts, since it includes one of Biggie’s earliest performances and an entire verse from Puffy. And Puffy’s verse is pretty terrible, even when rating Puffy verses on a curve. That aside, this is a guaranteed banger in 2015. Put it on at a party and watch what happens.

1. Gina Thompson: “The Things That You Do (Bad Boy Remix)” (1996) ft. Missy Elliott

This remix was so effective it had everyone thinking it was a Total song, or that Gina Thompson was a Bad Boy artist. The thing about this one is, it benefited everyone involved–Bad Boy/Puffy as a remixer, Missy Elliott as a guest rapper and eventually solo artist, and Rodney Jerkins–except the lead artist. Writing, arranging and backing vocals come courtesy, once again, of 112, who seemed to put in a shit-ton of work behind-the-scenes before releasing their own album. I can’t state for certain why this remix is number one for me, it could be the sample or a combination of all the factors above, but in almost 20 years Bad Boy hasn’t done another remix this clean.

Bruh, “How come no one’s talking about Akon?” has reached fever pitch.

Senegalese-American singer Akon, whose Akon Lighting Africa initiative aims to bring electricity to some of the 600 million Africans who lack it, announced on Thursday [May 21] the launch of a new “Solar Academy” for the continent.

The institution, scheduled to open this summer in Bamako, Mali’s capital, will try to give African engineers and entrepreneurs the skills needed to develop solar power. European experts will help supply training equipment and programs.

The academy will aim to teach people how to install and maintain solar-powered electricity systems as well as micro grids, “which are really taking off in rural Africa,” Akon Lighting Africa said. (more…)

But according to your cousins on social media, no one is talking about it or doesn’t care.

It is inevitable that when multiple news items drop within the same cycle, one will float to the top. This week it was Caitlyn Jenner. This happens because of public interest and the reach of mainstream media. That the media can be biased, imbalanced and exists to serve its own corporate interests isn’t a revelation, but lamenting this does nothing to change the dialog or your option/ability to participate in conversations that you find more important and interesting.

“But how come no one is talking about [insert any possible alternative topic]” is probably the most annoying and reductive sentiment expressed across social media. I understand that cultural dialogues can be persistent, but they aren’t so overwhelming that we can’t be smarter about how we engage with them. What Akon is doing is great, and plenty of prominent media outlets have reported on it (check your local GoogleMart for confirmation), but there’s nothing to viscerally debate here, which is probably why it won’t get much burn on social media. That doesn’t mean the people who live in these African villages won’t benefit from his efforts. Ultimately, their ability to access electricity supersedes giving Akon a pat on the back.

Caitlyn Jenner isn’t stepping on your toes. The amount of time you spend lamenting that no one’s talking about Akon could be spent talking about Akon. It’s not a complex proposition. If you can’t be bothered with the conversation happening around you, create a new one. That’s the power of social media. It’s how we came to learn about the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Another option is to actually join Akon, or decide how you can busy yourself by contributing to your own community, so you won’t be so distracted by conversations you’ve  decided aren’t worth our time.

For more information about Akon Lighting Africa, or to become a volunteer, click here.

Wildly speculating on Janet Jackson’s new music

If we’re being honest, Janet Jackson probably doesn’t “need” to release new music, it’s just that we miss her and if by some unfortunate circumstance she was taken out, we don’t want Discipline to be the album she leaves us with. If 20YO and Discipline proved anything, it’s that she didn’t really have much left to say (they were also just bad Janet albums), and an artist with nothing to say should not be dropping product, no mater how much the fans demand it.

But Janet could have something to say now. A lot has happened in the seven years since Discipline was released, notably the death of her brother Michael and a new relationship that prompted a move to another country. In the past, Janet has addressed racial injustice, which she could choose to do again in response to Black Lives Matter. She could also, in some roundabout way, address the cold reception to her last two releases, or touch on ideas surrounding the right time for an artist to “speak.” If her formal announcement is any indication,  she could be headed in that very direction.

Janet is largely recognized as a Pop star but is at her best employing a smooth, sexy R&B approach. Songs like “If” and “All For You” might inspire breathless dance routines, but I’d argue they haven’t aged as well as “That’s The Way Love Goes” or “My Need.” Among all of the So So Def party tracks of 20YO, it was the smooth, mid-tempo “Enjoy” that stood out and elevated the album. Without knowing the strict purpose of the announcement’s background music, it could hint that her next project will be a more mature R&B effort.

Another good sign is that the announcement was teased by Jimmy Jam, who tweeted the #ConversationsInACafe hashtag six hours before Janet, so it’s healthy to assume Janet is re-teaming with Jimmy and Terry. The limited involvement of the team for 20YO and their complete absence from Discipline hurt those albums the most, and as a result they seemed to exist as vanity projects for Jermaine Dupri. Grafting a heavy So-So Def sound onto classic Janet themes wasn’t a smooth proposition to begin with. When Janet steps away from the comfort of Jimmy and Terry to experiment with more trendy Hip Hop-leaning producers, the results are often mixed. The potential for that in 2015 is terrifying, so here’s hoping Jimmy and Terry are taking the lead.

Janet Jackson, at 49, is not in a place where she has to compete, not even with her own contemporaries. Madonna has been self-destructing for the last couple of years with terrible PR and forgettable music. Jennifer Lopez’s recent output is all over the place and America hasn’t made it through the title of Mariah’s last album to even begin listening to it. The path for Janet is clear right now, but her age must be considered an asset and not a burden. Bubblegum Pop might be out of the question but sex should never be. No one sings about sex better than Janet Jackson and she’s more qualified at this age to sing about it than she was in her 20s.

The current rumor is that Janet will be dropping a single within a month. As a fan, I have an idea of what I want but not what to expect. What is certain is Janet has to do a little more this time than winning over her core fanbase; it’s a new day and only time will tell if the larger public is as welcoming to Jacksons as they were when the industry was a lot healthier.

Janet Jackson’s New Single Coming Within 30 Days | Rap-Up

‘Chocolate City’ and the Fear of Black Male Sexuality

Directed by Jean-Claude La Marre. With Robert Ri’chard, Tyson Beckford, DeRay Davis, Vivica A. Fox. Life for a struggling college student changes in an instant when he meets the owner of a male strip club who convinces him to give amateur night a whirl.
Chocolate City (2015) – IMDb

“Support” is such a loaded word when it comes to Black creative output that is released for public consumption, but I’d resolved to “support” Chocolate City one way or another upon learning it was in production. Its most immediate reference point is Magic Mike, since both deal with young, wide-eyed ingenues in the male exotic dancing world, but it could have easily hewed closer to 1998’s The Players Club. It could have hewed closer to anything remotely resembling the culture of Black male exotic dancing but it doesn’t. Chocolate City spends the majority of its time being an overly-sanitized representation that is somehow more vanilla than Magic Mike. And, aside from Bolo, none of the men on stage can dance particularly well. That includes Ginuwine who dances to his own song.

There are enormous challenges to getting Black narratives on screen, at every level. I approach small-budget Black movies with that in mind, and try not to pick them apart based on arbitrary, imbalanced “quality” standards. Movies cost a lot of money to make and, if we’re being perfectly honest, Black filmmakers don’t seem to have the same never-ending reserve of funds as their white counterparts. We’re subjected to too many generously-budgeted yet shittily-made sophomoric white dudebro comedies every year that would fall apart if we placed them under the same so-called artistic standards we discover when critiquing Black film.

There’s also something comforting about these films in that you get to revisit familiar Black stars, in this case Michael Jai White, Robert Ri’chard, Vivica Fox, and Tyson Beckford. These movies generally tend to be a family affair since, within the context of Black film, everyone ends up being recognizable.

Even with those considerations in place, Chocolate City doesn’t hold up. The main issue is that it’s terrified of the very idea of Black male sexuality. The dance sequences lack energy and are filmed as if from a remove, with camera work that does not track with or flatter the performers. It doesn’t find ways to flirt with ideas inherent to the fantasy and intimacy of male exotic dancing. It doesn’t aim to titillate its audience. It’s a movie about half-naked men gyrating for women that has been completely neutralized by a heterosexual male gaze. That’s a huge problem for a film like this.

chocolate-city-movie-film-tv-roundup

How do you manage to make a movie with shirtless, unquestionably attractive Black men that is both boring and un-sexy?

What the film lacks in titillation it doesn’t make up for with a compelling narrative. There are almost zero stakes in this film. Michael (Ri’chard) is a struggling college student whose mother (Fox) is deeply religious. Want to know what happens when she finds out her son has been stripping for money? SPOILER ALERT: Nothing. The reveal is an attempt at subversion but it lacks humor. Perhaps a better attempt to subvert a well-worn narrative would be to not make the lead a struggling college student. Michael has a girlfriend who eventually finds out about his secret career, but that reveal also lacks impact since their relationship never appears to be a serious one. Aside from those two non-complications, Beckford portrays “Rude Boy,” a dancer who is jealous of Michael on sight. Why? Who knows? But making Tyson Beckford jealous of Robert Ri’chard in any context is a hard sell.

Work selfie @chippendales Last show of the nite abs on flex! #abs #vegas #nycboys

A photo posted by Tyson C. Beckford (@tysoncbeckford) on

Also a mystery is how Michael, on his first try on stage at amateur night, seems to know exactly what he’s doing. Ri’chard, again, can’t dance but the script goes out of its way to tell us Michael was a pro out of the gate.

This should have been a relatively fun story to tell. We know the culture of Black male exotic dancing is anything but modest. Black male strippers are fucking nasty. They are energetic, aggressive, highly imaginative, often acrobatic and their audience loves it. You would never know that from watching this movie. Chocolate City is just another day at the office with zero useful insight into that world; it doesn’t even touch on the stigmas associated with men who do this kind of work. Every misstep seems to speak to writer/director Jean-Claude La Marre’s fear of fully immersing himself in the subject matter, which is a shame since everyone looks so pretty trying.

On Michael B. Jordan’s defense of lazy diversity.

Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

-Michael B. Jordan: Why I’m Torching the Color Line | EW.com

Michael B. Jordan would have made a perfect live-action Cyborg.

I don’t presume to know the full scope of opportunity offered Black actors when it comes to big budget Hollywood films, but I’d venture to guess it’s minimal. The default, particularly in the case of comic book and sci-fi action films is usually male and white. So while it may annoy me when Black actors leap at the chance to play traditionally-white characters, I understand. But Michael B. Jordan’s open letter to bigoted genre fans, published last week on EW.com, is stupid.

It should not be necessary to change a character’s race in order to get diversity on screen. You want Black faces on screen, then write Black characters. The Fantastic Four is on yet another reboot while characters who have always been Black, Blade and Spawn, are languishing. The people in charge of the X-Men film franchise can’t cast a dark skin Storm to save their lives. A character’s Blackness should not be incidental. This idea that changing a character’s race in order to reflect “how the world looks” may keep Black actors paid but sends a very lazy and dishonest message. It suggests that Blackness does not exist as anything other than a reaction to whiteness.

If Trank & Co. really wanted to make some kind of groundbreaking bid for diversity, then Sue should have been Black as well. Lord knows we need more female superheroes of color on screen. But instead we’re getting this revisionist adoption explanation. This is the crux of why Jordan’s letter annoys me. It’s a cheap defense of racial diversity, when at the end of the day, he’s merely defending his paycheck. Any attempts to get diversity on screen will benefit Black male actors before Black female actors, so I’m not very inclined to take any of what he says seriously.

I’m tired of fake diversity that only serves the interest of getting Black faces on screen. We need to get Black narratives up there as well. I wish more people in Hollywood were interested in making Black things, and less interested in making things Black. There’s a big difference between the two, and I don’t expect people like Michael B. Post-Racial Utopia Jordan to advocate on behalf of that.