#BlackExcellence of the week: Mamokgethi Phakeng

Consider Dr. Phakeng a hidden figure that needs to have the spotlight shined on her for the significant accomplishments she has achieved before the age of 50.

Phakeng is a full-time Professor of Mathematics Education and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town. To date, she has published over 80 research papers and four edited volumes, which has been cited over 1174 times.

Her educational background includes:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Pure Mathematics
  • Bachelor of Education in Mathematics
  • Masters of Education in Mathematics

But the gag is….she became the first black female South African to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education in 2002.

 

“Integrity, loyalty, and optimism. I hate complaining, and I also hate people who complain about their circumstances when they do nothing to change the situation. It is easy to complain, to see why things are not what they should be. It is much more difficult to make things happen. I prefer to make things happen! People who complain never make anything happen, they don’t change anything – they just die quicker.”

— Mamokgethi Phakeng, Becoming You.co.za

Jaes Get Political in “Breathless” Video, Takes on #BlackLivesMatter

 

In April 2017, DMV native and UNH student Jameson Glover who goes by the stage name “Jaes” shot the video for “Breathless” a trap-influenced number speaking out about the oppression that African Americans still face in today’s society. He rounded up several students who are aspiring musicians, photographer, and videographers to help make this song and video a reality.

This week, I got the chance to have an interview with three of the artists involved in the making of this song: Jameson, who is set to graduate in May with a degree in Music Industry, Anna D’Anae, a senior majoring in Business and recent graduate Demetri Smith. All three aspire to go make it to the top of the entertainment industry in various forms and fashions.

 

Leeky: How was this song born? What is “Breathless”?

Jaes (Jameson): “The idea for the song came to life after viewing the movie “Fruitvale Station” back in 2013 and reading more about the murder of Oscar Grant. I was already enraged behind the profiling and stereotyping of Trayvon Martin that led to his death. At the time of his death, Trayvon was the same age as me which really struck a nerve. It made me view the world differently. Watching that film based on Oscar Grant and reading the details online was the tipping point. Oscar Grant was only 22. From there was Eric Garner to Mike Brown to Tamir Rice to Sandra Bland, and I am only mentioning the ones that made massive media headlines let alone all the other cases that people may not know about. So Breathless became a way to express my frustrations as a young male of color. The goal is to remind people of our struggles. Just because police brutality cases are not being broadcasted to the same degree as the cases listed above does not mean police brutality is over.”

Demetri: “I came up with the idea first but knew Jameson had the juice to pull people together, so I implanted the idea in his mind via inception and waited for him to come ask me to be in it, then I happily accepted the offer. Seriously tho, breathless is a scoreboard of what has occurred to our people over the past 500 years, so the question is why wasn’t the song made sooner?”

Anna D’Anae: “The song was created by Jameson. He was the creative mind and producer of this project.”

L: How did it become a trap song?

J: “To express my anger, I could not make this an R&B nor Pop track, my other specialties in production. Trap beats sound very aggressive. Therefore, I felt as though this track has to be Trap.”

A: “Breathless became a trap song just off of the base of the vibe of the song. Although it is a song with intent when that chorus comes in you just get hyped.”

D: “Didn’t mean to be a trap song but that’s what we have been exposed to for the past few years so when it was created that’s how it came out.”

 

L: What was the processing of creating it?

J: “I actually started off with writing the bridge of the song back in freshmen year of college. At the time, I really I wanted to be a rapper. For the bridge, the idea was to go back and remind people of specific police brutality casualties and then segue into my personal feelings. From there, I knew where I wanted to take it and wrote the hook and Verse 1. Rapper and recent University of New Haven graduate, Damani Piper wrote his own lyrics for Verse 2.”

A: “I wasn’t a part of the initial creative process. But from my observation when it came down to the actual recording, everyone recorded their parts individually. When it was time for the photo shoot we were pretty much together, and Jameson had everything in his mind for his vision. Same with the video.”

D: “A LOT OF MIXING! On my end at least. but during the sessions, I remember listening to everyone do their parts and becoming a fanboy of there performances.”

 

L: Explain your involvement in the song.

J: “For this song, I was the producer, the artist, a vocal arranger, one of the two songwriters, one of the three video directors, and the concept creator. I also had to play the role of A&R, which is finding the talent to be on the song. In addition, I sought out a photographer and directors in the Communications Department. Meetings were scheduled between Campus Police, my consultant and I to get clearance to bring prop guns onto campus. Same goes for scheduling meetings with the Head of the Theater Department to use their light system.”

A: “My involvement with the song was minor. I was simply called to be a part of getting a major message across a major platform. So, I was just involved in the actual song and the video. Jameson and myself also worked on how I was going to convey the part he wrote for me. ”

D: “I mixed the entire thing for one and I’m also on the first verse.”

L: Did you know who you wanted to be featured on it? And why those people?

A: “Who was featured on the song had nothing to do with me. I believe it was solely Jameson’s choice.”

D: “I had a feeling on a few that ended up being picked, but the rest was Jameson.”

J: “The only person I did not know who I wanted at the time was the rapper on the bridge, Kenneth Jeffrey. I knew I wanted Gospel powerhouse, Brianna Young. She is a truly gifted and highly skilled singer. She has perfect pitch, can improvise melodies on the spot and harmonizes like a beast. Then we have Damani Piper. Damani is the type of rapper who truly studied his craft. He is very expressive and always challenges himself to go above and beyond his limit as well as what is expected of a rapper. He also has that raspy, raw grunt sound to his voice that fit the song perfectly! I am really fond of his tone if I am being completely honest. Next is Anna Chapman. I had to get Anna on the track because her voice is so beautiful, soft and innocent. But do not be fooled, that girl knows how to sing! Given that the track’s feeling changes for the final hook, I knew I could not be the one leading. She was the right voice. Now comes Demetri Smith. I did not want a rapper for all the verses. I wanted a second male singer. My immediate thought was Demetri who is yet another talented individual. Demetri’s artistry has grown ever since I met him and he has always impressed me. It was a no-brainer. Plus I figured her can engineer the project as well which is what happened. Lastly, I found Kenneth Jeffrey through a mutual friend of ours. She played me his music on Soundcloud, and I loved his aggressive tone in his voice. He is very articulate and has a nice flow. I figured he would be the final addition to this A1 collaboration team! I can strongly say that I reached out to the right artist that could deliver on a song of this caliber.”

L: Tell me about the concept of the accompanying music video.

J: I wanted this video to be simple so the listeners can still be entertained but really listen to the words. I forget how I landed on this Youtube video, but it was of news anchor Tomi Lahren comparing the Black Lives Matter Movement to the KKK. To add on, given that the topic “Fake News” was trending after Trump’s live bashing of CNN, my directors had the idea of staging a News Show with a bigoted host named “Bonnie Morhen.” The rest of the video, I felt as though Black &White would give the video that edge it needed. I wanted to incorporate still framed shots of Black men and women looking angry and frustrated dead into thee care lens. That’s how our people feel so relaying that message was important. Lastly, the ending of the video was created to give a visceral response to the viewers. My goal was to have people feeling some type of emotion after watching it whether it be shock, anger, or sadness.

L: What is it about the Black Lives Matter movement that resonates with the black community?

A: “The Black Lives Matter Movement resonates in the community because we all know what it is like to be oppressed and being caution about inequality upon minorities is very important. The message that ties into BLM is very clear and communities that understand it wants to understand it and they act on it.”

D: “Because black lives matter was made because of black struggle….🙃”

J: “The fact that the Black Lives Matter movement continuously fights for our struggle is what resonates. They are the main platform that allows us to speak up, be informed and rise together as a community, culture, and race. People are so quick to turn away from conflict and controversial issues. The BLMM makes sure people do not forget through peaceful protesting and seminars. They are the foundation of our fight and instill power back into our voices.”

L: Do you feel it’s important as an artist to be political in your music and why?

J: “[As an] African American artist, yes. Not all the time because even I think that gets played out. However, instead of reciting the same topic of sex, drugs, violence, and money, they can use their gift to educate or remind people of more important subjects. Subjects that are usually swept under the rug.”

A: “It is extremely important to be political in your music. And that doesn’t mean “preaching” in every single song. But, music and entertainment is the most influential way to get a message across to people. If artist talk about political things inside of their music, it will resonate amongst listeners. And even if people don’t agree with what is in the music they still would have listened. ”

D: “Yes because only the real will stand the rest of time.”

 

L: How was it shooting the music video for the song? Why do you think it’s important for young artists or media makers (especially in college to work together)?

A: “It was fun shooting the music video. Being that Jameson already knew what he wanted and he had a schedule it was pretty easy to get done. I think it is very important for young artist to work together. When I shot my video I used everyone around my age and I used connections I made in UNH as far as actually recording the song and doing the music video as well. I think it’s really important to make and sustain these types of relationships because after school these connections can come in handy. ”

D: “The video was very well put together. Everyone was able to add their own sauce. Jameson Is a good director and organizer. Also, I will say that I was very professional because in the last scene I was beefing with one of the other artists.”

Check out “Breathless” right now”

Below are the IG/Twitter accounts to follow the artists of “Breathless”

Jae: @JaesProductions

Briana: @brianaebony

Anna D’Anae: @_anna_danae

Romello (Kenny): @_itsroemello

Damani: @whoisdamani

Demetri: @ayodemetri

Q&A with ProZach

 

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Photo credit: Joseph Moore-Costa

 

Based in the city of New Britain, Connecticut, Zach “ProZach” Pelletier has expanded his musical talents across the world. 22-year-old Pelletier recently graduated from the University of New Haven, where he studied Criminal Justice and Psychology. During his undergraduate career, he began recording his mixtapes and learned how to produce beats. Now, fully embracive of his passion for music. ProZach hopes to invade the hip-hop industry as one of the top rappers and isn’t letting anything get in his way. I got a chance to talk to ProZach about his journey and vision.

 

Leeky Crowder: When you did fall in love with music and the idea of making music?

Zach Pelletier: I picked up the trumpet at 9 years old and have loved the creative process ever since.

LC: What was the first album you ever bought?

ZP: Wow this is sort of embarrassing, but I remember using my birthday money to buy Aaron Carter’s album “Aaron’s Party.”  That had to be around 2001.

LC: What other artists did you listen to growing up? Did they influence you as a rapper?

ZP: In the household, my mom listened to a lot of 90’s freestyle music, like Coro and Stevie B. It used to get me hyped, and still helps my confidence with singing.  My dad used to listen to the Eagles, so that got me into softer music, the direction I’ve been going recently. I also listened to a lot of Streetlight Manifesto. As a trumpet player I fell in love with the instrumentation, and it definitely feeds my motivation to incorporate real instruments into hip hop.  As far as rap goes, I’ve always been a huge Wu-Tang fan, and I used to love following Kanye’s progression.

LC: What rappers are in your top-5 of all-time?

ZP: No. 1 Kanye West (No question). The rest are in no particular order: Redman, Methodman, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac.

LC: What instruments or music production programs do you play or know how to use?

ZP: I play trumpet, and can play pretty much any brass instrument you hand me.  As far as music programs I use Ableton, but I consider myself still learning because my beats aren’t that good yet.

 

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Photo credit: Joseph Moore-Costa

LC: Where does the name ProZach come from?

 

ZP: “Prozac” is an antidepressant. (Also my name is Zach and I’m a pro.) When I first started rapping, I made very positive and uplifting music.  Since then, my music has become increasingly more dark and depressing, as I use it for an emotional outlet. Now there is a lot of irony in the name.

LC: Typically, white rappers have to work extra hard to gain credibility as a hip-hop artist. Before the 2010s, every white rapper that wasn’t Eminem either weren’t highly regarded or had short careers. Do you feel that pressure?

ZP: I believe I feel the same pressure as everyone else trying to make it in this industry. It’s not about color, it’s about what you bring to the table.

LC: When did you start recording music and releasing it? I see all your music from SoundCloud dates back to two years.

ZP: I actually just deleted all the music on Soundcloud from two years ago.  Wanted to start myself with a clean slate again. I started recording with a few friends as a joke when I was 15 or 16.  That music is actually still on Youtube, but I’m not telling anyone how to find it. I became a lot more serious about it when I was 19, that’s when I recorded my first full length mixtape.

LC: Why did you decide to major in Criminal Justice and Psychology during your time in college? Is a career in CJ your back-up plan, in case music doesn’t work out?

KC: We are forced to choose our life paths at such a young age. I was interested in Criminal Justice, but came to realize I’m not necessarily passionate about it.  I came into college with a lot of credits, so I started CJ almost right away.  By the time I realized I didn’t want to do it, I was halfway done, so I finished it up and picked up Psych because the human mind is always interesting. I know I just want to work somewhere in the entertainment industry, I’m not sure exactly where though.  I plan on getting a masters in Digital Marketing so I can learn to brand myself better and possibly get a job within a music company. I wouldn’t mind being behind the scenes and branding other companies or artists.

LC: There haven’t been any major hip-hop acts that has come out of Connecticut. Why do you think that is?

ZP: Connecticut is not a supportive state.  There’s no unity between artists out here, and there’s no true fans.  You see the struggle with smaller artists like Chris Webby and Jitta on the Track. Nobody in CT claimed them until they moved elsewhere and gained a following and some buzz. It seems like my own state will be the last to fuck with me. People in CT don’t want to see each other strive.  It’s so individualistic that it’s harmful to careers. It’s quite upsetting.

LC: Has your family supported your decision to pursue a music career? Do they understand hip-hop music or in the industry?

ZP: My mom is actually extremely supportive.  She listens to all of the music I make (even if it’s inappropriate) and encourages the creative process. She wants it to be a hobby though, while I work a day job to support myself. She’s more supportive of my love for fashion, as it is easier to profit selling the clothing that I make. Essentially she wants me to be happy and that’s all I can ask for.

LC: Growing up in small-town Connecticut where not much happens is it hard having big dreams? How did you deal or continue to deal with the people who doubt you or judge you for pursuing a rap career?

ZP: Not at all.  There’s a ton of people who constantly try to shut me down, and some people who I thought were my friends won’t even give my music a chance.  So I just drop everyone who isn’t supportive.  I surround myself with people who want to see me succeed, and that’s it.  As far as the people who judge, they’ll be buying my music eventually; Joke’s on them.

LC: What are some short-term and long-term goals for ProZach?

ZP: Short term goals: I am working on a website called Uncivilized Civilians, where I cover a new artist every week (rappers, singers, producers, clothing designers, videographers, painters, and any other types creatives).  The vision is to unite all individuals whose creativity was suppressed by the system, by teachers/parents/peers who told them they have to work a desk job, and they can’t live off their passions. I also want to develop more notoriety around my clothing, and incorporate a lot more trumpet into my music. I need to get some tracks on Spotify and Apple Music as well. Long term goals:  GET PROZACH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD!

LC: Would you like to stay independent or if given the chance to sign with a major record label, would you take it?

ZP: That really just depends on the deal, and the amount of creative direction I have with the label.

LC: What are some dream collaborators you have (e.g. R&B artists, rapper, producers)?

ZP: Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy! If I could work with anyone, it would hands down be Kanye. I’d also love to work with some UK rappers like J Hus, Stormzy, or Skepta.  I love their culture.

LC: Tell us about the upcoming songs and mixtapes we should be looking out for?

ZP: I’m releasing my first music video within a month called “Note to Self.”  I’m currently working on an EP called “Textin’ Hoes & Lexapro,” as well as an untitled mixtape.  Release dates TBA.  I’m also working on various collaborations with producers, rappers, singers and guitar players, not just rapping but singing and playing trumpet. A lot of it is coming out this month and next. You’ll see my name around whether you like it or not.

LC: What songs that you released has gotten the most buzz so far?

ZP: I put out a song called “IDEW2” a few months back.  It’s not really hip-hop, I don’t even know what genre I’d call it.  It’s just a vibe, but it’s doing the best if we’re talking numbers.  My last release “Mandown” has gotten a lot of buzz from the CT scene on Twitter.

Follow him on

IG : @ProZach_rx

Twitter: @ProZach_rx

Soundcloud: ProZach

Check out his collaboration with R&B singer Jameson Glover that dropped earlier this year:

EXCLUSIVE: Felicity’s Tangi Miller on Playing Minority Student & Affirmative Action

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In another edition of the-fall-of-Americas-political-climate with Haberno Hitler Trump as our president, there was a report from the New York Times earlier this month saying that the Department is taking on affirmative action in college admission that is giving minority student an unfair advantage. Affirmative Action, by the way, guys, is defined by Webster Dictionary as “An active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women.” The DOJ shut down the claim. However seeing the kind of person that Trump (and the people he hired on his team) as well as backlash from white people & Republicans due to colleges & universities continuously becoming more diverse, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is actually occurring.

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It made think about a primetime soap opera from the 90s that I’m currently binge-watching on Hulu titled Felicity with the sole black character Elena. One of the effects of affirmative action is some minority kids feeling like they got into a college not because of their scholastic achievements but for the need to fill a quota. Elena Tyler was a freshman in the first season who hoped to not be seen as the “poor black girl” despite the fact that she’s a wiz in her academics. Here is the clip where she confronted Felicity at her job at the fictional Dean and Deluca.

Miami-native Tangi Miller, the actress who portrays her (and earned an Image Award nomination for it), took the time out her busy schedule as she is promoting her new film promoting the directorial debut of her new film Diva Diaries (#goals) to answer some questions over email correspondence.

KC: I know you’ve been very busy promoting your new film Diva Diaries but have you gotten a chance to catch up with the recent news about the Department of Justice trying to investigate colleges’ affirmative action policies that could “discriminate against white people”? I ask this as you played the smart and stylish Elena Tyler on Felicity wants to be at the University of New York-based on her own merit and not because she was black and underprivileged.

Can you take us back to 1998, to when you shot the scene where you came to Dean & Deluca to confront Felicity for looking into your character’s student records?

TM: “I remember my character being offended, and I remember wishing we could tell that story differently. I received a minority scholarship, which was less money than the non- minority scholarship. My department gave me the lesser scholarship because I am African American. When I earned the larger scholarship, that had nothing to do with my race. To subsidize my income, I was allowed to work on campus to earn the balance of what I would I have earned if I had been given the scholarship I deserved.”

KC: How did you mentally and physically prepare for it, as an actress?

TM: “I was able to pull from my real-life experience and the disappointment I felt, having to be put in minority box.”

KC: In what way has your role as Elena Tyler had an impact on people?

TM: “I don’t know that I can speak for other people, but in 98 there where not many one-hour dramas, coming of age shows, featuring college women or women of color. I wanted this character to have integrity, intelligence and add to the overall story. JJ Abrams was masterful in keeping this character in the storyline and giving her back story that would allow audiences to believe her in this world. I hope she served as a role model, with positive images and her experiences where believable and learning experiences people watching enjoyed.”

 

KC: Has anyone ever came up to you in the streets or reached out via social media to tell you how much she resonated with individuals who were like her or dealt with a similar situation? Be care to explain?

TM: “Yes, it’s really nice when people are moved by you and they see the truth for themselves, I enjoy it the most when mom and daughters tell me they’ve watched together.”

KC: I read that you attended an HBCU: Alabama State University majoring in marketing. Still, were there similarities to Elena Tyler as a college student did you share? Was it challenging to play a black student then but one that is at a mostly white school?

TM: “I think Elena was more uptight that me, lol. She never wanted a “B” I can live with a “B”. Alabama State University (ASU) was amazing. It wasn’t difficult at all to be a minority in college on TV. I was in graduate school at the university of California (UCI). The focus of the show was the college life experience, studying, rooming with classmates, etc. Many issues were the same for me at both universities.”

KC: Was the episode where Elena was livid at Felicity for “winning” the mini-fridge supposed to be a hint for the “Drawing the Line” episode that was to come?

TM: “I’m not 100% sure… I would guess yes, because the outline for the show’s season and episodes are done in advance. The writers work on future episodes and the over story, sometimes is a year or more in advance.”

KC: Diversity and Inclusion is one of the most popular initiatives in today’s society. I read in a Vibe Magazine article that the Felicity executive producer wanted to make the show more “real” as many of WB’s programming had few persons of color apart of the cast. How would you say your experience was being the token black person on the cast?

 

TM: “I don’t know that I would call my character a “token”, but I can say it was most important to me that you believed my character would be in this world and she needed back story. Felicity and Elena where pre-med students. That’s how we became friends. Elena had a past, which included her father, childhood friend and she dated and had a long-time boyfriend.”

KC: We’re you able to have a say in how you wanted your character to be portrayed?

TM: “As an actor, one doesn’t have control over storylines, but I felt included in developing Elena. I shared my experiences as much as possible and happy to writers that were interested in giving all the characters’ back story. We all had families and experienced that with each other like you would in real life. I feel felicity gave an honest look a college life.”

KC: Re-watching the show, I see they were very progressive regarding Elena not perpetuating stereotypes of a black girl that I regularly see in television and movies.

TM: “Thank you, we had an awesome team and a very cool cast.”

KC: If there was to be another prime-time college soap opera in 2017, what do you think creators should do to make it relatable and inclusive to everyone?

TM: “There is no one thing, it starts with the story and setting. I’d start with focusing on an area of study that is diverse. Maybe a college style Fame. I believe it’s most important to tell an honest story, then cast accordingly.”

KC: Some people are for Affirmative Action. Elvis Diaz from Columbia University said to Mic.com “Affirmative Action just gives an opportunity to those individuals that are trying and were given the short end of the stick. Let’s not forget this country was founded on racism, bigotry and the oppression of people for the benefit of others. This is just trying to amend those horrific acts that occurred since the birth of this nation that still affects

us to this day”. Meanwhile, some people have gone as to sue the college for claiming they didn’t get in because they were white. Personally, I had a harder time initially getting into a four-year college because of being a special-education student, not being afforded the same resources that a general education student would. Where do you stand on Affirmative Action?

TM: “Unfortunately, I believe we need affirmative action because many people are not inclusive and they will not be, if not forced. Based on my experience, I would wager that many more minority that are over qualified are getting the short end of the stick, than non-minority in regard to college entry.”

KC: Perception is a funny thing, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to make snap judgments. What would you say to the soon-to-be [disadvantaged] college students in dealing with how their classmates will perceive them?

TM: “Hold your head up and get your degree. I believe the majority of minority people that receive scholarships deserve them and more.”

KC: Finally — because I always wanted to ask — had Elena not been killed in the car accident and graduated from the University of New York, where do you think she would be today? Do you believe she would give back to those who grew up disenfranchised as she did? Explain?

TM: “I used to think about how this character would develop, if we could follow character for longer that their TV life. She would for sure be a doctor, maybe with a private practice in her community. Elena was super smart and very passionate.”

 

You can follow Tangi Miller on:

Instagram: @tangi_miller

Twitter: @tangimiller

 

In Honor of National One-Hit Wonder Day: Issa Playlist for y’all

Today, Sept. 25 is National One-Hit Wonder Day, where we celebrate the artists who rocked the pop fame circuit for 15 minutes before fading into obscurity. One-Hit Wonder Day was established by music journalist Steve Rosen back in 1990 to pay tribute to those who have had their five minutes (or less) of fame and subsequently vanished, leaving us only a catchy (hopefully!) tune to remember them by.

Here are the one-hit wonders I grew up on.

  1. You Gotta Be – Des’ree (1995)

Peak: No. 5

If you ask me this one of those songs where you only know just the song and not the artist as well. When I’m unwinding on a day I have no immediate responsibilities, or I’m on the train, this song is a great listen. British-born Des’ree never had another single or album (post-1995) that matched the success of “You Gotta Be” and its’ accompanying album in the States. She hasn’t released any new material since 2003.

2. Gotta Tell You – Samantha Mumba (2000)

Peak: No. 4

Samantha Mumba was a young, fresh-faced pop star of the Y2K era a la Britney Spears meets Janet Jackson but from Ireland (of Zambian descent). Her upbeat dance-flavored song “Gotta Tell You” rose to No. 4 in Dec. 2000 but Mumba would never see the upper reaches of the top 40 again later being dropped from her label in 2002.

3. ‘Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!) – Blu Cantrell (2001)

Peak: No. 2

This is the ultimate kiss-off anthem to the man who cheated and forced you to max out his credit card for “all the hard times.”

4. Girlfight (featuring Lil’ Jon & Big Boi) – Brooke Valentine (2005)

Peak: No. 23

Don’t act like this song didn’t make you wanna beat up somebody and when didn’t even have beef with anyone. Did females really need a song to fight too?

5. No More (Baby I’ma Do Right) – 3LW (2000)

Peak: No. 23

3LW was a teenage version of TLC (two singers-one rapper) but had Destiny’s Child-like management issues that ultimately led to their demise, but we’ll always have pop-R&B bob about telling a boy in ninth grade to be a man and to buy them, Kate Spade.

6. Never Had A Dream Come True – S Club 7 (2001)

Peak: No. 10

After Simon Fuller was dismissed by the Spice Girls as their manager, he founded the seven-piece group of young teenagers (4 girls, 3 boys) and named them S Club 7 who rode the Disney co-signed teen pop wave of the late 90s’/early 00s.  Their tender pop ballad “Never Had A Dream Come True” was their only song (of four albums released) that made an appearance on the American pop charts.

7. He Loves U Not – Dream (2001)

Peak: No. 2

Bad Boy CEO Puff Daddy signed the group in 1998, and they became the female version of N’Sync for a brief period from 2000-2002. Their most notable hit? A song about a teenage love triangle.

8. Don’t Wanna Fall in Love – Jane Child (1990)

Peak: No. 2

I first heard this song as the cover version by Kimberly Wyatt of the Pussycat Dolls. The synthesizer used in this song is as insane as the message that falling in love is dangerous.

9. Oops (Oh My) (featuring Missy Elliott) – Tweet (2002)

Peak: No. 7

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Can’t you see? The gag is that it’s your vocals that hypnotize me? So what this was her only major pop hit? It sure was on heavy rotation back in BET’s prime 106 and Park days. And the lyrics were subliminal enough that I didn’t realize it was about masturbation until I was 19. Tweet is undeniably slept-on as an R&B singer-songstress. Check out her most recent album Charlene, her first in over 11 years.

10. Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) – Lumidee (2003)

Peak: No. 3

Probably what makes this song memorable was it being the soundtrack to my summer ’03 as a native New Yorker along with other dancehall-tinged songs at the time.

11. Me & U – Cassie (2006)

Peak: No. 3

Ok, this is the best one-hit wonder song of all-time; makes me wonder why Cassie found another hit again. I can literally remember this slick-slinky R&B jam with a Janet-inspired video being played non-stop on BET’s 106 & Park throughout the whole summer of 2006. My (white-ass) music teacher back in elementary school even had something to say about it too.

12. Thong Song – Sisqo (1999)

Peak: No. 3

Apparently, Sisqo is not a one-hit wonder (his song Incomplete went. No. 1), but he is a one-hit wonder in my book because this is the only memorable song from him by most pop fans.

 

2017 VMAs — Issa Dub

Over the past few years, the MTV Video Music Awards seems to get less and less attractive. Whether it is awards given to the wrong person, mediocre hosts, or pop stars whose spark is dying out, the VMAs fail to stay afloat of everyone’s attention on a consistent basis. If you did not watch this year’s VMAs, here is the breakdown of why it was far from being saved.

 

P!nk taking home the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. However, where’s Missy Elliott’s?

No disrespect to P!nk’s musical artistry — her 2001 hit “Don’t Let Me Get Me” basically described my high school years; however, when I think of a music video icon, P!nk certainly does not come to mind. She is inspiring, humble and creative, but not in the realm of music video innovations. I do not even believe Rihanna should’ve gotten the award last year, as 10 years in the music game is premature in my mind. Missy Elliott changed the hip-hop landscape since her debut in 1997 with music videos of various outrageousness: the inflated trash bag outfit (“The Rain [Supa Dupa Fly]”), choreographed old school-influenced bops (“Work It,”, “Gossip Folks”) and the pink Barbie Dollhouse (“Beep Me 911”). To award Elliott, this honorary award would be to bring back meaning to the Moonman trophy.

 

Why was Cardi B reduced to the pre-show?

Right now, Cardi B is one of the hottest rising artists. Her major-label debut “Bodak Yellow” is currently the No. 1 single in America, but somehow, she did not perform on the main stage where it matters. However, somehow, she could not perform on, the main stage where it matters. The VMAs were always known for having new artists perform on the main stage to affirms their newly found membership in mainstream pop music (Britney Spears in 1999, 50 Cent in 2003, Paramore in 2008).  The lineup this year consisted of the same artist we have known for half a decade, if not more. Moreover, even then the artists become less and less attractive. Whether it was Fifth Harmony needing to inform us they are Forth Harmony (like we didn’t know nine months ago), Miley Cyrus proving how her music is like unseasoned chicken when she’s not appropriating hip-hop culture or Nicki Minaj who comes to every award show to deliver her 45-second punchline-laced guest verse. There need to be more fresh faces to the lineup than being tossed off to the pre-show stage. I never heard of Julia Michaels until my trip to the taping of the MTV’s revival of Total Request Live this summer when I discovered she had a singer a two-time platinum hit “Issues” that just missed the top 10. Nonetheless, her performance was neither breathtaking but more basic and could’ve been replaced by Cardi B. Also, if the VMAs that prides itself in bringing the biggest names to the stage to perform where was Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, Migos and SZA?

 

Katy Perry as the Host

One quality I look for in an awards show host is a big personality. Black-ish stars Anthony Anderson & Tracee Ellis Ross and comedian Leslie Jones captured the spirit of what it means to host an award show. Katy Perry came off as corny, like the high-spirited 40-year-old mom involved in her son’s school’s events. Perhaps Cardi B, herself, could’ve been the host instead to spice it up.

 

Gender Neutral Awards = fewer Categories

As gender politics is one of the trending topics in the media, MTV decided to eliminate “Best Male Video” and “Best Female Video” with the “New artist of the Year” award. I do not agree with this move as it decreases the number of diverse categories (what happened to “Best R&B Video?”). Coming from someone who keeps up with popular music, the best male and female categories are a reflection (that is let those know) who is the hottest female (or male) artist of the year.

 

Wrong Time to Air

There were too many events going on for the public to pay attention to the VMAs this year. Hurricane Harvey continues to affect our country and the season finale of Game of Thrones was on the same night as MTV, which got more viewers — 12.07 million to be exact.

 

Allowing Taylor Swift to Show Her Comeback Video

I am not here for Taylor Swift’s return to pop music, as I think it was good and inclusive without her. Not only does Swift new [petty] single “Look What You Made Me Do” come short of being a classic, but her music video for it was offensive using black gay guys as props and partially ripping off Beyoncé’s Formation video.

Control

 

IMG_6035
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