Chris Brown: Still Angry

Most of you have already heard, that after appearing on “Good Morning America” last week, Chris Brown went off backstage.  Unlike the news and other bloggers, I refuse to call his backstage belligerence, a “tantrum” because it infantilizes him, and I think Chris Brown is a grown man.  He deserves to be treated as such.

Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” asked about how he felt and was dealing with the restraining order that Rihanna had put in place, and his life since his violent outburst with her, or the incident where he and Rihanna’s face got into a “fight.”  It seemed like an appropriate question in the context of his new image, but instead of acknowledging in some meaningful way the seriousness of incident and the obvious reason why someone who was interviewing him would ask about it, you can see him get uncomfortable and visibly upset.  He only wanted to discuss his upcoming album, F.A.M.E and all that other stuff concerning his anger issues or his violence against women, “wasn’t even a big deal.”  He had “moved on” in his life.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t explain his angry outburst after his performance.  It seems to me that Chris Brown is still angry (with women).  He still has a lot of deep emotional scar tissue to work through.  The scary part of that is that he’s big enough to leave some physical scars on people if he wanted to.  Maybe it was just a mirror or his t-shirt this time, but what happens if it’s someone face the next time?

Chris Brown can beat up a woman, have a violent outburst about being questioned about it, and folks who have never met him still “love” and/or “support” him.  He smashed a woman’s face in.  Give me a break, not him.

Ciara and the Drop from Pop

Ciara experienced what felt like a meteoric rise in the early 2000s and her ability to capture the 14-19 age demographic with songs like “Promise” and “Goodies” seemed unmatched.  As I usually do in conversations about Ciara, I have to note that I attended the same high school as her–saw her in the halls, but never ever thought I’d be blogging about her 6 years later.  And then, I realized that something had happened to Ciara over the past year or so.  I heard the infamous words, “she fell off,” being spoken about the once pop princess.

If you recall she did have song or two out last year one of which was “Ride,” with the video that you couldn’t watch at work because it was somewhat x-rated.  She also had “Gimme dat” where she performed dance moves that only she and a select group of women could do.  But then, a friend and I realized that we had absolutely no recollection of what album those song were from, or if an album was released, or if anyone was listening to Ciara at all.

Ciara’s album, Basic Instinct, did in fact drop late last year (December 10th, 2010), with little notice having not even broken the top 25 Album Chart on the Billboards.  Ciara’s first album sold 3 million copies, her second, more than a million.  More research confirmed what we had learned through a Twitter Poll: “Did anyone purchase or illegally download Ciara’s album?” the answer to which was a resounding “wind and leaves rustling.”  Apparently, Ciara has only sold about 38,000 copies of Basic Instinct and last month Ciara was dropped from her record company, LaFace Records (LA Reid and Babyface’s record company–the same company that put TLC in bankruptcy).

And what does all this mean?  Probably nothing, but it does provide an excellent opportunity to talk about what it means, philosophically of course, to be dropped from popularity.  What does it mean to “fall off”?  What happens in the space between relevance and popdom, and irrelevance and regularness.  What happens when someone who once signed autographs in their sleep, starts working at the Bank of America down the street?

Popularity, for the most part, is an illusion.  A socially acceptable one.  A socially constructed one, but the mass construction of popularity for an individual is situated within a bounded framework.  It depends on context and technology, human biology.  People die.  People forget things.  And people are not going to be socially invested in the same things for all time because socially constructed “coolness” is constantly in flux.  It’s why 50 Cent was the most popular rapper like 6 years ago, and now nobody listens to that dude.

Pop is fickle, and though there are exceptions to this rule… think about 100 years from now–will people really know who Madonna is?  Cher?  Prince?  Dare I say… Michael Jackson?

More often pop acts from “a long time ago” (30 years) will remain nameless because we don’t remember them anymore.  We will forget the names of The Backstreet Boys, or the girl who sang that “Goodies” song–if we haven’t already.

Blackness, Nudeness, and Thinking Critically


Timothy Bloom featuring V. Bozeman, ‘Til the End of Time

As you can imagine, I’ve got plenty to say about Timothy Bloom’s new video “‘Til the End of Time,” but rather than offering my own reading of this video and the message its sending through its lyrical content, I’m just going to ask a few questions that came up for me and hope you’ll consider them when you watch it for the first, second and third time.

Let’s start from the top.

  • Where are they? What’s the context? You remember in school when your teacher would talk about the importance of looking for context clues? Well, what are the clues in this video that would help us make sense of it? Is it purposeful that there is no context?
  • Why are they naked? If you’re naked the first time you are talking about making a baby, that’s kinda late, right?
  • Are there other ways that Black men and women relate to one another other than in the context of sex?  And if so, where are those depictions?

Booooooy, put it inside of me/Go ahead and inplant your seed until the end of time/
And aaahhhhh… if you should die tomorrow/seed will live on inside of me.

  • What exactly is she talking about? Does it at all sound like a weird way to say “let’s have a baby”? Think about it literally and figuratively.   Literally: if this man dies–or if leaves her–his “seed,” the part of him that aides in the growth of another being will live (and grow) inside of her forever.  Okay.. so what does that mean? Figuratively: perhaps she’ll remember that dude for a long time after having sex with him.
  • But isn’t the general use of the word “seed” in the context of sex in reference to semen?  So, “implant your seed” means that they aren’t using condoms… which seems like an awful thing to do, because what if that dude does leave you?
  • Assuming the song is about two committed people having children, which would make some sense in the context of their naked bodies (babies come out naked), when you and your partner sit down and discuss having children, is it a deeper conversation than “I want you to remember me”?
  • Is this song/video so beautiful that it makes you forget that typically, women in heterosexual relationships are burdened with an unequal amount of reproductive labor, i.e. they spend way too much time “remembering” their kids and their partners, and not enough taking care of (remembering) themselves.  Do you think at all about the unequal distribution of power between men and women on a larger scale when you watch this?
  • Let’s just say that the video is hot, it’s only about good sex, and it’s just not that deep “Doctor” Lane… then what is its purpose? I mean, why make it? There’s plenty of videos and songs, and whole industries dedicated to that.
  • And then, let’s assume it is deep and is meant to send a message and does exist in a particular context where homosexual bodies continue to be policed, continue to be deemed “unnatural” because they don’t “reproduce,” and some people really think that sex can only happen between a man and a woman, and the AIDS/HIV crisis, is still a crisis and STDs are real but you have folks who would deny teenagers and grown people in prison condoms, and Planned Parenthood is in danger not existing in the next year or so, and feminist are fighting tooth and nail for Roe v. Wade… In that context, what then does this video mean?

The above questions are meant to aide you in the consideration that popular culture isn’t produced in a vacuum.  I don’t have all the answers to the questions I asked, I only know that it’s a good idea to ask them especially when Blackness and (hetero)sexuality are being deployed.

Enjoy and do me a favor, think critically.

A Brief Movie Review (Spoilers-Kind of): Battle: Los Angeles

Grade: B-


It was good. A little long, but I enjoyed the aliens–they were creepy looking.


If you need an alien action movie to wet your pallet for the Summer action blockbusters, this will do. It’s no Independence Day, but it’s better than War of the Worlds (that whack Tom Cruise one). The dialogue is no more masculinist and pro-US-military than any other alien movie. Luckily, there is more gun fire and explosions than talking which makes the movie move more quickly. The B is because it was good. It wasn’t great, but it was slightly better than average because most of the brown people make it out alive. Michelle Rodriguez fits in with the boys, as usual. All the black people live, and the white guy saves the day.

It’s a matinee movie; certainly, not worth full price. I like my action movies on the big screen, but you could see this at home on USA or TNT and not miss anything significant…

Alternative Reading, or an explanation of the minus

Another way you can read this movie is by thinking about grand narrative of anti-immigration policies, particularly against Latinos in America. There was one Nigerian man who was serving in the military in order to “earn” his citizenship. The two Latino men in the movie died (“for their country”), but a Latino boy lives and it was clear that he was being recruited into the military too, because that’s how you earn citizenship in this country: Kill other aliens.

Roasting the Beef: Pink Friday vs. Hardcore

The Beef

In its purest form, beef refers to various cuts of meat from a cow. In the hands of members of what H. Samy Alim (2006) refers to as the “Hip Hop Nation,” it is a word used to describe the tension between two artists or hip-hop factions which makes its way onto wax, or into cyberspace.

The real life and Twitter beef that has ensued between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim seemed only to intensify around the release date of Minaj’s first album, Pink Friday back in November; culminating in the release of Black Friday, Lil’ Kim’s “Nicki Minaj diss record” which got a lot of play on the radio and in the bloggispher. Then Lil’ Kim released the Black Friday music video which featured a Nicki Minaj impersonator. Even more recently, the Twitter beef which seemed to dissipate started up again: #NickiStillWins being tweeted by Nicki Minaj fanatics and retweeted by Nicki herself.

But, for those who appreciate making informed decisions, aren’t on Twitter, and want to know what’s really going on–I thought I’d take on this discussion by simply analyzing the data.  This is a reading of Lil’ Kim’s first album, Hardcore (1996) and Nicki Minaj’s debut album, Pink Friday (2010). I’ll end with a discussion about what I think is really happening when two women in hip-hop aren’t allowed to stand side by side.

The Records

Hard Core (1996)

Grade: B+

Thoughts After First Listen:

Wait… what did she just say?  Oh wait now, are there children around?


Lil’ Kim certainly delivered a “hard core” album. Kim is unapologetically explicit on the album taking up conversations about drugs, grand theft, and female sexual pleasure. Three things that generally women either aren’t allowed to talk about in public, or are looked at funny for doing so. There is no doubt that Kim sought attention from this album and perhaps through some intentional hyperbole, like hard core pornography, tried to carve out a space where no other female rapper was doing work just yet. She does it well, and whether she writes half the stuff on this album or not, you can’t deny that the Queen’s delivery is on point. The B is because for at least 3 of the songs her Junior MAFIA crew (Lil’ Cease) is rapping instead of her. The album version of Crush on You for example, Kim is only saying “True.” You have to dig for the video version where she’s actually rapping.

The Numbers

Hard Core was released on November 12, 1996.  Certified Gold by the RIAA less than 2 months later and Platinum 6 months later. Kim’s second album The NOTORIOUS K.I.M. (2000) went Platinum in 2000 after being released for only a month and a few days.  Those same people must have bought Hard Core because it was certified Double Platinum in 2001.

Pink Friday (2010)

Grade: C-

Thoughts After First Listen:

Was that a rap album or a pop album?


The minus is because she wasn’t rapping for half the album, she was singing. The C is because I just didn’t like it. I don’t think it’s a fail because at least some of the songs are catchy, but overall I had a hard time getting into it. I tried really hard, but after every song I was supremely disappointed. She spent more time talking about how she was in utter disbelief that she “made it” and talking about her haters than she did talking about any subject besides love (in its most cliched of forms).   As I muse here, I can’t help but draw on the comparison between her and Kim.  Each of Kim’s songs actually has content. She’s talking about how love has nothing to do with sex, talking about drugs, talking about sex with good looking R&B singers. There’s content beyond dissing haters.  I was waiting on Minaj to start talking about something… anything, but I got nothing.  I would much rather listen to her Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape than this album.

The Numbers

Pink Friday was released on November 22, 2010.  Certified Gold and Platinum by the RIAA less than a month later.

The Verdict

After 12 rounds, the result, by unanimous decision… is that the Hip Hop Nation, 14 year olds on Twitter who #LoveQueenB or think #NickiMinajistheBestest, and the pop music industry need to go on a vegetarian diet.  What could have been seen as hip-hop lineage–artists inspiring other artists–has been turned into a greasy pork chop with Kim and Minaj throwing water on a grease fire. There is plenty of room for both Minaj and Kim, and Kim has done this before… She’s existed side by side with other female artists. What’s the problem?

Hip Hop and its misogynist and heteromasculine patriarchy creates the conditions necessary for the beef between women to arise. There are a lot of women rapping but commercial entities elevate a thin slice above all others (Rose 2008) creating a crown that only one female rapper can have at any on time: THE “Commercially Viable” FEMALE RAPPER.

To really compare each of these albums, one has to take into consideration all of the context surrounding each album. For example, from 1996 until 2000, the time between her first and second album Kim was not the only female rapper in the game and was in competition with Rah Digga, Foxy Brown, Missy, Da Brat, Angie Martinez, Amel, Sole, Left Eye and others and instead of a diss record she put half of them on the same track with “Ladies Night (Not Tonight remix)” which also earned Platinum status.

I heard an interesting critique of the beef that I’ll share. It goes like this: the beef between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim amounts to nothing more than older-younger sibling rivalry. The older sibling having taken the worst from the parents, has only to look at their younger sibling who can “do no wrong” in the eyes of their parents, to feel saltiness rise in their gut toward their sibling.  When the younger sibling acts ungrateful for what the older sibling went through–staying home to babysit them, cleaning up after them, taking their punishments–that beef becomes so tender you can cut it with a butter knife.   It’s upsetting to not be acknowledged and to be counted as irrelevant. It seemed like from the start that Kim only wanted Minaj to acknowledge that her existence was recognizable because Kim had followed a similar path before her. Biggie/Lil’ Wayne, Junior Mafia/Young Money, Hardcore/Pink Friday…

I’d suggest, like others who’ve come before me in this Minaj vs Kim blogisphere conversation that you locate more female rappers who you might enjoy besides Nicki Minaj, and if you need help getting started, click the image below:

Works Cited aka Good Books about Hip Hop