Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thanks, Georgia Anne

I have a top five list. It goes like this: Chaka, Erykah, Van Hunt, Bilal, and Georgia Anne Muldrow. The list is not intended to be read in any particular order. I've got a different story about falling in love with the music of each artist. They've each been the backdrop for different phases, places, ideas and so forth. I've taken a break from each of them too. But Georgia stands alone.

Stop Punishing Yourself for Your Past

Stop putting up with crap just because it was the same crap that you used to do. It wasn't okay when you did it, so it's not okay when someone else does it to you. You don't have some karmic duty to make amends for your past wrongdoings by allowing someone else to abuse or mistreat you.

In fact, you have an olbigation to inform that person that they're wrong (since you now know better). If anything, let their behavior be a mirror of your past transgressions. A reminder of what you used to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Confusing Service with Fame

In Oprah’s last episode, she said some words that outlined a current cultural trend that people can see, but aren’t really talking about. Her words were, “We’re all confused about fame versus service.” Though she didn’t elaborate, the trend that she is referring to is evident in the way that Tyrese (Why can’t he just shut up, sing and be fine?!), Steve Harvey and even Monique have rebranded themselves as self-help gurus. 

Obviously, they would not have reached the level of success that they did without actually reaching someone with their advice, but are their intentions completely genuine, or are they just seeking to extend their fame? The self-help industry is booming. With so many people looking to launch careers as entertainers, and the internet making it increasingly difficult to make money off of music and movies, these stars are turning to another outlet to ensure their success and keep their names in the papers. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Neverending Life of Good Storytelling (free-write)

I've been obsessed with storytelling lately. I realized recently that most of the art that I truly love is rooted in good storytelling. Films, images, songs, books, even advertisements are all ways to tell stories. The ones that captivate us most are the ones that tell the story well.

I saw the last Harry Potter movie last weekend, and I developed a newfound appreciation for JK Rowling's ability to tell a rich story; every one and everything had a life, whether it was central to the plot or not. When Harry and Co. are in the Room of Requirement, some little bat-like creatures scurry from the clutter. Their moment in the movie was brief, but they weren't without purpose. Rowling made the Potter universe so rich that it's not difficult to imagine that the little bats as the central characters of their own novel.

In well-told stories, everything in intentional. I highlight Rowling because, in the Potter universe she could have created dozens of fantastical creatures, just for the fun of it. But she didn't. And that's often the criticism of fantasy and science fiction. The emphasis is usually more on the fantasy and less on the intentions behind it. The audience may be wowed initially by the novelty, but that eventually wears off, and the art is soon forgotten.

So here's to intentional storytelling. The stuff of legend. The stuff that lasts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Respect My Journey: Music

One of my favorite artists is Bilal. His voice, his writing, his musicality--they all inspire me and keep me in awe. I own all of his albums and I scour the web for his features, credited and uncredited.

But I didn't become a fan until 2008. Yep. Prior to 2008 I thought Bilal was a talented singer, but a flash in the neo-soul pan. It's not that I didn't respect him. I enjoyed his features on Common's and Erykah Badu's albums. I just didn't really start getting into him until I was about 25.

The Joys of Figure Modeling (free-write)

Brian Stelfreeze
To be nude and respected. To be a muse. To inspire. To be still. To be an observer. To be a creative community member. These are the joys of figure modeling. To get free, original art. To get paid. It is not a task for everyone. It is not for the shy, insecure, or those seeking validation of their body's sexual aesthetics. It is for those who recognize the body as a gift. For those who recognize that you have to give the gifts that you are given. It is for those who like to feel a breeze in places that drafts aren't typically felt. It is for those who can withstand the stiffness and aches of muscles that have been in the same position for a longer period than they're used to.

It's about being a part of the creation of something. Whether the artist is a novice or master teacher, it's about being part of a learning/growing/CREATING experience. In your birthday suit.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More than a Survivor

"The key to happiness is the decision to be happy."- Marianne Williamson

This post is about playing offense. And how it beats playing defense. See, in life, there is always something to complain about. Always something being done to you. Be it familial, social, financial, or otherwise, we are all at the mercy of forces beyond our control. But these mere circumstances don't have to be roadblocks to finding joy. In fact, happiness isn't a journey, a struggle or a dream. It's a choice. 

Which is really what this whole "human being" thing is about: choices. You make them. You live with them. You learn from them. Sure, your job is awful. The pay is low and the work is dull. But what choices led you there? What choices can you make to make it better? How can you play offense?  As Oprah said in her final episode, "Nobody but you is responsible for your life. You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself[...]."

“Construction” with Muhsinah

Muhsinah is a DC-bred singer-songwriter whose name is on the lips of may industry taste-makers, but whose sound is hard to categorize. And therefore hard for the mainstream to digest. She’s worked with new-soul darlings Foreign Exchange, most notably on “Daykeeper,” which was nominated for a Grammy. Alas, she remains unsigned. While this can be frustrating for us fans, it also means there’s a wellspring of opportunity for Muhsinah to continue to carve her own space in the industry, or outside of it, for that matter.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jose James' Special Brand of Magic

Jose James is a jazz/soul singer with a soft baritone and a heart that you can hear through his music. Minneapolis-born and bred, James has released three albums, and each one has given listeners a different perspective on who he is as an artist and as a human being. He's traveled from traditional jazz to hip-hop- influenced experimental soul, and back again, all the while exhibiting his talent for writing, producing, and of course, singing. His voice is warm, strong, and effortlessly smooth. After listening to his music, it becomes clear that James is both a student and master of his art. And he matches his technical expertise with emotional honesty.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Mother's Keeper?

In the Black community, there is no one more sacred than mama. And with good reason. Most of our mothers are superwomen: making a way out of no way, sacrificing their dreams for ours, playing the role of mother and father with little support. They deserve our praise. But this exaltation comes with a heavy burden for some daughters. There is an expectation in the black community that mothers and daughters should be the best of friends. But this simply isn't the case for may of us. In fact, some of us stifle our needs as daughters in order to maintain the appearance of being BFFs with our moms.

Read the rest on

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On Suns and Planets

Dontcha love it when a Twitter discussion leads to a personal epiphany? One of the tweeters I follow, @at1_ment, posted some interesting information about introverts and extroverts. For me, it was a revolution in the way that I perceived the world. Here's a summary:

Introverts are like the sun. We radiate our own energy, and we tend to pull others into our gravitational sphere of influence.

Extroverts, on the other hand are like planets. They breed life, and give purpose to the energy emanated by the introverts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shamboozled: The Scramble for Africa

How insidious. How effective. How current. I'd only like to add the following: As a person of African descent, this kind of information is extremely important to my personal evolution, and that of the entire diaspora. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out the fact that we (America) are doing the same thing over in the Middle East.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Segu, by Maryse Condé

I recently read Segu, Maryse Condé's African historical epic that follows the Traore family for three generations as they cope with the arrival of Islam, the slave trade and the dawn of colonialism. Despite the novel's litany of tragedies, I still found myself refreshed by how Condé was able to recreate Africa as it once was: teeming with life, in all of its beauty, violence, creativity and destruction. She held sacred that which we now dismiss as primitive or superstitious. She turned her spotlight on the social structures, politics and private battles of a people that history has tried to forget.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Patience

I was approaching the point where I’d resigned myself to a mediocre fate. I, like many of you I’m sure, have a dead-end job, and the writer in me is bursting at the seams. I want to be paid for my passion. I want someone to acknowledge this wellspring of talent. I was ready to trade in this dead-end job for another one, the only difference being better pay.

A Little Chaka

Chaka. There is only. Chaka. Watch as she performs "A Night in Tunisia" effortlessly and brilliantly. Wish I could've been at the Roxy on this night back in 1982. Thank goodness for YouTube.  The horn solos are enough to drop your jaw, but the synergy of all the elements here make this one to watch over and over again. Chaka.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Courage to Change the Things I Can...

I've been down. Spent so many years in depression that I got comfortable there. Happiness was not mine to be had; I was made for melancholy. Sadness my birthright, enduring joy belonged to other people.

I could do "happy" for about three to six months, but inevitably, depression, my old friend, would make another appearance. And finally, I got sick of it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Les Nubians: Free Download!

Les Nubians are back! I was introduced to them over a decade ago by my super-hip French teacher in high school, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Their first album, Princesses Nubiennes has been on heavy rotation in my life for years, and it’s one of my favorite albums of all time. The jazzy, soulful, funky sisters are back with a new album, Nü Revolution, due April 19th. As a treat for their fans, they are offering a free download of their song, “Liberté.” Check out a video of the ladies singing it live, then watch another video of “Embrasse-Moi,” a tune that will force your hips to gyrate whether you want them to or not, and then head on over to their site to get your free download. C’est magnifique!

Friday, April 1, 2011

John Henrik Clarke

John Henrik Clarke (January 1, 1915 - July 16, 1998)
I don't have much to say here, Mr. Clarke articulates my  views on the history of African-America better than I ever could, and his historical lessons should be  required for everyone, not just people of African descent. So, here are some quotes from "A Great and Mighty Walk," a film that explores his personal history and that of Africans and African-Americans. The full video is below.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good Music: It's Alive!

 Earlier this week, I was telling someone about how happy I was to have "discovered" new artists KING and Timothy Bloom. They march to the beats of their own drums, and have created truly beautiful music that inspired me, and many others, I'm sure.

Said person saw this as an opportunity to go on a rant about how crappy music is these days. Insert eye roll and nail-filing here. You see, whatever you focus on expands. So I don't give a shit about the schlock. I care about, listen to, promote and am grateful for the good stuff. The Afta-1s and Nikko Grays, the Georgia Anne Muldrows and Fertile Grounds of the world. The ones who are pushing boundaries and doing it with love. They deserve my attention.

Who Cares About “What They Say?”

“You know what they say, girl…”

“The key is to make him think that he chose you.”

“It’s always better when he loves you just a little bit more than you love him.”

“You’ll know when you meet the one.”

These, and other tidbits of wisdom can be heard any time women debate the path to marriage. We’re always trying to figure out the secret, that thing that’s supposed to help us find the one.

I’ve had enough of these debates, and I think they’re fruitless. They trap us. We spend our time looking for signs that he loves us more than we love him, playing coy to make him believe that he’s choosing us, when in fact, we’ve chosen him. And I’m sick of it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Introducing: Awkward Black Girl

We've all been there: driving down the street, shooting our own personal music video in our car, when we spot a co-worker or acquaintance in the next lane over. And that person insists on waving and/or chatting. At Every. Single. Red. Light. It's awkward, and it's one of those situations that we think only happens to us.

Fortunately, we have filmmaker Issa Rae to make light of this and other situations that the average black girl finds herself in. Issa has developed a series called "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," a hilarious, honest look at life as a young, black woman.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

KING: Got a Story to Tell

Exactly one week ago, I was sitting in this very spot, checking out my favorite blogs, when I came across a story about a new group named KING on Soul Bounce. The group is made up of twins Paris and Amber Strothers and their friend, Anita Bias. I was instantly sold on KING, and couldn't wait for their EP, The Story, which was released this past Tuesday. I began to follow them on Twitter (@wearekingmusic), and that's when I began to feel like I was a part of something truly magical.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bilal Concert Review

Image Source
I almost didn't go. Till I got the email from Muddy Waters advertising $10 off the ticket price. Funny what ten bucks can do to the brain. So I purchased. This was my second time attending a concert by myself, and I must say, I'll be rolling dolo to more concerts in the future. I bonded with the folks sitting on my row (also rolling dolo) and ran into some old friends.

Did I mention that this concert was on Valentine's Day? Some may see that as a reason to get all depressed, or assume that I was bitter with all the boo'ed up folks who were definitely getting some that night. I wasn't. I was just happy to be there. After the fact, I even realized that I was sober the whole time. Turns out, I didn't need anyone's companyhuman or liquidto have fun. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Shealoe Rub and Scrub

Whipped Delight
This is the low-budget, I-Can-Barely-Cook-Let-Alone-Make-My-Own-Lotion version of the ever-popular shealoe rub and scrub. I was intimidated by some of the YouTube videos out there, and I didn't have all the supplies they mentioned, so I decided to try this out. I'll be honest, I don't typically measure most of the ingredients. It's way more fun to just use my eyes and my gut. I make fairly small quantities (my mixes last about two weeks), so I always have enough ingredients to make adjustments if necessary.