Monday, January 26, 2015

written elsewhere: "Are Black Movie Soundtracks a Lost Art?" (Saint Heron)


In my latest piece for Saint Heron, Solange Knowles' music website, I discuss the increasing irrelevance of the movie soundtrack:

When was the last time a movie soundtrack made you feel something? When was the last time you sought out all of the music from a film driven by a desire to re-experience the narrative musically? If you, too, were born before Whitley and Kinu dropped Patti’s prune cobbler, it has probably been at least ten years. Maybe even fifteen.

The thrill is gone. Copping that movie-based compilation—and maybe even the poster—was once its own necessary event. Having the music that played alongside your favorite movie scene was vital, and the soundtrack was often just as good and as successful as any other album out at the time. The Soul Food soundtrack, with Boyz II Men, Total, and Outkast, spawned four singles and went double platinum in just a few months. It still stands as one of the best R&B compilations of the 90s.

In a broader musical sense, it is rare for contemporary artists to put forth songs that make you feel the way the Love Jones soundtrack made you feel in 1997. That project, a LaFace situation, was much more than a few big names and a handful of indiscriminately chosen table scraps, as is often the case today. That album was a cornucopia of greatness. Those were the days of real music making, not vapid trend chasing. As such, achieving that same near-perfection with a dozen artists so many years after the 99 and the 2000 is, sadly, a fantasy.

Read the rest over at Saint Heron.

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The Minnie Riperton Express BustDown Playlist




Every BustDown needs a soundtrack. Take it from me: Hanky Panky Enthusiast Número Uno. Sometimes, an "Oochie Wally"-led humptape suffices. Every session doesn't call for Marvin, Jodeci and Janet. Sometimes, the sound of skin slapping and bed creaking is enough.

But if something more sensual is needed to drown out the moans, I invite you to let Madame Minnie Riperton—underpraised goddess of funk, folk, R&B, and whatever the hell else she wanted—accompany you and your BustDown co-participant(s) the next time Dr. Knockboot clocks in to put in work. 

I make no assumptions on the duration of your sexytime endeavors. I don't know whether your pumps in the bump will last a hook or a fortnight. I don’t know your life. Either way, it is simply not possible to end every night with a glorious, sweaty threepeat during a marathon overnight scenario. Sometimes boots must be knocked expeditiously.


Enter: this express BustDown playlist. 40 Minutes. In and out. In my expert opinion, these songs provide some stellar mood music for le huff and puff. Try this out and report back.

(If Spotify doesn't work for you, the playlist can be played here, on Youtube.)

Now, before we begin, my only rule is that this isn’t for the lunch break herk and jerk in the back of the Ac'. At the very least, Minnie deserves a sturdy bed. And some sheets. Damn. Have some decorum.

También, as someone well versed in the art of the Hump and Dump, this set would be a bit too...romantic for a session of the Meet, Greet, Skeet, and Street variety. Discernment, saints.

FADE IN:
INT. SITE OF THE BUSTDOWN – NIGHT


Why not get the hanky panky started with a luscious Stevie Wonder joint that lends itself to sensual butt-nekkid two-stepping down by the fire? Undress and pet heavily to “Perfect Angel” as you silently rejoice that you opted for a light and unencumbering dinner. Ahem. This—not “Loving You”— is the best thing Minnie ever did. Sorry, Maya. Let this Steveland groove kick off your evening or hour of booty rubbin’ and good lovin’ with a touch of class before the boogie down. This, the warm and mushy before the wet and gushy, is for the preamble.

When I hear “Young, Willing, and Able,” I envision a young and aggressive Lady Eloise whipping this song out on her suitors in the late 70s before she put that work on ‘em. And you know she put that work on ‘em. This is the song she played as she lit candles in her boudoir and strategically arranged her collection of clamps, chains, and bootyhole expanders on a table beside the swing. 

Here, Minnie F Baby purrs about how her youthful exuberance renders her capable of rocking your whole entire world. You see, she’s “too hot to trot” and asks that you “think of [her] as peaches and cream.” Ow ow. Those lusty grunts at the end of the second verse will give you wings, my dude/dudette. This is for the finishing of blunts and the gathering of props and such. (Or so I’ve heard.)

Just as it appears perfectly sequenced on the album, “Every Time He Comes Around” comes next on this nut-seeking expedition. As the title suggests, Minnie gets hot, bothered, and lustified when her main squeeze comes within sniffing distance. ¡Qué pasión! Like Saint Damita Jo instructed that juicy-mouthed young man, use your imagination like you’ve never used it before. Dig deeper. Do it to it. In the butt, even.

By now, at the very least, pants are off.

INT. SITE OF THE BUSTDOWN – MIDDLE OF THE BED

A lighter clicks O.S. Nag champa up in the atmosphere. Hands explore, grip, and pull. Teeth. Fingers vanish and reappear. Minnie resumes singing, draped in a majestic white faux mink situation. Luxury, ho.


“Baby, This Love I Have” is self-explanatory. It opens calmly, innocently. And then that motherfucker blossoms. That hook? If that yearning in Minnie’s voice doesn’t guide your hips to greatness, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps the Beginner’s course down the hall may be more your speed. Otherwise, make the team proud.

“Here We Go” is a pretty direct song about drinking chilled Zimas and making sweet love pon the veranda. It’s big, swirly, and features a few passionate bars from an earnest Peabo Bryson, who is way serious about crossing this finish line together. Pro tip: Our Lady of Whistle Register Enunciation shows out at the end of the second verse. A surprise deep stroke opportunity arriveth.

Next up: Minnie’s “run up, get done up” moment. Done up, in the freaky sense, of course. Per the song’s composer and co-writer, Leon Ware, “Inside My Love” celebrates the union of the sexual and the spiritual. That sanctified slobdown and what not. With lyrics like “You can see inside me/You can come inside me/Do you wanna ride, inside my love?” you had better be putting that damn back into it. Ain’t no half-stepping. [Insert preferred higher power] is rooting for you.

Elsewhere in Minnie’s basket of furtive fuckjams is “Gettin’ Ready For Your Love.” On its surface, this joint is about her preparing to be with her cherie amour for better or worse, through both ashy and prosperous times, and bringing her A game to this love thang.

But from my pervert perspective, this makes a great soundtrack for the home stretch. This is for the buildup, when the light at the end of the tunnel is visible and all parties are preparing for their big finish and flawless dismount. Minnie sings of how all paths have lead to this day, and “gathering up everything I know to be true.” Pervert translation: “Yo soy pulling out all my tricks.” He (or she or they) is ready. The camera is ready. You is ready. A sexual eruption cometh. Pro tip: Don’t let the tempo throw you off. Focus, boo. Slow and steady wins the race.

“Can You Feel What I’m Saying?” is the high note and key change at the end of “Oh Happy Day” when things gets all rejoicey. Welcome to the wet spot. Catch your breath, dry off, and float back down to Earth with this angelic climax of a song. She gets quite spirited at the end of the song, just in case a passionate reprise feels right in the moment.

But if your BustDown situation is not a sleepover situation, it may be best to cap things off with something brisk yet inspirational. If the goal is to encourage urgency in your partners when it’s time to gather one's things and dále on out to the street, Minnie has you covered with “Take A Little Trip.” She sings, “Take a little trip on a maaaaagic carpet ride [over the river and through the hills, back to where the fuck you came from].” It’s perfect.

And a bonus, for ye breasted ones (or, you know…whomever): “I’m a Woman,” because Minnie sings, “I was born to make love.” Now that is a memoir title.

You're welcome.

What's on your sexytime playlist
   
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Friday, January 23, 2015

written elsewhere: "I Just Turned 30, And, Well, How Does 30 Work?"


"Forty-one days ago, I turned thirty. I didn’t make a big deal of it. ‘Twas a lovely day, though. I had a quiet, masterfully seasoned dinner with Mister Man. Got me some birthday sex. Bought myself a serious person’s winter coat (that I hardly wear). The sky didn’t crash on my head. I’m still not on AARP’s radar. Dick still works like it should. All good so far.

But now that I’m 60 in Gay Years, I figure there are certain things I reckon I should start thinking about. Investments. Polo shirts. Metabolism. Tube socks. Unfortunately, life can’t be all about sex and delicious homophobic chicken biscuits.

So, yes. It’s time for me to get some grown up savings. Yes, I should get me some stocks and perhaps some prune juice. I need to learn how to play dominoes and knit du-rags for my grandbabies. I need a respectable suit. By now, I should know how to sew on a button and eat pussy (in a parallel universe), but everything in time I suppose."

Read the rest over at Very Smart Brothas.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hello, Thirty.


Isla Grande, Panamá
Today is my 30th birthday. Bust a nut in my honor on today. I have been here with mi familia in 1998, Virginia (aka Hampton) since August and have yet to backflip into traffic due to boredom. Clap it up for me. This is the longest I’ve spent here in my hometown since moving to New York in 2006. If I were 60 and down with spending my days in a town as vibrant as Sandra Lee’s spice rack, then Hampton would be the place for me.

Pero, no.

I need decadent food and a place to party where Top 40 Fuckshit is not involved. These things are not common here. You see, I am from the Shopping Center Capital of the Universe. Here, there are shopping centers inside shopping centers.

Hampton is THE suburb. For example: when Steak & Shake opened here this summer, the drive-thru line wrapped around the building TWICE for TWO MONTHS STRAIGHT, because these bammas folks ain’t got shit else to do. So, surely you can understand why I usually have night terrors by the 10th day here.

1998, Virginia Insider Tip # 351:
Local pastimes include posting up at Club Wal-Mart, getting in fights at The Alley, being wretched and quasi-Southern. When in doubt: Take a deep breath, lower your expectations, and reassess the situation.

I really miss Panama. I miss living the Tank Top Life. I miss eating fresh fish and platanos, and sipping Ron Abuelo, swamp-crotched and happy, pon the beach with The Blacks. That was the good life.

I miss the insane taxi drivers and Panama’s No Frills Fucks approach to customer service. I miss arepas on Via España, oxtail at El Caribe, the Pabellón Criollo at Los Venezolanos, my dope crew of Blacks, and, of course, the Panamanian boys. It’s hot as fuck in Panama right now. It’s cold as fuck in Virginia right now. I don’t believe in snow, so you must understand why, I masturbate to memories of that glorious Panamanian humidity I am not thrilled about the arrival of December, my birthday month.

Because: cold as fuck.

My homies are still there, eating greatness and uploading pictures from the beach while I am here in the Land of Bomb Ass Fish Sandwiches, ashy and bitter, jealousing those happy, sun-kissed Black bastards so damn hard.
My reaction after receiving a care package containing grits. Panama, 2012. 
Battling artic winds and Occasional Public Ashiness this fall has shown me yet another reason to hate Hot Chocolate Season: while having broad shoulders and long arms is great while bending boys over wearing a tank top, it is a terror for important, non-sexual things like purchasing coats, jackets, long-sleeve shirts and other cold weather Fuckery. Eight times out of ten, a fly jacket or long-sleeved shirt that flatters my cheese-grits-and-chicken-biscuits-fed frame will be no match for my orangutan arms. All Exposed Wrists Everything. Winter requires too many clothes. So, fuck Winter as a staff, record label, and as a motherfucking crew.

Pero.

I am enjoying myself here in 1998. The slow pace is exactly what I need right now. It feels great to be surrounded by my family and good friends. I sleep a few feet away from a fridge filled with love and empanadas. I get to watch my nieces be 16 and 17 and awesome. I enjoy scrubbing floors and smoking turkeys and dusting ceiling fans and watering plants and zooming to Chick-Fil-a in time for breakfast and peeling potatoes and rinsing greens and grabbing the Flavorwave Oven from the high cabinet and making breakfast for my mother. And realizing daily how similar my Dad and I are.

I am recharging. I am eating like a motherfucker, writing when I can, having wondrous sex, and doing the therapy thing. And, I’m almost out of the It’s Gonna Suck Before It Doesn’t Suck part of adjusting to an antidepressant, which is as fun as a seminar on Proud Blackness For People Who Do Not Live To Suck Whiteness’ Dick Daily, taught by Don Lemon. That anxiety in that second week? Unbelievable. I spent a few days calming myself down with deep breaths and “You’re fine. You’re fine.” That hysteria felt like the months leading up to my first departure from Panama.

A month in with Zoloft, the jaw clenching has ceased. My anxiety has mellowed, but it's still very hard to concentrate. I sigh a lot. I sleep a lot. I smile less. Some friends have told me that these dulled emotions fade. Others say no. This is the first thing I've written in weeks, because writing has been terrifying. Things are weird. But this is all temporary, so I shall deal.

Okay, so, therapy. Therapy is fucking terrifying. Therapy is terrifying and necessary and, I love it. Each week, I leave that session feeling like a super hero. But in the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect. Who does the talking? Does she keep score and does crying get me extra points? Will I be plugged into a machine and analyzed? How many DK coins does The Answer cost? Will there be chicken? And so on. Serious concerns had I.

Some suggested I push for a Black and/or LGBT therapist, so I briefly considered seeking out a fellow Chocolate Homo. But I’ve been doing just fine with my Nice White Lady. I was hesitant at first. I know she’s trained to be very into me and my issues, but I was initially spooked by her eagerness about my Bullshit.

“Why is she so excited about my Bullshit?” thought I.

Yes, the rumors are true: This is the first time, in 30 Years of Blackness, that I have intimately discussed ho shit and long-held secrets with a Nice White Lady. It’s not nearly as traumatic as I thought it would be. In fact, she’s down right fantastic.

Swan diving into my feelings—with the help of my Nice White Lady—has been has been freeing. Digging up and sorting out old shit in therapy has been freeing. Being honest, open and vulnerable (even when it hurts) has been freeing. But all those warm and fuzzies don’t make it any less harrowing of an experience.

Verbalizing lies that I’ve told myself forever is scary. Looking at my patterns and connecting the dots between all my Bullshit has been scary, powerful and helpful. Getting to the WHY of my Bullshit has been scary, powerful and helpful. It’s not easy to be honest with myself in front of a stranger.

The idea of therapy is strange. You employ a stranger to hand you a flashlight to go digging through all the Bullshit you’ve tucked away so masterfully and learned how to live around/without/despite. You know from the onset that it’s going to suck/hurt/make you stabby, yet you go through with it anyhow. You keep going back. And you hope for the best.

Six weeks in, I’ve been able to articulate why therapy is so scary for me: I am an impatient perfectionist and there is no finish line with this. I like margins and discipline. I make lists of lists I need to make. I like tangible, measurable goals. But how do you gauge a decrease in fuckedupness?

I have seen beautiful progress in the way I speak to and about myself. I’m working on unlearning this negative self-talk that’s remarkably effective at keeping a brotherman down. I’m the Janet Jackson of discounting my efforts and accomplishments, so I’m working on unlearning that as well, because all this greatness ain’t doing the world any good tucked in a box under all This Bullshit. Life is weird as a motherfucker right now, but at least I am can get excited about it, which hasn’t wasn’t possible a few short months ago.

SO: I’m learning to appreciate this journey. Even the parts that suck absolute Mississippi Republican Octogenarian bootyhole. Fighting lupus has made me incredibly resilient. It also taught me to cherish every lesson, especially the hard-earned ones. Normally, I’m all about that home run, not impressed by RBIs or singles. The gigantic leap was all that mattered. BUT. I am learning to value the daily victories that make the leaps possible. Those daily victories are just as important as that big, life-changing leap. Those bitches matter, too.

I can now give myself credit for LISTENING TO MYSELF, backing away from everything and being selfish with my time and energy. For the first time, I can recognize Clocking The Fuck Out as a necessary component of self-care, and not an action of a Lazy, Wallowing Rat Bastard. It works. It helped.

I’m hopeful again. I’m daydreaming again. I am getting to know a wonderful man who makes me laugh a lot. I can see my bomb ass future as one of the world’s leading voices on Culturethings and Telling White Folks About Their Motherfucking Bullshit and my books and my podcast and my juicy bank account and my Dude and my fly ass kitchen and my record player and my ginormous bookshelf in my dopely decorated brownstone situation with wood floors in Harlem or somewhere outside of Obnoxiously White Brooklyn. (If such a place exists in the Age of Obama.)

This is a big deal. Therapy is a big fucking deal for me. Much of 2014 year has been

A
MOTHERFUCKING
SHIT SHOW

and there were times this year when I didn’t expect/want to see this day, Wednesday December 10, 2014. So, I am elated to be alive to eat cheese grits in 2015 and beyond. Sure, some days reeeeally fucking suck, and it’s occasionally hard to even thinking about TRYING to DO, but I am loved and appreciated, and I know that I have just barely scratched the surface of my greatness. I’ve got a lot to live for, because if I don't provide a loving home in my belly for all the poor, uneaten chickens in this cruel, Ashanti-loving world we're in, who will? 

Today, I'm thankful for my life, my mind, my dick, and my community. And chicken. Happy birthday to me and shit.

And, just in case, here's le Amazon Wishlist. I am also accepting Paypal-based generosities, gift cards, nudes, and chicken recipes. 

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Writing Roundup

Greetings.

I am still here in Virginia with the family, eating good and soaking up all the family time I can. You see, cheese grits won't eat themselves. Here are my freelance situations from the past few weeks.

I'm a senior writer at Very Smart Brothas now, and have loved working with the site's creators Damon Young and Panama Jackson, who recently filmed a few hilarious segments with comics Key and Peele. (I am watching Key and Peele for the first time, and am sold. Great show.) I'm very excited about writing for VSB. They have a smart, active readership that turns every post into a lively discussion and has welcomed me into the fold (after a shaky beginning). Here are my recent joints over there:


Growing To Appreciate Steve Harvey's Shuckey Jivey Charm on 'Family Feud'
"I appreciate that he goes from black-ish Black to Antebellum sharecropper Black in the presence of a Black family. My favorite episodes involve boisterous Negro families. Guaranteed entertainment. Because we da bess. Sure, he’s animated with every family. That’s part of the job. But in front of Moms Mabely and her four kids? He’s hugging, dancing, cleaning collards and cracking jokes. And his televised Blacktivities warm my Black ass heart."

"Speaking occasionally in vague Jaden Smithisms, he alludes to his label’s disappointment with what they considered underperforming releases. Add a dash of Atlanta to the mix, and the benevolent Burger King of Hip Hop is born. Armed with an ever-present black leather BK Kids crown and his newfound handy-dandy satchel of marketable mediocrity The Husel is here to “give people quality content, in however many ways that [he] can actually pull off.”

Or something."

"I get to watch my nieces have their Girlz II Women moment, which I’m thrilled about. I can’t help but feel like an absentee uncle, having been gone for so many birthdays, recitals, and Back to School Nights. Moving further and further away from home these past few years, I got used to seeing these young magnificents—who are turning 16 and 17 in just over a month—once a year at best. I have missed a lot. They have personalities, pet peeves, and résumés now. I feel like I just changed their diapers last year and these chicks are out here with Poetic Justice braids and luscious “Pleasure Principle” hair, grown as hell. I’m still asking, “Wait, they can read now?” and they’re discussing learner’s permits, college applications, and Beyoncé performances.

It’s a lot to take in."

The rest of my work for Very Smart Brothas can be found here.


Aaaaaand since I'm watching television regularly for the first time in ages, I'm writing about a few shows I enjoy for Gawker's Morning After section, which is dedicated to TV. I'll be reacting to ABC's How To Get Away With Murder starring the stunning Viola Davis, and a mix of other content, each week. 

"Meanwhile, Dre walks in on his teenage son getting touchy-feely with himself. The resulting sex talks crash and burn after being mauled by uncorked freak nasty teenage curiosity. I don't know which of them was more mortified, but I felt Dre Jr here. At thirteen, I, too, was Hornball Numero Uno. A gust of wind? HOT NOW light on at Krispy Kreme? Boing.

But, unlike Dre Jr, I didn't run to my parents for answers. I learned about the birds and the bees from Tiger Tyson and the cast of Aprende, but that's a whole different conversation."

"We sat together on social media and in over-decorated How To Get Away With Murder watch parties and loved on Viola Davis. We fawned over her boundless talent; appreciated her masterful timing and thundering voice; and envied her flawless skin (It's okay. #melanin). We adored her brusque and her despicable. We watched Viola Davis be a person.

Finally. Shit."

The rest of my work for Gawker can be found here.

And remember, when in doubt: chicken.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Waiting for Meatball: Nile Tate on Fatherhood and Expensive Ass Babies

"We are the Dadmies. Because mommies shouldn’t get to have all the fun." -Nile Tate

My homie Nile Tate is waiting for his daughter, Harper aka "Meatball," to enter the world. (I love that Black people assign nicknames before birth.) Right now. As I publish this post, he’s counting down the hours contractions til the birth of his first daughter, Harper ze water hath broken, and Harper is ready to get this damn show on the road. He tweets regularly about the challenges, and joys of pre-fatherhood, and it’s clear that he is damn excited about this journey.


Nile has channeled his enthusiasm into Dadmies, a site for baby daddies, by baby daddies, where men can share the their adventures and victories in fatherhood. Last night, I asked Nile if he would be down to bust those emotions open for me right quick before he becomes somebody’s Pops, and he was game.

Alexander Hardy: So what's goodie my nizzle?

Nile Tate: Not much. Sitting and waiting on Preggy Bundy here to finish this gestation. Laying on this leather couch that I'm sure has been home to many a strange buttocks.

AH: Ah. So. Wait. Let's backtrack. Who the hell are you and why are we talking?

NT: I'm Nile. I'm a new father of a child because birth control is ONLY 99.99% effective. Just giving a few pieces of the things that have been going on in my mind since realizing I'm a dad now.

AH: Yes. You da pappy. So. How do you feel right now?

NT: I haven't really felt much besides poorer, honestly. I'm excited, yes. Nervous? In a small way. Nothing too major as of yet...

AH: That's real as shit. I was on the scene for the birth of sisterfriend's first child in New Orleans last year, and I learned that there is a gadget and/or machine for EVERYTHING—shit I didn't even know babies did. It's incredible, the babybullshit industry. What's the most ridiculous thing you've had to purchase on this journey?

NT: Daycare. Fucking daycare. And we haven't even bought it yet. Just priced it because it's gonna be needed in eight weeks. Just started prioritizing the organs I like and which ones I'm gonna sell. PayPal or cash only.

AH: Do we reeeally need the spleen? You might could get some nice coins for that.

NT: You know anyone back in Panama that needs something? I'm fat, but you can just tell ‘em my organs come with 20% extra, free.

AH: Listen. Panama is the Wild West. If you have some cousins you want to dispose of, I might could even help you with that.

NT: ...I...believe you actually.

Dude…this baby shit gets really real, really quick.

AH: I’m sure the fuck it does. I'm sure those priorities came into laser focus, asaptualmente.

NT: Priorities are a bitch. Priorities are…something to watch. Things tend to sort themselves out, but it doesn't hurt to have a partner that sorts them the hell out for you. Quickly.

AH: Agreed. Sometimes we need to be whipped into shape. What has been the hardest sacrifice you've had to make thus far?

NT: Buying a car with airbags. That's the BIGGEST thing I’ve had to change. I like my cars with more horsepower than safety features. I've also had to check a few biases of mine. Having a daughter, especially after being a bit uh...young and free as a younger guy...you start thinking about a few things.

AH: Biases?

NT: Yeah. What's ok for a young lady, versus the things I did as a younger guy. I'm only 27, but the things I was doing from 18-25? I wasn't BAD, but...I had my fun. But I wonder how I'd be if my daughter were to come to me with the stories I would take to my father.

AH: Great point. But we all have our fun. We all live life in our own special butt nekkid and nasty way, and that's a part of growing up. Of course, you now have first-hand experience and can teach her to spot a creep from a distance.

Photo: dadmies.com
NT: Very, very true. She'll def be hipped to the game early. I don't want her to be out here gaming people and taking advantage, but she'll definitely know how to handle herself out here.

AH: Right. Pimp bones in her body, and such. I have seen friends go from Smut Numero Uno to Cliff Huxtable in nine months. Not to suggest that they can't be the same person, but they learned to keep their dick in their pants and learned an expensive lesson about spreading it low and wide. They cleaned it up. Have you seen other friends/relatives with daughters have similar moments of clarity?

NT: My uncle. Handsome guy. Intelligent as all the fucks. He's had far more "fun" than I have I'm sure. But he's been great with the "moment of clarity" advice. Outside of my brother, I don't have any male friends with kids. Ironically, I ended up with a kid first.

AH: Before now, when did you see yourself having kids? Was there something you felt you needed to do first?

NT: I saw myself with kids. I really want as many as I can financially handle. If I were rich? Like 6 or so. I grew up in a family of five kids. But I always saw myself having my first kid at like 35 or so. That's a luxury that men have. Our biological clocks are Rolex crafted. They don't audibly tick. I felt that around then, I could have something to offer in the raising of a tiny human.

AH: I'm in the same boat as you. I have this assumption that I will "have it together" by thirty-five and can start trying to get one of my good judies to let me lace her womb right quick.

By my age, my Dad was just about to have his second child (me). And I look at my Black ass life, trying to support ONE MOFO (myself), and I just figure that something kicks in and you just make it your business to git 'er done at all costs.

NT: Yup. Trying to support ONE person is a bitch. But you, PLUS someone who is gonna cost you $245,000 until they're 18? Shit. I coulda just bought stock in Apple with that money. Apple and Chipotle.

AH: You coulda. Indeed. Next time.

NT: Next time I wanna have a kid I'm just gonna buy stock in white people.

AH: Oh yes. White people be winning with their scandalous asses.




Do you think you'd be feeling any differently right now if you were having a son?

NT: Kinda. Only because there are things that I identify with, as a man, that are easier to translate and interpret to a boy. I have this thing about giving advice, especially if I'm not coming from a place of personal experience.

AH: Mmmm. Well, that's where mama comes in. She's got her own lessons to throw in the batter, too.

NT: And with me being poly, it would have been easier to explain it to a son first. At least I think.

AH: Ahhh, yes.

NT: Far more nuances about it that I need to cover with a daughter. With a son, I still have to. But…differently.

AH: You're right. Upside: firsthand creeplife experience. Would you be opposed to her being poly?

NT: Not at all. And yes. It's just...from my experience, I've been hearing far too many stories of men using polyam as an excuse to be whores, but with a loophole almost. I want her to find love in the way she's meant to find it. With a man or woman. But I don't want her to let love be an excuse to put up with fuckshit.

AH: Agreed. That'll have to come from your example, in part, yes?

NT: Yes. But I can only provide the skeleton of certain things. How she builds around it though has both everything and nothing to do with me. I love how my parents did, and yet nothing like ‘em. I'm affectionate, verbally and physically. Values like they had. But still somehow, largely unlike them.

AH: Do you plan to use Dadmies to share some of that skeleton-building?

NT: Yes. I just want to be sure that whatever message I present be well articulated. Nothing clarifies like clarity.

AH: Whew. That is a word. "Nothing clarifies like clarity." I love that. What is your hope for Dadmies?

NT: I want it to become the place men go and feel comfortable about feeling things. Being open to that expression of love, and growth, and to every mistake that makes you a father. I want them to share how they failed and how they grew. How they succeeded. I wanna see fathers talk about more than the sports awards their kids won. I wanna see men embrace more aspects of emotion in fatherhood, hopefully through Dadmies.

AH: Dope vision, good sir. Encouraging men to uncork about the good, bad, and mundane is necessary. You’re well on your damn way, man. How the hell did Dadmies come to be?

NT: People have long been trying to get me to write. Then Harper was announced and people wanted me to chronicle the journey. I knew I wouldn't have a lot of material by myself; so having other people contribute just seemed to make sense. And I knew I couldn't be the ONLY guy happy about fatherhood. Sometimes people just need to see someone else start something to know that it's safe to be, or feel, or think a certain way.

AH: You're right. Sometimes, it's scary being the first dude on the dance floor. How has the response been?

NT: It's been received far better than I expected actually. Like the first two months it was at 15k page views. I haven't updated it since July, but I've been working on the interface and putting together products to sell through it. Tryna monetize it then turn it into a brand one day. Family event days and what not that we back. Tutoring. All that. Make it a business all about the family.

AH: Wow. I know people would get behind that. Is there ANYTHING you could use help with at the moment, especially considering Harper is arriving today?

NT: I'm new to all this. I'm down for any help or suggestions really. We're in the hospital now for the induction, and we start the labor process at 6 AM.

AH: We got you, broham. Just watch. Asking is more than half the battle. Well Nile, I know you must be drained, and well, starting in a few hours, you'll never be more rested than you are right now, for at least the next 18 years. So.

NT: Lmao. Yup. Last night of sleep that belongs to me alone.

AH: Thank you for your time. Go get those last few moments of rest and get ready to watch the ball drop.

NT: No problem at all man. Thank you for allowing me to contribute.


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Aretha Franklin's black-ish take on Adele's "Rolling In The Deep"


Because spaghetti strap tops won't pay for themselves, Returning to the spotlight after a string of health issues that kept her from the stage, House Mother Aretha is prepping to release her newest album, Warblin' and Winnin' Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics, on October 21. Patti's bestie has reunited with soul music's Vampire-in-Chief Clive Davis to honor contemporaries and lessors alike with covers of hits by likes of Gladys Knight, Barbara Streisand, Sinéad O'Connor, Gloria Gaynor, and the late Whitney Houston.

And, for some reason, Alicia Keys.


'Retha starts the party with a rousing take on Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" that would make any surly, drinky deaconess proud. The set's lead single, a battered and deep-fried version of the original, turns Adele's faux-plantationy lover's lament into a battered and deep-fried howl-a-thon. Out with the soulful hoedown and in with the refined two-step, I reckon.

In short: The power is there, but now, so are the auto-tune and the struggle.



With production by Andre 3000 and Babyface, I'm not sure what to expect from the album. These are covers, so I want to believe that another game of Established Singers And The Trend-Chasing Producers Who Guide Them is less likely. At any rate, I vote that she drop a Trapped In The Closet-style visual album, directed by Lil B, of course. Can you see it? I can.

The Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics tracklist:

1. "At Last" (Etta James cover)
2. "Rolling In The Deep" (Adele cover)
3. "Midnight Train To Georgia" (Gladys Knight and the Pips cover)
4. "I Will Survive" (Gloria Gaynor cover)
5. "People" (Barbra Streisand cover)
6. "No One" (Alicia Keys cover)
7. "I'm Every Woman" (Chaka Khan cover) / "Respect"
8. "Teach Me Tonight" (Dinah Washington cover)
9. "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (The Supremes cover)
10. "Nothing Compares 2 U" (Sinéad O'Connor cover)

Addendum:

...but this live performance of "Rolling In The Deep," though?


NO x (2841 x 40 million)

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Olivia Pope [ATA #13]

WARNING: Across the Aisle features a generous helping of exploratory writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor + Alex Hardy = the triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks, and such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences.  Enjoy.

Episode 13
scandal-image.jpg
Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful Wold of Olivia Pope

Alex Hardy: As watch parties are planned and popcorn and red wine stashes are replenished ahead of Thursday’s season four premiere of ABC’s Scandal, we gather here today to offer a primer for those who are new to the underworld of Olivia Pope and Associates, where rapid-fire dialogue and moral abandonment are the cornerstones of company culture. It’s a special world, one where you’re here today and tortured tomorrow. Careers, loyalties and fingers vanish over commercial breaks. Come for the drama, stay for the blood, stylish clothes and flashy editing. If you, like Pharrell Williams, enjoy unsavory White people and straight-faced subterfuge, then this is the show for you.

Scandal is a densely packed show that moves quickly. We’ll try to break down a few key plot elements, as keeping track of each awful person’s acts of awful personhood can be dizzying. Storylines can sometimes feel propelled by that Jesse Spano, but don’t let that deter you from diving in. There are enough flawed slick talkers on the scene to love, root for and despise a different person each week. Fun for everyone.

We have invited writer, attorney, and serial Scandal live-tweeter April Reign to help us address some basic questions about the show. We’ve both seen every episode, while Sir Jay of Connor has yet to see a single episode and missed out on the hilarious pregnancy-masking antics during Season Three. Good times, those were. Grab a jumbo glass of wine, a handful of popcorn, and allow us to get you up to speed.

And. Fuck Quinn. Forever.

1. What the hell is this show even about?

Alex: Scandal follows the doings and screwings of Olivia Pope, the owner of a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. Aided by red wine and a lack of scruples, Olivia leads her gang of affectionately flawed misfits on a weekly adventure to make tragedies disappear for one another and the bescandled gents and dames who seek their expertise. People die and good guys lose. Basically, Olivia Pope is Diddy.

Jay Connor: Gotcha. And who comprises her devoted roster of extraordinarily talented, yet royalty check deprived cheesecake connoisseurs Bad Boy signees?

April Reign: The Associates of Olivia Pope & Associates are Harrison Wright (an attorney), Abby Whelan (an investigator), Huck (a tech guru who used to work for B613) and Quinn Perkins/Lindsay Dwyer (who cares). Each has a reason they were hand-chosen by Olivia and possess special skills that help the firm run. Except Quinn, because we hate her. She was only saved by Olivia after being framed for a crime (by Olivia). We’ve yet to see her value on the show but her faults are clearly present. Every week. 

Jay: So do we have anyone else of note? Or are we saving the good shit for their individual “Unsung” episodes? 

April: Other characters are Jake Ballard (Navy officer who served with Fitz Grant; worked under, then over, Papa Pope; and became Olivia’s lover (yes, that’s TWO dips in the Vanilla Pond for Livvie); Papa Rowan/Eli Pope (played MASTERFULLY by Joe Morton), Olivia’s father and the head of a shadowy government organization named B613 that actually has more power than the President himself; President Fitzgerald and First Lady Mellie Grant, Cyrus Beene, the President’s Chief of Staff; and David Rosen, a lawyer who truly believes in right and wrong. He and Abby become lovers and as a reward for doing what he was told, he becomes the United States Attorney in DC.


2. Who is Olivia Pope and why is she sleeping with her Commander-in-Chief?

Kerry Washington as "Olivia Pope"
April: Olivia Pope is known nationwide as a “fixer.” She “handles” problems brought to her and her team, each of whom has a significant backstory. The Pope character is based on real life Crisis Manager Judy Smith, who has handled some very high profile cases, especially in Washington, DC. We learned that Pope is the lover of Fitzgerald Grant, the married President. They have had an on-again, off-again relationship for several years and it appears they both have sincere feelings for one another.

Jay: What are these “feelings” you speak of and where might one find some? Asking for a friend.

Alex: Destructive dependency, romantic repulsion, unhealthy mutual obsession, and so forth. ABC’s very own Bobby and Whitney, with only the finest Oil of Enthusiastic Self-Debasement to really get shit poppin’.

Jay: Well, color me badd intrigued. Shout out to her majesty, Queen Shonda, for breathing new life and congeniality into the universal pandemic known as The Other Woman. Professional athletes, Basketball Wives, and Alicia Keys, take heed and upgrade accordingly. 

3. Who is this Fitz person blowing up my social media feeds every gotdamn Thursday night?

Tony Goldwyn as
"President Fitzgerald Grant III"
Alex: Fitzpatrick Thomas Grant III is the Fuckboy In Chief and Olivia’s part-time lover. President Grant is a Republican, but that is not the reason for his astounding terribleness. Like many of the other characters, Fitz is a murderer and an opportunistic scoundrel. He is married to Mellie Grant, one of two people who regularly puts Olivia in her motherfucking place. (Papa Pope is the other.) He killed someone who was literally in a hospital bed dying from cancer. He blamed his wife for his affair with Olivia and hired a stalker-spy to protect his douchely personal interests. He promised Mellie that if she didn’t disappear like Judy Winslow and allow him to rebrand himself as the nation-uniting captain of Team Swirl, he’d ruin her life and career with a fairytale freshly harvested from his terrible anal cavity of terribleness. Fitz is what happens when kids raised by helicopter parents make it to adulthood without therapy. He is a useless White man. He can’t get right and is a waste of privilege. I think that pretty much covers it.

April: I…I have nothing to add. LMAOOOOO

Alex: You know that 112 song about cryogenically freezing your main squeeze’s heart until you’re done spreading it low and spreading it wide? That sums up all of the fuckboy philosophy Fitz has pitched at Olivia. “Wait for me. No, you can’t have anyone else. But I promise you, at some point, no more broom closet humpings for you. I swear.” And she wants to believe him.

Jay: Desperate. Sinister. Unscrupulous. Just so we’re crystal clear here, are we talking about an actual person or Robin Thicke’s Paula album?

4. And Columbus Short is involved…how?
Columbus Short as "Harrison Wright"
April: This has been an ongoing problem in the show. Everyone has a backstory but Short’s (who plays
Harrison Wright) has never been fully fleshed out. We know that Olivia saved him from going to prison, but it’s not exactly clear what the crime(s) was. It seemed we were going to learn more near the end of last season but Harrison decided to step to Papa Pope and…you just don’t do that. Add to that Short’s problems off the air and Shonda yanked him from the show. We won’t be seeing Harrison Wright/Columbus Short again. RIP to Harrison and to Short’s career. Welp.

Jay: I would pour some liquor on the curb in his memory, but I’m sure the careers of Kel Thompson and Smilez & Southstar were dying for companionship anyway. I hope he knows how to play Spades.

Alex: If not for his daily presence in the muted halls of Pope & Associates, Harrison Wright would be Tommy Strong: a murky background and no discernable abilities. Harrison Wright was most skilled at slowly turning away from tables with clenched fists and a harrowed scowl. He was the best-dressed two-dimensional reformed [past profession unknown] you’ve seen thus far.

Jay: Okay, so he wasn't a cornerstone, like say LL Cool J’s hat or Benzino’s aversion to bow ties, but he wasn’t quite [insert Blackstreet member of choice that isn't Teddy Riley] either. Which would make him French Fries: Appreciated, but by no means the star of your indigestion the plate. Carry on.


5. I’ve never seen this show before a day in my life. Is it too late to jump on the bandwagon? Or much like society’s need for Lil’ Kim, has time passed me by?

April: You can catch back episodes on Netflix and the first season was really the best to me because it showed how Olivia and Company handled their client’s problems. In the most recent season, the show was almost exclusively focused on Olivia and her various relationships, so the show lost some of its edge. The only thing that Olivia was trying to fix was her own life, basically, and the really interesting cases that she used to handle in 48 minutes each week were lost. It’s definitely not too late to jump on the bandwagon and the show has almost a cult following, especially on Twitter where we live tweet each week.

Alex: Start from the beginning. You need to be fully up to date on those doings and screwings. Besides, it’s best if you let your Quinnhate blossom gradually, rather than taking it to the head now, when her herpesworthiness is at an all-time high.

Jay: That makes sense. Could you imagine a world in which Original Recipe Aunt Viv succeeded her vapid, imitation crab incarnation? Even chaos demands some semblance of order, and since ire doesn’t grow on trees (or in petri dishes), if I’m going to learn to loathe someone I want it to come naturally. Which leads to our next question.

6. “Everyone Loves Raymond,” but where did Quinn go wrong in this equation?
April: Quinn began by being too naIÏve and whiny. She was helpless. Then she made a series of mistakes to prove her worth to Olivia that literally put folks’ lives in jeopardy. Then Huck took her under his wing to train her and she was desperately trying to prove herself to him. I’ve yet to find any redeeming quality about her. She needs to die. Swiftly.

Jay: Ouch. Alex?

Alex: Quinn is an idiot. She’s a terrible liar and is as trustworthy as a self worth seminar led by someone who adores coleslaw. Like Orange Is The New Black’s Piper Chapman, her sister in Useless Whiteness, she is a herpes sore on my soul. It’s hard to stand out for exceptional scumbaggery among such company, but betcha by golly wow, she does it. Dave Chappelle said it best: “I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and only you.” 

Jay: This Quinn person must be hell on the arteries. I mean, damn. Disdain this resounding is typically reserved for Sprint. Iyanla, please fix her life.

7. Alright. So who is likable on this show?

Guillermo Díaz as "Huck"
Alex: Despite his stabbiness, I am not turned off by Huck. I feel like he wants to be a better person. For some reason, I pity him when he’s hacking away at someone. I want him to get the fuck away from Olivia and Abby and into therapy. And I root for former Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rosen, Olivia’s punching bag of choice. So far, he’s the only person here I’ve never wished spontaneous combustion upon.

April: Huck is going to have a very interesting season. He has been psychologically damaged by previously working for B613 and hasn’t had an opportunity to properly deal with his issues. At the end of the last season, we saw him about to reconnect with his wife and their son, people he hasn’t had an opportunity to see or speak to in years because they thought he was dead. I truly enjoy watching Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene in action. He has fantastic dialogue and will do whatever is necessary to reach his goals. He knows he’s the devil and has made peace with this fact. He’s wonderful to watch.

Alex: When in doubt, root for Rosen.

Jay: This guy sounds a lot like Deadpool of Marvel Comics infamy. Tremendously gifted but keeps questionable company, and that whole “internal turmoil” thing disqualifies him from babysitting unsupervised. I like him already. Pencil him in as my spirit animal.

8. Okay. Soooooo what should I expect from Season Four?

April: At the end of the last season, Harrison is about to die, Quinn and Huck are sleeping together, Fitzgerald Grant has just won reelection but cannot celebrate because his son has been murdered (the outpouring of emotion from which won him the election), Papa Pope is back in charge of B613, and Olivia and Jake are literally flying off into the sunset. Who the hell knows what is coming next, although the tag line is “Where is Olivia?”


Jay: After three seasons of acclaim and fanfare, Empress Rhimes must be running short on ideas. When Carmen Sandiego sues her for copyright infringement, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Alex: I’m certain we will quickly learn what master plan Olivia’s dastardly ass mother cooked up at the end of Season 3. When the credits last rolled, Maya Pope and her laid ass hair were seen scowling up at a highly self-satisfied Papa Pope from her new home in the chokey. Though hemmed up, it’s not smart to count her out. Because half of Olivia’s terribleness flows through her, I feel like she is at least two steps ahead of her estranged daughter and her equally dastardly husband. Whatever happens, I’m certain her hair will look mad luscious.

I know that Fitz, fresh from burying his murdered son, will resort to his Robin Thickely ways and wind up inside Olivia by Episode Three. But ultimately, I just need Quinn Perkins to die horrifically. Perhaps death by sugar grits. Perhaps a flesh-eating virus will take her out. I’m sure Shonda will think of something snazzy. I have faith in her.

Jay: More fire, more brimstone. Another round of elevated blood pressure and plots with more twists than Chubby Checker. Death comes in threes, syndication arrives in fives, and our beloved Fitz will finally goad Olivia into a threesome during this whimsical Fourth Season of Nielsen ratings supremacy. But I ain’t one to gossip, so you ain’t heard that from me.

9. Why should Shonda Rhimes receive my vote in the upcoming presidential election?

Shonda Rhimes Tha Don
April: Should she? Her shows have become a bit formulaic. Fantastic starts but you soon realize that the female protagonists are brilliant but emotionally flawed. We’ve seen the same in Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, and I expect to see it in How to Get Away With Murder, Shonda’s new series starring Viola Davis. The writing can be great, but once Shonda starts focusing on the relationships of the female lead and not the original premise of the show, it loses something for me. Shonda does bring us a PERFECT soundtrack in the music she chooses each week. Not to mention fabulous styling, especially of Olivia Pope, which is handled by Lyn Paolo (in real life).

Alex: Say what you will about her shows, but Shonda has excelled at consistently presenting three-dimensional, relatable Black characters in primetime slots. Her shows aren’t perfect, but I appreciate that, with Grey’s Anatomy specifically, these characters of color feel like people. Likable people. Scandalous people. Murderous, despicable people. But people rather than types. With brisk writing and more twists and turns than a piecemeal Mariah Carey album rollout attempt, Shonda has kept viewers emotionally invested in the lustings of Whitley Gilbert’s jilted beau’s chile. Plus, she gave me a weekly opportunity to watch Harrison—in all his underutilized, great-faced splendor—as he power-whispered his way through scenes. She hasn’t figured how to write Miley the entire quarantined fuck off this planet, but she is doing quite a few things right. Dat girl good.

Jay: As someone with firsthand involvement in the nefarious underworld known as film and television, I can attest to Empress Rhimes’ ubiquitous Black reign. In fact, her dominion over Thursday nights is imperiled only by power outages, football, or anemic remote control batteries. No weapon formed against her shall prosper. She is the way, the truth, and the life. Oprah aspires to be her when she grows up, and whoever dogged Her Highness out at the prom can be found sharing a heroin needle with Kima, Keisha, and Pam.

10. Does that about cover it, or is there anything else I should know?

April: There are a lot of little pieces that can’t possibly be covered here, but we’ve hit the highlights. For example, we haven’t even mentioned Mama Pope! You know there’s a reason she’s being kept alive. I would still recommend watching at least the last few episodes to get caught up, if not binge-watching from Season One.

Alex: Huck, Olivia’s Shyne, is the creepiest of them all. But even after watching him pull teeth from someone’s mouth, he’s still more likable than Quinn Perkins, who must be disassembled at once.

Jay: And that brings “Scandal for Dummies: An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Olivia Pope” to a close. For those already familiar with the show, hopefully we’ve been able to provide you with a quick refresher, and for those new to this series, consider this a gateway drug towards harsher, much more addictive Shonda Rhimes-helmed opiates. Because in the immortal words of nosey ass Black people, you’ve got the juice now

Make sure to catch the season premiere Thursday night on ABC April’s Twitter feed, and this is Jay Connor, reminding you to help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.



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__________________________________________
A million thanks to my partner in crime:





Jay Connor is a prized pupil of the esteemed Professor Xavier and a Los Angeles based freelance writer. When he’s not preoccupied with accruing overdraft fees while chasing the dream, he can be found disseminating terrorist threats on Twitter and Facebook. Direct all business inquiries, sexual innuendo and Nigerian email scams to deathtoadverbs@gmail.com.









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