Is Kevin Hart About To Become The New Will Smith?

This movie made HOW much???

This movie made HOW much???

That question on its face seems completely laughable. I should know. I laughed when I wrote it. However, with the success of Ride Along this weekend – breaking the record for January openings with a projected $47.8 million - it does make me wonder.

Kevin Hart has been EVERYWHERE lately. Whoever his manager is needs the raise of all raises. He’s in commercials. He’s in movies. Not just Paper Soldiers type movies anymore either; Kevin Hart is showing up in movies with Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone. Let that sink in for a minute. I realize that Grudge Match wasn’t exactly a movie anybody ran out to see, but still, he’s made the leap from sh*t like Death At A Funeral (a terrible ensemble cast movie starring the always never sometimes kinda bankable Chris Rock) to a pretty much movie stealing performance in the better than it gets credit for movie Think Like A Man to somehow making a paint-by-the-numbers cheesy cop comedy in Ride Along manage to do REAL numbers. So much so that I’m curious about what About Last Night will do. Or better stated, what dat About Last Night do?

I suppose this entire premise will be all for naught if About Last Night – a rom com coming out on Valentine’s Day so that Black people have a movie to go see that night – doesn’t do very well.

Let me just say this…I’m as surprised as anybody that I’m even posing this. I really am. If there’s any actor that I ever thought would be making a possible leap into big money Hollywood territory it would be Idris Elba (its coming if that James Bond thing ever comes thru). For the most part, Kevin Hart has never been my cup of tea when he’s going all Kevin Hart, which means a lot of yelling and extra-ness. But when he reigns it in and just sticks to be organically funny, he’s actually quite charming. In fact, Kevin Hart has definitely placed himself into the leading comic category. Hell, he’s pretty much on “the name you know” status.

While we’re here, let me toss something else into the WTF juicer. I think Drake may end up becoming one of the rappers who successfully manages an acting career…again. Granted, not a single one of anybody outside of Canada was watching DeGrassi Jr High when he was Wheelchair Jimmy, but he murdered SNL this past weekend. He’s got that same presence that Justin Timberlake has. And surprisingly (should he decide to give it a go) that Big Boi from Outkast has (Dre not so much despite wanting to be the acting half of the duo). Hell, even Peyton Manning has it. The camera loves these people. And it helps that Drake is well spoken…he speaks so well. It’s not racist because I’m Black. I mean, it’s still racist, but it’s not as racist. Because I’m Black.

I digress.

Drake actually seems like he could give the acting thing a run and do a good job. He doesn’t have dashing good looks or anything. I realize some women absolutely adore him and all but I mean, Drake looks like Drake. Do with that what you will. But Drake has acting ability and he’s got the right personality to pretty much do whatever he wants. I could totally see Drake taking on some legit role in some legit movie and winning some legit award for it. I can’t see Kevin Hart winning any awards unless they come from organizations that start with Black Something Or Other. Which is okay.

All of this remains to be seen. Clearly I’m jumping all kinds of guns. But I am genuinely surprised at the success of Ride Along. And it has to be squarely on Kevin Hart. Nobody is checking for Ice Cube no matter how many “thugged out” Coors Light commercials he does. Even if it is mostly Black people who showed up, the amount of money this movie pulled in will at least makes folks take notice.

Put it this way, The Best Man Holiday, a movie that nearly every single Black person in existence seemed to go see pulled in $30.4 million on the Thanksgiving holiday. Tyler Perry movies average somewhere between $21 and $24 million (to be fair, he’s had a few movies open up in the $30 and $40 million range). Somehow, this movie with Kevin Hart as the lead did crazy numbers so you KNOW it wasn’t just Black folks at the movies. Perhaps he has made the leap. The new Will Smith is a tall order. And probably not that accurate…yet. Plus he’s not tall enough to play a serious love interest role like Hitch to endear him to people of all races everywhere. But if Kevin Hart gets a role where he’s an AIDS patient and loses lots of weight and hands in the performance of a lifetime in Philly Buyer’s Club two years from now…well…

…is Kevin Hart possibly the new kid on the block from Philly to become America’s darling??

Le hmm.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. SAY HEFFA SAY WHAT? aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Was Anything The Same? Why, Yes. It Was.

Drake-NWTSDrake’s third studio album, Nothing Was The Same, leaked like Panama Jackson in the bushes of Centennial Park in 2009 on Sunday night. I’ve listened to this album no less than 20 times. Partly because I love my mother. Partly because I have to fulfill my lightskinneded duty.

Believe it or not, there is a lightskinneded duty. It’s this secret oath we take when we’re like 13 that states we will blindly support any and all endeavors created and performed by lightskint people as long as they don’t bring shame to our crest. Yes, all light skint people have a crest. Falcon’s. Toothpaste. One could say that when a light skint person trips, we’re crestfallen. Yes, that happened.

Point is, Drizzy’s album crestfell and I felt an obligation to listen to it. In short, it sounds like every other Drake album which means its a solidly produced album full of discussions about women he’s known, women he’s f*cking now, his triumphs and trappings of success and the humility it brings. Drake’s pretty human despite telling us how rich he is. Like even though he’s got more money than I’ll likely ever see, he makes me feel like I can relate. I mean, I used to argue with my mama too. “Started From The Bottom” is kind of ingeniuous if you think about it. He never defines “here”. So you can literally repeat that hook and never be lying, unlike “Tom Ford” which…well, how many of you actually rock Tom Ford. I say that hook all the time. I’m always lying. Jay-Z made me a liar.

That’s why Beyonce’s ass got snatched off that stage the other night. I can’t prove that but you probably can’t disprove it either.

Back to NWTS…have you ever listened to an album only to realize that you’re not paying attention to anything that’s being said but you feel like hey this sounds good. It’s like the opposite of listening to say, Eminem, nowadays, where you listen to everything he’s saying and its like totally sucking ass. Regardless of opinion, Drake is a good rapper. He murders most of his guest spots. And in truth, the only rapper worthy of addressing Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse was Drake.

Briefly, I know the world loved that verse, but if he never “called out names” I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have thought twice about it. I think this says more about our need for anything remotely feeling non-emo in hip-hop. I don’t know where the shift happened but huzzah, ya know?

So let’s talk songs, mmkay, pumpkin? There’s a two song stretch – or as much of a stretch that two songs can be – of “305 To My City” and “Too Much” that are absolutely killing the game. The album intro “Tuscan Leather” also cracks like Chris Rock in New Jack City after he got the job at The Carter. Speaking of Lil Wayne (get it? The Carter?) he’s not on the album. That feels odd though Young Emo addresses the fact that he and Lil Wheeziana are all good on the intro. I really think they need to make a “HYFR” Part 2 though. Do you agree? Hell yeah? F*cking right? I think so.

The rest of the songs all kind of sound the same to me. This isn’t a bad thing at all since they sound decent, but they all sound like Drake songs on a Drake album. Jay is on the album and he sounds like current Jay. He’s still rich. And he namechecks everybody he made rich. You know, make another Hov and stuff.

While I know every body is excited about this, here’s some food for thought: people hate on Drake for talking about his feelings. But if he doesn’t talk about his feelings and talks hardcore, folks hate him then too. So we basically want Drake to stay in the “Fancy”, “Over”, bottle poppin’ life of excess lane…except, Drake actually reads good and probably listens to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer in the morning so he’s working on his growth and addressing his insecurities and feelings…which, considering how much we think Black men never actually get in touch with the feelings should be a good thing.

But when Drake does it, ees a problem. And I’m no different, I’ve accused many a person of Drakeing and driving. And don’t let a ninja get all caught up on some feelings for an ex he can’t let go…I’m blaming Drake. In fact, I’d like Congress to commission an experiment via NIH to see what happens when you only allow Black men to listen to Drake albums…does he become the man women want? Does he murder an oxen? Does he hate love and love love, ultimately ending up at tainted love while stopping the love he saved because it can’t be his own?

Anyway…here’s a real question: Drake is clearly here to stay…he’s three (successful) albums into a career where folks are flaming out a few singles in. He’s here to stay. Do we ever think there will be a time when he’ll transcend the ridiculous image we assign to him? This album isn’t a foray into any new terrirtory…it’s old hat with new jeans and socks territory.

I know nobody here cares – or at least that’s what I expect to read – but have you heard it? Where are we in the makings of what will actually be a real rap career of Drake? Is Drake gonna Jay-Z the game? Can he?

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka lower.case.p aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Investigative Report: Do Light-Skinned Rappers Really Have An Advantage?

Drake-J-Cole1

Despite his status as The Human Itis, I actually don’t harbor any dislike for J. Cole. I think he’s a genuinely talented rapper who seems to have a decent head on his shoulders and has managed to carve out a bit of a niche for himself. Yes, he tends to turn me into a narcoleptic, but I think that’s more my doing than his.

Lemme put it this way: I’d probably be more of a fan if he happened to be relevant in 2000 instead of 2013. Now, though, I’m just not as carnivorous of a rap fan as I used to be, and Cole’s music isn’t distinguishable enough for it to resonate with me.

Anyway, Cole made a few headlines last week when expressing his feelings about intra-racial colorism, and how being light-skinned has helped his career (as well as President Obama’s).

In Obama’s case, I think he has a point. It’s no coincidence that the first Black president and the three Black male politicians with the best chance of being president one day—Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, and Colin Powell—all received A’s on their paper bag tests. (Ironically, while the biracial thing has been a plus for Obama, he probably wouldn’t have the same type of unwavering support from the Black community if his wife was also as light. You can disagree with me about that, but you’d be wrong.)

Rap is a little trickier. So tricky that the only way to see if J. Cole is right is to examine each of the four most popular lightskinneded rappers today—J. Cole, Drake, T.I., and Common (Sorry, Joe Budden. I guess Kendrick’s not the only one to leave you off the list. I’d apologize to French Montana too, but I’m not sure he can read.)—and see whether their complexions have helped their careers.

Humanitis

J. Cole was a mixtape darling for years before anyone really knew what he looked like. And by “anyone really knew what he looked like” I mean “women knew he existed.” But, while his history may suggest that his looks had no effect on his success, that would discount the Mixtape/Backpack Corollary, which states the following:

All rappers who first made their name on the backpack/mixtape/freestyle battle circuit are generally assumed to resemble the construction workers from Fraggle Rock until proven otherwise. 

Basically, it’s generally assumed that rappers who could be considered backpackers are considered backpackers because they’re not charismatic/attractive enough to be more popular. And, when a backpacker is found to be tall, lightskinneded, and not bad looking, it’s a pleasant surprise…at least until you realize that the reason why he wasn’t more popular was due to the fact that all his long-time fans are currently in comas.

Verdict? Yes, his color has helped his career, but only because of a generous helping of “you’re better looking than I thought you’d be” points.

Drake

At first glance, this should be the easiest examination on the list. He is the country’s preeminent light-skinned icon, and will soon join Al B Sure, El Debarge, and Terrance Howard—whose 2005 may have been the best light-skinned year in light-skinned historyon the Light-Skinned Mt. Rushmore.

But, while much of his fame is undoubtedly due to women fawning over his flurry eyebrowed lightskinndedness, I actually think his look has been more of a negative than a positive for him.

Why? Well, for one simple reason:

Drake is a great rapper. 

I know, I know, I know. The only time “Drake,” “great,” and “rapping” should be in the same sentence is “Drake is really great at wrapping his arms all the way around you when he hugs.” Despite his popularity, he is a perpetual punchline who is often cited as the primary example of the pervasive bitchassness permeating the rap game.

But, regardless of how you feel about his widow’s peak, wardrobe choices, whine sessions on wax, and the fact that he somehow always manages to look wet, beneath all of that is a foundation made possible by the popularity of his mixtapes—mixtapes that featured some legitimately standout rapping. This standout rapping has continued on his albums and most of the tracks he’s been featured on in the past three years.

Yet, his persona has made it near blasphemous for anyone not a 19 year old college sophomore to publicly admit he’s good at rapping, and his look—seriously, if you drew a picture of Drake, the color of the crayon used to shade in his face would be “brunch”—definitely contributes to that.

Verdict: Yes and No. Yes, because his light-skindedness allows him to murder Amanda Bynes’ vagina. No, because just the simple act of writing that Drake was a great rapper caused one of my testicles to bounce.

T.I.

Perhaps no other rapper in rap history has a bigger distance between “the type of rap music he creates” and “the size you’d expect a person creating that type of rap music would be.” It still amazes me that some of the hardest, thuggest, and most gas face-inducing music of the last decade was made by someone who can fit inside a woman’s Timberland.

This in mind, there’s no doubt his light-skinnededness has hurt him.

I’m sure he’s aware of his (lack of) size. And, when you combine this with the fact that lighter-skinned men are often considered to be “softer” than their darker-skinned brethren, the 44783293 gun charges he’s received over the past several years start to make sense. But, while gun charges are usually boons to the careers of other rappers, each case has made T.I. considerably worse at rapping. It’s a paradox where his light-skinnededness made him harder off record, indirectly leading to him kinda sucking on record.

Verdict: A resounding no. After starting out as a southern Ice Cube, Tip is a predicate charge away from going full Bruce Jenner.

Common

Verdict: Yes! Dark-skinned rappers who go eight years without releasing relevant albums don’t go on Bill Maher, don’t give invited to the White House, and damn sure don’t date Serena.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

The One Topic Men And Women Seem To Never Agree On: “Is She Cute?”

drakemal-gr486-11

(VSB will be back to regular programming tomorrow. Until then, check out this still very relevant blast from the past)

I have a friend who has a somewhat sizable share of adoring female fans. Tall, handsome, and earnest in a “guy who’d play a widowed bagel shop owner in a screwball comedy starring Katherine Heigl” sort of way, he’s the type of guy most other guys would assume had good luck with the ladies, so the attention he receives isn’t surprising. I guess he’d be the Anti-Weezy.

What is surprising, though, is the amount of attention his wife receives among my friends, and how the general feeling about her is split into two distinct and decisive gender-based factions. Basically, the men (generally) think she’s hot, the women (generally) think she’s not, and her level of attractiveness has been an enlightening discussion topic.

At first I assumed that the ladies’ general sense of “eh” in regards to her was birthed in a big ole bucket of haterade. But, I soon realized that it wasn’t envy as much as its “she’s just not good-looking enough to be with him.” (Which brings up an entirely different “damned if you do, damned if you don’t: women are hypocrites” argument, but today isn’t the day for that.)

They just don’t see what we see when we see her, and no amount of convincing has been able to sway them to even entertain the idea that she’s attractive.

While this debate was somewhat unexpected, it really shouldn’t be. Men and women never seem to agree about women’s looks…especially if its not an easy call. Sure, most men and women would agree that Nia Long and Nicole Beharie are great-looking, but once you leave “fine” and venture over to “cute” and/or “attractive” territory, their idea of what should make a woman appealing rarely matches our idea of what actually does. I’d bet a week of Kelis child support checks that if I chose 30 random pics of women from alltheparties.com and asked a group of 10 men and 10 women to rank them, the women’s top seven and the men’s top seven would house completely different people.

Anyway, I’m not exactly sure why this drastic difference in opinion exists, but I have a few theories:

A) It’s God’s payback for men pretending not to know which guys women find attractive.

This theory holds water until you realize that our act is not an act at all. We really have no f*cking clue. For every Idris Elba and Boris Kodjoe—men other men can understand why women are interested in them—there seems to be 10 men whose pull on women completely baffles other men, and this confuses us so much that we just stop trying.

b) We (men) just have different ways of looking at women.

***Things a typical man notices when first looking at Maliah Michel (the video vixen/stripper/Twitter supermodel pictured above)***

Pretty. Nice hips and thighs. Surprisingly small waist for hips and thighs that size. Surprisingly small tummy for hips and thighs that size. Considering size of hips and thighs, as well as 8 inch distance between her and drake, likely holding mega-donk. Long legs. Looks like she smells like peach cobbler.

***Things a typical woman notices when first looking at Maliah Michel***

Gold stretch pants in March? What year is this, 1984? This b*tch thinks she’s Jennifer Beals. She should probably do a crunch or two the next time she rocks a see-thru shirt. You can’t have A-cups if your arms are that big. She could be cute if she didn’t look like Drake just farted. If she’s been dancing all night, I know it smells like broccoli underneath those American Apparel Flashdance pants.

C) Women are natural haters.

***Even though this has no real relevance to this topic, I just wanted to put it out there. Carry on***

D) Women actually are very aware of who and what we find attractive, but their consistent contrasting is just them attempting to convince us that we‘re the ones who have no idea what attractive means.

Basically, they’re trying some elaborate Jedi shit to influence our thought patterns and opinions by ovary osmosis. Might seem far-fetched, but Adam did eat the apple, so anything is possible.

Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Aaliyah, Drake, And Why We Lie When Famous People Die

Aside from the whole biracial Jewish-Canadian who first became popular by playing a pouty paraplegic on a teen soap opera that was only watched by the type of kids who forged doctor’s excuses to get out of gym class thing, perhaps the most interesting thing about Drake is how he tests the limits of his diehard fans’ fandom.

For instance, I have a friend who happens to be a diehard Drake fan. And, by being very pretty, very educated, somewhat emo, occasionally hipster, slightly Delta, and the type who “loves hip-hop, but not rap,” also happens to fit what I imagine to be the typical diehard Drake fan profile. On numerous occasions, she’s brought up the fact that Drake’s obsession with beef, boning strippers, and saying ridiculous things has made it difficult for her to continue to be his fan. But, a bit of cognitive dissonance allows her to get right back on the bandwagon.

I wonder, though, if Drake fans will be able to forgive him for being haughty enough to release an album featuring tracks from the patron saint of Urban Emo herself, the late Aaliyah Haughton.

We don’t have to wonder, though, how most Aaliyah fans seem to feel about this.

Below is a few tweets curated at AllHipHop.com

You can find a longer list of anti-Drake/Aaliyah collaboration tweets here. 

And, if interested, you can read one of the several articles published this week denouncing this duo.

That there’s been such pushback isn’t surprising. There are few artists who’ve received the type of posthumous reverence that Aaliyah has — it must be a rite of passage for all male hip-hop artists to record an interview saying they had fallen in love with her — and even Drake has turned his body into a bizarre Aaliyah shrine. And, given that she was more “cool” than she was talented — which is saying a lot because she was definitely very talented  — this unusual reverence is understandable

Thing is — and this is a phenomenon that goes much further than Aaliyah — I think we have a tendency to allow our reverence for dead celebrities to assign a certain mystique that almost transubstantiates them. Basically, when they die, we start to lie.

Usually, this process starts with saying something like “If Aaliyah were still alive, she’d…” a way of thinking that’s absurd on two different levels.

1. It presumes that you have any f*cking clue what the hell a dead person would be thinking/doing if they were still alive

In Aaliyah’s case, how do we know that she wouldn’t have wanted to collaborate with Drake?

If you’re old enough to remember listening to Aaliyah in high school, while Brandy had the pop charts and Monica resonated a bit more with the current and future ratchets, she seemed to be the go-to female R&B choice for the counterculture Black kids. Let’s forget for a second that Drake has become such a convenient person to snark. The type of music that populates his albums — moody, emo, occasionally haunting (basically, the type of music produced by people who either rock black eyeliner or date people who rock black eyeliner) — is exactly the type of music Aaliyah was known for. In fact, I can’t think of another current rap artist who’d be a better feature on an Aaliyah album than Drake. But, our mystical appreciation for her doesn’t allow us to fathom the idea that she’d even consider making music with him.

2. It completely disregards the possibility that the artist could have done what most other artists eventually do: fall off

Whenever I hear someone mention how different the rap game would be today if Biggie or Tupac were still alive, I always point back to the same person: DMX.

Why? Well, there may not have been another rap artist who was as universally revered as DMX was in 1997 and 1998. He debut album sold a trillion records and dominated the airwaves. People bought and fought over Clue and Flex mixtapes just to hear a new DMX track. As hard as it is to believe now, when people first purchased Jigga’s Hard Knock Life, “Money, Cash, Hoes” was the track people were most anticipating. He was even cast as the lead character in the biggest (and most ridiculous) hip-hop movie ever made.

Today though, 15 years later, DMX is equal parts punchline and crackhead. No one lists him on any “Top 20″ rankings, and a DMX release today might go double cat litter. It’s as if 97-99 didn’t even exist.

I’m bringing this up because DMX’s descent is the most obvious example of the fact that we have absolutely no clue what shape Aaliyah’s or Biggie’s or Tupac’s career would be in today if they stayed alive. They could have very easily fallen off just as DMX did. For all we know, Aaliyah could have had a Maia Campbell-esque breakdown, Biggie could have lost weight, moved to Nashville, and decided to do country gospel, and Tupac could be f*cking Khloe Kardashian. He might even have a reality show called “All Eyez On Me…and Khloe”

We just don’t f*cking know. But, not knowing is and will always be better than pretending that we do.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)