Non-Conventional Gifts That Make Me Happy During This Holiday Season

Black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow.

Black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow.

Or any season really…

With Christmas right around the corner, I’ve been a bit reflective lately. It’s important to sit back and take the time to realize the little things in life and the tiny blessings that have been bestowed upon from out yonder and up above. If you take a second to truly look at life in all of its glory, you will realize that there is evidence that whoever you pray to was busy leaving little easter eggs all over the place. You know the kind of places where compromise has come full circle.

Yes, that higher power, what a great person. So it is in this season that I thank 8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus who don’t even know a word yet (though I happen to prefer mine with a mullet) for the bevy of good tidings he brings for me and my kin. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

With that being said, here a bunch of little blessings to be thankful for during this holiday season.

- unattractive men with big bank accounts

- unattractive women with great bodies

- multi-colorway Jordan’s

- Honey Jack Daniels Whiskey

- short men with great personalities

- overt racism

- Duck Dynasty (even despite the recent comments which to me is just like the Chik-Fil-A kerfluffle a few years ago)

- White Hennessey

- Black Twitter

- White Wegman’s

- Hybrid SUVs

- Cuffin’ season for the cold months

- Summer dresses for the hot months

- Strobe lights for drunken nights at the club

- Sweet & Sour Gummie Bears

- Boxer briefs

- women in wife beaters

- Black Santa

- White Jesus

- White Santa

- Black Jesus

- Beyonce albums when you least expect them

- Beyonce albums when you do expect them

- HBCU pride

- PWI ambivalence about HBCU pride

- Allen wrench drill bits for IKEA furniture

- Kanye West rants

- Answers to questions that Kanye thinks there are no answers to

- All Black everything

- Racks on racks

- The intro to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Foe Tha Love Of Money”

- The intro to Mint Condition’s “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)”

- non-Black women with big ole booties

- big ole booties

- brown paper packages tied up with string

- 2 Chainz

- The reaction of people when you yell 2 Chainz in a crowded room

- Finding dreams that were deferred

- Asinine opinions on music

- Pet rocks to throw at people with asinine opinions on music

- naked cartwheels on hardwood floors

- The Willie Warmer

And with that…I’ll stop. So what are some non-conventional gifts that you are thankful for this holiday season?


The Point And Purpose Of Tyler Perry


I’ve always had a bit of a like/hate relationship with 50 Cent. I liked him back in the How to Rob days, and I also liked both Get Rich or Die Tryin and The Massacre. (I still maintain that What Up Gangsta is one of the best album intro tracks in rap history.) Yet, I hated what he and his popularity “represented”—whatever that means—and I wasn’t particularly unhappy to see him fade into musical and cultural irrelevance.

That said, I’ve also always been impressed by his shrewdness. He was basically the Marlo Stanfield of music—so single-minded in his goals that he was able to be pragmatic and clear-headed in a way that others concerned with sentimentally and humanity just aren’t able to be. He showed hints of it in his music, but it would really come across in his interviews. And, perhaps the most astute and self-aware thing I’ve ever heard any artist say was said by him on the subject of Kanye West.

I forgot the exact quote, but a few years ago he offhandedly said that Kanye’s fame was partially due to him. Basically, (paraphrasing) a guy like Kanye—who didn’t “fit” any of the usual rap star archetypes—was able to be so popular because fans needed a counterpoint to people like 50.

Admittedly, I scoffed when first hearing that. But, as I thought about it some more, I couldn’t deny that there was some truth to what he was saying. In order for “G.O.O.D.” (See what I did there?) to emerge, you need “bad.” Without the presence of bad, good just isn’t as relevant or necessary.

It’s a truism that transcends music. Batman doesn’t exist if Gotham wasn’t so thoroughly messed up. Shit, although I’ve been a huge Obama supporter, I realize he may not have even made it to office if the Bush years weren’t such a disaster.

Anyway, this (finally!) brings us to Tyler Perry.

Regardless of how you personally feel about him, you can not deny that there is a sizable percentage of the Black population who consider him to be the bane of all Black existence, and would personally strangle a dozen kittens if it meant he wouldn’t make any more movies.

I do not feel as strongly. In fact, I’m glad he is as popular as he is. I am not a fan, but I’ve come to realize that his pervasiveness has an ultimate purpose besides creating content geared towards an oft-ignored segment of the population, and I think we’re starting to see exactly what that is.

To wit, of the dozens of movies that have been or will be released this year, three of them have received a bit more Oscar buzz than any others.

Fruitvale Station—a “Black” movie with a mostly Black cast and a Black director.

The Butler—a “Black” movie with a mostly Black cast and a Black director.

12 Years a Slave—a “Black” movie with a mostly Black cast and a Black director.

I know there’s still several month’s worth of movies to be released, but I cannot recall a year when the three most critically buzzed-about movies all happened to be created by Black people while featuring unambiguously Black themes. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

Would these movies have been made if Tyler Perry didn’t exist? Possibly. Would they have each received the same type of critical acclaim? Maybe.

Still, I can’t help but think that the presence and popularity of Perry has both inspired Black filmmakers to be better and also reminded producers, moviegoers, and critics that Black movies deserve space in their collective consciousnesses. Perhaps his products aren’t everyone’s taste, but their cultural ubiquity may have had an osmosis effect, prompting creatives to push the envelope in a different direction, and prompting fans to demand more nuanced depictions of Black culture.

Does this mean Tyler Perry is a “bad” guy. No. Not at all. Just the cultural antihero we all deserved and needed.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

White People Stay Winning: A Minute By Minute Breakdown Of The VMAs


Welcome, everyone, to this year’s VMA recap. My name is Damon Young, and I will be your host for the evening. And, by “My name is Damon Young, and I will be your host for the evening.” I mean “The only reason why I watched every minute of this shit was to recap it for you ungrateful bastards. I hate you all.” 

Without further ado…

9:01: We start the festivities with a vision of Lady Gaga that will definitely give me at least five nightmares over the next two weeks. Whenever I watch her perform, I feel like I haven’t evolved enough yet to understand it.

I will say, though, that it did kinda seem like her opening was throwing a bit of shade at the rest of the pop diva collective, including Beyonce. Who’d win in a deathmatch between the Beyhive and the Little Monsters? God. And lacefront.

9:10: New Yorkers: “Wow. I can’t believe how surreal it is to have the VMAs in Brooklyn this year.” Rest of the world: “Shut the f*ck up, New Yorkers.”

9:12: After getting over the shock that The Weeknd is just one person, it started to dawn on me that the VMAs were just one big ass metaphor for cultural appropriation.

To wit,

1. They’re taking place in Brooklyn, the gentrification capital of the world.

2. They prominently feature Justin Timberlake (a man who, well…more on that later), Robin Thicke (a man whose biggest hit is a blatant—and possibly illegal—ripoff of a soul icon’s song), Macklemore (more on him later), and Miley Cyrus: aka The White, Ass-Less, Twerker (T.W.A.T. for short).

9:20: During the Thicke/T.W.A.T. performance, the camera pans on Rihanna making a face that can best be described as “the face you make when one person is making a terrible argument and you’re just waiting for them to finish” combined with “the face dog owners make when trying to determine if that new smell is a dog burp or a dog fart.”

T.W.A.T. also cements her status as the first person to officially be “post-appropriation.”

9:30: It has officially reached the point where Lil Kim has become impervious to snark. There’s absolutely nothing funny you could say about her that wouldn’t be equally sad, so you just acknowledge she exists, shake your head, and send some more flowers to Lil Cease’s grave.

9:40: I have a lot to say about Kanye. So much that if I said it all, it would dominate this recap. That said, I still have two Kanye-related observations to share.

1. His personal descent into where ever the hell he’s descending to has made me realize how selfish of a music fan I am. As long as he continues making great music—which he is, btw—I don’t really care that much about what is “happening” to him.

2. Yeezus is officially my second favorite Kanye album. (MBDTF is first. College Dropout is now third.)

9:45: There was a performance featuring a group of big-bootied dancers with football shoulder pads. I have to say, that image plays much better in my dreams than it does on TV.

9:50: On the list of people no one dislikes—or at least, will publicly admit to disliking—who’s first: Pharrell, Jill Scott, or Janelle Monae?

(My guess? Janelle Monae. No one dares say anything even remotely bad about her. She’s basically the Candyman of music right now.)

9:53: Apparently, Macklemore and “Definitely Not Adele” had an anti-homophobia song this year that was pretty popular. This song won an award. During the speech for said award, he said something about how we’re “on the forefront of equality.” I’m 99.2% sure that did not make any sense.

9:58: As my favorite part of every awards show—the commercial break when a couple local businesses/parties get their own spots—occurs, I’m reminded to ask you all something: Do other cities still use “for the grown and sexy” in their promotions for nightclubs, or is Pittsburgh the lone holdout?

10:00: You know, whenever some popular artist or entertainer makes a serious public gaffe (i.e. Russell Simmons’ Harriet Tubman Sex Tape Jam, Kevin Hart’s recent rant against Black women, etc), an apology is probably the worst way to get back in the public’s good graces.

Why? Well, as Justin Timberlake—and us “forgiving” him for throwing Janet Jackson completely under the bus during the Super Bowl—proves, there’s a four point plan for getting that done.

1. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever admit to any wrongdoing.

2. Be White.

3. Produce shit people like.

4. Produce shit people like, and make cute faces while doing it.

That said, J.T. rocked the house. Which, apparently, is all that matters.

10:12: The camera pans on Taylor Swift watching Timberlake’s performance and experiencing her very first orgasm. I’m officially getting uncomfortable.

10:20: Big gay Jason Collins and A.S.A.P. Rocky combine for the most awkward award presentation ever, giving America a hundred thousand different opportunities for inappropriate (and inappropriately corny) jokes. (My favorite: Collins sure is riding this gay thing. Get it? Riding this gay thing? Ha!)

10:24: Yeah, this shit by Macklemore and Definitely Not Adele is the worst rap song I’ve ever heard. (Yes, even worse than K.O.B.E.)

I think I just have a strong distaste for Public Service Announcement rap; a distaste only rivaled by Gospel rap (“Dont stop, pop that Bible!”) and “rap played on an episode of CSI Miami when the plot involves the murder of a rapper” rap.

That said, Macklemore seems like a very nice guy. I will root for him and continue to never listen to his music. Basically, he’s the White Wiz Khalifa.

10:27: Some White guy I’m too lazy to google just shouted out God and his single mother in his award acceptance speech. First, they take our music. Now, they’re taking our speech cliches???????

I didn’t read a tweet about someone watching the 50th anniversary of the March of Washington on MSNBC this weekend for this shit!

10:37: As Drake starts his performance, I’m reminded of the fact that if he wasn’t a rap star, he’d be a perfect #7 on the haircut poster in every Black barbershop.

BTW, I know Jermaine “The Human Itis” Cole made some headlines last week after saying he thinks he wouldn’t be as popular if he were light-skinned. While that may or may not be true, I do think Drake’s complexion has made him less popular. (Yes. Less. )

Why exactly? Come back tomorrow.

11:00: The rest of the show involves Bruno Mars doing Bruno Mars things, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, more T.W.A.T., and more proof that 2013 is the year of White people winning at everything, including being Black.

I was going to end it with “See you all again next year” but the way things are going, I’m kinda nervous they’re going to take VSB too.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

Think Like A Stan: The Four Stages Of Meeting Fellow Music Snobs


***Hello, everyone. This is your Champ here, and I’d like to welcome my homie Nat Lavender to the VSB pulpit. It’s her first time and shit so give her a hand***

Music has always been one of the easiest forms of social capital to exchange. And by that, I mean you can’t walk two blocks down the road without tripping over some asshole who wants to stop you and share their half-baked argument about how Kanye making an entire album of Kim Kardashian’s fart sounds is really a self-effacing tribute to the darkskinned White woman.

As a music lover, I sometimes find it difficult to connect with others who have both reasonable taste in and good ideas about music. That’s why I’ve written this handy-dandy not-really-a-guide-but-I’m-the-DJ-here-so-it-is-today about the process of bonding with fellow music lovers.

Meeting People

The most common dilemma with meeting kindred music aficionados is weeding out the bad ones. This will be the most infuriating and hilarious part of the process and is something you’re most likely doing at all times anyway. This stage will be marked by gems like “I don’t listen to rap because it’s too violent” (maybe from a country fan who enjoys listening to songs about women revenge-killing their boyfriends).

This is where you might meet the chick confidently telling you that Jay-Z isn’t in the Illuminati because she’s the president thereof, and if you want she can send you pamphlets, and since they’re responsible for the molly trend in hip hop she can send you free samples if you want, and isn’t this conversation GREAT (the correct responses are no thank you, yes please, and PLEASE don’t stab me, in that order).

Screening Phase

Once you’re done surfing through red flags and lust-fueled denial about the direction of LL Cool J’s career, you have a smaller pool of people who’ve managed to convince you that their taste in music could probably make them more qualified to manage artists than Diddy. But since that’s true of just about anyone, you still have some work to do. This is the point where you very politely don’t slap the White dude who tries to (wrongly) correct your pronunciation of Spottieottiedopaliscious and give him his strutting papers. You might also not-so-politely tell him that long ‘o’s are for wack niggas, except when they aren’t.

During this phase, people will give you the safest of their opinions—liking ‘classic’ rappers, hating easy-to-hate artists, building love shrines to overrated dead people.

They’ll probably tell you that they like Dilla, even though your mama, your auntie, your neighbor’s dog, and the confused kid down the street who gained 100 lbs. working at Krispy Kreme will probably say the same. The point is, there isn’t anything flawed about these opinions, but you legitimately will not learn a single thing about them as a person. You’ll be doing a lot of acting like you give a damn about mediocre albums, too.

Note: This is also where you’ll meet a lot of people who “thought I was the only one!!!” to listen to world-famous musicians, because something about hipsters and special snowflakes and intellectual autofellatio. AVOID THESE PEOPLE AT ALL COSTS.

Third Date

Finally, after noticing a suspicious correlation between J. Cole fans and people who only eat vanilla ice cream and moving past the psychic death of someone telling you Wiz Khalifa has the best flow in hip hop, you find people who really have something to offer in their collections. This is when the relationship starts getting fruitful and you can really start sharing. Maybe they heard an amazing Hiatus Kaiyote remix that you never would have looked at because… let’s be honest, you’re probably not looking for remixes to anything White people made, even if they’re talented. This is like the person who tells you about the pho at the Thai spot that you never would have found/ordered because real niggas don’t mess with that ‘Asian fusion’ stuff. His mama named him Clay, I’ma order pad thai. Or something like that. You beautiful ‘alternative’ people, you.

Trouble in Paradise

Finding a like-minded music lover has its downfalls. For one, you’re bound to run into irreconcilable differences—Houston rap vs. Tennessee rap, A$AP Rocky’s mouf vs. Waka Flocka’s mouf, Miguel vs. women who lack spinal injuries—but this isn’t the real danger. There is no greater spawning ground for unadulterated assholery than a meeting of two self-proclaimed music lovers.

Posturing over music tastes alone is one thing—you can easily find yourself outgunned by a gaggle of rabid Lil B stans who refuse to admit that he does sonically sloppy shit because ‘OMG BUT HE’S BEING SO SUBVERSIVE.’ But with your newfound soundmate, you can posture together, and everyone knows being a douchenozzle with support is the best way. Soon, you’ll find yourself loudtalking no one in particular about how “OMG KEITH SHE’S NEVER HEARD DAFT PUNK MAYBE WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO THEM!” Look, this I’m-totally-being-ironic-even-though-I’m-definitely-not moment will not go over well. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself sinking into a pit of Portishead and Chance the Rapper and White people who wear keffiyehs and losing all your friends and you’ll never know where you went wrong. But OH MY GOD did you hear this amazing new Kid Cudi it’s like he’s trying to make bad music now and we’re so countercultural and edgy and shit.

Real friends let other friends know when they’re being distasteful music snobs. And knowing is half of pretending you know everything.

***Nat is a Cleveland native and longtime reader who spends most of her time reading psychology articles and attempting to confuse White people. She thinks she’s a paradox, but suspects she’s just really lightskinneded. You can find her @PurpleLikeRawr***

That’s That Sh*t I Do Like.

So yesterday I wrote about how underwhelmed I’ve been with a lot of music lately. Boo hoo ninja. Boo hoo. And while that may be true there are lots of sh*ts that I do like. Not just music either. There are books and movies and *SQUIRREL*…

….like I was saying, there are lots of things that make me happy in life. So since it is Friday and since our community has opened their hearts and wallets to help us with a project we’re working on, I figured that we’d end this week on a positive note.

So here are some things that make Panama a happy man in life. And yes this will be random. And no, this won’t all make sense, but yes, that’s how I roll. Picture me rollin’.

1. Their Eyes Were Watching God (the book, not the movie)

This is my favorite book ever. There was a time, you know, when I used to read books, that I’d read this book, along with Ayn Rand’s Anthem (another favorite) every year. So it’s no surprise that the movie that Oprah produced pissed me off more than President Grant’s wife after he told her she was ornamental, and not functional. By the way, there can’t be any worse dis ever to your spouse than to just tell them that they’re only ornamental. Just callin’ ‘em Christmas and being all disrespectful. What was I talking about again? Oh yes, my favorite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora put her foot all in this book.

2. Sprinkles on ice cream

Judge me. But there’s something about sprinkles that makes me happy and want to hug armadillo cubs and orphans from those adoption commercials. I have purchased my own thing of sprinkles so that I can put them on my ice cream at any time. They so pretty.

3. McDonald’s frozen strawberry lemonade

Confession time: I have no idea how to drink those damn things without getting the freezer burn problem. Or whatever you call it.

4. Milo and Otis’s album The Joy

We covered that yesterday.

5. Fresh white-tees

I love buying new packs of white t-shirts. There’s something classicly fly about a white tee.

6. Chuck Taylors

Over the course of my life, I’ve probably had at least 50 different pairs of Chucks. A few years ago, I donated like 50 pair of shoes to The Salvation Army. I still have like 5 pairs. Which I realize isn’t a lot. But it’s a lot for a small time fella from a big city. Or a Good Kid in a M.A.A.D. city.

7. 2 Chainz & Kanye West “Birthday Song” video

I used to hate this video but now I absolutely love it for its sheer ridiculousness. There are few videos who take the most wonton idea and turn it into a video full of non-sense and big booty hoes. This video achieved such goodness.

8. The Doors

“Light My Fire”, the 7-minute extened version, is one of my favorite records ever. Come to think of it, so is “Break On Through”. While they’re mostly just uber popular songs, they are uber popular for a reason.

9. The Terminal

It’s not one of my favorite movies, but the scene where Viktor explains to what’s her face why he is in NYC and waiting so long. Well it nearly brought tears to my eyes the first time and every subsequent time as well. That was real love. And it made me happy.

10. The Big Bang Theory

This is just my show and it makes me happy.

Well that’s 10 things that Panama does indeed like. He likes them enough to speak in third person and share random palindrome’s with you: a man, a plan, a canal, Panama.

So what makes you truly happy in life? Daddy Mack tells us on Kris Kross groundbreaking second album, Da Bomb, that they’ve got a lot to live for…but its all better if you’re happy.

What’s your happiness?


We’d like to send another round of shout outs and thank yous to the people who’ve contributed to our project financially, who have supported us, and those who visit every day! Thanks for sleepwalking!

Marguerite Matthews
Bianca Bellock
Kisha Jones
Whitney Barnes
Vanessa Harris
Willis Liao
Bryce Schramm
Katherine Lenhart
Jerome Watson
Alyson Powell