And I Will Always Love Whitney.

August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012. Gone too soon.

Whitney Houston is gone.

I don’t even know how else to start this off. The news that Whitney Houston died at the young age of 48 (!!!!!!) caught me so off guard that when the first person called to tell me, I responded so non-chalantly that I caught myself by surprise. I was just like, “that’s sad.”

It wasn’t because it didn’t matter. It’s because it just didn’t seem real at all. Not Whitney. Micheal? Yeah. We were all saddened and moved but it wasn’t a total surprise to anybody. Whitney was also on some sort of that stuff – and quite famously – and yet it just didn’t seem like she’d pass…so soon (again…48!!!!). We still don’t know what happened but no illegal drugs were found in the room and there were no signs of foul play. It was just…her time.

(Early reports suggest that she may have drowned. That is tragic beyond belief if its true. EDIT: 10AM – Turns out she didn’t drown, but a lethal mix of prescription drugs and alcohol might have killed her long before she had time to drown. There wasn’t enough water in her lungs to suggest she drowned.)

And that’s hard to deal with. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I have no power of when my time on this planet will end. It’s bigger than I am. But the death of larger than life people like Whitney Houston still seems surreal and doesn’t make sense to me. I always felt like she had another comeback in her. Her voice, while not what it used to be, was still leagues better than 98 percent of the population.

That voice. My God. There have been a few people who I’ve felt were given a truly God given gift and Whitney was one of them. Her voice was so strong, so pure, and so beautiful that her heyday was nearly 25 years ago and we are STILL attached to those very songs. Just like Michael. While nobody will ever touch what Michael Jackson did, Whitney was as pretty high up on the short of list of individuals who held that type of superstardom purely for their talents.

I’m a grown ass man and I still sing along to “I’m Every Woman”. And who HASN’T screwed up “Greatest Love of All” at karaoke or in their car. And think, that song is immortal ANYWAY because of Coming To America. And yes, “How Will I Know” if he really loves me. I don’t know…So many songs. So many great moments. And no, my name is not Susan, which could be why people never watch what they say. I really think I could write an entire post based on her songs.

I think, much like Michael, the true test of what Whitney Houston meant to America, and particularly Black America is how much of our experiences she’s tied to. If you grew up in the 80s then Whitney was absolutely apart of your life. I remember the long ass road trips with my Black man from Alabama ass father blasting the I’m Your Baby Tonight album. My father used to ask my mother to put Whitney Houston (and later Mariah Carey) under the Christmas tree for him every year. Every. Year. My daddy wasn’t sh*t.

And don’t even get me started on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack. I still bump that (real talk). There’s an odd connection we all feel in the Black community (and maybe white artists do too) to our artists, especially the larger than life ones. Maybe it’s because music is the one escape most of us have in a life filled with so much struggle. Artists like Whitney blew the lid off what we could achieve and what was expected and even though she sang pop music, she sang it in a way that wasn’t selling out. You can’t fake a voice like that and there’s no way to sell out with an instrument like that.

Whitney Houston was family. Hell, she still is family. She’s so much family that many of us are ACTUALLY really concerned about Bobbi Kristina…and Bobby Brown. And I’m not even sure Whitney liked him anymore. But this is what happens when family passes. And there’s a certain sadness that will persist for a while. She was an icon. She was a legend. And its hard to believe that she’s gone. But she’s one of those that will live forever. She has no choice. She made too much of an impact while she was here. There are very few artists today who aren’t influenced by her.

Plus, she has one of the most iconic “big leagues” of all time in her remake of “I Will Always Love You”. It’s a perfect rendition. With a perfect voice.

And yes, the Whitney tribute was short. And yes, we all wanted more. Did Whitney get shortchanged? Possibly.

But that’s second to the fact that the voice is gone.

I’m all over the place here, so I’ll just end this here:

Whitney, I wish to you joy, and happiness…but above all this, I wish you love.

We love you. And miss you. RIP.

-VSB P

The Man In The Mirror: Michael Jackson, and what our memories about the dead say about us

***In light of Conrad Murray being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter yesterday, The Champ has decided to revamp and repost an entry he wrote a week after Michael Jackson’s death***

Admittedly, I wasn’t as affected by Michael Jackson’s sudden death as many others seemed to be. Despite this relative detachment, I was completely mesmerized and amazed by the consensus public reaction to that news, which, if I recall, was characterized by a public competition to be the best at accurately memorializing him while completely glossing over how f*cked up the last 25 years of his life were.

Mind you, i’m not attempting to throw more salt on Michael Jackson’s ridiculously star-crossed life. Still, when a person has been…

A) Largely defined by their abject weirdness for 90% of their adult life,

B) A lazy punchline for 50% of their adult life,

and

C) A suspected pedophile

…I dont see how you can’t at least acknowledge this when putting their legacy in context.

MJ aside, his situation sheds a bit more light on the fact that while we don’t have definitive control over how we’ll be remembered, we can control what we remember about everyone else. You can even argue that making the conscious choice to only recognize the positive aspects of a person’s life is just a desperate hope that this same luxury is extended to us.

Thing is, whether you view this type of projection as practical or pathetic, you can’t argue the fact that there’s no bigger affront to what makes us fully human and no more disingenuous way to recall a person’s life, especially when you consider that our deeds usually come from the exact same place as our demons.

This is supremely true in regards to celebrities. The same visceral fervor that made Tupac iconic killed him before his 26th birthday, and the hyper creative eccentricity that made Mike moonwalk also contributed to his multiple self-mutilations, arrested development, and early death.

Omitting these facts downplay and dishonor their accomplishments. There’s no such thing as an adversity-less icon. How can you fully appreciate Malcolm X without being completely aware of Malcolm Little, street hustler and addict, and what future relevance would “Black or White” hold without knowing that the song’s architect was actively attempting to be both black and white?

I realize that this isn’t the most popular line of thinking, that some will see this as (at best) tactless and (at worst) malicious, and that its (extremely) presumptuous to tell someone how they should remember a person. Still, this isn’t about Michael Jackson as much as my fascination with our peculiar reliance on technicolor memories. I just happen to prefer HD.

The more I think about it, the more I’ve begun to realize that there’s probably a connection between my sports fandom and my infatuation with people being remembered the right way. Die-hard sports fans are obsessed with legacies — the feeling that what a particular athlete accomplishes doesn’t matter unless we know exactly what he had to deal with to get there. This is part of the reason why so many veteran players, fans, and sports scribes still harbor a distaste for Lebron James. They felt(feel) like he was cheating history, taking a competitive shortcut to ensure a legacy he didn’t particularly earn. Although I don’t share that sentiment, I understand the thought process behind it. Everything — the airballs you shot as a rookie, the fumble in Super Bowl 10 years ago, striking out each time up to bat in your first playoff game — matters, and your championship rings, retired jerseys, and Hall of Fame busts don’t mean shit without acknowledgement of your struggles and your attempts to overcome them.

You know, with all this being said, I still hope that the half-page obit in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette honoring my (eventual) passing chooses not to include a half paragraph burb on my (future) infidelities and (present) p*rn addiction. I guess i’m not so special after all.

On second thought, including that stuff might not be the worst thing in the world. At least it’d show I was human, and I think Mike would have wanted the same thing.

—The Champ

Everyday Livin’ In #Thugnation

Since we’ve spent some quality time around here talking about emo dudes and people with degrees, I figure the least we could do was dedicate a little bit of time to the thugs that read VSB. Believe it or not, they make up a sizable percentage of VSB regulars. Between hooridin’, drivebys, social network gangsterism and organized f*ckery, thugs take out a little time every day to read a little bit on current events, check police blotters, and read about relationships. Believe it or not, gangstas need love too.

While I realize that most of us limit our thug tolerance to family reunions and coming-home-before-you-go-back-in parties, the truth is many thugs are just like us only with the foot of intolearnce and systemic injustice and racism standing on their neck while the rest of us get to live in a post-racial America rife with unicorn grass, meliflous waterfalls of sugary goodness, interracial marriage, and A Different World re-runs. Thugs don’t get the re-runs. Do you know how hard it is to bootleg FiOs??

The other day, I got to thinking about some things that are everyday occurrences for most of us reading ninjas and realized that the, real talk, thugs have a whole lot of the same similarities simultaneously. Yep, we parallel. See, it turns out that all of us are just peoples at the end of the day. And peoples do folks things. For in-stahns, here is a list of things that thugs and us reading ninjas really do have in common, our simultenous similar parallels, if you will.

1. Listen to and love Michael Jackson

True story alert. A long time ago I was at my grandmother’s house in Atlanta and one of my recently unincarcerated cousins was hanging out and an argument about Michael Jackson’s best album breaks out. Me, one of my sisters, and two of my other cousins are going at it. Out of nowhere, Zone 4 Mo tells us all to shut the f*ck up because “ain’t no argument. Mike ain’t had a bad album. Off The Wall was good, Thriller is a classic beyond all else, and Bad might be his best album that nobody talks about. Y’all don’t know nothing about Mike.” This from a dude who wasn’t afraid of jail and couldn’t care less about getting locked up. And you know what, that made me realize: who doesn’t love Michael Jackson? We all grew up on him. It’s impossible to not like Michael Jackson if you’re Black and between the age of 18-98.

2. Have odd hobbies

Have you seen Clockers? I don’t think its a particularly good Spike Lee movie but it comes on a lot for some reason. Anyway, Mekhi Phifer played a clocker named Strike who had a crazy affinity for trains. And you know what, that didn’t seem odd. It’s like all thugs look for some type of escape from sh*t and end up interested in Mongolian macrame or staplers. It never fails that you’ll end up talking some thug dude and some how, some way, some random association will come up and you’ll find out that your neighborhood d-boy knows everything there is to know about car engines despite never having driven before or Johann Sebastian Bach. Regular ninjas have these odd fascinations too though I suspect most dudes pick them up trying to impress women. Like jazz flute.

3. Respect for mamas

Everybody respects mamas. Even the most hardcore ninja will at least stop talking when somebody’s mama starts talking. Same thing in the reading ninja world. If somebody disrespects a mama, there is ALWAYS somebody there to be like, “hey man…that’s such’n’such’s mama…be easy, ninja.” Dear mama. Which is why the threat of telling somebody’s mama always carries weight. Hmm…ladies…does the “I’m gonna tell yo’ mama” threat work on y’all? I’ve only seen it really work on dudes.

4. Get upset about gas prices

Overheard at the Sunoco on Riggs Road (DC/MD line): “Gotdamn!!!! Yo, the president need to do something these gotdamn gas prices, mo.” Nobody likes paying a lot for gas, pimp.

5. Make you take off your shoes when you come in the house

One of the funniest memories I have from my youth was when I went to visit my boy’s family in Knoxville, TN. When I say these ninjaswere hood AND lived in the hood, I mean they lived in the hood. House looked like the get-shot-spot. Yet, somehow, someway, these ninjas were impeccably particular about their homes cleanliness. There wasn’t ‘nan beer bottles of ashtrays filled with weed anywhere. The damn house was spotless. It was like a spoof of drug dealers with classical music tastes. In fact, it was like walking into Stringer Bell’s apartment. And these ninjas, were ADAMANT about nobody wearing shoes in their house. Which was, for all intents and purposes, a trap house. Just a clean as f*ck one. For this reason, they didn’t throw parties b/c “ninjas don’t like taking off their shoes.” I wish I was making that up. I laughed so hard…after I left.

Good folks of VSB…it’s Friday. Relax. Relate. Release. What are some other similar simultaneous parallels between thugnation and regular old reading ninjas?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka GULLY THOMPSON aka MR. GANGSTA EBULLIENCE aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Youzealie: 10 Most Common Lies People Tell in A Relationship

While honesty is a virtue and the cornerstone of a long-lasting relationship (assuming everybody involves knows what a daddy is…ZING!), the fact is most people in relationships tell eachother lies. Now, I’m not talking about huge “It’s your baby!/I don’t even know Tiger Woods” style lies, but more little white lies intended to keep the sanity, peace, and faith.

Why did I say faith? Well because as soon as I wrote the words “keep the…”, Michael Jackson’s song “Keep The Faith” (from the Dangerous LP)popped into my head, and I figured, if you’re going to keep something, as say a keepsake, you know, for the sake of keeping something, faith is definitely up there as one of those “good things” Beyoncé really likes, to keep, which must be why Michael Jackson so eloquently sang about it before he found his faith. No Conrad.

Hope he kept it.

Huzzah.

1. You always hit my spot just right.

Yeah, okay. You’re right. Except really, sex is like Any Given Sunday. Sometimes,  you have a bad day (I’m looking at you Patriots) and hitting her spot is more difficult than Stevie Wonder reading an eye-chart. But she’s really nice if she tells you this knowing full well she had to finish the job herself AND convince you that you’re the man. That’s a good lie.

2. I love your mother (parents).

While I do actually love my girl’s mother, I know MORE than my fair share of people who feel otherwise. Thing is, is it really worth it to say that “I think your mother is a worthless hag who smokes more Jimmy Dean? And by the way, she smells like hot arse sometimes, tell her to Summer’s Eve that pocket!” I’m gonna say, no. At least you ain’t got Martin’s momma. Her biscuits (no buttocks) were supposed to be slammin’ though.

Speaking of biscuits…

3. You’re cooking tastes almost like my mothers.

While I would never say this to anybody, I heard my boy tell his girl this about a year ago. He knew he was lying when he said it. I tasted his girl’s food. If her mother cooked like that, she’d be dead.

4. You’re the only man/woman I ever loved.

Your pants are SO on fire, paco. I remember when you used to date Big Booty Judy from SW and you used to feed her oysters. And that time you all dressed alike, and you were 22. THAT was love. Anddon’t get me started on women telling that lie. If she’s over age 22, you are DEFINITELY not the only man she’s loved.

You might be her first experimentation with The Art of Dome, but definitely not love.

Hmm…

5. I’ve never done that before.

Saying you’ve never done that before usually means you’ve done it before but you just like to pretend that you didn’t do it before because if folks knew how many times you really did it, they might not want you to do it to them. Or at least they’d ask for some test results first.

6. I don’t know him/her.

Youzealie. You used to play Naked Twister every Tuesday in your less reformed days. Or better yet, “oh you meant HIM! Oh, yeah, I thought you meant the guy with the ‘Homeless Vet’ sign standing 200 feet away from the guy I know. Um, yeah, we used to date a little.”

Hell…

7. We used to date, a little.

What does that even mean? I know we like to downplay stuff, but really, what does that mean? By the way, that’s a chick line. A guy would deny, deny, deny like he was R. Kelly and you had a sex tape that included three penguins and a pet goat named Miley.

8. I love going to the opera.

We often lie about things we hate doing. This is how we end up doing a lot of things we hate doing. Like going to the opera. Or sitting through a talk given by Michael Eric Dyson – which I assume is akin to Hell.

9. You’re the first thing I think about in the morning.

Well, you in a sense, I suppose. But I’m guessing its you on-top or underneath. Eyes optional.

10. I love you.

Heh heh heh.

What are some other little white lies that we tell in relationships? Share. And make sure your significant other isn’t reading today or doesn’t know who you are.

And put some stank on it.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3

PS And check me out over on Guyspeak.com as I answer some of the funnest (yes funnest) and strangest questions known to mankind…daily. Yes, Panama writes over there daily.

10 Biggest Stories of the Decade In The Black Community.

It’s been one hell of a decade, hasn’t it?  There’s been all kinds of random happenings. And since the Black community is usually prone to being apart of some of the f*ckery that happens over the course of history (OJ, anyone?), I figured that we, here at VSB, might as well get to getting like everybody else and coming up with some kind of list about this past decade. And what better topic of discussion than some of the biggest stories of the decade in the Black community.

Some will be obvious. Some will be curious.

But Panama Jackson will be sexxy. The decade has taught us so.

Allons-y.

10. Tiger Woods becomes a Black man

While Tiger might be the biggest sports story (and possibly one of the biggest general stories of the decade) in the Black community, ole Eldrick’s Black card has been pulled a long time ago.  In fact, the last time I think he referred to himself as Black, the Wu-Tang Clan started an investment firm and I’m sure Mos Def was prominently involved. Either way, Tiger learned what happens when you go poking blondes all willy nilly…you lose sponsorhip deals. But hey, Kobe got his back (and called himself the Black Mamba) so the future looks bright for Tiger, though I suggest he begin calling himself Tigga. That way he can start rapping with Jay as Jigga and Dat Ni**a Tigga. There’s lots of potential here.

9. The rebirth of Ike

Apparently Chris Brown’s PR people forgot to tell him that you can’t hit girls past age 7. Well, in February 2009, young Breezy put a hurtin’ on Rihanna and became the story heard ’round the world. Domestic violence is nothing to joke with, so I won’t joke about it. However, keeping Chris Brown, the MJ-heir apparent, from performing at an MJ tribute during the BET awards just seemed egregious.

8. Man’s favorite pasttime gets the “Super” treatment

An odd choice, no doubt. But when you realize how many celebrities bucked the f*ck up once Karrinne Steffans became a household name in 2005, it becomes obvious that very few other people were as significant this decade. Hell, last time this many celebrities read a book, a guy named McCarthy was running amok. And then her subsequent book? That book put every male celebrity on full blast AND inspired an entire nation of video hoes vixens to learn how to read so that they could write their own terrible “memoirs.” Take that Reading Rainbow.

7. Beyonce pisses off lots of women

She went from being the lead singer of a too-young jailbait group out of Houston in 1997 to the most famous pop-star in the world in 2009. That’s no easy feat, especially considering she spent the entire decade being pelted with haterade by women near and far even though every hater has her albums and loves “Single Ladies”. Her accomplishments this decade are nearly unparalleled.

6. “WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT???”

Beyonce would be unparalleled, except Kanye West entered the scene circa 2003 with his recently dubbed album of the decade with The College Dropout, and then managed to make himself into the most important figure in Black music today. You read that right and I did not stutter. Hate him or love him, Kanye will always be around because he cares about the music. He’s pretty much the Stevie Wonder of our generation. Plus the whole skinny jeans things has really taken off.

5. Author JL King ruins boys night out

In 2004, author JL King adorned Oprah’s couch and f*cked up dating ever since. He inadvertently convinced women around the nation, especially Black women, that every man was potentially trying to f*ck his homeboys. Almost overnight, the term DL became apart of the Black lexicon.

4. Rosa Parks finally stops suing Outkast passes

One of the icons of the Civil Rights movements, Rosa Parks passed away in 2005. She was one of the few non-Presidents laid-in-state in the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. She was so important to the fabric of this nation that every major media outlet showed coverage of her funeral and procession…except BET who thought their audience would be better served by showing videos since folks could catch the funeral on CNN or some sh*t (btw, I can’t find a single article about this now, back in 2005, BET had a press release explaining why they didn’t show the funeral).

3. Botched engineering and a Hurricane with a Black name give Spike Lee inspiration

Hurricane Katrina needs no explanation.  August 2005 is when most of us realized just how little many Black lives are. On the bright side, Spike directed one helluva documentary though.

2. Michael Jackson goes to Neverland

I’m really only putting this at 2 to show deference to the historical context of the obvious number 1, but really, globally, more people were touched by MJ’s death than Obama’s presidency. Hell, I still miss Michael Jackson.

1. Barack Obama ruins “the excuse”

Well, duh.

Did I miss any??

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3