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

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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”)

“Yes, I’m Black (And I Write For EBONY). No, I Don’t Want To Talk To You About Race”

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***The Champ’s latest at EBONY discusses why he’s not always interested in having race-related conversations with White people***

As soon as Mike learned I co-founded a website called VerySmartBrothas.com, work for EBONY.com, and frequently write about race and culture, his eyes lit up, and a strange look formed over his face. For Black people who do what I do and happen to find themselves at bars with conservative but “well-intentioned” White people who find out what you do and don’t interact with Black people that often, that look is unmistakable.

“Oh sh*t! A smart Black person! I can finally unleash all these thoughts about Obama, crime, Trayvon, democrats, MSNBC, “the Black community,” Don Lemon, and Al Sharpton! Let me buy him a round, and let’s talk about race!”

I obliged. We spoke about racism and the fallout from the Zimmerman verdict. Although I had to correct his “facts” a couple times, it was a good conversation. Actually, calling it a “good conversation” would be underselling it. Even while we were talking, I recognized how rare it is to have two people from opposite sides of the political spectrum sitting down, having a beer, and just sharing what’s on their minds. (An actual, completely organic Beer Summit!)

Yet, after 10 minutes or so, I took a gap in the conversation do to the “Well, it was nice meeting you.” thing people do when they want to end conversations, and started talking to other people. A couple minutes later, he came over and apologized, obviously thinking I left because he offended me in some way. I told him not to worry about it, and he walked away, still bothered.

What Mike failed to realize was that just because this was his rare opportunity to talk to a “smart” Black guy about those touchy race-related subjects doesn’t mean that smart Black guy actually wants to have the conversation right then and there.

Yes, I am very interested and invested in race, racism, and the effect bias has on our behavior and our culture. It literally fascinates me. Yes, I talk about those subjects frequently, and write about them even more frequently. And yes, I recognized the importance of Black and White people actually speaking to each other about this stuff instead of shouting at.

But, I came to that bar to drink, laugh, and talk about basketball, BBQ burger recipes, and the bartender’s ass…not George f*cking Zimmerman.

Read more at EBONY.com

I Wonder If Obama Is Tired of Jay-Z

121105_obama-jay-z-4x3.photoblog600Imagine for a moment that you are President Obama. Of course you aren’t because if we pull out your wallet, it will not say “Bad Motherf*cker” on your license. However, for a moment, you can pretend to be.

Now imagine that while in the midst of being President Obama and doing something actually important, a staffer says, “um…sir, I realize that you are busy and I’m really sorry to have to bring this to your attention but, well, your friend Jay, um, Mr. Jay? Jay-Z? Well, he released a song called “Open Letter” talking about his trip to Cuba – which I know you didn’t have anything to do with, sir – but he kind of said that you did…I couldn’t quite follow, I’m more of a Brad Paisley fan myself…hey have you heard “Accidental Racist” by Brad and LL Cool J? I think you’d like it, sir. Either way, Well, CNN picked up the Mr. Jay-Z song and so did Fox News and well, you should listen.”

Obama: FUUUUUUUUUCK. Someboy get Jay Carney’s ass in here.

Scene.

I’m a Jay-Z fan. Always have been. Always will be. I also wouldn’t mind if he were to fade into blackness with his beautiful songbird wife and stop rapping. I know lots of people like “Open Letter”. I am not one of them. I think its boring. It’s just Jay saying what Jay says: “I’m rich. I can do what I want to do. I know Obama. I smoke crack in the bathroom. I don’t really know shit about politics but I like to say things that sound like I do. I own things that I don’t really own. I could flood the streets with drugs if I wanted to. Y’all gon learn (everything you already know) today.”

Except it’s not nearly as good as it would have been 10 years ago. But he’s happy now. He’s got a child named Blue Ivy for goodness sake. Only happy motherf*cers and white people (who are generally happy motherf*ckers) name their kids sh*t like Blue Ivy. Clap for him.

Moving on.

Barack Obama is a powerful man. Jay has long compared himself to the top of any game. Jackson, Tyson, Jordan. Game 6. But my guess is that very few of these individuals give two f*cks about Jay-Z. Clearly they know who he is but Michael Jackson was too busy being Peter Pan to call him back after that “Rock My World” remix. Unless you’re Charles Oakley, I don’t think Jordan gives any f*ckes. And Tyson? Well, Bolivion called. He’s there.

But Obama? For some odd reason there seems to be a sincere mutual respect between the two. We all know that rappers want to be ballplayers and ballplayers want to be rappers. Well now that our President is Black (no word on the blue Lambo), there’s a good chance that we have a man in power who wants to be both a rapper and a ballplayer. Except he’s cooler than everybody else. So rappers of a certain cache, like a Jay managed to finagle their way into his good graces, likely via Beyonce.

Well, out of that “friendship” or whatever it is, Jay being the rapper that he is – status rapper – pretty much makes it a point to let us know how rich and famous he is nowadays and seems to namecheck Obama a lot. Which is cool. But it has to get old at some point right? If I’m Obama, and I keep hearing all these references to me in music, etc, I’m sure I’d probably be like, “give it a rest”. But its not harmful and not enough to cause any real chagrin.

Plus, I’m going to be out of the White House in a few years and likey trying to sign to Roc Nation. So you tolerate the incessant name drops and associations, which you couldn’t stop anyway. Plus, aside from Jay himself, it’s mostly other people doing all the ridiculous speculating. It was all good just a week ago…

…until you have to call in your motherloving press secretary to make a statement that Jay-Z didn’t get any clearance from the White House and went through the necessary channels through the Treasury Department like everybody else. Not only that, Beyonce recently released “Bow Down” a song that I’m pretty sure made Michelle roll her eyes like the Chicagoan that she is and take Sasha and Malia’s subscription to the Beyhive away. Now Jay drops his own version of “Bow Down” and I’m pretty sure Michelle texted Barack from across the West Wing with some, “Yo, tell your man to chill, B”.

I remember reading some uberstupid article in the NY Post (I believe) entitled, “Obama’s Jay-Z Problem” which ridiculously claimed that Obama’s relationship with Jay was irresponsible given Jay’s past. It was dumb because I’m fairly certain that given the nature of powerful people in this country, if you pull back the curtain, most of their associates are of the less than stellar variety.

But most of those people don’t have associates who run their mouths via songs that end up on CNN talking about getting clearance and selling drugs on the streets of the US either. Which would be enough to annoy anybody. Yes, Jay we know…Obama f*cks with you the long way, but now you causing the man unnecessary press conferences when he has real problems to have. Not stupid sh*t like that. And talking about hanging on the beach together instead of taking care of the nation’s problems…no matter how “fun” it sounds isn’t that appealing from the Obama standpoint. And since the song is a point of contention, well the scrutiny is all warranted.

Which for Obama, is a stupid f*cking problem to have. But a problem nonetheless.

So it got me to thinking, do you all think Obama is tired of Jay an the incessant associations, etc?

What do you think? Is Obama tired of Jay-Z?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. 12 MORE YEARS aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

Barack and Michelle Are Black Love, And I’m Okay With That

I’m not sure why I’m so cynical about everything. I’m sure if I dug far enough into my own background I’d find out it had something to do with losing a teddy bear or my mama not hugging me enough. Either way, I can be extremely cynical. Often times I just claim to be a realist…but maybe I just hate love.

Which is why I was so surprised to find myself cheesing like a rat at Chuck E. Cheese watching Barack and Michelle (since you know we’re on first name status and what not, as if!) do their first dance at the Commander-In-Chief Ball this past evening. Oh, and Michelle was killing them bangs and that dress. I don’t find her to be the hottest woman on the planet. And half the time I wonder if I’ve just got the wrong Michelle Obama with how frequently folks try to say she’s fine. But she’s a beautiful woman who has the adoration and love of her husband. And that’s beautiful.

That brings me to my point. I’ve long argued people when folks fawned all over Barack and Michelle. Because I’m not racist, I’ve also felt that way when folks did the same over Jay-Z and Beyonce. I think its the natural cynic in me who gets irritated by this savior complex we have in the Black community. Anytime somebody does something even a little bit right – and are famous – we make them the patron saints of That Thing They Did. Folks get married, OH MY GOD THEY ARE THE PERFECT COUPLE AND ROLE MODELS. Rarely do I see people writing odes to their parents, but the Famouses, they get the love.

However, I’ve started to soften my tone towards them. I don’t know if it’s because I do tea time at least once a week now and put on a tiara the other day because my daughter wanted me to pretend to be a princess, but I feel like I’ve begun looking at Barack and Michelle with a comforting vibe. Actually, it’s probably because I know that in 4 years, Barack and Michelle will still matter, but won’t be as prevalent or present. And to some degree that saddens me. These last four years, while not perfect politically have represented a significant amount of excitement for Black people. Sure we could always tell a person who claimed folks were holding them down that if Barack could become president then they needed to fall back, however, America felt a little bit different. Not necessarily better, just different. And that had as much to do with Michelle as Barack.

See, she’s a Black woman. And she’s comfortable in her skin. She does everything with a certain grace that’s inspiring. I appreciate her just as much as I appreciate Barack for being so in love with one another. I appreciate Barack for staring at her derriere to remind us all the he’s a real ninja. And I love that when they did their first dance that they hit a few moments of groove and swing and showed that they had that rhythm. I appreciate that. I like seeing them smile at each other and look like they actually like each other. I’m sure they have issues like everybody else and though he’s the leader of the free world I don’t doubt for a second that he knows when to defer to his wife just like she lets him be the man.

He never forgets to give her the props she deserves. I’m sure he’s a man and does man things that are so common place that they don’t need rehashing here. And I’m sure she has her moments. But so do we all.

Earlier today I was thinking about the idea of Black love. It’s just like every other noun with Black in front of it. It symbolizes some strong bond and commonality amongst us that all that even if it can’t be defined with simple words and phrases, you just know it exists when you see it. It’s palpable. But more importantly, it’s necessary. Seeing Black love is not only necessary for us as a community, it’s important for the world to witness even if they don’t fully get it. Don’t have to bump it, but please respect it.

I’ll skip the statistics about love and how dire it is because I’m not sure the stats tell the story of what I see. Sure I’ll always cringe when folks get too hype about anybody’s love that’s famous, but if Barack and Michelle are the symbole of Black love that I have to fall back on, well, I’m good with that. Because it looks real and it looks beautiful.

And it looks like something towards which to aspire in a world where so many images in the world of “reality” skew towards odd visions of love for anybody. Hey Mariah.

Cheers to Barack and Michelle for showing us how to do this son. Or more accurately, just showing us their love and letting us do with it what we might. And cheers to the freakin’ weekend…I’ll drink to that.

Love 40, baby.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST WITH A HEART aka MR. DULY NOTE THAT aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

President Obama and The Same-Sex Marriage Stance

So today, Obama said in an interview that he supports same-sex marriage. This is a stark departure from his stance in 2008 when he pretty much opposed same-sex marriage but over time has stated that his thinking on the matter was evolving.

Evolving in this context is such a funny word. Evolution by definition alludes to continued growth. To say that his thinking is evolving almost implies that he had to grow as a person to acknowledge the truth of the situation, which is that marriage is for two people who loved and supported each other. The sex of those people should be secondary, if considered at all.

Let me state up front: I’m all for same-sex marriages. I have no qualms with it whatsoever. I think its a travesty that people are willing to fight SO hard to keep marriage “as it was intended” by the Bible.

I don’t mean to get all heretic or anything, but in my opinion, the Bible is a great book full of a lot of great stories. It’s the greatest quote book ever and the life lessons involved are definitely intended to help one live a fruitful and righteous life. Basically, the Bible is the extended version of the poem entitled “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” I feel like nearly everything in the Bible is subject to interpretation. I’m also not alone in this thinking since nearly every religion and denomination has seen fit to interpret scriptures to fit their own leanings.

Granted, the Bible is a bit more clear when it comes to homosexuality and marriage. However, it’s a man-made document. And plus, what if I’m an atheist? (I’m not). But if I don’t believe in the Bible or God for that matter, why should I be constrained to the principles therein. A government that purports to separate church and state altogether gets to decide my martial status, effectively based on religious traditionalism? I have big problems with that.

And hell, what if I do believe in the Bible but still can’t help but be who I am? Gay people don’t think that being gay is a choice. So if God made me this way, is God also saying that he created me as an abomination and I’m effectively a reject from God’s kingdom? Hey God, it’s me Panama…inquiring minds would like to know.

It’s very big of Obama to make such a statement. I’m fairly certain that he’s the first sitting president to make such a bold statement about such a contentious issue. Though he did temper it a bit by immediately stating afterwards that it shouldn’t be a federal issue but a state issue. I’m not sure I agree with that. I’m aware that each state has its own set of rules, but marriage seems like such a cut-and-dry thing. Either you can or you can’t. Why fiddle with states rights in an issue as loaded as this; instead, just make a blanket across the board stance. That could be my Big Brother hat on though. I’ll acknowledge this.

I realize that there are significant numbers of people, probably even people who read this blog who think that same-sex marriage is religiously wrong (arguably true), and spiritually amoral. And everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I don’t think that same-sex marriages dilute the institution of marriage anymore than allowing 19-year-olds into the NBA dilutes the quality of play (debateable).

Are there lingering issues that needed to be sorted out? Sure. But it seems like gay people want to get married for the same reason straight people do….love, tax breaks, and benefits. Everybody should have a chance to the game the system, not just straight people. Plus, straight people have been f*cking up this whole marriage thing for a while now….shouldn’t we let somebody else have a chance?

Anyway, what do you all think about Obama making such a bold statement as President? Does it matter? Do you think it could ruin his chances come November for re-election?

Thoughts? Opinions? The floor is yours.

Talk to me.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. OBAMA SAID WHAT? TURN THE CHANNEL BOO! aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3