This Post Isn’t About Beyonce. Nope. Not At All.

o-BEYONCE-BOW-DOWN-570So Beyonce puts a song out and people collectively lose their sh*t. But this isn’t about Beyonce’s song(s) “Bow Down/I Been On” which I personally like, well the “Bow Down” portion. I rather hate the “I Been On” portion.

And it’s not really about her, per se.

Naw, this is about the response to such. See, I’m actually amazed at how much people care. There are folks who are writing commentary that is claiming the song is decidedly anti-feminist. There are myriad stories about how the music doesn’t fit her image. There are full fledge dissections of the lyrics. I mean, why is she telling women to bow down that are already beneath her; isn’t that just piling on?

That plus the fact that she’s going in a completely different direction and has laid down with the dogs by releasing this music. She used to be so far above the fray but now she’s placing herself firmly in the realm of the Keri Hilson’s and Keysia/Keyshia/Keisha Cole’s of the world. The latter of who was clearly non-plussed with the song.

I also ready more than one article referencing the fact that it seems like she was listening to ASAP Rocky who attempts to sound Houston-ish at times, decided that she WAS from Houston and hit the studio to make her own rendition of an ASAP Rocky song.

Real talk. What the motherf*ck is going on?

I’m both troubled and impressed by the amount of commentary one single-solitary song that wasn’t even a single, just some music she tossed to her ever faithful and loyal Beyhive. This song has become some defacto stance against…or for…something. If ever there was proof that Beyonce mattered (whether we like or not) it exists in the reaction to this song.

I jokingly mentioned on Twitter that if I were a woman, I’d wake up every morning and play “Bow Down” to get my esteem up for the day. I got quite a bit of pushback lamenting how the song is not empowering but is stereotypically downing other women, and therefore (my assumption) is doing nothing positive. My only issue with that is this: it’s a song, does it have to attempt to change the world?

Understandably in some corners of the Talkeratti, it seemed in direct contrast to some of her messaging. Beyonce has made it a point to be about womanhood and being a beacon, nay, a scion of standing up for the woman’s place! Who run the world? Girls! So it is a bit interesting to see her come thru in the clutch with the battle-rap R&B song. Plus, given her recent documentary and Oprah interview, et al where she was definitely on some mainstream acceptance steez, I can see how it seems odd. But who cares, it’s a song. Does it damage her? No.

In fact the only person who was probably teed off behind the whole thing was Michelle Obama because you know the Obama household is party of the Beyhive. My guess is they all got the email at the same time from Queen Bee’s mailing list and sat around some Presidential wood oak table with an iPad and some presidential speakers and listened together by the fire. Then 30 seconds in, I’m sure Michelle probably gave it the gas face and looked at Barack, who was fervently trying to figure out how to write “bow down, b*tches” into a speech, as if to say, what’s up with your girl? This is unacceptable. In my mind, thats what happened. I’ll bet good money Sasha and Malia bumped that on the way to school though.

The point is, how does one artists one piece of music manage to be so polarizing. Even Lady Gaga wasn’t this polarizing. Madonna was, and of course Eminem, but it seems like its on overkill right now. Perhaps it’s because we live in a society where when everybody has an opinion, and you don’t want to be the person to NOT share that opinion. Or are we so starved for artist that mean something – ironic because its not like Beyonce is Nina Simone out in these streets with her music – that when an artist does something that we don’t agree with (or do) we have to make sure that every possible angle is adhered to and dissected?

What the fuss??

What the hell happened???

(And miss me with the, “I don’t like Beyonce so I didn’t hear the song and couldn’t care less because she can’t sing and I don’t see what the big deal is.” Obviously you are contrarian. Just because you don’t view her as a big deal doesn’t mean somebody isn’t a big deal. Apparently the internet exploding disagrees with you, I’m asking a larger question.)

What is it that compels something so small to matter so much to so many people?

I’m truly baffled. Help me out.


Believe Half Of What You Hear and None Of What You See?

These guys have killed millions. Of people. A lot.

I realized something a few days ago. And I’m not quite sure how to say this so I might as well just say it straight up.

I like being lied to.

Yes, apparently as a fan of mainstream hip-hop, I appreciate being lied to by some of my favorite artists.

Notice I said, MAINSTREAM rap. For all of you boho’s out there who will think this is an indictment on ALL rap, please read the preceeding sentence again. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

*humming Eminem’s “I’ll Kill You”*

N.W.A. lied to me constantly, Mobb Deep lied to me.

T.I. lies to me. Rick Ross lies to me. Lil Wayne lies to anybody who will listen. Common is lying to us all now. Well you get the point. These ninjas are all lying because they continue to write all of these tales of their current street acumen and all of the weapons they travel with and the drugs they currently slang, etc.

And I am a fan.

Now granted, I don’t actually believe any of these dudes do half of the sh*t they claim to do. I don’t believe that Rick Ross is moving that much snow in the hood or that T.I. is still moving blow in the hood. I don’t believe that any of these dudes have murdered anybody, with the possible exception of 50 Cent and that’s strictly due to one line on his song “Problem Child” from like 2003:

“they say you can never repay the price for taking a man’s life/I’m in debt with Christ cuz I done did that twice” – 50 Cent

I’ll admit, I do question the veracity of that statement and maybe it just sounds good in rhyme. But, errrum, most rappers tell you that they WILL kill you, as in future tense. 50 says that he HAS done it. Somehow, that makes me a little nervous. Luckily he isn’t in any jeopardy of going to Heaven anyway as I do in fact believe his posters are plastered through the Great Hall of Hades as one of the biggest proponents of Hell.

But for the most part, I don’t believe most of these rappers. And I’m not saying that none of these dudes sold drugs. I’m sure that T.I. did as I’m sure that Jay-Z did. I’m sure 50 Cent did as well as a slew of other rappers. Of course, there are lots of questions about how big these “drug dealers” were as even Biggie’s own people have said that he wasn’t nearly the drug dealer he claimed to be. Many of these dudes do indeed have the soul of hustlers so I believe that many of them have done SOME of the things they claim in rhyme. Let’s just say that amongst the lies they share resides some segment of truth.

But between all of the murders these rappers claim to be willing to commit and all of the weight that they claim to be moving and the fact that I don’t actually believe any of them are as big time as they claim, it just seems that I like being lied to. I mean, I buy into it as it relates to their persona on wax. And somehow, they seem to buy into their own stories enough to convince me to buy into them. And I’m not alone. For some strange reason, as far as our mainstream rappers go, with the possible exception of Kanye West, we all like to hear about how hard these dudes are and we can easily look past the fact that their entire catalog is filled with odes to drug slanging and killin’ ninjas on the block.

Now for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’ll let this type of sh*t slide. The lies, I mean. Most normal people detest liars. People that will lie to you are the very people you’d not want to be around. Yet in mainstream rap, being able to convince people of your street respectability, be it fabricated or not, is paramount. If somebody found out that Kenny Rogers had never played a game of poker, well, how upset would the country music world be? Or what if the Dixie Chicks were from Canada? Or what if Guns ‘N Roses didn’t live the life they sang about? Of course, that’s an impossibility because if you’ve seen the vh1 Behind The Music on the Guns, you’d realize, them white boys and Slash were nuckin’ futs.

I guess this all ties into the very notion that even as an educated black man, respect and pride are very important. I live in a black neighborhood and you don’t want anybody to even think about wanting to mess with you. Somehow, these are the problems we concern ourselves with. So I sometimes walk around with this air of “don’t f*ck with me or this might be a bad day for you”. We all know I’m as gangsta as they come, but we also all know that I purchased a Hillary Duff CD. The key is to not let anybody else know it. And I think this is a problem that is unique to the black man experience. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to scare the bejesus out of white and black people. Hell, we don’t have anything else…all we have is our respect.

Or so we say.

And maybe that’s why we like to be lied to so much. We spend so much time trying to be the dude that everybody wouldn’t want to mess with, kind of as a manifestation of our idea of self-preservation, that despite the sheer impossibility of many of these rappers claims, we see them as a lot like us, even if we may come from totally different circumstances. Right?

I remember during the last episode of Season 3 of The Wire, after Stringer Bell, had been gangstaliciously murdered by Omar and Brother Mouzone, Detective McNulty was in Stringer’s apartment looking through his books and possessions and couldn’t believe the types of books String had been reading. It was so astounding to him he wondered aloud who in the hell was he chasing?

I wonder if a lot of these dudes are indeed like that. They all seem to look up to Tupac and we know the intelligent hoodlum he was. I know a lot of people don’t like Tupac as a rapper, and I have my days as well, but as a person he was the epitome of the young black man so many of us wish to be. Educated but respected by all. He had the pedigree, he had the struggle, he had the ability to rise above it, and he went out in a blaze of glory. Actually, nix that last part, I’d rather go out while drinking some Kool-Aid when I’m 98.

All in all, I wonder if the reason we love being lied to so much is because so many of us spend time lying to ourselves about who we really are. From white suburban “thugs” to some of the inner-city black “thugs”. Yeah the white boys get to grow out of it, but so many of us black men still fall victim to the idea that we have to be able to be respected in the streets, at age 30.

So yes, I like being lied too. Hell, I enjoy it thoroughly. And I think I don’t pay much attention to it because in some kind of weird way, I understand.

Besides, if I want honesty, I’ll just listen to Milli Vanilli.

So what about you? Do you like being lied to as well or do you even pay attention anymore?


Welcome To The Hood: New Muppets Sesame Street Should Consider

The gang's all here...or are they?

According to USA Today (via The Village Voice) Sesame Street is going to add a new muppet to the list of characters, Lily, that struggles with hunger. Peep game:

“…Lily will star in a prime-time PBS special this Sunday called Growing Hope Against Hunger. It’s not the first time Sesame Street has taken a progressive stance on educating children, presenting rather grown-up issues to kids through the show’s characters. Past episodes have featured everything from breast-feeding to kids with “two daddies.” With nearly 15 percent of American households qualifying as “food insecure” — that’s one in five hungry kids in New York — hunger is definitely an issue we should be explaining to kids.”

I think this is absolutely great. Truthfully, I give Sesame Street a lot of credit for tackling the issues that they do. While my daughter is a bit young to fully grasp the depth of some of these issues, I’m sure Sesame Street will be a household mainstay and I’ll be able to use the show to broach issues of struggle, acceptance, and humanity. They could just as easily not delve into societal issues (such as last year’s ode to natural hair “I Love My Hair”) and stick to the alphabet and numbers, but they take chances. Heck, for the past umpteen years, America’s favorite muppet has been a starving artist, stoner who’s pet fish doesn’t actually move. It took some balls to make a perpetually high Elmo the face of the show but they did it. I applaud their moxie.

Since Sesame Street (well the non-profit that produces the show) is so open to adding muppets and story lines to the show that reflect whats actually going on in the world in the form of teachable moments, I figured that I may as well share some other muppets that they may be interested in looking into. 

Such as…

Cedar Block Cedric

While Sesame Street might be all songs and randomly located numbers, there are some other streets out there where the lights don’t seem to stay on. Cedar Block Cedric could be the wayward muppet kid who joined a gang but is really just wookin’ por nub in all da wong pwaces. He could accidentally wander to Sesame Street looking for an arch-muppet from Sesame Avenue and ended up on the wrong street (he never learned to read so well…Elmo will be his favorite because they both rock red) where Big Bird takes him under his wing and ends up telling him that he can be part of his gang now while Maria and Gordon seek help for him. All the songs would be rap songs. A muppet rendition of “Growin’ Up In The Hood” by Compton’s Most Wanted would be included. Snoop would guest.

Suicide Sally

Between cyber-bullying and horrible TV movies about the youth of America trying to one themselves with pills, it seems like more and more children are threatening suicide. Well Suicide Sally can be the conduit through which Sesame Street tells children that they all have something to live for. Zoe runs up on her sitting on the side of the road being really depressed, talking about nobody loves her and of course it turns out that everybody on Sesame Street loves her. Snuffalupagus and her form a support group and they cross promote Winnie The Pooh with a surprise appearance by Eeyore who is in a surprisingly upbeat mood due to the uppers he’s taking.


Esteemesha is a muppet from Baltimore who rocks a wig that’s more platinum than a My Little Pony action figure tail. She also has fake nails and dresses as provocatively as an 8-year-old muppet can dress. Well, she comes to Sesame Street looking for some Louboutins but meets Grover who’s as kooky as they come but is happy being himself and she realizes that its okay to be who she is, a muppet who likes to read Harry Potter books and listen to Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber. She learns that she doesn’t need to pretend to be somebody else or grow up too fast and everybody on Sesame Street tells us why they love who they are with Esteemesha rounding it out by saying she’s happy with herself because she found people who love her for her. Kim Kardashian Beyonce India.Arie Rihanna Katy Perry Lady Gaga guest stars.

Forrest and Nat

Forrest and Nat are two muppest who go to the same school and live in the neighborhood but they don’t like eachother because they’re different colors so they fight all the time. The principal sends them to Scared Straight but the bus breaks down on Sesame Street where they encounter a bunch of other muppets who are all types of colors and they learn that color doesn’t matter; all that matters is what’s in your heart. Forrest and Nat then sing a muppet rendition of “Ebony and Ivory” – only way less questionable than the Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney version – and Elmo tells them that should all just play together once he gets something from his “stash”. They then form an alliance called the Muppet Non-Violent Coordinating Committee with The Count as chairman. Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton shake hands on the show.

I think those would be fine additions to the Sesame Street landscape, don’t you? If you could create your societally relevant Sesame Street characters, who would they be?

VSB, let’s relive our childhood. MJ was still looking for his when he died, don’t make the same mistakes Conrad he did.

Who’s your muppet?


What’s Going On?

By now, most people have heard about the Oakland elementary school where two 7-year old’s were alleged to have engaged in oral sex. Other allegations state that other kids were getting naked in the classroom. Basically, a whole lot of f*ckery going on in this particular Oakland elementary school. As could be expected, the 2nd grade teacher was suspended while an investigation takes place.

I’ve read quite a few articles where the blame is being passed around from the teacher, the school, the school district, and I’m pretty sure somebody blamed this all on Obama’s presidency. This is what happens when something like this happens in a public school. Everybody blames everybody else until it either goes away or the teacher gets fired and we all pretend that the problem gets solved.

While I can’t say that I’ve read much to prove this I’m almost positive that the parents of the two children are being (rightly) criticized and maligned. These kids have to pick up stuff like that somewhere. For instance, I was introduced to pr0n at a very young age. My older sister and her friends were at my house watching some flick and I went into the room and they couldn’t put me out because I threatened to tell. So at 6 years old, I was introduced to things no 6 year old needs to see. Coincidentally, my father found out what we watched the night before and then I had the infamous birds and bees conversation…at 6.

Luckily, I had parents who made sure to counter some of those images I saw in my undeveloped mind and cut me off at the pass before I took some of my new found knowledge to school. Not that I would have, I was still more concerned about G.I. Joe than Jane but the seed had been planted. No pun intended. Same with those 7 year old kids, except they didn’t or possibly don’t have anybody to guide their misguidance. Now, I’m making an assumption there but how in the hell are these kids being exposed enough to those types of images and exercises that they’d bring them to school and engage in them.

People keep saying that kids are growing up to fast nowadays. I’ve always believed that. Every time I’m in NYC I see these 16 year olds looking like they’re 45. Now granted, that’s because it seems like most women from NY age three times the rate of a fine cognac, but that’s neither here nor there. Shots fired. But damn, if we can’t stop our kids from losing their innocence at such a young age, we might as well just give the world over to Beelzebub and his cousins. Part of this could be babies raising babies and young parents of young kids not thinking twice about some of the stuff they allow their kids to see because they themselves either saw it or just don’t have the wherewithall an the sense God gave a rock to think about their actions.

But really, even the well-off, educated parents seem to be making huge f*cking mistakes as well by trying to be kids friends instead of parents. Somewhere along the way it seems like parents keep forgetting to be parents. Sure, the teacher is going to get fired (you can believe that) as it happened on his watch in his classroom, allegedly. But honestly I can’t say that I blame him like I’m sure a lot of people are doing. Yes, he has to pay because it’s his job to know what’s going on with his students and what those kids were doing is definitely (allegedly) an offense where somebody has to pay. One of my favorite quotes from National Treasure was, “Ben, somebody’s gotta go to jail.” While jail here is interchangeable, somebody always has to pay.

Nothing really profound or groundbreaking here, this is just something I thought about since I first heard about it. I’ve been curious as to people’s thoughts on this in any capacity. So I bring it to VSB….

…what the hell is going on people?


When Keeping It Rap Goes Wrong: Bangs

I was reading yesterday, and the homey Byron Crawford wrote a post about Bangs ascendence into national prominence and it reminded me that a few weeks back, I had FULLY intended to write about “itz ya boy Bangs.”

But first, an intro (to let you know) so that we can all be on the same page here.  VSB, meet Bangs and his “hit” single, “Take U 2 Da Movies”:

You’re welcome.

A quick bio on Bangs.  He’s a Melbourne-based, Sudanese rapper who quite frankly SUCKS, but has somehow gone viral with his ridiculousness.  He’s been on radio shows, and hell, a few weeks back, in Washington, DC, his song “Take U 2 Da Movies” was played on Hot 99.5, which is the big pop station here in DC.

Now back to the lecture at hand.  Just to be upfront, I’m usually the first one in line to scream that you cannot blame hip-hop for society’s ills.  You just can’t.  It’s probably closer to a chicken vs. egg thing, but the fact is, life was f*cked up for a lot of people when Smokey Robinson was singing about “Crusin’” and will continue long after Souljaboy Tell’em’s career (yikes, he actually has one of those) subsides.  But only an ignoramus would attempt to downplay its cultural impact.  While I’m often willing to argue that its just art, I can’t deny that a lot of people take this “rap sh*t” serious, especially people from other places and think that all of us ninjas really do look and act like the folks they see in videos.  For a lot of people, it’s their only real connection to American Black people.

Quick story:  When I was in undergrad, me and my boy went out to eat with one our FOB African homegirls.  We started talking about how she liked America, and asked her what her impressions were like before she got to Atlanta.  She said that she pretty much thought we were all on some Menace II Society malarkey because at home (I think she’s Nigerian) at the time that was what she’d been exposed to.  Mostly the LA gangster genre of Black movies.

By the way, I realize that’s not how every non-American views us, but I’m guessing its not so far fetched that quite a few do.  See what happens when you take people to da movies (shawty)?

Back to 2009 and Bangs.  Bangs is what I always thought would happen if certain folks got ahold of rap music.  And by certain folks I mean, pretty much non-Black Americans.  Bangs has managed to take pretty much EVERY aspect of hip-hop that most of us reading ninjas wish wasn’t so omnipresent and run with it.  Hell, for him, it’s probably just his assumption of what he’d need to do in order to make it in the music business.  His album titles read like a horrible No Limit album from the late 90s.  He’s got the chains, the cars, the stack of money, the synth-based production…basically EVERYthing that he thinks you need because that’s what he sees.  Now, let me not take too much credit for him, he PROBABLY thinks this shit sounds and looks good, but in the words of my homey builtfromwax, “I couldn’t come up with that flow on my best day.”

Bangs is a truly terrible rapper.  There’s no denying that, but it almost isn’t even his fault.  Okay, that’s not true.  He’s mastered the English language about as well as the cashier lady at El Pollo Campero on University Boulevard in Langley Park, Maryland (I see you Maria – thanks for whatever the f*ck you put in my bag.  My order was just a suggestion anyway).  But he’s also a symptom of the problem we have here, does anybody make real sh*t anymore?  He’s just like 90 percent of confused rappers out now.

Now don’t get it twisted, I’m highly amused by him.  He might have the worst flow I’ve heard since Overit started rapping (shots fired), but his song is actually catchy as hell. I want to go to the movies right now and get some popcorn.   Shucks, dudes making the rounds and become quite the famous guy.  But I wonder if he gets that most people are laughing at him, not with him.  I don’t know.

But what I do know?

He’s more popular than Walé.  28K.

(And by the way, it doesn’t matter if you only ship 30K to stores if 64% of your sales were digital anyway.  You didn’t sell 28K out of 30K physical copies.  You sold 28K because frankly, you were going to sell 28K.)

So what do you all think, is Bangs just more fun and games or is he our worst fears confirmed about hip-hop and its reach?

And once again, you’re welcome.