Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Monday, August 29, 2005

The VMA's-- Can You Believe?

...Diddy's Cirque du Soleil meets David Copperfield pyrotechnic opening?

...his laxidasical dance moves? My 3-year old niece has more flair in her makeshift dance routines.

...R. Kelly's over the top lip synching antics? I laughed so hard realizing one thing's for sure Tyler Perry better watch out cause Kels has got the ghetto dramatics on wrap!

...how so not funny that comedian was-- did he actually say he would detonate his baby before allowing someone the satisfaction of a successful kidnap? (Eeeks!)

...how tacky Eva Longoria looked on stage in that swimsuit? She's like school in the summertime-- no class!

...how un-fresh hip-hop performances have become? Jamie Foxx and Kanye bouncing around the stage was so underwhelming (although I am excited about Late Registration).

...how wonderful Mariah sounded? Good move to do the remix, bad move to end by splashing in the pool!

...she's the same person that released Glitter a few years back?

...MC Hammer?

...Shakira's ability to gyrate, contort and wiggle?

...how bewildered you were when Luke and those dancers hit the stage?

...Paulina Rubio's sass when she removed Lil' Jon's arm from around her neck? Yea-ah!

...Gwen Stefani didn't win nary a Moonman? (MTV retribution for quipping about performing maybe?)

...the number of blonds in pop (Lindsay, Jessica & Ashley Simpson, Hillary, Gwen, Kelly and oh yeah Britney, Christina and Madonna)? Hair colorists are the interior designers of the beauty world. So paid!

BTW-- It's so ironic, almost fitting, that R&B's self-proclaimed whiz kid had a pantomime for a performance. It's so symbolic of the state of that musical genre right now. There's nothing new being said and live instrumentation is slowly being replaced, err subverted for adlibs, tricks and theatrics. And while I'm ranting let me say that Fat Joe and 50's beef came off like two men shooting spitballs at each other during the main course of a steak dinner at Ruth's Chris-- inappropriate, immature and oh so 90's. I may not think Greenday is all that, but at least rock-n-roll is making a hearty attempt to grow the frack up and make some noise up in this piece! Hollaback and let me know what you thought of the VMA's and music and MTV in general.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Can You Believe

...that 4 years ago today Aaliyah's plane crashed killing her and everyone else on the Florida-bound flight, leaving her fans with memories and with one of the best R&B albums of all time.

...the biggest news in hip-hop these days is how many sneakers Jay-Z bought Kanye and P. Diddy's inconsequential name change (of course everyone will still call him Puff, so who the hell cares?)

...the ridiculous spectacle that reality tv has become?

...the premise for Discovery Channel's Going Tribal? (Don't get me started!)

... the price of gas in NYC is $2.89 a gallon

...the price of gas in Venezuela is 12 cents a gallon (a top producer of crude oil)?

...that Pussycat Dolls' song, Don't Cha, is a hit?

...summer is almost over?!?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good People, Good Times

Olu Dara is not only Nas' pop, but he is one of the most exciting, scintillating and passionate jazz musicians I’ve heard in a very long time. Last Thursday I randomly (thanks to K. Good), ended up at Marcus Garvey Park where Olu was serving up some hot jams for his starring role in the City Parks free concert series. His band was rocking Harlem with their crazy congas and a horn section that rivaled the JB’s. Folks were dancing in the park and in keeping in time with the music they were doing everything from quick stepping afrobeat to slow winding calypso. I was on such a high especially when he started playing the cornet and singing Harlem Country Girl. I’m embarrassed to say that this was my first time seeing the jazz great because he is so massively talent in the old school, traditional type of way. He knows his craft well and has the chops to make everyone else want to submerge deeper into it.

On Friday I met up with Dexter Wimberly and attended his cocktail party celebrating 10 years of August Bishop-- the marketing/pr firm he founded with Barney Bishop. It was held at POP in the east Village. They have the best cosmos, actually the Sex and The City girls filmed an episode there. The folks—mostly in beauty and fashion, were laid back and friendly. Folks munched on margherita pizza, calamari and shrimp rolls while talking about The Pharcyde, Hangtags for Humanity, imported beer (Chimay vs. Guinness), and vacationing in Bermuda.

Saturday was supposed to be a day in the Bronx for me, but due to some miscommunications I ended up staying in Harlem where I ran into muMs (our favorite Poet from Oz) and Michaela, at where else—Settepani. They were both supposed to host a spoken word jam at the 120th Street Block party but it never happened so instead they hosted an outdoor table for a good three hours at the Lenox Ave. hotspot. Michaela did share that Essence is preparing for a Grand Homecoming-Show House Opening celebration on that very block in October where they have teamed up with designer Courtney Sloane to renovate and redecorate an entire brownstone. After all of the festive events which by the way are to coincide with the mag's 35th Anniverary, the 3-units within the brownstone will be awarded to three lucky individuals. I plan to make a lot of noise about this celebration of style and community and hopefully karma will bless me with a place of my very own next year when I turn 30-something!

muMs has been busy on his book, In The Realm Of Paranoia where he breaks down his theories on a multitude of thangs like why Black men wear white t-shirts. It’s deep, yo! And funny. He’s on some DuBois meets Chappelle ish. Later that night muMs and I finagled our way into getting tours of two of Harlem’s most buzzed about real estate properties—The Carriage House on 124th Street and the, um... something Gardens on 116th Street. The Carriage House was extravagant: a duplex with marble bathrooms, sub-zero’s, fireplaces and the biggest deck I’ve seen in Harlem. The Gardens complex was not as fancy but the duplexes were even more spacious with a state of the art security system and yes, outdoor decks too! I must say it was an unexpectedly good end of the week!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Hot Mess: Magazine Drama & Blog Bashing

What the hell is going on at The Source now? First the sexual harassment charges and then a couple of weeks ago two members of their staff were arrested for attempted murder. Now I just found out that their newly appointed editor in chief, Fahiym Ratcliffe, has just submitted his resignation papers. Jeesh! It seems that publisher Mays is still tampering with artists’ ratings and going against the staff’s consensus. Of course during my very brief stint at the Source in ’95 folks were quitting and literally walking out at The Source for those very same reasons. Well it’s good to see ain’t a damn thing changed!

First it was escalating the whole east-west hate and now Vibe is back at it again creating blog wars. In this month’s “Juice” issue they list their Top 6 Hip-hop Bloggers. Too bad folks online aren’t in agreement and a web-backlash is in total effect. So much hatin in all this heat. Everyone needs to simmer down and cop that Leela James CD, read XXL and cool the frack off.

There’s a lot more pressing issues to discuss like when will young Black women get a mag to call their very own. This story sheds some light on why Suede, Honey and Heart & Soul failed and why Essence still remains. Well there’s always theHotness and that’s real y'all!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Getting Naked

Yesterday I went to a pretty cool reading for this new book “Naked”. I’m actually not really a big fan of book readings, because for me, being read to is usually one of the most boring, uninspiring experiences in the world (unless it’s of course my man reading me a poem he’s written about me or Afeni Shakur reading from her autobiography— she’s amazing!) However, this one held my interest and above all, made me want to buy the book (even though I already had a copy) and read it immediately. Naked is an anthology of stories written by young Black women about their bodies—identity, image and sexuality stuff. You know the politics of nappy hair and big behinds. Anyway 6 or 7 of the contributors were there and they each read excerpts. Asali Solomon and Jill Nelson were great—funny, personable, intriguing. Margeaux Watson's reading was not nearly as bold as the writing in her essay. Read it especially if you think Confessions of a Video Vixen is raw. Margeaux's piece is shocking and moving. I feel a bit gypped though by her sunshiney ending but I am not at all unsatisfied by her gutsy telling.

I think one of the reasons I had such an enjoyable time is cause so many fly grrrls that I find inspiring were in the house and repping hard. Karen’s Goode & Addison (she's the first girl on the book cover), Joicelyn Dingle and Michaela angela Davis, the editor from Essence who is credited for spearheading their Take Back The Music Campaign. She led the Q&A and was decked out in a fly bumble bee yellow “Black Like Jesus” T-shirt. She opened the Q&A by posing a pretty challenging question of the academic sort to the anthology writers: “How do you (reconcile) living as someone who is objectified and celebrated simultaneously? For a good two minutes everyone just looked shook, I swear I could hear crickets up in the Schomburg.

I think it was Akiba who mentioned later on that most women in the book had written that they were in some form or another challenged, traumatized and/ or affected by cat-calling men on street corners. Whoa! That’s so weird to me because I usually pay them no mind half the time and other times I take it all in shouting back my own witty ditties. Finding humor and yes, even pleasure in their banter. Maybe it’s from hanging on the streets all those years in the Bronx and having to take the train everyday to school at the tender age of 12, but men on the street, whether they are yelling obscenities or bigging me up, do not shape or effect my identity politics.

What was interesting was the talk around personal writing and the challenges involved in being able to tell these types of stories on such a public level. I know I’m always challenged by that myself when writing my blog. I want my voice to matter but how much of myself do I need to reveal in order for it to matter? In order to sound and be authentic? I mean there’s getting naked and there’s showing your ass. I’m really not trying to do the latter.

On that note it looks like Lil Kim has (finally) discovered the difference and is baring her soul (ragga style) on her new joint Lighters Up (thanks Spine Mag). She’s giving us mad Lauryn Hill but without L's sobbing and minus her usual dirty talk.

Check out the ladies from Naked as they read at Hue Man Bookstore next Tuesday, August 16.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Pink Side of Hip-Hop (Part I)

I was listening to the Star & Bucwild show this morning and they were listing their Top 5 Female MC’s. There was much debate on who should make the Top 5 and not surprisingly Crossover, whose knowledge of hip-hop is suspect and whose love for Black women is even more questionable, could not name any artists because as he puts it “there are no women who can be considered mc’s since most of them don’t really write their own rhymes.” Well if that didn’t get me burning and on the horn at 7:30 this morning, then I’m not theHotness Grrrl. Women are too often relegated to the sidelines and stripper poles of hip-hop culture and I’ve had enough of the b.s. When I thought about it I actually had a tough time trying to compile my Top 5 Female Rappers because there were so many ladies I thought qualified. I however agreed with Crossover who said that Salt-n-Pepa should NOT be on anyone’s Top 5 because they didn’t write any of their rhymes-- Herby "Luv Bug" Azor did. True dat! So that would also probably knock Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown and Eve out of the running as they are all alleged to have had ghostwriters. With that in mind here’s my Top 5. Who makes your list?

5. Sharock (from the Funk Four +1More)
4. Roxanne Shante
3. Lauryn Hill
2. MC Lyte
1. Queen Latifah

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Current State of Affairs

Today the man that created the Jet Beauty of the Week died. As much as I don’t check for Ebony or Jet, I can’t deny its staying power and shelf life. Every publicist knows that Ebony is one of the best outlets to secure because your clients feature will be lingering around forever in some office or in someone’s parents living room. You go to a doctor’s office or to the dentist and they will have the Ebony issue with Whitney Houston on the cover from 1992 on the coffee table in the waiting room.

Michael Eric Dyson is still raising hell about Cosby. For a minister he sure spends a lot of time criticizing a man who has done so much to promote positive images of Black folk. Why won’t Dyson speak out against R. Kelly or where’s his rage against the New Jersey machine that put a one million dollar bond on Assata Shakur’s head or what about the genocide in Sudan? I guess that type of radicalism won’t get you a book deal or the tons of publicity he’s reaping for blasting the Jell-O pudding pops man. I guess his next target will be BET for firing Free & AJ (thanks Kevin R. Scott)!

Talking about having time on their hands, Russell Simmons has found time from his yoga practice to create an accessory that I’m sure we won’t be able to live without. Not!

I was chasing my niece through the sprinklers and introducing her to mango street icees so I missed the rapping-sing-songy M.I.A. who I hear had the largest turnout so far this summer at Central Park’s Summerstage this past Sunday. It would seem that our favorite Sri Lankan has taken over the world with her pseudo militant stance and playfully smart jig. I haven’t heard the whole album yet but will get it this week and check her out. She already gets a gold star for having the guts to bring the noise in a different box.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Talk Amongst Writers

On Monday evening I wearily walked on over to Settepani on Lenox Ave. I just had to have a raspberry rugalach and a coconut macaroon. Yep, I only get one of each and that’s my indulgence of the day sometimes when I’m real good, for the week. As soon as I walk in I spot my comrade and friend to the end, Greg Tate who was busy editing his science-fiction epic-- Altered Spade. He’s been working on this tome for almost as long as I’ve known him and that’s over a decade now. With a protagonist named Babylonia Free, I’m dying for him to get a book deal or just put it out himself. It’s funny because I was just telling this brother on the D train who was reading Wild Seed—one of my most favorite books-- that Black folks need a lil science fiction in our lives just to counteract and balance out the realness of being Black in 2005 and I don’t mean Niggas In Outta Space or whatever that nonsense was called. I mean our own little War Of The Worlds cum X-Files. Our Cosmic Slop for real! So while talking to Greg and making him understand the urgency there is for such a work, who should walk in the door? Chris Jackson(scroll down link)-- my favorite editor partly because he signs very distinctively styled writers, but mostly cause I’ve known him since 7th grade where we both started our 6-year manic academic odyssey at Hunter College High School. So I make introductions and hope that destiny will take over and Chris will immediately drop his cappuccino and make a Random House deal with Greg right then and there. Hah! Tom Cruise running through Harlem screaming were all going to be killed by aliens in 90 seconds is more likely. Chris was busy reading and editing his own manuscript and so the deal will have to wait for now.

Greg and I start chatting and it seems like the talk amongst everyone especially those in publishing is the phenomenal success of Confessions Of A Video Vixen, the tell-all memoir by Karrine Steffans, the music video girl errr… sex kitten, or is it ho now… nicknamed Superhead. She’s been on the NY Times best-seller list for like 5 weeks and is already in her 4th printing. Even Chris whose titles include the top-seller Bliss expressed his longing for a book like Confessions-- it would seem, even your most authentic and scholarly editors want a best seller (regardless of the content). I haven’t read Confessions (or Bliss for that matter yet), but I hear from EVERYONE at the Harlem Book Fair that Superhead came off wonderfully at her panel on Black beauty. Unlike her appearances on NYC urban radio stations like Power 105 or Hot 97, at the Fair she was warmly received, even embraced. I plan on getting a transcription of this discussion and will definitely run it in an upcoming issue of theHotness.

Havelock Nelson formerly of Billboard also rolled through. He was promoting the upcoming issue of National Geographic, which is dedicated to Africa. He happened to have an unbound copy of the issue and I’m telling you now, the photos are amazingly beautiful and the stories, like the one about AIDS, are just as insightful. This is definitely going to be a collector’s issue. With all the writing-reading-editing heads in the house the discussion veered right back into self-publishing. I can’t help but pull-up this email written by my neighbor and uptown comrade Marita who, after attending the HBF had this to say:

Self-publishing is the worst thing that happened to black folks since Integration. I was ashamed at some of those titles ("Ho-Tell" & "Hip Hop Word Search") First of all, if I were handling the table rentals, you would have to have a "literate" work before I would rent you space.

Anyway while at Settepani I pulled out this old article in Fortune about the success of Ego Trip magazine that I had stumbled onto that morning (thanks to Backlist.com). Greg laughed and we all agreed that Sacha Jenkins and Elliott Wilson did it the right way! I’m quickly realizing the arena I so want to get back into is the one that mentors like Greg, Havelock and even Karen are swiftly moving out of. All seem disheartened by and bored when writing for magazines and would rather write their own books, produce music like Greg’s really popular Burnt Sugar or just do something entirely different like Havelock doing publicity. Hmmpph, and here I am like a maniac interviewing for magazine gigs and trying to get my writing in Vibe and Rolling Stone. I guess I have to remember that the grass is always greener, but it does give me pause. I wonder when will I/ we ever be satisfied by the work we are doing in our lives? Even Superhead has moved on from rappers to Bill Maher. I guess at some point we all have to keep it moving.