Category Archives: Music

Brontez Purnell Dance Company–LOVE THIS SHORT FILM

So a week or two ago I wrote a blog about my friend Brontez Purnell under some unfortunate circumstances. But I wanted to post this really innovative and creative short film (which Brontez tells me is a part of a longer creative project), in which he is dancer, drummer/musician, singer, and choreographer. I just thought this would introduce his work and worth to you in a different moment, one not in a state of duress.

 

Hot, Heavy & Bad Release ‘Undercover': Free Mixtape of Funky Futuristic Throwbacks of Classic Jams

In anticipation of the release of their first studio collaboration, Devon Lee & Joi have released a FREE downloadable mixtape called Undercover.

I happened to catch 2 shows of the duo in the last year where they focused on covering classic funk, rock, reggae and soul classics in only the way they know how–extra-funky. Once in 2010 I was in ATL at their show at Pal’s Lounge called Futuristic Throwbacks, and then recently at the Apollo Theater here in NYC, where they covered everyone from Bob Marley to Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday to Teena Marie (in fact, it was Joi’s vocals on Square Biz that was the crowd favorite and evening show-stopper).

This Undercover mixtape features covers of Heart, The Beatles, Hair: The Musical, Johnny Cash, Edith Piaf, Three Degrees, Pink Floyd, War, & Kansas.

Joi and Devon Lee clearly know their music, and you should check out Undercover. Go to the Joilicious-Online.org to download. Check out this video of them doing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in concert in Brooklyn last fall (you might see me giving school boy swag in the bottom right corner of the screen.). Also, Joi recently spoke to AfroPunk.com about this project, so read the interview.

“Hyphy” Style Rapper Lil B Announces “I’m Gay” Album at Coachella

I hate to say I was right and I told you so, but, I WAS RIGHT!!! I TOLD YOU SO!!!

Two weeks ago I wrote an opinion piece for Colorlines.com about the fact that the hip-hop industry was going to change its tune around the place of queer artists within it, but that change, as 50 Cent noted, would likely be due to market forces of declining record sales and the way the gay consumer has become increasingly important market niche in global capitalism.

So last night at the famous Coachella Music Festival, up-and-coming hip-hop artist Lil B from Berkeley, California announced that he’s calling his upcoming album I’m Gay during his set. He stated (you can also watch in the video below):

“I’m gonna do the most controversial thing in hip-hop. Ya’ll heard it first. And I’mma just show you that words don’t mean s**t. I’mma make an album called ‘I’m Gay,’ right. Now I’mma tell you why I’m the first person to do it in hip-hop and why you’re the first people to know my reasons. I’m just gonna tell you. So many people be worried about what people mean and definitions of words and s**t… Now I like women, I love women, you feel me. But within yourselves, no matter what you do, it doesn’t matter, it’s like live life. You’ve only got one life to live. Be happy.”

Is Lil B coming out? Or is he using this as a way of tapping the gay market, and letting straight people know he’s not a homophobe? It’s worth noting he has a song called “Ellen Defgeners” where he’s rhyming about being famous and on television like Ellen Degeneres–no real mention of her sexuality but naming this white lesbian TV host as the standard of celebrity. Coachella is a great venue to do so, and get tons of publicity. The music festival has become an increasingly important venue for underground artists (so much so that mainstream artists like Prince, Kanye West and Rihanna have now all played there) to break into the mainstream, much like South By Southwest, if not bigger.

Now the question I have is when is the sexism and misogyny gonna go away in hip-hop? Will there ever be a reason, market forces or otherwise? Here’s a music video from Lil B…and if these 2009 lyrics are any indication (and I want to say I don’t mind overtly sexual lyrics or cursing in music, I wish I saw more straight men artist figure out how to rap about sex without being misogynist)…we have a long way to go…

UPDATE: Via Colorlines: Another article about Lil B.

Kenyon on Colorlines.com: 50 Cent’s New Pocketbook Values: Anti-Gay Won’t Pay, Even for Hip Hop

Just published a new piece on Colorlines.com about the Mister Cee from Hot 97 sex scandal:

The arrest last week of Hot 97 DJ and hip-hop legend Mister Cee for allegedly having commercial sex with a 20-year-old transgender woman has sparked another hip-hop “war,” this time between Cee’s Hot 97 colleague Funkmaster Flex and rival DJ Charlamagne tha God. Since Cee’s arrest, Flex and Charlamange, a former Wendy Williams sidekick, have been going at one another over the role of queer people within hip-hop, spurring a debate that’s sprawled from Twitter to the blogosphere and that’s been filled with a good bit of the expected homophobia and transphobia.

But a surprising voice has stepped into the forefront to defend Mister Cee: 50 Cent, one hip-hop’s favorite homophobes (and a friend to Mister Cee). Fifty could care less about queer folks, of course. But he does care about the Benjamins, and to him hip-hop’s pro-gay era needs to begin for one simple reason: Homophobia isn’t good for business anymore. Continued…

 

Marsha Ambrosius ‘Far Away’ Video Takes On Homophobic Violence

The Black twitter and blog world have been abuzz with the release of Fly Away, the 2nd single and new video from former Floetry vocalist Marsha Ambrosius. The video is getting a lot of buzz because it is the first video from a major-label R&B/Soul artist since (as far as I can remember) Me’Shell NdegeOcello’s Levitivus: Faggot to really portray black gay men in a sympathetic light.

While I wish I didn’t have to see us die tragically on film, the fact is, some of us do, and I am struck by the fact that the video shows the impact of homophobia on a Black gay man’s life, the direct ways it plays out in the Black community, and his ultimate suicide (based on a real-life friend of Ambrosius).  I have had to personally deal with a number of the kinds of scrutiny, looks and words of disgust from Black homophobes–especially when I am with other Black gay men, whether we’re actually dating or not. But what is more emotionally moving to me is the way the video shows the relationship between the two black gay men, which we almost never see never see in pop culture, save Noah’s Arc (despite having a black gay man on most of the Housewife reality shows, Top Model or a number of fashion makeover shows, they are detached from any real relationships to Black gay community-they exist on these shows in total isolation to the rest of us). I really cried watching this video just from seeing the relationship between the two men.  I also appreciate the love relationship between Ambrosius and the couple in the video–albeit brief. If I had to base our value on pop culture (or even what happens in the community often) if we’re not doing your hair/makeup or singing in your God’s choir, our lives don’t matter.

It’s also a beautiful song–I just bought it to support this artist. Thank you, Ms. Ambrosius.

Queen Latifah: Sexuality a "Private" Matter or Protecting a Corporate Brand?

There has been lots of speculation about Queen Latifah’s sexuality for many years. Most recently rumors were almost totally confirmed by photos of Queen and Jeanette Jenkins (thought to be her longtime partner) in clearly romantic embraces while at a boat party for the marriage of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz.

Latifah is the latest of a string of celebrities that have been known (allegedly) to be queer, and were all but outed by tabloids, gossip mags and radio, etc. But is Queen Latifah’s sexuality up for debate? Is it any of our business, or is it a “private” matter?

This week, writer Jamilah King opined at Colorlines.com about whether or not people, in this case Queen Latifah, have to come out in the political way that we think about it, or if outing people is an effective strategy. She writes:

She may not be leading next year’s Gay Pride parade down San Francisco’s Market Street, but she’s telling the world that she’s living her life and not particularly concerned with hiding it. The photos, which she clearly didn’t hide from, may say the rest.Queen Latifah may not have a particularly political queer identity, and if she wants to remain silent about her personal life, then so be it. But forcing someone into becoming a role model of any sort has never been a good strategy. If anything, it creates an atmosphere of shame and guilt. And love is always about much more than that.

While I recognize that many straight people (including homophobes, including black ones) and queers (including a lot of self-interested white LGBT organizations and activists) want people to come out for many reasons that are about their own shit. But I think  we need to ask some serious questions when we say that someone’s sexuality is simply a private, personal issue that is off the table for discussion, especially a multi-millioniare like Queen Latifah.

Latifah has partly made a career off of promoted heteronormativity in some pretty conservative films–not just as an actress but as an executive producer. The extremely racist and sexist Bringin Down The House was a film where her character , a black “ghetto” ex-con at first causes havoc to the life and family of Steve Martin, but in the end assists him in correcting his white middle-class, heteronormative family.  Latifah was executive producer. Beauty Shop is a film that has one mammy character after another, and even Last Holiday, while critiquing the ways in which Black women are forced into roles of servitude to their own detriment, still follows a traditional path that ends in her union with LL Cool J.

Since Queen is one of the very few black women in Hollywood who can really finance their own projects, don’t we have an obligation to ask how these very images not only contradict her personal life, but more importantly, promote hetero-normativity to the detriment of black queers, and even straight black people who choose non-normative lifestyles? At this point, I believe we are absolutely allowed to raise these questions, insofar as they speak to political choices that implicitly or explicitly promote homo/queer phobia.

But celebrities somehow have access to privacy, as a way to not only silence any gossip about who they’re fucking, but actually to silence others critiques to protect their privacy insomuch as it threatens their capitalist enterprises.

Not only does Queen have a rap and acting career, but has:

  1. a movie production company that has a DVD distribution  deal with Paramount
  2. a record label
  3. a perfume line
  4. is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Pizza Hut, and Cover Girl
  5. a Cover Girl make-up line for women of color, and
  6. owns at least one FatBurger restaurant.

I found one internet site saying her net worth was $50Million.

I understand that she may pay a higher price (as a Black woman) for coming out that Ellen DeGeneres did not pay, but protecting her fortune or corporate brand is not a reason for us to shut up about it.

Joi Re-Emerges "Hot, Heavy, & Bad!"

If you’ve followed my blog over the years, or know me personally, you know I am a huge fan of the work of Joi, the Nasvhille raised and Atlanta based artist who emerged out of the early 1990s as a pioneering voice in what was a new genre, “neo-soul” (which some say was originally penned by a reviewer to describe her 1993 debut, The Pendulum Vibe.).

But Joi is an iconoclast, and her follow-up recording 1997’s Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome (a project that was only recently released by Joi herself, after 2 record labels folded before it could be released), were it released, would have at the time made the neo-soul label passe, as the record break with any kind of convention of the time and includes a range of rock, funk, go-go, soul and hip-hop influences (check the video for the one single that got released, a duet with ex-husband and Goodie Mob’s Big Gipp, Ghetto Superstar).

Four records later, Joi is back, this time in a project with her current partner and guitarist (the smoldering hot) Devon Lee for a joint collaboration under the name Hot, Heavy & Bad. They’ve released their first single and video from the upcoming project, called One. I hate comparing artists work to one another, but the track and vocals are definitely reminiscent of what Prince B-sides used to sound like–trippy, dark,  heavy, dripping with sexuality, and overlaying one’s vocals on top of itself to create interesting textures behind a fairly sparse track. The video should provide lots of fodder for budding feminist academics writing about Black women’s sexuality and sexual agency in popular culture (You gotta see for yourself! Video below).

After a 17 year career, with 4 recordings, and collaborations on nearly every OutKast record, and with George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield, TLC, Raphael Saadiq and many others, Joi’s own hometown is just beginning to pay its respects. Creative Loafing, the alternative weekly of ATL, just gave Joi her first and well-earned cover story. So you can find out more about her work in that story.

If you’re in ATL, you can catch Joi & Devon every Saturday night at Pal’s Lounge, for her “Futuristic Throwback” set.

If you’re in NYC this Friday (August 13) at 9m  Joi is headlining Slum Beautiful: Music from the Gut of Black America at Littlefield, in Park Slope, BK. DJ Sabine of OyaSound Productions will be spinning. I’ll be there.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvNoUYvDyIk]

Kenyon Wants to Learn How to 'Dougie'

Now I know how my parents felt. I am too damn old to be getting crunk (see, even the use of crunk marks me as rapidy approaching middle-aged grown and sexy) over the latest dance craze. But a friend just passed this song and video on to me and I kinda love it.You can best believe I will be at home practicing this shit when I should be working on my book, or my abs.

It’s from a group called Cali Swag District, and the tune is “Teach Me How To Dougie.” The track kinda reminds me of the percussion heavy, go-go inspired beats of early Salt-N-Pepa and Kid-N-Play tracks (again, dating myself). Despite my best efforts, I am really into how queer it is. I have to say, I am giving props to all the young black men breaking with the hip-hop thuggery of my generation. Two snaps to you!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnPJmDc0b_M]