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.

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!

John Mayer: The N Word the Least of the Problem

This got me out of retirement, kids.

Recently, the internets have been abuzz with talk of John Mayer, Gen Y’s Billy Joel, about a recent interview he did for Playboy magazine. People have been up in arms because he used the N word during the interview.

“Someone asked me the other day, ‘What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?’ And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass.”

There’s nothing worse than a white dude who is so comfortable with their racism, clearly because they have black friends, to try to let people know how down they are by trying to use the N word just like “the natives” would. This is the thing that he got in trouble for, and why he later issued a litany of apologies via Twitter, about.

But I find his later statements in the interview about actresses Holly Robinson Peete, Karyn Parsons and Kerry Washington, and black women as a whole, much more disturbing.

PLAYBOY: “Do black women throw themselves at you?”

MAYER: “I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.”

PLAYBOY: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.

MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.” That’s what “Heartbreak Warfare” is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.

Now, let me say that he also discusses his sex life with his former girlfriend Jessica Simpson in detail, which is also repulsive, and with no regard for what that might mean for her. But for now, I am talking about the black women who found themselves in this story. It’s clear that he associates all these black actresses as some nearly-white enough in class, hair texture or affect as to be “white enough for his David Duke dick”  to fuck, but clearly also views them, based on his description of his imagined Washington, as sexually as loose and irreverent as the white women he normally fucks. All of this is every kind of wrong.

What’s interesting is that Mayer felt compelled to apologize about the “Nigger Pass” comment, but not at all to the specific black women he demeaned in this article, nor the millions of other who are implicated in his disgusting little brain of his.

Here’s his whack-ass apology the other night from a show in Nashville, where he basically sums up these statements to his need to be clever and witty, and not on some deep-seated racism and white supremacy. Fuck you, John.

Now, I’m back. Anybody else got something to say?

RIP MJ

This is my favorite Michael Jackson video, “Remember the Time,” though “Wanna Be Startin Somethin'” is probably my favorite song. I liked Michael’s music like most people, but was far from a HUGE fan. Nevertheless, I have found myself weeping at his loss. Perhaps he meant more to me than I thought.

Introducing…Brontez Purnell

BrontezI met Brontez Purnell about a year ago in Oakland. Anyhoo, we’ve become very good buds and and I continue to learn how totally talented he is–not to mention hella sexy. Here’s his bio from Zinewiki:

Brontez Purnell is a zinester, writer, dancer and musician, who now lives in California.

Brontez was originally from Triana, Alabama, then moving to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he released Schlepp Fanzine while still living at home. He then relocated on his own to Oakland, California, where he released his next zine, Fag School. Three issues of the zine have been released to date. During this time he was in a number of punk bands.

After his arrival in California, he briefly played guitar for the band Panty Raid, then joined the group Gravy Train!!!!, (as ‘Junx’) in which he continues to perform, record and make videos with. He is also the mastermind behind the band The Younger Lovers. He has performed with the band Hot Ass Sex Bomb with members Janelle Hessig and Vice Cooler and, as well, he DJs at clubs in San Francisco.

Brontez has written for various publications, including the on-line edition of Jigsaw, and has also written a column called “She’s Over It” for Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll. He has read his work at Lit Quake in San Francisco.

Here’s a video of him reading from Fag School. It’s hilarious. Brontez was in NYC a few weeks ago doing some shows, and I wish he lived closer. I miss him and we’ve only seen each other like 4 times.