Sound Off | Hear About It Here Mon, 16 Mar 2015 01:17:10 +0000 en hourly 1 Yes, Azealia Banks, You May Be a ‘Black Feminist’ Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:47:45 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Donato Sardella/WireImage)

By Xiya

Azealia Banks has a way with provocation, self-admittedly more so with her words than her dancing (she recently revealed that she did a two-weekend stint as a stripper). And while her stance has been shrouded in censorable language (like her potty-mouthed Twitter beefs with T.I. and Tiny), it is at least clear: she’s all about female empowerment, even to the detriment of other females with whom she does not agree. Or, “feminist.”

[Note: Please do not get your panties in a bunch over the previous. I am of the philosophy that there is no progress without pain, you know, the childbirth theory of life. So yes, for example, when Annie Lennox declares Beyoncétokenistic” in the movement, it gives us pause to consider exactly how much thong we’re allowed to show and still be respected, while simultaneously infantilizing Bey’s choice to bare the entire thing.]

Now, with the long-awaited release of Banks’ debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, Banks is ready to be even more exacting in her expression as a feminist. “Can there be branches of feminism ? Like one dealing specifically with Blk women? Can I be a black feminist? Or will the white girls get mad,” she tweeted this week to no one in particular.

To answer: White, Black, Asian, et al. may very well “get mad” at the division, but aside from being Black and being feminist, the “212” rapper is American, and dammit, we have checks and balances written into the very way we govern this nation. So, surely we may offer feminism a similar framing.

The reasoning for such an allowance, especially considering Banks, may be best derived from her recent interview with Pitchfork.

“I always think of the music industry as this weird human commodity game,” she said. “It’s almost like slavery, where these people become popular for a while, and then it’s done. It’ll be like, ‘For a couple of years, we’re gonna f–k with blue-eyed soul, and here’s Duffy, here’s Adele’ — who’s great — but now we’ve got a thousand white girls singing blue-eyed soul… Or it’ll be like, ‘We’re gonna pop off the white-girl rapper,’ so we’ll have Gwen Stefani and Fergie, and then it’ll get worse and worse and worse. And you’re just like, ‘What the f–k is this?’”

Banks goes on to explain that she’s not offended by “the whole trend of white girls appropriating black culture.”

“Trust me, I’m not offended,” she says. “All the things I’m trying to run away from in my Black American experience are all the things that they’re celebrating. So if they f–kin’ want them, have them; if they want to be considered oversexualized and ignorant every time they open their f–king mouth, then f–king take it. … All of America is celebrating s–t like that. It’s so weird.”

Granted, in no way should we dismiss that all races of women have been subjugated to and exploited by hypersexualization  –– at least since Saartjie “Hottentot” Baartman, Asians with the whole “yellow fever” thing, Latinas stereotyped as “spicy,” and white women, known as “Beckys” who give fellatio like it’s a professional sport.

But it’s definitely something different to be heralded in MSM, as white women so disproportionately are, as the epitome of “beauty” held in the “public eye,” as the standard of female to which we ladies must all aspire… even if when get there, we may all hit a glass ceiling upon which some man is standing, counting his extra 23 cents per hour.

It’s definitely something different to treated as both less than in gender, and less than in race.

So while personally I may not regard the art that Adele (especially Adele) et al. creates as mere cultural appropriation, you know, supposing that there is no way possible that these women have the intention or intelligence to somehow preserve and share their experience as female musical instruments, despite and/or due to the corporate juggernaut to which they’ve signed their names; and that when it is “Black accents” mimicked it is in no way possible that it’s more like assimilation than appropriation –– like the way that I sometimes speak what Dave Chappelle calls “job interview” (Black music is heralded in the mainstream because apparently, scientifically, the Magical Negro is real. Although, as Banks in other words points out, it is possible that artists could, for example, sing country and be competitive.) –– I will vote “yes” for Azealia Banks being known as a “Black feminist.”

There are those who may argue against it. However, Banks’ voice should get equal access, and equal access to the backing that our white sisters in MSM are afforded. And sometimes that means paying a little more attention when she speaks, her voice having survived the muffling of all those layers of oppression.

So, I am paying attention to her tweet, and I say “yes,” be a Black feminist, even if the white girls get mad. Because while ultimately, I am also of the “One Love” philosophy, to be whole, we need all of the voices considered. How else would we notice how pervasive the problem is, for example, without Banks’ Pitchfork interview, which begins with an oh so subtle nod to her [um, mental?] flexibility.

“Azealia Banks, limber and relaxed…”

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Justified: The Slandering of Lifetime’s Aaliyah Biopic Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:36:17 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

By Calvin Stovall

Lifetime’s Aaliyah biopic, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, was mercilessly mocked on social media this weekend and with good reason.

Biopics are notoriously difficult to execute. And recent attempts at memorializing James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and TLC all failed to do their subjects justice. But the creators of The Princess of R&B didn’t just try and fail. They cut corners and took liberties with Aaliyah’s story that tarnished and trivialized the late singers iconic life.

From the casting (which included hilariously inaccurate caricatures of R. Kelly, Timbaland and Missy Elliot), to the messy handling of very important facts and details of her life, Lifetime did not approach the movie with the reverence worthy of star as beloved as Aaliyah.

Aaliyah’s family was against the biopic from jump, publicly condemning the project and refusing to grant the rights to use Aaliyah’s music in the film. Fans revolted online after it was announced that Alexandra Shipp would be portraying Aaliyah. Shipp wasn’t the worst part of the film, but her generic imitation failed to capture the subtle strength and sexiness that enchanted the world.

Lifetime doesn’t care, they got bigger ratings than anyone expected. And real fans of music know the true extent of Aaliyah’s legacy. But for history’s sake, fans and filmmakers alike should take a break from biopics and explore other modes of storytelling.

13 years after her passing, it’s hard to imagine how her life’s defining moments would have played out today. Would Rihanna and Beyoncé have been her competition? Or would they even exist? Aaliyah was an actress, songwriter and phenomenal performer who could have entertained us for decades.

Like Tupac, Biggie and every other superstar that passed before their time, Aaliyah’s story must be handled responsibly. She was a complex character who existed before the Internet era, so details must be on point to preserve the authenticity of her memory. Kids in upcoming generations trust history to teach them lessons for the future. If they’re forced to take the word of tales like Lifetime’s, their grip on reality will be as loose as The Princess of R&B.

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Willow & Jaden: Master Collaborators Fri, 10 Oct 2014 18:36:35 +0000 rconway (Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

(Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

by Moriba Cummings

Young Hollywood royals Willow and Jaden Smith have been the topics of many a headline ever since they could talk. From their uniquely expressive fashion senses to their respective dabbles in music, the siblings have managed to forge their own distinctive brand of “Smithness” separate from their parents. With an announcement of a sibling clothing line dropping just last year and new music releases from them both, we can’t help but put it into the universe that a potential sibling album must follow.

Over the past few years, Willow and Jaden have been proving to the world that their talents expand way beyond the big screen. Back in 2010, a much younger Willow scored the song of the year with the über catchy “Whip My Hair,” with many gravitating towards her pop-heavy, age-appropriate, sassiness in the song’s visual. Listeners dubbed her the next Rihanna and parents felt secure in their children finding a “new idol.” Willow was well on her way to becoming bubblegum pop music’s next big thing. That is, until she realized that that wasn’t her calling.

After releasing a few singles possessing the catchy recipe of “Whip My Hair,” Willow made a complete 180 and diverted her sound in a much more emo-driven direction. Though her new sound received mixed reviews, the teenager managed to stick with her improved — and seemingly more authentic — formula ever since.

While Willow had youngsters and grown women alike unapologetically whipping their hair around the world, Jaden took a much more reticent approach to his musical debut. In 2012, he quietly released his first mixtape The Cool Cafe: Cool Tape Vol. 1, surprising many with the not so shocking fact that he’s incredibly musically inclined — c’mon, his dad’s been “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” for years.

It wasn’t until more recently, however, that music aficionados got a real taste of Jaden’s rap skills.  Just this week, the 16-year-old emcee randomly dropped a geniusly minimalistic video for his newest track “Fast” — which he dedicated to Kylie Jenner via Twitter, but that’s none of our business. Though the cut doesn’t paint the cleanest picture (“Actually, I’m a catastrophe/ Go to your school and then ask for me/ I’m in your class making cash”), it’s practically undeniable that the kid’s flow is fiery.

So, with Jaden’s newfound claim to hip hop fame and Willow’s adoption of the emo-alternative route, this just seems like a match made in music heaven. With them carving out their own respective lanes outside of their superstar parents’ shadows, a joint LP will indefinitely cement their status in history as the firsts to ever complete such a feat.

With this potentially being the next stepping stone in their budding careers, the Smith kids are well on their way to becoming Hollywood’s most distinctively unique and dominant forces in media. Play on, Smiths! Play on!

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Kylie’s Love Triangle: Jaden or Tyga? Wed, 08 Oct 2014 19:40:10 +0000 rconway

(Photos from left: Daniel Tanner/, Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MTV, Han Myung-Gu/WireImage)

By Moriba Cummings

Another day, another Kardashian headline. Well, she’s not technically a “Kardashian” per se, but you catch my drift. The youngest of the professional vocal frying clan, Kylie Jenner has been the subject of headlines across all gossip and celebrity media outlets sparked by her young [rumored] love triangle involving rapper Tyga and emo rich kid-turned-emcee Jaden Smith. While we’re glad that Kylie has choices — she’s definitely a beautiful young woman — we’re hoping she makes the right one. So, in the name of young celebrity puppy love, here’s why we believe Kylie should choose Jaden over Tyga.

Without a doubt, it cannot be overlooked that Kylie Jenner recently turned 17. That’s minor status, which means that 24-year-old Tyga can possibly catch a case for meddling with an underage female. We get that the mantra within the tight-knit young Hollywood community — especially involving all things Kardashian — is that “older money is better money,” but when your father is the Will Smith, money really isn’t a concern. Aside from being the son of a film icon, Jaden Smith is also within Kylie’s age bracket [he’s 16], which gives the reality star a relatable sounding board when venting about what color she should dye her hair next (I kid, I kid).

Secondly, if reports of Kylie dating the Young Money signee are true, she should prepare to deal with a hefty load of baggage — much too hefty for a teenager to bear. On top of his split from ex-fiancée and former stripper Blac Chyna — who is friends with Kylie’s big sis Kim Kardashian — the rapper has a soon-to-be 2-year-old son who, though incredibly adorable, may prove to be too much for 17-year-old Kylie to handle. Plus, can you image dating your famous big sister’s BFF’s ex-lover? Awkward.

Thirdly, if Jaden and Kylie share no mutual interests at all, there is definitely one thing that they both innately relate to: having famous parents. Jaden Smith comes from arguably one of the most revered families in Black and global entertainment alike, with a mother and father whose careers span almost 30 years all while managing to remain relevant in the process.

Analogously, Kylie Jenner is the daughter of an Olympic legend and a notoriously savvy business and marketing genius — Kris Jenner, who managed to create a multi-million dollar empire all off of the heels of a poorly shot sex tape! With Jaden descending from Hollywood royalty and Kylie from, well, reality TV royalty (?) — stay with me, now — they both know what it’s like to be the object of scrutiny both on a first and secondhand basis.

At 17, one should really only have a few life concerns, none of which should include dealing with the quintessentially cliché baby mama drama which continues to plague some of music’s most affluent acts. By choosing Jaden Smith over Tyga, the only worry that Kylie is likely to face is which filter to apply before posting their enviably adorable cheek-to-cheek selfies to Instagram.

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Why Kendrick Lamar Can Do No Wrong Right Now Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:59:27 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Bud Light)

By Jake Rohn

If there’s one thing social media has highlighted, it’s that you can’t please everyone. For as long as it’s been imbedded in popular culture, hip hop has always been one of music’s most polarized genres, where the underground and the mainstream fans have never seen eye to eye.

Kendrick Lamar dropped a new single yesterday titled “I.” The song sampled The Isley Brothers’ should classic “Who’s That Lady” and was a noticeable departure from K. Dot’s earlier work, which was typically darker in theme with slower paced, more ominous production. Additionally, “I” boasts a positive message, encouraging the listener to love his or her self.

It was a page out of Andre 3000’s playbook and yet many people were disappointed that the song wasn’t what they “expected.” When it comes to today’s commercial music, there are more followers than ever before. How many new rappers do you hear on the radio that you have to ask “Is that Future?” How many songs that talk about the same thing (Molly, turning up, and spending money at the club) can really be considered innovative at this point?

While some will undoubtedly continue to hate on the “Swimming Pools” rapper, they’re missing the bigger picture. This song is going to expand Kendrick Lamar’s fan base exponentially. When Kanye West released 808s and Heartbreaks back in 2008, a lot of people hated on him. But then a year later many of those same people acted like they liked the experimental album all along. Same thing with the aforementioned Andre 3000 when he dropped the pop sensation “Hey Ya” back in 2004. Now he’s lauded as an experimental genius.

Some people also had a problem with how commercial or radio friendly the song sounded but let’s not forget, Eminem does the same thing with each of his multi-platinum albums: Lure the top 40 crowd in with the marketable single and then hit them with a deep and sonically dynamic album.

Overall Kendrick Lamar has no reason to even pay attention to what people think about “I” because he’s on a higher level creatively and he knows it. The man made a classic first album without a single beat from Dr. Dre, and has shown a level of versatility that has helped expand his fan demographics in a way that no one has since Drake. “I,” while not what people are used to is the representation of Kendrick’s growth as an MC and as an overall musician. His flow is sick, his melodies are on point and he’s not scared to be positive and promote self-esteem. Maybe that’s something that not everybody will ever understand, or maybe they just don’t love themselves enough.

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‘The Run’ May Be Over, But The Race Is Just Beginning Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:43:06 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood Entertainment)

by Moriba Cummings

Now that the “running” is over, and the smoke has cleared, Beyoncé and Jay Z return to their rightfully earned thrones as the reigning Queen and King of music. But while this closed chapter may signal a seemingly expectant sabbatical to some — who could forget the 2012 and 2013 Beyhydration? —  it is only the beginning of an even greater plan for world domination for a couple that does nothing by chance.

Before the immensity of their next plans can be addressed, one cannot dismiss the historical blockbuster success that was their latest joint venture, the On The Run Tour. Marking perhaps the first trek of its magnitude to reach such massive levels of gross and acclamatory success, the stadium-set collaborative tour saw Bey and Jay raise the bar not only for their musical counterparts, but also for themselves. Grossing just above $100 million following its September wrap-up, the tour stands as the second highest-grossing tour in history, only bested by U2’s 360 Tour, which only snagged the top spot due to its almost tripled duration — the On The Run Tour was only set to last the summer of 2014.

So what does such a historically momentous feat say about each of these megastar’s respective and collective legacies? The answer’s simple: They get it; It being the rarely unlocked recipe to eternal success in a business that is notorious for its “eat you up and spit you out” branding. Beyoncé and Jay Z have carefully chosen and calculated each and every decision they made throughout their respective careers with the ultimate intention of having longevity of the grandest degree, and that is just what they’ve achieved.

From unexpectedly releasing record-breaking — and unleaked — albums in the late hours of the night to signing music distribution deals with some of the largest technology conglomerates in the world, Beyoncé and Jay Z have written a new book of new rules that, quite frankly, applies exclusively to them.

Now that they’ve achieved the once impossible, many are curious as to what could possibly be next for the first couple of music. While the choices are endless, the most feasible and organic would have to be a joint album, which would be ideally produced just off of the heels of their recently ended season-long collabo. Though this may seem to be the inconceivable dream of an overzealous Jayoncé stan, the practicality of this occurring is much more likely than one may expect.

Just days after emotionally closing the curtains to their summer stadium gig, news has surfaced about a joint album being in the works, courtesy of DJ Skee. Though the age-long attribution of “multiple sources” should be taken with a grain of salt, this rumor is actually quite believable. After all, that is how the clamor about the On The Run Tour first started before any official confirmation was issued to the public.

While professionally, this only seems like the most natural course of events, especially since both have just recently released solo projects of their own, “expect the unexpected” has always remained the mantra for the private couple.

Though the stage is indubitably their shining glory, their personal lives must go on, prompting many to inquire what’s next for the Carter family. While some are absurdly suspecting that divorce is on the horizon — can we just let Black love flourish? — others are deducing the possibility of another little one coming along to accompany the afro-stuntin’ Blue Ivy. Though the recent baby watch monitors and macro-zoom lenses are, in fact, in vain — have you seen these recent snaps of Yoncé? —  the possibility that pregnancy could occur in the coming months, or even years, is definitely there. Just imagine a lil’ Jigga adding to the Carter dynasty!

With all that has happened for Beyoncé and Jay Z in this past year, it goes without saying that they sit as music’s most powerful forces singularly, and when combined, the magnitude to their opulence is indefinitely unmatched. With the future standing as one infinitive question mark, there is one thing that will never be in risk of changing: Beyoncé and Jay Z’s legacy as the reigning King and Queen of all things entertaining.

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Why CeeLo Is Dead Wrong About Rape Thu, 04 Sep 2014 14:21:54 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Caesars Entertainment)

By Kellee Terrell

All hell broke loose when Cee Lo Green, former coach for The Voice and “Forget You” singer, took to Twitter this weekend after he plead “no contest” to slipping ecstasy in a woman’s drink. Her rape charges were dismissed last year. He wrote:

When someone [breaks into] a home there is broken glass. Where is your plausible proof anyone was raped? If someone is passed out they’re not even WITH you consciously” … “People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!..So if I TRIED but did NOT succeed but the person said I DID then what really happened?”


Soon after (with much backlash) Cee Lo deleted those tweets and his account, but came back on Monday to “clear” things up and “apologize”:

“Let me 1st praise god for exoneration fairness & freedom! Secondly I sincerely apologize for my comments being taken so far out of context…I only intended on a healthy exchange to help heal those who love me from the pain I had already caused from this. Please forgive me as it was your support that got me thru this to begin with. I’d never condone the harm of any women. Thank you”

Um…Cee Lo, what exactly was taken out of context?

How does spewing sexist and archaic views about rape create a “healthy exchange” for those who need to heal? One person who needs to heal is your victim and thanks to the justice system that dismissed her rape case and offered you a deal, the last thing she needs is to be re-victimized on Twitter for millions to see.

It’s sad, that despite all the money you spent on a big-time lawyer, you still have no clue about the law, which makes me think you probably broke it.

Lack of evidence of a struggle (i.e. your “no broken glass” comment) or whether a victim remembers her attack doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped. Think: It’s pretty hard to fight back if you are unconscious and even harder to remember if you are drugged.

Just ask *Jada: The 16-year old Texas girl who courageously shared her story of being raped at a party after being slipped a drug in her drink. She passed out and never knew she was sexually assaulted until she saw the pictures and videos of her assault online weeks later.

But given your logic, Jada wasn’t really raped. Yet, I wonder with the same audacity and bravado that you had on Twitter, would you tell that to her face? Or better yet, would you tell the boys that raped her, that “it’s all good” ‘cause she didn’t remember?

Dude, I dare you.

See Cee Lo, rape is much more complicated than using physical violence against women or her saying, “No.” If a woman is impaired due to alcohol and drugs (regardless of slipping a drug in her drink); a debilitating substance; or a health issue, she can’t consent to sex. If she’s unconscious (let’s say, passed out because she was slipped a drug or in a coma), she can’t consent to sex either.

And if you “succeed” at having nonconsensual sex with a woman, you’re a rapist. And if you try, but “don’t succeed” (as you so eloquently stated) at having nonconsensual sex, well then you’ve attempted rape. And IF these are behaviors you (or any other reader partakes in), then let me be clear: You cannot be trusted around women.

Why? Because you’re a sexual predator.

So Cee Lo, if you aren’t really a rapist like you claim, do us all a huge favor. Stop sounding like one.

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The Ever-Living Legacy of Michael Jackson Fri, 29 Aug 2014 20:03:42 +0000 rconway (Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

(Photo: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

By Moriba Cummings

Today (Aug. 29) marks what would have been the 56th birthday of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. While every year on this very day, since his death, an influx of commemorative articles and think pieces chronicling the legend’s life swarm the Internet, I think it would be best to take a different route in remembering the immortality of his legacy by highlighting his inadvertent contribution to today’s biggest acts even after his passing.

“Legendary” is not a term that is lightly tossed around or simply added as a prefix to an “iconic” figure’s name — note to music aficionados and stan bases alike: “iconic” and “legendary” are not synonymous. Rather, it is considered an expression or title that is earned when the necessary channels of longevity, iconicity and inspiration are all combined. Only a handful of acts — if so many — in today’s music landscape can compare remotely, or are indirectly en route to being stationed in the legendary likeness of the King of Pop.

The first, and perhaps most obvious being the jane and master of all trades, Beyoncé. We know of the megastar from her larger-than-life performances, powerhouse vocals, unparalleled beauty and humble persona, but many remain ignorant of MJ’s approval of the pop star’s abilities.

While he was alive, Jackson, on many occasions, expressed his admiration for the then-budding icon, and, in return, she has cited him as her ultimate inspiration and musical muse. From her soulfully intricate choreography to the recently implemented cinematic makeover of her visuals — see her entire BEYONCÉ album — Queen Bey is likely to be the heiress to the royal throne.

Also outwardly inspired by the king is pop force Justin Timberlake. While music has its fair share of male MJ impersonators, only a select few do him justice without directly producing a carbon copy of the original recipe. JT has never been mum about the pop legend’s heavy hand in his performance and music style, but he has made it much more apparent on his third studio release, The 20/20 Experience.

Flaunting the snappy yet groovy production that Jackson indirectly created in “Strawberry Bubblegum” to the quickened melodies of “Cry Me a River” and “Tunnel Vision,” JT has had a little bit of the king sprinkled into his craft from the get-go.

Lastly, exempting the last three or four years, is R&B/pop comeback kid — fingers crossed — Chris Brown, who undoubtedly boasts a Jackson-esque air of performance perfection that does not come by often. Though, much like Jackson, he may not possess the most powerful voice among his musical counterparts, he more than makes up for it in his overall performance package, amplified largely in part by his hardcore dancing, elaborate stage setups and innate ability to please a crowd. In a music circuit that sees a new microwaveable MJ hot pocket heated up and subsequently devoured every year, Brown seems to last the test of time, regardless of what setbacks he may encounter along the way.

Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown — Though their respective stardoms shine at differing magnitudes, they all have vocally cited the ever-living entertainment force of Michael Jackson as the ultimate shining example of greatness. As we honor and celebrate his legacy on this day, we remember the age long saying that greatness of this immensity is often imitated, but never duplicated. Happy Birthday, King of Pop.

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What Problem?: Ariana Grande is Music’s New ‘It Girl’ Sat, 23 Aug 2014 18:14:17 +0000 rconway

(Photo: Larry Marano/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

By Moriba Cummings

Perhaps the most infamous superstition in the music industry is the fictitious yet credible myth of the sophomore slump. Artists, though they may say that “it’s never about the sales,” consider this the “make or break” moment of their careers. In the contemporary R&B/pop music circuit, stars such as Katy Perry (One of the Boys), Miguel (Kaleidoscope Dream), and Beyoncé (B’Day) have avoided the notorious curse with their sophomore releases, and pop’s newest chanteuse Ariana Grande is about to join the club.

After making an undeniable splash in pop music with her 2013-released debut Yours Truly, Grande managed to make the world listen, ditching the one-dimensional persona of “just an actress” that she diligently built over the years. Though many criticized the 21-year-old for her uncomfortably young look — which seems to be the opposite of what usually happens with today’s young stars — she made it work for her, making her powerhouse voice the focal point.

The album spawned its fair share of hits including the Mac Miller-assisted “The Way” and “Right There,” with Big Sean. While many definitely noticed Grande due to these popular cuts, it was the snappy “Baby I” which caught the world’s ears, prompting many to compare her tone to that of music great Mariah Carey; Many failed to understand how such a lush, distinctly full, and melodic voice emanated from the pint-sized package that the singer so modestly fashions.

In no time, following the instantaneous successes of her first three singles, the budding pop princess was ready for her closeup. Her debut album Yours Truly dropped on August 30, 2013, topping the Billboard 200, making her the first female artist to do so in three years. But, when one starts at the top, the real challenge begins: finding a way to stay there.

While many seem to descend from greatness after such noteworthy success the first time around, a select few manage to make it an “I’m just getting started” moment, with Grande being one of them. Set for an August 25, 2014, release, the young belter’s sophomore album My Everything is already expected to be the exclusive end-of-summer soundtrack, and much of this carefully calculated formula to success is due to her strategic selection of singles and collaborators.

A first single can singlehandedly determine the overall performance of an album — It is, in essence, the first piece of an entire puzzle that is going to be shoved down the masses’ throats for months, so it better be good. It seems as Grande and her team kept this sentiment in mind when choosing the right cut, all while strategically integrating another hot newcomer into the mix to make it an undeniable smash. Hot off the heels of her mega-hit “Fancy,” Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea jumped on board the actress-turned-singer’s first single “Problem,” and the impact was massive. Immediately following its release, the single skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot on the iTunes singles chart, and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning the singer her biggest digital song sales week ever.

Maximizing on the hype garnered from “Problem,” Grande released the hugely popular dance number “Break Free,” three months later. Like its predecessor, the high-octane Zedd-assisted number shot to No. 1 on iTunes and No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While building her brand and expanding her promotional regime for her upcoming album with these singles, the young singer knew that there were more whom she could reach through other avenues. Hence, she teamed up with UK vocal beast Jessie J, and hip hop’s reigning queen Nicki Minaj for the girl power anthem “Bang Bang” which benefitted from the Midas touch — perhaps, it should be renamed the Ariana touch — snagging the No. 1 spot on iTunes in a matter of minutes following its release. It currently sits at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

So, with three singles in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 — two of her own, and one feature, — an upcoming opening number at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, and the cover of Billboard magazine, it’s safe to say that Ariana Grande has found the rare antidote to the sophomore slump. With this in her possession, the release of her second full length LP My Everything on August 25 is sure to be another one for the books, and at the steady rate that the chart-topper is going, it looks like pop music is gearing up to crown its new princess.

  • [wpaudio url="" text=" PLAY - Its All God" dl="0"]
  • [wpaudio url="" text=" PLAY – “You Make Me Feel Holiday” – J. Moss featuring Faith Evans" dl="0"]
  • PLAY – Its All God

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    Celebrity Reactions to Michael Brown: The Dialogue Must Continue Mon, 18 Aug 2014 22:14:20 +0000 rconway (Photos from Left: Mirrorpix/Splash News, Kevin Winter/Getty Images For 102.7 KIIS FM's Wango Tango, Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

    (Photos from Left: Mirrorpix/Splash News, Kevin Winter/Getty Images For 102.7 KIIS FM's Wango Tango, Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

    By Moriba Cummings

    The role of “the celebrity” is, essentially, a job. Though unorthodox in relation to the average nine to five, it comes with the same dose of professionalism and apt outward expression in given situations. In the wake of the recent murder of 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri, teen Michael Brown, however, several celebrities have ditched their politically correct facades and let their authentic selves breathe, airing out their thoughts on the situation, with some opinions receiving more public support than others.

    While some celebs, though their intentions may have been positive, seemed to rant with no thesis to their statement, several others have logically made successfully fleshed-out points in the argument against Michael Brown’s shooting. Most notably, rapper and philanthropist David Banner made it an effort to continue his past dialogues about Black-on-Black crime, redirecting his focus to that of Brown’s murder.

    “White cops do not see value in young, Black men,” he said to CNN’s Don Lemon. “And the reason why a lot of young, Black men — not all Black men — kill each other is because they don’t see any value either.”

    Also extending support for Brown on the music front is J. Cole, who decided to take the less common approach of saving his words and, instead, actively taking a stance. The “Crooked Smile” rapper flew to Missouri and visited the actual site where Brown was murdered. Several accounts from bystanders stated that the MC also appeared at a memorial demonstration dedicated to the teen on Sunday. In addition to his in-person support, J. Cole also released a track titled “Be Free,” which was specifically dedicated to Brown.

    Another Hollywood A-lister who has vocally advocated against this recent crime of injustice is Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams, who passionately shed light on the inferior treatment inflicted upon African-Americans by authorities, even pointing out that the media is not telling the “full story.” He also touched on the unfair stigmas placed on people of color when, in the wider scheme of the American story, White America is more likely to commit acts of violence than Black America.

    “I think we have to talk about the narrative and make sure we’re starting at the beginning,” he said during an appearance on CNN. “You will find that people doing the oppressing often want to start the narrative at a convenient point…this started with a kid getting shot and killed and left in the street for four hours. I’ve never seen a white body left in the heat for four hours in the sweltering heat.”

    In addition to Banner and Williams, several other respected celebrities shared their perspectives on the Michael Brown killing, ranging from John Legend respectfully — and oh so effectivelyclapping back at IBNN News, who recommended that the “All of Me” singer “stay in his lane,” to media mogul and fellow St. Louis native Kimora Lee Simmons, who offered to fund the slain teen’s funeral in its entirety.

    While the majority of Black Hollywood seems to stand united in the quest towards justice for Michael Brown and the fights against police brutality in Ferguson, a select few have taken heat for their less than respected opinions. One of these devil’s advocate contributors is ATL rapper B.o.B., who recently came under heat from the public after calling out supporters of Brown for their “double standards” on violence.

    Taking to Twitter, the source where words can be deleted just as fast as they can be posted, the “We Still in This B—h” MC shared his unpopular opinion with his millions of followers.

    “So Antwon will shoot 12 people in a week and tall [y’all] be like ‘FREE TWON!’ a cop shoot a n—a and ya’ll riot….ok….#facts,” he tweeted.

    After this brief rant, he later targeted Twitter protestors, concluding that they are all pomp and circumstance and, in essence, pseudo-activists advocating for a cause that they will not take any action to ultimately rectify.

    “Ya’ll ain’t gonna REVOLT!!! I bet ya’ll won’t overthrow the government of [or] nothing!!! All you gonna do is TWEET!” he wrote.

    Following the slew of hateful comments aimed at his intelligence, supposed failing music career and knowledge on the Michael Brown/Ferguson situation at large, Bobby Ray removed the sequence of tweets from his profile.

    While opinions among celebrities are nothing new, regardless of the stance taken by each figure, it is refreshing to finally see this dialogue being had. Too often, media figures choose to adopt a stance of neutrality or extend a politically correct response in an effort to refrain from ruffling any feathers, when, in fact, this is the time when feathers need to be unapologetically ruffled as our race is being victimized under the wider context of a few scattered shootings;  these shootings carried out by those whose main order is to “protect” us all. So, regardless of your stance — though we would prefer if you would stand with us rather than against us — please continue to speak out so that progress can be made for the greater good of our people.

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