I finally have it, and I love it: SZA’s CTRL

It’s finally here ya’ll!! SZA finally released her debut album ‘CTRL’ June 9th and I have had it on repeat ever since. I’ve literally been bumping it all week and it’s one of the most solid albums to be released this year. SZA did not disappoint, exploring the themes of infidelity, loneliness, heartbreak, abandonment, sex, and the insecurities that come along with being in your 20s; SZA brings along Kendrick Lamar, and Travis Scott for the ride as well. I have to be honest here, this album really had me all in my feelings. When I say in my feelings, I really mean it too. It’s a very raw, self-reflective album and although this is her story, it’ll feel like yours too. It’s not often an entire album brings tears to my eyes, but SZA accomplished just that; especially with my favorite song on the album. ‘Drew Barrymore’ (yes, like the actress), is track number 4 and it has a very somber tone. SZA paints a picture of a relationship that has run its course, but both parties stay because it’s better than being lonely. Another favorite, titled ‘The Weekend’, is set over a 90s R&B beat and explores what it’s like being the other woman: “You’re like 9 to 5, I’m the weekend, make him lose his mind on the weekend. You take Wednesday, Thursday then just send him my way, think I got it covered on the weekend”. When asked about the song SZA said: “…I’m saying that…we all share the same dude…None of us is his girl. All of us are just out here trying to get different things for different reasons. And my particular reason is just getting here and do what you said you were gonna do”

One of my favorite songs, Love Galore, was the only song with a video so far before yesterday's Drew Barrymore release. On this track, SZA is accompanied by Travis Scott. The video is great and starts with Travis being tied to the bed and ends with… well, the video is posted below so you’ll have to watch but as far as the song goes I think it’s something most of us can relate to. Going back. You know what I’m talking about! Going back to that guy or girl you know you SHOULDN’T go back to. Going back for seconds when you know that person isn’t good for you, and maybe you’re not good for them. Going back when you both know there’s no love there anyway. That’s the essence of this song and even though the subject matter is kinda heavy, it’s still a song you can dance to.

In fact, that’s the beautiful thing about this album, the whole thing is heavy but it’s nothing you can’t vibe to. You can find her album wherever it is you get your music from.

 

I just want to say goodbye to Chris Cornell

Anyone that knows me knows that I love rock music. Rock n roll was my first love and I came into it the same way a lot of kids do: as a way to rebel against their parents or any authority. I grew up listening to funk, jazz, and gospel mostly and wasn’t really allowed to listen to anything else secular. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio without my parent's supervision even. But that all changed one day when I was about 10 years old and my mom put on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ record.  From there I got into different genres and different bands; from heavy metal to punk rock to grunge, I ate it all up. I even took guitar and drum lessons so I could play like my idols. Speaking of grunge, though, even though I am a Detroit native there was a time where I lived out in Los Angeles and had to attend high school there. It was then that I discovered grunge music. My friend Denise and Will were both heavy into grunge and through them, I got into Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam (my favorite) and Soundgarden. Soundgarden is the reason I am writing this piece or, I should say, Chris Cornell, is actually. 

I’m still very much in shock but it is with an incredibly heavy heart that I wish one of rock’s greatest vocalists goodbye. Hours after Soundgarden performed, from what I hear was an AMAZING show at the FOX Detroit, Chris Cornell was found dead in his MGM hotel bathroom. His death is currently being ruled a suicide by hanging. He is the fourth front man of a grunge band to die following Kurt Cobain, Layne Stanley, and Scott Weiland. This one really hit me hard honestly, not only because Soundgarden was one of the heavy hitters that ushered in the era of grunge but just because, as cliche, as it sounds, their music and Cornell’s voice just got me through a lot of hard shit. I don't talk about it a lot but I grew up with two drug addicted parents in not so nice conditions. So the heavy riffs and guitar solos with Cornell’s almost bluesy soulful voice leading the way was comforting .Even though grunge itself is very brash and sometimes dark, Cornell brought a beauty and vulnerability to Soundgarden's music that resonates with 15-year-old Courtney. Grunge itself is unique in that way I would say, coming out of an era where we saw a lot of bands with big hair, leather pants, and sexy video girls; grunge was still abrasive but the lyrics were also introspective and would cover topics like suicide, hunger, and relationships. One of my favorite songs is actually Temple of the Dogs 'Hunger Strike'. The lyric "I don't mind stealing bread from the mouth of decadence" is probably my favorite thing anyone has ever said in a song. And growing up poor I heard that and thought yeah ok maybe some people do care about us not so fortunate souls. The subject matter of their music ranged from political, to poetic, to sad to angry. And, also, without Soundgarden, my favorite band, Pearl Jam, may not have even existed! 

In 1991 Cornell also started a bit of a supergroup called Temple of the Dog with Stone Gossard on rhythm guitar, Jeff Ament on bass, Mike McCready on lead guitar, and Matt Cameron on drums with Eddie Vedder providing backup vocals. He started Temple of the Dog as a tribute to the late Andrew Wood who was the lead singer of Mother Love Bone. It was a year later, in 1992, that Gossard, Ament, McCready and Vedder would form Pearl Jam. Chris Cornell started the band Soundgarden in 1984 with bandmates Hiro Yamamoto and Kim Thayil. Hailing from Seattle, the band was one of the first to usher in the era of grunge music. He formed Audioslave in 2001 and released four solo albums from 1999 to 2011. Cornell also co-wrote and performed the James Bond theme song in Casino Royale and received a Golden Globe nomination for his song 'The Keeper' which appeared in the movie ‘Machine Gun Preacher’. Cornell was a very talented musician with a big voice and an extensive songwriting catalog.

I can’t believe he’s gone and I am not even sure what I want to say here. I’m fucking sad and don’t wanna dive too heavy into the band's history. There isn’t much I can say about Chris himself that you can’t learn about in interviews and articles and archival footage either. I guess it’s just one of those things where you try to process and understand(?). Maybe I’m writing this to get it out into the universe and maybe wherever Chris is, it’ll reach him along with prayers, and well wishes. It’ll reach him and he’ll know he didn’t leave here without making an impact. 

I’ll leave you with five faves of my songs from his very long career

Black Hole Sun- DUH

Flower

Hand of God

Tears to Forget

Drawing Flies

 

Ditch the Dream

Despite the title of my article, I am not about to tell you to give up on on whatever dreams you may have. Give me a minute to explain.

Earlier this month I was browsing the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble when I came across the part Auto-biography, part motivational book ‘Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rhimes. Yes THAT Shonda Rhimes! The Shonda Rhimes that owns Thursday night television, the Shonda Rhimes that graces us with Viola Davis’ wonderful presence on ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and who owns a production company that she named after herself!! Honestly, this woman has broken many barriers and achieved quite a bit. So you can imagine my shock when I read her speech she gave to the 2014 graduating class of her Alma Mater Dartmouth University where she says those exact words in the title. “Ditch the Dream!

I was super duper confused as to why a woman who has clearly gone above and beyond accomplishing her dreams would say such a thing to doey eyed, still wet behind the ears college grads! The answer is quite simple.

Dreams are nice to have. It’s nice and easy to dream and dream about all the things you wanna do and wanna be in the future. But the bottom line is, the future, my dears, belongs to the doers not the dreamers. It doesn’t matter how often you dream of writing that book if you never actually write that book. You have to make a conscious decision to take the steps necessary to achieve whatever it is that has you staring out into the distance day in and day out. Therein lies the key. Take the steps. Whatever it is you think you need to do to get the ball rolling to make your dreams a reality.

For example, one thing that has begun to work for me is to surround myself with people who also have dreams but are actively working towards them. By doing this I feel inspired and motivated to keep on pushing toward my goals. Also writing down my goals so that they are laid out clearly before me helps as well. Setting realistic goals and even sometimes giving myself a deadline (also realistic) to complete them is an immense help. Whether they are short term goals or long terms goals I write them in my notebook and then figure out how I can accomplish them. A goal for the week may be to write a poem each day. Or by the end of the week have a list of at least five resources that can help me develop my craft as a writer, such as local workshops or open mic poetry nights. Obviously I use writing as an example because that is how I hope to pay my rent one day. But this is something you can tweak and apply to whatever it is you dream about. And you know, admittedly I am not big on self help motivational type things but this is a book I would recommend and I really appreciate. Just reading that part about dreaming has really helped me out. Until I read that I was really under the impression that if I just kept dreaming everything would fall into place. It sounds silly and I feel silly typing that here for you to read but its true. Everyone I look up to go to where they were because of old fashioned hard work and perseverance. Don’t know about you but this was very comforting to me in a day and age where it seems as though all you need is a pretty porcelain face and larger than average backside to get any recognition. No shade *winky face* but its true! It seems like everyday there’s a new celebrity or whatever with no actual talent being force fed to us via TV. and other forms of media. These people seemingly come out of nowhere and get paid millions of dollars just to stand there. That can be very discouraging to those of us who pour our blood sweat and tears into our crafts and seem to get nowhere. That shouldn’t deter you; hard work shows. Hard work pays off in the end. And in the end you will be able to honestly say you made your dream a reality with just your own two hands and a dream.  

A Brief Letter on Black Sisterhood: Blk Girl Soldier

Earlier this week I was avoiding responsibilities and scrolling through tumblr, when I came across a song by this woman Jamilah Woods called Blk Girl Soldier. Yes, the same Jamila who appeared on Chance the Rapper’s Sunday Candy.

Blk Girl Soldier was written and sang by Miss Woods. The song is basically about the strength and courage black women have always had standing up for our people. She also touches on how society often erases black women whether it’s the mainstream praising black female features on non black bodies or even our men who often overlook us. I love this song and Jamila’s jazzy voice, and the video is cool too. In the video she’s accompanied by two younger black girls as her backup dancers. She also pays homage to Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and a few other women who had the courage to fight for their rights. This song is right on time for me as I am well aware how even though black women have been at the forefront of most of our people’s revolutions, we have been erased from the conversation. Or even blamed for the downfalls our communities, even still we continue to work hard and fight hard for a better day and I think this song is a perfect example of how tenacious we are. Of how important sisterhood is, especially for us!

jaimla

I find this song to be inspirational as well as healing; I find myself playing it at least once a day now. Check Jamila out on her website jamilawoodswrites.com and you can watch the video for Blk Girl Soldier above.

Jesse Williams AKA: Activist Bae

As made evident by the title this article was supposed to be about Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams and his gut punching speech he gave at the BET awards. It still is. But as I type this Black America has experienced yet another traumatic murder of one of our brothers at the hands of police. So, in my mind at least, Jesse’s speech is even more relevant and poignant in the wake of this. Jesse was awarded the Humanitarian award but he dedicated it to “other activists, black women, and the struggling parents, the teachers who are realizing that a system built to divide, impoverish and destroy us, cannot stand if we do” He went on: “We’ve been looking at the data, and we know police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s gonna happen is, we’re gonna have equal rights and justice in our own country or we’re gonna restructure their function and ours” Translation: Either give us due process and convict these officers OR we will have to come at ya’ll a different way and tear this system apart from the inside out. WHEW BABY!!   At least, that’s what I got out of it. His speech even inspired Alice Walker. Earlier last week she published a poem inspired by Jesse and his speech:

the beauty that scares you

-so you believe-

to death

For he is certainly gorgeous

and he is certainly where whiteness

to your disbelief

has not wandered off

to die.

No. it is there, tawny skin, gray eyes,

a Malcolm-esque jaw. His loyal

parents

may God bless them

sitting proud and happy and no doubt

amazed

at what they have done.

For he is black too. And obviously

with a soul

made of everything

Try to think bigger than you ever have

or had courage to do:

that blackness is not where whiteness

wanders off to die: but that it is

like the dark matter

between stars and galaxies in

the Universe

that ultimately

holds it all

together.

Ms. Walker stated the poem is about the fear of Blackness in white culture, but was also meant to praise Williams. Now, I have seen many different reactions to Jesse and his speech. Including someone starting a petition to have him fired for “hate speech against police officers and white people”. For me, though, the most offensive negative response came from within the black community itself. Dozens of posts bashing Jesse, saying he’s a poser, he’s only being listened to because he’s light skinned. People even putting him up against David Banner and Umar Johnson, saying he’s not saying anything they haven’t wondering why no one is listening to them. Well for one Umar is a big a liar and for two, who said people weren’t? Let me be clear: Jesse has been doing this since college. Let me take ya’ll back a lil bit.
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Are you being served?: An Experience with Waitressing

AS children we are taught early on the importance of being polite, and courteous towards other people. We were groomed in social etiquette and chastised when we exhibited rude behavior.  Therefore, if someone exhibits rude or disrespectful behavior towards us or even another person we become offended because we’ve always been taught that it’s not ok. So, then, can someone please explain to me why it’s ok to be rude and disrespectful to someone at their job?

Let me explain…

To support myself and my son I waitress at a mom and pop BBQ restaurant, it’s nothing too fancy but the food is good and so is the service. This past weekend was Father’s Day so we had a steady stream of customers coming in, but one table in particular stands out. A dad, a mom and toddlers (both boys) walk in and I welcome them in and go to grab a high chair for the youngest boy. The older boy wants to sit next to his younger brother so his father grabs another high chair and pretty much creates an obstruction in the aisle to appease his screaming child. Ok, fine. I take the drink orders and food orders. When the food is ready I bring it out and I check on them frequently, make sure their drinks stay full, and even made small talk (I hate small talk). Mind you, the whole time both kids are throwing food ALL OVER THE FLOOR, I know I’m gonna have to clean it up so I don’t stress about it. Their bill comes out to about $37 bucks, the dad pays with a card. I notice he doesn’t write anything on the tip line, so I look to see if he leaves anything on the table. He does.

$1.25

Yes, you read that right. A buck twenty-five. I cried in the bathroom. I work hard and I am good waitress and he left me $1.25. Who does that? Who comes in to your place of business and makes a huge mess and then only leave you $1.25 knowing you’re gonna have to clean it up after waiting on them hand and foot? RUDE PEOPLE. Rude people who don’t think about the fact I have to pay my bills. Or that I have worked 16 hours straight and haven’t gotten to sit down at all. Waitresses and waiters all have common stories and gripes so what follows are ways to not be a rude asshole to your serve Continue Reading

Chatter Box: My top 3 favorite podcasts

Recently I have got really into podcasts; I listen to them while I do the housework, while my little guy is napping, or while I’m driving around running errands. I just love good, meaningful conversations and hearing people’s stories. Here I have compiled a short list of my top 3 favorite podcasts; in no particular order of course.

Howard graduates Eric and Brittney are two friends that resides in Manhattan who one day decided “hey let’s start a podcast! These two have covered a range of topics from gentrification to Kanye Wests’ antics and convenient self-serving politics. What I love so much about this podcast is that it’s a really smart show. It’s a space for two black nerds to talk about stuff from a black nerds perspective. They delve deep into the topics they cover even if on the surface they don’t seem to be worthy of intellectual conversation. One of my particular favorites is the episode about sex education and how not only safe sex, but consent and how to have a healthy relationship should be topics covered in American schools. They recently did an episode so good I listened to it  three times; ‘Ida B Wells: B is for Boss’ is absolutely one of the most informative and critical conversations about Ida I have ever heard. Each episode is roughly 45 mins to an hour and they upload on a biweekly basis. Also, not that I’m biased or anything but Brittney is actually a fellow Detroiter, so that’s a plus.

This podcast’s name pretty much speaks for itself. Every Thursday, Youtube personality Kid Fury and co-host Crissle come to us and read celebs and public personalities their rights. They run through the week’s pop culture and political highlights and offer insightful and HILARIOUS, commentary. They also have a Black Excellence segment where they highlight an accomplishment by an African-American. I also really love a segment of the show where they read questions listeners send in to them. They’re pretty honest in their answers and advice to people, which I love. Plus there’s nothing more entertaining than other people’s drama.

OK this one is close to my heart only because it’s hosted by one of my favorite comedians and is the very first podcast I ever listened to. It is hosted by Marc Maron and most of the episodes are recorded in his garage and are free form conversations between him and old comedy buddies as well as musicians, politicians, actors, writers and directors. One notable guest was the POTUS himself! That’s right,  Barack Obama stopped by the “cat ranch” (so-called because Marc has a habit of taking in stray cats) and had an hour-long chat with Marc about politics, family, and good music. I like this one especially because it’s a real no bullshit type of interview. The conversations that happen in Marc’s garage are raw and honest and you get to see, or hear, the side of famous people who you wouldn’t normally get to. There have been more than a few tears shed in that garage.  A few of my favorites are his talks with Mike Myers, Louis C.K., Ms. Pat, Robin Williams, and Allie Brosh.