Reflection Friday: Remembering Nipsey Hussle

I cannot lie… I was not a fan of Nipsey Hussle’s music. Last year, I briefly skimmed through Victory Lap and despite my appreciation for conscious lyrics and catchy beats, it wasn’t long before I called it quits on the south L.A. rapper. Nonetheless, I remained intrigued by his complex persona. He rapped like a gang-banger and had the swag to match, but he spoke like an intellectual, entrepreneur and spiritual guru who was far from pliant, but loving and caring in his own way. The couple’s GQ spread explored the complex identity of a man who represented where he was from and used his perilous past to elevate both his consciousness and community.

While I was slowly growing fond of Nipsey through his social media presence via Lauren London, I did not know that he had captured the ears of millions already. Not only through his music, but also through his inspirtional conversations captured in magazines and interviews. His influence was much larger than Hip-Hop and extended to society and culture by making a difference in marginalized communities in south Los Angeles.

Following the path of mentor Jay-Z, Hussle’s vision to produce a Dr. Sebi documentary sought to bring change to the way we think about food and medicine. In the same way that the high-profile documentary “The Kalief Browder Story,” brought awareness to unjust incarceration practices in America, Hussle’s documentary was aiming to shed light on healing through food and cures for many diseases that cripple black communities . This unfinished project is just one of the ways Nipsey was using his success to spread knowledge and uplift blacks to achieve greatness.

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.” 

Marcus Garvey

Nipsey’s ideas regarding enlightenment and success are not new. His beliefs are consistent with many historic black leaders, like Marcus Garvey who preached about black consciousness and created the Black Star Line shipping company. Similarly, Nipsey Hussle pumped life into the community where he was born-and-raised through entrepreneurial endeavours like Vector 90, a co-working space for marginalized communities to work on their visions and share ideas. This is just one of many black-owned businesses Nipsey started and maintained with family members and aspiring artists. Through his work as an artist, investor, and entrepreneur, Nipsey challenged the black community to pursue economic freedom. Nipsey’s career is a blueprint for artists who are looking to go beyond the music and impact society in a positive way.

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I did not have to listen to Nipsey’s music to understand his philosophies and ideas. Throughout all of his work, there is a holistic message of knowledge, enlightenment, and love that is inspiring for everyone, especially for poor underrepresented communities. We may have lost another leader triumphing for change, but he accomplished the highest human act while doing so.

Drake, Lauryn Hill, and the women who make “Nice for What” an anthem

If there was one male artist to make an anthem for women, it would be the 6 God himself. From Take Care to Views, Drake has always used his emotional acumen to reflect and praise women for their beauty, brains and pussy power. You can expect no different from his latest single, “Nice for What,” where he uses two very different hip-hop queens followed up with a female star-studded music video to show love to revolutionary women and remind everyone who runs the world, GIRLS.

 

Drake samples Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-factor” to create a track that anyone would listen to for the mere adoration of Lauryn Hill herself. After her time with The Fugees, Hill quickly made a name for herself with her solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She could rap, sing, and had an ego of her own. On her live album, MTV Unplugged 2.0, she shared her experience with God, love, money, and motherhood. Lauryn captured her listeners with her simple perspective life led by God. On songs like, “Mr. Intentional,” and “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind,” she questions the power of traditional ideologies and leans toward a “lasting relationship without ownership.”

 

Drake sampling “Ex-factor” is more than a nostalgic sentiment but carries with it Lauryn’s perspectives on life, which makes the track more meaningful than it appears on the surface. In the same way that Lauryn rejects society’s ideologies, Drake challenges traditional female stereotypes when he says, “I know shorty and she doesn’t want no slow song.” Drizzy dismantles the stereotype that women only like slows jams. Instead, he skips the traditional man singing about what he’s going to do to his girl when he gets home kinda track to a song that liberates women with the help of Lauryn Hill and Big Freedia.

 

Throughout the song, Drake acknowledges the shift from a traditional woman to a revolutionary woman, who is independent and despite her line of work at the club, and her ability to “make that ass jump,” she isn’t required to be complacent to men or let men take advantage of her for the sake of pleasing them. A comparison can be made to the Harvey Weinstein effect taking over Hollywood in which women usually starting their careers were/are being taken advantage of by powerful men. “Nice for What” is a statement for women as Drake reminds us that women don’t owe men anything. Drake’s lyrics do not live up to Lauryn’s lyrical prowess, but he doesn’t try to. He lets the sample do the majority of the work.

 

By including vocals by the Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia, Drake tries to be inclusive of all women. Or perhaps, he points toward gender fluidity, in the words of Big Freedia herself, “I am not transgendered (sic); I am just a gay male… I wear women’s hair and carry a purse, but I am a man. . . I answer to either ‘he’ or ‘she.’” Whether Drake uses Big Freedia to experiment with New Orleans bounce scene, the song echoes sentiments of a revolutionary woman who makes her own rules like Big Freedia herself.

 

The track is followed up by a short film directed by a female, 22-year-old Karena Evans and features some of Hollywood’s revolutionary women: Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Letitia Wright, Olivia Wilde, and Emma Roberts. Again, with no explicit shout-out to the #MeToo Movement or #TimesUp Initiative, we can assume that if Drizzy attended the Golden Globes or Oscars earlier this year, he would have worn a Times Up pin on his suit. Rather than film a stereotypical music video, Drake is thoughtful and finalizes “Nice for What,” as a female anthem by displaying women who continue to challenge the status quo, in one way or another. From Jourdan Dunn who is a successful black British Model who broke many stereotypes for black models (like modeling while pregnant with her son) to Letitia Wright who plays the smartest Disney princess of all time with her role as Princess Shuri in Black Panther

 

Drake is a visionary who sees opportunities to expand his art by exploring all realms of hip-hop. He is also a businessman who can use trends as a business opportunity to make trendy music. Whether you believe his feminist anthem is authentic or an attempt to hop on a trend for monetary gain, it’s just “a song for ya’ll to cut up to, you know?”

 

The 2018 Grammys: A facade of diversity and inclusivity

This past Sunday, the 60th Grammy Award show took place in New York City. With a list of the most diverse nominations in history, I was led to believe that the 2018 Grammys would be a harbinger of change in the music industry and similar institutions. Instead, I watched the facade of diversity and inclusivity  vanish as the winners of the night proved that the Recording Academy could not give me the change that I wanted.

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SZA stops for a photo on the red carpet at the 60th Annual Grammys. Source

 

SZA dominated last year with her debut album Ctrl. So it was no surprise that the Grammys offered her a performance slot during the show, and 5 nominations, which made her the most nominated female artist of the night. On paper, I thought SZA was going to have a successful night, but somehow she managed to leave the show without a single award, including Best New Artist which had her name written all over it.

 

“Why bother me, when you know you don’t want me?” – Love Galore, SZA

 

Instead, Alessia Cara became the first Canadian-born artist to win Best New Artist. Alessia Cara is no longer a “new artist,” her first album came out two years ago and it didn’t garner the same level of popularity as Ctrl. Talk about rewarding diversity two years too late. Shout-out to Canada though!

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Bruno Mars and Cardi B perform “Finesse” at 2018 Grammys. Source

 

I don’t think anyone can be mad Bruno Mars for walking away with six trophies, he is soooo talented and most times he doesn’t get as much respect as he deserves. With that being said, the Recording Academy used Bruno Mars and his album that was “written with nothing but joy and one reason and for one reason only and that’s love,” to avoid awarding artists and albums that challenge dominant ideologies of women and people of colour. In other words, the Academy played it hella safe.

 

I would have liked to see Record of the Year go to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee for “Despacito.” The last time a song sung primarily in Spanish hit No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts was in 1996, with Los Del Rio’s “Macarena.” The Academy missed a big opportunity here to award diversity and inclusivity for the Latin community.

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The Carters at the 60th Annual Grammys. Source

 

I have nothing to say about the Jay-Z situation other than this . . . It should be against the “rules” to nominate an artist eight times and then let him leave the building with nothing. Why nominate the artist EIGHT times then? Why let Beyonce bring out her best hat and gown for no reason?

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Kesha shares the stage with recording artists Bebe Rexha, Cyndi Lauper, Kesha, Camila Cabello, Andra Day and Julia Michaels to sing “Praying” at the 60th Annual Grammys. Source

 

This brings me to Kesha because her performance was a culmination of a years-long comeback. Kesha performed her single “Praying” from her album Rainbow, which fit perfectly with the #MeToo and Time’s Up initiatives. Ironically, the Academy gave her a platform to address her abuse by Dr. Luke throughout her career, but at the same time undermined her message by losing in her category to the only male nominee for his song about praising a woman’s body.

 

It is for reasons like these that artists like Kanye West, Drake, Justin Berber, and Frank Ocean have stopped submitting their albums for review by the Recording Academy. The Academy continues to uphold traditional systems of power by awarding white men over women and people of colour. In doing so, the Grammys undermine talent and music made with social and cultural significance for the sake of playing it safe. What happens when more of the music industry’s stars shift power in their own hands and stop submitting their work for consideration? What happens when more artists decide that their work has cultural value and winning a Grammy does not?

 

I think they will get the point . . .Time’s up!

Travel: Bermuda is my favourite island, here’s why . . .

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Bermuda is one of those places I can visit to reflect and recharge my mind, body, and soul. Of course, everyone is different and you can reflect and recharge anywhere, but walking on pink sand beaches, floating on my back in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or sitting poolside while the sun enriches my melanin from head to toe has a unique way of waking me out of complacency and ready to set new goals.

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Besides the beautiful weather and climate that goes along with island life, the more I travel, my appreciation for the people I meet along the way continues to grow. There’s something about the retired women we stay with. They have a refreshing perspective on life that doesn’t consist of careers, money or Instagram. Last year, I started counting down the years until my 30th birthday, but Aunt Mary and the women at Sunny Isles remind me that age ain’t nothing but a number, and life is all about your perspective and attitude. Words that I’ve heard before but get forgotten with the fast-paced North Amercian lifestyle.

IMG_7525Besides everything sounds better drinking a glass of Dark & Stormy underneath the Bermudian sun.

 

 

What to stream on Netflix starting April 1

The last two weeks of March have been dedicated to March Madness and binge-listening Drake’s More Life. Just when you were going to start being productive with your life, Netflix will be releasing new content tomorrow, April 1. To save you some valuable time, here is a list of the top 7 Netflix Originals to stream before delving into recently added old time favs like Cool Runnings and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The Get Down: Part 2

The Get Down happens to be the most expensive Netflix Original series ever, which is probably why the hip-hop-centric drama only lasted for 6 episodes. Finally, we will be able to catch up The Get Down Brothers and Mylene in the streets of NYC in the late 70s. Streaming on Netflix  April 7.

Win it All

This film reminds me of Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler, except with a twist of comedy. Jake Johnson and Joe Swanberg co-wrote and produced the NETFLIX ORIGINAL starring comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Joe Lo Truglio. Streaming on Netflix April 7.

Sandy Wexler

After Ridiculous 6 and Do Over, the streaming giant and Adam Sandler are back at it again, but this time with Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson. This isn’t Dreamgirls 2, more like a showbiz mockumentary slash Pitch Perfect slash Empire musical.  Streaming on Netflix April 14.

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 1

“The Science Guy” is back to make everyday science easier for us to understand. After a few experiments and demonstrations, I may still even run to my mom and ask her something along the lines of  . . . hey did u know? Streaming on Netflix April 21.

Girlboss

Sophia Amoruso’s vintage clothing line Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy last year, but her journey to success landed her a spot as one of youngest women on Forbes list the Richest Self- Made Women, which is binge-worthy if u ask me. Streaming on Netflix April 21, 2017.

Dear White People: Season 1

After the success of the racially focused horror satire film Get Out, Justin Simien’s 2014 award-winning indie film and now streaming series couldn’t have come at a better time. Get ready for a politically, racially, funny satire series about blackness at an Ivy League school. Streaming on Netflix April 28.

Casting JonBenet

The suspenseful Netflix Original’s like, Making a Murder and Amanda Knox, turned viewers into detectives when trying to determine if Steven Avery and Amanda Knox are murders or victims themselves. Netflix will give us the opportunity to play detective again by mixing reality and fiction to explore the many possibilities leading to JonBenet’s death. Streaming on Netflix April 28, 2017.

‘More Life’ proves Drake to be a cultural leader in more ways than one

Drake’s More Life was tweeted about over 2.5 million times this weekend and hopefully, you have found time to binge-listen to the 22-track playlistMore Life experiments with UK grime, British vocals, dancehall riddims, and ATL-inspired trap within new parameters – created by the 6 god himself. 

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Drake’s More Life is good for music and culture. Source

Here are four reasons why Drake is an innovator of culture:

Nothing but Teenage Fever

Let’s be real, DraLo didn’t sit well with us. Even when we had receipts, the PDA wasn’t adding up and had people speculating a fake romance. Fake Love aside, after listening to Teenage Fever we all feel better that at least good music came from it. Teenage Fever is nostalgic as it takes us back to the early 2000s when J.Lo was still Jennifer Lopez and reminding us that Love Doesn’t Cost a Thing and R.Kelly was teaching us how to Step in the Name of Love. Samples from If You Had My Love is just one of the many samples throughout the playlist. In classic Drake style, he continues to use samples to create something familiar but at the same time something new.Continue reading “‘More Life’ proves Drake to be a cultural leader in more ways than one”

Travel Journal: Mont Tremblant 2017

Reminiscing on snowier days.

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This week has been a warm one, which means snowboarding season may be over until next year. For now, I’ll just reminisce about my weekend getaway back in January. Every year at the end of January my boyfriend and his friends go to Blue Mountain to celebrate his birthday. This year we said heck to tradition and went on a road trip six hours north to Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

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There’s something about being trapped in a moving car, headed forward for miles in one direction that is really therapeutic. Trying to grasp the beauty of the world before it’s all behind you or trying to find beauty in things that aren’t beautiful at all, becomes a one-player game that is interesting only once you have reached your data limit.

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For me, the car ride wasn’t long enough, but six hours later and we arrive at our chalet on a mountain apart of the ski resort. The first night we spent watching movies in front of the wood burning fireplace and eating junk food. The next day, after a ten-minute ski lift ride that felt like an intense cryotherapy session, I fell in love with winter. Once I landed on top of the mountain, I witnessed winter in all of its glory; with snow blowing off the ground and into the air, evergreens covered in fluffy snow, icicles hanging off the sides of signages and a frozen lake that could be seen at the bottom. I wish I captured more pictures, but my fingers froze as soon as I took my gloves off. Luckily my boyfriend was experimenting with his GoPro and he managed to capture footage of mostly himself + the breathtaking scenery.

 

‘Get Out’ is a refreshing satire about racism in Trump’s America

Spoiler Alert.

No.1 at the box office,“Get Out” is a social thriller that critiques society to help us #staywoke and challenge the boxes of racism and all the -isms Trump upholds. Along with some of my favourite satiric writers, like Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, Jordan Peele uses satire and dark humor to wake audiences out of complacency and notions that we deem as normal. With the recent success of black directors like Barry Jenkins and his film “Moonlight,” now Jordan Peele and “Get Out, black cinema has come a long way from Madea reunions to show diverse black perspectives. A few reasons why the film is refreshing:

The Other

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From the recent Muslim travel ban to the Black Lives Matter movement, anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in America can relate to the uneasiness Chris feels visiting his white girlfriend’s family’s house. As we cringed in our seats at the awkward racial comments Chris had to face, the film reminds us that generalizing the experiences of a race, culture or gender is a dangerous way of thinking as it leads to negative ways of reasoning, like Trump’s travel ban.

Slavery

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Chris is right, the slaves are weird as hell! As it turns out, the black people are not black people but mere vessels to hold the brains of white people. Peele forces us to experience awkward scenes of Chris seeking black kinship to show slavery in a different way that we are accustomed to. Rather than cotton picking slavery days like 12 years a Slave, black people are hypnotized and their bodies are used to fulfill the needs of white people. Peele’s film gives a new narrative to discuss systematic racism, which continues to be at the forefront of American discourse.

Timing

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Black History Month ended with signs of hope and change for America. Peele’s film needed to be released in Trump’s America, even better at the end of Black History Month and before the Oscars went from #SoWhite to #SoMoonLit a few days later. The release of “Get Out” provides a new narrative for Black History Month and the conversation of racism will not come to an end, like black history books, but continue going into the month of March.

Travel Journal: Where to stay in Phuket, Thailand

When visiting Thailand, I spent five days in Phuket at the Naka Phuket Resort, which was the perfect contrast from the noisy streets of Bangkok and the main streets of Phuket. The resort is located on a secluded hill facing a rocky beach front, where the crowded beach of Patong can be seen in the distance.

Designed by the internationally acclaimed Thai architect, Duangrit Bunnag, with the simplistic steel-framed matchbox villas, floor to ceiling wraparound walls of glass, cantilevering out from the mountainside, and bedrooms hanging between 6ft and 20ft above the ground below guests enjoy a sense of floating mid-air.

Not to mention, the service was impeccable with free shuttles to Patong Beach, fast room service, basically, anything we needed was provided promptly. Even when I forgot my cash deposit at the resort on the last day (yikes!), they called to inform me and arranged for someone to meet me at the airport to return the deposit.

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Solange’s new album proves she deserves ‘A Seat at the Table’

When Solange released her third studio album, A Seat at the Table, the comparisons started rolling in about who’s better Solange or Beyonce? It’s almost human nature to compare things, whether it’s Drake or Meek Mill, Warriors or Cavs, it’s enticing to compare and argue who’s better. But, when it comes to Bey and her younger sister, the conversation should not be about who’s better as the two artists are not comparable. Instead, the focus should stay on the ways Solange is empowering women to find independent success in an organic way without competing with the other Beyonces in the world, but against the best version of yourself.

Solange currently has the number one album in the country and has helped her sister break another record as the Knowles sister are the first sisters to ever have number one albums on the Billboard charts. A Seat at the Table displays Solange’s unique taste, from her sultry jazz-funk beats to her slow ballerina-like choreography. If there’s anything we can say about A Seat at the Table is that it seeks to empower women and it creates dialogue for standards for beauty, race, and gender. Taking steps away from toxic binaries, here are few things we have learned from Solange + A Seat at The Table:

Be authentic 

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Easier said than done, especially when your older sister is Beyonce Knowles and you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the same industry. In 2012, Solange released her ep True, which showcased her jazz-funk melodies and unique choreography to match her afros and New Orleans inspired wardrobe, circa Losing You  video. Four years later, Solange has found success by sticking to her style and staying true to herself.

Wait for it

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Solange shared that Cranes in The Sky was written 8 years ago, during a low time in her life and she waited for the perfect time to release the track rather than acting on emotion.  Relativity is so important in life, like waiting for the right opportunity to release a song when it can be a part of a bigger creative project rather than a single with no other hits to back it up. Taking advantage of an opportunity is so important, like waiting to release an audio clipping of  Donald Trump talking smack about women for when he’s running for president or like Kylie starting Kylie Cosmetics after she gets lip fillers and everyone cares to buy her lipstick. It’s all about timing people.

Don’t touch a black girl’s hair

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Gracing the cover of her third album with a bare-face and hair clips, Solange voices her opinion about ideas a black identity, in which black women have a deep connection with their crown. Tracee Ellis Ross, who is known for her larger than life personality and her hair to match, supports Solange’s message by imitating the album cover with a bare face, hair clips and all.

Freshly squeezed

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There’s nothing like a cup of freshly squeezed juice every morning to kick start your creativity, especially when that juice comes from a man who’s 23 years older than you. Solange’s hubby, Alan Ferguson, traveled with her to 70 states to co-direct music videos for A Seat at The Table. The two are creative directors of each other lives, from their wedding photos to A Seat at The Table, the 2 are equally creative and feed off of each other’s positive energy. We all need someone organic and true to support our visions in life.

Pull up a chair

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. . .and let’s talk about something more than who’s better, Solange or Beyonce. Solange’s third album is an inspiration for all independent women trying to create success for themselves. As Solange separates herself from the shadows of her superstar sister, we should stop placing her in a box. Like A Seat at the Table suggests, let’s have a discussion about issues of race and gender to reach higher limits and send a higher message to the world.