Black Music Month 2019

I love the month of June. It’s not only the start of summer, but it’s a celebration of Blackness. This tends to be mostly due to the honoring of Juneteenth. There are so many events now hosted in cities across the nation, for Juneteenth. A holiday that was mostly ignored up until 10 years ago.  There are parades, festivals, BBQs…and a Becky better not call 911 on not a one 😉 June is also a fun month because it’s a time to pay homage to the musical contributions Black folks have made in this country.

I think this year, Black Music Month, is even more exciting with the recent success of Lil Nas X. A rapper who throwed everyone off with his country hit, Old Town Road.  When Billboard and people tried to dismiss the song as not country enough, and that Lil Nas X had no place in country music, folks started dropping facts left and right about the fact that country music was created by Black folks. Lil Nas X has a right to be in the space more than any white country singer living or dead (yeah, I said it!)

Besides the triumph of Lil Nas X, June highlights the return of three OG r&b goddesses in the game: Ciara, Kelly Rowland, and Mary J Blige. The singers combined total over 60 years in the music industry(!) All three ladies have dropped new songs within the last month or so. And they show, they still got it going on.

Ciara: At 33, CiCi, is the youngest of the trio. CiCi is also my girl crush. She exudes a natural sexiness. It must be that Scorpio vibe. I’ve liked Ciara since Goodies. She picked up where sadly, Aaliyah, was not able to complete. Ciara brought the eclectic dance movies, fun uptempo songs, and sleek style. Since then, Ciara’s albums have been hit or miss to me, mostly miss. I did think her album Ciara was pretty good. It had the cut “Body Party,” once again showing the sensual side of Ciara. But the album got bogged down in the Future nonsense. Y’all already know that gossip 🙂 Ciara didn’t really promote the album and it was quickly forgotten.

I think CiCi has bounced back with another solid album. Beauty Marks marks Ciara’s point in her career of transitioning into adulthood (married w/two children), self- reflection, and taking it to the next level.  Although, ironically, her song “Level Up” is the song I liked least on the album. It worked my nerves, but I got the gist of what she was going for. My favorite tune (and the best on the whole album imo) is “Greatest Love.” I think because, yet again, CiCi knows how to do sexy. That is her strength.

I definitely recommend Beauty Marks to bump in your ride this sizzling summer.

Kelly Rowland: The underrated star of Destiny’s Child (yeah, I said it!), released an EP of three songs. Yep, three songs. But they all jam. The Kelly Rowland Edition features “Don’t You Worry,” “Diamonds, and “See Me.” “Don’t You Worry” is the highlight of the EP. If Rowland doesn’t come out with a video for this song. I don’t know what to say.  It’s a perfect summer tune. These songs are just a teaser for a full album that will be released later this year. I can’t wait to see what Rowland brings this time around. If these songs are any indication, it’s going to be a hot album!

Mary J Blige:  And last, but never least, the Queen of all things…Mary Jane Blige. Yes, I am a MJB groupie (that’s why she has the biggest picture 😉 Mary has had it on lock for over THIRTY YEARS. I’ll never forget Mary’s debut on Video Soul (Gen-Xers know what I’m talking about), with “You Remind Me.” I liked her right away.  No, Mary isn’t the greatest technical singer, but she has that thang that makes you want to hear more.  She connects to her music and knows her audience. She takes neither for granted, for the most part. Now Mary is back with her umpteenth hit with a little help from Nas (I can take him or leave him).  She’s gearing up for her 16th studio album. I know she is going to bring the heat. She’s Mary J Blige. Duh!

“All those sad songs don’t break me/just gave me a record year/Ooh, ooh. Ooh, ooh”

 

 

 

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The Strength of a Woman

Mary J Blige (MJB) released her album “Strength of a Woman” this past May. Like any good groupie, I got the album. To be honest, I only listened to it here and there. These are busy times. What I heard was decent. Generally, MJB tends to put out good albums. However, the other day I had a little down time and really listened to “Strength…” The album is actually pretty solid. It’s a reflective collection of music backed with heartfelt singing and killer production. It’s an amazing adult contemporary album for Black women in my age group (the Gen-Xers).

When it was announced that Mary was divorcing her husband of 12 years, folks said “uh, oh. Mary is going to be crying again on her next album.” Mary is known for singing about her relationships. As a die-hard fan of Mary of the 25+ years she’s been in the music industry,  I’ve come to the realization Mary is just a sensitive person. She wears her heart on her sleeve. I find her willingness to be vulnerable a rarity. The truth is,  love is some complicated mess. We all want it, whether we admit it or not. We want that deep love, that Love Jones love, that real love. I think Mary wants it more than anyone and it makes sense knowing her history. She has talked about being molested as a child, an on and off again relationship with her father, drug addiction, and relationship with guys who just didn’t know what to do with a girl/woman like Mary J Blige.

I remember in an interview, Mary talked about when she was a kid, other kids would fight to see who could sit by her or be her friend. She also recalled a time a teacher asked her to sing to help settle down the class, and it worked. There is something about Mary. I think because she’s an old/tender soul, that she has had to camouflage with street swag. The survival story of most Black women.

 

 

In the early years, a young Mary covered her eyes/was hiding. By mid-career (No More Drama, The Breakthrough) she was growing more confident. Now, with her 13th album, she is boldly proclaiming  “f*ck it, I’m Mary J Blige!” by sitting on her throne. 

Listening to the new album, yes Mary J is brokenhearted again. But unlike the other times she’s shared about failed love/the rhetoric of loving one’s self…she seems to have had a true epiphany of “oh well, shit happens. but i’m gonna be alright.”  The thing I love about Mary, is that she is constantly evolving. Mary has maintained she is a work in progress. Even when she got married and thought she found the love of her life, she warned folks that there is never really any happy endings. You always have to put in the work to be a better person.

While Mary has made some faux pas over the years (still cringing over that Burger King commercial and singing for Clinton), overall she’s been an inspiring person. She has been an iconic image for Black women like me who grew up in the 70’s/80’s. The 40-something Black women who know a little bit more about life than we did in our 20’s, but still learning and growing. Rock on MJB.

My current favorite song from “Strength…”

Surviving Compton

I’m a huge Mary J Blige (MJB) fan. I will never forget when her video debuted on Video Soul (old heads will know what I’m talking about). She had me at “you remind me…” So it pains me to have to besmirch her name. Just a little. While Blige has been credited with being the iconic voice of the merging of hip hop/soul music, spanning a 20+ career of record sells and awards, technically the honor should go to Michel’le.  Michel’le’s self-titled album was released three year’s before Blige’s in 1992. She really is the first r&b singer whose sound was heavily infused with hip hop music. This can probably be attributed to her boyfriend at the time, rapper/producer Dr. Dre.

Over the years, Michel’le has talked about her tumultuous relationship with Dr. Dre, stating he was very abusive towards her. When the film “Straight Out of Compton” came out last year, the allegations resurfaced. Most folks told Michel’le (and Dee Barnes) to shut up about their violent encounter(s) with Dr. Dre. Many felt that they should “let the past be the past” and that Dre had right to have his life story told.

Thank goodness neither Michel’le or Barnes listened to that nonsense. Barnes had an opportunity to tell her story via an online interview and now Michel’le will tell her side of things in the upcoming Lifetime movie, Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Me.” The movie will premiere this upcoming Saturday, October 15th.

Fitting it comes out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Finally, one of the first female contributors to hip hop/soul music, is getting her due.

#blackgirlmagic

Since black folks have been brought to this oppressive country, black women/girls have tried to find ways to create self-affirming spaces for themselves. The fascinating thing with a lot of white folks is they are never happy with what black folks do. When we try to be part of their groups/neighborhoods they go out of their way to be racist/make it uncomfortable for us. When we say “screw it” and do our own thing they get mad and start hollering “reverse racism.” This has been the case with the current controversy over #blackgirlmagic.

What’s “Black Girl Magic?” Check out this video to learn more.

I don’t engage too much in the #blackgirlmagic hash tagging. I tend to see it as a positive movement for mostly younger black feminists. Hell, good for them for taking back their image/voice from a society that only wants to represent them in stereotypical ways.

Why #BlackGirlMagic Makes Me Proud to Be a Black Woman in 2016

There has been criticism that “black girl magic” borders the strong black woman trope.  I can understand this to a certain extent as #blackgirlmagic celebrates highly accomplished black women/girls. This could possibly be overwhelming to those who feel it’s one more thing they have to live up to. However, I really don’t think that’s the intent. I think “black girl magic” has just been a fun way for younger black feminists to show love to black women/girls they think are fly. I see nothing wrong with that.

mary-j-blige-stronger
My #blackgirlmagic inspiration–MJB!

Black Music Month (BMM) #2

I have to admit that I’m still stuck on 90’s r&b music. The early 90’s to mid 90’s was a phenomenal time for black women singers. There was a great selection of solo singers (e.g. Brandy) to  girl groups (e.g. Brownstone). There was a such a variety of looks with the women and fly fashions, you could get in where you fit in.  The black beauty standard is much more narrower, these days. I used to stay at the music store buying tapes (heh).

The biggest shift in the music scene, at the time, was the merging of r&b and hip hop or  “hip hop soul.”

“Hip hop soul (or rap soul) is sub-genre of contemporary R&B which fuses R&B, neo soul, and dance elements with hip hop. The term did not originate until the promotion for Mary J. Blige‘s debut album What’s the 411? in 1992 when Uptown Records proclaimed her to be the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul” and generally describes a style of music that blends soulful R&B singing and raw hip hop production. The genre served as a middle point between two other hip hop/R&B blends.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_soul

Of course, you always have to give props to Mary J Blige, when talking about this genre of music. She is considered the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul.”

“A recipient of nine Grammy Awards, in addition to receiving a record of thirty Grammy nominations, eight of Blige’s albums have reached multi-platinum status in the United States. My Life, in particular, is considered among the greatest albums ever recorded according to Rolling Stone,[1] Time,[2] and Vibe. For her part in combining hip-hop and soul in the early-1990s and its subsequent commercial success, Blige received the Legends Award at the World Music Awards. Blige also received the Voice of Music Award from music publishing company ASCAP, with its official Jeanie Weems stating that “[Blige’s] music has been the voice of inspiration to women worldwide in both struggle and triumph.”[3] Blige made Time magazine’s “Time 100” list of influential individuals around the world in 2007.[4]”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_J._Blige

I remember watching Video Soul and immediately liking her in the debut video, “You Remind Me.” There was something interesting about her voice. Since that time, Mary has sang her ups and downs. She has been honest about the things she has gone through (addiction) and still struggles with, because life is a journey. She has tried to empower other black women, in her own way. I’m not surprised she’s around 25 years later, she’s an original.

I used to bump the hell out of the remix of “You Remind Me.”

Enjoy…

I got a flashback!