My Obligatory #LEMONADE Thinkpiece

Beyonce Lemonade

One of my most popular Facebook status updates went something like this:

You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.

I believe that to be true.  The only thing is that I rarely see people with dissenting  views from popular opinion speak up.  As much freedom as we have to say what we feel, many of us have been relying heavily on letting others do that for us.  Whether it is a retweet or share, it seems as though we have ceded our opinions to others who have either wrote it first or better.  Although I enjoy reading and sharing what someone has said more eloquently than I, I can’t silence myself in deference to others. So here are my thoughts on Beyonce’s LEMONADE.

Don’t worry. My thinkpiece is short.

It’s my opinion. It is my perspective and life experience. I don’t speak for all black women. In case you don’t know, black people are not a monolith, and especially not black women. I am happy that some black women feel vindicated, validated or (Black Twitter-verified) by LEMONADE, but I am not one of them.

First, if you plan on writing about this yourself, please heed the warnings of people who will let you know that everything is not for everybody. (Thanks, Very Smart Brothas!)

As Jasmine Masters from RuPaul’s Drag Race famously said “No Tea, No Shade, No Pink Lemonade”, I will pass on sipping Beyonce’s LEMONADE.

LEMONADE has merits. It is a visual album that has a tighter concept than  the previous Beyonce.

The cinematography is stunning. The production is great. The music is phenomenal.

However, the content is not my cup of tea. Calling out the messy details of your marriage may be cathartic, but it does nothing for me. Walking around with bat that says “hot sauce” is a bit on the nose.

My other complaint is that I abhor “plantation chic” fashion. I love a cotton dress, but dressing like a doily is not my thing. In fact, I wish the styling was more of the Afro-futuristic rather than antebellum.

I do like that Beyonce is stepping outside the comfort zone of a pop star, but LEMONADE did not resonate for me personally. I am not thirsty for LEMONADE and that’s OK. Everything is not for everybody. Furthermore, everything Beyonce is NOT for all black women.

Gutted: Prince Is Dead

Prince

Life ain’t nothing but a muffin. We gotta lotta of butter 2 go.

The butter is gone. Prince is dead.  I love Prince.  His first radio hit, “Soft and Wet” was one of the first 45s I ever got. My Dad had a record store in the late 1970s -early 1980s, so I had access to a lot of music.  My Dad even took me to see Prince in concert during his Purple Rain tour.  I was probably too young to go, but my Dad took me and three of my friends to the concert.  It was phenomenal.

When I was high school, I went out to Los Angeles to spend two weeks with my cousins.  We screamed the lyrics to “Housequake” while riding rollercoasters at Disneyland.

In college, my freshman roommate was the biggest Prince I ever knew.   Her side of the room was full of Prince posters. She even went to Minneapolis for spring break.   I once saw her in the subway station years later in Harlem.  She looked the same.

I saw Prince again during the LoveSexy tour. When he performed “Anna Stasia” on the piano, it was magnificent.  This was modern day classical music.

I did not lose my virginity to Prince, but my sexuality was awakened because of his music.  Prince’s music made me want to receive pleasure and to be adored.  I even ask to be kissed on the back of my knees by a boyfriend because of a Prince lyric.  It didn’t do much for me, but I was bold enough to ask.

When I lived in Brooklyn,  my ex-boyfriend and I went to a Purple Rain sing-a-long in Prospect Park in 2009.

I also went to one of  Questlove’s Bowl Train night.  It was one in June 2012, where I danced the night away to deep cut Prince songs.

Although peak Prince’s popularity has ebbed and flowed over the last fifteen years, he never went away.  He didn’t ghost his fans. There was always new music, concert tours and appearances at awards shows. It is so hard to imagine living in a world where Prince is not here.  Prince taught me about myself.  I still need to know more about myself, but Prince is not around to teach me.  How do I learn now?  Part of me wants to withdraw.  Part of me needs to publicly grieve with the rest of the world. One thing I do know is that  I need to be fearless in creating.

 

 

I Am An Amateur Photographer

Stylish Senior by Nichelle Stephens on 500px.com

I have been taking photos for years, but I didn’t get a good camera until 18 months ago when I got a Canon EOS.  Now when people see me, they assume that I am a photographer.   I often say “I am not a photographer; I just have a good camera.”  Well, I am actually an amateur photographer. I enjoy taking photos and I want to get better at it. One of my photos will be in a local exhibition, Span The Gap. This week I joined 500px and I am posting photos on there.

Defending Drake and Awkward Black People

drakehotlinebling

Note: I wrote this post back in October of last year.  This week Drake has dropped two new singles, but I am not sure if either will surpass the pop culture sensation of ‘Hot Line Bling’.

Do journalists who write about Drake actually know who Drake is? Or do they base their assumptions on what a stereotypical hip hop artist is supposed to be?

Thank goodness for pioneers like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and even PM Dawn. Not every rapper is hard core. Not every rapper is angry and most importantly not every rapper is cool.

Like it or not, black people are actually burdened with the responsibility of being cool. Maybe it is because of musicians like Miles Davis, but it seems that defining coolness is something we black people have to uphold. We know the latest fashion. We create the newest dances. We coin the newest slang. However, we are not always “cooler than the other side of the pillow”. [RIP Stuart Scott]

Sometimes we are awkward like Awkward Black Girl. [Thanks, Issa Rae]

I read an article in the Washington Post reviewing Drake’s latest video, Hotline Bling. Writer Sarah Kaufman posits that Drake has taken “uncool too far” Huh?! If you are uncool, there’s no nadir of how far to go. She thinks Drake is being inauthentic.

Do we buy that? Part of the Question of Drake — an artist who’s particularly good at sparking annoyance– is his sincerity. Is he truly uncool (which is kind of cool) or does he just play at being uncool (which is pretentious)?

I disagree. If anything, Drake is even more comfortable in his music and in himself. He is more authentic, and his easy ability to be unapologetically uncool resonates with his fans.

Not everyone wants to be always cool to be with the cool kids. It’s a heavy burden.

New Hosting,Who Dis?!

Nichelle Stephens

I changed my hosting to FatCow, who I highly recommend. However, all my old blog posts are gone.  You can probably find them in the wayback machine, but I am ready for a fresh start and to continue blogging at NichelleStephens.com I have been blogging since 2003 starting with my first blog Nichelle Newsletter on Blogspot.  In 2004, I moved to Typepad, and then I finally settled on WordPress in 2006.

Happy Spring! Happy New Beginnings!

Vote Or Die Was Cool

Back To School

Running a charter school is not.

I don’t think that Sean Combs (AKA Diddy )should be running a charter school. Charter schools are ill-fitting band-aids trying the fix the big boo-boo of public schools. Public schools are broken. They are broken because property taxes decides how much money schools get in funding. The higher the tax the tax bracket, the better the school. Class affects the quality of schools so much.

I went to a Catholic school for the majority of my elementary school education. I was only in public school for three years 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade. Lucky for me, the neighborhood that I live in suburban Atlanta was doing well. I got a good education. It was good that I took AP classes and I got accepted into four colleges.

Recently, I spoke at a charter elementary school. I was fascinated at how smart and inquisitive the kids were, but I was dismayed at how regimented the school was. The kids were reading as they stood in line for the bathroom. They were chastised constantly for being loud and speaking out of turn.  At some charter schools in New York, kids wet themselves due to pressure to perform. These kids were like robots. Anyway, Diddy is a great music producer, businessman and video director. However, he should not run a charter school. In my opinion, charter schools are wack.

About twenty years ago, charter schools seemed like a good idea at the time. They were a way for poor and middle-class kids to get a good education when neighborhood public schools were failing them. Now charter schools have become businesses.  Charter schools are getting more money than public schools, and the awkward thing is that there often housed in the same building.

I don’t think charter schools are all bad.  I just think that we have abandoned many local public schools for them.  It’s like education deserts have sprung up like food deserts.

Anyway, Diddy is a great music producer, businessman and video director. However, he should not run a charter school. In my opinion, charter schools are wack.

Always on Point; Never On Fleek

When an old school hip-hop artist dies, it hits me hard. That’s the music of my generation, Generation X. When MCA (Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys) died in May of 2012, I remember where I was. I was working at Chelsea Market working as a sales associate for a jewelry designer. I tweeted about the Beastie Boys while shoppers browsed the artisan goods. There was a DJ in the center of the market and he played some vintage Beastie Boys. I may have given him a nod in agreement from across the room.

Today I wake up to reading about the passing of Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) of A Tribe Called Quest. This is a sad day. I was a devotee of A Tribe Called Quest. Their second album, ‘The Low End Theory” was a CD that I wore out. I especially loved Phife’s verses on “Butter”. Phife had an earnestness to his rhymes that I and many others appreciated. RIP Phife. You were always on point.

Anti-Consumerism Pop: Kreayshawn, Lorde, Lily Allen

When Kreayshawn came out with “Gucci, Gucci” a few year ago, there was much discussion about her authenticity. However, the content of her song were not discussed as much. Now, there’s Lorde and Lily Allen following in her footsteps and they cover similar ground with “Royals” and “It’s Hard Out Here”. There’s an air of arrogant anti-consumerism. Not everyone is into designer clothes and name-dropping brands. I don’t really care about red bottoms or Maybachs. Many hip hop artists have dropped the name of aspirational lifestyle brands in their lyrics. Some of their fans go out and buy it. Lyrics are not necessarily endorsements.The issue here is that artists like Kreayshawn, Lorde and Lily Allen are making the point that they don’t need to mention designer brand to make hit songs. They may wear them on the red carpet, but not include them in lyrics.

#solidarityisforwhitewomen

My Dad Didn’t March For Nothing

Voting Rights Act 1965 Selma March

This week I wrote a piece on Medium about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re going backwards,” my mother said today when she heard the news today about the Supreme Court decision to overturn Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

While in high school, my dad marched for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. He didn’t march for nothing when he was a teen. He could have stayed at home. He faced the hoses and the dogs. Today, he’s retired and a registered voter who never misses an election whether local or national. This country has made advances, but we’re not there yet.

Favor Or Free Work

friends girl scouts

Does it matter what is asked or who is doing the asking?

I do favors for friends. I also do things for free. I am broke. What is a favor? Helping someone move is a favor especially if being pizza and beer are offered. Being a job reference is a favor.  However, finding clients for a friend’s business is actually free work. Getting sponsors for a friend’s project is an example of free work.I can’t afford to do free work but I don’t want to be mean and stop doing favors for friends. It seems like I have deposited so much in the karma column but have unclaimed funds in favors. There’s a balance that I have to figure out.

I can’t afford to do free work, but I don’t want to be mean and stop doing favors for friends. It seems like I have deposited so much in the karma column but have unclaimed funds in favors. There’s a balance that I have to figure out.

It could my fault. I don’t ask for enough favors in return. I must say no to doing work for free. Maybe I have too many friends. The overused sentence uttered by a reality show contestant is “I’m not here to make friends.” Well, it makes sense to say that because the motivation to appear on a reality show is money and/or fame. My life is not a reality show. I am here to make a contribution to the world, to share my talents, to learn, grow and love. The reality of life is that stuff takes money,and friendship should be helpful not a financial hardship.