Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflecting on Our Reigning Queen, Latifah

Before Lady O[prah] starting taking over the media and influencing millions of women everywhere, before Queen B[eyonce] began to conquer the charts, the big screen, and the world of cosmetics...even before Mary J. Blige was crowed the Queen of Hip Hop Soul...there was our original queen of entertainment: Queen Latifah.

With the summer 2010 release of her book "Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom," Queen Latifah easily entered another area of entertainment, by penning her life story and getting comfortable in the world of publishing.

And rightfully so. She has excelled at essentially every other area she's touched, since we were first introduced to her in 1998.

Because Dana Elaine Owens is in the media and relevant all the time, it's easy to overlook her contribution to urban entertainment, and now mainstream pop culture.

Of course we remember her best for her 1989 album "All Hail the Queen" and the way she would command the stage, decked out in Afro-centric attire, rapping hard, and at the same time embracing her femininity. She made sure to tell you what you could and could not call her...she reminded us as young girls that we should stand tall in who we were: "who you callin' a bitch?" was a classic female hip hop lyric that spoke volumes.

And somehow in the span of her almost 25 year career, we haven't even had the chance to see how smoothly Latifah went from a New Jersey rapper to an Academy Award nominated entertainment icon.

Now along with her Grammy, she also has a Golden Globe and a SAG award. She has Emmy nominations, and she's an easy go-to-girl to host shows from the BET Awards to the People's Choice Awards. Latifah is loveable, dependable, and she's proven to be a consummate entertainer, on all fronts.

Her book "Put on Your Crown" chronicles her journey from a young girl in New Jersey, up to the present time. While it's neither a detailed autobiography nor a specific self-help book, it's kind of a combination of the two genres. She tells her story, and throws in words of advice and inspiration along the way.

I enjoyed reading her first-person accounts of many of the memorable moments in her life, good and bad. From when she received a star right next to Michael Jackson's on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to when her brother Winki was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 1992.

Greatly influenced by her mother Rita, Latifah shares many of the lessons she learned as a result of great parenting (despite her parents divorce at age 10), and as a result of maintaining self-esteem regardless of her circumstances, appearance, or expectations around her.

At age 40, you still get the impression that there is so much more to see from Queen Latifah. And while it's obvious that she's already done so much in her career, it's actually pretty rare that the viewing audience has yet to tire of her.

In fact, as I was finishing up the book in the elevator today, an elderly (like really elderly) yet nosy/fass neighbour was staring at my book cover, and smiling. "Oh, I really like her," she said to me, pointing at the cover of my book. And I had to agree: EVERYBODY likes Queen Latifah. It's official.

Admittedly, sometimes I get annoyed to discover that everyone and their mother also has a book. Literally. As a writer, you can't help but become jaded when Snooki from Jersey Shore, Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, and every other person making over a million is given a lucrative publishing deal and churns out a full-length book in a matter of month.

But I digress.

Something can be said for having an interesting life experience, and apparently readers will always pick up a copy of "literature" as long as it's written by a famililar face. This is one of the "celebrity" books that I really and truly can't be cynical about. It is what it is: a legendary female figure telling her story. And my ability to whiz through this book showed me that Latifah did a good job telling it.

There's nothing groundbreaking on the pages. Most of it we already know. We know about the fabulous movies (Last Holiday and Bringing Down the House were my personal favourites), and the hit songs and hip hop classic albums. We know about the Flavor Unit, and her sidekick from time, Shakim.

I was kinda wondering if she'd finally drop some bombs about her often-questioned sexuality. Latifah's been rumoured to date her personal trainer Jeanette Jenkins, whom she also reportedly bought a house with...but the rumours will remain that, as she often addresses previous boyfriends in the book and regrets for not having children earlier in life...but Latifah totally stays away from the topic of present-time relationships, or even the fact that her sexuality has always been a hot topic (especially after that role in Set if Off that we remember her playing all too well in 1996).

She went broke in 2000, despite her fame. She was molested at age 5 by a neighbour. There were a few things I didn't really know much about...but again, there was no juicy gossip, just lots of sugary sweet words of encouragement:

"We all need people to help us and lift us up. and other people need our help. When you put that together, you can create something really powerful."

"You make your own oppotunities."

"You have to be constantly improving yourself."

"We can rise up only when we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us."

"Whatever your religion or belief system, the key is to have an active inner life that radiates through all your actions..."

Nothing exceptionally unique or "deep," but definitely taken to heart, given the source it's coming from, and the context it's written in.

But I liked the level of detail that was introduced. For example, I loved to know that her bond with her business partner Shakim is so deep that he actually jumped in front of her to protect her from danger/bullets when an event they were at went awry.

It was endearing to read how she often escaped the madness of her ultra-busy schedule to sit next to her brother's grave and speak to him for hours on end. Moreso, to learn that the scar on her forehead that she refuses to cover with makeup or airbrush, despite suggestion, was a scar she received at age 3 while playing tag with her brother.

And again, I'm fascinated by "celebrity" life because at its core there is always a regular ol' individual trying to make it, who has the faith, determination--and if they're as lucky as Latifah--the support of family and grounded friends to help build those dreams and fantasies into an easy reality.

Yes, there were downfalls in her professional journey as well. I don't know about you, but I definitely didn't buy her 2004 jazz CD "The Dana Owens Album." I also didn't watch her daytime talk show from 1999-2001. Like any career, there were definitely some misses...but it's safe to say that overall, Latifah's had an awesome career...up to here.

And while she came on to the scene as a dope female MC, I think her true legacy will be being able to capture the screen, and make us laugh through her television and film roles. Living Single was a staple TV show while growing up in the 90s, her roles in House Party 2, Juice, and Jungle Fever, are roles we're all familiar with. I love her comedic relief in my favourite movie, Brown Sugar.

So this rapper-turned-actress-turned-Cover Girl is still, and will always remain, a true Queen on so many fronts. She has personified elegance, grace, and just genuine congeniality. It's hard to NOT like this woman.

Keep givin' it to 'em, Queen!

"Take the time to check in with yourself, regularly. Don't lose yourself." ~Queen Latifah

A clip from Latifah's performance of "Latifah's Had it Up to Here" on the Arsenio Hall Show.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Game" on BET - Rejuvinating the Black Narrative

On the 11th day of the 1st month of the 2011th year, millions (7.7 to be exact) of viewers across the continent gathered at their televisions for a highly anticipated event: the return and rejuvination of The Game.

And I’m not talking about the Raptors.

(The Cast L-R: Coby Bell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Hosea Chanchez, Tia Mowry Hardrict, Pooch Hall, Brittany Daniel)

Thanks to day-long marathons, relentless reruns, massive Twitter-ing, casual conversations, and online petitions, the return of the 4th season of the BET program was a huge ratings bonanza. In fact, it set a ratings record for original programming on BET.

I was right there on the bandwagon, wondering how Melanie and Derwin’s marriage was going, if Kelly and Jason would rekindle their flame, what was up with Tasha Mack and Rick Fox, and of course, even curious about TT, Janay, and the Sunbeams.

The show was taken off the air in 2009, and I became a rerun fan. Just like I did with Sex and the City, Friends, and the countless other shows I never truly appreciated until they were old news and in syndication.

And I got sucked into Sex and the City, Friends, and the other pleasant scripted television shows because I could relate to the women. The stories. The experiences. And when I say relate, I mean I could truly appreciate the characters, the other 30-somethings, and the anecdotal familiarities that came along with them.

But The Game was a different kind of recognition.

The Game brought back an old familiar feeling. The characters spoke to me on a different level. Not on the level of being rich, living the glamorous live of professional athleticism, not the beautiful homes, and the wine drinking. This brought back the feeling of days past, when there were a few good quality television shows that reflected a less popular demographic: the black narrative.

We had it with Living Single. Maxine’s love/hate relationship with Kyle; Khadijah hooking up with Scooter, and the cute Overton and Sinclair.

Then there was A Different World, watching Denise Huxtable and Dwayne Wayne, Jaleesa and the crew get through the challenges of college. That program made university life look so appealing and like a must-have life experience.

I won’t even take it back to the Cosby Show or Good Times level: I’m just thinking about the predominantly "black" shows that have had an impact post-childhood/80s. The television shows that defined a new generation.

Remember looking forward to watching Martin every week to see what crazy ish he would be up to? Having him run into Shanaynay in the hall; trying to figure out where Tommy actually worked, or seeing Bruh-Man (from the fif floor) sneak into the window?

Even Girlfriends was pretty good. I wasn't a huge fan, but it definitely had relevant topics, and interesting storylines.

I’ve missed having a good SCRIPTED show to look forward to. And while race shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not a television show is going to be great or not…it does feel a little bit more special when there’s a cast full of black faces. It’s hard to explain, but it does make a difference when you get to see black characters represented in great storylines. It rarely happens in an ensemble cast, even though the majority of popular shows are pretty diverse in casting.

Representation is SO important.

But most importantly, I love a great story. So I’m going to commend the creator Mara Brock Akil, and the producers Salim Akil (Mara's husband) and Kelsey Grammer, for giving The Game enough intrigue, great scripts, and believable characters.

Highlights of Episode 1 and 2 (Season 4)
--Seeing Derwin and Melanie actually married, and moving on to the next stage of their relationship after all that drama. Loved seeing the dramatic acting as well!
--Tasha Mack being her regular hilarious self:
--Jason being true to character: corny but funny.
--Robin Givens was gone.
--Seeing TT step out of Malik’s shadow, finally having some character growth.

WTF Moments Thus Far
--What was Tasha Mack doing with that pickney Terrance J? So not believable, and kinda made her seem less confident and more cougar. Someone please bring back Rick Fox. RICK…..FOX!
--How did Brit Brat go from being a cute kid to a rude teenager? Fail.
--Will Meagan Goode ever have a likeable role/character…ever? Why was she there?
--Why did Malik have to be so mean to TT? Makes me not want to care about what happens to Malik's character.

Apparently we as television viewers really needed this event. The audience has spoken. I hope the rest of the season lives up to this phenomenal hype. I hope that this is just the beginning of bringing back good writers, good characters, and entertaining television for the ‘urban’ demographic.

P.S. Can someone please tell the people who run BET programming in Canada to actually watch the channel from time to time, as to better coordinate their abrupt commercial breaks and mood-killing transitions. Ridiculous!

~Written by Stacey Marie Robinson, Kya Publishing

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Respecting the Reggae Riddim

Picture it: 1988. You're in a dim studio in Kingston, Jamaica, and Dennis Brown is on the mic. Behind him seated at the drums is a young Lowell Dunbar (aka Sly) and next to him on guitar, his bredren Robert Shakespeare. Hear the bassline. Feel the shuffle of the percussion. See the birth of the original riddim, instrument by instrument.

At that point producers Sly & Robbie had already cemented themselves on the reggae scene for a little over 10 years, and possibly had no idea that well into the 2000s, they would be the most prolific team in the musical genre, having produced around 200,000 songs.

Their roster could easily start and stop with Dennis Brown, but Sly & Robbie's production credits continue to include classics from Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Gregory Isaacs, Luciano, Tony Rebel, and of course Chaka Demus & Pliers. And their affiliations aren't limited to reggae. They've also performed and produced with/for legends like the Rolling Stones, Sting, Bob Dylan, and No Doubt.

Now think of songs like "Murder She Wrote"...or how about Buju Banton's "Driver A" ...Bounty Killer's "Fed Up." Next, consider the countless OTHER songs that have appeared on those riddims. And then respect the brilliant minds like Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare who created those riddims that will appear and re-appear in reggae music indefinitely.

The reggae riddim is something that continues to fascinate me. It is what it is...a beat. But its very construction is so unique that I am always impressed by the creativty put into it. The names of the riddims. The dances that accompany the riddims. And most importantly, I love to listen to different artists take the same one riddim, and create a multitude of songs that ride and highlight the riddim in different ways.

Some of my personal favourite riddims were created between 1995 and 1997 because of the feelings they evoke in me. It was a fun era of dancehall music, different than the rub-a-dub style of the 80s. The late-90s brought me riddims that always make me smile. Quarter To Twelve riddim. Tour riddim. Fed Up riddim. Stink riddim. Cloak & Dagger riddim. Haunted riddim. Filty riddim. During that era, it wasn't unlikely to have a great riddim contain over a dozen tunes...a DJ could easily spin say, the Stink riddim, endlessly, without tiring his audience.

Stink Riddim classics: "Old Dog" - Beenie Man, "The Mass" - Baby Cham, "Go Go Wine" - Captain Barkey, "Girls Dem Gizzada" - Merciless, "Girl Watcher" - Spragga Benz, "Dreamland" - Wayne Wonder & Frisco Kid.

1996's Stink Riddim was created by Dave Kelly, another reggae production legend, who single-handedly made the late-90s hot. He crafted the era of the Beenie/Bounty/Buju classics, starting the Madhouse lable, and subsequently rocking basement parties from Scarborough to Malton with hits on top of hits. Kelly also produced a track for Kardinal Offishall, in 2003.

What really fascinates me is the creativity behind the naming of the riddims.

You could easily create an A-B-C's of riddim names, but I'll just use B as an example: BackYard riddim (1998), Badda Badda riddim (1999), Blue Drawers riddim (2001), Bomb A Drop riddim (2004), Butterfly riddim (1993), and Buyout riddim (2001). And while the riddim names may not always ring a bell with the average listener, the tunes definitely will.

Some riddims are classic, and revisited time and time again. They are staples of reggae music: Sleng Teng riddim, Punaany riddim, Taxi riddim, Stalag riddim, Far East riddim, and even the Bam Bam and Bogle riddims. They are so deeply engrained into the heart and soul of reggae music that they NEVER get old or stale. Impossible.

From the food-based riddims: Pressure Cooker riddim, Rice & Peas riddim, Callallo Bed riddim, and Roast Breadfruit the politically relevant riddims: Saddam Birthday Party riddim, Anthrax riddim, and Under Attack riddim...reggae music always has it's finger on the pulse of what's hot, what's timely...and in some cases, what's crazy and funny.

It's the kind of genre where you have to pay attention. Because while a riddim may be red-hot one minute, it can easily be played out the next. Not all riddims have the staying power of the Taxi or Sleng Teng...and there's always new talent, and new sounds eager to reinvent what's hip.

A newer producer on the reggae scene, Stephen 'Genius' McGregor (son of the legendary Freddie McGregor) has been producing hot tracks since about 2006 for artists like Aidonia, Mavado, T.O.K., Mr. Vegas, Vybz Kartel, and Busy Signal.

Producers like McGregor have embraced the riddims and sounds of their past, however, have managed to shape and rearrange the very sound of dancehall music into something that ventures away from the traditional 'one-drop' and drum and bass sounds of Sly & Robbie. Some would argue that the roots of reggae music (dancehall in particular) have now been heavily influenced by hip hip, pop, and dance music, and no longer contains the essence of traditional reggae, as evident in the Stalag or Far East riddims, or even traditional dancehall, ala Dave Kelly.

It's up for interpretation.

I always loved the specificity and intricacy of how reggae music is created and disseminated. It moves in waves. It brings a specific culture, style of dress, way of speaking, and method of dancing with it. From the roots of the reggae entire sub-culture is easily created.

While hip-hop, soca (I do love my soca!), and R&B beats are often comparably as addictive and fantastic as reggae riddims are...this genre of music will always have a special place with my spirit. I adore reggae music. No other music can impress me the way reggae music does. Whether I'm forever stuck in the 90s with my Dave Kelly-influenced taste...or whether I occasionally venture out to the McGregor-produced sounds of Mavado and Kartel.

Either way, I must pay hommage to "some" of the many great reggae producers that have shaped, inspired, and created a unique sound that reflects the country of Jamaica...and reaches an international audience because of the level of committment and true genius that is behind the riddims:

Lloyd 'King Jammy' James. Jeremy Harding. Tony 'CD' Kelly. Lee ' Scratch' Perry. Bobby Konders. Bobby 'Digital' Dixon. Andre 'Suku' grey. Philip 'Fattis' Burrell. Robert Livingston. Colin 'Bulby' York. Firehouse Crew. Patrick Roberts. Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell. Richie Stephens. Ralston Barrett. Bunny 'Striker' Lee. Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd. Cordel 'Scatta' Burrell. Donovan Germain. Steely & Clivie. Donovan 'Vendetta' Bennett.........
And then bring it back to Sly & Robbie. Present time. In the studio with new artist (and one of my favourites) Bitty McLean. As much as the various producers have taken reggae music to many levels, different sounds, and evoked various emotions...the classic talent of this dynamic team can still produce current music with a nostalgic heart. Timeless riddims, that will help to keep reggae at the forefront of international musical respect and appreciation.

Sly & Robbie with Bitty McLean.

Written By Stacey Marie Robinson, Kya Publishing

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

OK Steve Harvey, We Get It!

Steve Harvey's first book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man was a hit! It was being quoted, celebrated, recited, dictated, and read aloud like holy scripture to women near and far. Single woman, married women, dating women: it didn't matter. The ladies wanted to hear what Steve Harvey had to say about love and relationships...and were thirsty for his keeping-it-real male perspective that their girlfriends couldn't [accurately] give them.

After all, it came from a man we know and love: Broderik Steven Harvey of West Virginia. A well-dressed and well-respected man with a crazy sense of humour, class, success, and at the age of 53--years of experience with matters of the heart and interpersonal relationships. The book made us laugh out loud, and nod our heads in recognition. An instant best-seller that spent months on the top of the Essence booklist, it was a must-have in the female library.

So women were now craving this perspective. This truth. The instruction. They called the man down, followed him to conferences, linked his radio show, wrote him letters and emails because they wanted to know more. And what did our friend Steve do? He gave us more.

His second book, Straight Talk, No Chaser, will sell simply based on the reputation and word-of-mouth of the first book. It includes interesting chapters such as:

  • Dating by the Decades: A guide to How Men Feel About Relationships in Their Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties, and Beyond
  • Are Women Intimidating? Myths Versus Facts
  • Every Sugar Daddy Ain't Sweet
  • Let's Stop the Games: Asking Men the Right Questions to Get the Real Answers
Despite the hot topics...Straight Talk, No Chaser is not nearly as informative--or necessary--as the first was. To compare the two isn't fair. Perhaps if I read THIS book first, I would love it, and the Act Like a Lady...would seem redundant. But the truth of the matter is...they're pretty much the exact same book, and there is a lot of repetition in theory and advice.

My opinion: I think I got the point the first time around. Loud and clear.

Steve--now on his 3rd marriage to Marjorie Bridges--is the father of 7, and sounds like he has a solid hold on his family, his kids, and his spirituality. He's lived an interesting life, and shared the highs and lows throughout his texts. He is definitely a man of good substance.

Here's what he had to share, this time case you didn't get it the first time. And if you didn't get it after the first book (which was pretty straightforward!)...maybe you need more than a book to address your concerns with the opposite sex.

I'm just saying.

In a nutshell (AGAIN!):

Do your standards and requirements reflect who you are and what you're capable of giving back? - Steve believes that while it's great to tell your girlfriends about the Ph.D., 6'4", supermodel, 35-year -old with no children, and limitless riches that you "deserve" to have...that you have to make sure you're working just as hard and are just as competent yourself to expect that type of partner. If you want your man to be a scholarly can't be laying up on the couch and collecting unemployment, hoping he'll come and save you.

Women truly interested in finding the right guy have to get over the fear of losing one - its' OK to a let a man go if he's not the right one for you. It's OK to be single for a while. You have to be willing to move on if someone isn't giving you what you want, and just trust that someone else will eventually come around.

Stop compromising your requirements to justify having a relationship with a man who won't give you what you ultimatly want - settling is compromising. It's not okay to forget about your wants and needs, and settle for security. You can never find true fulfillment this way.

Mediocre, yet common-sensical advice at best. I'm not knocking him, he's done a great thing with these books. He's kept it real (albeit a "little" bit oooold-school at times), and he's trying his best to prevent women all over the globe from delusion and despair.

I love Steve Harvey. I loved him in The Steve Harvey Show. I loved him on The Original Kings of Comedy. I even log into his nationally syndicated morning radio show The Steve Harvey Morning Show online at work to catch two jokes. I can't say I've watched him on Family Feud yet, but I'm sure he's pretty funny there too.

BUT, I think I've learned all I need to know from him about the ins and outs of the male mind. Going forward, perhaps I'd prefer to only see him selling his suits, or on a stage somewhere...making me laugh, telling crazy, irrelevant stories and punchlines, and leaving the female heart and self-esteem out if it!

"The bottom line is that the world is full of men who are willing and able to commit. Get your house in order, put your standards and requirements to use, exercise your power in your relationships, and be willing to walk away. I'm not saying this journey will be easy or quick. But it'll be well worth it." ~Steve Harvey

-Review by Stacey Marie Robinson, Publisher/Author, Kya Publishing

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Minaj's Moment in History

"This is my moment, I just feel so alive..." ~Nicki Minaj

Like her or not, you can't deny that this is an historical moment in time for female MCs, hip hop music, and the music industry in general. Rapper Nicki Minaj is making so many statements right now in the entertainment world both visually and lyrically, that her importance in this moment is one worth mentioning.

With the release of her debut album Pink Friday in November of 2010, Nicki ended her first year "officially" on the scene as the first artist EVER to have 7 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts simultaneously. With the help of Trey Songz, Jay Sean, Sean Kingston, Lil' Wayne, and her 3 solo tracks, she managed to break this record at the beginning of her career.

Not only have her collaborations been consistently hot, but the album is dope, too! It carries a feeling of growth, of fun, and a renewed sense of musicality as Nicki confidently takes her place as the next best thing.

Onika Tanya Maraj, a Trinidadian-American, has been an artist for years. A singer, an actress, a clarinet player, and of course an MC. Since high school she has been heavily involved in entertaining others, and at the age of 26 she has already been acclaimed one of the best.

The controversy has been ongoing as to who is "truly" the best female MC. There have been so many over the past decards...yet the ladies have recently been lacking overall in airplay, visibility, and originality. Eve, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Lauryn Hill often top the lists of the "greatest female MCs of all times..." but these are artists who dominated in the 80s and 90s. The presence of chart-topping influential female rappers in the 2000s has been slim to none.

We loved Lauryn for her deep spirit and versatility. She was a mainstream hit with an underground soul. We gave Missy props for being crazy and extremely original: she made us laugh, she made us dance, and her music just sounded like nothing we'd ever heard before. MC Lyte had that classic voice: she was hard, she was street, and her sound is still so captivating that it's been used constantly for voice-overs and narration, and heard regularly on BET and other programming. Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown had their sex appeal: they were funky, they were confident, and they brought overt feminity to the hip-hop scene.

There have been MANY (Trina, Eternia, Charli Baltimore, Bahamadia, Queen Pen, Lisa Lopes, Lumidee, The Real Roxane, Ms Dynamite, Remy Ma, Lil' Mama (wait, does she count?!?), Masia One, M.I.A., Ms Melodie, Roxanne Shante, Sister Souljah, Monie Love, Yo-Yo, JJ Fad, Sha-Rock, and Jean Grae, etc.)...but as much as we've loved and honoured them...there haven't been many female rappers worth talking about, lately.

Enter Ms Minaj.

I think she's cool. And the reason I think she's cool is because I've realized how REFRESHING it is to hear a female MC on so many tracks. And because I've heard her voice pop up on so many songs in so many places, and I'm not yet sick of her. I like her style. Yes, she's kinda crazy with the split-personality thing, but I believe it's all in good fun. It's different, and she's talented enough to carry it.

I loved reading about her first trip to Trinidad in years, and how she felt about the warm reception she received. She was born on the island, and moved to Queens, NY at the age of 5; yet she talked about how she can't wine...and how she's planning to take her first trip to Trinidad Carnival this year. The West Indian connection is definitely a bonus, and her ability to flip from lyrics to the occasional patois, is definitely something I can appreciate.

And she's been recognized by her peers. To date, BET has awarded her at their Hip Hop show as well as overall awards shows. Notable are accolades for Best Female Hip Hop Artist, and Best New Artist.

Everyone seems to recognize that her presence is necessary. Despite Lil' Kim and a few others who are openly discrediting her and pointing fingers...the numbers have spoken, and Nicki is definitely making movements on the charts and on the airwaves, regardless of anyone's opinion of her.

The question on the minds of many music lovers and scholars is...will Nicki's place in music right now initiatiate a wave of more up-and-coming female MCs? Will her success dictate the future of other female rappers who have been hustling and grinding on the underground circuits, yet haven't received the love or recognition they deserve, due to the saturation of male MCs, R&B, and the new pop/dance music crave that has taken over?

While Salt N Pepa's and Lauyrn's easily charted during the 1980s and 1990s, this past decade has not had any significant presence by female rappers with record sales and airplay.

Fortunately, urban music still greatly outsells its counterparts in pop/rock/country/etc. on the charts, but within the urban demographic, the respect and attention is still largely given to male rappers, and vocalists.

During the 2000s, of the top 20 artists on Billboard (based on record sales and airplay), there were no female MCs. The list is as follows:

01. Eminem / 02. Usher / 03. Nelly / 04. Beyonce / 05. Alicia Keys / 06. 50 Cent / 07. Nickelback / 08. Britney Spears / 09. Destiny's Child / 10. Jay-Z / 11. Mariah Carey / 12. Black Eyed Peas / 13. Pink / 14. Kelly Clarkson / 15. Kanye West / 16. Ludacris / 17. Rihanna / 18. Creed / 19. Linkin Park / 20. Christina Aguilera.

And that's the entire DECADE.

I'm hoping that by already breaking a Billboard record with her 7 concurrent hits on the 100 charts, that Nicki Minaj will bring in a change to the role of the female MC in the overall music landscape.

I believe she has the talent to do it, and also the fanbase. I think her music is strong enough, and I hope that the industry is prepared to support her, as well as the numerous other female rappers who are probably motivated and preparing for their time in the spotlight, as a result of Nicki's advances.

This is Nicki Minaj's moment in history to prove that a female MC can sustain a career, and produce quality music.

This is a new decade, with new expectations. I expect that this moment does not occur in vain. Historically, Nicki has already made her mark. She has people talking. She has people listening. She has the ability to take this momentum and run with it.

This is her chance to change history for the female MC, and sustain the impact that this under-represented group of rappers have in the entertainment spectrum for life. I hate to say we're depending on Nicki Minaj to move mountains....BUT history has shown that if changes don't take place now...we might have to wait a long time for another female ambassador (with the same power) to step up and try to lead the movement forward.

Let's hope she can do it. For the sake of the music, and for the sake of the other lady-MCs-in-waiting who deserve a chance to shine.

"Best believe that when we done this moment will be syndicated." ~Nicki Minaj

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Living in the Moment for 2011

Eckhart Tolle's literary voice of reason is so alluring and inspirational, that once you finish the last pages and close the cover of one of his books for find yourself wishing you could continuously hear his thoughts, suggestions, and perspectives indefinitely as you go through your daily routine.

I just finished reading his book The Power of Now, and was equally as impressed with it as the previous book I read from him, A New Earth.

Like millions of others, I was introduced to Eckhart Tolle through Oprah's Book Club a few years back. Now I'm not one to run out and do whatever "Oprah says" usually, but this is one circumstance where I'm glad I decided to be follow-fashion, and jump on the New Earth bandwagon.

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (2005) taught me a great deal about the evolution of consciouness, perception vs. reality, and how the application of these concepts could inevitably benefit society at large.

It was a great read...and The Power of Now (1999) continues in the same vein, although this book preceeded the Oprah hit.

As it is only now the second day of 2011, I--like many others--am reflecting on the past year, events, circumstances, individuals, and formulating a plan to live the next year having learned from my experiences, good and not-so-good.

My completion of this book couldn't have been more timely, because rather than sitting back and reflecting on the past, ridiculous people, and unfortunate situations...Tolle's spiritual suggestions allude to forgetting about anything negative that happened in 2010...and even anything negative that might potentially take place tomorrow.

His message: the power of everything you need to know, and do...remains in this very moment.

Yes, it's almost cliche. We've all heard these phrasings, scriptures, and quotations that encourage us to "live life to the fullest" and "seize the day." However, what I like about Tolle's bestseller, is that while it may seem cliche in concept, it is very spiritual in tone.

From the beginning of the text, he suggests that a freedom from your own mind is essential: your fears, your paranoia, apprehensions, and ideologies that tend to control your actions. He recommends letting it all go...and just being. Being present, and being so concious of your actions that your behaviour is natural...and non-confrontational to others, or yourself.

He says to be "so utterly, so completely present, that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you."

Tolle stresses that our problems, apprehensions, and fears are a result of our own choices...and that in the moment--in the NOW--we always have the opportunity to choose to avoid pain, and avoid problems.

I could easily go on to quote countless excerpts from this book, but I would rather suggest you check out a copy and experience the full essence of the text. It is genius in it's simplicity.

Aside from celebrating the great moments of 2010....and rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past year and how I can change them for 2011, I have been motivated to just focus on exactly what I'm doing right now. Today. I will still plan for the upcoming months, both personally and professionally. I will still be aware of the behaviours and actions that create unfavourable circumstances...and the bogus people that I can distance myself from in order to avoid unnecessary drama.

I will walk away from reading this book with a sense of enlightenment, and a sense of personal empowerment. For while I know that this moment in itself is powerful, I had forgotten just how easy it is to choose peace. Choose progression. Choose the life and experiences I want to have.

The best part about entering 2011 is that I'm prepared to not only apply the teachings of Eckhart Tolle...but knowing that deep down inside, I already knew it was time to release many behaviours, relationships, and external expectations.

This book just reminded me how peaceful a process it could be, and how much I could look forward to just is...and knowing that with the power of choice and informed consciousness, this next year can be nothing less than what I choose it to be.

Happy New Year!

Quotes from the book...

  • All you really need to do is accept this moment fully. You are then at ease in there and now and at ease with yourself.
  • When you are fully conscious, drama does not come into your life anymore.
  • Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.
  • Your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness.
  • Nobody chooses dysfunction, conflict, pain. Nobody chooses insanity. They happen because there is not enough presence in you to dissolve the past, not enough light to dispel the darkness.
  • You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state.

~Stacey Marie Robinson, Kya Publishing