Showing posts with label remember the time. Show all posts
Showing posts with label remember the time. Show all posts

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Day The Music Died II

"Purple Rain. Purple Rain." - Prince 

This isn't a story about Prince. 

It is, but isn't. 

It is about the rock star, the impact of his music, yet serving as a backdrop. This is an often-told childhood memory regarding my sister; shot and killed a year ago to the month, by a stalking ex-boyfriend. There's something to be said about scorned individuals, women and men, that attach themselves emotionally to the lives of other human beings, refusing to let go, go on with their lives. 

In short, it's a story about when doves cry. 

Shortly before the summer of '84, Prince released the album "Purple Rain." The track list served as the soundtrack to his similarly-titled motion picture, crowding theaters a month later. Both equated to a nuclear bomb dropped on the music industry; the aftermath felt for decades. 

Prince's recordings were everything as he singlehandedly produced,  arranged, composed and performed entire albums, like no other. It is a most rare thing if it had ever existed. At his absolute best, he illustrated a purple auteur of mental, emotional and spiritual gift. Therein lies the heart and soul of his genius and my sister recognized as much earlier than I did. 

In fact, she brought it to my attention. 

I recall how she sat in front of the radio and television, awaiting Prince at a time where the world anticipated Michael Jackson's thrilling videos on MTV.  Not that she never cared for the King of Pop, she did, but claimed Prince was deeper. In the past I'd liked "1999," "Little Red Corvette," and "International Lover," songs she sang word for word, but preferred the coming-of-age hip hop scene in New York. 

So once our mother provided our monthly allowances that June, I spent some on Run DMC's debut while sis grabbed Prince's strongest work. We only had one record player in the house which led to an all-out war for listening time. She was winning the battle until one Saturday afternoon where, having had enough of hearing singalong to the man that screamed like a woman, I broke the album. Then returned the pieces to its sleeve. 

I was bold. 

Heartbroken, she stopped speaking for about a month or until she was able to re-purchase the album. Never satisfied, that was my sister. 

In the meanwhile, she laid on the couch, linear notes in hand, singing the lyrics in the same tradition as if music played in the background. It is when I say that I remember hearing it, like yesterday. After awhile, and to show Prince's appeal, I began humming the tunes in my head. Once I'd gotten past his falsetto, I realized Prince was a prolific songwriter which boded well, since, back then, hip hop was all about the lyrics, bars. 

Once she had a brand new album in her hands, I found myself asking her to play this song and that song. Before long, we took turns singing verses, emulating guitar weeps. Even in theater, viewing the film together, standing with everyone else. She'd already taken the time beforehand to explain Prince's depth, so her words and his artistry rang true. The man had no peers. 

True enough, the Michael Jackson and the hip hop culture continued to define my childhood. But whenever I wanted to listen to the one artist that wiped his competition, it was Prince; even now, thanks to sis.

It's only fitting that both left this world in the same year. I can tell you: She cried when Prince died and I cried when she died. 

Rest In Peace. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Favorite Songs of 2013

"Bad girls ain't no good, and the good girls ain't no fun." - Wale

If you are anything like me, then you were born with an undying love of music. There are few things in life which captures my spirit in the exact manner as music. Similar to unconditional love, song commands entrance into my soul and lights up my life, instinctively. I find that I feel, act, and do better within the constant of music. In no particular order, these are my 10 favorite songs of the past twelve months. 

Title and recording artist of absolute favorite is written in bold letters. 

  • Bad - Wale featuring Tiara Thomas
  • West Side Girl - Bilal 
  • Fire We Make - Alicia Keys featuring Maxwell
  • Clique - Kanye West featuring Jay Z, Big Sean
  • Started From The Bottom - Drake
  • 40 Acres - Pusha T featuring The Dream
  • Body Party - Ciara
  • Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke 
  • Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe - Kendrick Lamar 
  • Holy Grail - Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Likes And Dislikes: Autumn

"Autumn's the mellow time." - William Allingham

  • bowl of homemade soup
  • holidays, birthdays
  • football, in full effect
  • basketball
  • tailgating 
  • no humidity: smell of cool, crisp, fresh air
  • gloriously, colorful leaves on trees
  • love the love we are making
  • soon as I get home
  • sleep better
  • imminent struggle to leave bed in the morning
  • Christmas shopping 
  • Black Friday
  • Halloween
  • gets darker earlier
  • cold rain
  • skyrocketed gas bills
  • trees slowly losing weight
  • raking of leaves
  • winter season quietly awaits

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's a King without a Crown?

"Heavy is the head that wears the crown." - Shakespeare

  • Beyonce is who we thought she was. I swear to God she is. On Sunday night in NOLA, Beyonce rocked the mainstage at '13 Essence Festival with hit after hit, after hit, after hit, after hit, after hit, after hit, long past the midnight hour. She covered all the bases, leaving no stone unturned. Trill. In my lifetime, I've never witnessed an entertainer as emblematic as the King of Pop. But MJ is gone. It's now Beyonce who wears the once-thought-to-be unattainable crown.

  • Piers Morgan made an excellent observation concerning the George Zimmerman's trial. He posed the question of what if Trayvon Martin was a young black female followed on a dark, rainy night by a strange man and a confrontation occurred which led to the scared child being murdered after attacking the stranger. Would the stranger be underneath the jail, by now? Of course he would. Unfortunately, there is a particular "defining" which hangs over the heads of young black males, or black men in general, here in America. It's not a crown, I assure. 

  • Speaking of black men, no matter who, what, when, where, why or how negatively I might feel about whatever brother, for whatever reasons, I quietly applaud all successful black men in this cold universe of Good, Bad, and no in-between, based on the simple fact that I know ascent is routinely met with an equal amount of descent along the way. In the South or if you're from the South, most definitely. 

  • Speaking of descent, while standing in the kitchen on the night of the 4th of July eating barbecue, I heard a loud, thump-like sound coming from the bedroom nearest the kitchen. To my surprise, a bullet lodged itself in the ceiling over the bed, apparently after having entered thru the roof area. I had no idea that stray bullets descended with such velocity. Scary how no one on the street heard a single gunshot. 

  • Before returning to college over a year ago, I shared serious concerns upon whether I'd remain passionate towards academia. Since I'm not as academically-inclined or aiming for a particular career or anything upon completion, not really, just more or less tying loose ends, I wondered the source of much-needed passion. So, to see myself as engaged in my studies as I am, it reminds me of what my woman often refers to as "acquired taste." 

  • "The greatest weapon anyone can use against us is our own mind by preying on the doubts and uncertainties that already lurk there." Hmm. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that quote perfectly describes "politics" and "religion," which in my humble opinion are two of the biggest forms of public corruption in America, as currently witnessed. I personally feel as if each faction somewhat forces one to view life as a mere replica of reality, while trying to make it life-like. Im-fucking-possible.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Likes And Dislikes: '13 BET Awards

"A rose is still a rose." - Aretha Franklin

  • Sanaa Lathan 
  • nice-looking stage
  • Kendrick Lamar performed, twice
  • Meagan Good's revealing dress
  • Jamie Foxx's Trayvon Martin shirt
  • BET honored inspiring non-celeb individuals
  • soooo many beautiful sistas
  • one of the better BET Awards show
  • Dwyane Wade honored as a humanitarian
  • Chris Tucker's Miguel joke
  • I still cannot get into Miguel's music
  • R. Kelly performed, but not really
  • Did Paula Patton pop a molly before going onstage?
  • I didn't get a chance to catch Twitter commentary
  • Beyonce didn't perform
  • someone gave a microphone to Ray J 
  • Ciara's performance wasn't as sensual as I preferred
  • grown men wearing tight pants
  • gotta wait til November 15th for The Best Man sequel
  • Chris Tucker's comedy is no longer entertaining

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Likes And Dislikes: '13 NBA Finals

"Control your own destiny or someone else will." - Jack Welch

  • Game 7s, all comes down to one single game
  • I honestly don't know who will win
  • Reminds me of boxing's epic Thrilla in Manila
  • One of the most entertaining Finals, ever
  • LeBron James chasing destiny
  • Tim Duncan chasing destiny
  • Danny Fucking Green
  • Twitter commentary
  • NFL season is around the corner
  • I have a feeling the refs will decide championship
  • Flopping
  • Miami Heat fans
  • Tim Duncan ain't got no Yeezy
  • Kawhi Leonard choked in Game 6
  • Chris Bosh disgusts me
  • Skip Bayless
  • Manu Ginobili acts like he plays for Miami
  • Coach Popovich refuses to bench Manu
  • "Birdman, Birdman"
  • Terrible officiating 

Monday, January 28, 2013

When The World Has Dealt Its Cards

"This right here makes us stronger." - Ray Lewis

On Sunday, pro football player and future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens teammates will be playing in Super Bowl XLVII. If the wife of New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker had any say in the matter, Lewis would be somewhere spending the rest of his life behind bars for a couple of murders in which she believes he committed, despite having never been found guilty.

There is a part of me that empathizes with Anna. On the surface, her words are no different than sentiments I've expressed towards O.J. Simpson and my undying belief that the former NFL star walked away scot-free after brutally murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her alleged lover Ronald Goldman. Although a jury decided otherwise, there remains a strong feeling in the pit of my stomach which refuses to allow me to agree with those twelve members.

Fortunately, for both men, the criminal justice system isn't based upon gut, only hard evidence, and due process of the accused. Since justice was presumably served - no harm, no foul. In fact, Lewis pled guilty to a lesser charge of obstruction of justice, admitting he initially lied to police about not knowing the two co-defendants in which jurors subsequently ruled acted in self-defense.

Ray Lewis tried to protect his friends after his friends protected themselves from two unruly individuals outside of an Atlanta nightclub.

Now, I don't know about you, but where I'm from, one would be hard-pressed to find a team of ambitious prosecutors willing to plea murder charges down to a relative misdemeanor, especially in a case so high-profile. That, to me, assured the blame against Ray Lewis was a stretch in the first place and unjustified, as observing attorney's agreed. While each verdict must be respected under the guidance of law, in my opinion, Simpson's trial differed based on the clear and convincing evidence presented against him.

As a result, I honestly believed the State of California proved its case against Juice. Even he looked to be in total disbelief as the shocking verdict was read.

Fittingly enough, Anna Walker later apologized and quickly blamed her remarks on being "caught up in the moment" after Baltimore's stunning upset victory over her husband's team in last week's AFC Championship game. She also spoke on Ray Lewis fathering multiple kids by multiple women, which isn't a crime, per se, only to imply Lewis has no morals.

So I am wondering. When sports heroes are charged with serious crimes and evidence is presented, tried, and has ultimately failed the required beyond-a-reasonable-doubt burden, is it fair for the guilty stigma to remain?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Black Madonna

"Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake, cake." - Rihanna

Usually, whenever I've reflected upon an individual who has undergone an abrupt change in behavior, my first instinct is to wonder what in the world transpired to make a person go from there to here? A connotation which implies that something negatively occurred along the way. However, when it comes to multi-platinum recording artist Rihanna, strangely enough, it's the complete opposite. If anything, the Barbados-born beauty now seems to possess a force unknown beforehand, an unapologetic attitude in which she has thoroughly embraced.

Six years ago, I recall hearing this song for the very first time and thinking to myself how uniquely distinctive the woman's voice sounded. The song, Umbrella, incorporated a hypnotic chorus delivered over an addictive mixture of old school hip hop drum patterns and giddy R&B chords, and easily the slickest R&B song I'd heard since Beyonce's solo debut Crazy In Love, which also featured a befitting Jay Z verse. I remember saying, "She's on her way to being a superstar." Reason being, I felt the international appeal of Rihanna was poised to reach wider audiences. Rolling Stone listed the Grammy Award winner at number three on the 100 Best Songs of 2007.

Years later, despite critics who've adamantly insisted that Rihanna doesn't own an ounce of professional talent and mostly resembles a woman belonging to the world's oldest profession, "Little Miss Sunshine" is a bonafide superstar. Rihanna isn't the best singer or dancer or entertainer. For all I know, she isn't the best anything. Yet, in an industry where Beyonce has ran roughshod since "uh-oh, uh-oh," Rihanna has managed quite a name for herself. Only 24, the end of her chart-topping success appears to be nowhere in sight. Last year, Time Magazine named Rihanna one of the most influential people in the world. Forbes ranked her as the fourth most powerful celebrity with earnings of $53 million. Not bad for an artist who's signature recording is a song passed on by representatives of both Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige.

Rihanna reminds me of a less than talented little girl dancing in the mirror in a bedroom filled with loud music and emulating her idol and biggest influence, prancing wildly back and forth as if you cannot tell her anything and all eyes are focused squarely upon her every step. Not to mention she's getting paid to do that which we've done for free. So although the performance itself might be somewhat bad, the realness of it all is perfectly good. A carefree persona which bears the attitude that she can do absolutely no wrong. All of which assures me that Robyn Rihanna Fenty could give a damn how you, I, or anyone else feels about her. At the end of the day, I am positively sure that mere words will never stop Rihanna from doing Madonna.

Even better than Madonna, at that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It Bey-gins with The Second Letter of The Alphabet

"I walk like this cause I can back it up." - Beyonce

So what does one call a woman who walks it like she talks it?

Somewhere around '98, I watched a music video on BET featuring an upcoming female group from Houston, Texas. Although the ballad No, No, No was sultry, it didn't move me, and thus wasn't anything to write home about. At a time when multi-talented artists Lauryn Hill and R.Kelly completely owned pop charts, in my opinion, Destiny's Child needed a song that demanded attention. Weeks later, I recalled a live performance introducing a hip-hop driven remixed version of the song which featured Wyclef Jean's vocals and thought to myself the group now had the right idea. Apparently so did others, as the song bolted up charts and announced the group's arrival. Then came the coming-of-age Soul Train awards performance where the group strutted onstage to welcomed applause. Not quite "the young Supremes" as Wyclef had suggested, unless of course, he referred to the level of disparaged interest between lead singer and fellow members. Even then, few confused Beyonce Knowles as Diana Ross. Fifteen years later, who could've possibly imagined that both would one day be together in terms of worldwide velocity.

Yet there are some who, to the day, continue to front as if they don't really want it.

Sweet dream or beautiful nightmare. Not since late rapper Tupac Shakur had a recording artist drawn such conspicuously different responses on opposite ends of the spectrum. Beyonce's critics are contradicting, to the point where I've occasionally wondered if in fact it is actually Beyonce who is being referred. Opinions so polar that I once interrupted a conversation and insisted to be shown an image of Beyonce to ensure it wasn't Nicki Minaj or Lady GaGa. Simply put, I cram to understand the amount of criticism hurled at an artist so irreplaceable. There is none like Beyonce.

Usually, whenever a flamboyantly beautiful woman struts into the room, many are taken aback. I've noticed this to be particularly true involving women. It isn't necessarily the physical features that leaves others threatened, as much as the overall bold nature. Human nature teaches that any act which is considered offensive results in a defensive reaction. In this case, Beyonce is all but expected to humble herself when in reality she has little to do with another woman's insecurity. Imagine yourself in Beyonce's shoes - which in all probability you have, and consider the enormous amount of hard work it took to reach and maintain current position in the industry. At no point are good looks and ego alone expected to become the meal ticket, end of all ends. Although appealing to the eyes, striking beauty never equated to the overall talent and high-level sweat that defines the core of Beyonce's dime piece. Success wasn't given, it was thoroughly earned.

For as long as I can remember, when it comes to women, the music industry has exacted a certain image within videos. The flawless woman who possessed nothing but top-notch qualities. Beyonce personifies this image. So, work ethic aside, to witness someone like Beyonce defies logic and leads one to insist that she is fake. Cause a woman as fierce as Beyonce cannot possibly be real, can she? While it's possible to simply not prefer Beyonce, I hardly believe as much to be true in instances where so much energy is invested into the woman's every move. If only I had a dime for every time somebody claimed utter disdain, then proceeded to offer opinion upon every last one of her songs and videos. Furthermore, and to add perspective, the majority of women hurling criticism towards Beyonce's excessive pussy-popping stage performances are the same women in favor of Roe v. Wade, which allowed women the right to do as they preferred with their bodies. Enchanting, or so I've heard.

Truth is - Beyonce is "your girl." She paid dues, made the right moves all across the board and continues to hold it down, despite unfounded resistance. Sure, there are other beautiful and talented and hard-working female recording artists such as Adele, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, to name a few. But none as beautiful and talented and hard-working as Beyonce. If Diana Ross is The Boss, then Beyonce is The Boss of All Bosses. The Upgrade. Your favorite female artist's favorite female artist. King B.

Again, what does one call a woman who walks it like she talks it?

A bad bitch, period.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Beautiful Song Takes Your Breath Away: 25 of The Most Beautiful Songs, Ever

"Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a light in the heart." - Kahlil Gibran

  • Dancing With My Father - Luther Vandross
  • A House Is Not A Home - Luther Vandross
  • Loving You - Minnie Riperton
  • Up Where We Belong - Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes
  • At This Moment - Billy Vera
  • Angel - Sarah McLachlan
  • Sara Smile - Hall & Oates
  • Just Once - James Ingram
  • You Are Not Alone - Michael Jackson
  • You Were Meant For Me - Jewel
  • This Woman's Work - Maxwell
  • I Miss You - Klymaxx
  • Tender Love - Force MDs
  • Endless Love - Lionel Ritche/Diana Ross
  • Always - Atlantic Starr
  • True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
  • Against All Odds - Phil Collins
  • You & I - Stevie Wonder
  • Deliverance Is Available - Vickie Yohe
  • Sweet Thing - Chaka Khan
  • Suddenly - Billy Ocean
  • I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
  • Our Love - Natalie Cole
  • Silly - Deniece Williams
  • Let It Be - Paul McCartney

Thursday, June 14, 2012

MC Lyte: The Dopest Female You've Heard, Thus Far

"The ones who write your rhymes might as well hold your microphone." - MC Lyte
Ask anyone the dopest rapper ever heard, and names received are sure to be male rap artists. Everyone from Rakim to Nas to Em to Biggie to Pac to Jay Z. And rightfully so.

Besides stage presence and endless ability to turn a phrase, male rappers have dominated the art form since mainstream inception 33 years ago, as Sugar Hill Gang dropped the crown jewel Rapper's Delight.

So much in fact that hardly anyone recalls Funk You Up, another legendary and just-as-quality recording released in the same year by The Sequence, an all-female trio, also signed to Sugar Hill label.

Based upon this fact, alone, it's safe to assume respect wouldn't come easy for female emcees, no matter how extraordinaire the verse. It would be an uphill battle to be taken seriously. Perhaps the underlying thought towards female rap artists was one of ghost-written lyrics, gimmick, show - indications that it was more about appearance than actual craft or substance.

For the most part, female rappers and groups alike were looked upon as being "cute" and relegated to B-sides and "opening-act" status. In the same manner which nightclubs offer free entrance and drinks to ladies in hopes that these women will attract men and their dollars to the front door. In other words, rap labels understood how women didn't necessarily purchase records and concert tickets. Men did. We purchased them for our women.

In the years passed, significant strides were made, most notably the release of full-length platinum-selling albums, commanding music awards and listeners across the world, leading prominent artists such as Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, Salt-N-Pepa, Lil Kim, Eve, Jean Grae, Nicki Minaj among others to become household names and rap legends in their own rights.

But, of female emcees to ever grace the mic, when it comes to the one who freaked the beat with the same passion, versatility, relevance and relentlessness of the greatest male emcees, one who actually penned lyrics and demonstrated solid storytelling ability along the way, one who captured the true spirit of hip hop and brought it all to life in song and dance, one who blinded audiences with a science that other female emcees have yet to find...

Brooklyn's own, MC Lyte.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beats & Rhymes: An Ode To Hip Hop

Before crack cocaine dissipated entire black communities, before gangs, guns and violence wreaked complete havoc, before sex, before so many fell victim to the streets, before hip hop became known as rap music, before M.C. Hammer sold out, before Vanilla Ice, before East Coast versus West Coast beef, before the Internet, before downloading began, before Thug Life, before Lil Kim, before everyone wanted to be a rapper, before criminals became rappers, before rappers Steady B. and Cool C. decided to rob a bank and murder a police officer, before Facebook, Twitter, Google, Napster and iTunes.

Back when rappers where known as emcees and deejays, when Common loved her, when Heavy D. was known as The Overweight Lover, when there were B-boys and B-girls, when we learned how to pop-lock and breakdance, when Rakim took seven emcees and put 'em in a line, when L.L. Cool J and Kool Moe Dee battle-rapped, when M.C. Lyte put feelings aside, when we jammed Run DMC on the school bus during field trips, when hardly anyone was afraid to attend a rap concert, when everyone watched Yo MTV Raps on Saturday mornings, when the intro to the song The Show made us lose our minds, when L.L. Cool J was hard as hell.

Back when hip hop artists wore gold jewelry, when she said he's "just a friend", when Roxanne was stuck up, when Jay Z was still a drug dealer, when the music was fresh, when it was all about the size of your boom box, when we sat in the back of the class and rapped our favorite verses, when we created beats with our hands and mouth, when we dialed our favorite radio stations and requested our favorite songs or looked to be the exact caller in order to win concert tickets, when Ladi Dadi was the most requested song, when gym shoes were cheaper, when our grandmothers were still alive.

Before rappers tatted all kinds of crap onto their face and body, before studio gangsters, before M.C. Hammer earned and blew millions, before P. Diddy continuously changed his name and danced in all of his artists videos, before remixes, before rappers collaborated with R&B singers, before rappers collaborated with struggling R&B singers, before Will Smith was a parent himself, before Suge Knight, before Nino Brown, before Juice, before we self-destructed, before Drake and Nicki Minaj were born, before the film Brown Sugar captured the vibe, perfectly.

We all fell in love with the beats and rhymes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Artist Known As Prince

Socially, the 80s are considered The Decade of Decadence. Although, musically, such years could be described as The Decade of Excellence.

If you were a young, up-and-coming artist trying to make a name for yourself during this period, there was no question as to how you had to possess the complete package. In 1984, alone, some of the greatest albums ever known were released by some of the greatest artists ever known - Madonna, Sade, Bob Marley, Lionel Ritchie, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Van Halen, the list goes on.

Not to mention the birth of a self-indulged MTV Generation which demanded artists to offer audio and video connections, thereby transforming certain acts into a new dimension, almost overnight.

Social barriers removed, there remained a parade of cameras stuck in the face of favorites, each step of the way. In a sense, the image became just as important as the music. The more eccentric the talent, the more interest received. Thus, vast popularity and monies were gained in the process.

That said, two artists ran roughshod over the competition. Prince. Michael Jackson.

Prince Rogers Nelson was the quintessential rock star.

I vaguely remembered the name from an older relative while listening to the radio one morning. My cousin claimed the man on the radio who sounded like a woman would one day be a star.

At the time I was much too young to care or own any true knowledge for music, in general. So his statement entered one ear and out the other. As far as interest goes the only music I had known word for word - songs from the film Grease.

Therefore I had no idea who Prince were, or what he were, for that matter.

Years later, this much became obvious as I found myself seated inside of a movie theater viewing Purple Rain, a film based upon the struggles of the greatest overall musician these eyes and ears ever witnessed. The storyline and soundtrack thrusted Prince into the spotlight and forever defined his artistic career. Afterwards, Prince became a household name.

Truth be told, the man was already a star.

I'd never seen anything like him. From his superb songwriting to crafty production to commanding performances to the many influences which followed his lead - Prince stood in a league of his own. Not only that, but, if witnessed beginning to end, one recalled how each recording ventured as extensive versions of previous releases. And, an inkling of which direction Prince were headed, artistically.

Year after year, Prince delivered vintage material. All the while inventing and re-inventing his image along the way. In a way, the man became as renaissance as he dressed. At one point the artist born in Minneapolis, Minnesota was often imitated, but never duplicated. Prince was one of a kind. Clearly, the mold had been broken.

Looking back, I hold even more respect for Prince based on the fact that he never abused booze or drugs. An occurrence which appears to be a staple in the life and death of so many talented musicians, beforehand and afterward.

In the beginning, music critics on a whole denied the unapologetic, mysterious, shockingly sexual artist known as Prince. In the end, not one can deny his music nor his purple reign.

King Michael

Motown's 25th Anniversary Special. Michael Jackson, immortalized.

And I wasn't even a Michael Jackson fan, at first.

Sure, I recalled childhood memories where my sister and I raced in front of televisions and watched Jackson 5 perform on The Hippest Trip In America, emulating lead singer Michael's moves.

I remember seeing the Off The Wall album cover in my mother's song collection and wondering if Michael's socks really glowed. But those were the extent of my interest.

Then it happened.

The mesmerizing Motown appearance, where The Glove One ushered his brothers away and performed the song Billie Jean. Michael was spectacular and completely dominated the stage. The audience cheered, there and at home.

Of course, no one danced like Michael Jackson. The boy was bad. Smooth.

The next day at school the performance became the topic of discussion, by students and teachers.

Then came the Thriller album and epic video of the same title. Then the infamous Pepsi commercials. Followed by weeks and months of celebrated Michael Jackson-mania.

Then came The Victory Tour, or Jackson 5 Tour, as his brothers looked to financially gain from Michael's success. Then came everyone wanting a jacket like he wore in the video Beat It.

Not to mention a countless number of magazine covers and music awards along the way. Somewhere in the midst of it all, Michael Jackson was proclaimed King of Pop.

A crowning moment for the man who, once upon a time, shared the spotlight with his brothers. Although it was clear to everyone who'd witnessed his young talents that the sky was the limit for the child born in Gary, Indiana.

Eventually, an older Michael's star soared amazingly further into the skies, beyond anyone's wildest imagination. To the point where the gifted entertainer appeared to walk on the moon.

Even now, in death, there is no surprise as to how the fame of Michael Joseph Jackson remains larger than life.

Looking back, the best way I can describe such a phenomenal career, and perhaps the greatest compliment I can give any recording artist - my grandmother loved Michael. My mother loved Michael. I loved Michael. And my daughter loved Michael.

In essence, generation upon generation loved Michael Jackson, and at some point or another, we've all sang his songs and emulated his performances.

Thank you, Michael.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Luther Vandross

It had been suggested.

If ever wanting to perfect a romantic setting and needing melody which framed the mood, someone who possessed beautiful, near magical vocals - Luther Vandross.

No one sang quite like Luther. He is, by far, the greatest vocalist these ears ever heard.

Love ballads such as If Only For One Night, If This World Was Mines, So Amazing, A House Is Not A Home, Dancing With My Father, amongst others, are some of the greatest love songs ever.

Some of the greatest songs, ever.

Far as balladeers go, one could actually close their eyes and lose themselves within the richness of his melodies.

As a young teen, and hopelessly in love with Hip Hop and all it entailed, I was introduced to Luther under the most unlikely of circumstances.

While one day searching my mother's cassettes, seeking a tape I could place strips of scotch tape onto the opened tabs in order to record over, I noticed something.

There were more than a few Luther Vandross recordings in her collection, even Christmas music.

A fact which led me to believe there was something essential about his music. Sure enough, there was. So I decided to listen.

The way he so effortlessly carried a note and belted each lyric was compelling, to say the least. All of which took place throughout the presence of an absolutely amazing, serene-like singing voice.

Unfortunately, Luther is no longer with us in body. But his pleasant spirit continues to reside within the ears and hearts of everyone who has ever loved.

Some Luther Vandross.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

To Anita Baker, With Love

I cannot say enough about the music of this exceptional songstress, except that her recordings have withstood the all-too-important test of time.

If there is but one rhythm & blues singer in the world, male or female, whom I've listened passionately over the course of decades - Anita Baker.

Like fine wine, her music has aged quite wonderfully.

At a time in the mid-80s where Hip Hop claimed an entire generation and extraordinary black artists such as Michael Jackson, Janet, Prince, Whitney Houston, all reigned over the music industry, less mainstream artists struggled to maintain their voice amid such greatness.

Not Anita.

Bright lights and near media circuses aside, the Grammy Award-winning singer born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in Detroit, Michigan produced a string of albums which provided more of a quiet storm.

Thinking back to my initial experience - a talent show in junior high, where a classmate walked onstage and completely floored the audience with an unforgettable rendition of Sweet Love.

It would be the first, but certainly not the last last time hearing the song which celebrated love and affection.

In the days following I purchased Rapture, Anita's debut album, which led to an appreciation of the woman whose body swayed as she sang, perhaps signaling the spirit of love had overcome.

Accompanied by a jazz-like arrangement, which captured essence and enhanced her sultry vocals, bringing her music even more to life.

As years passed, most artists re-invented themselves time and time again. Anita Baker remained the same. In melody, appearance, songwriting and appeal.

You knew exactly what was in store when it came to classics like No One In The World, Good Love, Giving You The Best That I Got, I Apologize, Body And Soul.

Soft soul music, of the good old fashioned variety. The kind where such composition never appears as "songs", but scenes of a woman standing intimately in front of the love of her life and revealing sincere emotion.

Meaning, one cannot help but receive every single expression. Which, as it pertains to matters of the heart, is all one can truly ask.

Thank you, Anita.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Time I Fell In Love, I Didn't Know What Hit Me

A person will always remember exactly how they felt the very first time they found themselves head over heels in love.

For myself, it occurred during my 10th grade year in high school, where I fell in love with Sandy Hudson, a 12th grader, and, by far, the prettiest thing in life I'd ever seen. She was a green-eyed, semi-thick redbone with long locks of sandy brown hair.

In my extremely immature mind I was convinced that God had created the perfect woman. She was born with absolutely no flaws, and no one could tell me different. Her walk, talk, even her smell spoke of sheer perfection.

Although we were both members of the track team she had absolutely no idea of my crush. I had kept it hidden to the point that I wouldn't even sit next to her on the bus, nor bleachers. I simply watched and admired from afar.

The classmates who bore knowledge of my infatuation would say, "Let's be real, what in the world would Sandy Hudson want with you?"

For the most part I understood the underlying message being unspoken. Sandy and I lived in two different worlds. The age and grade difference didn't exactly help my cause, either. While most dudes had after school jobs and their own cars, I rode the school bus and the bench on the football team.

Sandy dated Grady Dotson, college student, and son of the high school football coach. I was a solid dresser and cooler than Santa Claus but, I admit, Grady and his family had all of the material comforts, unlike my mother and I.

As we all know, high school can sometimes be shallow.

Anyways, I slid love letters into the vents of  Sandy's hallway locker. I would sign them "S. Cartier", a signature which, to this day, I have no ideal of its origin. Probably from a cool-sounding bottle of cologne I'd seen at the malls.

Once, during a track meet, Sandy caught a cramp. Feeling as if I wasn't a threat, she handed me a tube of muscle reliever and asked if I'd gently massage the cream onto the back of her thighs. Talk about nervous - I'm quite sure she noticed how my hands trembled the entire time.

While laying face down on the bleachers, she joked, "I hope S. Cartier's not watching."

"Who is that?" I asked, already knowing the answer to the question.

"Some guy who has a crush on me."

I asked her whether she liked him. She replied, "No, but I would like to like him."

Inspiring words which caused an abrupt overflow of cream.

A week later I ordered a dozen roses and had them delivered to front office. I included a passionate-laced letter which revealed S. Cartier's true identity. I remember her blushing, while standing outside of my bus after school that afternoon. We smiled, exchanged numbers and talked on the phone that evening.

The next day, she came to the apartment complex where I lived and together we went swimming.

Our growing friendship eventually arrived to the point where we once skipped class and hung out at the movies one sunshine-filled Friday afternoon. We sat and held hands as we watched the romantic film Under The Cherry Moon. Then came the matching spray-painted shirts and the all night phone conversations and a gang of tongue kisses.

Fully involved, the time soon came where I would make believers out of non-believers. A moment which took place between the walls of an intramural basketball game. Holding hands, we walked into the gym together and immediately turned the heads of my friends as they all watched in complete shock.

For those who claimed I could never get Sandy, well, I had her. Words cannot describe the feeling which overcame me as I witnessed their jaws drop to the floor. I remember her being asked, "Why Don?"

And she would always reply, "You cannot help who you love."

Needless to say, we never had sex, we only shared kisses; sometimes, until our lips were sore. But what we experienced were some of the sweetest and defining  moments of the entire school year.

After she graduated, Sandy and Grady married and moved to Minnesota.

I cried, she cried, and that was that.

So much for first love.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quotes: Kanye West

"I ain't here to argue about his facial features. Or here to convert atheists into believers. I'm just trying to say the way school needs teachers, the way Kathy Lee needed Regis, that's the way I need Jesus. So here go my single, dawg, radio needs this. They say you can rap about anything, except for Jesus. That means guns, sex, lies, videotape. But if I talk about God, my record won't get played?"

- Kanye West, Jesus Walks

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 22 Hip Hop/R&B Collabs

22. Dilemma (2002) - Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland

"No matter what I do. All I think about is you. Even when I'm with my boo. You know I'm crazy over you..."

The chemistry between these two artists appeared so genuine that it was hard to believe there was no romantic involvement. At least none that was confirmed. If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you were already romantically involved, and someone came along and blew those feelings completely out the water, then I'm sure that you can identify with this song. It happens. And Nelly's practical rhymes combined with Kelly's beautiful voice captured the emotion, perfectly. Grammy winner.

21. Heaven or Hell (2006) - Joy Denalane featuring Raekwon

"What do I believe in, Heaven or Hell. I don't believe in Heaven cause I'm living in Hell and that's my life. With you..."

Easily the most underrated collaboration listed. German singer-songwriter Joy Denalane provided an impressive mixture of soul/R&B while famed Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon delivered heartfelt emotion. This melodramatic tune explores the complexities of a relationship that clearly died a long time ago, yet the woman struggles to keep the love alive. That is, until the truth of the matter can no longer be denied. Powerful sentiments expressed.

20. Lost One (2006) - Jay Z featuring Chrisette Michele

"I heard motherf*ckers saying they made Hov. Made Hov say, okay, so, make another Hov..." 

Til this day, there are those who surprisingly have never heard this song. Which is stunning, considering the lyrics were penned at a time of burden in Jay Z's life. The rapper had lost a close nephew in a tragic car accident, severed ties with long-time friend and business partner Damon Dash, and suffered a brief split with singer Beyonce (although actress Rosario Dawson is also rumored). In the end, Jay Z bled his heart and soul onto the Dr. Dre-produced track. Sultry singer Chrisette Michele provided a captivating chorus.

19. Why (Remix)  - Jadakiss featuring Anthony Hamilton

"Why Halle had to let a white man pop her to get an Oscar? Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?"

Have you ever witnessed a rap artist with exceptional lyrical ability, yet someone who never seemed to produce the one particular song that could transform his career into a mainstream success? Well, all changed for Jadakiss in '06 the moment he released this crossover hit which featured some of the East Coast rap artist's most provocative commentary. Hamilton's rich vocals carried the chorus. The single sparked controversy and condemnation from political commentator Bill O'Reilly, mainly due to one particular line: "Why did Bush knock down the towers?"

18. Soldier (2004) - Destiny's Child featuring T.I. & Lil Wayne

"Body marked up like the subway in Harlem. Call 'em, Weezy F. Baby. Please say the baby..."

Loved this song from beginning to end. First, Destiny's Child went back to its southern roots and identified with a street credibility that had escaped the group since they first arrived onto the music scene. Secondly, the group reached out to rap artists T.I. and Lil Wayne, southern rappers on the verge of mainstream success, who represented a swagger that connected with the spirit of the song. Based on Kelly Rowland's seductive dance moves, alone, I never tire of watching the entertaining video.

17. Nicety (1989) - Michele featuring Dr. Dre

"Some people think I'm nice. Some people think I'm nasty. But if you really want to know, just ask me..."

Old schoolers will immediately remember this effort. It featured two West Coast artists that had begun to make a name for themselves within the music scene. N.W.A rap artist Dr. Dre was regarded as an up and coming producer, while Michele - equipped with an explosive singing voice, carved her niche as a sweet and sassy R&B singer. Euphoric-like track, it elaborated upon a woman so sorely fed up with male double-talk, that she herself had assumed a complicated yet polished role. Musically, Michele was ahead of her time.

16. No Diggity (1996) - Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre & Queen Pen

"Rolling with the phatness, you don't even know what the half is. You got to pay to play just for shorty bang bang to look your way..."

Dr. Dre, Teddy Riley, Dave Hollister, Queen Pen. The roster of talent of this song is so thick and extraordinary that it would have served an even greater justice if an entire album had been created. Smooth melody. Check. Infectious riffs. Check. Catchy lyrics. Check. Slick Hype Williams-directed video. Check. For me personally, this bird call has always signaled the progression from gangster rap music into a more contemporary style of R&B music. No Diggity won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

15. I Wanna Be Down (Remix) - Brandy featuring MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah

"About yay short. About yay tall. About so big. About so small. About this length. About this width. About this flow. About this gift..."

In '94, New School R&B met Old School hip hop. The result - a classic recording featuring four talented sistas who celebrated strong feelings of yearning towards their male counterparts. The lyrics stuck, as each female rapper offered slick narrative flow, in a sort of schoolyard manner. Of course Brandy locked the chorus and Hype Williams produced the video. I have no idea what transpired in Brandy's career from the moment she dropped this song up until the present, but, upon listening to her soulful flavor on this track, it was clear to understand why she was hailed for pop stardom.

14. Hey Lover (1995) - LL Cool J featuring Boyz II Men

"I gotta take you from your man. That's my mission. If his love is real, he got to handle competition..."

Caught between the well known sentiments of chance and affection, this collaboration worked for both artists. Boyz II Men had long been known for their penetrating ballads while LL Cool J. had carved his niche as a master of hip hop love songs. In a sense, Hey Lover portrays the romantic quest of a man who finds himself engaged in a passionate crush and sets out to take the woman from her man. In the end, both LL's and Boyz II Men's contemplations vibrate with mature fantasy. Hard to ignore sentiments. Grammy winner.

13. What These B*tches Want? (2000) - DMX featuring Sisqo

"You're thinking Life, I'm thinking more like, 'What's up tonight?' C'mon Ma, you know I got a wife..." 

However offensive the question itself - it is a legitimate response to the confused ideology shown by many women involved with married men. Only DMX, a brash New York rapper known to keep it real in the most unimaginative fashion, could perform such misogynist and confrontational honesty. I am not so sure another rapper would have garnered the same effect. But DMX pulled it off with relative ease. That said, I should have known that DMX smoked crack. Former Dru Hill R&B artist Sisqo opposed DMX's hardness with a soul-stirring chorus. Blazing track. Hype Williams video.

12. How Do Want It? (1996)  - Tupac Shakur featuring Jodeci

"Honey just meet me at the strip club, bring a thong. Look how they shaking for that cash, once again it's on..."

Death Row's finest. Tupac had just been released from a 10-month prison stint and politely responded with a quadruple platinum double album, which, at the time, was unheard of. The East Coast versus West Coast rivalry and gangsta rap, in general, was in full swing, and all the world was a stage. So what does Pac do? He ironically flipped the script and dropped a massive pop hit that balanced his entertained qualities as a thug, gangsta rapper, player. Jodeci members K-Ci & JoJo responded with a soulful chorus that summed up the song's undeniable sentiments. Producer Johnny J. showed out on this track. The video also featured an adult entertainment version.

11. You Got Me (1999) - The Roots featuring Erykah Badu & Eve

"If you were worried 'bout where I been. Or who I saw. Or what club I went to with my homies. Baby don't worry you know that you got me..."

As the case with Lost One, there are those who haven't heard this particular song either. I shouldn't be too surprised, considering The Roots weren't exactly mainstream artist at the time, although their album became a breakthrough success. You Got Me went on to win a Grammy award. Dope track, dope rhymes, and a riveting Erykah Badu chorus which gives loving reassurance amidst the insecurity that exists in relationships from time to time. Ms. Badu is her eccentric self and Rapper Black Thought is as underrated emcee as they come.

"It took awhile to get me here. And I'm gonna take my time. Don't fight that good ish in your ear. Now let me blow your mind..."

10. Let Me Blow Your Mind (2001) - Eve featuring Gwen Stefani

Dr. Dre, Eve and Gwen Stefani completely outdid themselves on this critically-acclaimed and Grammy award winning song. Fueled by an ingenious beat and equally contagious chorus, Let Me Blow Your Mind launched Eve's career into a whole new realm. From the beginning verse, Eve confirmed her status as one of, if not the top, female rappers in the game through articulate and self-assured lyrics. Stefani brought home the chorus in paralleled fashion. If this song doesn't make women everywhere get up and dance, then you just cannot dance.

9. Crazy In Love (2003) - Beyonce featuring Jay Z

"Got me looking, so crazy, my baby. I'm not myself lately, I'm foolish, I don't do this..."

Like many, I have the slightest idea what transpired from the moment that Beyonce ended the group Destiny's Child to pursue a solo career, til the time she unleashed this Grammy award-winning single upon the world. Whatever happened, I am glad that it did happen, it signaled a new era in the music industry and  placed the pop singer into iconic status. In fact, her music became so potent that her group efforts no longer represented her overall talents. Raw sexuality mixed with admitted vulnerability, Crazy In Love redefined her career and locked up the game, all in one setting. Jay Z dropped a sweet 16 on the track.

8. Can't Knock The Hustle (1996) - Jay Z featuring Mary J. Blige

"You ain't having it? Good. Me either. Let's get together and make this world believe us..."

One of the best that has ever done it, by far. Before this classic single dropped, hardly anyone had heard of rapper Jay Z. After every major radio station in America finished playing the song, the Brookyln-born rapper was viewed as a major force in the rap game. Due largely to his slick rhyme schemes, mafioso lyrics and accompanied Godfather-like video. It would also serve as a collab which led to singer Mary J. Blige becoming a hot commodity as far as hip hop/R&B collaborations. In time, Jay Z would take the game where no other rapper had gone beforehand.

7. Friends (1989) - Jody Watley featuring Eric B & Rakim

"Friends will let you down. Friends won't be around. When you need them most where are your friends?"

A moral education. A breakthrough collaboration between the two genres, and personal favorite of mines. But then I am a huge fan of both artists. Extremely underrated and sensual singer Jody Watley set the bar with this hard truth concerning the sometimes gritty and imbalanced portrait of friendship. Not to mention the fact that her lyrical sentiments are identifiable from beginning to end. Rap legend Rakim dropped his usual poignant rhymes. Loved his priceless intro on the song's bridge which included a sample of one of his popular hip hop tracks.

6. Ready Or Not (1996) - The Fugees featuring Lauryn Hill

"So while you're imitating Al Capone, I be Nina Simone and defecating on your microphone..."

Lauryn. Wyclef. Pras. If, for whatever reasons, you have wondered the mass appeal of Lauryn Hill, then look no further than the diverse talent being displayed on this particular song. There is no other song in the history of music which features a female artist delivering a chorus so flawless, as well as a rap verse so fierce. The Jersey native offered a unique gift.

For example, take the song Hey Lover, a Grammy winner. Imagine Lauryn performing the hook and verses. Even then it doesn't serve any justice, considering that she is a much better rapper than LL and arguably a better sing than Boyz II Men. A compounding element which leads one to believe Lauryn when she proclaimed, "Voodoo, I can do what you do, easy." Significantly, the song pushed L Boogie to the forefront of both multi-platinum group and the music industry.

5. If I Ruled The World (1996) - Nas featuring Lauryn Hill

"Open their eyes to the lies. History's so foul. But I'm as wise as the old owl. Plus the gold child..."

Black diamonds and pearls. An instant classic long before the single ever hit the airwaves. Hip hoppers knew from the very moment it was announced that Queensbridge rapper Nas and songstress Lauryn Hill would collab, the result would be rather profound. True enough, it was. From L. Boogie's soulful chorus to the sophisticated verses of Nasir Jones, the song is infinite in its ability to not only offer critical thinking, but rediscover fellowship amongst brothers and sistas. In many ways, it is a response to conflicts over morality, behavior and politics in Black America. The bar was raised.

4. Whatta Man (1994) - En Vogue featuring Salt -N- Pepa

"So here's to the future, cause we got thru the past. I finally found somebody that could make me laugh. You so crazy. I think I wanna have your baby..."

Helluva song and collaboration. Moreover, it provoked a much-needed response to gangsta rap's nihilism. This star-studded collaboration featured both crowned hip hop and R&B queens coming together and celebrating their appreciated kings. A forgotten gem - the ultimate compliment I can pay such a timely recording, Whatta Man paid homage and disconnected brothers from the cultural idea of suffering and struggle. The lyrics envisioned not only togetherness, but the immeasurable love which exists in honest and healthy relationships as well. A rare fist raised.

3. One More Chance (Remix)  - The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Faith Evans

"Heartthrob never. Black and Ugly as ever. However, I stay Coogi down to the socks. Rings and watch, filled with rocks..."

When this song and video dropped in '95, Brooklyn's finest The Notorious B.I.G. sat atop the hip hop throne. He signaled a new era, one in which flamboyant gangster-laced rhymes combined with stylish presence would serve as the formula. Biggie Smalls was a masterful lyricist, probably the best ever. R&B Singer and his soon-to-be wife Faith Evans supplied the vocals. In perhaps one of the most star-studded hip hop videos ever produced (Hype Williams) - a presentation which reads like a who's who among the music industry, the rap artist proved exactly why he was hailed King of New York amongst his peers. Everybody loved Biggie.

2. All I Need (1994) - Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige

"Like sweet morning dew. I took one look at you. And it was plain to see. You were my destiny..."

Word to life. A genuine example of the struggles often found in pre-adolescent relationships where hardly anyone approves of the union. I fell in love with this song the very first listen, as did most listeners. It speaks of inner peace amid the disparaging atmosphere. Through Method Man's profane yet reaffirming tone, and Mary J. Blige's soothing chorus, All I Need connected the pain and redemption felt during such a most criticized yet unbreakable bond. For the longest this classic song and video had stood alone as far as hip hop/R&B collaborations. Grammy winner.

1. Love of My Life (2003) - Erykah Badu featuring Common

"Y'all know how I met her. We broke up and got back together. To get her back, I had to sweat her..."

For me, this Grammy award-winning ode to hip hop has always resulted in a bittersweet listen. At heart, it's a generational rift which reminds me of a funeral process, one in which the genre was spiritually laid to rest. The song and video takes viewers back to an appealing place in time where hip hop was young and represented possibility. The lyrics speak of feelings that will never be experienced again. If you really really love hip hop  and it's spirit remains within yours, Erykah Badu's closing chorus - where she emphasizes her words, tugs indelibly at one's heart.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Janet Jackson: She Is Who We Thought She Was

Already knowing ahead of time that we would be leaving out of New Orleans long before Mary J. Blige graced the stage late Sunday evening, I tried to ignore the fact that I wouldn't be seeing my favorite female R&B singer.

Although the Mary of today is far removed from the Mary of yesteryear, as far as I am concerned, it still doesn't take away from there being no other female singer who can step to the microphone and bring lyrics to life in the passionate manner in which Mary J. Blige is known.

So when Monique and others constantly reminded me that Janet Jackson was the headliner of the 2010 Essence Festival, the best that I could offer was a slight shrug. I mean, I have always liked and enjoyed Janet Jackson - who hasn't? But, in all honesty, it has been a minute since I have found myself listening to her songs.

After witnessing her opening night performance, I stand corrected - she is who we thought she was. Simply put, Janet was amazing. She danced, strutted, wooed, teased and seduced, sweated and controlled the Superdome audience for at least two hours as she performed many of her greatest hits.

True enough, I had witnessed her outstanding videos and televised performances; yet in still, I could not believe my eyes. From beginning to end, Janet displayed a significant amount of energy as the night went along. Her wardrobe and stage presentation were just as magnificent.

With so many years passed as an artist, it leads one to believe that her best performances are a thing of the past. While that might very well remain the case, Janet gave no indication that she received the memo. Given that, it's quite easy to understand how Janet's career has spanned twenty-eight long and successful years.

From what I saw, this wasn't the case of a has-been entertainer trying hard to rejuvenate a career. Not at all. Neither was it an example of 44 year old Janet showing the current generation how it is properly done, as many echoed throughout the crowd.

Nope. I chose to view Janet Jackson's commanding performance in a much different light. It appeared to me as a point blank reminder of a talented human being who simply loves what she does. In the end, it certainly goes a long ways.

As we bear witness.

My favorite Janet Jackson video of all-time. One in which she forever separated herself from other female pop artists::