I See You, BET: ‘The New Edition Story’ Review

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There’s been many constants in my life.  One of those constants is New Edition.  For those of y’all that were born after 1990, New Edition was an R&B/Pop powerhouse during the ’80s and ’90s that consisted of Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill and last but not least, Bobby Brown.  Yes, that Bobby Brown.  I’ve loved these fellas since I was 4 or 5 years old, and many of their songs still remain in heavy rotation on my IPod.  Not only, but their solo and side group projects have become just as legendary.  I’m sure y’all have heard Bobby’s solo stuff, and Bell Biv DeVoe was amazing.  Johnny and Ralph’s solo songs are just as timeless.  So, when I first heard about the The New Edition Story during the 2016 BET Awards, I couldn’t wait to see it.  I patiently waited and finally, this past week (Jan. 24-26, 2017), the miniseries aired.  I loved it.

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Let me get the technical stuff out the way first.  The production value of this film was gorgeous.  The sharp picture and flawless editing made this minseries look like a Hollywood feature film.  Ever since the early 2000s, BET stood more for “Bootleg Entertainment Television” instead of Black Entertainment Television.  For the longest time, they only aired videos throughout the day, and when they did air TV shows—entertaining as they were—they looked like they cost all of $30,000 to make, if that.  Then TV One came along and brought some serious competition.  BET answered back with Centric, their sister channel, but TV One still had more viewers.  It looks like BET realized they had to step up their A game, and hired a sleek production team to handle their movies and TV shows.  With The New Edition Story, Being Mary Jane and upcoming movies and series like The Quad, Mandiba and Rebel, BET is reminding everyone that they’re still relevant, dammit.

Now onto to the actual acting and storyline.  The performances and plot were on point.  The miniseries was divided into three parts, which were all great, but I have to admit that parts one and two were a little bit better than part three.  The final section was slightly rushed, and I don’t know why on God’s green Earth the director and producers thought that Bobby Brown was still rockin’ a high top fade and leather suits in 1996 and 1997.  I promise you he let that look go by that time.  Just check out the “Hit Me Off” video if you don’t believe me.

Other than that, the movie was pretty flawless.  There were a lot of big name actors in it, too:  Wood Harris, Lala Anthony, Faizon Love, Lisa Nicole Carson (I was happy to see her come back to the industry!), Michael Rappaport, Monica Calhoun and Bryshere Gray aka Hakeem from Empire.  I was very proud of Bryshere (I’ll call him by his real name for the purposes of this post, but he’ll always be Hakeem to me).  The role of Michael Bivins is a far cry from spoiled brat Hakeem Lyon, and Bryshere more than proved that he’s a good actor, and he actually has some pipes.  Oh, yes…just like the films Cadillac Records and Walk the Line, these actors had to sing themselves.  By the way, Luke James, who played Johnny Gill, really did the film (and Johnny himself) justice.  If you have absolutely no interest in watching the miniseries, at least watch the scene where the fellas record “Can You Stand the Rain.”  It blew everyone away.  I also have to give props to Tyler Marcel Williams, the actor that portrayed Bobby as a child.  I swear he looked and acted like a miniature version of him.

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Another thing I loved about this film is that like most biopics that take place between the ’80s and ’00s, it brought back a lot of good memories (I LOVE how they recreated Video Soul!).  Like I said, I grew up listening to these men, so I remember when “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” got heavy rotation and when Bobby’s Don’t Be Cruel album was the hottest joint of the year (man, I remember my mother and I listening to that tape everyday she picked me up from school when I was in second grade.  Such nostalgia…).  However, I learned a lot of stuff from this miniseries, too.  Allow me to list some of the facts I found out about, assuming they’re true.  You guys know how biopics exaggerate and create scenes and characters for the sake of entertainment. (SPOILERS HEREIN)

  • Bobby is the one that started the group.
  • Once upon a time, Bobby actually had stage fright, if you can believe it.  Hence, his reason for starting the group.  He didn’t want to perform alone.
  • The group originally consisted of Mike, Bobby and Ricky.  They asked Ralph to join after deciding that three guys wasn’t enough.  Ronnie came along much later, after the group was already pretty well established in the neighborhood.
  • The original bad boy of the group wasn’t Bobby, it was Mike.  Mike was known as the troublemaker in the neighborhood, and his attitude almost got him thrown out of the group.
  • New Edition was headlining shows early in their career.  Apparently, Kurtis Blow and Madonna opened for them.  Yes, Madonna.
  • According to the movie, Kurtis Blow was kind of an asshole.  He didn’t like that he had to open for a bunch of pre-teen boys.  No wonder he felt like The Fats Boys got robbed when New Edition beat them during the talent show.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Watch Krush Groove.  🙂
  • Maurice Starr actually paid the boys $1.87 for Candy Girl.  They had to split that amongst themselves.
  • A personal observation:  “Is This the End?” sounds a lot like “Please Don’t Go Girl” by New Kids on the Block (I used to love that song).  I never noticed that before.  By the way, Maurice Starr also managed NKOTB.  Coincidence?
  • Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced Heartbreak, the comeback album that has the hits “Can You Stand the Rain,” and “If Isn’t Love.”
  • Ralph was groomed to be lead singer of the group from the beginning, and Maurice even tried to coerce him into being a solo artist.  Ralph refused.
  • It turned out that per MCA’s contract, any member of a music group that was seen as beneficial was still bound by said contract if he ever left the act.  Hence, MCA approached Bobby to make a solo record after he was voted out of New Edition.
  • The Home Again tour was a hot damn mess.  It turns out the fellas’ ego had gotten so large that they were spending money they didn’t have and were even taking separate tour buses to shows.  The tour ended with a huge fight on stage complete with gunshots fired during the performance.
  • The men didn’t just fight during the Home Again tour.  During the Cool It Now tour, a fight broke out between the fellas onstage due to Bobby’s showboating.
  • Bobby first became a father at 17.  Ralph was also expecting a child with his long-time girlfriend around the same time, but she unfortunately, she miscarried.  The manager they had at the time did everything he could to keep the news of Bobby’s first child out of the media for fear of losing fans.
  • Bobby wasn’t the only member of the group with substance abuse problems.  Ricky also had issues with addiction, and actually overdosed.
  • Bobby’s signature look on the “Every Little Step” video was made purely by accident.  The barber wasn’t paying attention and cut the side of Bobby’s fade off.
  • Mike brought Johnny into the group after Bobby left to give New Edition a more mature sound.
  • Since Bobby and New Edition were still under contract with MCA, they still had to tour together, with Bobby and Al B. Sure! opening for the group.
  • “You’re Not My Kind of Girl” is actually a New Edition song.  All these years I thought it was a Ralph Tresvant solo song.  By the way, that song always perplexed me.  He doesn’t want a good woman that’s pretty and carries herself well.  Are you looking for a THOT?
  • Boyz II Men named themselves after the New Edition song “Boys to Men.”  They became part of Mike’s East Coast Family (Boyz II Men, Another Bad Creation aka ABC, and Bell Biv DeVoe aka BBD) when they auditioned for him in front of New Edition’s tour bus.
  • Bobby may have been voted out of the group unanimously, but it wasn’t a decision that the fellas took lightly, and it hurt them immensely to do it.  Seeing that tear stroll down Ricky’s face nearly made me cry.

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All in all, this film was excellent, and whether you’re a fan of New Edition, or you’ve never heard of these guys in your life, or the closest attachment you have to these men are seeing Bobby Brown on various reality shows, please check this miniseries out.

—Written by Nadiya

So, what did you think about The New Edition Story?  Was it the TV event of 2017, or was it highly overrated?  Did it bring back fond memories of the ’80s and ’90s?  Did you learn a ton of new things about the group like I did?  Let me know in the comments section!

Top 10 Songs of 2016

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Happy New Year, y’all!  I know it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog (October, to be exact), but since I have a tad bit of free time for a change—and I’ve ended my Christmas vacay from writing—I’ve decided to do a little somethin’ somethin’ regarding the past year.

Now, 2016 wasn’t exactly the easiest year for most of us, and I’m sure that a lot of us are happy that it’s come and gone and we were blessed enough to survive.  However, I have to say that one of the good things about 2016 was that the music was on point.  2016 actually had a a resurgence of music, in my opinion, and I decided to make a top 10 list of the best songs the year had to offer.  Mind you, these are just the songs I’ve heard this year, and the majority of the songs I listened to belonged to the genre of Hip-Hop and R&B.  Most of the Pop songs last year made me promptly turn the station, and I’m more geared towards Classic Rock than the contemporary stuff.  With that being said, let’s jump right into this!

10.  “Hotline Bling” by Drake

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I realize this song was actually released in 2015, but it got some crazy airplay in 2016, and I first heard it around January or February of last year.  Drake isn’t a strong singer, but the tune of this song is really catchy, as is the music that was used.  I have to admit, this is the first Drake song I’ve liked (I don’t listen to a lot of today’s Hip-Hop), and I uploaded it to my IPod not too long after discovering it.

9.  “Phone Down” by Erykah Badu

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Like many of the songs on this list, I heard this gem while listening to The Steve Harvey Morning Show on my way to work.  It’s one of Erykah’s most straightforward songs, but the music and lyrics draw you in.  Lord knows it’s hard to make someone put their phone down in this day and age, but Erykah has you believing that she can easily make her man do it.  The video leaves much to be desired, but the song is gold.

8.  “In Common” by Alicia Keys

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A lot of folks say that Alicia hasn’t been the same since she got together with Swizz Beats, but in my opinion, she hasn’t missed a thing, and “In Common” proves that.  I came across this song this past summer while browsing for new music on You Tube.  The haunting tune and lyrics about still being in love with a man that she knows she shouldn’t be with got me hooked immediately.

7.  “Formation” by Beyoncé

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Y’all know “Formation” had to be somewhere on the list.  Pretty much every song on the Lemonade album was legendary, but I had “Formation” playing just about every day, twice a day on my IPod for weeks.  “Formation” had a bangin’ beat, as well as memorable lyrics (“I got hot sauce in my bag…swag.”).  Not only is the song itself the bomb, but the video is extremely inspiring with its homage to contemporary—as well as antiquated—African-American culture.

6.  “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd

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If you watched any videos regarding The Mannequin Challenge this year (which really impressed me, by the way), you’ve heard this song playing in the background.  There was something about the soft music and the hook that really got me into this song, which is saying a lot, considering I couldn’t get into too much of contemporary Hip-Hop nowadays.  Hip-Hop made a comeback in a major way in 2016.

5.  “Don’t Touch My Hair” by Solange

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Over the years, a lot of people slept on Solange and wrote her off as Beyoncé’s little sister, or the little lady that managed to whup Jay-Z’s ass in an elevator (I couldn’t resist).  However, when Solange released A Seat At the Table, she proved she was so much more and shut the naysayers up.  One of the many great songs on that album that stood out was “Don’t Touch My Hair.”  When I first came across the video, it had just debuted on You Tube, and what I thought would be a sassy tune about not messin’ with a black woman’s hair turned out to be a thought provoking song about the pride and culture of African-American people.  The video blew me away, too.  Much like Beyoncé’s Lemonade, “Don’t Touch My Hair” showcased the beauty of black people, but it did so in a more art house type manner.

4.  “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

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Anyone that knows me knows that I love ’80s music, and “24K Magic” brought ’80s realness.  Just when I thought that Bruno Mars hit his peak with “Uptown Funk,” he released “24K Magic,” and I fell in love with it right off the bat.  The synthesizers and the lyrics take me back to a simpler time, when MTV was actually entertaining.  Yeah, I went there.

3.  “Crush” by Yuna feat. Usher

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I had never heard of Yuna before coming across “Crush” on You Tube, but I’m sure to hear a lot more from her, considering how well made this song is.  Yuna and Usher make a perfect duet about a man and woman that have both have feelings for each other and are just starting to act on it.  On a side note, Yuna has a very pretty voice that’s similar to Jhene Aiko’s, another artist that I just discovered this past year.  Ironically enough, on Yuna’s album Chapters, Yuna and Jhene do a duet together.

2.  “Lazarus” by David Bowie

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Like “Hotline Bling,” “Lazurus” was actually released in 2015.  I listened to it a few days prior to Mr. Bowie’s death, and I really enjoyed it, even more so than the title track.  Then, Mr. Bowie passed away and I realized what “Lazurus” actually was…a goodbye.  Now it hurts me to listen to the song, or any of the songs featured on the Blackstar album.  I certainly can’t watch the video.  Nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great song, and it’s had an extreme impact on music fans.  We still miss you, Mr. Bowie.

1.  “Cranes In the Sky” by Solange

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Yes, Solange made the list again, proving how good the songs featured on A Seat At the Table are.  I first heard “Cranes In the Sky” on The Steve Harvey Morning Show and initially, I didn’t think it was quite as good as “Don’t Touch My Hair.”  Then I gave the song a second chance, and realized just how beautiful it was.  The video for “Cranes In the Sky” was equally gorgeous with its artful images of landscapes and African-American people.  I’m lovin’ this new neo-soul side of Solange.  I’m more than happy to see that folks will finally look at Solange as an artist in her own right, and she’ll finally be leaving her big sister’s shadow.

There were a lot of great songs released this past year, but only 10 of them could make this list.  However, I wanted to post some honorable mentions, too:

“Can’t Wait” by Jill Scott

“Love Me Now” by John Legend

The Lemonade album by Beyoncé (yes, the entire album)

“Blended Family” by Alicia Keys

The TWENTY88 album by TWENTY88 (Big Sean and Jhene Aiko)

—Written by Nadiya

So what were your top songs of 2016?  I mostly listened to Hip-Hop and R&B, so I’m interested to read which songs got heavy rotation in your playlist!  Let me know in the comments section!

Prince Tributes and Preachin’ Truth At the 2016 BET Awards!

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Man, oh man…a lot of stuff went down in the last 24 hrs., and I have to write my humble opinion about it all.  Before I watched the epicness that was the season finale of “Game of Thrones,” I made it my business to check out the 2016 BET Awards, considering the shade they threw towards Madonna’s Prince tribute a month or so ago (see the above picture).

The majority of the show was entertaining.  I loved Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross’ version of Hamilton (I have to see this play).  Beyoncé gave a stunning (and water filled) performance of “Freedom,” then quickly bumped out, as my future father-in-law Ice Cube would say.  I caught Maxwell givin’ Taraji the side eye during her monologue:

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I knew that look was gonna become an internet meme.  My boo O’Shea Jackson, Jr. didn’t win best actor (boo!), but Straight Outta Compton won best movie (yay!), and a bunch of musical artists that I never really heard of (other than Drake) won a bunch of awards.  I got to see Fat Joe and Usher perform (separately, not together), which was sweet.  Every few moments, the celebs would come out and remind us how important our vote is (which it really is), and even mentioned how Brexit basically proved that.  Gabrielle Union’s hair and all her outfits were fierce.  Samuel L. Jackson won the much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.  Oh, and there’s gonna be a New Edition movie coming out soon along with a new Morris Chestnut stalker film.  Like I said, all that stuff was entertaining.  But what really made my night were the Prince tributes (which was my main reason for watching the show), and Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech.

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Before I talk about the Prince tributes, I wanna touch on Jesse’s speech.  Prior to last night, I basically knew Jesse Williams as “the hot black guy from Cabin in the Woods.”  I stopped watching “Grey’s Anatomy” after Izzie starting having sex with Denny’s ghost and George got hit by a damn Greyhound bus, so I’m not familiar with Jesse’s work on that show.  However, his appearance at the BET Awards converted me into an instant fan.  Last night, Jesse was presented with BET’s 2016 Humanitarian Award for his work in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  His acceptance speech blew me away.

My blog isn’t a political one, but as always, I have to keep it 100%.  Jesse’s speech was full of truth.  He spoke on how black men should treat black women as the queens we are, how we as a people shouldn’t waste so much of our money just to have a brand on our body (i.e. breakin’ our necks just to have the new Jordans or the new Apple Bottoms…nothing against those designers, and yes, it’s good to want nice things, but some of us focus a little too much on that).  Then he spoke at length on how police officers have been known to refrain from using excessive force with Caucasian citizens, and should learn to do the same with African-American citizens.  He also went on to say that folks that don’t agree with the movement and don’t care about black rights shouldn’t criticize the ones that do.  Man, I felt the spirit when I heard this guy speak!  I love this man.  I even took the time to post something about it on Facebook:

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I noticed that Jesse was trending on Black Twitter earlier, until poor Justin Timberlake posted how he was inspired by the speech.  Then the former *NSYNC front man was unnecessarily drug through the mud for cultural appropriation and for later responding that “we’re all the same.”  Some of them even brought up old ass Nipplegate.  Lord.  If y’all want to watch Jesse’s speech or read of transcript of it, go to this site.

Now onto the Prince tributes…they were slammin’!  I saw Madonna and Stevie Wonder’s tribute at the Billboard Awards, and it wasn’t as horrible as most folks made it out to be, but at the same time, it didn’t hold a candle to the tributes that aired last night.  They weren’t just the best Prince tributes this year…they were best tributes to one of this year’s deceased musical artists, period.

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First, Erykah Badu performed “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.”  I’m not gonna lie, I never really listened to that song before (I vaguely remember hearing it briefly years ago, I think), and neither did my mom or my aunt, and my mother’s been a fan of Prince since he began his professional career back in 1978.  The performance was great however, and I was exposed to a new Prince song!  But I have to address something…some smarty pants on Facebook (that’s not a friend of mine, by the way) was talkin’ out his neck about how some folks didn’t know the song but claimed to be real Prince fans.  Smart guy, there’s thousands—and I do mean thousands—of Prince songs out there that I’m sure most folks haven’t heard, including yourself.  Even the biggest fans out there haven’t heard every single song, due to the fact that Prince has a vault full of twenty to thirty years worth of unreleased tracks.  Let’s not forget, some folks simply may not have listened to every single album that Prince ever released (I think he has about twenty of them out there).  So Daddy Cube, please tell that big mouth what he can do.

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Anyway, after Erykah performed, newcomer (or at least he’s a newcomer to me) Bilal immediately came out and performed “The Beautiful Ones.”  There’s two things I really loved about all these tributes:  one, they occurred throughout the show and featured more than one or two artists doing it all at once like other award ceremonies.  Secondly, the songs that were picked weren’t the most obvious choices for a Prince tribute.  You automatically assume “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” “Diamonds and Pearls” and “Let’s Go Crazy” will be played for a Prince tribute, but it was nice to also hear some of the other songs that we love for a change.  Steve Harvey took the same approach on his radio show the morning after Prince passed.

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I don’t know anything about Bilal, but he definitely seems like a talented brother.  His performance was one of the best ones of the night, and he went all out.  Not only did he write on the floor during the climax of the song ala The Kid in Purple Rain, but he even went so far as to wear boots with a heel (the heel wasn’t quite as high as Prince’s though).  The entire time Erykah and Bilal were performing, The Roots were playing behind them as the backing band.

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Next, Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly (another newcomer for me) performed a sweet rendition of “Take Me With You,” which I think may have surpassed the original.  No disrespect to Apollonia, but she never really had much of a singing voice, in my opinion.  I always liked “Sex Shooter,” though (you still my girl, Apollonia!).  Jennifer Hudson came out afterwards in a sleek, short, ivory white trenchcoat with a hoodie and sang the best outside version of “Purple Rain” I’ve heard yet (sorry, Adam Levine).

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Later in the night, Maxwell, the King of the Side Eye himself, performed “Nothing Compares 2 U” after singing “Lake By the Ocean” (which for some reason reminds me of “Bad Habits”).  I noticed that Maxwell changed the first line of the song to “It’s been seven hours and 66 days since you took your music away” (it’s been over two months since Prince passed), and retrofitted most of the song to convey how much the world missed Prince.  It was a butt kickin’ performance, and no disrespect to Madonna, but I enjoyed Maxwell’s version a bit more.  However, BET just couldn’t resist throwin’ a bit more shade…

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Anyway…

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Janelle Monae appeared next and performed a medley of “Delirious,” “Kiss,” “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U.”  Of course, she shut the place down as she recreated Prince’s dance moves, and even paid homage by wearing Prince’s signature stacked heels and buttless pants.  Anthony Anderson made sure he wasn’t outdone, though.

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Last, but definitely not least, was Shelia E.’s tribute.  My girl started her show with the classic song “Housequake” and segued into “Erotic City,” her and Prince’s legendary duet (one of my favorites!  As dirty as that song is, I’m surprised they allowed it!).  Mayte joined the dancers onstage, and I couldn’t help but notice that they were all barefoot.  Part of me wonders if there was a reason behind that.  Shelia publicly came out and said that dancing in four inch heels for so many years is what ruined Prince’s knees and hip, and caused him to be in intense pain as he became older.

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After playing a few bars of “Let’s Work” the medley went into “U Got the Look,” a song Prince and Shelia used to perform together all the time (that’s my jam!).  Then Shelia performed two songs that kind of had me scratching my head…”Love Bizarre” and “The Glamorous Life.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love those songs, but they’re technically Shelia’s songs, not Prince’s.  He wrote them and performed them with her from time to time…well, then again, I guess that’s reason enough.  She loved this man with all her heart and probably cherished every moment they spent together writing and performing songs.

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Shelia then broke out her guitar (I didn’t even know she played the guitar!) and played “America” (another song I’m not 100% familiar with because I never listened to Around the World in a Day in its entirety…once again, I think I heard it once or twice back in junior high), which led to “Baby, I’m a Star” and who came out?  Jerome!  Man, if Morris showed up, it’d be on and poppin’!  The tribute ended with Shelia carrying one of Prince’s guitar’s lifted to the sky, as all the dancers and musicians pointed upward at the heavenly angel they were commemorating.  Mayte had her other arm wrapped around Shelia.  It was two of the women he loved most standing center stage.  A fitting send off if ever there was one.

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Ms. Escovedo proved last night that she’s anything but irrelevant.  I loved all the performances, but Shelia silenced all haters, just like I knew she would.  D’Angelo was also supposed to come and do a tribute performance, but after seeing all these folks do their thing, I can’t say I missed him.  Besides, his rendition of “Sometimes It Snows In April” on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” a few months ago was a fitting memorial to The Purple One.  I give props to everyone that contributed to the tribute performances last night, and I give major props to Jesse Williams’ speech.  They all made for a very memorable awards show.  I loved it.

—Written by Nadiya

So what did you think about all of Prince’s tributes?  Were they history in the making or all just overhyped?  Did you like them more or less than Madonna’s tribute?  What about Jesse Williams’ speech?  Was he giving you life with that speech or just getting on your nerves?  Did you miss D’Angelo?  Did you wish some other artists contributed to the Prince tribute?  Also, what did you think about the song choices?  Would you rather hear more of Prince’s bigger hits, or did you like that they went with the more semi-popular songs?  Lastly, what do you think about BET’s constant shade?

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Damn, that was a read.  Your thoughts, please!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 David Bowie Album Covers

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Last week, I was in Columbia, SC visiting one of my favorite stores, Manifest Discs and Tapes (for those of y’all that love all things pop culture and live in the Columbia area, or if you’re located in Charlotte, NC or Charleston, SC; go to this store!).  While I was there, I came across something that made my entire day…they had Mr. Bowie’s earliest albums on vinyl!  Vinyl, doggone it!  I spent a good 10 minutes just salivating over those legendary records.  Too bad I didn’t have any money!

However, looking at the albums gave me inspiration for another Top 10 list.  At first, I decided on doing a Top 10 of Mr. Bowie’s greatest albums.  Then I realized that I’ve only listened to ten of Mr. Bowie’s albums (don’t judge me, the man had a 50 year career and 28 albums!  I haven’t gotten around to all of them yet!).  However, I have seen all of the covers for the albums, and truth be told, Mr. Bowie’s album covers themselves have changed the face of pop culture.  So, I decided to make a top 10 of Mr. Bowie’s best album covers!  Shall we begin?

10.  “Heroes”

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It’s always been something about the “Heroes” cover that’s been eye catching to myself and so many other fans, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s the pose, which according to the legend himself, was inspired by the painting Roquairol (as was Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, which was produced by Mr. Bowie and also released in 1977).  Or maybe it’s the fact that Mr. Bowie had debuted his new “Berlin Bowie” look on the cover (he officially changed his look when he did the Low album, but that album cover still featured his Thin White Duke persona).  Either way, this has been one of my favorite covers.  Mr. Bowie must’ve loved it too, considering that he recreated it for his 2013 album, The Next Day.

9.  Lodger

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Mr. Bowie is barely recognizable on the cover of this album.  For the longest time, I didn’t even think it was him until I came across the behind the scenes photos.  Basically, the artwork shows an accident victim in a bathroom, whose picture is taken with what may very well be a Polaroid camera (are there any 80’s babies in the house that remember those?  I LOVED those things!).  His nose is completely busted, hence the reason I didn’t recognize him.  The bottom half of the album shows Mr. Bowie’s distorted legs with his feet pointing inward (it was a gatefold cover; you know, when you unfold the album to reveal the entire picture…once again, something only folks born before 1989 know about).  This cover was damn ballsy.

8.  Earthling

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I’ll be honest, I never cared for Mr. Bowie’s Earthling era look.  No disrespect, but he was a little too mature for the spiky red hair after a while.  Please don’t get me started on that mohawk he sported for a minute during this era.  Despite all that, I always liked the Earthling album cover.  I’ve always been sort of an Anglophile, and as a lover of most things English (except the food), I think that Union Jack coat is the bomb!

7.  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

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No, Ziggy is not number one.  To be honest, if I did decide to do a top 10 of the ten albums I’ve listened to, Ziggy wouldn’t be number one on that list, either (*gasp!*)!  However, this album and its cover are both iconic, so it still has a place here.  At first I didn’t care for the colorization of the picture.  I didn’t think it was really needed, especially given that Mr. Bowie didn’t have that bright blond hair color until 1983.  Later I realized the colorization may have been a necessary evil after all, considering that the pic was taken at nighttime.  Plus it makes the images stand out more, hence making the picture more memorable.  Another cool thing about this cover is that the location of the photo (23 Heddon Street in London) has since become legend, and there’s even been a commemorative plaque placed on the building that once had the “K. West” sign.  By the way, this was one of the gems I saw on sale at Manifest last week.  Man, I wish I could’ve bought it (I said the album wouldn’t be number one on my list; I didn’t say I didn’t love the album).

6.  Station to Station

1976-station-to-station-david-bowie-billboard-1000Simply put, I love this cover because it’s a still from Mr. Bowie’s greatest film, and one of my favorite movies, The Man Who Fell to Earth.  Let’s not forget, The Thin White Duke is one of my favorite Bowie personas.  The album has been re-released in color, but personally, I prefer the black and white version, and they thankfully brought the original cover back when the deluxe album was released back in 2010.  To all my fellow Bowie fans out there, if you haven’t listened to this album yet, please do so (this would’ve been number one on my list!)!  Sadly, this album was not at Manifest…but it should’ve been.

5.  Diamond Dogs

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Once again, this is another kickass cover.  Between 2009 and 2010, it was the wallpaper for my very first smartphone.  It was another gatefold album that opened up to show that Mr. Bowie was a half man, half dog hybrid.  Back in 1974, when the album was released in the good ‘ol U.S. of A, this cover caused a lot of controversy—but not because Mr. Bowie had a dog’s lower half.  It was because the lower half actually showed the dog’s junk.  Wow.  Being the puritanical party poops that we are, the U.S. version made sure to cover up the dog’s wee-wee, so the American cover looked like this:

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Much better.  On a side note, I was walking my dog just yesterday and I caught a view of his junk when he went to mark his territory.  Sweet Jesus, my eyes are still burning.

4.  Pin Ups

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Never listened to the entire Pin Ups album (what did I say about judging me?), but I’ve always loved this cover. The makeup is brilliant.  I love how Mr. Bowie and the model both appear as if they’re wearing masks.  I also like how they made Mr. Bowie’s face less pale (or at least attempted to) and made the model’s face more pale, although she clearly has a tan.  Just in case you’re wondering, the lovely lady in the photo is Twiggy, one of the earliest (if not officially the first) supermodels!  Oh yeah, this was another vinyl classic I found at Manifest.

3.  The Man Who Sold the World

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Do you even have to ask why this is on the list?  Look at that dress.  Only Mr. Bowie could pull off that dress and boots.  When asked why he chose to wear a woman’s dress on the cover, Mr. Bowie cheekily told reporters that it was a “man’s dress.”  The album itself kicks ass, too.  I found this one at Manifest as well, and nearly screamed out loud.  It turns out the vinyl version has a cover made out of a sort of canvas material.  Very cool.

2.  Hunky Dory

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Not only is Hunky Dory one of Mr. Bowie’s best albums (better than Ziggy, I might add), it’s one of his best album covers.  He’s just so pretty here, and I welcomed the colorization more here than I did with the Ziggy album.  The pose was inspired by the legendary German actress Marlene Dietrich, and the picture was taken by one of Mr. Bowie closest friends, George Underwood.  A bit of trivia: George Underwood is also the person responsible for Mr. Bowie having a permanently dilated pupil in his left eye (it gave the appearance of him having a blue eye and a brown eye).  The reason is because back in high school, Mr. Bowie stole George’s girlfriend and got a punch in the eye for breaking bro code (George had a ring on when he delivered the strike).  Mr. Bowie later thanked him for giving him his signature look.  I found this beauty amongst the Manifest bunch, too.

1.  Aladdin Sane

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This may be the world’s biggest cliché, but I don’t care.  Aladdin Sane is my all time favorite David Bowie album cover.  Everything about it is just ethereal and iconic.  The makeup, the hair…everything.  When I saw this cover for the first time as a young girl, it just stayed with me.  Remember when I said Mr. Bowie’s album covers changed pop culture forever?  Aladdin Sane did that more than any of Mr. Bowie’s other albums.  Whenever someone sees a lightning bolt—especially a red and blue colored one—the first person they think about is David Bowie.  When Mr. Bowie passed away, I used this photo as my profile pic on my Facebook page for the next few months.  This image from this cover is everywhere:  coffee cups, t-shirts, posters, etc.  Even Grace Jones and Homer Simpson paid homage to it:

Not only was this baby was in Manifest’s crates too, but they also had an Aladdin Sane poster and a t-shirt for sale.  Talk about a girl being in nerd heaven!  Man, I really need more money.  Can I take up a collection from you guys?

—Written by Nadiya

Do you agree with my list?  Which David Bowie album covers do you think are the best?  Also, if you’ve listened to more than ten of Mr. Bowie’s albums, which ones do you think are the greatest?  Give me your thoughts!

Lil’ Dicky: The Goof That Can Flow

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First of all, let me apologize for not posting anything in a while.  Last week was crazy…VERY crazy.  I hated that my first post for this week had to be one saying farewell to a talented young man, but I felt like a tribute was in order.  Now, that I’ve said that, let’s get down to business.

During the craziness that was last week, I watched my new favorite You Tuber, Lovely Ti, report on how Black Twitter was basically draggin’ an up and coming rapper named Lil’ Dicky because he was featured on XXL‘s 2016 Freshman Class cover.  Oh, did I mention that he’s a white guy?

Me personally, I believe that music is music, and if there’s a genre that you love, no matter what race you are, you should pursue it.  Mr. Bowie did R&B music for a hot minute (and did it damn well too, I might add!).  Darius Rucker is a black man, and he sings with a country/rock twang (he’s the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish, for those of y’all that don’t know.  If you were born between 1975-1986 and lived in South Carolina between 1994-1996, you probably know all too well).  Besides, there’s been plenty of white rappers that can really flow:  Eminem (of course), The Beastie Boys, MC Serch, Bubba Sparxxx, Mackelmore (yes, doggone it.  I said Mackelmore.  I happen to love “Thrift Shop”), etc.

Despite the aforementioned facts, white rappers—and white R&B singers, for that matter—are still catchin’ a lot of hell.  Even Eminem continues to get put down to this very day, which personally astounds me.  After 17 years (damn, I feel old saying that) he’s more than proven that he’s one of the GOAT’s.  So, when Lil’ Dicky appeared on the cover of XXL, he was no exception to the rule.  However, Ti mentioned in her video that Dicky actually has skills, and that piqued my interest.  One of the reasons I became interested is because today’s Hip Hop doesn’t really do much for me (with the exception of a precious few artists), so I wanted to see if this guy really had the skills to get me interested in his music.  Secondly, when I took a glance at this guy, I had to see if he could really show and prove as a Hip Hop artist.  Not because of his race; like I said before, race has nothing to do with it.  It was because, quite frankly, Lil’ Dicky looks nothing like a rapper.

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Oh yeah, and check out the XXL cover:

XXL Freshman Class 2016 (Alt)

A terry cloth robe and the thumbs up sign?  No, Lil’ Dicky is the last person I’d think is a rapper.  He looks more like the goofy, yet cool guy that you work with that you can always count on to cheer you up on a suck day.  I had to hear this guy rhyme.  So, I went on You Tube and looked up a few of his songs.  I have to say…I was pleasantly surprised.

Ti was dead on the money, as usual.  Dicky really can rap.  Truth be told, he’s still goofy, but cool, and he’s not afraid to poke fun of himself in his rhymes.  That’s what I like about his music.  Not only that, but his flow, delivery, and the music he uses is on point.  Not only that, but the man can freestyle…I mean, he can really freestyle (most seasoned rappers consider freestyling performing lyrics from songs they’ve already written and/or recorded.  That’s not freestyling in the true sense of the word).  I can actually see myself downloading some of his songs on my IPod.  So far, my favorite songs from him are “Ex-Boyfriend” and “Molly” (no, not the drug).

“Ex-Boyfriend” is basically about a Kim Kardashian lookalike that Dicky’s dating who runs into her ex the night she’s supposed to give it up to Dicky for the first time.  Naturally, the ex looks like a male supermodel, and Dicky really starts to get insecure when he sees the dude’s dick while in the men’s room.  The song is hilarious, and catchy.  It’s been in my head for the longest.  “Molly” is a departure from Dicky’s comical side, and goes down a slightly darker path.  This song is also about an ex, but this time, it’s Dicky’s former flame.  He’s still madly in love with her, but he has to go through the heartache of seeing her get married to another man.  The lyrics are really deep, and the video makes you want to cry.  The other songs I listened to like “White Dude” and “Lemme Freak” had me noddin’ my head in enjoyment, too.  Not only that, but they had me crackin’ up!

Lil’ Dicky is proof that you can’t always judge a book by its cover.  He may not look like your typical rapper, but the man definitely has talent, and he deserved to be on the cover of XXL, thumb up and all.  If there were more contemporary Hip Hop artists like him, I’d listen to more new rap music instead of living in the glory days of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s.  Seriously, I only know about ten or twenty new school rappers:  Kendrick Lamar, Drake, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (yes, he’s a rapper just like his daddy)… there’s more I can name, but I’m sure all of you reading this have better things to do with your day.  In conclusion, don’t sleep on Lil’ Dicky.  I easily see this dude changing the game.

Lil’ Dicky’s debut album, Professional Rapper, is available on ITunes.

—Written by Nadiya

So what do you think about Lil’ Dicky?  Is he a phenomenal Hip Hop artist, or do you think that’s he completely wack?  Do you think race is a consideration when it comes to Hip Hop music, or do you go by talent alone?  Also, when you first saw Lil’ Dicky, did you think he wouldn’t be able to flow judging by his looks?  Give me your thoughts!

Sheila E. “Irrelevant”?? Girl, Bye!

Prince and Sheila E

What’s up, ladies and gents?

In case you haven’t heard, Prince is going to be honored at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, and the artist chosen to do the tribute is none other than…Madonna.  Now, when Madonna was picked, the ladies that host “The Talk” discussed the topic.  Sheryl Underwood mentioned that Sheila E. should do the tribute with Madonna.  Makes sense to me.  However, Linda Perry (Sara Gilbert’s wife) was guest hosting the show and had this to say:

“In all fairness, Madonna was asked to do this and she was friends with Prince but you also have to think about it’s really the Billboard Awards, they think about who is hot and popular,” she argued. “They’re not gonna call up Chaka Khan and re-put together The Time and Sheila E. because they’re not relevant right now.”

Wow.  Now, I realize this conversation took place this past Friday (May 20th), and today’s Sunday (May 22nd), and I’m fashionably late to the party.  However, I just received the news feed on my phone this morning, and after seeing all the comments about it over the internet, as well as Sheila E.’s reaction and Linda Perry’s defense of her opinion, I have to put my two cents in.  First of all, I like Linda Perry.  Keeping it 100%, I had to Google her, because her name sounded familiar but I couldn’t remember exactly who she was.  When I looked her up, I saw that she was Sara Gilbert’s significant other, as well as the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes.  I loved their song, “What’s Up?” when I was in sixth grade, and I still love it to this day (as a matter of fact, I was listening to the song while typing this post).  Second of all, I’ve been seeing Madonna get a lot of flack for being chosen to do this tribute.  Why is that?  Madonna is a legend, just like Prince.  A few months ago, she did a mini tribute for Mr. Bowie during one of her concerts, and in my opinion, she killed it.  I must admit I never cared for her duet with Prince (“Love Song”); their voices just didn’t mesh well, and I wasn’t even aware that they dated for a short period of time.  However, Madonna is a good pick for this tribute.  She and Prince have a lot in common:  they both blew up in the 80’s, they were both mainstays on MTV, they both had enormous sex appeal and were seen as sex symbols, and they continued to make great music and evolve as time went on.  Hell, you can argue that Madonna actually is a female version of Prince.  On the other hand, Ms. Perry saying that Madonna is better suited to do a tribute than Shelia E. because the latter is “irrelevant,” is dead wrong.

Prince and Sheila 2

As LL Cool J once said, “there’s a flip side to every coin,” and there’s definitely a flip side to this one.  Yes, Madonna would do a great Prince tribute.  But in all honesty, when Prince passed, and I thought of people that would honor him on stage or an awards show, Sheila E. and The Time were the first people to come to mind.  Sheila E. is not irrelevant at all.  She’s a legend in her own right.  With her iconic albums The Glamorous Life and Romance 1600, her role in Krush Groove (one of my favorite films growing up), and her impeccable percussion skills, this lady is a doggone force of nature.  Considering that her father is Pete Escovedo, the former drummer of Santana, she was actually born from music royalty.  Not only that, but Sheila E. and Prince were basically the equivalent of Biggie Smalls and Puffy, or even Johnny Cash and June Carter.  They met each other in 1978, and were even engaged for a while.  After they broke up, they remained friends and were close until Prince’s death.  They maintained their working relationship as well, and continued to perform together in multiple shows.  Linda’s comments about The Time and Chaka Khan were wrong as two left shoes, too.  Prince helped create The Time, and he and Morris Day basically grew up together.  As for Chaka Khan…I’m just baffled.  Who would think that she’s irrelevant?  She’s basically a model for all popular female artists today.  Just last night, I was listening to a radio show that airs a segment called, “Battle of the Old School.”  The “battle” had Chaka Khan vs. Anita Baker vs. Whitney Houston.  Chaka lost the battle by a mere three or four points (Anita won).  I thought for sure she was gonna go home with the gold.

Saying Sheila E. is not relevant was pretty disrespectful to her as well as to Prince’s memory, considering how much she meant to him.  Madonna shouldn’t be catchin’ all the hell she’s getting (y’all should see some of the comments made about poor Madge), but truth be told, it’d be nice to see her and Sheila E. honoring Prince.  And yes, The Time and Chaka Khan should be there, too.  I wouldn’t even mind seeing Carmen Electra and Apollonia, or Sheena Easton, for that matter.  They all meant something in Prince’s life; something more than who’s popular right now, and who’s making the most bank.  Linda Perry ought to watch her words…someone could just as easily say the same thing about her.  Like I said, I respect her and her work, but truth be told, “What’s Up?” came out when I was an 11 year old girl contemplating life after elementary school.  I’m a 34 year old woman now.  Considering that her last (and arguably only) big hit was 23 years ago, does that make her irrelevant by her standards?

Prince - No

Think about that.

—Written by Nadiya

So what do y’all think about this situation?  Should Madonna do Prince’s tribute, or should it go to Sheila E. and the other artists he’s known for working with?  Do you think Linda Perry is wrong or do you agree with her?  Who would you like to see do a Prince tribute?  Give me your thoughts?

“Lemonade” Ain’t Your Mama’s Beyoncé Album!

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I know I’m late blogging about this, but due to other commitments, I wasn’t able to submit this post as quickly as I wanted to.  However, this album is so huge that despite the fact that it was released nearly a week ago, I feel the intense need to put my two cents in.

While I was impatiently awaiting the season premiere of “Game of Thrones” last Sunday, Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album was airing on HBO for the second—and unbeknownst to me—final time.  I watched parts of it, and saw where a good friend of mine was posting his hilarious thoughts on the film.  Although I was more concerned with whether or not Jon Snow was would be brought back to life, the bits and pieces I saw of the visual album piqued my interest.  I became even more interested when theories on the album’s content started going around the internet.  I’ll speak more on that later.

When I learned that Lemonade would no longer be shown on HBO, I downloaded the film and watched the piece from start to finish.  I was blown away.  I’ve seen Beyoncé happy, I’ve seen Beyoncé sad, I’ve seen Beyoncé ready to party, and I’ve seen Beyoncé insightful.  However, this is a Beyoncé that I haven’t really seen before.  This is Beyoncé pissed off.

You’d think with a title like Lemonade, the album would feature songs that would be cute and bubbly, all about love and happiness (hell, the title itself makes me want to enjoy a nice glass of my mom’s lemonade).  If you think that, not only would you be sadly mistaken, but it’d also mean that you’ve been living under a rock for the last few days.  As everyone’s heard by now, the album has a recurring theme:  a woman learns that her husband has been cheating on her, and she’s none too happy about it.  The album is definitely a dark departure for Bey.  There’s lyrics in the songs like, “Who in the fuck do you think I am?” and “Suck on my balls-balls!  I’ve had enough!”  Lemonade basically makes Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album look like a kid’s nursery rhyme CD.  Like the title of the post reads, this ain’t your mama’s Beyoncé album.  The new direction album takes is in no means a bad thing, however.  Pissed off Beyoncé is just as entertaining as Happy Beyoncé, if not more.  In my opinion, it shows how much range Bey has artistically, and I’m lovin’ it.  I’ve had the songs on heavy rotation on my IPod for the last few days, namely “Formation” (that’s my favorite song right now!).  Not only that, but I’ve been singing now infamously epic lyrics like, “You betta call Becky with the good hair,” and “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”  I’m lovin’ the “middle fingers up” and “When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster” lines, too.

The film brings the infidelity theme home with profound poetry between each song that describes the woman’s inner torment and later, her path on the road to recovery.  It also features images that range from comical (Beyoncé gleefully smashing everything in her path with a baseball bat), to artsy (there’s a scene where Bey is floating in a room submerged in water), to disturbing (in the first half of the film, Bey jumps off a building).  One thing I absolutely loved about this film is that each vignette showcases the beauty of black people, whether they’re dressed in 19th century style clothing, dancing for performance pieces (Serena Williams’ dance routine was on fire!) or just hanging around their local neighborhood.  Bey also takes the time to honor the young black men that lost their lives to police brutality by having their mothers appear on the film, holding photos of their lost sons.  There’s other touching moments too, like the clip of young Beyoncé talking to her dad, all the clips of Blue Ivy, and the video footage of Bey and Jigga’s wedding.

Speaking of Jigga, the million dollar question that everyone’s been asking is…is the album really about Jay-Z cheating on Beyoncé?  Now, this isn’t a gossip blog, so I’m not gonna speculate.  At the same time, when I created this blog, I promised myself that I would keep it 100%, so I will say that the album being about Jigga’s supposed infidelity isn’t exactly far fetched.  It would explain why Solange went straight HAM on Jigga in that elevator back in 2014.  Rachel Roy clappin’ back on Instagram regarding the “Becky with the good hair” lyric further adds to the rumors.  Some of the lyrics in “Hold Up” sound a lot like Jigga and Bey’s relationship as well:

Let’s imagine for a moment that you never made a name/for yourself/A master/What, they had you labeled as a king/Never made out the cage/Still out there moving in them streets/Never had the baddest woman in the game up in your sheets/Would they be down to ride?/No/They used to hide from you/Lie to you/But y’all know/we were made for each other/so I find you and hold you down

Then, there’s the poems with lines like:

You remind me of my father/a magician/Able to exist in two places at once/In the tradition of men/in my blood/you come home at 3:00 AM/and lie to me/What are you hiding?/The past and the future/merge to meet us here

We all know that Matthew Knowles cheated on his wife and fathered two illegitimate children.  It’s possible Bey is saying that she and Jay-Z have been in the same predicament.  If that’s the case, this album shouldn’t be called Lemonade, it should be entitled Tea, because she’s servin’ it hot.

On the other hand, this may not be related to Jigga and Bey’s relationship in any way.  I mean, let’s face it.  We don’t know what really goes in their marriage.  Rihanna has even stated that she doesn’t believe the album is about Jay-Z.  It just could be a concept album about a woman dealing with infidelity in her marriage, which isn’t a farfetched theory either.  Artists make albums with a common theme all the time, and women dealing with cheating husbands/boyfriends is something that many of us out there have experienced, and it’s an issue that will continue until the end of time.  Now that Bey is a wife and a mother herself, she may have decided to dedicate an entire album to discussing how she would react if she felt her family was in jeopardy.

No matter the reason behind releasing the content on the album, there’s one thing that’s certain…Lemonade is boss.  This may be Beyoncé’s magnum opus.  Between the film, the adulterous motif, the controversy following it and the killer songs, Lemonade will be discussed for years to come.

Lemonade can be found on Tidal and ITunes.

—Written by Nadiya

So what did y’all think about Lemonade?  Is it a masterpiece, or is it overhyped?  Give me your thoughts!