Beyonce, Trina, Lil Kim and now Mrs. Obama

So I watched the “Video Phone” video yesterday. I don’t quite yet know what a “videophone” is, but maybe that’s just a sign of me aging my way out of pop culture. I’m fine with that.

And I’m not going into the Gaga vs. Beyonce debate because I think it’s clear to anyone with eyes that Gaga didn’t bring it. And while the video was a good look exposure-wise for her, artistically it was a fail.

Here’s what I do wonder though: what exactly is the difference between Bey, Lil Kim, and say, Trina? Yes, Bey sings, they rap. She can dance too and does her own beats and production whereas it’s still a big question mark if Trina and Kim even write their own lyrics. I fully acknowledge all of Bey’s talents. But content-wise, where’s the difference? Bey’s lyrics are just as materialistic, her video and stage outfits are just as scanty, and she spreads and P-pops it just as good as (if not more and better) than both Kim and Trina in their heyday.

So I’m confused. Is it that Bey cleans up nice for awards shows? That she comes from a two-parent home? That she’s from the ‘burbs? That she manages to be raunchy without cursing? That she’s light-brite and generally assessed as pretty? (just throwing ideas out there.) That she mixes her catalogue of raunch in with empowerment anthems? That she hides her raunchiest side behind an alter-ego, Sasha Fierce so it seems like it’s not really her? (Pause. You have no idea how disturbing I find it that a alleged 28 year old woman feels compelled to express her sexuality solely as a stage persona or an alter ego of said stage persona.) I’m really, really curious where the distinction lies.

And so we’re clear, this isn’t me trying to diss Bey. I’m not a hardcore Bey Bey fan, but I’ve got enough on my iPod to do a train ride to work and a three-mile run without doubling up. And though I don’t like all the content she puts out (frankly her film career is mediocre at best), I do respect a woman’s hustle and grind. I am, however, a hardcore Lil Kim fan (no pun) and can recite her debut album line for line. This is not me trying to bring Bey down, more like bringing Kim up, and Trina too, by extension.

I threw the question out on Twitter last night and expected to be stoned got the following thoughtful responses:

[Bey’s] no bird, but she is their patron saint! The next tour should be called “Beyonce Live: Where Chickenheads Come Home To Roost”

She has better marketing, and a good team behind her

She has a “voice” that will always get her a pass

I think Bey is a little more subtle in her lyrics than Kim/Trina. No vulgarity. But she is def suggestive.

think bc Bey has other stuff goin on, she’s got fierce mgmt & she works that ‘shy & so blessed’ routine well in interviews. plus every1 knows the whole fam she comes from whereas kim and trina come off as hood chicks.

Actually, she does more poppin than all combined, but she also doesn’t talk about f’ing “while her period on” (Trina) or blowjobs

Ok. But like how do you get away with lyrics like:

you like it when i shake it

shawty on a mission

wat yo name is

what you want me naked

if you liking this position

you can tape it

on yo video phone

and not be called a bird. Trina and Kim would be torn to bits for rapping about sex on tape, and they were hardly held up as role models. Let’s also keep in mind that 9/10 of Bey songs about men are for “soliders” ie, dudes with their pants sagging low and in white tees. Picture Wayne (who was in the “Solider”video), or better, Jay… but in his dealing days, ‘cause 9/10 when you see him now he’s in thong sandals on the beach or grown man sweaters around New York or Londontown. What kind of occupations to dudes you know have if they still wear white tees and sagging pants post-college?

Exactly.

And Bey’s just as materialistic as Kim and Trina as we can see from the “Upgrade You Lyrics”

Audemars Piguet watch

Dimples in ya necktie

Hermes briefcase

Cartier top clips

Silk lined blazers

Diamond creamed facials

VVS cuff links

6 star pent suites

And while she may not curse, she’s just as raunchy. Recite any double entendre on “Ego” and get back to me.

Maybe it’s because she started out pretty wholesome—despite the barely-there bedazzled “costumes.” I mean there was “Independent Women,” “Survivor,” “Me Myself and I” (I’m just gonna overlook “Bills, Bills, Bills,” an entire song about a man picking up the tab, for the sake of my argument.) There was also that song that I can’t remember the title to, but with lyrics, “girl, go put some clothes on, you nasty…” (Oh, the irony!)

But that’s evolved, into every other single being say… “ Freakum Dress” where women are encouraged to “spin it all around and then take it to the ground.” Or maybe we can refer to, “Ring the Alarm,” where instead of leaving a cheating lover, Bey decides to stay, referencing and recounting all the expensive and name-brand gifts she’ll be missing out on if she bounces. If that doesn’t sound like a bird anthem or the blueprint to a Kim or Trina verse or two, I don’t know what does.

Maybe it’s that she caters to the fellas. Let’s face it, a lot of backlash to Kim and Trina was because they cared too much about getting theirs. And they did it with a bravado that mirrored a man’s. Trina’s openeing verse on “Da Baddest Bitch” lays it all out:

All eyes on your riches

No time for the little dicks

You see the bigger the dick

The bigger the bank, the bigger the Benz

The better the chance to get close to his rich friends

Same goes for Kim’s explicit expectation on “Big Momma”:

that’s how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one

and another one, and another one, and another one

24 karats nigga, that’s when I’m fuckin wit’ the average nigga

Both of these women have a high expectation in exchange for their services— money, an orgasm, something. Neither of these women have a “do your business and be done” situation like Mister and Ceilie in The Color Purple, or say Beyonce in “Cater to You” when she croons:

When you come home late tap me on my shoulder, I’ll roll over

Baby I heard you, I’m here to serve you

If it’s love you need to give it is my joy

All I want to do, is cater to you boy

Bar after bar she goes on and on about what she’s willing to do for her man (“because what she won’t “another woman is willing…”) and never, not once, asks for anything in return.

Is that it? Men are on board with her, so women fall in line?

I really don’t get it. I mean Kim wore next to nothing on stage, and was damn near stoned. Like Amber Rose, Trina got called all manner of “sluts” and “whores” for her all –Spandex, all the time get ups. But Bey shows up to sing Ava Maria, the “Hail Mary” of Catholic songs, in a leotard and veil and it’s like *crickets” from everyone, including the Catholic church. She shows up at the European Music Awards wearing red lingerie and matching garters on stage and no one bats an eye. A few years back, she gave Terrance Howard a lap dance on the stage for the BET Awards and barely a peep from anyone.

Is Bey benefitting from our relatively high shock-value, a bar raised by the antics of Lil Kim and Trina, so that she can do exactly what they did and not inspire the same level of outrage? Or is there something more to it than that?

I’m honestly confused.

Now…..maybe you’ve heard about the ongoing love fest between Michelle Obama and pop star Beyoncé Knowles. Their public girl crush stems back to at least April 11, when Beyoncé posted an image on her blog of a handwritten note, fawning all over the first lady. “Michelle, is the ultimate example of a truly strong African American woman,” Beyoncé wrote. “I am proud to have my daughter grow up in a world where she has people like you, to look up to.”

Mrs. Obama responded in kind via Twitter: “Thank you for the beautiful letter and for being a role model who kids everywhere can look up to. –mo”

Really? That raised my arched brows, but I assumed FLOTUS was being extraordinarily gracious after Beyoncé’s flattering open letter. I mean, Bey did lend celeb power to Mrs. O’s Let’s Move! initiative; she belted out Etta James’ “At Last” for the Obamas’ inaugural dance; and she and her husband, Jay-Z, have been fundraising for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

FLOTUS and Bey’s latest round of gushing began when Mrs. Obama told People magazine last week that if there was anyone in the world she would trade places with, it would be Beyoncé. On Tuesday she was at it again. While promoting her new book, American Grown, on Good Morning America, she fawned over Bey once more. “I love her to death,” said Mrs. Obama, a bona fide role model.

This love fest has gone too far for my liking. I’m no one (and neither are you) to police the first lady’s musical tastes, but this continued public endorsement of Houston’s Finest rubs me the wrong way. I am not a Bey hater, but I am an observant onlooker.

By all accounts Bey is humble and hardworking, and I know firsthand that she puts on one helluva stage show. She sings well. She’s rich and beautiful, and her jet-set lifestyle seems fabulous from the outside looking in. Beyoncé is undeniably talented. But … she is also several things I would never want a young girl to aspire to or emulate.

She is only slightly more role model-esque than three of the four reality stars ironically gracing the current cover of Vibe. Let’s keep it funky, folks: Beyoncé’s talent — the one that’s made her a multimillionaire and a household name — is the ability to habitually line-step on the Madonna-whore dichotomy. That is to say, she has mastered the art of moving her tush like a stripper and her hips like a porn star, and she still manages to be perceived as a lady and some sort of feminist. Women who have done the same or less have faced more criticism.

Her lyrics fluctuate between empowerment lite and sending women nearly back to the June Cleaver dark ages. For every “Me, Myself and I,” “Irreplaceable” or “Love on Top,” there are songs like “Cater 2 U,” where Bey (during her Destiny’s Child days) does everything for her man, from untying his shoestrings to offering a manicure.

There’s also “Run the World (Girls),” which sounds pro-woman at first, but the lyrics, combined with the video, seem to say that a woman’s real power lies in her ability to persuade a man to action by enticing him with what lies between her thick thighs. (She undercuts the come-on slightly by saying, “F–k you, pay me.”) And then there’s “Ring the Alarm,” which is pure Birdism 101. Bey sing-shouts in her special way about not leaving a cheating man because she doesn’t want to lose (or have another woman gain) access to expensive material goods purchased by her significant other.

Consider a few of Beyoncé’s performances/publicity stunts (and I’m scratching the surface here), like the time she sang “Ave Maria” at the 2009 BET Awards while scantily clad in an outfit from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” days. Or the entire year she didn’t wear pants while promoting B’Day. Or how she showed up to the Met Ball (aka the East Coast Oscars) in May wearing a dress that literally showed her ass.

This is the person with whom the first lady wants to trade places?!

For a woman of Michelle Obama’s caliber to uplift Beyoncé as a role model, and to speak of swapping lives with her, sends a damaging, demeaning and dangerous message to women and girls. It says that despite education and intellect, grace and power, what really matters is our looks, our willingness to submit and our ability to swivel our hips to sexually satisfy the opposite sex. We hear that message loud and clear every time a reality show airs. We don’t need to hear it from our first lady, too.

The Break Up Break Down…

My beastie called me this morning recapping a conversation that her and her new boo and future baby daddy (as she likes to refer to him) were having this morning. They were discussing how hard it is to be in love with someone and knowing that they are no longer in love with you. So in the mist of sharing this conversation with another mutual friend of ours he explains the break up break down from the breakee’s perspective. As he’s talking it reminds me of a song that I loved some years back… “Whose Gonna Save My Soul”. We sit for a couple of minutes trying to remember the lyrics and who sung the song. Later we discovered it was by Gnarles Barkley.

Here is where today’s blog begins….

So Kewon sends me the video link of the song that he and I were trying to remember from earlier. I played the video and I think it’s briliant, like the greatest summary of a break-up ever. Watching it is the most awkward and painful feeling because by now, I’ve been on both sides of the table (literally) and can relate all too well. One thing I did note, is that everyone always sympathizes with the Breakee, but being the The Breaker is no easy feat. Trying to “be an adult” and diplomatically telling someone that you likley no longer love, but still care for, “I’ve evaluated the ways in which you’ve contributed to my life and decided I can do better” is wrenching.(Bottomline: that’s what you’re saying when you end it. All the “it’s not you, it’s me,” is just to spare the feelings of the Breakee.)

The other person gives you the blank stare, maybe you see the muscle jump in the jaw, maybe he’ll cross his arms defensively. And even if he doesn’t interupt your drawn out verbal attempt not to feel like a bad person, you know he’s thinking some variation of “this bitch” or “are you fucking kidding me?” or even worse, “what the fuck am I gonna do now?” No one halfway decent enjoys feeling like the “bad girl.”

Basic decorum dictates that The Breaker must state her case, then listen to the Breakee’s rebuttal even though her mind is made up. And she may have to sit through a tirade about how “you are no prize either, just so you know.” He could swallow his pride and try to persuade her to rethink her decision (Steve to Miranda: “we’ve got good stuff here.”) Then she’s forced to pull a Caesar and decide the fate of the one-time strong gladitaor who’s been reduced to begging for extending the relationship’s life. So unpretty.

Breaking up’s a bitch, no matter which role you’re playing. (Even when it’s mutual, the whole “so what do we do now question?” followed by awkward silence is only slightly less painful.) Hence, why I love this video, which delves into the mind of The Breakee with startling clarity. The summaries of what comes next are hilarious in delivery, but two of the most introspective POVs written in a long time. Someone deserves a raise for crafting this one.

Anyway enjoy the video:

Whose Gonna Save My Soul Now

It’s a Sad Situation

I am so angry I could scream. Shit, fuck screaming, I am ready to have a temper tantrum.

I am in a funk. I could run down the short list of issues, but frankly, I don’t want to.

I will say that part of the problem is that Camtop 4, i.e. my laptop, is no more. The harddrive died and no files can be retrieved. The tech called to tell me and he sounded like a doctor informing that a close relative had gone on to meet The King. And I reacted like that’s what it was too. Tears and everything.

And no, before you ask. I didn’t have a back-up harddrive.

I know, I know. But I just bought the damn thing a couple summers back (for my bday no less.) I thought it’d be years before it conked out on me. So my pictures (biggest loss), blog outtakes, unpublished blogs (like a hundred?), Introducing Amelda Davis (the completed book that would never see the light of day), the new book, and all of my music are no more (well, I do have the excerpts I sent out). Oddly enough, the only thing that I’m upset about are the pictures. Everything else can be re-downloaded, re-written (possibly better than before. I’m taking off from partying and caking with my boo for a few days to re-do the book). But the moments in time that were captured can’t be re-duplicated, you know? But, I have a lot of pics on Facebook and Instagram; and at least I’ll always have the memories. (This is my attempt to find optimism.)

*Sigh*

I’m usually a chipper person despite any adversity I might face. But for the first time in a long, long time, I am very, very sad (and I can’t even sit at home and write about it as therapy.)

RIP Camtop 4. You (or at least the information you contained) were loved and will be dearly missed.

— CamronZoe

Lost in Thought

I have an urge to write the way some people, I imagine, have an urge to get high. When I have the need to and don’t do it, my thoughts get all jumbled and backlogged and I can’t think about much else. I’ll start typing parts out of choronological order on my iPad, or making an outline on my computer at work. I’d just tell someone, but telling them to a friend just isn’t the same. There’s something to be said for the act of typing, even if it’s just a long email to Kewon. (He gets a lot of unedited, error-filled emails about stuff I have to get “on paper.”) This doesn’t happen too often since I make time each day to write. But I wondered what happens to people who have the same urge, and don’t write or don’t have the time. What do they do when they need to get it all out?

I woke up in the middle of a weeknight from a bad dream. I was up from 2-6AM afterward. I was scared, totally out of sorts. I could describe further, but I won’t today. After some much needed sleep before work, this was the first message I saw when I woke up in the morning exhausted.

As you know by my erratic posting sometimes, I let the blog slide when I’m caught up. Sometimes I debate quitting it. CamronZoe can be time consuming and a responsibility that I can’t always afford to have with my demanding work schedule. I get a fair amount of e-mails and texts when I miss more than a day and frankly, it can be a lot of pressure to come up with something to write daily. There are times when I think all the good stories I have to tell have been told. Other times, I’ve got something to talk about, but the words aren’t coming or I want to tell it, but feel like I can’t. It’s tough to be judged. To write about fuck ups in the past, well, I learned and grew. But current fuck ups? It’s hard to have thousands of people reading (even if I don’t know most of them) and thinking I’m an idiot. It’s not just the story you judge or comment on, it’s my life, it’s me.

Always having “what am I going to write about?” hanging over my head can be daunting. I don’t want to not meet expectations by not producing anything or worse, doing something sub par that I struggled to get out and then you think it sucks. I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit. (Cue Erykah.) So to tell my stories and have someone find sustenance in it…. It amazes me. It gives me a purpose when I’m not always sure there is one. Words are powerful as I know from writing here almost every weekday and I’ve bruised a few feelings, sometimes my own. Thank you for telling me that they have an impact on you, even if you’re reading for the drama or even if you’re taking something deeper away. Your words made a bad morning, brighter. I keep the email that alerted me of your comment in my phone.

“You make me want to burn my notebook.”—MistyBlue

She (assuming, since most of the readers are) told me where the line was from, but she didn’t have to. love jones is one of my favorite films. And I remember the scene vividly when Nina said it. It was the first date and she was talking about Sonia Sanchez. I’ve never been a big Sanchez fan, or a big poetry fan. (Ace is though. She extols Sanchez’s brilliance.) So I know she’s great and I respect anything that passionately moves people.

Writing has always come easy to me. Most (but not all) posts just pour out along with the ways to set the story up and the metaphors that come in them that make what I write so called witty and funny. I get an idea, I punch it out on my IPad during my morning duty at work. Because it usually comes so easy, I question sometimes if it’s good. I mean the good stuff is supposed to take hard work, right? Tons of revisions, and a few days to think on it and edit properly? Some stuff I’ve put my heart into and it gets a blah response Other things I bang out in an hour and it gets 30 comments. Go figure. As long as you keep reading (an indication that it’s good to you), then I’ll keep writing. Misty Blue, I’m honored that you would evoke those words to me. I needed that. Thank you.

Texhibitionist spent a part of her Saturday night reading CamronZoe. With all the options of what to do for a young woman (again assuming) on a Saturday night, I’m humbled and honored that you spent time here. I don’t always think what I do here is that good. I read some other people’s stuff (like Terry McMillian) and sometimes think “why try?” She makes me want to burn my notebook. I remember reading Waiting to Exhale in one sitting when I was a kid.

My Mom had bought the book home, and I saw it on the counter. One Saturday afternoon I was bored and picked it up, laid on the couch and started reading. I laid on the living room couch consuming McMillian’s words the entire day until I was done. (In retrospect, I have to wonder why my Mom let me read that. It’s totally inappropriate for a kid.) In my recollection, it took about 10 hours. If Texhibitionist read for the time her comments were clocked, it was 40 or so minutes she spent with my story and my words. You will never know how much that meant to me, especially tonight.

Thank You.