Archive for April, 2013

The last big argument I had with my wife was about the movie 27 Dresses. For those not familiar with it, it tells the story of Jane played by actress Katherine Heigel, who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride – hence her collection of 27 bridesmaid dresses.27dresses1

I haven’t actually seen it, but it’s a romantic comedy so you can guess the plot. Katherine Heigel’s character, always unlucky in love, finds her potential Mr Right, and the majority of the film is taken up with the ‘will-they/wont-they’ get it together plot-line. I didn’t think my wife should be wasting her time watching such mindless drivel, and I told her so. She didn’t take kindly to my advice.

I hate romantic comedies, and for that matter Fairy Tales, for the lies that they have indoctrinated women with.  The plot of all these stories is the same.  A damsel is in distress, and only a ‘knight in shining armour’ can save her from her plight.  Check Cinderella – Cinders lives a life of druggery and servitude in the service of her two ugly sisters, from which she can only escape when she is rescued by with Prince Charming.  Or Rapunzel, trapped in a tall prison who can only be freed by the intervention of a brave Prince. Or Sleeping Beauty, cursed by the evil witch to sleep in a coma-like state, caused by a spell which can only be broken by true love’s first kiss.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Beauty and the Beast
, its all basically the same story.

It is this same narrative that has driven six year’s worth of Sex And The City (albeit updated for adult tastes with more bedroom action) as heroine Carrie Bradshaw waits in anticipation for Mr Big.

Sex-and-the-City--

Sex & The City – is this really how women think?

And by repeating these stories to our little girls, we are teaching them that they can only find true happiness through the love of a good man.  And when these girls become women, and find their Mr Right/Prince Charming, and succeed in having their longed-for fairy tale wedding, and then find that their life has not become ‘happy-ever-after’, they blame their partner for not doing his job; not fulfilling his job description!

This is part of the reason that more divorce proceedings are brought by disgruntled wives than by unhappy husbands.  If a man is unhappy in his marriage, he will grin and bare it – spend more time at work, or down the pub, or on the X-Box, or have an affair!  If a woman is unhappy with her marriage – she wants out.  Since she’s unhappy she reasons, she must obviously be with the wrong man, and so must extricate herself from this situation for another roll of the dice to try again.

This situation is bad enough, but if you add the racial element into it, it gets even worse.  For though your Black beau, may be talk, dark and handsome, charming, charismatic, good in bed, etc, etc, your lives together may not turn out to be as idyllic as you had hoped on the day he carried you over the threshold. As my uncle used to say ‘life is hard for a poor Black man’s pickney’. So ladies, if you think you’ve met your Will Smith/Barack Obama/Jay-Z, before he ‘puts a ring on it’ ask yourself these few questions.

1) Are you comfortable with being the main-breadwinner?

Even though neither of you may be planning on this situation at the outset, it may later turn out to be the case.  I’m not asking you to take on ‘waste-men’ and free-loaders, but some Black men don’t seem to be able to get a break, no matter how hard they try.  (Rather than watching a romantic comedy I’d direct you at this point to Will Smith’s movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness for illustration).

Marital strife as portrayed in The Pursuit of Happyness

Marital strife as portrayed in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’

Unless you’ve got friends in high-places, its hard to get a job for everyone these days, for Black men, even more so. Research by the Office of National Statistics published in 2012 found that unemployment rates for 16-24 year olds from African and African-Caribbean background are double that of white job seekers, with 56% of Black men being out of work.

Even with the right qualifications, success is still far from assured.  As far back as the early 90s, studies showed that Black graduates had a harder time finding suitable employment. (I was unemployed for 9 months, even after getting a Masters’ degree).

If he is lucky enough to find employment, after some time he may find himself frustrated at his lack of advancement, his head-aching by banging it on the glass ceiling, or the petty humiliations that he must face in order to keep that job.  (Another film tip – check Terrence Howard’s role in Crash).

The Movie 'Crash'  shows the humiliations suffered even by professionally successfull Blacks.

The movie ‘Crash’ shows the humiliations suffered even by professionally successfull Black men.

2) Are you both prepared for him to take the role of the house-husband if that makes better financial sense?  It hit the news last month that there has been an increase in men staying at home while wifey goes out to bring home the bacon. For the reasons outlined above, this is an even more likely scenario for Black couples.  Anyone with kids knows that childcare costs nowadays are prohibitive.  If you earn more than him, it may make more sense for him to stay at home and look after the kids, and for you to return to work, rather than vice versa, than for you both to work and pay through the nose for childcare.

3) Can you be patient with him if he struggles with the role of a father?   You may be less than happy with your partner’s contribution in the parent stakes, but if he’s anything like me, and many Black men like me, he’s learning on the job.  If he had no father figure in his own life, his only knowledge of what fathers do is from seeing Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show or Phillip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Phillip Banks

Some Black men have to learn how to be a father by watching TV

And those programmes never showed the dads changing nappies, or making bottles, or walking their kids to school in the morning.  I’m not defending dead-beat dads, infact I’m the hardest on them (see my previous blog on absentee fathers).  I’m just saying be patient with men who may not have even seen what a real Dad is supposed to do up close, before they became one.

4) Will you stick by him if he ends up in jail?   Of course you wouldn’t think of marrying a career criminal, but due to the way the Criminal Justice system works in this country, too many Black men find themselves being pulled into the system. ANY Black man can end up in Jail, not just gangstas – just ask former Tory peer Lord Taylor).

former Tory Peer John Taylor was sentenced to 12 months for fiddling his expenses.

former Tory Peer John Taylor was sentenced to 12 months for fiddling his expenses.

Evidence from the Home Office’s Offending Crime and Justice survey in 2003 found that white males aged 10-25 were far more likely to have committed an offence within the last year than young males in other groups,  but once young Black people committed an offence, they were more likely to come to the attention of the police. Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people, six times more likely to be arrested for drug offences, 11 times more likely to be imprisoned, and are up to 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts. Whereas Black young offenders accounted for 6% of total offences in 2004-05 they received 11.6% of total custodial sentences. 

5) Don’t call the Police on Him.  I know of one sister who called the Police on her husband because they were having a heated argument, and she wanted him out of the house.  Listen ladies, unless your life is in mortal danger, don’t ever call the Police on a brother.  Apart from the fact that the Police don’t need any encouragement to harass Black men, with the rate that brothers die in Police custody, that may be the last time you see him alive! You might want him out, but surely you don’t want him dead!

Finally, before you walk out that door…………..

There ARE valid reasons to end a marriage, but just because you’re not happy anymore isn’t one of them. If he’s trying, cut him some slack.  As Chris Rock once said, “I’m not moving back in with my mother cos you ain’t in love!” But what if you just can’t stand him anymore?  Maybe he’s making no effort to find a job, or he’s gambling away all your hard-earned money at the Bookies, or he’s cheating on you. Before you leave him, just spare a thought for the kids.  You may not think that you need him in your life, but they do.

Your son and daughter need their father around even if you don’t

Your son and daughter need their father around………. even if you don’t!

In 1996 a University of California study found that boys raised without their fathers are more than twice as likely to engage in delinquent behaviour, and that girls in the same situation are more than twice as likely to become teenage mothers.  A 1998 study by researchers at Princeton University said that growing up in a single parent home roughly doubles a child’s propensity to commit crime.

Many women will complain about their partners’ lack of romance – the absence of roses and love poems and breakfast in bed.  But is that really what marriage is about? What is more important in making your marriage/family life run smoothly?  Is it rose petals on the pillow and candle-lit dinners, or putting the bins out and making sure the electricity bill is paid on time?   Would you prefer a man who runs a bubble bath for you, or cleans out the gutters and mows the lawn?  Ladies, do you want a man with bling and swagger, or a man of commitment and staying power? A player or a stayer?  (And no you can’t have both).

I’m not saying that a woman can never be happy if married to a Black man.  (I hope that on at least a few days of each month, my wife can say that she’s happily married). What I’m saying is that it won’t be easy.  So if you think the struggle is over as soon as you successfully get him to walk you up the aisle, and you’re all set up for a happily ever after………….. think again.

As a parting thought I‘d like to share this quote that I recently saw on twitter.

“A wise woman knows the importance of speaking life into her man. If you love him: believe in him, encourage him and be his peace.”

If you’d like to read more about the issues raised in this blog post, click on the link  below to check out my new book ‘The Problem With Black Men’, available now on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Problem-With-Black-Men/dp/1483990133/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368908485&sr=8-1&keywords=the+problem+with+black+men#_

The_Problem_With_Bla_Cover_for_Kindle

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Its now 26 years since I first heard ‘Public Enemy Number 1’. Wow. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Davey D's Hip Hop Corner

public-enemy benchToday April 18th 2013 is Public Enemy Day… Yep that’s right.. Today we celebrate the landmark group that has been together for almost 30 years.. They are deemed Hip Hop Royalty and tonight they get inducted into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame.

Last night they performed at House of Blues in LA and absolutely killed.. DJ Terminator X who retired from the group several years ago to do some ostrich farming.. returned to the fold to help celebrate.. Also on hand at HOB was Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three, DMC, Doug E Fresh, Method Man, Whodini, JJ Fad and many more..  It was a testament to the love and respect folks have for Public Enemy..

I first met Chuck D back in summer of ’88 at the New Music Seminar when the group was just starting to make noise.. They had already…

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snoop-lion-reincarnated

We all know Snoop Dogg.  He’s the man at the start of the 90’s who along with super-producer Dr Dre helped the West Coast step from out of the shadow of New York, and dominate the rap scene. But some 20 years later, when all of his G-Funk contemporaries like Ice Cube, Warren G, Daz and Kurupt, and The Lady Of Rage have faded from the spotlight, or actually left this mortal plane like Nate Dogg and 2Pac, Snoop is still here and still relevant.

He’s managed to do this by being a larger-than-life persona that transends the narrow confines of Gangsta rap, re-inventing himself from Death Row gangsta with Suge Knight, to No Limit soldier with Master P, to smoothed out R&B playa with Pharrell and R. Kelly – an all-round fun guy who can star in ‘Starsky and Hutch’ with Ben Stiller, and Adidas adverts with David Beckham.

But when news came out last year that Snoop had visited Jamaica, re-named himself Snoop Lion, decided to become a Rasta and release a reggae album, eyebrows were raised. Perhaps he thought, being a Rasta gave him license to smoke weed every day, and the larger spiritual aspects had been lost on him?  Hearing a couple of tracks from this new album confirmed such fears, as the music sounded more Rastamouse than Marley.  So I was intrigued to see the documentary charting his latest incarnation  – was it just a publicity stunt or indeed some kind of Damascus road conversion?

It is indeed admirable that he would be trying to mature and expand musically, rather than re-hash the same old thing year after year, album after album, becoming an aging parody of his younger self.  In this movie he openly declares his desire to broaden his audience/fan base. “ I know that Obama would love to invite me to the White House,” he declares, “but if I went there, what the fuck could I perform?”

snoop doc

The doc follows him on his visit to Jamaica where they roll out the red carpet for him. He visits Bob Marley’s old stomping ground in the ghettos of Trench Town and is welcomed like the star that he is.  He meets up with Damien Marley and with Bunny Wailer, who he collaborates with in the studio. And just as you would expect, he focusses as much on weed culture as he does on reggae culture. At this point in the film I thought it would just be a 90 minute weed-filled joke fest, but 60 minutes in, the proceedings take a more serious turn, detailing Snoop’s earlier life, his murder charge,  the shooting  of Tupac, his meetings with Farrakhan, and the sudden death of his childhood friend and collaborator Nate Dogg.  Thus the doc moves from being the story of his new album to the story of his life.  When it returns to Jamaica we see Snoop, this time accompanied by his wife, at a naming ceremony with Niyabinghi Rastafarian elders.

He seems sincere, but many of us have gone on spiritual foreign holidays that make us re-assess our lives, only to return to our old ways after a couple of weeks back in the rat-race. Will the same be true for Snoop?  Will he be able to retain his new-found spirituality or will he be back to ‘G’s Up Ho’s down’ by next year? Only time will tell, but I can’t see him maintaining his popularity based on the music I’ve heard so far.

Snoop Lion Reincarnated’ is in selected cinemas now, and the DVD and album released later in April

Lee Pinkerton

 

Who’s the king of R&B music right now?  It’s no longer R.Kelly. Though he seemed to have the midas touch back in the 90s and early 00s, his career hit the skids after those child-sex allegations.  It’s not D’Angelo. After two classic albums, like those boys from Jodeci he seemed to self-destruct.   It’s not Usher or Ne-Yo. Those guys are off making funny European house/pop music with David Guetta.  No in 2013 the king of R&B is …………..Justin Timberlake.

J.T. - the new king of R&B?

J.T. – the new king of R&B?

Jay Z gave him the stamp of approval by appearing on ‘Suit and Tie’, the first single from his new album, and you know that J only hitches his cart to winners (previously collab-ing with R.Kelly, Pharrell and most recently Kanye West). Sales of JT’s new album The 20/20 Experience  broke one million sales after just a few days in circulation.

And who is the R&B Queen to join Justin on the throne?  Its not Beyonce or Rhianna. The music they are making these days could not be described as R&B.  Its not Brandy or Monica. It’s a long time since they argued over who’s boy it was.  Mary J Blige used to be called the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, but she seems more interested in acting and commercials than singing these days. (Maybe that’s why Obama jumped over her and went straight from Aretha to Beyonce to sing at his inauguration?) Maybe its Adele. Her vocals could certainly be described as soulful, and she’s sold more units than any other female artists in 2012 (her Grammy-winning “21” topping the U.S. album sales for two years running, selling 4.41 million units in the States alone). And there are plenty other soulful white girls
que-ing up behind her like Duffy, Joss Stone (and not forgetting the dearly departed Amy Winehouse).

Adele - the new Queen of Soul?

Adele – the new Queen of Soul?

There have always been white R&B singers ‘given a pass’ by the Black audience.  Going back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Teena Marie (the first white artist signed to Motown) in the 60s and 70s, to Hall and Oates and Lisa Stansfield in the 80s, to Jamiroquai, Jon B, and Robin Thicke in the 90s and 00s. They even had their own sub-genre called ‘Blue-Eyed Soul’.  But the difference now is that the white artists producing soul out-number the Black ones!  When I listen to shows on the radio purporting to be playing new R&B I’m left confused.  I hear hip-hop, I hear dance music, but I don’t hear much R&B. Those formally prominent R&B artists who I mentioned in the intro seemed to have either disappeared from the scene or have moved onto a new style of music in order to try and stay relevant, leaving it to the white artists to continue flying the R&B flag. There are cultural critics who argue that the mainstream audience might have an audible preference for Black music, they have a visual preference for white faces.  That would explain the long standing tradition where white artists have greater success covering songs by Black artists than the originals enjoyed.  But that is not the thrust of this blog post.  I am asking why Black audiences and artists seem to be abandoning the music?

As usual, this is not a new phenomenon.  They say that Black artists innovate, whilst white artists imitate.  Going back as far as the Blues that was pioneered by Black artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and then speeded up by artists like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard who evolved it into Rhythm and Blues, but it was only when taken up by white artists like Bill Haley and Elvis Presley that it morphed into Rock and Roll and became a worldwide youth culture.

Elvis helped to turn Rhythm & Blues into Rock & Roll

Elvis helped to turn Rhythm & Blues into Rock & Roll.

Then by the 60s Motown, Stax and Atlantic records had come along and turned R&B into ‘Soul’ music. In the era of Civil Rights, America’s ‘Coloured’ people wanted to ‘move on up’ and integrate, and this feel good Soul music was the perfect soundtrack.  The Blues reminded them of poverty and segregation of the South and was abandoned by the America’s Blacks.  The architects of the Blues were struggling to get an audience until the white artists of the ‘British Invasion’ like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones cited these Blues legends as their inspirations and heroes.  Artists like BB King and John Lee Hooker have gone on record as saying that they owe the longevity of their careers to the patronage of people like Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.  It was a similar process in Jazz with the African-American genius’ of the genre being neglected in their own country and having to move to Europe to get the respect and recognition they deserved.

BB King and John Lee Hooker - Blues icons

BB King and John Lee Hooker – Blues icons

So back to present day R&B.  What should fans of soul music do?  Should we accept that this music is now of the past and part of our glorious tradition like the Blues, or should we fight to wrestle it away from these johnny-come-lately white artists who in decades to come will be looked upon as the standard-barers of the music?  Well one thing we could do is support those artists who in the face of public indifference and mediocre sales are still trying to make soul music. Artists like Anthony Hamilton, Robert Glasper, Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, John Legend, Raphael Saadiq, Gregory Porter, Musiq, Bilal, Maxwell, Dwele, and Raheem Devaughn to name but a few. And perhaps we should actually thank these white artists for keeping the music alive when Black music radio and audiences seemed to have abandoned it.

Anthony Hamilton - one of the last few soul men left

Anthony Hamilton – one of the last few soul men left.