A Part of Me Died with Sandra Bland 

Last week I watched the police dash-cam footage of Sandra Bland’s traffic stop. As I watched the horrific interaction unfold, a slow numbness took over my body, followed by fear and panic. I felt like a toddler who lost their parents in a department store. I was scared and confused. Why was she stopped in the first place? Why was she asked to get out of her car? And why was Sandra arrested?
Trying to tweet the hurt away, I took to twitter to vent out my frustrations, but that did not help. My tweets were met with Internet trolls. While I responded and scrolled through the #SandraBland hashtag I saw words like combative, attitude, belligerent and insubordinate to justify her arrest and consequently her death.


I sat up in bed overwhelmed with emotion. Sandra was a brave and bold woman. She was a black, educated, millennial, young professional who moved to a new city to mobilize her career and pursue her passion. The more I thought about Sandra, the more I saw myself. I looked up at the ceiling and felt this feeling I can’t explain with words.


I usually pray at night before bed and that night was no different. But when I knelt down to pray, the words didn’t come out. I was at a complete loss of words. As warm tears rolled down my face, I knew a piece of me died with Sandra Bland. My friends would describe me as articulate. My parents would describe me as outspoken. My supervisor would describe me as stern and just. But if I were found dead in a jail cell, what would my media narrative be? How would my personality translate in a police report? I wept. My shirt was drenched in tears and the words still didn’t come. I simply didn’t know what to say. I wept some more.


Then I said the names of my friends one at a time. Then my sisters. My cousins. My mentors. My neighbors. My classmates. My aunts. I wept harder. I was completely distraught at the thought of such amazing women; such amazing people; being one self-advocacy moment away from a justice hashtag. Any of them could’ve been Sandra Bland. I wiped my face with my shirt and sat at the edge of my bed. A part of me died with Sandra Bland. I pray I get it back.

An Open Letter To Rachel Dolezal

Dear Rachel Dolezal,

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for an apology. Not because you can’t identify as a black woman or can’t feel particularly vested in black culture, but because it is likely that your actions and decisions have hurt and offended people of color, specifically women of color. The gall of you to finally make a statement and then disgorge responses that  were clearly homegrown on a farm of entitlement and white privilege. Let’s get a few things clear Rachel. Although you are a scholar and professor, you seem to have conveniently confused racial indeterminacy, the understanding that individuals can have multiple racial identities and race is not a fixed variable, and racial misrepresentation. Rachel, racial misrepresentation is theft; cultural theft to be exact.

It took no time at all for the good people of twitter to talk about black privilege, noting that black privilege must exist since you decided to become a black woman. I’m convinced that black privilege is a myth and I could be wrong, but I know that white privilege is alive and well. It is white privilege that helped you, as a white woman to feel entitled and empowered to claim blackness as your identity. You appropriate from black culture, and pose as a black woman fighting for the oppressed, while gaining access to prominence.

Your dishonesty devalues and erodes the experiences of those who actually did struggle growing up as people of color. You missed your calling to be an ally; correction, you declined your calling to be an ally. Instead, you used your privilege to assimilate and appropriate black culture. Growing up with black friends and adopted siblings does not constitute as growing up black.  You did not look this way as a child and you cannot recall genuine memories and experiences growing up black. You lied to propel your career forward and in doing so you occupied the platforms for REAL black women to share their authentic stories. Stories like mine. Tell me Rachel, how often did your peers accuse you of “acting white”? And unlike Jeff Humphrey, “I don’t understand the question.” will not suffice as an answer for me. I have spent much of my life defending my blackness. The label of “acting white” has been a social and academic mobility barrier for black people all over the US. If I speak in an educated and eloquent way I am “acting white.” So tell me Rachel, growing up how often was your intelligence and academic ambition a wager of cultural and racial exile?

You can identify as you please but also recognize that your actions minimize and trivialize the experiences of black women.  To add another layer to chaos, #transracial was trending on twitter and some began to erroneously equate the transracial experience with that of transgender. Yup, conservative commentators found themselves “caping” for you, claiming hypocrisy, since there was large acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but not for you as a black woman. Please note how your actions have distorted and regress identities that are already marginalized. I could go on and on about this but I won’t. I’m patiently waiting for you to “clarify that with the black community.”


A legitimate African American (or as you prefer, black woman)

The “Black” Album, No Jay-Z Though: To Pimp A Butterfly

Initial reaction

To Pimp a Butterfly…“Stupid…a horrible attempt in sounding deep and creative”. At least this is what I thought. The ever so loyal Kendrick Lamar stans did not make me any less forgiving either with their justifications, but it is simply the high standards I have for the great artist that Kendrick Lamar is. K.Dot, the rapper with the most potential in the rap game. King Kendrick, the rapper that has consistently produced good to great music. Kendrick “I break the internet with a guest verse” Lamar, the rapper that is not afraid to take risks and push limits with his music, whether that is sonically or with his content. I cannot give him a pass and sip the Kool-Aid. He has to come correct.

Then it all came together when I pressed play. We as listeners are used to straightforward albums; Forest Hills Drive 2014 and Dark Sky Paradise. Both of these albums are self-portraits. But To Pimp a Butterfly… (The title sounds so much better since listening to the outro by the way) To Pimp a Butterfly is an abstract painting that’s not only a reflection of Kendrick Lamar, but his perception of the world. There are recurring themes, emotions, layered, beautiful beats, multiple perspectives, and all of these moving parts and I simply couldn’t do this album any justice by sitting down quickly half-assing a review. You know, label this album an instant-classic, crown him the King of Rap at the moment (that term is thrown around like a hot potato whenever a good album drops), then pat myself on the back. No, I committed myself to living with this album over the course of a few days to serve you right. Following is insight on each song along with a little subjectivity and a rating based off content and overall sound( “*” = rating based on a scale of 1-5) to bring some clarity and help you enjoy this album as much as I did. Let the dissection begin:

Wesley’s Theory ****:

The album begins on a Funkadelic note. Let’s go! Kendrick all out commits too, with a George Clinton feature and FlyLo production. This is a nice foundation for the album; setting the tone, but not too deep. Kendrick starts as an aspiring rapper in the hood; his aspirations are of what he sees on TV, misguided. The government or “The Man” takes advantage of his poor education and lack of guidance, providing a hedonistic life until his earning potential has been sapped dry. Once the artist has nothing else to offer to “The Man”, he becomes the next victim. This is the Wesley’s [Snipes] Theory. What makes this a great illustration is the betrayal comes in the last two lines of the last verse. That’s how quickly entertainers can be knocked off their high horse.

For Free (Interlude) ****:

Percival Jenkins is that you! This could’ve fit on Idlewild, though it’s not rapping, more spoken word. There are two messages in this song delivered effortlessly. In one way it’s a message to women who see Kendrick as a meal ticket, only providing what’s in between their leg. A step away from the song you realize it’s Black America talking to White America. White America views African Americans’ purpose as a stepping stool. Kendrick realizes both parties should instead act as business partners, because this “friendship” has been one-sided throughout history.

King Kunta **:

The come up. This is Kendrick’s claim from going from rags to riches. Not only becoming wealthy, but mentally freeing himself. People want to cut the legs off him like a runaway slave. It has already been referred to as “unapologetically Black”, or soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film. I cannot disagree. This is not a favorite. Out of context, it’s okay at best.

Institutionalized *****:

This song was everything I loved in 90’s rap all in one. I get vibes of multiple 90s rap groups. Kendrick is a student of the game. Then here comes that West Coast feel. It all flows so well. It’s intriguing the inner conflict Kendrick faced in the track was not represented in the beat at all, smooth. He’s conflicted. He is reaching success and wants to take the hood with him, but his homies (and at times even Kendrick) are prisoner to their hood mentality.

These Walls ***:

Haaaa, I don’t even want to give this one away, but screw it. This song is based on Kendrick’s sexual relations with a woman that for “some reason” was hesitant at first. A reference to GKMC reveals her man is actually serving life for killing Kendrick’s friend (the one that died at the end of Swimming Pools). Altogether, it’s a good song, consistent with the album with the funk.


This might be the heaviest rap song I ever heard. It takes a lot to write a song about yourself like this, so honest, so vulnerable. You feel the pain. As the poem continues at the end of These Walls, from there we find Kendrick battling with depression in a hotel room by himself (and some strong alcohol) not even answering for room service. He puts his flaws, failures, and fights he has to deal with every day for everyone to see. He wants to change the world, but can’t even steer his sister from bad decisions (referring to Keisha’s Song). He always refers to the love and loyalty for his city, but failed his friend when it mattered most. The battle ends with him tell his deepest secret of being suicidal throughout his life. Damn…this is such a raw, emotional song. The production, the screaming not even having a pattern at times cuts into you. Respect.

Alright ****:

Exactly, what I needed. This is the most perfectly placed optimistic, feel good song. He admits that he has battles and does get stressed, but if he keeps his faith leaving it in God’s hands, he’ll be alright.. Pharrell did his thing. Kendrick came with the flow and content. Dope. Sidenote: Lucy is introduced and promises the same exact thing that the government did in the first track

For Sale (Interlude) ****:

Just erase interlude, must have been a typo. Kendrick, using a very corky voice, is confronted by the devil, Lucy, trying to seduce him to sell his soul. This time the betrayal will be worse than the tax man coming. Kendrick refuses to sell his soul for he has faith in God that is demonstrated throughout all of his projects. This still does not stop Lucy. Nicely done, a different way to attack a concept that is brought up in a lot of rappers’ music.

Momma ****:

This is the reality check. He is realizing the delusions of grandeur that fame brought, but coming back home proved to be the remedy. He realizes his power and how to use his “antennas” to make a positive impact. This leads to the reintroduction of Kendrick Lamar. This is similar to the theme of J. Cole’s album. Love, spiritual growth, peace, these are what we should strive for.

Hood Politics ***:

Hmmm…Reminiscent of K. Dot with delivery and rawness. As the “hood politics” are described, there is a bigger message. Kendrick is not worried about beef because there are bigger issues at hand. Kendrick talks about losing homies, institutionalized racism, staying true to himself, the perception of good rap, and avoiding violence by avoiding a rap beef altogether.

How Much a Dollar Cost *****:

Don’t we all fear this happening to us? A very persistent bum happens to be God in disguise. How much does a dollar cost? How about your spot in heaven. Kendrick once again showcases his superior storytelling. It’s a song you sit back and have to appreciate. I get chills at the end.

Complexion (Zulu Love) ***:

The only real rap feature on the album comes from Rapsody. We are in the midst of the album where Kendrick is being direct in his message. In short, he wants to reverse the effects of the Willie Lynch theory. Colorism divides the Black community and we are oppressing ourselves doing so.

Blacker the Berry ****:

Speaking of oppressing ourselves, this song sort of personifies what Complexion was about. Why do we fight the power and protest, yet we embrace destroying our own community? People say “Hands up, don’t shoot!”, yet in the hood people are shooting each other. If you fit the description, which doesn’t have to be as drastic as being a murderer, you’re a hypocrite. Think…

You Aint Gotta Lie(Momma Said) ****:

Be yourself. Kendrick had an epiphany when he came home to Compton about being true to himself and what really matters. He advises all those who fake it because their low self-esteem to do the same. In reality, all that bullshit they talk does not go by unnoticed. It ain’t cool. This is something effecting a lot in the Black community. Don’t live life doing what you perceive to be cool or “in”, it’ll just lead to isolation and emptiness. Kendrick takes a micro approach for solutions of problems in the Black community which is explained furthermore in…

i ***:

I felt sonically “i” fit more with the first half of the album, but the content is the reason it is placed where it is. Though I don’t agree with live performances on albums the acapella ending adds something special to it. Fixing problems in the Black community starts with each and every Black man. Have respect for yourself and others, know your self-worth, value history and rebuild our culture into something positive. This is how we can progress. Is it possible?

Mortal Man*****:

Mortal Man bridges the gap between every song as Kendrick reveals the big picture (though most songs revolve around his experiences, there’s a bigger, general message). I thought “u” was heavy, but this may be just as heavy for different reasons. First, Kendrick sees himself as an activist, a servant for humanity. He realizes there may be consequences in his actions and speaking out on this album. Are we still going to stand behind him or will we alienate him when higher powers damage his reputation, throw him in jail, or kill him? Now as a follower, is your support system still going to stand behind you as the same happens to you for standing up for the people. He knows he will only know when the time comes stating “how many leaders you said you needed then left ‘em for dead?” He then lists martyrs throughout history, each name like a dagger getting pushed further in your heart. Are we that afraid as people…of death…of being alienated…are we all spineless?

The poem that is said throughout the album is now delivered in its entirety. This poem is the foundation of the album. Each song captures each part of the poem, the story of Kendrick Lamar and his path to this new way of thinking (or back to his original). The rise to his blinding fame and manipulation was met with resentment, self-hate, and depression. The devil and the government were persistent in tempting Kendrick, but Kendrick found his refuge in his faith in God. Along with his religion, a trip back home (which can take multiple meanings) transitions his way of thinking, similar to Malcolm X. He wants to use his influence to change his world for the better inside out starting with the Black community. We have to restructure our culture and the mental chains we place on ourselves at times. This is the only way to fight the outsiders holding us back, lets reverse the Willie Lynch Theory.

(Hey, this is a twelve minute outro that is ridiculously dense)

Pac is now being interviewed by Kendrick. It’s pretty straight forward, but beautiful. The fact this conversation can still apply with the world today shows the lack of progression doesn’t it. Countries with the wealth disparity that U.S. has in history has all led to revolutions, which is what the outro infers may be among us, even provoking a sense of urgency in this generation to act now, because there may not be a later for us in this targeted age group. The highlight is Tupac saying “we ain’t even really rappin’, we just letting our dead homies tell stories through us.” We all collectively say “damn” with Kendrick.

The essence of the last poem is the story of the album. Compton, every ghetto, hood, 3rd world country, there is a man that the world looks down upon. They hate him, but love what he can do. This can be music, comedy (Sony Picture Studio Executive email about Kevin Hart), athletic ability (Kobe’s image during accusations), everything. We can hate ourselves and resent it, sometimes falling for the fake smiles of approval. We also can use it. We have to stay humble, in tune to the caterpillar’s reality, and use our experiences for the greater good. This is how you pimp a butterfly, we use this spotlight to tell our stories, influence the world, and bring change. This can be comedy (Dave Chappelle with his countless socially conscious skits), sports (Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fist at the Olympics), music (Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Lupe Fiasco are the few mainstream rappers that have albums with the intent to bring change) and there is the rest of us. We have so many educated men, but we are brain draining our communities. We have to use the talent we have to make the changes in the community we want to see. The Black community has to learn to pimp our talent and not be pimped. Such a powerful message, and we are not going to be spoon fed the answers. Sometimes we are left to find out things on our own, fail, learn, and prevail. This is shown as Pac does not answer back.

Wrap Up:

That’s all she wrote. This is a true Black album, no disrespect to Jay Z at all. The album integrates almost all Black music in America throughout time. There was funk, jazz, blues, old school hip hop, gangsta rap, neo soul, and of course the content matched. This is an album that speaks so much about our culture and what can become of it. It’s optimistic, pessimistic, and ambiguous. There is so much emotion. It is hard to understand it all in your first-listen or if you did not hear Kendrick’s prior albums/mixtapes. I never rate an album a 10/10 because part of the scale is longevity, meaning right now the rating is incomplete. With understanding of the album and appreciation of the music, this is an 8.5/10 for me. Some people are not as impressed, but maybe this insight will change their minds. It’s downright inspiring, heartfelt and I haven’t felt this way a well-known artist in a long time. He effectively challenged every Black musician to pimp their butterfly. Now will the rest of the music world follow suit? Will we all unify and find a way to fight modern oppression? What’s next? An album like this is going to be viewed by its impact. With that being said please let me know what you think. I missed some points to save myself from writing a thesis. I want to discuss how you perceive the album, what direction we are in as a society as a whole and the Black community, am I reaching with my interpretations, did I not go deep enough… I’m just a mortal man I do not know everything. Feel free to enlighten me. Let the discussion begin…

By: J. Taylor


Music Enthusiast


Glory & White Privilege

My wife is a writer for an entertainment magazine. Scratch that. My wife is a writer for the biggest entertainment magazine in the world. What does that mean for Doug? I’m glad you asked. It means a couple things. First that my premier life is poppin. I’ve been to more premiers than I know what to do with. Secondly, our “free shit” closet is craccin. Everybody gives writers free products. We haven’t spent a lot of money on Christmas for the family in like 3 years. And it also means that every single awards show has to be watched live and recorded to watch again because the recap of every single awards show is important to bring hits to my wife’s employer’s website.

The Oscars happened this past Sunday night. I normally don’t watch the Oscars. I very rarely go to the movies (something I should really work on) and I just never really had an interest in watching over-privileged white people receive awards for things I don’t care about and talk about struggle that they no longer have. But now that these types of events bring money into my household, we’re all in.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because I was moved during the performance of Glory. I’ve seen this song performed 3 separate times. I know all the words. I always know that John Legend will kill, because he’s John Legend. I also know that Common will enunciate his words well and the audience will understand him, which I also think is dope considering the content. But for some reason, Sunday night was different. The performance gave me goose bumps, something that rarely happens now a days. Maybe it’s because I was upset that Selma was snubbed from the director and leading actor nominations. Maybe it’s because the Academy is 94% white and 77% male. Maybe it’s because I REALLY like watching Ava DuVernay speak (seriously, go youtube her interviews) and I felt there was an injustice that played as a microcosm to racial tensions in the country today that loosely parallel the struggles that they were going through in Selma 50 years ago. But the weight of the performance JUST. FELT. DIFFERENT. All those black and brown faces on the Oscar stage, sounding beautiful in front of all the white faces in the audience, the tears in the crowd, the standing ovations; everything was just awesome!

Selma was nominated for best picture, but we all know that it was never gonna win. It was a formality.  It was a formality I appreciate, as oppose to the opposite, but a formality nonetheless. Still, with knowing that it wasn’t going to win, I felt that the academy and the at large community watching the awards understood the importance and power in Selma because of this amazing performance. I felt hopeful. I felt accomplished. I felt understood. I felt PROUD to be a black man. Unapologetically, James Brown, black and proud.

But then I saw what Patricia Arquette said back stage after she accepted her best supporting actress Oscar. DAMMIT PATRICIA! Let’s rewind. When Arquette accepted her award she made the first of many political speeches in the night. She demanded equal pay for women for equal work! I actually clapped in my living room. CO-SIGN! I was ready to anoint her one of the good whites, but she just couldn’t keep her mouth shut afterwards. Backstage she said:

The truth is even though we sort of feel like there is, there are huge issues that are at play and really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and the men who love women and all the gay people and people of color we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.

……….. WUUUUUT?!

Cmon son. I became lost after that. All of the understanding that I felt white people might have had vanished. Even the ones who make amazing political stands don’t understand their privilege. How little does she think of women of color? How about gay women of color? What about black male feminists?  And I’d love to know who was able to vote first, black people or white women? Maybe I forgot. I’m all for soapboxes, but there’s an issue when her soapbox cost more than my condo.

Arquette basically said that the Black struggle finished it’s time on the court and white women are choosing sides for pick up. It’s just so frustrating to read things like that. Especially from the ultra rich who didn’t give half a voice to any other recent civil rights issues. To fathom the notion that other communities fighting for their rights for equality need to stop what they’re doing (you know, because their fight is done thanks to… white women?), and come help the white women make more money is, well…. Privileged. It’s a clear proud privilege. An unapologetically, proud, rich white woman privilege.

I went from proud to confused so quickly. Blacks have so much work to do in order to be understood and accepted. It’s a daunting thought that can be consuming and did consume me last night. But then I re-watched the Glory performance because my wife writes for the biggest magazine in the world and we record every awards show – and everything became kinda ok again. So thanks, babe.


By: Doug R.


Faint Pulse: Why hip-hop isn’t dead

Hip Hop is dead! We’ve all heard this before or something along the lines of music being in a general state of decline. Rarely is there any blame placed on factors such as an artist’s lack of talent or Hip Hop is just different now. Even with the proverbial sh*tty music out today, there are still great artists and tons of up and coming artists that are on the cusp of recognizable; but that’s another conversation. For now we’ll talk about this whole idea of Hip Hop and its “demise”.

Hip Hop can’t be dead and if it is dead, who is to blame? Do we look to the lack of quality we deal with every time we turn on the radio or television? There isn’t a concrete answer of the origin of who’s at fault; comparable to the chicken or the egg, similar to the plot in Bamboozled (is it the man at the head of the table behind the scenes, is it the artist themselves, or is it us as fans?). Altogether we do one hell of a job suppressing good music and uplifting the stereotype-filled and substance lacking crap, we are forced to digest by major labels and your “Hot 97’s everyday that’s my word!” (See what I did there). Which ultimately makes us (the consumers) the Prime Suspects.

Outside of the consumers being the prime suspects for the declining of Hip Hop, we also know the music labels play an integral role in suppressing good music. Labels have changed the game; there is less of an emphasis on the actual artists and more of an emphasis of having the next trendy, radio & club hit. It’s a political game; labels seek to reach the largest audiences by supporting shallow artists that lack skill and depth of thought. The deeper and harder you are to understand as an artist, the more likely you are to offend someone, and the less likely you are to make money for the label. With the help of social media and this generation’s 140 character limited attention span, good production and a dance (i.e. “Hot n****” and the Shmoney dance) seem to be more important than what messages are being delivered by the artist. Let’s be real, all of those songs have a place in Hip Hop, yes even Iggy Azalea (she sucks by the way). When we’re in the club, we don’t want to hear a reference to politics. We just need lyrics that are easy to digest and a dope beat in some situations. Which tells  more about the fan-base wanting to escape reality than listening to soul shifting music (but let’s save that for another post). The labels are out to take our money, so obviously  “we” are communicating a love for the music tearing down the Hip Hop culture. With the exception of those artist cosigned by the moguls, (Dr. Dre, Jay Z..etc) . It is no coincidence that Eminem, 50cent and Kendrick Lamar’s careers skyrocketed after their affiliation with Dre.The same can be said about Jay Z’s affiliates: Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Wale and J. Cole. There is always the possibility that these immensely talented artists would blow up regardless, but it would be foolish to downplay the mogul’s impact on their careers. It’s the art of the co-sign; without one, the greatest lyricists can be another starving artist. Rappers are forced to sacrifice their artistic integrity to satisfy the label’s direction for them; what the consumer needs to hear. Well, unless you’re a Lupe fan. Some how Lupe fans were able to switch the label’s practice. Lasers, Lupe’s 3rd album (which was a flop), did not receive an album release date until fans protested outside of Atlantic’s headquarters. Talk about consumer power! There is the proof of the power that we (the consumers) choose not to exercise. Now the blame shifts on the artists.

There has always been horrible music, but with the advent of YouTube and other popular social media platforms, releasing music to the world is as easy as a click of a button. It is  so simple to go viral recording a song and sending it to the masses. Back in the day, rappers had to get through a couple barriers; luckily for the artists now, they can skip all the middle men. It is hard to compete as a conscious artist since being trendy seems to be where the money is. Consequently, some artists sell out and follow suit. Did they forget that self-expression is the base of all music? This is why artists like Kanye, J. Cole, and Drake (the list goes on) continually succeed.They are being themselves and we all can relate or at least admire that. If Hip Hop is dead, it anti-climatically died from natural causes due to its unhealthy lifestyle. What a bummer! The rather complicated formula of commercialism, which embodies components of all three of the “prime suspects”, led Hip Hop to dig its own grave. Each component correlates with one another, but there is no true causal relationship. Rappers and labels attempt to appeal to fans; fans individually have the least amount of power and have to make due with what’s given. Each of these parts are interdependent to one another, being an integral piece to the overall process.

What can we do as fans? We have to form a united front and begin to demand more effort, authenticity, and overall higher quality music. On a local level, we must begin uplifting our artist with true potential and not be afraid of what the rest of the country may think. This is one reason why you have to respect the West Coast culture, they truly stand behind their artists like  Blu a Los Angeles rapper who If you haven’t heard of his albums “Below the Heavens” and “Her Favorite Colo(u)r” please give them a listen. Through social media and famous Hip Hop blogs, we can voice our opinions on what we want and what we deem as great music. Pitchfork, a popular music website, is known for deleting or adjusting old reviews, once the artist’s work boosts in national recognition. Lastly, don’t fall for the hype. Make your own decisions, define what good music is, do not let the number of views and plays on a radio deter your integrity as a listener. We are Hip Hop’s pulse and need to begin to realize that. As long as we can identify good music and hold artists to our high standards, Hip Hop will be alive and well.

We at VSOP acknowledge the power and rarity of good music. However, In recent conversations on the topic,we’ve realized that the opinion of what good music is varies from individual to individual. Nonetheless, we feel confident that we know a classic when we hear it. We want to make sure that our take on music is not the typical thumbs up, thumbs down critique. Our vision is to break down how music makes us feel and what contribution it makes to our everyday life.  Through our conversation of what good music is, we will find ourselves in classic debates about the musical talent of our time. Please feel free to comment and communicate with us as we examine music. Consider this your invitation the Save the Music!

By: J. Taylor
Music Enthusiast


The Medium

According to dictionary.com, the definition of “medium” is as follows: 1. A middle state or condition; mean. 2.Something intermediate in nature or degree. There are about sixteen definitions for this word, but let’s focus on the first two as it applies to African American males in these United States of America. By now you’re probably wondering where could this possibly go, or what points are being brought up. Often times we as society tend to overlook or subconsciously not acknowledge the multiple identities of a person or a group of people. Society subconsciously or consciously, depending on who you’re talking to, depicts the African American experience in this country with only struggle/despair or living the lavish life of an entertainer/athlete, leaving no room for a “medium”. To go even further, society/media portrays the African American male experience as presented in two different lights; the successful athlete/entertainer or the drug dealer/gang-banger. Let’s categorize those “light” descriptions as “highs” and “lows”. The “high” would of course be the athlete/entertainer that promotes the lifestyle of money, sex, and drugs. Then it’s the “low” drug dealer/gang-banger  that lives the life of violence on their quest to money, sex, and drugs. But there has to be more to a black man’s life in America, right? Constantly, society feeds this dichotomous image of all black men that is absolutely inaccurate. If you are asking what are the inaccuracies, one would possible say the easier question is which one should we highlight first? (Yes, there are many.)

For the sake of an argument let’s start with examining the black man and the “medium” that is rarely highlighted for us. The images created by the media leaves those who are not familiar, or have limited interactions with black males in America as a “black” or “white,” good and bad perspective of these men. What about the gray area? There has to be some in between, right? As we examine the “medium,” a few questions come to mind. Mainly, where is the “medium”  for this African American man? What does that medium look like, and why doesn’t he have a voice?The “medium” black man is often forgotten in America. Rarely is there any recognition for his accomplishments or empathy for his struggles. However, there is constant attention given to his counterparts. Whether it’s the black male athlete/entertainer who is idolized for their glitz and glamour, or the drug dealer/gang banger that’s constantly in the newspaper or community doing something wrong.

When these are the two images that are constantly recognized by society rightly or wrongfully so, the idea of the “medium” tends to fade. Who is this “medium” black man you ask? The answer is quite simple. The medium black man is the man who wakes up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. The medium black man is the man who not only goes to college, but graduates. He is our pastor, lawyer, doctor, corrections officer, policeman, fireman, banker, social worker, teacher, principal and the successful business man all in our midst to be acknowledged. However, we rarely acknowledge him! Instead we constantly micro-aggressively compare him to his “high” and “low” counterparts. If he has an athletic stature we ask him why he isn’t playing a professional sport, or if he has a nice car, we automatically assume that he’s selling drugs or participating in illegal activities. Society loves to silence the medium black man and when he reacts we label him as angry. But why shouldn’t he be angry? He’s human too. He thinks, feels, and reacts the same way you do. Although the voice of the “medium” black man tends to be silenced at times, one could also say that he also allows his voice to be silenced. He chooses not to speak up due to the fear of being labeled. Instead he bottles it up inside and continues fighting the labels like the warrior he is. With everything that’s going on in society today, the voice of the “medium” black man is needed more than ever before.

Think about it, society fears you simply because they only know both extremes. Better yet, society knows the “highs” and are very familiar with them because of their fame. Society also knows that the “high”s have too much to lose. Which leaves society with what the media feeds them about the description of the “lows” and that’s who society fears. Because of your silence society  does not look at you for your degrees, they immediately lump you in with the “lows”. You have to speak up, make your presence felt. Let the world know that you exist and that this image they paint of you is false. Speak out on what you feel is wrong; don’t be defined by the transgressions of your counterparts. You are not a mythical creature that only exists in theory. You are real and you are in abundance. For the sake of the future, speak up because lives depend on it.

Love Triangles : The Truth Behind Cheating Part I

Okay, picture this:

A popular couple named Mary and John are in a long-term, committed relationship. To onlookers, it seems that Mary and John are happy. Friends and associates often witness public displays of affection from each partner, banter, and innocent flirting. Occasionally, Mary and John will even declare their love for one another on social media for the world to bear witness. So needless to say, it is obvious that these two individuals are in a monogamous relationship. In fact, those friends within the social circle idealize their union. That said, the fact remains that what is shown publicly is not always a true representation of what happens behind closed doors. What if I told you that despite the illusion of this great relationship, that a number of problems occur in Mary and John’s relationship? What if the reality was that John has been cheating with a woman we will call Jessica–a sexual relationship that predates Mary and John as a couple?And not surprisingly, Mary is unaware of Jessica’s identity….but oddly enough, she knows that her boo is unfaithful and may have had several affairs outside the relationship. To make matters more interesting, Jessica is very much aware that John is in a relationship, but continues on as his secret lover. Well John, Mary, and Jessica are members in love triangle.

Now, if you had a reaction of disgust towards Jessica in her role within this affair, you more than likely share the reaction of mainstream society. After all, the mistress, for one reason or another, is typically the one deemed most accountable in situations like the one described above. And more often than not, we relate with Mary, label John a “2 timing jerk,” and refer to Jessica as a “home wrecker,” or a “hoe.” And let’s face it, John is usually forgiven and given a clean slate, even after repeated offenses. Meanwhile, the”other girl’s” image is tarnished and she is devalued by both men and women alike. Being that this is a controversial topic, the voice of the “side chick” often goes unheard, in fear that she will be shamed and judged for her lack of self control. An experience far too taboo to address, leaving the mistress silenced from expressing her viewpoints and conveniently protecting the cheater’s reputation.

Love triangles are known as interactions between three individuals within a relationship system, by which each member carries out a pattern of behaviors that create an unhealthy relationship cycle. Love triangles can serve a few functions. In most systems, it is used to alleviate stress within a primary love relationship. The 3rd person in this case is used as a distraction to provide temporary relief from relationship conflicts. In other cases, the unfaithful partner may pull in a 3rd person when feeling insecure in the primary relationship (i.e.: suspicions that their partner may be cheating and therefore he or she must beat partner to the punch). The security provided by the 3rd person may also compensate for some voids within the primary love relationship. In this dynamic, the unfaithful partner may place the 3rd person on reserve as an alternate love interest (just in case the main partner breaks up with him/her). Some cheaters tend to also gain a sense of power and control through cheating. Cheating, for these people, provides a feeling of empowerment– it allows the cheater to make up for relationship failures by feeling successful in other areas of his/her life. However, simply put, cheating can be viewed as a red flag for low self esteem; a need to be desired by others as a means of gaining approval. Those individuals who cheat, even in secure relationships, utilize cheating as a way to build self-confidence. The acceptance provided by the 3rd person tells the cheater that he/she is wanted. In all, for the cheater, admiration seeking becomes addictive; a hunger that is never fully satisfied.

Now given the details of this “love” pattern, we can now ask the obvious question. Why, would a “side piece”, continue “creeping?” Here are some answers. Jessica similarly to Mary, has a co-dependent personality. A co-dependent in any unhealthy relationship, will place lower priority on his/her personal needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the dependent. In fact, co-dependents indirectly encourage cheaters to continue cheating! Prioritizing the needs of others and neglecting the self is not at all uncommon in co-dependent individuals. But what the co-dependent may not be aware of is how his/her “selfless” acts empower a person who may likely crave control, and who has become masterful at the art of manipulation. Other factors to consider are what makes the co-dependent more prone to this personality trait. Arguably, one may consider nature vs nurture; the idea that personality is formed by environmental or biological causes. In short, one develops co-dependency via their social environment (home, school, media, etc). Those individuals who have been exposed to domestic abuse, not exclusive to physical abuse, but also including mental and emotional abuse, are most vulnerable. Although, some may say that co-dependence is just natural in some personalities. Co-dependency also plays a major role in self-esteem and self-worth, as the overly selfless often learn from their environments that they are undeserving, and therefore unworthy of healthy love relationships. This trait is found at the root of all obsessive lovers and explains why co-dependents stay in love triangles. So basically, co-dependents remain as a side piece because their main objective is to keep their ‘lover’ happy by any means, perhaps in hopes that they will at some point become the main lover. This thinking is sometimes driven by manipulations of the cheater, who may give the co-dependent false hope for a future. In terms of morality however, the co-dependent becomes  ‘numb’ after having been involved in cheating cycles for so long.

To conclude, love triangles are clearly very unhealthy. They hinder growth in love relationships and cause considerable emotional damage. And cheating problems seen in love triangles are far more complicated than uncontrollable lust–they are driven by complex emotional, behavioral, and social issues.

 In the follow-up blogs, we will take a further look at the profiles of the cheater and the main partner.

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental.

By: Saylor C Brook

Disclaimer: The statements outlined in this blog do not define all situations seen in cheating dynamics, but rather discusses a basic overview on the principles of infidelity, and factors that may contribute to such relationship systems. Furthermore, the character names used in this blog are fictional. Any connection to real life events or actual persons is purely coincidental. 

You Fit The Description


It was a sunny day during Memorial Day weekend on the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now anyone that can relate to that time of year will instantly connect to the annual Black Bike Weekend that takes place down there. Thousands of people in one tourist area gather to show off their wheels, motorcycles and for other things to make your head turn.” I was with a group of my friends  taking a moment to unwind from our professional careers, congregated on a corner enjoying the view of beautiful women and perfect weather. It was all perfect, did not have to worry about writing reports or code switching, just a carefree atmosphere to allow my imagination to run. All was well until, I was approached by two police officers. Dressed in a long t-shirt, fitted hat, basketball shorts, Jordan sneakers and a gaudy chain I know I did not look like I was a college educated man (but what does that matter).

“Let me see your hands, and line up against the wall,” the officer shouted. In my militant but educated tone of voice, I responded to the officer asking him what the problem was. The officer began to explain that a call came in reporting that a group of black males that fit our description were soliciting narcotics in front of their store and demanded that we be removed. Now my first inclination was that there was no way I could allow this officer to search me, I did nothing and I had nothing on me that would compromise my future. However; I  still complied due to the possibilities of what could happen if I resisted. Visibly taken aback  by the accusations, the officer stated stoically “this is routine don’t make a fuss”. I immediately felt violated, infuriated and powerless all in the same moment. How can these two officers identify us accurately when everyone out there dressed very similar and fit that stereotypical description? I thought I said this in my head but somehow I blurted it out to the officers. The group of friends I was with began to argue with the police officers in my defense from a distance and refused  to keep quiet about the situation. By the grace of God, we were not shot, killed or arrested.

Let’s examine this issue more in depth. Social media has created more of a public outcry to address how police officers are conducting themselves when countless acts of injustice continue to arise. How many more black males will be gunned down in these streets by officers of the law before these issues receive the national justice that it deserves? Interesting question, however, I am not here to shed light on that question.


Stop Being Naïve

It’s no secret that there are still racist white males walking around with badges. Ignorance, hatred, and prejudice are everywhere and will forever be an issue in this world. There are wolves out there hunting in packs and they are looking for the perfect target. Who is the perfect target?


Who Fits the Description

We tend to flirt with the line of freedom of choice. How a person dresses, whether that individual wants to admit it or not, influences a person’s perception. Some people will even say “who am I to judge?” but subconsciously we all judge. Our common sense tells us when going to an interview to wear interview attire (one would hope most of us do). People at church always say, “come as you are,” but the majority of its attendees wear their Sunday’s best. When playing sports you put on certain clothing, equipment, and accessories to go along with your uniform. The same holds true when we are out in public. Police officers are targeting individuals that fit a certain description. Now whether or not media and other outlets provide that description for them is a post that will come at a later date. The way one dresses does not give a police officer the right to racially profile anyone, HOWEVER a shirt and tie rarely results in a police officer accusing a person of a crime. Again, to suggest that black males “dressed appropriately” are not profiled would be naive along of irresponsible of us to say. However; there is a quote that suggests that if you argue with a fool because from a distance you cannot identify who’s who. So do not perpetuate the stereotype.  Be intentional in your identity leave no room for mistaken identity or perceived intentions; don’t appear to be a threat.


Create Value for our Own Life

How do we expect authorities to value the human life when African American males are killing each other in record setting numbers? People will argue that the police should be held to a different accountability, because they are sworn to protect and serve. Well I don’t fully agree with that because as human beings it’s never okay to murder anyone whether you are a police officer or a civilian. As a black man in America it’s difficult to wage war against the police when there is war in my own community and most victims are not written in the obituary section of the newspaper because of the actions of police officers. There is value in the belief that police officers should be taught more preventative measures  instead of reactionary.


Comply With the Officer

We need to educate our children and adolescents how to interact with the police. We need to understand their boundaries as police officers by understanding the law. In addition, the way we communicate, whether verbally or physically can dictate the actions of the officer.  It is never ok to sass, resist, assault or threaten a police officer because you will lose that battle 100% of the time. Yes, you need to know your rights and what can/cannot be done; however all of that goes out the “window” if your are resisting.


Social Media

Learn the facts of a case, instead of believing  everything you see on social media. We all see a lot of videos of occurrences, shootings and other negative perceptions of what we think happened. Before we draw a conclusion of said occurrences, ask yourself if you were a police officer how do you think you would handle situations and circumstances that arise in your community. Would you trust every person that you pull over? Would you be comfortable observing someone reaching for something in a dark alley when you are only trying to question them?
Now I know there is someone that is reading this that is saying that “this sounds compromising” and that’s fine. However, I am simply a man that has a family and I believe love conquers all. I will never advocate for hate of any kind and profiling. In the same thought, all cops cannot be made out to be the bad person; it is just as wrong as being profiled for simply being a black male. Being a police officer is a job that many of us do not understand. People put their lives on the line daily. Just like everything that is meant for good in this world, the devil has infiltrated many police organizations.


[So He looked down from high as He waited for Adam to appear, so they could continue with their daily fellowship, praise and worship. But Adam never showed up. He sat waiting patiently, marveling at all of His creations, thinking to Himself and saying, “I can’t wait to show him my latest creation for him to rule and have dominion over.” However, Adam never showed up. The wind blew across the ocean and the sun smiled at the earth. As He laid on a pillow of clouds, whistling at the blue sky, He rested patiently waiting for Adam. But Adam never showed up. After basking in His heavenly ambiance for a spell, He arose and stepped down from on high and went foresting through the garden, looking for Adam as He called out, “Adam oh Adam, where art thou??” The crickets responded, the birds continued chirping, the bees flew around pollinating, and the waterfalls continued to trickle down, landing in the pond, completing the harmonic symphony of the garden. Yet still, Adam was nowhere to be found. An uneasy emptiness in the midst of His spirit began to churn as treason flowed through the core of His love for Adam’s presence and adornment. He could feel the disturbance of betrayal, heartbreak and fear as Adam suddenly appeared. Naked and terribly afraid, he spoke, “Here I am. I know that I’m not where I’m supposed to be. But I only took my eyes off of you for a few seconds Lord and…well, now I’m confused and lost. Father, where am I?”]

A man is born, he is raised, he is called, he reaps what he sows and then he dies. Each stage of a male’s life cannot be escaped; it is just how life is meant to be. Somehow, one would think that these killings of black men are not meant to be; but yet, they are happening. So what about the process are we missing? Let’s examine the supposed process:

1. A MANCHILD is born ready to learn and absorb every aspect his culture has to offer him. His sponge like mind forces him take in information, whether it is deemed good or bad. From the moment his eyes are opened, to his first steps, the child is looking to be lead and emulate what he sees. When you came into the house drunk and swearing, he processed that. While nodding your head as you listened to that song with the explicit lyrics, he watched and nodded too. When you thought he wasn’t watching, he took mental notes, waiting for one day to do what he saw, making daddy proud. What happens when daddy is not there and the environment raises a child? Growing up in inner city communities, a lot of our children fail to understand the consequences of their decisions. All they know is what they see. Most young black males marvel at the luxuries money can provide while being driven by the need to obtain fast cash by any means. They sit back in admiration while studying the males that have the money to obtain fresh “kicks”, nice clothes, jewelry, nice “whips”, and of course, attract the opposite sex. Drug dealers, pimps, criminals and their surrounding peers are making money as their adolescent hunger increases, which ultimately lead them to feast in the devil’s kitchen. These are the men that are directly influencing and raising our children from a distance. Our children need men of honor raising and leading them so that when they grow old they will not stray. Adam where art thou?

2. Look outside your window and these Young Men represent something greater than their harsh reality. They are so proud and organized. They are future successful businessmen working their way up the ranks. Structure is in place; leaders emerge, managers building teams, accountants that handle the banking administration, and workers processing their day-to-day assignments. These individuals have political influence, international connections and respect for the rules and regulations of operations. Instilled with military value and tactics they are prepared to serve and protect their territory. The only problem is, they are gang affiliated and participating in illegal activities, laundering money, distributing drugs, guns and narcotics to their own communities. Creating genocide in the streets that they call home, they have great and powerful minds with the wrong business plan. Possessing excellent sales and marketing strategies, but servicing the wrong product. Proactively increasing their network and connections, but with the wrong leaders and administrations. Traveling from city to city around the world, you would think they were studying abroad. Most importantly, the brotherhood, bond and pride for their organization supersede the love and loyalty they have for their own children, parents and family. So, Adam I ask you again, Adam where art thou? (I don’t get this)

3. Wherever a lustful, deceitful, ratchet and sexually explicit woman is, so will follow the Growing Man of our generation. A man who is in the process of experiencing what it means to be a GROWN MAN, but is not quite there yet. His mind is hazy and filled with uncertainty. It’s so easy to be distracted as a man in life when there are so many avenues; from fulfillment in our career, to the media, female exploitation causes man to fall further away from his true destination. Heavily influenced by provocative photos of video vixens that aspire to make a come up these days, we continue to be deceived by her sexiness. While you are making it rain in the strip club, or surrounding yourself with attention seeking vixens in music videos, you’re empowering the rise of the lust goddess. You pimp her, you throw your shallow animalistic perceptions, disguised as dollar bills at her. You mentally and physically abuse her, enabling and enslaving her as if this lifestyle is acceptable. So she continues to adapt and she raises the next generation of men. She was our gift and you failed at your chance to educate and teach her who she is and why she is so valuable to our existence. She’s lonely and lost without you. Adam where art thou?

4. You replaced the shackles and chains with prison bars, stripes and a number. You are a GROWN MAN that is now considered state property. Your hand is pressed on a glass window as you look at your son or daughter in the eye with your ear pressed to the receiver, to tell them you love them and you are sorry you missed his or her 5th birthday. You promised them that you would be a better person when you returned, but how? Your growth has been stunted; you only know how to be the man you were before you went in. So an overworked, physically tired, heartbroken mother walks in holding her babies, leaves and goes home only to lay with an abusive poor representation of a positive male role model. So you return to your child whom is now growing not knowing how to effectively be a GROWN MAN. Rather than accept the challenge, you return to sit in your cell with your hands on your face, dying in the years with quality father time as it continues to pass by. Why is it that prisons are overpopulated with African American males? They all had the opportunity to make a conscious choice to achieve something that their ancestors sacrificed their lives to have. Instead of hosting graduation parties for college graduates, the whole neighborhood gets together for a cookout and after party when Dope Boy gets out of prison? We always seem to have bail money, but seldom have money for college tuition. GROWN MAN, when will you realize you turned your back on your ordained destination? To be a KING. This was the life you chose; instead, an 8X12 box is your throne. Adam, where art thou?

5. Finally and most importantly, take me to my leader. Where are the ELDERS that we were always told to respect? Who’s ready to stand up in our community to lead a fallen generation to the mountaintop? What happened to the church community and power that was led by men to address issues that impact our communities? The churches have fallen to corruption, greed, political influence and false prophets whose lifestyle contradicts one of a shepherd. All behaviors that have driven away new souls for God. The heart of the community lies within the church, but somehow the church doesn’t exist; just a business with a cross as its logo. Who’s ready to return back to their father and restore our rightful place in the Garden of Eden? We were made to worship Him and bask in the fluorescent breeze of peace and prosperity. But when the church doors open you’re still at home in a drunken state of mind. Adam where art thou?

[Your child is looking out the window waiting for you to come home from work. Your daughter is waiting to feel the true unconditional love from her first male example. Your son is waiting to make you proud and is aspiring to be just like you. Your woman needs her king to lead her into a flourishing prosperous life filled with love, honor, and protection. Your community needs a leader to combat the evil that floods our streets with lies, corruption, and false representation of our true existence. Everything that was promised to us awaits in the distance, while the clouds pass through the sky and the ocean continues to roar. Tears continue to fall from heart broken faces waiting in a distance while God opens his arms gazing into the valley sitting patiently for you to return. But you never showed up. ADAM where are you?]


Living with a purpose

Young professionals face a number of different challenges in their journey. Whether it is trying to establish a family, career or just figuring out who you are, it is inevitable that you will be challenged. You get one chance at life, so live it to the best of your abilities and most importantly, treat each day as an opportunity to define your legacy. When you leave this earth you will not be defined by the kind of car you drove, the clothes you wore, or how much money was in your bank account; but rather, the impact that you had on those around you. Now please don’t get my wrong, I like nice clothes, I appreciate nice cars and I love money, so if you can acquire those things while living a fruitful and productive life, by all means please do so.

The first point that I want you to consider is that instant gratification only leads to temporary elation. Do not allow yourself to be tricked into taking the easy way out in your quest for success. We live in a society in which we are used to things readily available. Because of this, we can fall into the trap that success should come without struggle. This brings me to another rule to live by; things just don’t happen, people make things happen. If you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, a hair stylist, or a master electrician, you must be willing to put in the work in order to see that dream come true. You must be willing to go through some periods in life that are downright uncomfortable and lonely because you may have to give up some temporary things AND people in order to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself. You must get rid of the old way of thinking that good things come to those who wait and replace it with the notion that good things come to those who WORK. Anything worth having is worth working for, and if my talents, skills and dedication can’t get it for me, then I probably don’t need it. When you work meticulously to be a master of your craft then you position yourself to be lucky. Now I know that I may have thrown some of you for a loop, I just rambled on about not taking the easy way out, working hard to accomplish your goals and now I’m talking about luck? When I talk about luck, I am not talking about Mohegan Sun on a Friday night at the roulette table, but instead the words that were spoken by the Roman Philosopher and Politician, Seneca who stated that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. The truth of the matter is that we are never fully aware of when an opportunity is going to come our way, so we must always be on top of our game and prepared to show that we are worthy of what is put before us. So we’ve spoken a little bit about being the best that you can be as far as goal setting is concerned, however that is only half the battle. You have gotten where you are today because you have shown a willingness to work hard to achieve whatever personal goals you want to achieve. Now comes the fun part, going out into the world and making things happen. Each person in the world has something to contribute, whether good or bad, whether big or small, we all make a contribution to society as a whole. The challenge is to identify what you are currently contributing to society and to assess if your contribution is having the impact that you want it to have. You should know what your best is and you should know what your limitations are, if you allow society to determine these things for you, you are bound to be lost, unsatisfied, angry, depressed and unproductive. Here are three things to consider as you attempt to fulfill your purpose in life


  1. See thing as they are but not worse than they are– simply put be real with yourself and those that are looking to you for guidance, when placed in a situation it is important to view it at face value. Over exaggeration is not necessary, never make a situation more than it needs to be. You will spend your entire life putting out fires so don’t add unnecessary drama to any circumstance that you are facing.

  2. Have a true and genuine care for the well being of others– part of your charge moving forward is to help improve the quality of life for all humans, not just for yourself. In your pursuit of the “American Dream”, carve out some time to serve your community in some way, shape or form. I have come to realize that I have gained a greater sense of my purpose in life and career interests through the work that I have done for and with others.

  3. Identify one thing that you are really good at and become great at it- We live in a world where many people are ‘Jacks of all trades and masters of nothing”. Instead, identify something that you truly want to be great at and seek out opportunities to build your skill set in that area.

These are just a few steps to consider as you establish yourself and your purpose in life. Stay tuned for our next installment of Around the Water Cooler. Be blessed!



-In My Humble Opinion