MJ: Rare Interviews

After Michael jackson became a solo artist, there was a 14-year period where he entered into reclusivity and did not do interviews. The footage from interviews before that time period are rarely shown. Here are a few:

Soulbeat Network (1979)

Sylvia Chase with The Jacksons (1980):

On the set of “Beat It”:

Entertainment Tonight (1983)

How I became BAD!

May 16th 1983, I was 4 going on 5. I was at home watching an awards show with my mom. Now although I was already aware of Michael Jackson’s music, because my mom used to tell how I would hear some of his songs on the radio and sing them, it wasn’t until I saw his performance on that show when it truly hit me, this guy is awesome! Fast forward to 1987, when I got my 1st MJ tape (yes tape as in cassette), the album Bad. I knew every single song off that album, which probably why, biased speaking, that is my favorite of all his albums. Man in the Mirror, Dirty Diana, The Way You Make Me Feel, and who could forget Liberian Girl, come on now son!! That same year, I remember standing in a long line in December at Disneyland, to see Captain EO. It was like only 10 minutes long, but still definitely the most amazing experience ever at the time. After that, anything MJ did musically, I was all ears. The man just had a gift and a work ethic that is still unmatched by any other artist to this day. And even though I became a huge HIP HOP junkie and may not have purchased albums after BAD, I was still down with his sound. Actually, one of my all time favorite MJ songs, songs period, is Butterflies off his 2001 LP, Invincible. So as I stated, I’m still down with you MJ. I know you still moonwalkin’ in heaven, got all the angels passing out at your shows. I know I am BAD because of you. RIP


Aaron McGruder Vs. Tyler Perry

If you missed it, this past Sunday’s episode of Boondocks took a major stab at media mogul Tyler Perry. The episode reminded me of a Facebook conversation I had with a friend a few months back when I asserted that Perry was a gay man. Her surprised reaction led me to add, “Of course, I don’t know this personally, but that’s what I’ve heard”. In that moment, I had validated a rumor about the man, though I don’t know him at all – but I’m not the first.

In spite of his massive success as a playwright, producer, filmmaker, etc (the list is extensive), Tyler Perry has been a controversial character in the community. He undoubtedly has a built-in audience for his artistic creations, based on the success of his religious-tinted Madea stage plays, a medium several Black men have found to be an avenue of success. (Y’all remember Shelly Garrett and Beauty Shop Parts I -VI?) But rumours of his alleged homosexuality, his formulaic and often predictable story lines, and his sometimes questionable characterization of Black people leaves many viewers on the fence about the man and his work. Even Spike Lee had to speak on it.

But I wonder – is this “crab in the barrel” syndrome that causes many of us to critique Tyler instead of just embracing his work, no matter what it is? Tyler seems to think so. After all, the man is the Black American dream – tall, handsome, articulate and successful. His business savvy has provided him with the sort of autonomy most folks in Hollywood can only dream of, and has allowed him to rub elbows with the elite of the industry (i.e chartering a jet to go check on his homegirl Oprah after she’s complained of having a hard day).

Let’s consider some of the points McGruder brings up in the episode: Perry’s use of cross-dressing in spite of his story lines having a Christian undertone; his grand presence in theatre, film, and television; and his alleged homosexuality. Dave Chappelle discussed the issue of cross-dressing and the black male comedian, and how too often black male comedians are asked to wear dresses in their performances, and how he flat out refused to do it because he saw the pattern. Perhaps, like many, Perry did not notice the pattern – and if he did, saw it as a successful method for storytelling since it has been repeated. Can’t fault him for that without criticizing Flip Wilson, Richard Pryor, Robin Harris, and Eddie Murphy, amongst many others. It would seem that the bulk of his fan base is primarily comprised of members of Black churches; the irony here is that the Black church historically has been homophobic, but somehow Perry’s cross-dressing slips under the radar.

His dominance in the industry – well, who wouldn’t want that kind of power in that business? If anything, Perry is creating a template to be admired and followed, not frowned upon. And homosexuality? Unless you have slept with the man personally, there’s not much to be said about what happens behind closed doors. Maybe McGruder knows something the rest of us don’t.

If there is any issue this writer has with Perry, it would be the formulaic, simple storytelling, and his often silly, immature characterization of Black men. We are too complex a people for the stories to be so easily predictable, and furthermore, the immature Black man is a stereotype that we need not feed into. If anything, Perry should consider hiring new writers with a different perspective from his own to diversify his filmography. On that note, TP, you know where to find me.

Black is…Snoop Dogg

Say what you want about Snoop: yes, he is still crip walking, rocking the blue bandana, and throwing up gang signs at almost 40. But Cordozar Calvin Broadus is a businessman before he’s any kind of gang banger, and last night’s True Blood Tribute that aired after the episode confirmed that.

Snoop’s place in music history is undeniable, though many will argue against the imagery his stage persona perpetuates. In spite of that, Snoop has managed to build a brand that, while steeped in urban myth and stereotype, manages to have crossover appeal. Snoop stated last year that True Blood was his favorite show and he wished for a cameo appearance. HBO clearly saw this as advantageous and opted for a single instead. In usual Snoop style, the track is catchy, with some racy lyrics smeared throughout  – creepy gangsta, is what I would call it.

For HBO, the promotional benefit of having an artist like Snoop promote their #1 show is far-reaching. Gangsta rap or not, Snoop has maintained nationwide crossover appeal for almost 20 years and his influence on entertainment in general is still seen today through the many artists that emulate him.

The Boondocks’ LaMilton Taeshawn Part II

I had to go back to the drawing board on this situation. My initial instinct was to have a WTF reaction – not at The Boondocks’ spoof of the Latarian Milton – but at the boy himself.  After all how many 7-year old children have the absolute nerve to steal grandma’s car and go on an under-age driving rampage AND not be publicly reprimanded by somebody? Not many.

But I realized that within my reaction came a criticism – about my people, this child, and ultimately myself as a parent. Too often I find Black folks blasted in the media for ignorant behavior, and instead of pointing another finger, I want to understand why THIS boy is getting so much face time. Is it because a 7-year old stealing a car is truly something out of this world? Or does Latarian represent something greater? Instead of using Latarian as an example of why and where we must improve as a people, let’s ask ourselves what is it about this boy that makes him commodifiable. After all, if he’s getting face time on TV, he’s getting paid. To dissect this, I must reorient how you view his video footage, so here goes.

First, here is the real news story that introduced us to Latarian Milton in April of 2008:

The first thing that struck me about this video is Latarian’s honesty. From this brief interview we learn there is an issue with mom, grandma is raising him, and there is no mention of Latarian’s father.  Keep all of these factors in mind and keep watching.

Two weeks later:

How did the news find out about this? Did Walmart call the police or is the media stalking Latarian Milton?

Here is another interview with Latarian in June of 2008. Notice his tone and body language, and really listen to what the cop says at the end:

By now Laterian is tired of explaining why he took grandma’s car. It’s such an obvious cry for attention that it doesn’t warrant repeating. Notice how the reporter plays up Latarian’s disregard for the people who he could have hurt that day and how that leads into the cops’  admission of  pressing charges to “get him into the system” because “obviously this is unusual behavior for a 7-year old” and little Latarian needs to be evaluated and treated. I’m wondering, what is Latarian’s fate if at 7 he already has a record and is being labeled as a danger to society?

Flash-forward to an interview done two months later:

Now, Latarian stays in the news, but this time it’s because he’s about to make his Hollywood debut. Are Judge Judy’s ratings that low these days? Notice how the reporter mentions the show’s producers encouraging grandma, Latarian, and the phantom mom to participate. How much of that encouragement do you think came with pictures of dead presidents on it? But again, what is the point of all this? Why? To help Latarian “get a new life, and move on” as he desires? I’m frustrated with grandma because she let those dollar signs speak to her – her smile says it all.

This year, Latarian was launched onto Comedy Central. (Couldn’t embed the link thanks to copyright, but PLEASE click on Comedy Central!)

I’m all in for a good laugh, but really what is the point of this 7-year old boy teaching this grown white man how to do hoodrat stuff? What does that even mean? And when Latarian really does grow up and tries to make a name for himself, will he be able to come out from under the “hoodrat” umbrella? Or do we already believe and accept that this child is not capable of being anything other than just that?

Thankfully Aaron McGruder and the Boondocks team saw something in Latarian, and more importantly in the media representation of Latarian, worth commenting on:

I can get behind what I believe McGruder’s intent is here. It’s pretty ludicrous to mislabel a child as a sociopath when the child is clearly begging for attention, but by doing so you write the child’s future for them. Through one really awful and childish mistake, Latarian spent his 15 minutes as the “hoodrat” representative. His real mistake – stealing the car – seems so small in comparison to him teaching Tosh.0 how to really be a hoodrat two years later. And as for grandma participating in that sketch? No disrespect to the elder, but she could take a lesson from Boondocks’ Grandpa and not spare the rod.