90’s

TRASHY THURSDAY IS BACK! – The Big Tymers

WHAT’S UP FRESH? IT’S OUR TURN BABY!

Trashy Thursday is back, snitches! It’s been far too long since the dulcet tones of hoodboogers have populated this blog.  But how exactly do we come back??

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Now by the time we were blessed with this duo, Cash Money has been around for a while. But like a bat out of hell, Still Fly came through and stormed the charts gaining the duo MTV-Level fame with the catchy hook and hilarious subject matter.  So let’s take a step back and just deep dive in the anthems.

This Is How We Do is perfect.  Mannie Fresh truly was the best part of Cash Money.  His productions are why so many of their jams were so catchy.  This song has his fingerprints all over it.  Baby might as well be a feature rapper in it.

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Now Stun’n is actually their first single as a duo.

The sheer difference between the sound here between the first two songs we listened to is a clear example of late 90’s Dirty South rap and the early 2000’s rap that was played on the top 40 stations. It’s not just the money difference.  It’s a range in style and polish. It’s in the griminess of Stun’n juxtaposed with the slickness and pleasant beats of This Is How We Do.  But you can go to Complex to get a true historical point-of-view on rap and hip hop.

I.

FUCK.

THESE.

HOES.

AFTER.

OUR.

SHOOOOOOW!

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Listen, I just had a pure dance break to this.  Also, how many people punched themselves in the face getting their roll on?  I was actually driving home to NC from Boston for my vacation when this song came on the radio.  I, of course, started to jam and dance.  Luckily, there was no damage to my car or the Chikfila drive-thru.

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Let’s go back to an earlier jam.

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EVERYTHING I TELL YOU! If you aren’t pursing your lips and shoulder bopping, you’re not listening to it correctly.

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YES YES YES YES YES! The Cribs parody. The cornrows.

So this is my absolute favorite Big Tymers song of all time.  OF ALL TIME!!! It just makes me smile so hard.  The special effects!

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Story Time! So young Trash actually attended a Big Tymers concert back in the day.  It was pretty much the greatest thing to ever happen. During Oh Yeah!, there was a giant diamond set piece.  During the breakdown, the top opened and what had to be 100 hoochies dressed in metallic swimwear poured out to dance around the stage for the next few songs.  It was SO SO SO GOOD!!!! Y’all the early 2000’s were a glorious time.  I only paid $5 for my ticket.

To close this out, turn your hymnals to Page 55, Bling Bling.

I know I left out some brilliant tracks. 10 Wayz and Fuck You are other favorites.  What are yours? Share your favorite memories of Baby and Mannie Fresh.

Let’s Talk: Empire

“Why you marry that white girl?”

                 “We met in school.  She’s brilliant!”

 “All pretty white girls are brilliant.  Even when they ain’t.”

 You all should know me well enough to know that I don’t typically watch shows with plot that requires weekly viewing.  That said, the previews for the show intrigued me and I tuned in to see how I’d like it.

Short Version

Bitch, this was so fucking good! I’m watching it until it goes off the air.

Premise

Take it away, Fox Website!

From Academy Award nominee Lee Daniels (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Precious”) and Emmy Award winner Danny Strong (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “Game Change”), comes EMPIRE, a sexy and powerful new drama about the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne.

Long Version

Before we get into the specifics of the show and why it is so effective, let’s talk about framing.

The show works so well because it is so Black.  It is a Black primetime soap opera.  It takes tropes from 70’s Blaxploitation, the rise of 90’s hip hop culture, and the current climate in Black pop culture.  It combines two generations’ “20-Year Nostalgia Cycle” and makes pitch perfect style and setting choices to portray Black culture intersecting in 2015.

It’s not “African-American”.  It’s not “nu Black.” This isn’t a show for Shea Butter Twitter.

Part of the success of the direction is because of director Lee Daniels.  Having a Black gay man who lived through these specific cultural movements creates a lens that places the show squarely in my frame of reference.  The use of one of my all-time favorite YouTube hoodrat classics:

A tacky, sexual song set to a feel-good instrumental?  That’s 2000s (R. Kelly’s Happy People) and 70’s disco cheese right there.  The whole show is full of these blink or you’ll miss it “mash-up” style and cultural references that effectively create the atmosphere.  Having Timbaland do the score for this show is another fantastic choice and an example of how the atmosphere is set.  His music has always been the sound of the today and of the future.  We’ve also built such a relationship with him as a producer that his sound is distinctly 90’s and distinctly today. (Oh hai 20 year Nostalgia cycle!)

The other important aspect of this show is never to forget that it is a soap opera.  Empire has a tawdry feel because it is a soap opera.  The slimy characters and telegraphing of character motivation is essential in this type of show.  Soaps are never about pushing boundaries.  These shows aim to make the audience feel smarter than the producers and then flip or surpass their expectations with drama and plot twists.  It’s key that you as an audience build expectations with a show like this prior to the actual payoff with plot.

Here’s an example: You know Luscious and Jamal (the gay son) don’t get along.  You didn’t realize he was going to throw him a trash can for putting on his mom’s fire red pumps.

Need another? Cookie repeatedly stands up for Jamal for being the only son to visit her in prison.  She becomes his manager and we see several scenes of her being accepting of his sexuality but whenever he’s not around, she uses derogatory language.

Now I could go on and on with all the plot twists the show set up in the Pilot, but that’s not my job.  Take notes, ho!

Casting & Characters

The casting here works brilliantly.  There’s some weak spots in the acting (hey Migos son!) But each cast member has the look and feel of a trope from the nostalgic or current eras being referenced.  Luscious & Cookie’s names are nothing if not pure 70’s experimentation. This was the era where Blacks were able to achieve some manner of success and grew up influenced by the Black Power moment.  Their sons Andre, Jamal, and Hakeem are totally prototypical 90’s Black names. You went to school with guys with those names.

Let’s go a step further.  Terrence Howard is one of the grossest people on the planet in real life and in his movies. Let’s let Patti LaHelle describe it.

Casting him as a greedy, money-hungry slimeball is the exactly what should be happening.  Howard’s history of (alleged) domestic violence works into the framework of the show. He’s almost always wearing silk pajamas (shades of Hugh Hefner) and candy is available in every room (shades of addiction).  The processed hair is such an inspired choice that I could write a whole post on it.  But since this is already long enough, it’s a sign of the respectability politics at play which was encouraged Blacks (like New Money Luscious) to conform to White beauty standards as they worked to climb the corporate ladder (especially in the 70s when wearing a process was akin to being an Uncle Tom).

Taraji, oh Taraji.  Cookie is a role that only she could work.  One of the saddest aspects of Hollywood is the series of bland, lowly roles for Black actresses.  Taraji has an incredible ability to play intelligent women in hard circumstances. She also has an edge, formed by her self-described life in a lower-middle class neighborhood and Historically Black College Education (NC A&T, Howard).  Her roles have capitalized on this upbringing (a touch of hood) in a stereotypical way that may have limited her from greater exposure to mainstream White audiences.  This role takes that stereotype, but ups the ante with better material and a more polished script.  Cookie is always dressed in animal print, gawdy but self-aware.  She’s not a character to take things lying down.  All honors must go to Taraji because she can act her ass off and she does it here.  She’s easily the most exciting part of the show.

The oldest son (Andre) played by uber-hottie and future husband Trai Byers.  The brilliance in his casting is that he is very 90’s handsome. Think of the square-jawed handsomeness of Shemar Moore or the appealing face of Morris Chestnut.  His character’s interracial marriage gives me the disappointment in Taye Diggs’ felt after the announcement of his (alleged and denied) feelings towards Black women.  One of my absolute favorite styling choices only shows up when he’s in the board room.  Whenever the camera pans over the table, he’s always wearing an oddly colored suit in comparison to the other members.  It’s a visual cue that he’s out of place and different from the rest of the table, much like he’s an outcast in his family.

Empire-pic-Trai-Byers-as-Andre-Lyon

#heyboo

The middle son (Jamal) is played by super cute Jussie Smollet.  The beauty of his casting is that he is the cute guy that every girl liked in high school.  He wasn’t the most popular and he was a little awkward but that was enough to make him endearing and adorable. This quality only enhances his character’s homosexuality as it renders him a bit unattainable. This stereotype has been around for years, but his Usher-like vocal quality places him squarely in the 90s and early 2000s.

jussie

If you told me that Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) was a member of Rae Sremmurd, I’d believe you. The hair designs, the high-top fade, the way that they dress him in a shiny metallic.  It’s all very now.  Even his character’s music is reminiscent of the current Migos/Young Thug era of party music. The emotional abandonment from both Cookie and Luscious fuel his partying and alcohol as an escape.  His closeness with Jamal is almost a dependency but you can tell that he knows that Jamal is more talented.  I think the dueling projects between the two could provide a great grounding for the more melodramatic qualities of the show.

The supporting cast is too vast for detailed description but I’m sure that as we are introduced to each one and start to learn their motivations, the show will only get more interesting.

Criticism

Alright, let’s do this. I’ve issued nearly universal praise for the show so far. But I do want to temper that this praise is due to the framing of this show as a soap opera.  We want it to tell compelling stories with campy drama, extreme emotion, and a suspension of disbelief.  This is not the real world and it allows for a looser narrative structure and a chance to attack the words and emotions with gusto.  In my opinion, the same can be said for Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and shows of this ilk.  There may be elements of reality borrowed to legitimize the story, but this is a work of fiction with fictional characters.

I state this because while most of the acting is good, there’s little nuance in the performances. Think about Olivia’s patented lip quiver.  It only works in that context because reactions on Scandal are typically full-scale to make it must-see television.

Actually, last night I discussed the show with Sass who brought up a really good point about the characters being mostly flimsy stereotypes.

“The smart son marries a white girl, Cookie is an aggressive black woman, Luscious was a drug dealer turned rapper.  I haven’t seen a break from the stereotypical black character.”

Because of my love for this episode, I wanted to disagree and even mentioned my thesis that the characters needed to be broad in a soapy manner.  But I could not argue against her because I agreed with that point. These aren’t new characters.  Nothing is breaking new ground at all.  Even 50 Cent’s messy ass had a point about some of the similarities to his show, Power.

I also absolutely HATE that the show is on at the same time as Black-ish. I am so pleased that there are least 4 shows currently on television with Black women in central roles, but to place the two shows with mostly Black casts in the same timeslot?  That’s bullshit.

With that said, I definitely anticipate some people writing essays about how shows like this are bad for Black people. “Setting the race back” is always a concern for the Don Lemons of the world.  I’d argue that the not-so-pleasant portrayal of African-Americans can be beneficial so long as there are positive and neutral examples in the media as well.

As a fan of the Golden & Silver age of Hollywood, I’ve seen many Sidney Poitier movies.  He along with other Black actors and actresses like Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte worked to only take roles that portrayed Blacks in a positive light.  This was incredibly admirable but it made the roles less interesting, in my opinion.  Poitier plays the same faultless man in so many movies.  This was done to show that the White characters hated him solely because of his race and not his actions.  This was necessary.  This was important.  But I’d argue that none of his roles are as memorable as Dandridge tarting it up a bit for the role in Carmen Jones.  Carmen is not a likeable character and yet she is more interesting than even Mr. Tibbs (who is my preferred way to view Poitier).

Taking this viewpoint, while I wish there were more varied and substantial roles for African Americans, I can’t deny that the show is so well-cast and uses a mythology that allows it’s soapy/fantasy nature to shine.  I also appreciate that very few characters are meant to be likeable or sweet. The only character being portrayed in a fully positive way currently is Jamal and with the way the plot has been set up, I don’t see that lasting (Secretly, the saintly treatment of the homosexual character is another trope of which I’m not fond. Shades of Kurt from Glee.)  These may be caricatures, but they are human.  No one is an angel but each character has real motivations and the show took the time to examine their reasoning briefly in the first episode.

Overall, I’m going to keep watching.  The season preview packed so many guest stars that I screamed at the television.  I can’t promise any full recaps but I will probably be tweeting about the show.  Let me know your thoughts and comments below.  However, remember to “Take that bass out of your voice when you talk to me!”

Another Music Challenge Post

So I’m running on E when it comes to a topic today.  And you know what that means!  Arbitrary list of 5 music videos!!!

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So there is a 100-day music challenge which I’m obviously not going to do.  But I used Excel’s Random Number Generator to randomly pick 5 of the questions so I could put this small playlist in your life.  Let’s go!

2) A song from the first album you ever bought. (What was the album?)

Song: Tell Him – Lauryn Hill
Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Now I was not rich growing up.  I remember being completely jealous of my classmates and friends who had CD players (Discman’s specifically).  The summer between 7th and 8th grade, my mom bought me my first CD player and I was so freaking excited.  The first two CD’s that I owned were gospel compilations (Do they still make WOW Gospel?).  But the first album I purchased with my own money was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill proving that my taste has been flawless forever.

But this song.  I get emotional listening to it every single time.  Like I remember every time that I’ve craved someone.  That I’ve loved someone.  I just close my eyes and I’m instantly in that moment.  The moment where I fell.  I don’t know how you could listen to this and not feel something inside.

41) A song you can remember from when you were at school.

Song: Joseph’s Coat (The Coat Of Many Colors)

Umm…this is a stupid question.  To force it to make more sense, I’ve decided to pick a song I remember from middle school.  That’s when I got my Lauryn Hill album so why the hell not.

So back in seventh grade, I had my star-making role of Isaachar in my middle school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  ::sarcasm:: It was really fun though and this is the song that comes to my head as soon as I think of my musical experience.  Also, getting to be nasty was pretty fun.

71) A song by an artist with the same first/last name as you.

Song: All You Wanted – Michelle Branch

Come on White Cousin!  Listen, Class and I were just talking about how the group of ladies who snatched the early 2000’s with their flawless bops, Michelle included.  I think it was a reaction to the Britney/Christina/Jessica/Mandy vein of sugary sweet pop music.  They made Michelle, Avril, Vanessa, and Fefe come across more edgy and “real” and that resonated with huge part of my generation.  Twas a good time.

Don’t even pretend you don’t like this song.  It’s fabulous.

81) An 80’s pop song by an artist who thinks he’s/she’s really cool.

Song: Naughty Girls (Need Love Too) – Samantha Fox

Who made up this challenge again?  These questions are stupid.  So I’m just going to give us an 80’s pop song because WTF.  Why would I assume they think they are cool?  Wouldn’t that only leave me with Corey Feldman as the only option?

ANTYWAYS! Let’s talk about Samantha Fox and how she is one of my patron saints.  Some people have martyrs and holy people, I have late 80’s pop stars.  Don’t judge me.

But this song is EVERYTHING.  This is a bop in every sense.  The dance beat with the hip hop influence.  The male background singers? Come on!

The gayest gang since the Bad video.

Her dance moves??

NO MORE FUN AND GAMES OF THE MIND!

naughtygirls

 

91) A song for a romantic dinner.

Title: Kiss Me On My Neck – Erykah Badu

Some of us haven’t been to romantic dinners.  Rude ass questions.

But legit, I don’t give Erykah Badu nearly the props she deserves for the quality music she has brought to my life.  I feel like this is the kind of song you want playing gently as you wrap up the meal where you dance and sway a bit together.  As the dinner turns towards a nightcap.

And who doesn’t want a kiss on their neck? Amiright???

Now it’s on you people. Are these questions as dumb as I think they are?  What song would have picked for that 80’s question?  Leave us a comment below!

My 90s Sunday Playlist

Hey Lovebugs! It’s Sunday and that means it’s time to chill and get in the right mindset for the new week.  So here’s a few of my favorite songs that put me in a chill mood.

Cool Relax – Jon B

Listen, we really don’t pay enough homage to this ivory king.  His first album is a bop!

Set Adrift Of Memory Bliss – PM Dawn

So PM Dawn was a duo in the early 90’s who did a lot of trippy-R&B influenced rap.  My aunt had their cassette and I played the snot of it.  This was their earliest hit, but you should take a look through their archives.

I’m Ready – Tevin Campbell

I don’t even need to go into detail about the slayage of Tevin Campbell.  That little boy sang his ass off and we’re better for it.

Sending My Love – Zhané

Pronouched Jha-nay! Their harmonies and upbeat songs were more popular.  However, this has always been their standout track for me.  It’s a lovely song and the perfect song for thinking about the past.

Let It Flow – Toni Braxton

So a while back, Class and I were talking about trying to come up with your absolute favorite song.  This was my final answer.  It really has the best of everything.  It’s got a message I need to hear on a daily basis.  Learning to relax and just take life as it comes is something I always need to hear.  You’ve got Toni Braxton who does not get nearly enough credit for her flawless vocals. You’ve got TLC in the background.  It’s lush, it’s relaxing it’s perfect.

Give me some of your favorite Sunday routine songs!  Our inbox is open and don’t forget to check us out on Twitter at @ClassNTrashShow.

A Tribute: Adina Howard

Trashy Thursday! Aww yeah, get it get it!

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So it’s time to pay genuine homage to a woman who helped shape my world view and my life goals.

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Come on, Queen!

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I live for this woman.  Her epic jams are my life.  Let’s talk about three of my favorite anthems by this queen.

1) Freak Like Me

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I had to stop dancing and put the video on mute in order to list out the fabulous things about this video.

a) Her hair slays.  Just early 90′ s slayage.

b) Her sassy hoop earrings.

c) Her fishnet stockings.

d) Her gold sheet sets.

e) Her popped collar blowing in the breeze.

f) Adina body rolling on the bed snatching wigs.

g) The heart embossed on the back of her leather shorts.

h) Dropping it low in the water.

We haven’t even discussed how flawless the song is.  Like Adina is the hoodrat R&B prototype.  The “So we can PUMP PUMP!” is so damn catchy.  Her ad-libs are fun.  It’s just a great song.  One you want to listen to all the time. Slay bish!

2) T-Shirt & Panties

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Like hood love does not get any better.  What do you have on right now?  This is the soundtrack to so many chat line voice mails.  Hope you got your cucumber melon on!

3) Nasty Grind

Adina is on her grown woman!  This was all up on BET Uncut.  But if you don’t body roll and get into her afro! I’m going to find a bae and grind up on em’!

I suggest you do the same.  Catch y’all on my 4-day weekend!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

So Class took the time to listen to that awful mess from Anthony and raised me a Jacquees.

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So I’m listening and I’m like…his voice isn’t as bad as Anthony’s.

::the verse starts::

NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!

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Candy Rain with a Rihanna reference…

Who is encouraging these people? Why are there multiple terrible, hideous, off-key, raggedy, renditions of this classic????

We’re not going to be great until this is stopped.

Look for the Class & Trash cover of Candy Rain on iTunes!!!  But again, here is the far superior original to cleanse your palette.