Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All That Glitters Isn’t Always Gold: Trinidad James Admits to Rapping Negative Lyrics Just to Sell Records

He’s the new thing right now.

His name is Trinidad James and he hails from Atlanta. He’s only been rapping for a couple of years and already has a song in the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

He burst on to the scene with the single, “All Gold Everything” in which he raps,  “Popped a molly, I’m Sweating (whoo!)” and then proceeds to repeat himself over and over again.

For those who don’t know, Molly, ecstasy’s hipper cousin, has been big in rap for a while now.
As a mom, I’m concerned.

But apparently, Trinidad James is too, answering those critical of his drug references by saying, “When I made that song I wasn’t thinking about the kid who was going to listen to the song. I was just speaking about my life, and if you can relate, great.”

But now, Trinidad James appears tired of dealing with the backlash from the music he makes. In a recent interview with XXL, he essentially laid it all out there, saying he makes ignorant music because that’s what sells records.

“There are some artists who make drug references just to look cool, or just trying to appeal to somebody, right? But sh*t, dude, people have been doing that forever,” explained Trinidad. “It’s not even about drugs, it can be about anything–cars, jewelry, whips. Artists make music, and some artists talk about sh*t they really like, but it’s on the listener to decipher if it’s real and if they really f*** with it or if they’re going along with it because everyone else is. That’s how this game set up, man. You’ve got people who want to hear about the sh*t that they want, but not the sh*t that they need to hear about. People don’t want to hear positive rap as much as people want to hear negative rap.”

Pretty sad. But if Trinidad James is speaking the truth, it says just as much about us as it does about him. But here’s another truth. I can’t rely on Trinidad James to produce music I want my sons to listen to any more than I can rely on Quentin Tarantino to produce movies I want them to see or Rockstar Games to release video games that I want them to play.

These people are in business to make as much money as they can off of as many people as they can. My business is to parent. That’s an action word meaning to raise, nurture and protect.

I’ve heard the argument that rappers are just like actors, that we shouldn’t hold them accountable for lyrics any more than we should hold Denzel accountable for reciting his lines in …say…”Training Day.” But actors and actresses don’t act and dress the part in public day in and day out.  And most people don’t watch a movie as often as they listen to a song or commit the words to memory (unless you’re J. Anthony Brown and the movie is “The Color Purple”).

If I do my parenting job correctly, when my boys are old enough to choose their own type of music, video games and movies, they will be able to appreciate it for its entertainment value and not look to any of it for moral direction.

But just as my parents told me during my teenaged years, it’s not you I’m worried about…it’s the other people. What about the kids who start out empty of moral or spiritual nourishment who have come to rely on what they see and hear from rappers like Trinidad James for fulfillment? We’re quick to say that these young men and women shouldn’t be our kids’ role models, but for many, they are their role models by default.

Trinidad James and a lot of well-meaning parents take the easy way out when they decide that they’re looking out for themselves and their children, but it’s up to everyone else’s children to figure it out on their own.

We don’t live inside a bubble. All you have to do is look at the crime and sexual violence on college campuses to know that sooner than we realize our kids will be classmates, roommates and maybe soul mates with kids who have a different set of values, or none at all. We should all play a part through mentoring formally and informally our neighbors, nieces and nephews, any young people who need to be exposed to another side of life.

With all the foolishness Trinidad James promotes through his lyrics, these are the words prominently posted on his Instagram page: He who kneels before God can stand before anyone.

If only he could be sure his young audience is that grounded in truth.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kelly was Jealous of Beyoncé: Anybody Mad?

Last week, singer Kelly Rowland made headlines with a confession that she was, at one time jealous of Beyonce. Actually, it wasn’t a true admission but a sentiment implied through the lyrics of her new single, “Dirty Laundry.”

“She was up, I was downNo lie, I feel good for her but what do I do now?Forget the records, off the recordI was goin’ through some bulls**tPost-Survivor, she on fire, who wanna hear my bulls**t?”

Now, let’s not be not be naive about this thing.  Kelly needs to sell some music and what better way than to have people to believe she’s had beef with former fellow Destiny’s Child member, Beyoncé.  The song itself was actually written by The Dream, but that doesn’t mean that the hit was not inspired by some experiences the women might have had.

But there are a lot of women who are either victims or perpetrators of jealousy and envy, two emotions that are often interchanged.

Jealousy, by some definitions, is desperately wishing to hold on to what you have.  Envy is desperately wishing to have what belongs to someone else.

 Dr. Lawana Gladney, an Emotional Wellness Doctor, says that jealousy is steeped in insecurity.  Adding that, “Heavy jealously that crosses the line, is when you are not happy for them, think that it is unfair, don’t feel like you can get what they have, and secretly harbor feelings that you hope they crash and burn.”

Both envy and jealousy take up useful space in our hearts, souls and minds squeezing out room for hope, light, and positive energy.

I think the feelings Kelly expresses about Beyoncé are pretty normal.  The problem comes when you become consumed with jealousy and envy to the point that you’re concentrating more on someone else than you are on yourself.

I was at a conference over the weekend with at least 200 hundred women who had come together to learn, grow and support each other. Motivational Speaker and Transformational Coach Nicole Jones Roberts opened the conference by inviting us to step into our greatness and give ourselves to be the giants that we already are.

Speaking of giants, the conference was hosted by Lisa Nichols. You may know Lisa from The Secret and Chicken Soup For The African-American Woman. What you may not know about Lisa is that in less than two weeks, her company – Motivating The Masses – will be the first self-development company to be traded publicly on Wall Street and is projected to be worth 40 million dollars.
Talk about playing big.

Lisa could not have accomplished all that she has by dimming her light in order to make others feel comfortable. She couldn’t have built such an empire while worrying what other people were doing and/or worry what others were thinking about what she was doing.

When it’s time for the star within us to shine brightly, we should worry less about the people who are intimidated by our glow and more about those trying to extinguish it.

It’s not the jealous haters you have to worry about. The people you really need to keep your eye on are those who appear to be cheering you on but are really hoping to see you fail. You can tolerate the haters (haters are often too lazy to do anything but talk bad about you) BUT envious people will try to take you out.

And it’s just as dangerous if it’s living inside of us.  It’s a toxic emotion that will kill your dreams. It will also draw other negative envy people toward you. If you find a way to eliminate envy from within, you’ll find that there will be fewer envious people around you. You attract what and who you are.

Whether you’re the Beyoncé or the Kelly in this situation, if jealousy and envy are weighing you down, check your circle … but check yourself first.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It’s No Longer Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood … it’s Mr. Ramsey’s

The Cleveland hostage situation has sparked a lot of conversation about who’s actually living next door … and what you know about them.

When I was growing up, we knew every single person that lived on Hinsdale Court and we were very involved in each other’s lives. In fact, more often than not my neighbors knew more about what was going on in my life than I did … in a good way.  I was raised in a loving community.

Back in the day … It was the one neighbor you DIDN’T know in your hood that was the person of interest.

These days, we tend to only know one or two neighbors – if that – and now, we’re wondering whether that needs to change.

Who knew the practice of not reaching out to your neighbor actually had a name?

Well, it does.  Cocooning.

“Cocooning”, according to those who study it, is a growing trend of people retreating into their homes and socializing less often in public.  Some of the reasons given are dependence on social media for everything from chatting with friends and family to shopping.  Many of us have designed our homes to provide every single comfort making it almost unnecessary to leave … not even to go to work.  One in 5 or 60 percent of Americans forfeit their daily commutes to do their jobs from a home office.
The recent wave of crimes like the Boston Bombing and the New Orleans shooting spree at a parade can’t help either.

But for me and my family it’s more of a scheduling issue.  I’m at work when most people are sleeping and when I’m home most of my neighbors are at work.  Throw in errands, baseball practices, homework, etc., I can’t imagine having the time to meet and greet neighbors much less bake a batch of cookies to show signs of goodwill.  I only see the ones I do know when I’m dashing to and from where ever I’m going and even though my kids have friends in the neighborhood they have less time to play outside than we did as children. Plus, a lot of their friends are from their sports teams and church and live further than walking distance.

The bottom line is, I don’t know my neighbors as well as I should, and I’m not even sure I want to.  Once you open that door literally and figuratively, it’s not easily closed.  Being neighborly is great at our own convenience, but the thought of someone popping in to have coffee in the middle of day sends me right over the edge.

It would be cool if we could put signs on our doors like they have in hotels to let the people living around us know when we did and didn’t want to be disturbed … if we could vet everyone within a one mile radius and be sure it was okay four our kids to be in and out of their friend’s houses and that their parents knew it was safe to be at ours. But that’s not the way it is and the truth is, we can’t really pick and choose when it’s convenient to be neighborly and when it isn’t. That sort of defeats the whole purpose.

Becoming a good neighbor takes time, work and sacrifice too. Chances are, if you’re like me, you’ve developed a network of family members, parents of your kids’ school friends  and co-workers so that in the state of a crisis someone will come to your aid.

But what about that one time when nothing is as it has been?  What about when the power goes out, or there’s a fire or an explosion in your town, or a manhunt and you’re on complete lockdown.  Or let’s turn the tables for a moment.  What if your neighbor is in dire danger, and he or she turns to you?  What kind of neighbor will you be?

Charles Ramsey has been the butt of lots of jokes because of his appearance, his animated interviews and later the reports that he had a checkered past.  But when his neighbors needed him, he was there.  The woman that ran to his arms might not have given him the time of day if she’d seen him on the street and neither would a lot of us.

We might not know who lives next door, and then again we might know but hope we never have to be bothered, and they may feel the same about us.  We should all pray that when the time comes we’ll put away our fears, doubts, prejudices and all that stuff that makes us human and do what’s humane.
If we can learn anything from Charles Ramsey, it should be that.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Love Letter to My Sons

When my son turned 11 a few months ago, I decided to write him a love letter.  It seemed to be a pivotal time for him. He was going through some growing pains and his self-confidence and self-worth seemed a bit shaky. I wanted to have a written record of my commitment to him and my unconditional love for him.  I also wanted him to know I am proud of him – not because of what he’s done but because of who he is and all that unique and wonderful qualities that he possesses.  It had such an impact on him that I decided to do the same for my youngest son who turns 10 today.
Both letters are below.

A Love Letter To My Baby Boy – May 9th, 2013

Dear Willis,

My sweet baby boy, you have been such a joy in my life. You came into the world a little bit earlier than I was ready for. I should have known then that you would be the kind of child that moves according to your schedule and not mine.

But you were such a quiet, happy baby … always so content to just be held and loved and cared for. You never cried, just called out patiently when you needed me and you slept through the night from day one. Just a dream baby. I think you knew your mama was already tired from running around after your feisty toddler brother and I so appreciated you for it.

Now that you are older and coming into your own, you are not so quiet! But you are even more loveable every day. You are growing out of being a baby but I love that you will always be my baby and will still come look for me at times when you need a cuddle.  You are just the right mix of independence and sweetness and I can’t wait to see the young man you grow up to be.

I love how much patience you have when Tyler tries to “big brother” you.  I love that you are always willing to help. I especially love that you are willing to stand up for yourself and others when you know something isn’t right.

I just wanted you to know how much I love you on this day – May 9th, 2013 – your 10th birthday. You are my 2nd child, but loved equally and infinitely. Some people think that a mom can’t love their children equally, but you have proven to me beyond doubt that love doesn’t divide but it expands and cannot be diminished. There is something so special inside of you. I can’t wait for the world to get to know you like I have.

There will never be an end to my love for you, baby boy. Keep smiling and laughing … you bring me pure joy!

A Love Letter To My Oldest Son – November 12th, 2012

Dear Tyler,

When God gave you to me, He knew I would need you. You taught me so much about love and life in your first year – it was amazing. When your brother finally came along, you were so happy to finally be a big brother. You held him and read to him and couldn’t wait to teach him everything you knew. Now that you are older, you don’t always get along, but I know you still love him. You have always been an amazing brother.

And an amazing son.

You fill my days with chatter and questions I never knew an 10-year old would ask…but then again, you’ve always been smarter than you should be. You challenge me in so many ways and you teach me about things I never knew I’d be interested in. You dive into your school work and you soak it all in like a sponge. And I love to see the way that you light up when you learn something new and interesting.

I’m a little nervous (in a good way) now that you are 11. I think the questions get harder.
This year, you may grow to be taller than me. I didn’t know that would happen so soon. I have such mixed feelings about the young man you are becoming. I am so proud of you for being smart and loving and courageous. But I’m not ready for you to be so grown up already. I still see you as a little boy with chubby legs, chipmunk cheeks and your arms always open to give a hug.

I just wanted you to know how much I love you on this day – November 5th, 2012 – your 11th birthday. My world is so much better because you are here. I can’t imagine my life without you being a part of it. Thank you for being an amazing son. Thank you for helping me so much around the house and with your brother.

It’s hard to be the oldest child. I know I have learned a lot raising you and I know I will continue to learn. You still have so much to teach me about being a good parent. Thank you for being patient with me and for accepting my apologies with grace when I haven’t been patient with you.

You are incredible. Never forget that. And never forget that I am always here when you need me. I can’t tell you how much of my heart you fill, but I can tell you I would be empty without you. You truly are the best part of me and I love you dearly.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Money Over Love: What Kobe Bryant and His Mother May Be Missing

When our kids are young, Mother’s Day shopping gets a little tricky. We either have to front them the money for our own gift or be prepared to LOVE whatever gift they make, find or buy with their own meager allowances.  If we’re good moms, we accept what they give us because it comes from the heart.

Does something change if they become, let’s say, Kobe Bryant rich?

People seem to think so.  In case you haven’t heard, the NBA super star is in a bitter battle with his mom Pamela Bryant over a deal she made with an auction house. Kobe is trying to stop her from selling his collectible items including a signed All Star basketball, a Lakers Jacket, trophies etc., because he claims her only son gave the stuff to him, and he claims it still belongs to him. And the backstory goes a little deeper. It’s alleged that Kobe’s mom needs the $450,000 advance she’s received from the company to buy a new home.

A lot of people have asked “why doesn’t Kobe just buy his mom a new house”?

Reportedly, Kobe has been very generous with both his parents, in the past, but in his words, how much is enough?

Athletes from a young age are under a lot of pressure to take care of their families. Before they’re out of middle school, their parents hear comments like, “you’re going to be set for life once he goes pro.”

Many professional athletes have been diligent about making their family’s material dreams come true—sometimes to their own detriment.

Financial experts warn athletes about being overly generous. According to an article “Financial Advice for Pro Athletes,” on the  “My Dollar Plan” website, it’s okay to share the wealth with family members, but athletes should make sure it’s a gift of their choosing.  “You are not obligated to give in the future and that gifts are given on YOUR terms—not in response to your request.”

This may not be easy to accept when parents add up the cost of Little League, Pop Warner and time and gas spent going to and from games. I can attest that raising active kids is no joke and there are lots of sacrifices to be made.  But I do it because they’re my children whom I love dearly.  I want them to enjoy sports, get exercise, build character, and I don’t expect to be compensated for this any more than I do for helping them with their homework or fixing dinner.

In defense of Kobe’s mom, it seems like a lot more is going between them that includes in-law mama drama, jealousy and hurt feelings.

In looking at my boys today, I can’t imagine things between us going so wrong. I’m just bracing myself for a Mothers’s Day Gift that I know I will love, not because I asked for it, but because it’s coming from their hearts.

I hope that never changes.