I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

The Maddening Arrogance and Elusiveness of Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake’s solo career has always struck me as a profound exercise in insincerity. And his arrogance has always been almost insultingly transparent, but no one seems to notice it – or care.

Take this nugget from his “beggin for a black pass” 2003 Vibe cover story where the woman who taught him how to “sing black” – herself a white woman (lawd!) – basically outs him as a poseur at the very same moment we were supposed to be believing we were getting the real Justin:

Although Timberlake loved R&B growing up, he didn’t perform it professionally until he became a regular on The Mickey Mouse Club. His vocal coach, Robin Wiley, who was a producer on the show, remembers how the then 12-year-old had to adjust. “He hadn’t sung a ton of R&B-ish stuff, mostly country, and the show covered whatever was on the radio,” Wiley says.

Or the fact that Justified was really just equal parts Timbaland’s unique brilliance and Pharrell’s “repurposing” of shit he’d written for Michael Jackson. Also from the Vibe article:

The Neptunes could easily have given Timberlake a “Girlfriend Part 2,”and no one would have been mad. “I wanted to break the rules in terms of what people thought we were going to do for Justin,” Williams says. So the producers decided to use Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall as inspiration. In fact, they dusted off five songs they submitted for Jackson’s HIStory Volume 1 and Invincible albums that were rejected. Williams rewrote parts of those songs with Timberlake and created new versions of “Senorita,” “Let’s Take a Ride,” “Last Night,” “Nothin’ Else,” and “Take It From Here.”

But I get it. People record other people’s leftovers all the time. Why does Justin doing this bother me so much?

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Posted on March 16th, 2013 - Filed under Music
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What’s the Best Way to Make Music?

I’m rather opinionated about music. Folks know this.

And while all that frustration criticism comes through loud and clear when I write or tweet, I’m definitely not as good at communicating that I understand and respect how profoundly difficult making music really is.

I thought about this when I came across this Tyrese quote on Singersroom.com:

“Producers these days are lazy. Making tracks. Sending emails. I’m just saying. When you make music under the same roof, with the actual artist that you’re working with, everybody is praying together, eating together, laughing together. It’s a different kind of nuance that’s created around music.”  (emphasis mine)

I do think there’s something profoundly special about the music that can come from songwriters, producers and artists spending time together crafting music that the artist feels a close connection to because that artist has had some input into making it, but with that understanding comes a deeper understanding that I think critics of black music don’t articulate nearly enough: what Tyrese longs for is the exception in the music industry, not the rule, particularly with black popular music.

In other words, a lot of people aren’t afforded the luxury of getting into a room with the best songwriters and producers and creating something that they can feel has the personal touch because that’s not the kind of artist they are intended to be, whether they know it and acknowledge it or not. We should be honest about this fact.

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Posted on February 13th, 2013 - Filed under Music
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Vibe’s Best Rapper Alive? Not So Much

Best Rapper Brackets
click to embiggen*

So Vibe slouched toward further irrelevance among black people by putting together a Best Rapper Alive contest where fans could vote on a series of head-to-head “battles” and end up with a consensus of the Best Rapper Alive.

Yea, and Eminem won.

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Posted on October 15th, 2008 - Filed under Music
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And Y’all Wonder Why I Can’t Stand Him

Anyone who knows me knows I can’t stand Justin Timberlake.  He’s the 21st century Elvis.  He steals outright and then gets indignant if you notice.  And Black folks seem to love him unconditionally, which hurts my heart.

This video is the latest instance of Timberlake’s disgusting White entitlement.  But this “joke” comes off mean-spirited and not at all funny.

Do you get to “joke” about it when you couldn’t wait to apologize and leave Janet flailing in the winds of public opinion?  Or is it that you get to “joke” about it because you did what you were “supposed” to do and be a good little boy?

I mean, let’s not forget that Janet played hook chick to him (her first fuckin mistake…of all the people to be hook chick for).  And that’s how he does her?

And now he has the audacity to “joke” about it?!???!!

This “joke” is in extremely poor taste. The “wardrobe malfunction” had real consequences for everyone, except Justin.  Janet’s career has never really recovered.  And the FCC has been more involved in television broadcasting than it has been in decades.  The response was one of the most prominent examples of how race and gender work in concert to rob black women of their humanity and the benefit of the doubt.

I mean, he rips of her bodice and she’s the vixen?

I just don’t know what’s worse.  The joke or the fact that he’s doing it by yet again ripping off Black music.

After deserting Janet, ripping off her brother for Justified, ripping off Prince and Robbie Williams’ swagger for FutureSex/LoveSound, and then making fun of Prince on the Golden Globes…there seems to be no end to how much Justin is feelin himself and how little regard he has for the people and the music that has made him a superstar.

I don’t need the reverence that Usher and Ne-Yo and nem give, but at least acknowledge that you walk in forms you didn’t create.  Acknowledge that your popularity has as much to do with you being White as it does with your talent.  Stop frontin like the shit is new just because you are singing it.  Stop fronting like we don’t all know that most of what works in your music has more to do with Tim and Pharrell, than anything that you bring to the table.  A little humility goes a long way.

I didn’t think I could possibly loathe the little poseur any more than I did before.



Posted on July 21st, 2008 - Filed under Culture,Current Affairs,Music
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