On Monday, VH1 flooded the airwaves and social media with what was supposed to be its highly anticipated social responsibility initiative. Out in Hip Hop was initially positioned to target prevalent homophobia in the Hip Hop industry. Before I begin, let me state. This has been one of the most challenging op-eds I’ve written since I began my column. Late this summer when news broke that VH1 would have the first openly gay male couple on its last placed ratings show-Love & Hip Hop Hollywood., I choose to bypass the circus that ensued for several reasons. 1) One half of the couple, Milan Christopher and I, were previously very close friends so I wanted to mitigate any notions of bias. 2) I try to circumvent the stories that every other blogger is engrossed in, giving my readers new and original content. 3) I’ve grown to be patient and give everyone a chance at proving themselves before issuing my opinion. With this thought in mind, I watched every episode of LHHH and made sure I caught the Out in Hip Hop television special later Monday evening. I even stayed awake to catch the Wendy Williams promo for the show. While there were some interesting scenes and provocative points made throughout both shows, I went to bed feeling as if I could’ve had a V8 and watched old episodes of Sex in the City.
Let’s be clear. It is no secret that Mona Scott-Young has become a genius at exploiting the plight of washed-up or untalented D-list artist that have an unquenchable thirst for fame and the spotlight. This strategy has ingrained her as a major stakeholder in the success of the VH1 business-line while also lining her pockets and making her a rich woman. As an analyst, I can never be jaded at the brilliance of an original marketing strategy-flawlessly executed, but the one question I have repeatedly asked myself all season is, “BUT WHERE IS THE TALENT?” It’s rumored that the relationship between cast members Miles and Milan is another one of Mona’s ingenious yet fabricated schemes to entertain viewers and increase ratings. If this is true, I cannot be angry with Miles nor Milan… It has become common practice within our community for individuals to fake or force relationships just for Facebook “likes” and popularity. So at least Milan and Miles are receiving a check while gaining opportunity. While I do feel Milan’s genuine passion for removing the stigma and bias against gay artist in the industry, I was still left wondering, “But where is the talent?” The closest we’ve come to witnessing the skill-set of these artist was a brief snippet of the making of a video by Miles, in which was over-shadowed by his hurt and despair over a gay break-up. Even this snippet became more of a laughable joke that the gay community itself immediately made parodies of and spread over the internet like wildfire! If the viewers/listeners don’t take you serious, well how can the industry take you serious?
Before I am attacked and labelled a hater, allow me to further clarify. I will ALWAYS carry the banner of my community as one of its most fierce and outspoken warriors. I am well aware that there are those within our community that are immaculately talented and divinely touched; yet, due to institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, socio-economic barriers or even the lack of opportunity; they are denied the opportunity to share their talent on a larger scale and enjoy mainstream success. But I am also a firm believer in preparation and flawless execution. Opportunity without talent or an impressive skill-set is just an embarrassing waste. Fly Young Red gloated about how his “Boi Pussy” video garnered 400k views within an hour. But those views were NOT applause and accolades. Those views were ALL of us gasping and laughing at him! Everyone wanted to see this poorly produced, homemade video in which grown men pranced around in cheap tights and booty shorts, while popping their ass on a wall. Notorious B.I.G said, “Lyrically I’m supposed to represent. I’m not just the client, I’m the Playa President!”… Yet all you could come up with was “Throw Dat Boi-Pussy?” If due-diligence was embraced, the numbers would show that only a small percentage of our community party in dilapidated basements while twerking hard. Universally, not many of us want our ears assaulted with the sounds of boi pussy. Therefore if the quality of your product is not universally respected and on a level that can obtain industry and public accolades, is it really shade or is the industry merely telling you, you’re not yet ready, polished or credentialed enough when they dont give in to your demands?
As an artist, you have an endowment to be provocative, innovative and inspiring when it comes to your product. We listen to the likes of Biggie, Tupac, Jay Z and Lil Wayne years later, and STILL find ourselves in awe, captivated and inspired. Rhyming to the beat about how much better than everyone else you are, is not really cutting it if you want to take on the role of ground breaking, glass barrier shattering artist. You must embrace the practices of hard-work and perfectionalism, not expectation and entitlement…Just ask Beyonce & Jay Z. It’s not my intent to dissuade activism, because it is indeed needed. But if you’re gonna take on that role, you need to be undeniably talented and prepared. Your work should be so moving and profound, that we as fans and followers are ready to take up your plight and fight for you! On last night, we were encouraged to demand more diversity from the record labels and studio execs. But whom among you have produced a catalogue of work that’s flawlessly engaging enough for us to make those demands? The world is an extremely competitive place that’s filled with bias and prejudice. Many of us in other industries experience the same injustices you do. But once we get our foot in the door, we walk into that boardroom or sit at that desk and illustrate through our product manifestation that we not only have an impressive skill-set, but we belong there and are valuable assets to the company. Now THAT’S how you push through and create opportunity! Once again, creatively, whom amongst that panel can argue that they have produced an immaculate piece of work that was embraced by the public but denied by the execs/industry?
In conclusion, let me state. We are rooting for yall. You now have your foot in the door and you’ve gained the attention of the country. Stop whining and filter that energy into delivering an impressive work of art that will make us all proud. Life is too short to hate, but it’s upmost fulfilling when you can support. I am anxious for the day that I can turn on the radio and hear a gay artist and maybe even say I once knew him/her. We are all expecting a dope club banger. Kim, Kenya even Joselyn utilized their platform and accomplished it so why can’t you. Yes, it may be more difficult and you will have to be twice as good as the rest, but that right there is what separates the armatures from the professionals, the boys from the men and the fab from mediocre. Be committed to your craft and challenge yourself for perfection. Make sure you’re not only a seat-filler at the Grammys, but actually one of the nominees. Stop allowing yourselves to be exploited for ratings, popularity or Facebook likes and concentrate on truly breaking barriers. Even in death, Whitney Houston is not revered because she could carry a note and released a few albums. She is written down in history as THE VOICE because she mastered then revolutionized her craft! Success is not measured by airtime, fancy shoes or big bank accounts. True success is measured by your ability to be respected among your peers as a true knowledge source and blueprint of your chosen entity. Here at The Flyy-Life, we wish you all much success and we’re watching…cheers…Deo