Last week I wrote about the 15 Most Annoying People in Black America. From Tyler Perry to the Basketball Wives, to Ms. Lauryn Hill, we covered a lot of ground. While that was fun, I really don’t like being so negative—not even in jest. Today, I want to switch things up and talk about people whose presence on Earth I actually appreciate; people who to me, are generally intriguing. Let’s jump right in:
What do you do when you’re signed to one of the most important labels in the history of Hip-Hop, but can’t seem to build any sort of steam with the record company around your project? Change your name and release your stuff online. That’s essentially what Christopher Breaux (Frank Ocean) did. After being signed to Def Jam for some time, with no real movement on his work, Frank took matters into his own hands and dropped Nostalgia.
What I really dig about Frank Ocean’s music is its subtlety, the sublime way he’s able to recreate feelings and emotions through song. His vocals are agnostically soulful and his songs are both simple and thought provoking. I even think the fact that he doesn’t have the classically powerful voice we’ve come to expect from male crooners adds to his appeal; his sonic imperfections belying a certain humanity that allows the listener to connect and empathize. If you were to sort my iTunes playlist by number of plays, Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” has a perpetual spot at the top of my list.
You’ve been a fan of dream hampton for longer than you know. From her pioneering work at The Source and Vibe, to co-founding the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement all the way up through co-authoring Jay’s Decoded, dream’s always been an inspiration to all of the children born of Hip-Hop who’ve dared to pick up a pen and pad and do something besides rap. What I enjoy most about her is the beautiful way she carries the contradictions that come with being of Hip-Hop, without compromising her social, cultural, and political awareness. She, more than most, understands that those of us born into Hip-Hop need not apologize for its contradictions, idiosyncrasies, and sometimes destructive nature, but instead appreciate that all of that is birthed in the same place as its ingenuity, artistic integrity and genius. If Hov’ is Che Guevera with bling on, dream is Sojourner with Jordans.
The thing you gotta love about Roland Martin is that, in the midst of all the propaganda, vitriol and plain BS that finds is way onto CNN, Roland always finds away to say exactly what you were yelling at the screen and for that, he deserves a spot on the list. He doesn’t back down and most importantly, he knows his stuff. He slipped up a little when discussing that underwear add on Twitter, but I think we were all happy to see him back on television doing his thing, representing us.
Shonda Rhimes is an inspiration for starving writers everywhere. After graduating college, she was basically an unemployed or underemployed script writer trying to get her work going in Hollywood. She persevered, never lost sight of her goals, and most importantly, she kept writing. She wrote wherever and whenever she could, from the script for Halle’s “Being Dorothy Dandridge” to that terrible Britney Spears flick “Crossroads.” Rhimes kept writing, and eventually, she blessed us with one of television’s best shows – “Grey’s Anatomy.” If you’ve ever committed yourself to some sort of artistic or alternative endeavor and not been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, remember Shonda Rhimes. By the way, if you’re not watching ABC’s “Scandal” … you might wanna get up on it.