Rihanna and Chris Brown: The price of fame.

“Everyone deserves a second chance, BUT Celebs like it or not have an extra responsibility as role models” tweeted a friend of mine earlier.

The story of Rihanna and Chris Brown is a pretty infamous one. They were loved up. He beat her up, badly, en route to the Grammys. They broke up. The world imploded and exploded and fists were furiously shaken in outrage.

They tweeted. They flirted. They featured on each others singles. Chris Broke up with Karrueche. And now rumours abound that they are back together.

“Young girls (and big women even) will look at that and be like “SEE, sometimes u gotta ‘llow ur abusive boyfriend.” – ie forgive him – tweeted that same friend of mine.

And it got me thinking. How many women (and men) forgive those they shouldn’t time and time again. And how is it fair that others, just because they are in the limelight don’t get that opportunity.

What I am saying, is it’s kind of unfair that as a celebrity, or a person in the news – you have to take into account all the thousands and sometimes millions of people that look upon your actions as a guide to choosing their own.

Amidst the Cheryl Cole and Ashley Cole drama that arose late last year, Cheryl announced that had it not been for the world she would have gotten back with him earlier.

My point is – if the average human being is allowed to be stupid and get back into unhealthy relationships, why can’t celebrities?

No one is perfect and it is absurd that we have placed these people who are ordinary human beings upon pinnacles, waiting for them to tell us what is right and what is wrong. It’s unfair in fact that we expect them to behave in all the ways that we ourselves cannot. And are shocked when they fall short of expectation. Or overdose and die.

In the light of Whitney’s Houston’s tragic passing this same issue arises – is the price of fame too much?

“Even on the most exalted throne in the world we are only sitting on our own bottom.” – Michel de Montaigne

Should artists have their music released after they die?

At a time where technology allows the resurrection of musics late, great artists, the likes of Tupac to reappear unblemished before us via hologram, and posthumous albums emerge seemingly from nowhere, is there anything left sacred? And should Drake – or anyone, for that matter – be releasing music on someone else’s behalf?

With the emergence of ‘Enough Said’ several days ago – Aaliyah’s ‘duet’ with Drake on the Noah “40” Shebib produced track – the interwebs erupted and divided into two very clear sects; those who believed the track is awesome, and those who believed that Drake’s Aaliyah super fan status did not attribute him worthy to executive produce her posthumous album, and that someone like Timbaland or Missy Elliott should instead be awarded the honour.

But, the question of who is the reverse grim-reaper aside, perhaps it’s more important to consider if it’s ever acceptable to release someone’s music after they die. After all, isn’t their music the gift awarded to them, and us in turn? Shouldn’t they be the ones to decide how to package and present it?

This question is all the more important with new information which reveals that Aaliyah’s family have denied any and all involvement in her posthumous album. ”There is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family,” said the late singer’s brother, Rashad Haughton.

Having obtained some of Aaliyah’s previously unreleased vocal tracks, Young Money’s Drake added his own verse in which he brags about his watch, laments various first world pains and appears to further diss Chris Brown after their brawl in a nightclub several months ago.

The extent of or lack of Drake’s prowess is not something that particularly needs to be covered in this discussion but, who said Aaliyah wants any of that on one of her tracks?! (Who said she was happy with those vocals to begin with or that she wanted them heard by the world?) But more importantly – who is Drake to change the legacy Aaliyah left behind?

Music producer Flying Lotus appears to feel the same way, saying “When I’m dead, don’t mess with my music. Don’t be having whoever ‘finish’ my demos n shit. Fuck that.”

Someone once said: “art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in,”and as such, what emerges his wholly personal, and special, and private. That art and the people who bare their souls to provide this art become stars and phenomenons should not take away from the heart of the matter. Namely, that art is a form of expression, and as such, that the power, or the meaning, or the substance behind it should not be borrowed, or lent, or stolen.

Written for SB.TV

Gold medals won by multiculturalism – should immigrants be expected to adapt to host?

Just over ten years ago UK Home Secretary David Blunkett urged immigrants to adopt “British norms of acceptability” and develop a greater sense of belonging in the UK. But should they be expected to do so in a country, and a world, that prides itself on being multicultural?

In the wake of a multicultural society, one in which all three of the Olympic gold medals won by Team Great Britain were won by those perhaps not typically of ‘Great British’ descent, what does this mean for the abundance of immigrants that make and have made their homes on UK land?

The difficulty in ascertaining what exactly a British identity is, is in itself an important question. Is there even a defined British identity to which immigrants must assimilate? Aside from the fact that we are reportedly six times more likely to be of mixed heritage than our parents are, the fact that Britain was for so long a colonialist country arguably in itself muddies the British identity as it is, in itself, one that has become more and more mixed.

This is aside from the fact that in a world where transportation links have become increasingly more accessible and travel has become commonplace, what is stopping people going out in search of a better life for themselves and their families? Whereas in the past people would travel from the countryside to the city in search of better work and better opportunities for their families, todays equivalent of country dwellers can hop on a train, or a boat, or a plane, to take them to wherever they perceive there to be better opportunities for themselves. Should this move mean they have to adapt to the norms of their new surroundings?

This is particularly poignant in that these additions to the country bring with them their experiences, their skills and their views on life, which, if incorporated could arguably prove beneficial to the host countries. The UK would arguably not be the county it is without the mass contributions of its immigrant populations.

In addition to the fact that an increased amount of immigrants results in an increased work force for the country, it has been proven that immigrants are more willing to do low paid jobs or ones that people in the host country cannot do. To this end they have been found to frequently meet skill shortages in areas such as the health sector, where over 30% of doctors and well over 10% of nurses are non-UK born. In education, overseas teachers play a large role in staffing schools, with an increasing number of London education authorities directly recruiting staff from overseas.

Immigrants have also been found to work for longer hours and for lower salaries – factors which, although controversial and at times lead to exploitation – are arguably benefits for the host country. Those that move to the UK to employment are paying taxes that go to the British people – taxes that stay behind whether or not the immigrant themselves do.

This is made all the poignant by the fact that economic migrants are “self-selecting,” meaning that they made a conscious choice to migrate in order to find work. In a UK Government Home Office study Glover suggested that this would mean they are more likely to be more resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious than the average person.

Of course, this is not always the case. Arguably some immigrants either come from cultures that are worlds away from the British way of life, or are wholly unwilling or unable to partake in the host country.

To this end, it could be argued that the immigrants should at least try as, as one person put it “I say any country you think is worth entering a boat in the middle of the night for, swimming across the Atlantic and selling all you have to move to, any country that you decide is worth settling in to better yourself…the least you can do for that country is be decent and adapt to its norms and obey its laws.”

This applies almost directly to those who, in moving to another country refuse to adapt in any way. Arguably the most basic and fundamental aspect of adapting to a culture is learning the language, but recent research suggests that even many second or third generation immigrants speak or understand hardly any English.

Perhaps it is unfair to assume that everyone should speak English, but to move to a country where that is the predominant language and not at least attempt to make the words familiar to your ears or your tongue could be supremacist in itself. As above, why bother moving to a country if you are unwilling to play any part in its progression, or your own?

The importance in at least attempting to adapt is evident in much of France’s societal problems, which can, at least in part be attributed to the fact that their immigrants are so wholly unassimilated into the society and live in ‘banlieues’ at the edge of the city.

The banlieues in Paris house hundreds of thousands of French citizens who originate mostly from North African descent – ones who partially due to feeling completely uninvolved from the society they live in have contributed to mass civil unrest, most notably that of Autumn 2005 where much of the banlieues youth took part in a series of riots.

Therefore assuming that feeling like part of the society is important both for the countries and the immigrant’s well being, the question remains, whose responsibility is it to ensure that this is the case?

The immigrants. Just as you wouldn’t go into someone else’s house and expect to abide by your own rules, arguably you shouldn’t expect to go into another country and bring all your baggage with you. Especially as in as much as the UK is a free country, the demands it makes on its citizens are not really too hard to abide by. France and its ban of the veil, for example, is arguably much more forceful in its need for its immigrants to adapt to the status quo of the country.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia can also be said to impose their views on the expats and the visitors that frequent their countries, raising the question of why should the UK with its arguably much more lax requirements be expected to adapt to the culture of each and every resident that finds sanctuary on its land? Would it not be easier if those who have made the decision to seek it there, trim their edges in order to live a more harmonious life?

In saying that, at the end of the day we are all human beings and the differences between us, despite coming from different cultures or different religions are not entirely and wholly that different. Arguably it is possible to adapt without being a hypocrite to your beliefs and without having to wholly give them up.

As one UK resident of Pakistani descent said: “The idea is integration. Not wholly giving up one thing for another but rather remembering who you are and where you come from and where you currently live and finding a balance between all three.”

For as much as the argument of a free speech and a free country remains, and aside from the fact that some immigrants are uprooted due to factors out of their control, why move to another country if you are unwilling to give or take, anything? Just as love and growth and any relationship requires compromise, so does a life outside our own minds.

Are we taking the human aspect out of communication?

With the advent of new technology like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogging sites, which serve to forever change the ways in which we communicate and share our stories, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the number of phone calls made are found to be in serious decline, while texting is going up…

For the first time in history the volume of calls from mobiles and landlines has fallen. Media regulator Ofcom recently published a report that found that the total number of texts sent in the UK topped 150 billion in 2011, whereas calls from landlines fell by 10%, and calls from mobile phones also went into reverse.

But what kind of impact does this have on our communication? It’s no secret that in a world who’s pace is forever quickening, we have less and less time to communicate with those around us – eyes down, headphones in on the tube we stare blankly ahead. Reaching for our phones we snap photos and type quick 140 character blurbs of how we’re feeling, what we’re doing and who we’re seeing. BBMing and whatsapping away, all the while ignoring the vibrating, screaming phone calls which seem more and more to feel like an intrusion into the bubble we’ve found ourselves in.

This is something James Thickett – Ofcoms director of research also picked up on. “We are all familiar with the sight of people looking down, brows furrowed, tapping on a plastic screen,” he said. “What we are seeing is different ways of keeping in touch. Smartphones and tablets have substituted for making voice calls. It’s about convenience.”

But what about the seven hour phone calls late into the night with your best friend or your boo? The epic teenage phone calls when you used to speak about anything and everything. Can texting, or tweeting, or emailing really replace that? And what about when you’re trying to get a point across, debate an issue or solve an argument, is the anonymity that hiding behind a screen provides really going to help us in the future in terms of being able to speak eloquently or get our points across effectively?

“I’ll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don’t see people in the market place with data-only plans,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at a conference in June. “I just think that’s inevitable.”

Undoubtedly everyone wants to be heard, it’s a facet of human nature. But are we killing the art of communication? Are we taking the human aspect out of it by so blatantly ignoring the phone call? Can words on a screen replace the crinkling of the phone line as stories are exchanged, or the changes in octaves that come before or after a laugh? Does the need to be in control of every syllable, every sound we make come before the need for real human contact?

And maybe the real question is, are we really that busy? Or do we just think we are?

As written for SB.TV

Does hip hop degrade society or are its flaws ours?

Films and video games have long since been scapegoats for the demise of our society. Since its emergence into mainstream popular culture, hip hop has also oft been hailed as a cause for its degradation.

“Hip hop doesn’t enhance society, it degrades it,” was the question brought to life by Google+ and Intelligence Squared at the Barbican this past Tuesday. With a host of big name speakers the likes of KRS One, ?uestlove, journalist Toure and Jesse Jackson, the panel proceeded to thrash out various elements of the genre – with half arguing for, and half arguing against the motion.

But arguably, is it really a cause, or more of a consequence? “We don’t make things up,” argued Egyptian “Arab Spring” rapper Deeb at the conference, going on to argue that rap deals with a bad reality. To this respect, it would be hard to argue that themes such as violence, misogyny, sexism and homophobia have not been present since the beginning of mankind.

It could also be argued that if anything those are no longer the values that commercial, mainstream hip hop are promoting, with rappers the likes of Lil Wayne choosing instead to appraise values like consumerism, and others the likes of Drake and even Kanye West at times giving an insight into the softer side of the male psyche.

If gangster rap is what has traditionally been linked to violence in society, arguably its presence in the genre is not as strong as it originally was. To a certain extent, gangster rap has reflected US society. It is no coincidence therefore that it was most common during the late 1990s with the likes of Public Enemy and NWA. At a time where there was still severe racial dissatisfaction, gentrification and tension, these artists used the medium that was accessible to them, namely music, to express their anger – these issues are arguably not as prevalent in todays society.

But is todays hip hop – the kind that talks money, fame, glamour, girls, cars and the ‘good life’ any less dangerous to society than one that preaches violence? Not really. In fact, it could be more so. Why? Because it creates a reality that for the vast majority of its audience, is unattainable – thus making them all the more frustrated, desperate and reckless to reach it.

Does this mean hip hop is degrading society? Not really. As argued above, it’s only reflecting its truths. Whether or not those are too ugly to look at is an entirely different situation and can’t be tackled by blaming a genre of music.

As argued by Estelle in Tuesday’s debate, “stop looking to hip hop to raise your kids!” Perhaps the closest thing to a solution is to educate ourselves, our peers and our children in understanding the difference between what is real and what is not real – across the board – and investing more in an education system that strengthens our minds to the extent that we can decide for ourselves, rather than taking our favourite rappers word for how we should live our lives.

As written for SB.TV

“There is no law against a woman earning more than a man – only the law of human nature.”

To paraphrase, “if a woman earns more than her husband – his penis may as well fall off.” Needless to say that’s a very controversial view, but Tony Parsons – Grazia contributor – is not alone in thinking it.

His words were spurred by those of actress Chloe Sevigny who claimed that men were “intimidated” by her earning more than they do. Is that surprising? Not really. After all, it isn’t only economics that may make men feel intimidated by a woman – many things factor in – looks, education, even how funny or how likeable they are. Is that weird? Not really. After all, women get ‘jealous’ (for lack of a better word) of their friends all the time, too.

Since the beginning of time we have lived in a survival of the fittest type world. Do more. Work harder. Be better essentially, than everyone around you. And that is without taking into consideration the imagined – and often, the real – differences between men and women.

It would be difficult (and silly) to argue that men and women are on a completely equal plane without completely ignoring the plight of many cultures and instances in which women are oppressed by their male counterparts and by societys ideals for them. But, in the Western world at least, women really do have it pretty good.

Some argue that feminism is no longer about equal rights, but about having special privileges for women. Does living in an equal society mean that the definitions of what a man is and what a woman is have to be completely altered?! Do women have to go out and change the tires of a car while men cook dinner and breast feed the children for society to be considered equal? Would you want to do that any way? Isn’t the fact that you can enough?

While discussing husband material with a friend the other day, my homie made a very good point. It was of course very, very, very far down the list but she said “If I really liked and wanted something, I would want my husband to be able to buy it for me.”

This of course is worlds away from Channel 4’s recently aired montrosity entitled “sex, lies and deceiving guys” which portrayed the way in which some women tricked and used men into buying them gifts. Things they would never buy (nor would ever be able to afford to buy) for themselves.

My friend wasn’t saying that she was going to sit at home and put her feet up and wait for her husband to buy her things. On the contrary – she is an ambitious girl and works very hard to get to where she one day wishes to be. The argument is that it’s nice to feel looked after every once in a while. Almost as nice as it feels to be able to look after yourself.

Now in terms of whether she’d want her husband to earn more than her, I can’t speculate. Coming from my own point of view however, I would. Why? I’m not entirely sure. One thing is certain however – ambition is sexy. Motivation is powerful. Striving for something more and better and working f*cking hard for it are qualities I find alluring and essential in a man. Especially in someone I am actually going to marry. On top of that; I guess it kind of just goes back to that feeling of being looked after. Does that mean I don’t want to earn my own money? Of course not. Because those are qualities I seek in myself too.

At the end of the day it is only an insecure man who would have a relationship-ending problem with his partner earning more than him. Real love would allow him to encourage her, to be proud, to love her for it. The word partner in itself suggests that it is supposed to be a partnership, not a competition. And life of course throws things at you that you can’t really decide or choose. But if I could, I would want my husband to earn more than me.

Why? Because providing is an act of love. It’s hardwired in the DNA of men to hunt, gather and look after his family. Because, as much as I like looking after myself, it’s nice sometimes not to always need to.

“The cheater is to blame – no one else. Unless the girlfriend has a particularly large vagina – then it’s her fault.”

I had a best friend once. We proceeded to make each others lives a living hell when a boy managed to trick us both. Out of the whole weird, awkward and totally wrong situation – he was the only one who had been consciously lying, deceiving and hurting. But we didn’t even really blink an eyelid at him. Instead, we attacked each other.

If it was only me, and only her, and our stupidity only existed in a vacuum then it would (at some point) end up being a funny story to shake our heads and laugh at. But our stupidity doesn’t only exist in a vacuum. It’s sucked up the whole world.

“He cheated on me, but I blame her – the bitch.”

We always do.

It’s like we got sucked into believing this “blue balls” theory. Poor things, poor fragile men. Their balls will turn blue and fall off if not routinely emptied. Poor, poor fragile men. They can’t control themselves.

It depends where the loyalty lies, really. If the girl is your best friend, your sister, your mum (hey, you never know!) then fine, bitch it is. If it’s some random chick – it isn’t really her problem. It’s his. And yours.

There are women like this (click here) who wouldn’t even flinch (in fact, they often pride themselves) on stealing/attempting to steal/getting it on with another woman’s boyfriend. Is it their problem if the man succumbs? No. Sure what they’re doing may be morally despicable behaviour but do they owe you anything? No.

Does he is the more important question. Despite the fact that men would like women to think that their penis is their second (often more active) brain… and despite the fact that believing that may make men less accountable for their actions… They are not salivating animals. And to think that they are is not doing justice either to them or to yourself or to the human race.

Out of the random chick on the street and the guy you share a bed and a life with – which of the two is supposed to be more loyal to you?

You could perhaps try fumble in your pack of cards for the ‘girl power’ or the ‘let’s stick together as human beings of the same sex’ card. But a lot of the time that card isn’t in the deck, home gurllll *clicks fingers.*

Cue the hair pulling and the bitch slapping. And the man who sits back and breathes a sigh of relief at the fact that he’s been let off the hook. Phew. Didn’t even need to whip out the second brain to do the talking for him. It’s almost like the girl thinks that her boyfriend is perfect and was just unfortunately taken advantage of by the evil other woman. The myth is so entrenched he didn’t even need to reach for the zipper.

Who’s the bitch, now?