Is being black and gay still a taboo?

In the hours since Odd Future affiliate and much adored perpetrator of debut mixtape, Nostalgia Ultra, Frank Ocean posted a beautifully written notice on his Tumblr that his first love was, in fact, a man, the outpouring of reaction and support coming both from his adoring fans and from his peers – and his mother (who praised him for coming out as bisexual) – seems to suggest that perhaps the reality of the situation is becoming more a shade of grey, rather than an outright black or white situation…

And although there have been several homophobic reactions, even Odd Future boss Tyler, The Creator – who many have oft classed as homophobic had nothing negative to say, only that he was proud and to “send your bitches my way.”

In reality, the majority appear to praise Frank on his bravery, his honesty, and his “groundbreaking” admittal, which many class as a breakthrough for urban music.

Ticks to all of the above. But maybe more than all that, his admittal will prove groundbreaking not just for urban music, but for the black community in general.

CNN contributor LZ Granderson recently raised eyebrows when he announced that not only was he black, he was also gay. “I know; I should have told you sooner,” he wrote, “…But I was afraid. After all, I’ve already shared with you that I am gay and well, we all know a person can’t be both.”

There does not need to be a contradiction between the words black and gay. And maybe it takes a household name such as Frank Ocean to bring that reality to the forefront of our minds.

Terrence Dean, a former MTV executive and author of Hiding in Hip-Hop a memoir of the thriving, undercover world of the industry’s gay subculture spoke on Ocean’s admittal saying: “It makes a bold statement not only for Frank, but for the LGBT community as a whole. Everybody’s been waiting so long for the day when somebody like Frank comes out, so it’s a victory for all of us.”

In the months since Obama’s support for same sex marriage, new polling shows Black support for marriage equality actually exceeds that of the population at large, with the most dramatic findings proving that support for gay marriage has reached a new high among African-Americans, up from 4/10 to 59%. In other words, it’s increased by almost half.

Some have suggested Obama’s stance has had a halo effect on Black America and on the population in general – with many celebrities the likes of Jay Z, Floyd Mayweather and Ice Cube donning their support – as well as instigating an ever-increasing trickle of honesty. It was only this Monday CNN reporter and anchor Anderson Cooper acknowledged that he was gay, and only last month punk musician Laura Jane Grave (previously Tom Gabel) went public about her transgenderism.

Although Frank Ocean only recently took a step out of the bisexual closet, he’s been preaching equality ever since he first appeared on the scene, with lyrics the likes of: “I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman but between love and love.” And considering how new his standing in the industry is, his decision is all the more brave.

So yes, maybe his admittal is a break though for Urban Music, but only in so far as it will trickle down and further open up closet doors the world over.

As written for SB.TV

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14-yr old Young Money R&B star Torion: How Huge Can This Get? | Interview

Young Money’s youngest signee Torion has been turning heads as of late with his mixtapes The Initiation Vol. 1 and 2: The Dream Sequence. The 14-year-old R&B newcomer, hailed by some as Hip Hop’s Justin Bieber, first emerged onto the scene in 2011 but as of yet not much is known about him bar some videos and an introduction from Lil Wayne.

Reporting for SoulCulture, Alya Mooro caught up with the rising star over Skype to learn more about his inner workings.

Click here to read the rest of the interview as written for SoulCulture. : http://www.soulculture.co.uk/features/interviews/14-yr-old-young-money-rb-star-torion-talks-beginnings-success-how-huge-can-this-get-interview/

Gregory Porter – ‘Be Good’ | Album Review

Frank Sinatra and John Legend’s lovechild. That’s who I would compare Grammy nominated Gregory Porter to if I absolutely had to. That said, comparisons don’t do him justice. Having shot to fame with his debut album ‘Water’ in 2010, expectations for the follow up are high. But fans need not have worried.

With a timeless familiarity, Porters rich, soulful voice unleashes undeniably beautiful music – songs that would fare well on a theatrical stage; rich both in substance as well as in their ability to tell tales. This truth resonates particularly in ‘Painted On Canvas’, the albums opening number, where the earnest wistfulness of the track evades the speakers. His love for the jazz genre and his identification with it is evident in the extent to which the album is teaming with horn-heavy arrangements and soulful vocals. Exemplified in ‘On My Way To Harlem’, where the Californian-born New Yorker even goes so far as to name drop legend Duke Ellington, and sing: “You can’t keep me away from where I was born. I was baptized by the jazz mans horn.”

Click here to read the rest of the review as written for The House of Coxhead

Emeli Sande – Our Version of Events | Album Review

Having written tracks for the likes of Cheryl Cole, Tinie Tempah, Cher Lloyd, Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis – prompting Simon Cowell to name her his “favourite songwriter at the minute,” as well as singing hooks for the likes of Wiley and Chipmunk – Scottish born Adele Emeli Sandé has finally emerged as a (phenomenal) singer in her own right. Turning heads and catching the attention of the world with an old school voice coupled with an immensely new school vibe, (and hair-do to boot), Emeli Sandé has continued to win over hearts on her journey to the top of our most played lists.

Click here to read the rest of the review as written for The House of Coxhead

Fitness culture breeds 24 hour gyms

Perhaps as a cause or a consequence of the society in which we live in, one in which life is seemingly just one long day, with pit stops for naps along the way – the need for 24-hour services has been increasing steadily.

This is in addition to an almost renewed vigor and interest in exercise and fitness. Exemplified in that there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of gyms and health clubs in the UK since 1996. In fact, almost 40% of the British population are now gym members.

“Gyms have to evolve,” said Mr. Montgomery, owner of a 24-hour gym in Hillmead, Sussex. “You have to give people what they want.” In light of this, the United States has championed the 24-hour gym movement – something that the UK is now catching up with. A growing number of gyms now keep their doors open throughout the nighttime hours. Pure Gyms, for example, has a total of 18 round the clock gyms.

“It’s so convenient,” said Clement Marfo, a recording artist whose working hours are often variable. “There’s times when you want to stick to a routine where you go every day, but sometimes things clash… you still want to be able to have the opportunity to go.”

“It won’t be normal for most people,” said Matt Schwartz, a music producer. “But for people like me it’s useful to have somewhere you can work out at any hour of the day,” he added.

This is also the case for 4.1 million employees who work nighttime shifts: around 17 percent of all employees in the UK. This is similar in the US, where 5 percent of all gym members exercise from 8.30pm to 5.30am.

Not all are convinced by the element that it is supremely convenient, however.

“What’s wrong with sleeping?” said one perplexed individual. “All this run, run, run culture – it’s exhausting. We need to slow down!”

Statistics do in fact suggest that sleeping in the nighttime hours is healthier than the sleep you get in the daytime hours, this is due to changes in the bodies ‘hormone of darkness”, melatonin. There are also an abundance of studies that suggest that being awake during the nighttime increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

As the absence of nighttime gyms does not, however, affect whether or not people are awake and working during the nighttime hours, it could be argued that for as long as people do have to work during those hours – 24-hour services such as the gym should be available.

There are also many concerns about the gyms themselves, with many raising the issue of safety in criticism of the projects. “You couldn’t have it in town,” said one worried gym goer. “You’d get drunks going in wanting to be macho and injuring themselves.”

This is of particular concern due to the fact that during the nighttime hours the gyms are generally under or unstaffed. Members can enter the gyms by entering a pin number to gain access to its buildings, even once the gym staff has finished their shifts. The gyms combat this worry with reassurance that there are assistance call buttons, 24/7 CCTV coverage and direct links to emergency services.

Many, such as the licensing chiefs in Edinburgh are not satisfied with this explanation however, and argue that this arrangement poses a “significant risk to public health and safety.”

Some also suggest that it would encourage antisocial behavior, with reports of a 24-hour gym in Ealing receiving many noise complaints due to the sound the heavy weights made when dropped to the floor.

It is evident; therefore, that there are a number of concerns surrounding 24 hour gyms. The fact that they are required in a culture and in countries which pride themselves as the cities that never sleep are another matter entirely. Perhaps if gyms simply staffed their premises, these concerns would be assuaged.

As written for: WNOL
Photo: jaredpolin

Maverick Sabre – Lonely Are The Brave | Album Review

The youth of today are too often subjected to “rubbish” music, Hackney born, Irish bred Maverick Sabre once said. He went on to say that in the Top 20 chart “no-one seems to be talking about the issues that people go through on a daily basis anymore.” A bold statement – but one he challenges with his own debut album, Lonely Are The Brave.

The crooner catapulted into our hearts and onto our radars almost without prior warning, when he unleashed his debut single “Let Me Go” onto the world. Steadily gaining new fan while forever pleasing the old, on the journey to the release of his debut album, the project soared to the top of the iTunes chart on the first day of its release – and sat comfortably.

Click here to read the rest of the review as written for SoulCulture

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green | Novel Thoughts

photo: TheNerdDilettante

This is not a book review. After all, how can you review something which – true or false – tells a magically spun tale of bravery, triumph and failure all at once. How can you speak of something which inverts your beliefs, reaffirms them and all the while makes you aware of the fact that happy endings are not always what you think they will be. And that the ending may not be what you want it to, but exactly what it should be.

I’m not really a crier. But ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ made me sob and lament (out loud). Continuously. ‘What is this world?!’ I literally sobbed through tightly clenched teeth. Who are these characters that you’ve made me love and then taken away from me?

I’m not really a let-me-think-about-this-all-night-er. But John Green’s novel made me think and re-think and question and stumble upon epiphanies.

Only John Green can make a book about two teenagers fighting cancer and falling in love not as depressing as that instantly sounds like it will be. Only John Green can make the book hopeful, and funny at the same time as slapping you around the head and screaming SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR FIRST WORLD PAINS because some people have it worse, but deal with it better.

“That awkward moment when you walk into the house and you find your girlfriend crying… because someone died… in a book” tweeted my boyfriend when he saw my mascara stained face. “in a book LOOOL a film you can understand but a book :/ really now” – someone replied.

But it makes perfect sense to me. In a movie you are told what to think and how to feel and how to envision the characters. In a novel, they are (almost) as much your creation as they are the authors. They live in your head and share the same significances any of your friends or acquaintances do. That’s part of the reason I love reading so much. That’s part of the reason it’s so bitter-sweet when you’re thumbing the last page of the novel. You know their story is partly ending with you.

And it’s something he does magnificently well – John Green that is. He makes the characters so likeable that you have no choice but to instantly fall in love with them and feel their every emotion as if it were your own. The characters in one of his previous novels; ‘Looking for Alaska’ are the same. They are so relatable, and, for want of a better word – likeable that you find yourself mesmerized. Often so close to launching into a conversation or laughing along with a joke they told – that you have to look up from the book you’re holding in your hands and realise that they are trapped there, in the space between the pages, your eyelids, and your imagination.

But that’s off topic. One of the things I love the most about John Green is the words he chooses to express himself. Just like a beautiful voice or a beautifully painted – anything -… a piece of prose, a well placed word, a sentence that makes you re-think or simply re-affirms what you already believe… it’s art.

It’s life changing.

“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it – or my observation of it – is temporary?”

That’s one of my favourite exerts from the novel. And in so much as it is directly contradicting my belief that “everything is temporary” – they can both exist in tangent.

This is not a book review. After all – how can you review something which touched you so deeply, without feeling at a loss for the words to do so. “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” – I just needed to write it down, to express the beauty in the words which made it so.

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”