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Don’t Call Her a Side Chick: My Review of @SZA “CTRL”


The first time I heard “Ctrl” by SZA, I knew it was a classic. The hip hop undertones combined with her raspy vocals create an environment that many of us have thoroughly enjoyed.

Many people however, find this album and proclaim that it is a outcry against men and a statement that “men are trash” (see Dev’s: “Men Are Trash: True, False, Draw?“). In the words of Jill Scott “Well, if they had listened to the lyrics in the first place, they wouldn’t have any questions”. What I find today is that many people hear albums but don’t listen to the messages and stories that the artist tells. As a warning, I am very pro-SZA and this is a album review.


This album is so intricately interlaced with itself it’s amazing. What I gathered was that: “I can be everything you want and desire if you desire so. However, for some reason you still seek other women.” (Point 1). “Where is a man who wants to know all of me, the quirky and interesting side in this world of women that I differ from?”  “ I could be a lot of things but I’m me.” Before I go any further I want to jump to point 1. Did anyone else catch the reference in “Love Galore” to “The Weekend?” Ok. I wanna stop there because the song “The Weekend” is being heralded as the side chick anthem, when in actuality I never once got that vibe. That song continues the narrative of the album. “I am me and I’m in control of my decisions, regardless of how other people feel about them.” “People have so many bright ideas. (Point 2). When in actuality, you can observe but your opinion isn’t necessary.” Point 2 refers to the amazingly placed interlude which when you initially hear it, sounds random but fits into the narrative of the work. “Go Gina” immediately became my favorite with it’s Martin Lawrence with what I gathered to be Pam saying “Damn Gina, why don’t you just live a little and let me live”. The rest of the album flows very soothingly with the stand out “Wavy (Interlude) Feat. James Fauntleroy” and the amazingly worded “Normal Girl.” It’s the perfect album for us “20 Something’s” out there just living life and finding our own way forward. I applaud SZA for crafting this album and can’t wait to see her live.

I typically tell people to listen to a few tracks outside of the normally discussed ones and ask for feedback to open up listeners to the rest of the album. Let me know what you think: Tweet me at @b_rockz_

 #DefinitelyDownload:

1. Doves In the Wind Feat. Kendrick Lamar

2. Go Gina

3. Normal Girl

Meet Paula Bland, Owner of The Love of People Hair & Skin Care Brand!

I had the pleasure of meeting Paula Bland at the Rizos On The Road event back in May. She was this fabulous lady, with long flowing braids and gorgeous dewy skin.  I went over to her table and introduced myself. She began to tell me about her hair and skin care company “The Love of People,” in that moment I knew I had to feature her on this website! 

As I listened to her speak, I quickly realized Paula was more than just an advocate for natural hair, but more of a person that wants everyone to see the true beauty within themselves. As if speaking with her was not amazing within itself, I left Paula’s table with a bag of goodies as well. I could not wait to get home and try them. I instantly fell in love with the TLP “Whip It” Skin and Hair Butter. Not only does it moisturize and hydrate your skin but it beautifully coats and nourishes your hair also. Plus it smells simply divine!


*TLP “Whip It” Hair and Skin Butter

I recently got a chance to catch up with Paula Bland to discuss all things The Love Of People. After doing this interview with Paula I learned there is so much more to her than meets the eye (which is already pretty awesome btw). She is not only the owner of a natural hair company, but a woman that intends on using her brand for activism all around the world. Be sure to read this inspirational and incredible interview with Paula below. Enjoy! 

DM: I know The Love of People (TLP) was created right before the natural-hair movement, what made you want to start a natural hair care line?

PB: I had just finished my degree in Biology and Chemistry after Hurricane Katrina and a rigorous 18-month long accelerated Nursing program; I had made a conscious choice to go natural while in my Nursing program. During this time, I always say that, “I lived under a rock.” *laughs* With the knowledge that I received with these multiple degrees under my belt, I was determined to live a more holistic life to decrease health comorbidities for myself and my family and friends around me. Other than going natural, cutting out certain foods was also a focus of mine at that time. When I decided to take my hair out of braids and truly experience it in a free and natural state, there was nothing out there to tame what I had growing from my scalp and that is how TLP came to be. Bettering others lives and not just being another product in the cabinet became our focus as a brand.

DM: What inspired the name of the company?

PB: The Love of People derived initially from the initials, T.L.P. which stand for my sisters and myself, Tara, Liza, and Paula, in that order. Shortly after I started on my natural journey, my two older sisters followed. None of us had ever seen our hair without some type of processing added to it. When we “Big Chopped” and really got to experience our hair we saw so many different curl patterns and textures in each of our heads! My oldest sister would say, “We have all people right here.” So, from our initials and that concept, The Love of People was born.

DM: I love that! Let’s discuss your natural hair journey a little more. Besides the choice to live a more holistic lifestyle, what else would you say influenced you to embrace your natural hair?

PB: I was influenced to start my natural hair journey to truly see what God gave me and to embrace my natural state. I was newly married and I wanted to share my true self with my husband and the world. I wanted to know how I looked with my God given texture and I wanted to see if it was truly all that bad, which wasn’t the case.

DM: As black women it’s so important to openly accept ourselves and appreciate our hair, especially since society constantly tells us that we shouldn’t. Why is it so important for black women to embrace their natural hair?

PB: Embracing your natural hair is so much more than just that. It is hopefully a shift in our consciousness. The natural hair movement to me is to embrace the differences that society has tried to deem as negative and ugly and take those things back. To start to see our uniqueness as beautiful again, from our crowns, to our big lips, to our hips and butts. Every inch of us is beautiful! The quicker we see that the quicker we become more comfortable in our skin and move on to more pressing issues like world hunger and equal education.


DM: I hear that! One thing I love about The Love of People brand is its’ emphasis on being hollistic and natural, how important was it to create a product that reflected that?

PB: The Love of People knows that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Your body still has to filter all the things that we apply to the outside of our bodies as it would what you ingest. That in itself is a big deal to TLP! Your skin is the biggest organ on your body and we put it through so much on a daily bases. From air pollutants, to water toxins, to product toxins, and on and on. It is no question to why we have so many health issues that plague us. Holistic management of self is something that TLP would love for everyone to embrace and take very seriously.

DM: What impact would you like TLP to have on the natural-hair community?

PB: The Love of People is so much more than a natural hair product line. It is a brand that truly has the consumer at the heart of production. Placing the consumer at the driver seat of what products are made is what TLP strives to do. The Love of People takes our research and the consumers needs into each and every formulation to make products that truly service your needs. 

DM: What advice would give to naturalistas about caring for and maintaining their hair?

PB: Firstly, you should always have 2-3 product lines in your arsenal. Your hair gets used to the coating mechanisms in products and they can cause the hair to appear dull. Secondly, you also need to switch products because your hair needs certain things based on the season, climate, hormonal shifts, etc. Thirdly, you should always use a product for at least a month before making a decision on whether or not you like it. Last did bit, always clarify your hair before switching between brands, this will stop your hair from rejecting a product, i.e. it will stop/decrease product balls/flakes. 

DM: Noted! What would you tell anyone contemplating on “going natural?”

PB: Do it, it is totally worth it! Most naturals that make the change for the right reasons also make a conscious shift that is usually a positive change and it reflects in all aspects of their lives. From what they eat and drink to the people and things that they allow in their space. 

DM: What can we expect next from The Love of People brand?

PB: The Love of People, like I said earlier is more than a brand of products. TLP will become a household product but it will also become a brand that professionals use in their shops. TLP is enjoying it’s organic growth right now but plans about future products and collaborations are in the works so just continue to follow us throughout this journey.

* To purchase products and learn more about The Love of People brand and Paula Bland visit: theloveofpeople.com and be sure to follow the TLP instagram for tutorials, giveaways, and more!

Xo,

Meet Malena Crawford, Author of A Fistful of Honey

I met Malena Crawford at a book signing during the 2017 Essence Festival a few weeks ago, she stood out from the other authors that was there. She had this radiating glow about her, the kind someone has when you know they’re not only beautiful on the outside but have an amazing spirit as well. As we briefly got acquainted I could tell Malena was more than just an author but a true story-teller. One that God had chosen to tell a grand message. 

After reading her debut novel A Fistful of Honey, I can confirm I was right. This book tells the story of a woman that finds herself in turmoil, trying to gather a solution to escape it all, only to find that the real answer lies within her and the divine power she was born with.
Be sure to read my empowering interview with Malena below. Enjoy!
DM:  So I hear it’s your first time visiting the city of New Orleans, how are you liking the city thus far?

MF: I love New Orleans, it has a lot of heart! The people here have been so welcoming and of course the food is on point.

DM: Yes! There is no place with delicious food quite like ours! Let’s delve into your novel, which is AMAZING by the way, I know your main character Alena’s life is based on your real-life experiences tell me about that? 
MF: Thank you! Alena Ford is actually a play on my name, M-Alena Craw-Ford. She is an old part of myself that I released to become the woman I am today. Now, “A Fistful of Honey” is work of fiction, not all of her experiences mirror my own, but a great deal of them do. Or the experiences of women I have known. What Alena and Malena have in common without a doubt is the journey that the character takes from not knowing her place in life and feeling broken, to moving into purpose, forgiveness, and self-love! 

DM: Well you definitely expressed that journey throughout the book. One of the main reasons I was intrigued by your novel is the mysticism throughout it. It’s very similar to New Orleans mystic culture. Why did you feel it was important to include this component in your book? 

MF: It was important to me that women of color, black women especially, could themselves in God; to be validated as the image and likeness of the Divine. I found in my experience that we were largely missing from mainstream ideas of who God is and what holiness looks like. So having Osun, the Yoruba Goddess of Love, a black Mary Magdalene, and Isis as key characters was only natural for me. 

DM: I loved how you gave an authentic account of the Black Woman’s Experience by showcasing how powerful yet taxing it can be. How does your experience as a Black woman relate to the characters in the novel? 

MF: At the heart of A Fistful of Honey is the truth of black women: that we are powerful and divine. This truth was something I had to reconnect with in a major way, and it changed my life. It is a truth that Alena Ford has to reconnect with. She tried to find solace from racism and mainstream acceptance by denying her power and divinity as a black woman. She has to accept herself and get to her joy just like I had to. Not long before I began writing, I realized that in my experience as both black and woman, I was spending so much time in fighting and survival mode that it was distracting me from the joy of living. It was an “aha” moment for me. I made the choice to live the grandest life I can despite the onslaught of challenges and injustices hurled our way. We and only we define ourselves and create our lives.

 


DM: Wow, those are such powerful and true words! As a fellow storyteller I know we often learn a profound lesson about ourselves by sharing our art, what did you learn about yourself through this process? 
MF: Writing A Fistful of Honey has absolutely changed my life. I learned how to surrender and be led by God, this was the only way the story would be told through me. I learned that vulnerability is power. Vulnerability makes you a pliable and whole vessel for miracles. I cannot tell you how many readers have written in or come up to me sharing how this novel has changed their life. That has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.

DM: I totally understand when you say that. I believe God is the storyteller and we are just the vessels that are used. Besides the idea of the Divine often shown throughout the book, what else would you say makes A Fistful of Honey different than any other fantasy fiction novel out right now?

MF: A Fistful of Honey is different because our protagonist is a black woman who is in her 30s and also a mother. This is something almost unheard of in fantasy fiction. Also, it’s what I would call “hybrid fantasy”. The story has fantastical elements, but it also has a rich and layered emotional story of literary fiction with a little dash of hot romance.

DM: What do you hope to bring as an author to the world of fiction novels?

MF: I want everyday women to see themselves in my stories and get inspired by them! I stand out as an author because I’m not afraid to be a pioneer or the underdog. I write characters that come from my life, fuse together genres, and pose non-traditional or even controversial ideas for a new and juicy experience.

DM: I definitely can concur with that. I was able to see my journey in this story. What can we expect from you next as an author? Will there be A Fistful of Honey novel series?

MF: You can definitely expect a sequel to A Fistful of Honey for sure! You may even see some nonfiction how-to books since I am so passionate about self-development and living our best life.

DM: That sounds great! I’ll be looking forward to it. 

*Malena Crawford currently resides in Washington, D. C. Besides being an author, she is a transformation coach and motivational speaker. She studied at George Washington University and holds a BA in Psychology and Neuropsychology. Malena is also the founder of the Black Divine Feminine Reawakened movement; a revolution dedicated to the way black women see and experience themselves. Her novel has received phenomenal reviews from renoun authors such as Iyanla Vazant, and has been featured in magazines like Blavity, Rolling Out, and Uptown.

*To learn more about Malena Crawford visit: www.malenacrawford.com and to purchase her novel A Fistful of Honey click here

Xo,

“Snowfall” Review: John Singleton’s Brillant Tale of the Crack-Cocaine Epidemia

This past Saturday I got a chance to attend a private screening of the new FX series Snowfall, created and executively produced by John Singleton. The show chronicles the life of character Franklin Saint, a naïve yet street smart African-American teen that finds himself wrapped up in the violent world of cocaine dealing.

I have to admit I went to the screening having a few reservations. I was worried the show would not tell an authentic truth of how the crack cocaine epidemic began or the severity of it. An epidemic that to this day has detrimental effects on the black community.

As I watched the series, I realized Snowfall was not just another show about impoverished black people and their stories. Rather it tells a relatable tale of people’s lives we think we know all about, but we rarely get to ever see.


*John Singleton discussing the show and it’s events. 

As viewers we often go into watching something with an already construed idea of what the series will be. So when I heard the ingredients for this show: black boy, crack cocaine, and Compton,  I had already made an assumption that this would be just another show that depicts us in a negative light. Oh how I was wrong.

In this show the protagonist Franklin, a young black teen that has all of the attributes to fall within a black show’s character stereotype is everything but that. There is a sense of innocence that the character possesses. He is intelligent enough to know this world is flawed, but still not wise enough to comprehend what he is truly getting himself into. Yes, he may be smart enough to grasp that this country is disproportionately structured for black teens like himself to fail, he still doesn’t understand the magnitude of what being a crack cocaine dealer will entail. I found that I once took away all the stigmas about young black teens, I was left with the idea that they are still teenagers. Teenagers make mistakes, and find themselves in faulty situations all of the time. Franklin is just that, a flawed teenager with hero syndrome who just happens to find himself in a highly faulty situation.

I left the screening with a new insight on how I viewed “stereotypical black shows.” Maybe if we stopped viewing them all as that and began to see them as great stories about individuals with flaws that happened to be one particular race, we would gain more of an appreciation for shows like Snowfall.

John Singleton did an excellent job of showcasing the characters as humans first, then expanding them and the many intersections of their lives second. I was able to empathize with a lot of the characters, being that a lot of them displayed characteristics of someone I’ve crossed paths with. I’m excited to see the direction in which he takes the show. I can promise you this, if the rest of the season is anything like the first episode then Singleton has perfected the recipe for the makings of a remarkable show.

*Snowfall premieres tonight for 10PM/9c on the FX Network.

Xo,

8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week! 


Photo|Bing Images

It’s the first Monday of the month which can only mean one thing…a new 8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week playlist! Since we’re mid-summer and everyone is feeling those chill summer vibes, below are 8 feel-good songs that will put you in the mood to jam out while soaking up the summer solstice. Listen to them now!

1. Crew x Goldlink ft. Brent Fiyaz and Shy Glizzy

2. Legendary x Joey Bada$$ ft. J. Cole

3. Ride Of Your Life x Tinashe

4. Keepin’ It Real x Mack Wilds

5. Prom x SZA

6. Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)  x Solange ft. Q-Tip

7. Got Her Own x Syd

8. 4AM x 2 Chainz ft Travis Scott

I hope you all enjoyed the list! What songs will you be listening to get you through this week?!

Xo,

*Please note: some links do not contain full length songs. 

#LearnFromYesterday: Timeless and Underrated Albums of the 1970s


Usually, the term underrated is associated with a body of work that was never acknowledged to its full extent. Experts comment on the importance of that piece including the ironic twist of its influence yet lack of acknowledgement. These pieces of work tend to grow a cult following. Often, this work is praised amongst the who’s who of the industry. Moreover, those who recognize the work add a level of sophistication to their artistic taste. Nevertheless, the masses still ignore the body of work. (more…)

5 Artists You Should Know!


Happy Monday Loves! It’s that time of the month again when I introduce you to your new favorite artists that you’ve never heard of yet. The 5 artists I’ve decided to feature this month breathe some new life into the R&B genre. Whether you’re just vibin’ in your car, laid up with your beau, or taking a relaxing candle-lit bath, these artists’ music will create the perfect soundtrack. Check them out below.


#1. Gallant

Originally from Washington, DC, Gallant is a singer/songwriter. Gallant’s music is the perfect fusion of throwback 90s and early 2000s r&b mixed with a futuristic modern sound. Fun fact: I named his debut album Ology as my favorite album of 2016.

♫ Miyazaki x Gallant


#2. Tiffany Gouché

Tiffany Gouché is a singer, songwriter, and producer that hails from Inglewood, CA. Gouché’s music is what many would call baby-making music. It’s sultry, sensual, and creates a seductive vibe.

♫ Red Rum Melody x Tiffany Gouché


#3. Sampha

Sampha is a British singer, songwriter, and producer from South London. You’ve probably heard his euphoric sound before as he has been featured on several artists’ songs from Drake to SBTRKT. Sampha’s sound is unparalleled and transcendent, and you can tell it’s a track of his by only hearing one note.

♫ Under x Sampha 


#4. Sabrina Claudio

Sabrina Claudio is a Latina singer that hails from Miami. Claudio’s sound is ethereal. What I love most about her music is how relatable it is, it tells the perfect story of an millennial woman like myself.

♫ Unravel Me x Sabrina Claudio


#5. Daniel Caesar

Originally from Toronto, Daniel Caesar is a singer/songwriter. Caesar’s sensuous sound is very reminiscent of old-school soulful r&b music, and it makes you want to find a beautiful soul and lose yourself in them.

♫ Get You x Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis

It will only be a matter of time before these 5 are mainstream, don’t forget who told you about them first! Who are some of your favorite under-the-radar artists?! I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Xo,

You’re Not Broke…You’re 26.


Photo | Bing Images

Almost everyday I hear people in my age range complaining about being broke or not having enough money to fulfil their needs and wants. They all have this idea that they should be further in life financially. I wish I could ponder on where this ideal came from, but most of our lives that’s all we’ve ever been told. From television, to news outlets, to even our own family members, we have all been sold a dream on what life would be like once you make it to your latter twenties. However, I’m here to tell you that ideal is unrealistic.

Let’s be honest, our parents and grandparents had a greater chance of fulfilling the american dream before they even reached the age of 25. Careers were easier to attain and homes were easier to acquire. They made enough to live a quality life with a minute level of stress and still had money to set aside for a rainy day. Millennials, unfortunately don’t have that luxury. A large amount of us owe more than 25K in student loans, and can’t even obtain jobs in our fields to adequately pay the student loans debt down. And if we do have a decent paying job, our earnings are spent on bills and normal cost of living expenses. However, with all of those facts to back up why we’re broke, most of us still feel inadequate about our finances when compared to our peers.

Personally, I blame social media. Social media allows people to manipulate and create entire lives, and sadly people fall into the hype. It’s hard to remember everyone goes through ups and downs when people only showcase the positive sides of their life. Believe me when I say there is no one on this earth whose life is perfect. I’ve come to realize unless you’re “Oprah rich” then you’re going to be concerned about money. I’ve also learned you will never truly have enough of it either. The saying of “More Money, More Problems” is a true one, and it feels like the more money you bring in, the more money you distribute out. It’s like the universe said “You asked for more, here you go, but just know I’m adding this to your to-pay pile.”

I’ve grown to a place where I no longer stress over having enough money. If you work hard and have enough faith, God will make sure everything falls into place. I’ve also grown to a place where I’m okay with leaning on my parents financially when I need to. I use to allow others to make me feel bad when my parents would help me with my finances, but I learned they were only jealous because they didn’t have a family unit that would do the same for them. If you’re blessed enough to have family around you that you can depend on for financial help, take it. Shed the idea that it makes you “less of a grown-up.” If you are an adult dealing with real-life adult situations then no one can rid you of your adult label.

I’m now okay with knowing I’m still trying to make it to where I want to be financially. I have to remind myself I am only 26, I’ve accomplished ALOT, and I still have aways to go. So what if I don’t have an extra six-figures sitting in a bank account yet, I’m working towards it, and that’s what truly counts.

So do yourself a favor, and stop comparing your quality of life to others. Everyone’s financial situation is different and you could be comparing yourself to someone whose life is financially set up completely differently than yours. Stop beating yourself up because your younger self thought you would have more by this age. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you fantasized it would, and that’s okay.  You have to remind yourself that in the near future you will be able to buy every fabulous thing money can buy plus more. In the meantime enjoy life, focus on bettering yourself,  and reaching YOUR specific financial goal. 

Until Next Time,

8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week! 


Photo | Bing Images

Happy Monday loves! It’s the first Monday in the month which can only mean one thing for the DATC…it’s time for a new playlist! Below I’ve listed 8 songs that are sure to get you through the week. Check them out now!

1.  Self-Made x Bryson Tiller

2. Nothin’ To Somethin’ x Syd

3. Confidently Lost x Sabrina Claudio

4. Le$$on$ x Willie Dropkick

5. Green & Gold x Lianne La Havas 

6. Babylon x Joey Bada$$

7. Rare x PJ 

8.  Episode x Gallant

I hope you all enjoyed the list. What songs will be getting you through the week?! I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Xo,

8 Songs That Will Get You Through The Week! 


Photo | Bing Images

Happy Monday Everyone! If you’re anything like me, you are currently feeling all of the drinks you had on yesterday for Sunday Funday, and are probably in need of a pick me up. Well…your prayers have been answered! I’ve composed a list of 8 songs that will not only help you get through the rest of your day but help you effortlessly help the of the week pass as well. Check it out below! 

1. Kickin’ Back x Mila J

2. For My People x Joey BadA$$

3. Swang x Rae Sremmurd

4. Lay Up x Ella Mai

5. Get You x Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis

6. Grown Woman x Xavier Omär 

7. Coaster x Khalid

8. Incomplete Kisses x Sampha 

I hope you all enjoyed the list! What songs will you be listening to get you through the week?! I would love to hear about it in the comments! 

Xo,