Who wins: Usher or Urrrsher? One might assume "Raymond v. Raymond" is conceptually addressing Usher's struggle with his own duality, personal vs. private, or who he was vs. who he's become. That isn't necessarily the case. The real struggle here is Usher attempting to convince his fans to see him how they did before the "wedding album." He's aware that people respect the polished, responsible Usher. But, he's also aware how they swoon over the "Throwback" sangin' Urrrsher. So, which direction did he travel with this album? Read more: Commentary: Erykah Badu Is Naked & Unashamed2010: Countdown To The Comeback Of Good Music Here's what you said: Vee commented: "I for one will be buying his latest CD."
As Women's History Month ends today, we thought it only proper to shout out a few amazingly special women who are highly over-talented, but surprisingly underrated. Whether they act, sing, write, or play a sport, all of these women seem to fly under the public's radar. Despite their talent, these ladies seem to never get the credit they truly deserve. Not if we have anything to say about it. We chose to recognize these seven women and applaud them--simply to say that their work does not go unnoticed and is quite appreciated. We see you, mama! Read More: 40 Boundary Breaking Black Women40 Black Women We Love40 Women Who Have Influenced the World
Don't get it twisted, Monica continues to make it resonantly clear that she is not the young woman she used to be. However, after the countless headlines, rumors, breakups, and even her own reality show, whether you believe it or not is entirely up to you. We first heard fifteen-year-old Monica Arnold when she took the R&B scene by storm back in 1995 with her sassy triple platinum debut album, "Miss Thang." Fifteen years later, and after a four-year-hiatus from the scene, Monica returns with her sixth studio album, "Still Standing," on sale today. ESSENCE.com breaks down the album, track by track, and how "shaky" the tunes really are. Read more: Behind the Scenes Of Monica's New Video2010: Countdown To The Comeback Of Good Music Here's what you had to say: Mrsndc wrote: "I cannot wait! I'm going to cop this today. I've been a fan since 1995." M said: "I for one will buy the album just to show my support for Monica as an artist, a woman and a mother. Monica has a true gift, and I am pleased that she shares it with the world."
What to Watch this SpringSpring LineupThis past Saturday, March 20th, marked the official first day of spring! Not only does spring bring sunny days and cool breezes, but also a fresh lineup of new television shows for you to watch this season. Some of our favorite shows are back with more twists and turns, and there are few new shows that will make their debut this season. Whether it's us watching Kimora live her self-proclaimed "fabulous life" with her new boo and son, or getting immersed in the drama surrounding the struggle of Katrina survivors, Spring TV 2010 will keep us consumed. Find out which shows are expected to be the most entertaining, and which you can wait for the Saturday repeats.Monday: 'Dancing With The Stars'"Dancing With The Stars," ABC, 8 PM EST Airs: March 22 Shout Outs: Chad Ochocinco, Nicey Nash The Info: Professional dancers are paired with "celebrities" to duke it out on the dance floor to see who has the best moves so they stay another week. Entertaining?: R&B singer Mya was so close last year, tune in to see if Nicey can bring it home for us.Tuesday: 'Glee'"Glee," FOX, Tues 9 PM EST Airs: April 13 Shout Outs: Amber Riley The Info: A genre-defying musical comedy that follows a group of glee club high school students, originally created for film. Entertaining?: After a 4 month hiatus, finally Broadway returns to your living room.Tuesday: 'Tiny and Toya'"Tiny and Toya," BET, 10 PM EST Airs: April The Info: The fiance of rapper T.I. and one of four of Lil Wayne's baby's mothers Entertaining?: If you find Toya's mispronounced words, and see Tiny's ever changing hair colors and ever moving lips entertaining, go ahead and put your feet up.Wednesday: 'America's Next Top Model'"America's Next Top Model," CW, 8PM EST Aired: March 10 Shout Outs: Tyra Banks and Andre Leon Talley The Info: Trya brings Talley, Vogue's Editor-at-Large for ANTM's 14th season. Women from around the U.S. go down the runway in the hopes of being crowned America's Next Top Model and winning lucrative modeling and cosmetics contracts and a magazine fashion spread. Entertaining?: Even if it seems like your seeing the same season after season, Tyra has her audience addicted.Wednesday: 'Law and Order: SVU'"Law and Order: SVU," NBC, 9PM EST Aired: March 3 Shout Outs: Ice-T, Tamara Tunie The Info: A hard-hitting, emotionally charged drama that follows a unique group of NY police detectives through some of NYC's toughest sex-related crimes. Entertaining?: Watch one episode and get hooked.Wednesday: 'Top Chef Masters'"Top Chef Masters," BRAVO, 10PM EST Airs: April 10 Shout Outs: Govind Armstrong The Info: Instead of the normal hometown contestants, world-renowned chefs humble themselves to compete for the title of Top Chef Master. Entertaining?: Don't feel shamed if your eating a tuna sandwich while you watch. Your mouth will water and hopefully you'll be inspired to step your own cooking game up.Thursday: 'Flash Forward'"Flash Forward," ABC, 8PM EST Airs: April 27 Shout Outs: Courtney B. Vance The Info: A mysterious global event causes everyone to black out simultaneously, and each person sees a glimpse of their lives six months from now. When they wake up, everyone is left wondering if they can change their future. Entertaining?: The more personal the future events, the better the show will be.Thursday: 'The Real McCoy'"The Real McCoy," TV1, 9PM EST Airs: April 1 The Info: Actress Lisa Raye lets cameras follow her through the mess that her very public and overly dramatic affair and divorce last year left behind. Entertaining?: Lisa Raye aka Diamond, has no brakes, but we admit, we'll watch simply because the words secret and private mean nothing to her.Friday: 'Say Yes to the Dress'"Say Yes to the Dress," TLC, 9PM EST Airs: April 23 Shout Outs: Keasha Rigsby The Info: The 30-minute show is back for its fifth season following brides-to-be seeking the perfect wedding dress in the premier bridal salon, Kleinfeld.Sunday:' Sunday's Best'"Sunday's Best," BET, Sunday 9PM EST Airs: April 4 Shout Outs: Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, Erica and Tina Campbell The Info: BET's hit singing competition, SUNDAY BEST returns for a third season of higher praise and tougher competition with new judges and contestants. Entertaining?: American Idol has nothing on these sannnngers, chile.Sunday: 'Kimora Life in the Fab Lane'"Kimora Life in the Fab Lane," STYLE, 9PM EST Airs: April 11 The Info: Kimora Lee Simmons returns with a son and new boo for her third installment of her reality series. Entertaining?: If you find a former model, business mogul doing everything to prove her life is better than yours entertaining, tune in.Sunday: 'Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business'"Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business," VH1, 9PM EST Airs: April 11 The Info: Entertainment siblings Ray J and Brandy give audiences a glimpse into the Norwood family unit, including momager, Sonja, and father, Willie. Entertaining?: We're not too sure how captivating this will be, but we love Brandy, and it's good to see her come out of hiding.Sunday: 'Basketball Wives'"Basketball Wives," VH1, 10PM EST Airs: April 11 The Info: Shaunie O'Neal, Shaq's ex wife, puts her producer hat on to bring the insider life of the wives, girlfriends and a few ex-wives of some of the biggest NBA ballers in the game. These ladies live the life--good, bad and ugly. Entertaining?: Technically the cast isn't comprised of all wives, but should be a good watch regardless.Sunday: 'Treme'"Treme," HBO, 10PM EST Airs: April 11 Shout Outs: Wendell Pierce, Rob Brown, Khandi Alexander, Clarke Peters The Info: The drama series explores and captures musicians and other New Orleans local residents attempting to rebuild their lives three months after Hurricane Katrina. Entertaining?: This show is highly anticipated. HBO knows how to do drama.Sunday: 'What Chilli Wants'"What Chilli Wants," VH1, 10:30PM EST Airs: April 11 Shout Outs: Tionna Smalls The Info: Following the 1/3 of singing sensation TLC on her journey to find a good man and not a scrub. Entertaining?: First Pep, now Chilli? Really though? Read More: Niecey Nash's 'Dancing With the Stars' Diary Looking For More Diversity on TV Andre Leon Tally Signs On To Judge 'ANTM' Here's what you had to say: Lara commented: "Sunday looks like a good night to be a couch potato and order in some Chinese food. I cant wait for the show on New Orleans."
Celebrity SellsCelebrity EndorsementsMuch like everyone else, the shaky economy has marketers looking for new ways to shrink budgets and get the most bang for their buck.Which is why it's no surprise that many companies are using celebrity endorsements as their main execution for advertising. It seems, "Two all-beef patties, special sauce..." has become simply handing Beyonc a Big Mac and telling her to bite and smile. In 2009, marketers estimated that President Barack Obama, who hadn't even signed an endorsement deal due to office, could have easily acquired $25-50 million for announcing his loyalty to Blackberry while transitioning into presidency.In our celebrity driven society we seem to eat up, both literally and figuratively, whatever a star serves, in hopes to live vicariously through the products they endorse. Over the past last 10 years, turning to celebrities of color has increasingly trended, more so than decades before, and not necessarily the most conventional names.Brands recognize our swag and accomplishments and many of our favorite singers, rappers, actors, and athletes are landing endorsement deals consistently.Queen Latifah, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and LeBron James are all toting hefty wallets due to some lucrative endorsements, but so are some of the not-so-major players. Here are few celebrity and brand collabos raking in our money, whether the cosign is believable or not. Forget sex, nothing sells like celebrity.Money Maker: Kim KardashianCosigning: Carl's Jr. The Deal: The Armenian beauty makes love to a salad in her 32-second ad for a fast food chain most of us never even heard of. Sincere or Suspect: Sincere.If you saw her and Ray J's notorious sex tape, you know the way she ate that chicken, apple, walnut salad was not acting.Money Maker: Charles BarkleyCosigning: Taco Bell The Deal: Rapping about a $5 box deal, Taco Bell's first Barkley-featured commercial premiered during the 2010 Super Bowl. Barkley rapping? Way past his prime. really, what does he have to lose? Sincere or Suspect: Sincere. Judging the circumference of his belly he definitely eats more than his share of chicken chalupas for the almighty dollar.Money Maker: Biz MarkieCosigning: Radio Shack The Deal: 15 seconds of Biz singing "Oh snap, guess what I saw" to the tune of "Just A Friend" Sincere or Suspect: Sincere. It's quite believable that Biz Markie, a rapper and DJ, has more than a few Radio Shack receipts.Money Maker: Ryan LeslieCosigning: Lexus The Deal: Leslie, Lexus, and Louboutin team up for the typical hyper power car commercial. Sincere or Suspect: Sincere.Even if R-Les doesn't really drive a Lex, after this commercial, his first at that, he made it easy to believe he does.Money Maker: Dr. DreCosigning: Dr. Pepper The Deal: The West Coast super-producer, (and sometimes rapper) leaks a snippet of his song "Detox" from his much anticipated upcoming album, stating "Slow is always better." Sincere or Suspect: Suspect. Dre nervously delivers his lines, and the "Doctor" theme was overkill.Money Maker:Zoe SaldanaCosigning: Avon The Deal: The "Avatar" star has become the face of Avon's latest fragrance, 'Eternal Magic," debuting in April. Sincere or Suspect: Suspect. The People's Choice Award-nominated starlet knows good and well she probably isn't putting anything Avon on her face, let alone her body.Money Maker: Dwyane WadeCosigning: Nike The Deal: Dwyane jumped from Converse to Nike's Jordan brand without blinking an eye, just to represent the famous jump-man label. Sincere or Suspect: Sincere.Professional basketball players and sneakers go hand in hand without question - unless they were Skechers Shape-ups. Then our brows would raise.Money Maker: Shaquille O'NealCosigning: Muscle Milk The Deal: On each bottle of the high-energy drink there is a square with the number "33." When you show this to your computer's webcam, O'Neal will pop out of the bottle like in Kazaam-like fashion. Sincere or Suspect: Suspect. Did they just randomly go down a list and say, "Shaq will work - he's big. Muscle Milk will make you big. Give him a call."Money Maker: DrakeCosigning: Sprite The Deal: Rapper/Singer Drake landed his first deal with a new Sprite campaign. His first commercial, titled "Unleashed," aired during the NBA All Star Games and depicts Drake struggling to find inspiration in the studio while recording his hit song "Forever". Sincere or Suspect: Sincere.More than likely Drake does drink Sprite....and Pepsi, Coke, Red Bull, and Patron when he is trying to get inspired in the studio. Read More: Celebrity ScentsTiger Woods Loses Gillette Endorsement
If you put "Freaknik: The Musical" on mute, the imagery alone would probably be offensive. However, most of the struggle watching Cartoon Network's "Freaknik" was hearing what was said, more than viewing what was shown. If you could pocket a dollar for every single time the words, "ni**a," "bitch," or "ho" was used, you probably could start a small business. Writer Shirea L. Carroll takes a closer look at Cartoon Network's controversial "Freaknik: The Musical." Read more: 10 Most Offensive Things About 'Freaknik: The MusicalCommentary: T-Pain's Freaknik' Is Animated Buffoonery
In case you didn't know, Drake isn't your average rapper. Maybe it's because Drake, born Aubrey Graham, is Canadian bred, and Canadians -- well, they're just different. Or maybe it's due to the fact that Drake, 23, began his career playing the role of Jimmy Brooks on the hit high school drama series "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Perhaps it's the way Drake can spit a mean 16-bars on the mic, and then seamlessly switch it up and sing his own hooks and melodies, sans Autotune. We think what sets Drake apart from the pack of today's young male rappers is that he is not afraid to step out of the box...
Many of us, still in disbelief, had to re-watch "Freaknik: The Musical" to make sure that what T-Pain did Sunday night wasn't imagined. Unfortunately the freak-fest was real, and left all those, with even a smidgen of pride in our culture, scratching our heads. Understand, we aren't trying to manufacture this into big deal, because all "jokes" aside, "Freaknik" is in fact a big deal. We countdown the 10 most offensive scenes that truly had us shaking our heads... Read more: Commentary: T-Pain's 'Freaknik' Is Animated BuffooneryT-Pain Brings Freaknik Back In Cartoon Musical Here's what you said: Anonymous commented: "This class of men (more like boys) does not, and will never, speak for me or women like me. I will not let this class of people represent me. They are simply representing their culture--the ignorant ghetto rap culture and the women who drop it low for their entertainment." D said: "To anyone that says 'it's just entertainment'...YOU are also a part of the problem!!"
You've got to be kidding me. If I hadn't seen T-Pain's "Freaknik: The Musical" with my own eyes I would have never believed a show with this much coonery could exist and actually be televised in 2010. As an entertainment writer, I'm usually very subjective on all things our society labels as entertainment. As a young writer, I consider myself quite liberal in my views on hip hop's effects on culture. But this hour-long animated special, which features the voices of hip hop heavy hitters such as Lil' Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Cee-lo, Kelis, and Lil' John, was anything but special. Truth be told, I'm usually an advocate for the it's-not-that-serious philosophy, but last night Cartoon Network's Adult Swim rendered me totally speechless... Read more: T-Pain Brings Freaknik Back in Cartoon Musical10 Black Actors Who Should've Won An Oscar Here's what you thought: Sheena said: This is absolutely embarrassing!!!! I am concerned about this generation and the generations to come. Nikki said: I find it disappointing that we are the only race of people who put down our own women and civil rights leaders. Derrick said: Stop blaming TV, hip hop and everything else for our social ills...We like to take credit for success but blame others for our failures.
Eagerly anticipating this Sunday's 82nd Annual Academy Awards, we can't help but feel proud of the great talents like Mo'Nique, Morgan Freeman, newcomer Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, and director Lee Daniels, all nominated for awards this year. Since Sidney Poitier's monumental Oscar win in 1963, a first for a Black actor in a lead role, we find ourselves overjoyed for the men and women of color who receive such an honorary accolade. As we continued reminiscing, however, we found ourselves scratching our heads--realizing how many actors and actresses have showed up and showed out, yet never won a coveted gold statue. Samuel L. Jackson, for example, still hasn't taken home an Oscar! Bizarre? We agree. It's baffling that these respected thespians who took their roles to the next level were never given the proper credit. Read more: Red Carpet Sizzle: The Best Oscar Gowns'Precious Four' Award Season Photo Blog
Suffice it to say, the Akoo Jeans billboard in Newark, New Jersey, has ticked off more than a few people. After all the fire and flames, blog commentary, and outrage, ESSENCE.com got an exclusive interview with the Akoo Jeans billboard model Dawn Montgomery herself. We wanted to know why she thinks the ad may have been hard for people to swallow, and moreover, why she isn't taking any of the scrutiny personally, even though the pose was her idea. Here's what you had to say: Left_eye commented: "I wonder how this is going to affect this model's career. Will she get more jobs now because the campaign achieved such notoriety..." Read more: Update: T.I.'s Akoo Jeans Billboard To Be Taken DownSound Off: What You Said About T.I.'s Akoo Jeans Ad
Neo-Soul and R&B. Remember when there was more than enough good music to fit into those two genres? When the sound of Toni Braxton or Maxwell made you want to simply chill? When going to the record store to pick up the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was exciting? When music not only had a good beat and great vocals, but it made you feel and it spoke to your situation? Yeah, where the hell did that music go? Read more: Trey Songz: "I'm Single, Working Hard and Having Fun"Old School To New: Don't They Remind You Of...
We are often led to believe that when it comes to Black History Month the word "history" is a term reserved for events and people from ages ago. But in a time where we have our first African-American president, it is evident that African-Americans continue to make history daily. Therefore, we do a disservice to ourselves and the future generations to only put emphasis on the handful of commonly mentioned trailblazers we salute every year. Yes, without question, our hats go off to African-American firsts like Madam C.J. Walker, Phillis Wheatley, and Booker T. Washington, but do you know who Max Robinson is? As we celebrate ESSENCE's rich 40-year anniversary, let's take a look at 40 men and women in the the last 40 years who have made history and are noted to be the "first" in areas where African-Americans continue to excel. See our list of 40 Firsts in 40 Years. Read more: 40 Boundary-Breaking Black Women40 Black Couples We Love40 Reasons Why Black Women Are Beautiful
Cheryl "Coko" Clemons can sang, chile. She returns to the music scene with her second gospel album, "The Winner In Me," a project that reveals intimately her trials and tribulations and her true love for God. The album is heartfelt, and she cleverly combines Gospel with an R&B flavor. Through this album, she speaks hope and encouragement to anyone dealing with heavy issues. With her video for the single "The Winner in Me," recently debuting, Coko spoke to ESSENCE.com about being at her lowest, SWV, and finding peace and happiness with prayer. Read more: BET's Celebration of GospelKirk Franklin Gathers Gospel's Finest To Help HaitiVivica A. Fox Co-Hosts Gospel Superfest
The Super Bowl may have ended Sunday night with the score, Saints, 31, and Colts, 17, but we're sure there was far more "scoring" off the field considering the vast amount of groupies, er, athlete lovers in Miami this past weekend. Their goal? To trap an athlete. The ultimate play? Playing the pregnancy card. Read more: Super Bowl Hotties 2010
It's been a year since that tragic night between young lovers Rihanna and Chris Brown. Here, we present a letter to our dear friend looking at how the time has passed. Read More: One Year Later For Chris Brown and RihannaRihanna Talks Love, Relationships and Tattoos on 'Ellen'
Real women want to be a man's choice, not an option. Period. It takes one bad breakup or one shocking rejection to come to that epiphany--quick. After witnessing Beyonc grace the stage on Grammy night, publicly sending her love and gratitude to her "huzzzband," Jay-Z, my appreciation for the institution of marriage surfaced stronger than ever. Belonging to the generation that created the term wifey, defined as a man's main squeeze, long-term girlfriend, or woman who is almost "wife material," I had ask, Is the title wifey really good enough? A lot of women seem to be honored by the title wifey, and if it works for you...who am I to judge? The question is, How long does it work? After speaking to more than a few of the fellas who admit they use the title wifey, they also admitted they don't take the title nearly as half as serious as wife. If they don't even hold the title "wifey" in high regard, then why should we? Get ya mind right ladies. They gave me nine reasons why, unless you're dropping the "y," wifey just isn't good enough. Read more: Look who's dropping the Y in "wifey". Tell us who your favorite husband and wife team is and win $200 from ESSENCE.com. ESSENCE.com blogger Tara Pringle Jefferson goes in on what "Wifey" really means.
Beyonc. Usher. Jamie Foxx. Puff. Kelly Rowland. All superstars who have had their most recent projects touched by the immensely skilled songwriter Rico Love. Love, 27, born Richard Butler Jr., has spent his career being the mack in the back, creating some of our favorite songs, melodies, and ballads. To say he's gifted is an understatement. Just so you understand: Usher current radio hit "Hey Daddy?" Yes, that's him. "Boyfriend #2" by Pleasure P? Yes, he penned that. "Energy" by Keri Hilson? Yup, he wrote that, too. We could go on, but it's all evidence of how talented the young man from Harlem, N.Y.--who partially grew up in Milwaukee--is. Love had a natural ability to write. Originally signed to Usher as a rap artist, the first song he ever created was the track "Throwback" for Usher's Confessions album. Finding his calling, Love pursued songwriting with a passion and put the title "rapper" on a back burner. Nominated for three Grammy's at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, which airs this Sunday, Essence.com found out that not only is he talented, but he's an all-around good dude. Here's 10 reasons why we love this guy. Read More Check out some other guys that made the 52nd annual Grammy Awards nomination list.
Long before soul legends Luther Vandross and Teddy P passed away, there was a young New Jersey native by the name of Jaheim, whose sound and voice unintentionally paid homage to both musical legends. Probably one of the most underrated male artists in R&B,for his newest project, Another Round, it is evident that Jaheim has come into his own since his debut, Ghetto Love, in 2001...