Completely biased CD review - India.Arie’s Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics

Disclaimer, preface, intro, explanation: pretty much any album India.Arie puts out has my wholehearted endorsement so this CD review is a departure from any attempt to be an unbiased journalist or culture and arts commentator.

…having said that let’s get into what I’m sure will be one of my favorite albums of 2009! :D

I believe everyone has an artist they love who somehow has the uncanny knack of taking your story, thoughts, and emotions and filtering it through their music as if they read your journal or eavesdropped on your conversations. For some, it’s Tupac. My brother told me once that listening to Tupac made him ponder the deeper things of life, even his relationship with God. For others, it’s Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill. For me, that artist is India.Arie (…and Eric Roberson lol but that’s for another cd review).

This Tuesday, India released her fourth album, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. Here’s a review track for track:

1. Intro – Grains
I dig the intro, interlude, outro set up. India has stayed true to this for all four albums. This is the first time I actually wanted to hear a full song come of these interludes. “I’m grateful that, you continue to amaze me…”

2. Therapy
This song and “He Heals Me” are cut from the same cloth. Great wordplay here and I love how India can be sweet and sassy all at the same time.

3. Ghetto (featuring Gramps Morgan)
Interesting turn on the term ghetto in this song, I love how India used this song as a panoramic view of global and domestic poverty.

4. Chocolate High (featuring Musiq Soulchild)
Admittedly, I wasn’t in love with this song when I first heard it. It still isn’t one of my favorites on the album, but it’s got a nice groove, so it’s growing on me.

5. He Heals Me
Ladies and gentleman, stop the presses! Pause! This is BY FAR my FAVORITE song on the album. Is that enough CAPS for YOU?! LOL Okay, I have this thing about CDs where there is always a song that is really track 1 for me. Por ejemplo: On Anthony David’s Red Clay Chronicles for me the album starts at Smoke One. On Jay-Z’s American Gangster the album starts for me at American Dreamin’ and on Eric Roberson’s Left the album starts at Pen Just Cries Away. This album for me starts at He Heals Me. This song makes me want to cry every time I hear it. It’s beautifully written and the piano creates the perfect mood for her words. I could go on…sigh…sigh emoticon…but I’ll move on for now. :)

6. Interlude – Grains

7. Pearls (featuring Dobet Gnahore)
There are two images here that struck me as strong metaphor. 1) the idea that we all have something to offer, to hold as precious, and the stories of women across the world who go through such pains to do so. 2) the idea of something hurting like brand new shoes. How typically, a woman’s shoes are a symbol of the pain we endure for what we think is beautiful. Haunting, yet beautiful imagery here.

8. River Rise
This song has such reverence and hope in its lyrics. The organ lilt gives this tune the feel of an old spiritual or hymn. This one also makes me want to cry when I hear it. “I bow down, I surrender today. I can’t do this, Lord I need your help.”

9. Yellow (featuring Terrell Carter)
Cliché to say I love the color of this one? LOL I like the groove and the imagery here too and Terrell Carter’s presence doesn’t hurt at all! :D

10. Better Way
I like how this one rocks. The guitar on this one is great!

11. Interlude – Grains

12. Long Goodbye
The dichotomy and tension in this song is so honest. This is one of my favorites.

13. Psalms 23 (featuring MC Lyte)
Um can we say how AMAZING it is that India.Arie and the LYTE are on the same song! I love the release-the-haters-and-negativity message here and hearing Lyte kick the lyrics was a wonderful bonus! Kudos on the artist choice for this India. Love it!

14. The Cure (featuring Sezen Aksu)
This is a feel good song with a positive message. I like that she doesn’t just sing about love as the cure but challenges the listener to action.

15. Outro – Grains

16. A Beautiful Day
This is the theme song I pull from the album. I always get a theme song from India’s albums. First Album: Strength, Courage & Wisdom. Second Album: Beautiful Surprise. Third Album: I Choose. And now this one. What a great way to end the album.

Okay fellow India fans…what are your favorite songs from the album? What are your India theme songs from any of the albums? Let’s tawk. :)


dear mr. nice guy

this is an essay i wrote awhile ago for submission to a regional publication. it wasn't chosen for publication but i thought it would be fitting to post it here in honor of good man month.

Dear Mr. Nice Guy,

Good men are hard to find and even harder to keep. It’s unforgiveable to let one go. Just like you, they keep slipping through my hands like so much sand in an hourglass. You’re right. You are underappreciated. You’ve been given a bad rap and truthfully I preferred a broken and bruised heart to your respectful ways. I’m sorry I said you were boring. I’m sorry I said you were soft. I’m sorry I said you weren’t sexy enough. I’m sorry for not giving you a chance.

When we first met, you confused me. Seriously, who’s honest anymore Mr. Nice Guy? Who says what they mean in the dating game these days? I suppose you do, and it’s clear you don’t believe in playing with my emotions. What’s a single woman to do with all that free time, now that she has no reason to spend her time psychoanalyzing too short text messages, missed calls with no voicemail, and first dates that never make it to a second one?

And another thing Mr. Nice Guy, how dare you be into commitment? I mean who’s into getting serious? Who wants the pressure of a man who wants to be with only me? I would much rather prefer a man who’s juggling me and sixty other women across the city. I like a man who keeps me guessing.

Marriage, commitment, rings, his and hers sinks and towels, matching outfits – these words didn’t scare you. In fact, you welcomed them, wanted them, wanted me, but I wasn’t ready for you. My early 20s mind couldn’t fathom giving up the freedom of singleness to settle down with you. I couldn’t imagine my one and your one becoming one. I couldn’t bring myself to give up the lottery-like possibility of finding five other men that might be the one. I was standing on the side of the road with a hitchhiker’s thumb, passing up the most safe ride home. I was waiting for something better. Like baiting a unicorn on a fishing pole, I was stupid to throw you back into the sea that clichés say is running aplenty with fish.

Trust me. When my night’s get lonely, when I’m out with some ignorant fool who doesn’t know opening the door for a lady from throwing a shot of tequila down his throat, who assumes that dinner and a second date means sex, I think of you. Don’t tell anyone I’m writing this but sometimes I daydream of you. You, the one any woman wants to bring home to meet a dysfunctional family. You, who would rub my back while my family argues the merit of scripture and scrabble, and gaze at me with the look that said you loved and accepted me just for me and would do the same for them. You, who would make love, make babies, and stick around to deal with me, my horrible hormonal attitude, and alien cravings; stick around for baby names, birth, pre-k, middle school, college, and empty nest until it’s back to just us. You, who even as you are reading this forgives the silly me that sent you on your way in the first place.

The phrase “no more Mr. Nice Guy” has haunted me since I ended things with you. You made me question my definition of a man. As if the paramount of testosterone has to equal hairy machismo, never-ending noncommittal, and grunts-only communication. You had character, endurance, perseverance, respect, patience, and I was just too fireworks-driven to see it.

You have no reason to trust these words coming from the pen of a woman who so quickly and easily dismissed you, but years and life and trouble and struggle have shaped that woman with the same indelible imprint with which quick rivers slowly hewn canyons. I see you more clearly now, as I see myself.

I really just wanted to let you know that the phrase “nice guys finish last” is propaganda pushed by bad boys in gentlemen’s clothing. Whatever you do in life, don’t shy away from being the nice guy, especially not because of women like me. Sooner or later some woman is going to relish your gentlemanly gestures. She will find your respectful hand in the small of her back so much more sexy than a strange first-date hand attempting the squeeze on her inner thigh. She will be swept away by your chivalrous door-opening, coat-holding, pulling out her chair, and she will not ditch you for the next smooth swagger, emotionally unavailable, slick talker. Hold out for her and don’t settle for less.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to reply. I wouldn’t dare ask you for a second chance. I just wanted to clear the air and hopefully give myself a clean slate. And maybe, just maybe I’ll cross paths with another nice guy and this time I won’t give him back.


poem: a few good men

yes, it's the third annual good man month! it's also black history month, so as my mom would say get your black history on! you can start here! :D

every february on my poetry and journalist myspace pages i rotate a different set of good men and men who are good at they do as my top friends. this year i'm stepping it up. my personal assignment is to post some pieces i've written that were inspired by good men. here's the first one...and videos are coming soon!

you have an assignment too. ladies, your assignment is to encourage one good man in your life each week this month. let him know he is appreciated. fellas, your assignment is to commit one random act of goodness (some of you already do this stuff and if so keep it up!) i.e. opening the door for a lady, giving a classy compliment, pulling out a lady's chair, etc. hit me up and let me know how it's going. in the meantime...here's "a few good men."

A Few Good Men

By: Amena J. Brown

His walk is R-E-S-P-E-C-T
He’s got tender loving care up his sleeve
He sees God in me like India.Arie
Something about his swagger
Something about his walk
I get all caught up in that truth he talks

His only game is telling me his name
Or asking for mine
He wants to know what I’m about
He wants to know if I’m about what he’s about
For his character even God can vouch
Check his heavenly references
He’s got clout where it counts

He appreciates the complexity of a woman’s mind
Deserves words well seasoned and well defined
And did I mention that he was fine?
His good deeds may never make it to the news
But he showed me that chivalry has been resurrected as the new cool

He opens doors
He walks on the outside nearest the street
He pulls out chairs
Sometimes he pushes my cash away and says it’s his treat
Telling me it was his pleasure at the end of the night
Walking me to my car just to say good night
Insisting I call to let him know I made it home safe
He makes me feel safe because he is so secure
Imagine that even his sexiness is pure

He gives sweet and thoughtful gifts
Like conversations that take unexpected turns like jazz riffs
Leaving me wanting more of his music
More of his deep voice reflections
More of his intellectual connections
More of him

'Cause meeting a man like him is like finding a four-leaf clover
You’ve been looking for one all your life
But never thought you'd get the chance to hold one
I can’t really say that he brings me good luck
But I do know he brings so much love, concern, intelligence
So much friendship, kinship, and common sense

If his status ain’t good, I ain’t checking for him
Better know how to be sweet if he’s looking at me
'Cause despite popular belie... size really does matter
A big heart can go a long way
A man who believes that obstacles won’t stop dreams can carry you a long way
He’s the kind who drapes his coat over your cold shoulders
Quick to correct you when you turn pebbles into boulders
His type of love grows stronger as the two of you get older

His love is patient, kind, his love waits
His love gives more than his love takes
Honesty is the first kind of love he makes
He takes his time
Cultivating a connection of the spiritual kind
Investigate his mind and you might find
Pages of psalm 139
I can read his life, line upon line
Discover how his heart aligns with God’s divine design
I am inclined to try to make him mine
But, all in due time

He doesn’t rush which makes his gentle touch mean so much
Just the thought of holding his hand makes me blush
To him, intimacy is a gift, not an expectation
Which means he skips all the compromising situations
He wants me to save my best and no playing games
He won’t ask for my body until he gives me his name

Take a few trifling experiences plus all the sad statistics
And it might seem that a man like him no longer existed
I stand as a witness I’ve encountered a few
I treasure them for all the gentlemanly things they do
I cherish them for the good men they are
The kind of men that a woman can trust with her heart


Atlanta INtown Article: Art Fusion

Atlanta Nightlife: Call Me Up

The team that brought you Play Date and Paint By Numbers, can’t stop won’t stop in 2009. Imari Havard and his Timeless Entertainment Concepts crew added new event Call Me Up to their repertoire in front of a packed house at 595 North on Saturday night.

Call Me Up is a combination of Comic View and improv theater, with the added twist that audience members could be called on to join a scene at any moment by the ring of their cell phone. In scenes such as “Ridin’ Miss Daisy” where Miss Daisy and her driver Henry transform from old and harmless to Bonnie & Clyde ’09, an audience participant was called on stage and forced to choose whether she would ride or die. Call Me Up provides an alternative to standard club hopping, dinner and a movie options. More events to come from this creative crew.

Atlanta Theater: Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel

Four years ago, Atlanta hosted the premiere of a fresh take on Alice Walker’s The Color Purple – a musical. “The Color Purple” danced from its southern roots to Broadway, embarking on a national tour that eventually led the moving production back to its premiere roots.

This year, the Alliance Theater premieres another new look at a classic story, “Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel.” Retaining original lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the gospel version is conceived and arranged by Grammy award-winning songwriter Louis St. Louis, who penned songs for both Grease and Grease 2. St. Louis takes the vulnerable story of Jesus Christ Superstar and harkens to his Detroit Pentecostal church roots to bring swinging soul to Webber’s rock hits.

The stone/marble set with added choir risers, created the backdrop for the choir ensemble and cast, clad in all white modern day attire. Mary Magdalene played by Nicole Long and Judas played by Darryl Jovan Williams were particular vocal standouts. Eric Jordan Young’s turn as a pimpish Herod added a new panache to the role and one of the most well executed scenes of the production. Hopefully this choir-rocking, hand-clapping production will also make its way from a southern soul mecca premiere to a Broadway run.