Justin Timberlake and the disappearance of black R&B artists

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake is everywhere. Or at least he seems to be.

The actor and pop/R&B phenom recently hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the fifth time — a historic event that drew appearances from comedic heavyweights like Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase — and followed that up by co-hosting “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” for a series of consecutive nights dubbed “Timberweek.”

In February, he was named the creative director of Bud Light Platinum, and a slick new commercial for the beer features the crooner performing his comeback single “Suit and Tie,” which he also performed at the Grammy Awards alongside rap mogul Jay-Z. This summer, JT and JZ will embark on a joint stadium tour that stops in 12 cities. 

And this week, Timberlake drops his much-hyped third album “The 20/20 Experience,” which follows up his 2006 multi-platinum masterpiece “FutureSex/LoveSounds.”

With the barrage of well-timed advertisements, performances and hosting duties, the superstar’s return to music after a seven-year hiatus feels like a pop culture tidal wave. And the excitement is — ahem — justified, because his genre-bending brand of R&B fills a massive void left by artists like Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher. All of them launched their careers in R&B to one degree or another, and all of them have since switched to a dance-pop sound that inspires fist-pumping sessions and dominates club dance floors, but leaves little in the way of lasting impact.

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When is it acceptable to use the n-word?

[Originally published in the Bay State Banner.]

It was the tweet heard ‘round the world — at least the portion of the world that pays attention to Twitter.

One weekend in early June, actress Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a picture while onstage at Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” concert in Paris, with the caption “Ni**as in paris for real” (the asterisks are Paltrow’s).

It was a reference to the rap duo’s wildly popular song, “Ni**as in Paris.” And naturally, chaos ensued.

Continue reading “When is it acceptable to use the n-word?”