23 July 2020

Movie Review: "Guava Island" (2019)

I recently watched a 2019-released movie called Guava Island.  My wife picked up the DVD, and I don't want to use the word sneakily, but without notice she simply put it on.

Without any pretext or foreknowledge, I immediately decided right then and there that I was emphatically not going to watch a movie starring Rihanna and Donald Glover.  Because all I could imagine it to be was some 'chick flick' scenario where they are bickering throughout and ultimately get into situations that bring them closer together, to eventually have the film evolve into some canoodling, highly-saccharined, mushy love story, which at that particular moment in time I was not interested in - nor would likely be in the near future.  So after some brief deliberation about whether I was going to join her in viewing something I felt was a 'trap', I decided to give the film about a 5 to 10 minute look before deciding if it was worth my time.

Now let me be clear.  I consider myself to be a fairly-moderate fan of both RiRi and Donald Glover.  And I've been familiar with their musical and acting efforts throughout the years.

Rihanna, who burst upon the scene in the mid to late 2000s with her smash hit Umbrella (2007) caught my attention years ago with her seductive style and distinct melodious voice.  She would go on to make a string of other hip-hop and R&B anthems for her highly-devoted fans to enjoy to their hearts' content.  Commonly known as Jay-Z's talent discovery, Rihanna banged out hit after hit following Umbrella, increasing her visibility and broadening her audience year after year.

Until recently, Rihanna has enjoyed a solid 10+ year run as arguably the most-popular female musician in the world, with some of my personal favorites being Diamonds (2012) and a not as well-known tune, Man Down (2011), which has a very-interesting music video where she is shown being stalked by one of her fans in Jamaica.

Donald Glover, on the other hand, didn't exactly have a fresh-out-the-box hit like Rihanna enjoyed early on.  However, if you have ever looked closely at his career, he did not appear out of nowhere.

For me, my first experience in getting to know Glover came in the form of a TV show he was a part of called Community.  Admittedly I didn't watch many episodes.  But I distinctly recall the only one I did watch in full featured Donald, in a breakroom scene, awkwardly sitting across from LeVar Burton, appearing to not believe that he is actually sitting alone, face-to-face alone with the esteemed actor - aka Kunta KinteStar Trek's Geordi La Forge"butterfly in the sky"Reading Rainbow Burton.

In the scene, a speechless Glover (aka Troy Barnes) never seems comfortable in meeting LeVar, although there is a sense that deep down somewhere he admires him in an I'm-not-worthy-to-be-meeting-you kind of way, maybe?  Anyway it was a very-funny moment, and since then I started seeing Donald popup here and there, eventually changing his name to his equally well-known hip-hop moniker, Childish Gambino.

So with that being established, even though I was familiar with the two main actors of Guava Island, still I was not really interested in seeing them both on screen, because frankly the combination of them acting together didn't immediately appeal to me.  Yet in spite of my prejudiced feelings about the flick I attempted to watch it, hoping that I was not setting myself up for tremendous disappointment or a reaction that would ruin my impression of these two artists.  And here's what I thought upon actually viewing it.

First of all, it does not start off like an ordinary film. The first scene and credits' sequence is actually animated, which simultaneously gives pretext to what the movie is about and how the two main characters are connected.  Guava Island itself is a fictional setting, although clearly the locale is in the Caribbean.  And it is not a far-fetched to deduce that it may even be set on a small island off the coast of West Africa.

In any case we have a story about a musician, Deni Maroon (played by Glover), who lucked out on a big hit song that all of the children and other people on the island adore him for.  He is truly the musical champion of the country, whom the residents tune into on their fuzzy, scratchy transistor radios, just to catch a brief moment of enjoyment via their favorite musician during the day.

Rihanna, who portrays Kofi Novia, takes on a supporting actor role to Glover.  The couple are lovebirds, and her relationship with him makes her the envy of all of her girlfriends at work at a seamstress factory.  And although Deni is considered a superstar on the tiny island, he is still very poor and must work a factory job to make ends meet. 

The crux of the story is structured around the suspense of a decision Glover must make in terms of playing a concert for the island under the repressive rule of the nation's business magnate, Red Cargo.  Said character is portrayed very well by a British actor named Nonso Anozie, who I have never heard of before this.

Red Cargo does not want the concert to take place because it is scheduled for a Saturday night.  And in his mind, if the event is held the people will be too exuberant and exhausted to report to work the following Sunday.  So Deni is given stern warnings that if he defiantly holds the performance anyway, there will be swift consequences.

In the interest of not giving too much of the story away, I will end there by saying that overall this is a good movie to watch and was highly-entertaining, to my surprise.  There is a lot of music woven throughout, almost classifying it as a musical, although I would  not go as far as listing it as such.

There is much to be said for the costumes and other wardrobe worn that add to the flick's appeal.  I was also impressed with the way Rihanna played her role as being devoted to Glover, even though she got stepped to by Red Cargo himself.

The only negative thing I have to say about Guava Island is that up until one crucial scene in particular, it could be considered a movie for kids.  And because of that one horrifyingly-violent moment close to the end, I'd have to say that the movie should not be viewed by children or at the very least that particular section should be fast-forwarded if they are watching it.

But conclusively, Guava Island is an art film that is likely to be cherished and critiqued for years to come.

21 July 2020

"Entanglements" by August Alsina & Rick Ross (2020)

Kim and Kanye.  BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z.  Will and Jada.  These are the A-list (primarily) Black power couples in Hollywood at the moment.  And what makes these three relationships special is that they actually lasted.

Indeed I would venture to say that when you are an A-list power couple in Hollywood, divorce rumors probably began circulating even before you're married. Moreover there are likely people on both sides of these marriage who constantly try to break them up in some way, shape or form.  Indeed even as a write this post, one of the main headlines on Drudge Report is actually based on a Kanye West divorce rumor.  And Drudge isn't the type of site that usually features those types of articles.  Or another way of looking at it is that news about divorces and breakups get more views than that about happy, stable marriages.  And truth be told, even White celebrities marry and divorce with frequency.

A screenshot of the homepage of Drudge Report
on 21 July 2020, circa 18:00 GMT.

So of course it breaks my heart that Jada Pinkett-Smith recently admitted to cheating on Will Smith - or at least insinuating that she slept with another man.  And that man would someone who due to this news we can say is currently a B+ list R&B singer, August Alsina.

Now rumors of he and Jada Pinkett-Smith having an affair have been around for a hot minute, and August plainly insinuated such was true in early-2019.  However he simultaneously implied at that time that he did not have a relationship with her.

August Alsina on The Breakfast Club, during which
he revealed he slept with Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Then around the end of June 2020, August Alsina conducted an interview with The Breakfast Club.  During the session he publicly admitted to having an affair with Pinkett-Smith.  He also said that Will Smith gave his blessing to the illicit relationship.

Jada Pinkett-Smith quickly went on the defensive and denied the claims.  Then about two weeks ago, on a Facebook Watch series she co-stars on called Red Table Talk, she did in fact make the aforementioned admittance.

Jada Pinkett-Smith admits to Will Smith - and the world - that
she "got into an entanglement with August" Alsina.
Now it has been noted that said episode of Red Table Talk apparently set a Facebook viewership record.  And some people are also under impression that whole exchange between Jada and Will was basically a shtick, i.e. a publicity stunt.  Indeed anyone who is familiar with this couple already knows that they are in an "open marriage" - or something like that.  But I mean the look on Will's face as shown below - if that image is truly from the aforementioned episode on Red Table Talk as MTO implies - doesn't look like a shtick.  But I haven't watch it myself, nor do I intend to...

That looks like real emotion right there, not no reality TV acting.
...because I didn't write this article to talk about their relationship per se.  Rather August Alsina dropped a song entitled Entanglements alongside Rick Ross on 19 July 2020.  And now you kinda have to question his whole motive for finally admitting to his relationship with Jada Pinkett-Smith in the first place.

You see the actual purpose of the aforementioned The Breakfast Club interview was for August to promote an album he dropped last month entitled The Product III: State of Emergency.  So let's just say he chose a pretty-opportune time to confirm that not only did he sleep with Jada (i.e. old news) but additionally that Will was down with the whole idea.

The cover of August Alsina's latest album, The Product III:
State of Emergency
The album itself came out on 26 June 2020.  And even as of the writing of this post - approximately a month after the album's release / August making those statements and a couple of weeks after Jada dropped a bomb on Will - that album has still only managed to peak at number 48 on the Billboard 200.  And I'm not minimizing how a great a feat it is to make it onto that highly-coveted list in the first place.  But you would think that considering that the Jada Pinkett / August Alsina affair is perhaps the hottest news in African-American entertainment at the moment, it would be performing better.

So now, as stated earlier, August has dropped another track, which isn't actually featured on the album itself.  It is not totally uncommon for artists to release tunes which such frequency these days.  But then he named the song Entanglements, which is the same word Jada Pinkett used to describe their relationship when she confessed it to Will.  So lyric-wise, I think you already know where this is going.

Now when Jada Smith used the word "entanglement", of course it is a very-ambiguous, borderline-comedic term to describe an affair.  And you can say that one word was the part of her discussion with Will Smith that stood out the most.  So just by naming the song in such a manner August Alsina was going to generate major headlines with this track, which he did.  Or another way of looking at the situation is that he is making the most out of sleeping with someone who is more-popular than himself.

So the chorus features him defining "entanglement", i.e. Pinkett-Smith's statement, as being "tangled in them sheets" and "tangled up with" the narrator himself.  So let's say Jada's aforementioned ambiguity has been thrown out the window.

Then during his solo verse, Rick Ross comes off as if to imply he himself was in a relationship with Jada Pinkett-Smith.  He drops a number of innuendos in that regard, which I won't elaborate on here but are highlighted on the song's Genius page.  So basically you can say he is rapping from the perspective of August Alsina.

And I guess it can also be said that outside of actually namedropping Jada, August himself holds nothing back.  You know how hip-hop/R&B artists are these days, especially when it comes to sex.  And it is possible, as is somewhat common with romance tunes, that the lyrics are a composite of his relationship with more than just one woman.

But that being said, the way the storyline reads is that he is screwing an older, married lady.  And basically he has her sprung, with complete access to her life and by extension that of her husband's, because she 'needs him in her life'.

Also, of course he depicts himself as banging the damn out of her.  Moreover he understands that the whole scenario "is wrong".  But at the same time he has apparently developed feelings for her also - or at least a strong sexual attraction/dependency.  So putting aside the backstory behind Entanglements, the simplest way to classify the track is as a sex song.  And you can't possibly imagine Will Smith feeling good about the lyrics featured therein.


The production team behind this song consists of OG Parker, Tee Romano, Cardiak, The Exclusives and Xeryus Gittens.

The Exclusives (Sean McMillion and Ralph Jeanty) also co-wrote the song with Derrick Milano, Source Jarrett and the two vocalists.

The label that put Entanglements out is called Shake The World.  It is one that was actually founded by August Alsina himself.

Rick Ross and August Alsina have worked on a few tracks together in the past, including a Rozay headliner from 2015 entitled She Wanna F*ck (without the asterisk).  Honestly I don't remember hearing any of August's tracks before.  But as for Da Boss, I jammed to his album Rather You Than Me (2017) for like a solid month.


So the way Jada Pinkett-Smith rationalized the affair is that it led to her experiencing sensations which she hasn't had "in years".  But again, she is known for being in an open marriage, and Will himself sometimes does crazy things like kissing dudes on national TV.  However it does not look like even this recent bombshell revelation is enough to destroy the marriage with the woman he loves.

17 July 2020

Introducing... Black Arts Review

As of today, the name of this blog has officially been changed to Black Arts Review.  Formerly it was known as Babeltunes.

At the time I started it, I was ghostwriter for another site called Song Meanings and Facts.  Occasionally, while doing research for my employer, I would come across a song which I wanted to do more in-depth research than what the job called for.  At first the goal was to write about any track that interest me.  For instance you may notice that the first posts on this blog are actually about Ed Sheeran and Jeremy Renner, neither of whom are Black.

But as time progressed I realized that the focus of the project needed to be narrowed, because the world of music/entertainment is vast.  Moreover, we are living in a very pro-Black era in human history.  So the time is now ripe to delve deeper into art created by Black people, since our wherewithal to entertain is one of the things we are collectively most known for.

But the true purpose of the Black Arts Review is to take more of a scholastic approach towards analyzing media created by Black people.  So this is not a case of 'oh, this artist just dropped a song' and then d*ckridin the person because he or she is popular.  Rather the purpose of the Black Arts Review is to view such media more-objectively, in addition to giving shoutouts to our favorite artists of course.

So from today forward, there will be three major changes taking place in this blog.


The next song I intend to write about is actually The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim Shady (2020) by Kid Cudi and Eminem.  So this isn't a racist blog or anything like that.  Rather henceforth all of the featured songs for instance will either have to be about a Black artist or have a Black co-star, maybe not a feature but an actual co-star, like the track above.


This is what I'm personally most excited about.  If you read earlier posts, you'll notice that I often refer to my "homey".  Well this individual is actually a filmographer who lives in Atlanta that goes by the name of Seriez Premiere.  So now with Seriez in the ATL and myself in Accra, Black Arts Review has writers situate in two distinct centers of Black culture.

Like most of us he had to put his personal dreams aside, i.e. the pursuit of filmography, in the name of practical concerns.  But he is an excellent writer, and some of his old videos are still up on YouTube.    For instance the video embedded below, which is a work of art in and of itself, was created by him.  And it is dedicated to the late Roger Taylor (1952-2019).


I only interacted with Roger Elliot Taylor once face-to-face,  Some 20 years ago I was a guest in his home (i.e. his NYC apartment).  And the way he treated me, a stranger, has made that day one of the most joyfully-memorable in my life.

Rodger Elliot Taylor (1952-2019)
A couple of years back I was working with him on a website called WurknProgress which is very similar to this one.  It was a writing blog, and it had a very-artsy feel to it.  In fact reading his blog may me feel like I was back in the big city or in an art gallery or something.  And that's the same feel I want Black Arts Review to have, to be able to transport the reader outside of his or her immediate surroundings, even if only for a moment.

Einstein on Race and Racism (2006), a book
co-authored by Rodger Taylor.
The WorknProgress website has been discontinued since Uncle Rodger's passing, but its Facebook page is still active.  Moreover he authored a book entitled Einstein on Race and Racism which is available on Amazon.  No one could talk about the relationship between Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson quite like Uncle Rodger.  And henceforth Black Arts Review will be dedicated to his memory.


So once again, I'm very excited about the future of this blog.  I believe one day it will rival other music sites like Billboard and Rolling Stone in terms of popularity.