The Craig Report: 3.24.17

Hey, everybody! I know y’all reading this like

Well, let’s just say that 2016 was my year of going through some thangs, all of which I’m sure I will overshare in the future. But for now, I have some new stuff happening that I thought you guys would like to know about:

I. A lot of folks know me because of my interviews with Janet & Mariah. And some people have sent me messages asking about other celebrities that I covered during my career as a music journalist. The challenge with letting people know about my past work was that it was so dispersed throughout so many different publications, from The Washington Post to Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice to Vibe, Spin to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and so on… (I once even interviewed Lil’ Bow Wow at his home for Teen People; he was kind of a jerk though and wouldn’t let me have a Snapple from the fridge.)

Anyway, thanks to the magic of cut-and-pasting, I have complied many of the articles from my music biz tour of duty on my new site R& The articles on the site are organized by the dates that they were originally published, so it sorta forms a reverse timeline of late ’90s/early ’00s R&B.You can read everything from my original review of Bey’s Dangerously in Love to my “Artist of the Year” interview with a Miseducation-era Lauryn Hill. It’s a lot, a lot. So here’s a quick guide to 10 of my favorites:

1) My review of Aalyah’s self-titled final album

2) Pretty much anything I’ve ever written about Monica, including her legendary standoff with Brandy, the time I interviewed her for the All Eyez on Me album that never came out, and the time we ate diner at Benihana to talk about the After the Storm album that finally came out. (#SoGoneChallenge, anyone?)

3) My Left Eye tribute & my interview with T-Boz & Chilli about life without their song-sister.

4) My interview with the funkiest of En Vogue’s foursome of funky divas, Dawn Robinson as she was preparing to launch her solo career. (Sadly, it never took off.)

5) My interview with Rick James about the 20th anniversary of his classic Street Songs album. Rick was talking all kinds of ish, most of which couldn’t make it into the family newspaper I was writing for. I’m definitely gonna find that interview tape so y’all can hear the uncut version.

6) Pretty much anything I’ve written about the Queen, Mary J. Blige, but particularly my piece about her epic My Life album which I had to fight to get Spin to include in its “Best of the ’90s” issue & my review of her soul opus, Mary.

7) My review of Usher’s Confessions tour, because he got on my gotdamn nerves at the time.

8) My Bad Boy mega-review of sophomore albums by Total, Faith Evans, and 112.

9) My very special interview with Jody Watley, who had one of the longest career runs in pop & R&B, as she started with the ’70s disco trio Shalamar and then, against almost anyone’s expectations, went on to score solo hits throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s. I interviewed her prior to a D.C. Gay Pride appearance in ’99, and it was special because not only did she opine about her trials and triumphs in work, life, and love, she also opened up about the important role that gay men had played in her life, from childhood friends to the sometimes “bitchy” Soul Train dancers that she bumped alongside to her troubled friendship with Jermaine “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” Stewart, who died of AIDS-related complications–this month actually–in ’97.

10) Yo, me and Lil’ Mo go back like

I remember seeing the visuals for her first single, “5 Minutes,” on BET’s Video Vibrations and thinking, “there’s not a single thing that I don’t love about this woman.” I went on to review the Why Do Fools Fall in Love soundtrack, which included “5 Minutes,” for the Village Voice, then I profiled Mo as a “New Artist to Watch” for Spin. But things really got fun when I interviewed her for Vibe around the time of her debut album, Based On A True Story. Chile, she had me all over the tri-state, going from the W Hotel in Union Square to the Paramus Park mall and Fairleigh-Dickinson University in Jersey to some knucklehead-ass club in Queens where I almost got kill’t. Good times, and we’ve even reminisced about this day on the twitter.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy the vintage Craig experience. Lemme know if you have any questions and/or favorites.

II. So, this next bit of news is related to the previous stuff. One night, about a month ago, I was minding my own damn business on twitter. And by “minding my own damn business,” I literally mean “minding my own damn business,” because I was searching my own damn name. (It’s the way I preemptively prepare for future twitter beefs.)

Anyway, I stumbled upon this great podcast called “The Mariah Report,” which did an entire episode dedicated to the unedited audio of my 1999 interview with Mimi for The Washington Post.

I was super flattered.

I reached out to Martin Burgess and Dan Enriquez, the guys behind the show. They said that they wanted to interview me for a future episode, and now here it is. I answer questions from the hosts and podcast listeners about all the behind-the-scenes stuff surrounding the interview. Check it out. (The interview starts around 1:14:00.)

III. Lastly, I wanted you to know about something that’s been a long time coming and is a really big deal for me. My third book–and first novel–is finally out.

It’s the story of a nearly 40-year-old Providence, RI-based photographer, Michael Allen, who thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy. But soon he discovers that the two of them may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

If you dug my memoir, All I Could Bare and/or you enjoy the way I write in these letters, then I think you’ll really like it.

There are three super-easy ways to get it:

1) Get the kindle version. You can read it on your phone and/or tablet with Amazon’s free kindle app, and at $2.99, it’s mad cheap. 

2) If you’re all like, “fuck trees; I like the feel of paper in my hands,” then you can cop the paperback.

3) If your money happens to be low rn because you’re going through that coin hiatus that can sometimes occur between the 15th and the 1st, then I got you; you can read the entire book for free on wattpad.

Thanks in advance for the support!

Now, as Kanye once said, “like we always do at this time…”


1) I‘m Judging You: The Do Better Manual (Audiobook) – Luvvie Ajayi

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by blogger extraordinaire–and new citizen of Shondaland–Luvvie Ajayi is a straight-up textual act of seduction. She starts her essay collection with lite, funny rants about toddlers, bad brunch buddies, and funky folks with horrible hygiene. But she soon–and seamlessly–moves on to heftier topics like feminism, rape culture, homophobia, and racism (from subtle, micro-aggressions to “KKK-style Original Recipe”). The most notable artistic achievement of it is that she never stops making you laugh. This is especially true when she takes on religion. Luvvie is the too-rare Jesus praiser who is sex and sex-worker-positive and who no doubt believes that God can take a joke. For instance, Luvvie hypothesizes that the Bible’s chapter on “Adam and Steve” got lost on Noah’s Ark. (“They didn’t get a chance to laminate things before the flood.”) And she goes all in on Christians who insist that Jesus was a white man with blond hair and blue eyes. (“Didn’t the Bible say he had hair of wool?…How did y’all come up with this Jesus who has hair that has been flat-ironed so straight, I’m left wondering what anti-frizz spray he used? Was that how he used the myrrh oil the wise men brought him on his birthday?) What all this amounts to is nothing short of a socio-cultural manifesto grounded in humor and Luvvie’s own good sense.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the audiobook so that you can hear Luvvie’s pointed commentary in her own powerful–and hilarious–voice. (And y’all know you can get a 30-day trial Audible subscription for free, right? You can even check out my self-read memoir while you’re there.)

2) Formosa Jalapeño Hot Sauce
Anyone who has read my letters or blog posts–or has shared any meal with me–knows that my hot sauce opinions are as heated as the sauce itself.

Since my hot sauce ideas were formed in childhood by the bottles that one of my grandmothers kept in her pocketbook and in the glove compartment of her car, I’m generally gonna need my fiery condiment of choice to be on the red-orange color continuum and to be the consistency of eye drops.

There are exceptions, sriracha being one of them. (Perhaps you recall the soul-rattling decision that I once had to make between two competing brands.) And now I’d like to add another sauce-with-the-thickness to the exceptions list: Formosa Jalapeño Hot Sauce.

I first saw this sauce at a gourmet spot around the holidays, and honestly, I think I only bought it because I was feeling the Christmas spirit and it was green. (I have enough red sauces.) I took it home, doused it on an egg sandwich, and instantly fell in love. The sauce somehow manages to be both creamy and light, and the jalapeño flavor delivers a kick that is also deeply savory. An unexpected delight.

3) No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988 – 1999 – DJ Stretch Armstrong and Evan Auerbach

Back in the day, before irritating-ass Facebook invites, club promoters had to rely on paper flyers to get the word out about their parties. They would pass them out at barber shops and hair salons, fly clothing spots, and the dopest local record store.

Often these flyers could be as uninspired as the umpteenth ad you’ve seen for “Bad & Boujee” night. But sometimes, in the hands of the right designers and artists (like the legendary Keith Haring), they could be elevated to a portable form of street art. No Sleep compiles flyers from the late ’80s and ’90s, when NY club culture surged with the energy of the burgeoning–and sometimes overlapping–hip-hop and house scenes. Here are some of my favorites from the book:

(one of the Haring flyers; ya boy was actually at this party.)

(If you’d like a soundtrack to go with the flyer, you can check out my Ten City Top 10 playlist.)

(For more Miss Grace, check out my review of her memoir, which is now in paperback.)

4) Lékué Omelette Maker

I love omelettes, but they can be a pain in the ass for me to make. First, I have to sauté the vegetables to go in the omelette, because I’m not trying to bite into a hard-ass piece of raw onion first thing in the morning.

Then, I have to cook the eggs, which often entails doing the absolute utmost with a spatula.

All in all, the omelette turns out well. But afterward I have two dirty pans and I’m left thinking

Enter the cool af Lékué omelette maker, which I stumbled upon one day on Amazon. It looks like this

And here’s the life changing part of it. You put your veggies in one side of the omelette maker, close it up, and put in the microwave for 3 minutes. The veggies come out nicely steamed. Then all you have to do next is pour the egg in.

(random white lady’s hands, not mine)
You don’t have to mix the eggs with the veggies or risk any flipping mishaps.

You just put the omelette maker back in the microwave for 2 more minutes, and the omelette comes out perf.

O.K., maybe not that perf, but close. This is one of my IRL-lettes with shiitake mushrooms and jalapeños.

This video goes through the whole process. (And the reason I’m including it is that I was trying to explain the concept to my mother and she didn’t really get it until she watched the video.)But trust, if you love omelettes, this will have you calling people to your kitchen like

5. 2017 Tunes
Lastly, since I haven’t been around in a while, I wanted to catch you up on all the stuff I’ve been listening to lately. This playlist has 25 of my faves from the year. I was trying to keep it to 20, but then Drizzy dropped and “Passionfruit” had me standing in front of the mirror getting my life.

(s/o to Seth for this gif)

Anyway, the playlist also includes such folks as:

a) Future, whose HNDRXX album, in the twitterverse, is often called the male Lemonade

b) Snø, who sounds like my boy Justin Bieber singing songs by The Weeknd, which is interesting considering that they both are allegedly beefing over Selena.

c) Kehlani, whose excellent SweetSexySavage album plays like a crazyseycool ’90s throwback

d) F.O.S. (Friend of Solange) I:  Sampha, who has made one of this year’s most vulnerable and soulful albums and blessed Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” last year.

e) F.O.S. II: David Longstreth, who worked on Solo’s A Seat At The Table and is back making music. He’s now solo but still recording under the group name the Dirty Projectors. “Little Bubble” is the saddest breakup ballad of the year, and “Cool Your Heart,” a duet with former Danity Kane-r DAWN that was co-written by Solange, is an undeniably sexy bop.

f) Khalid, who is easily this year’s biggest breakout music star with his catchy tunes about the joys and pains of simply being a teen.

I hope you enjoy!

O.K. y’all, until next time…

Be cool, be kind, be creative, be yourself. Love, Craig


P.S. If you know someone who might like this letter, please do me a favor by forwarding it to them and asking them to subscribe. Thanks!


Who I Am:

I’m a writer whose work has been featured in The Washington Post, the Chicago TribuneEntertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, and other publications. I have a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

My Books:

Who’s Your Daddy

Providence-based photographer Michael Allen, a gay man on the cusp of 40, thinks he’s found love with a 19-year-old, mohawk-sporting artist named Ziggy, only to discover that the two may already share a bond that neither can imagine. This plays out as Michael’s best friends-Sidney, a 50-ish art dealer and Bruce, a cop in his 30s-deal with their own sexual trysts and romantic travails with dramatically younger guys. The result is a novel that explores the fragile yet enduring ties of sex, love, and friendship.

All I Could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, D.C.

“Unafraid to bare it all…readers will feel they’re in the hands of an expert.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“…a bare-assed, neon-lit tour de force…” –The Bay Area Reporter

“Raunchy splendor…somehow both bawdy and sweetly nostalgic at the same time.” – Dallas Voice

FREE: Download the All I Could Bare audiobook read by me.

Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross

“Seymour’s brilliant book is like a great Luther song: elegantly written, effortlessly executed and eloquently delivered. A majestic tribute.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“Full of juicy anecdotes, fast-paced writing and interesting analysis, the book paints an intimate portrait of the beloved balladeer.” – E. Lynn Harris

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