The Craig Report 4.7.17

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Hey, everybody. I’m back!

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First off, I want to thank you all for supporting my new book, Who’s Your Daddy?

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I’m up to nearly 600 views on Wattpad, where you can read the whole thing for free.

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I have two reviews on Amazon. (Shoutout to the reviewers!)

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Anyway, I really appreciate all the reads and reviews.

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I hope everybody had a good week. Mine has been all about

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But, hopefully, this means that I’ll have cool stuff to share with you in the upcoming weeks, months, and–if things go according to plan–years.

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CRAIG’S WEEKLY FAVES

1) Desus & Mero

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My new favorite show is Viceland’s late night talk fest Desus & Mero, which plays like a moderately woke, consistently hysterical barbershop convo. It’s exactly what I need after back-to-back hours of Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow. Comedians Desus Nice and The Kid Mero weigh in on topics ranging from politics to pop culture. (You can watch the show on Viceland or YouTube.)

Here are some of my fave recent clips:

Desus and Mero always show respect to Congressional legend and leader-of-the-rebellion Maxine Waters for the way that she’s committed to exposing all of “Trumpito’s” Russian secrets. But they also think that, at the family reunion, she would be the nosey aunt who’s in everybody’s business.

Here they expound on Tiger Woods’ rapidly receding hairline.

This is Desus and Mero on the poop-throwing internet chimp.

And here they are on that butter-covered baby.

In addition to one-on-one commentary, they also have candid celebrity interviews. Here they are with Faith Evans.

2) Arinze Stanley

I’m blown away by the crazy-real pencil drawings of self-trained Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley.

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This is Stanley describing his creative process:  “Sometimes it’s almost like I’m not in control of my pencil, sort of like energy transfer. Most times I feel like I transfer my energy into a blank piece of paper through my pencils and it just becomes art.”

3) Zayn & PartyNextDoor – “Still Got Time (House Party House Remix)”

I know that this week most Directioners are obsessed with “Sign of the Times” by Flying Harry Styles.

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But I’m also feeling the House Party remix of Zayn’s latest. It gives the original version some extra thump, and you can cop the dl for free here.

4) Gay porn pencil cases (and coffee mugs)

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So, recently I needed to buy a pencil case, not for pencils mind you, but rather to carry my assorted hot sauces and other essential condiments to and from my co-working space. It’s actually something that I feel a little tight about tbh. When I first was looking at the spot, they lured a brotha in with free access Sriracha and a mad array of spices and such. Cut to a year and a half later. I’m running in with a tuna salad and I can’t even find any salt and pepper on the 4th floor where I mostly work. I go to the 2nd floor and ask the receptionist if there is any salt and pepper. Homegirl tells me that they’re out of salt, and then she points me to a big-ass, Costco-sized bottle of Black Peppercorns. There is no grinder in sight. Dafuq are me and my tuna salad supposed to do with un-ground black peppercorns. I stormed off like

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Anyway, as I was eating my no-spice-havin’ ass tuna salad, I vowed that I would never be caught without the bare condiment essentials again. This led me to Etsy to try to find something that would be functional but also kinda lit.

I came across Father Panik’s pencil case adorned with newspaper ads for 70s gay porn flicks. Of course, I snapped it right up along with the matching mug.

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And I would’ve totally gotten this if it had been on a t-shirt. (Father, do you hear me?)

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5) Janmojis

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I guess it’s now pretty much established that I spend many nights cruising D.I.Y. e-commerce sites. Redbubble is another frequent stop, and it’s where I discovered this line of emojis based on the newly single Janet Jackson. I think they’re so cute (and I’m particularly partial to ’86, ’89, and the two ’97s). You can get them on t-shirts, as stickers, etc… Check them all out here.

THE WEEK AHEAD

April 10: Babyface’s birthday

Sometimes I look back on my work as a music critic, and I’m like, “Damn, I can’t believe you roasted that person like that!” Well, in Babyface’s case, I did it twice. I must have been in a mood on those days. In any event, here are two of my meanest reviews and they both happen to be of Babyface albums:

Babyface – Greatest Hits

Babyface – Face2Face

O.K. y’all, until next time…

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

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This quote from Glennon Doyle Melton goes out to all those who are going through things:

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CRAIG 101

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

The Craig Report 4.1.17

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Hey, everybody. Surprise, I’m back!

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First, I want to thank everyone who bought my new novel or checked it out for free on Wattpad.

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I’m now up to more than 550 Wattpad views, which totally makes me feel like

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So, if you liked the book, please do me a favor and give me some stars on Wattpad.  Or, by all means, please spread the word and share it. I’d really appreciate it.

You can also write an Amazon review. I’m particularly fond of the type of review, like this one of my Luther Vandross bio, that really steps out on faith.

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Also, thanks to everyone who checked out my new R&B website.

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I hope everybody’s been good since the last letter. I’ve spent much of the time recovering from Miami Music Week, during which I went to two pretty dope parties.

The first was thrown by Def Mix, the dj/production collective that, in its heyday, included David Morales, Satoshi Tomiie, and the late–and quite legendary–Frankie Knuckles. The three of them–individually and together–were responsible for some of my fave mixes of the ’90s, including:

Janet Jackson – “Got ‘Til It’s Gone (Def The Bass Mix)”

Mariah Carey – “Always Be My Baby (Satoshi Tomiie’s Groove-A-Pella)”

Janet Jackson – “Because of Love (Frankie & David Classic Mix)

Mariah Carey – “Butterfly Def B Fly Mix)”

Michael Jackson – “You Are Not Alone (Franctified Club Mix)”

The Def Mix party started really strong. One of the early djs played an unreleased mix of Mimi’s “Make It Happen,” which totally got the crowd hype. (My video from the club.)

Then, special guest DJ Spen jumped on the one-and-twos. I love Dj Spen, who has remixed joints by Ashanti, Angie Stone, and *must listen alert* Mary J. Blige.

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I know Spen’s music from back in the day because I’m a D.C. native, and Spen hails from nearby Baltimore, where the club music is always grounded in soul. On this particular night, Spen played Stevie Wonder’s “As,” a lush house re-make of the The O’Jays’ classic ballad “Stairway to Heaven,” and–in what was a wonderful surprise–“Time Waits For No One” by one of my favorite vocalists, Jean Carn.

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I grew up on Ms. Carn’s music. Throughout the ’70s, she made dem good ol’ Auntie records, songs that schooled me to grown folks’ ways of love. She sings in a somewhat stylized, reflective manner. This is no doubt influenced by her deep background in jazz, which is expressed most fully in her many collaborations with multi-intrumentalist ex-husband Doug Carn. (My fave Carn x Carn collabo.) To me, it always sounds like Carn is trying to teach the listener something, a lesson based in her own rich life experience.

You might know her from, well, my “About” page, or hits like “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head,” an anthem about making sure your boo doesn’t get gassed, and “Was That Was It Was,” a cautionary tale about one night stands that was featured in Precious.

Time Waits For No One” is one of those songs that make me see a whole movie musical in my head. Imagine you’re at a barbecue in the backyard of Grandma’s house. The whole family knows Auntie Jean’s new man ain’t shit. He has another woman and kids. But she keeps saying that it ain’t even like that. He’s committed to her now, and she plans to prove it by having him come to the barbecue.

But hours pass by, and homeboy hasn’t shown his face. Everybody has eaten and is making plates to take home. You go looking for Auntie to say goodbye and find her sitting by herself on the plastic-covered couch in the living room. She’s staring out of the window into the dark. You ask, “what’s the matter, Auntie?” A four-on-the-four beat starts playing. She turns to you and begins to sing, “I been out here so very long…

Anyway, all of this is to say that I had a great time at the Def Mix party, and I danced my ass off. As I get older and have less stamina, my dance moves can sometimes go like this

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But that night, I was full of energy.

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In fact, this was my Apple Heath reading just from being on the dancefloor.

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The next party I went to was at Do Not Sit on the Furniture. It was a mixed lineup, but I was there to see Detroit Techno legend Kevin Saunderson, who, among other things, is the behind-the-boards magic maker responsible for the Inner City classics “Good Life” and “Big Fun.”  He also did *must listen alert #2* one of my all-time favorite remixes, the “Club Dub” of Karyn White’s “The Way I Feel About You.”

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He fully deconstructs the rather generic pop tune and rebuilds it into a pulsing, soulful club epic.

I didn’t amass quite as many steps that night, but it was still a good time.

CRAIG’S WEEKLY FAVES

1)  CHRIS HAYES – A COLONY IN A NATION

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I’ve been a Chris Hayes stan from way back. His weekend show Up with Chris Hayes was the newsy accompaniment to many hangovers, and his evening show All In with Chris Hayes kicks off my primetime lineup every weeknight.

His new book, A Colony in a Nation, takes on race in the U.S. in a way that exposes the hypocrisy that’s at the heart of our democracy. Chris, for instance, draws parallels between Eric Garner, the black Staten Island grandfather who was choked to death by the NYPD after being caught selling loosies, with founding father John Hancock, who made a fortune illegally selling Dutch tea, which was cheaper than the East India tea that was officially sanctioned by the dominating Brits. Both Garner and Hancock sold legal commodities in illegal ways. But Garner died on the street, while Hancock went on to show-out and do-the-most with his signature on the Declaration of Independence.

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Through connections like this, Chris forces us to interrogate our knee-jerk notions about who gets designated as a “criminal” in our society and who gets to commit crimes (from the pettiest to the most heinous) without being branded with that stigmatized identity. Chris points out how white kids at elite universities get away with all sorts of illegal activities (public drunkenness, drug possession, sexual assault, et al.) that would most likely negatively and irreparably change the course of a young person of color’s life.

Chris’ book serves as a nice companion to Ava DuVernay’s eye-opening documentary 13th in that it provides more examples and analysis of how the white powers-that-be use the idea of crime as a way to control black and brown bodies. Or as Chris puts it: “American history is the story of white fear…”

2) THE BRILLIANT VISON OF GEORGE PITTS

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George Pitts, who passed on March 4, was the Director of Photography for VIBE magazine from its first issue in 1993 to 2004. George’s job was to help choose the photographers and select the images that would represent hip-hop and R&B in the most iconic and truthful ways. It was not a job he undertook lightly. As he once wrote: “We take our responsibility seriously because we are recording the defining moments in a cultural  adolescence, a never-to-be repeated chapter taken from the big book of humanity.”

Here’s a selection of some of George’s favorite VIBE covers. (I’m proud to say that I wrote two of the stories that went with them.)

And below are some images from the book he helped compile, VX: 10 Years of Vibe Photography. Now I’m not qualified to give out stock tips. But I can say that you should snatch up a copy of this now out-of-print book while it’s still reasonably priced, because one day it will be a valuable collector’s item documenting a glorious black past.

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(Chaka Khan by Alastair Thain)

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(Destiny’s Child by Vincent Skeltis)

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(Madonna by Melodie McDaniel)

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(RuPaul by Ellen von Unwerth; Vanessa Williams by Ruvan Afandor)

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(Jodeci by Albert Watson)

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(Toni Braxton by Tony Duran; Mary J. Blige by Christian Witkin)

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(Justin Timberlake by Phil Knott)

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(Beyoncé by Kayt Jones; India.Arie by Gerald Foster)

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(Britney Spears by Brian Walsh)

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(Mariah Carey by Wayne Maser)

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(Aaliyah by Robert Maxwell)

3) “MEME-GIRLS”

A hilarious meme re-telling of the iconic “It’s All Over” scene from Dreamgirls by @blccbrry: (Part 1, Part 2). Highlights include:

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4) RIHANNA – AMORPHOUS MASHUPS

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Mashups used to be a big thing in the early aughts. DJs and producers would take two disparate tracks–like, say, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Kraftwerk’s “Numbers”–and merge them together. Sometimes the results were fun; often they sucked.

Orlando-based producer Amorphous is trying to bring the mashup back by reinterpreting cuts by Rihanna, and I really love what he’s done. Here are some of my favorites from his Rihanna mashup album.

“This Is What You Came For” x Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right”

“Where Have You Been” x Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name”

“Desperado” x Banks’ “Waiting Game”

“Te Amo” x SWV’s “You’re The One”

(Sidenote: I don’t really even like “Te Amo,” but I love this mix)

One of the revelations of the of this mashup collection is how well Rihanna’s vocals pair with Aaliyah’s music and vice versa.

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“Needed Me” x Aaliyah’s “One in a Million”

“Russian Roulette” x Aaliyah’s “Try Again”

Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” x “Work”

THE WEEK AHEAD

April 1: Gil Scott-Heron’s birthday

Check the prophetic lyrics:

Well, the first thing I want to say is: Mandate my ass!

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate or a landslide…

 In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan, I meant it. Acted like an actor. Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal…Then he acted like a Republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for President. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose…

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse – or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a “B” movie.

From Liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch Idol, Born Again. Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights: …it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what we want…: the good ol’ days, when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white, and so was everything else…

April 2: Marvin Gaye’s birthday

April 4: Maya Angelou’s birthday

This is the poem Ms. Angelou delivered at President Clinton’s inauguration set to a sick house beat. (I got it on a mixtape; I don’t even know who did it.)

I think this tribute mix is particularly appropriate, because let’s never forget that the celebrated poet was also a trained dancer.

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April 6: Strike A Pose on LOGO (9PM, EST)

Madonna’s tour documentary Truth or Dare expanded the parameters of queer representation in pop culture. But Strike a Pose shows that the gay foot soldiers in Madonna’s revolution often paid a heavy price.

April 7: Billie Holiday’s birthday

Four ways to celebrate:

i) Watch this legendary live performance with her road dog Lester Young

ii) Listen to my 10 favorite Billie Holiday songs on Spotify

iii) Read Zadie Smith’s exquisite short story, “Crazy They Call Me,” which is written from Billie’s perspective.

(Matter of fact, while you’re reading, listen to Queen Dinah Washington’s Billie-tribute performance of “Crazy He Calls Me.”)

iv) Read the excellent biography, With Billie: A New Look at the Unforgettable Lady Day. Toni Morrison wrote of the book: “Nowhere else is the context of her life so vividly captured.”

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O.K. y’all, until next time…

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

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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“If a bitch don’t let you through, you got to bust through on your own.” – Ts Madison

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

CRAIG 101

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

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&Being.com. 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…”

CRAIG’S FAVE FIVE

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

CLOSING THOUGHT

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!

CRAIG 101

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