Thursday, July 30, 2009

CRAIG'S PLAYLIST: July 31, 2009

A look at my favorite musical moments of the week:

1) Monica - "Lemme Know"

A clear retread of Jasmine Sullivan's "Need You Bad," but Monica's impassioned delivery makes the musical similarities seem beside the point.

2) The Dead Weather - "Treat Me Like Your Mother"

Funk? Blues? Whatever...It fucking rocks and is even better live. (See pics from the Chicago concert here

3) Jaila - "Heartless" (from MTV's "Making His Band")

No spoilers; but this "very special" lady sang one verse from Kanye's "Heartless" and stole the whole 90 minute show. Props to @iamdiddy for respecting true talent and for coming up with the best line of the week: "If you gonna wear a weave, male or female, make sure your motherfuckin' weave is tight."

Would love to hear Jaila sing Sylvester's "Over and Over:"

4) Madonna - "Celebration"

You know you're a legend when you can credibly make an homage to yourself; on this single, Madonna shakes her toned ass across the space-time continuum and seamlessly merges the dancefloors of '82 ("Everybody"), '98 ("Ray of Light"), and '06 ("Get Together").

5) Chrisette Michele - "Blame It On Me"

I wasn't a fan until I saw her perform this on BET's "Rising Icons;" but now I feel like I know what it was like to see "Sassy" Sarah Vaughan in her youth.

6) Gucci Mane & Snoop Dogg - "Awesome"

An irresistible combo of rhythm and wordplay.

7) Mr. Vegas - "Blessed"

I know this is old to dancehall fans, but I was just won over by the "Good Life" riddim and Vegas' soulful singing about how living with gratitude is the best way to live.

8) Jay-Z, Rihanna, & Kanye West - "Run This Town"

RiRi sings the blues; 'Ye brings the punchlines; and Hov gives an understated performance that I hope I will appreciate more as the days go by.

9) Mary J. Blige & T.I. - "Good Love (Do It Again)"

Mary sounds so sweet that it almost makes me forgive her for using autotunes ("The One") and singing with Chris Brown ("Stronger").

10) Young Jeezy - "She's a Lesbian"

No one will ever accuse Jeezy of being p.c. or a feminist, but his voice and storytelling has had me singing this raunchy straight-boy-fantasy all summer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In celebration of Jody Watley's current tour--and her upcoming hometown appearance at Chicago's Market Days, where I plan on being in the front row--I decided to post an interview that I did with her in 1999. (Man, time flies!) This was one of my favorite assignments, because I've been a fan of Watley's style, attitude, and cool, deadpan delivery ever since her days with Shalamar. I followed her solo career closely. As a teenager, I even hunted down her U.K.-only, pre-"Looking for a New Love" singles "Where the Boys Are" and "Girls Night Out," both produced by the folks behind the Art of Noise. (You can listen below.)

What I've come to appreciate about her even more over the years is her commitment to evolving creatively and her dedication to the gay community. Where, say, Madonna gets more attention for her connections to the gay community, Watley has actually recorded songs with lyrics supporting gay people. (See "Affection" & "When a Man Loves a Man" below.) Plus, her 1989 "Friends" video included voguing a year prior to Madonna's "Vogue" AND Watley kept voguing in the context of gay ball culture as opposed to making it seem like it came from Hollywood. (See the "Jody For The Kids" section below.)

In this interview, Jody talks about her music, her "Soul Train" memories (including a fight among two "queens" which called for security to step in), and losing her friend Jermaine "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" Stewart to AIDS.


"Friends (1989)"

"When a Man Loves a Man (BBG Deep Mix-1993)"

"Affection (1995)"


Where the Boys Are (1984)

My House (4 Free-1984)

Girls Night Out (1985)

I'm the One You Need (David Morales Dead Zone Mix-1991)

Ecstasy (David Morales Remix-1993)

Off the Hook (Booker T Mix-1998)

If I'm Not in Love (Pull KHZ Mix-1998)


Love Injection (1987)

Come Into My Life (1989)

Lifestyle (1989)

It All Begins With You (1991)

Until the Last Goodbye (1991)

Don't You Want Me (King Britt Mix-2006)

Midnight Lounge (Mark De Clive Lowe Mix-2006)

Borderline (Christian Paduraru Vocal Dub Mix-2006)

Candlelight (Aris Kokou Dub-2009)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Went to see The Dead Weather at the Vic in Chicago. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Here are some pics:

For more of my photography:

And here are some of my fave Dead Weather songs:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

E. Lynn Harris, R.I.P.

Sad day hearing that E. Lynn Harris has died. Because of the accessibility of his work, he enabled a mass audience to see black gay men in new and complex ways. (Remember, when Harris' first novel, Invisible Life, came out in 1991, the most popular media image of black gay men was Damon Wayans and David Allen Grier camping it up as "Men on Film" on "In Living Color.") Most importantly, he conveyed black gay men as fully human, with the same wants and desires as everyone else. For some, this was "breaking news."

As a black gay writer, I was always inspired by E. Lynn Harris' hustle, which included self-publishing his first book and selling them out of the back of his car. Harris remade the industry rules about what was possible for a black gay writer. Just this June I was in NYC and I saw an ad for his latest novel, Basketball Jones, on the subway. I was so happy to see his book get that kind of marketing, not just because of what it meant for his career, but because it raised the bar regarding what other black gay writers could shoot for. His work made it possible to believe that you could be a black, gay man writing about the life you knew and still hit the NYTimes bestseller list.

Personally, I did not know him well. But I feel like my life coincided with his work in a number of interesting ways . I remember working at D.C.'s landmark gay bookstore, Lambda Rising, when Invisible Life was first published. Before that, most of the store's customers had been white. But overnight, brothas started coming in by the dozens looking for the book. We could not keep it in stock. I'd be thinking to myself, "Where are all these folks comin' from?" And I knew I was seeing a phenomenon develop firsthand.

I later wrote "Envisioning Lives: Homosexuality and Black Popular Literature," an essay about Invisible Life and the follow-up Just As I Am, which was included in the anthology The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities. This essay was one of my first major publications, so even in this way, Harris and his work helped another black gay writer.

I later met him in 2003 when I interviewed him for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his book, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir. (See full text of interview below) The interview took place at his townhouse in Buckhead. I was immediately taken by how disarming and charming he was, as we quickly bonded over a mutual love for R&B singer, Stephanie Mills. ("She sings from her -----," he exclaimed! In life, as in his work, he was rarely p.c., but he was always true to himself and the way he experienced the world.)

After the interview, he took me on a tour of the townhouse, and I was knocked out by the opulence it. My most concrete memory is of us walking up a spiral staircase of three floors. Then, when we got to the top, he paused dramatically in front of what-looked-like a doorway and said, "I suppose we could've just taken the elevator." It was a grande diva moment, but I loved it! I always felt that, because of his hard work, he deserved every bit of success he had.

My last contact with him came about a year later, when I was about to publish my first book, the biography, Luther: The Life and Longing of Luther Vandross. I reached out to him to see if he'd give me a quote for the back of the book and he immediately did. Other folks who promised were shady at the last minute, but he came through, proving to me the kind of guy he was.

I know numerous other people who feel like he helped them either directly or through his work by making them feel more accepting of themselves and others. All I can say is: Well done, brother. R.I.P.

In tribute, here's the interview that we did in 2003, where we talk about his search for love:

Drunken binges! An abusive stepfather! A suicide attempt! It sounds like the stuff of E. Lynn Harris' fast-moving, drama-filled novels such as "Invisible Life," "And This Too Shall Pass" and "A Love of My Own." But it's really the stuff of his life.

The author, who has found much success -- and logged many weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list -- with his steamy novels of black gay and bisexual life, has now penned his own story, "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir."

In it, he chronicles a troubled childhood, a herculean battle with low self-esteem, and the many years he struggled to accept being gay. We caught up with the Atlanta-based author at his smartly decorated new Buckhead home to talk about his life and loves.

In the book, you talk about your struggles with self-esteem. Did you feel unworthy when your writing career first took off?
Oh, yeah. I was waking up every day waiting for it to be over. But I remember my aunt told me, "Baby, you took the bad. Now you have to take the good."

You have so many female fans. Do you think they fantasize about you even though they know you're gay?
I'm sure of it, because I see how they react at my signings. They want hugs. They want to feel my butt. They act like I'm a bona fide star to them. I just came from a weeklong paperback tour where I was in a different city every day. And the women just go crazy. I love women. I am not attracted to them sexually. But I admire a beautiful woman.

What's the naughtiest thing you've ever gotten from a fan?
Pictures. Seductive pictures. There are a couple of people now who send me pictures that are really crossing the line. But I don't want to say, "Stop doing this." I know very well what it feels like to be rejected.

How do male fans differ from female fans?
For women, the fantasy ends when I leave [the book signing]. With men, they do the sneaky stuff. They call the hotel. I spoke at a really big school that's near here. And an athlete called my hotel at 12 in the morning to get a book signed. I said, "Were you at the signing?" And he said, "Nah, I couldn't let my peeps see me there."

Do you have many straight male fans?
Yeah. And I'm getting a lot more now. The funny thing about straight men is that they always tell me they're straight. That's the first thing out of their mouths: "I like your books -- I'm straight. But I like your books."

Would you ever date a fan?
No. Because they're all looking for Raymond [the lead character in several of his books].

What are you like in a relationship?
I'm very much "the man." It's always been that way, and that's not going to change about me. I have a take-control type of personality. A lover who I don't talk about a lot [in the book] used to tell me, "You need a wife; you don't need a lover."

It seems like you were raised that way.
I was raised to be in charge, to be the man, if you will. When I dated guys I had a difficult time, because I treated them the way I would have treated a girl. It's not that I'm into role-playing or any of that stuff. It's just who I am.

In the book, you write about being physically abused as a child. Have you ever had any abusive relationships as an adult?
I've had abusive emotional relationships, but never physical. I've never had a physical altercation in my life. I think people who have been abused either become abusers or they become like me. There was one incident with the first lover. I said to him, "Now that I'm gone don't be around here [expletive] everything that moves." And he said something like, "I can [expletive] whoever I want." I slapped him and he slapped me back. But that was it, end of story.

You also talk in the book about having a hard time finding the kind of love you wanted. Why do you think it's been so difficult?
I think [lack of] self-esteem. But I also think it's difficult for men to really open up. Then, it's the right-place wrong-time type of thing. How I live my life now is, I'm responsible for who I fall in love with. If I fall in love with you, I hope that you love me back. But you don't necessarily have to do that. I realize that's a risk I take. And I'm not destroyed when you don't react the way I expect you to. I'm taking control of my love, so to speak.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wale Live in Chicago

Here are my pics of Wale live in Chicago...If you don't know, D.C.-raised Wale is the guy GQ magazine recently called "the greatest new rapper since Jay-Z." His single, Chillin' features Lady Gaga and includes one of my favorite lines of the year: "You be with the cops/ You n-ggas is McLovin'." His new mixtape, Back to the Feature, a collaboration with producer 9th Wonder, is amazing!!! My fave joint is "Life's a Bitch." Wale's album, Attention Deficit, which GQ says "might be the most sonically adventurous major-label hip-hop debut ever," will be released later this year.

For more of my photography:
My photography website
Solange Knowles in concert
Drake in concert


I'll be showing a video of photos that I've taken at strip clubs across the country at a club in Chicago on Sunday.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chicago Pride Pix

Tajma Hall

Cyon Flare

Martha Wash & Jeanie Tracy

Thelma Houston

Crystal Waters

Ultra Nate