Good Mood Music: Expression

You know life
Is all about expression
You only live once, and you’re not coming back
So express yourself, yeah…

Salt-N-Pepa exhibited “Girl Power” years before the Spice Girls hit the music scene. “Expression” off the Blacks’ Magic album is my favorite Salt-N-Pepa track. It was the first song Salt (Cheryl James) wrote and produced herself — and it happened to go Platinum. Not a bad debut.

Recently, the group (which also includes Sandra Denton as Pepa and DeeDee Roper as Spinderella) highlighted 15 songs from their over 3 decade long career and told Rolling Stone why they tell the tale of their career. “Expression” was one of them. Of the song, Salt said:

Personally, it was me trying to see if what I witnessed and learned was something I could actually implement. And liberation from being Hurby’s girlfriend. I wanted to start taking over the voice of Salt-N-Pepa more in the studio – more in control of what we wanted to say. And that might have been because of “Twist and Shout.” That might have been a backlash. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I just know I had it in me.

For background, “Twist and Shout” is a cover of The Beatles tune. Hurby Azor, a producer and songwriter who up until that point was very involved in the creative direction of the group, suggested the song. Salt-N-Pepa basically recorded the song under protest, feeling it wasn’t right for them. They hardly ever performed it in the U.S. because of a lackluster response. The response was a little better in Europe, but eventually they’d stop performing it all together.

A factoid about the video is Pepa was pregnant and wasn’t quite feeling her normal, expressive self on set. But what are friends for?

I remember having a hard time doing the video and I remember Salt having a little “pep” talk with me – literally – like, “Pull it together girl, you could do this.” You know, I’m feeling all big and fat and just crazy. I’m usually being sexy or something in the video, and now I know even being pregnant is sexy, but back then, I’m thinking, like, “What?” I didn’t feel it at the moment. … She had the little talk with me, and then something just came over me and I just took charge and I owned it, and I killed the video.


Good Mood Music: Do Your Thing

Issac Hayes was a master of mood music. Most well-known for the blaxploitation movie soundtrack Shaft, Hayes was a fixture of the 1960s and 1970s music scene — particularly as one of the primary songwriters for Stax Records.

Hayes’ catalog can only be described as soulful. “Do Your Thing” has an almost laissez-faire vibe as it encourages listeners to follow their intuition and do what moves them.

If the music makes you move, cause you can dig the groove
Then groove on, groove on
If you feel like you wanna make love under the stars above
Love on, love on
If there’s something you wanna say, and talkin’ is the only way
Rap on, oh, rap on
Cause whatever you do, oh, you’ve got to do your thing…

An edit of the nearly 20 minute song, of which only around 2 minutes has vocals, was one of two Top 40 hits spawned by the Shaft soundtrack in 1971 (the Shaft theme was the other).

Of special note, Hayes was recently honored in his hometown of Covington, Tennessee with his own celebratory day.


Favorite 2017 U.S. Nationals Routines & Potential Worlds Team Thoughts

Another U.S. Nationals is in the books for gymnastics. The senior champs were Ragan Smith and Yul Moldauer. Maile O’Keefe won the women’s junior title, while Garrett Braunton (15-16 division) and Brody Malone (17-18 division) won the junior men’s crowns.

Below is a sampling of the routines I liked along with another look towards Worlds team selection for the senior women.

Some routines I enjoyed:

Yul Moldauer‘s is just so clean and precise. It’s so nice to watch.

It is absurd that Donnell Whittenburg can over-rotate a Ri Se Gwang vault.

Most improved routine from Classics to Nationals? Jordan Chiles‘ bars. Also, yay Jordan for finishing second overall!!!

Trinity Thomas had an awesome Nationals as well!

Continue reading “Favorite 2017 U.S. Nationals Routines & Potential Worlds Team Thoughts”


Random Thoughts: 2017 IAAF Worlds

Usually I talk gymnastics here, but I’m a fan of many sports. I spent the last 10 days watching a lot of London 2017, the athletics — or track and field — world championships. Here are some random thoughts I had:

Allyson Felix doesn’t get the shine she deserves for her track career. Following her 3 medal performance in London, she’s now the most decorated track athlete in history with a “sweet sixteen.”

Maybe Jamaica needs to reassess its nutrition and recovery efforts to a degree. The team had two athletes pull up during relays and not finish — one of whom being Usain Bolt during the final race of his career, which was really a bummer. Just a really off championships for Jamaica all the way around.

Keni Harrison made strides in overcoming her issues performing in high stakes races, but there’s still obviously work to do. Mainly, she’s gotta learn how to stay in her rhythm with someone matching her stride for stride. After squeaking into the final after a mishap with the first hurdle in prelims, she had a medal slip from her grasp in the 100m hurdles final after a good start.

If you want to see what celebration looks like when you’re expected to win vs when you have promise but not a set expectation, watch the aftermath of the women’s 4×400 relay and note the difference in excitement level between the American team vs the GB and Polish teams. Continue reading “Random Thoughts: 2017 IAAF Worlds”

Gymnastics, Olympics

The Consequences of “Cocky”

If you go through my blog archives, you’ll see that Gabby Douglas is probably my most featured individual. First off, I’m a fan. Furthermore, even for all the success other Black gymnasts had before her, Gabby was the first to ascend to the pinnacle of my longtime favorite sport that looks like me. Despite me being older than she is, her experiences resonate with me more than any other gymnast I’ve followed.

2016 was an interesting year if you are/were a Gabby fan. It started off well with her winning all around titles at the American Cup and in Jesolo. However, by Nationals and Olympic Trials you could tell something was off — and that was before a surprising coaching change days before Trials. She seemed listless and not as engaged as you would expect an athlete to be weeks away from the Olympic Games.

Flash forward to July 2017 when, in an interview with Teen Vogue, she pulled back the curtain and crystallized much of what could be called an open secret in 2016: Continue reading “The Consequences of “Cocky””


Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics

I love Sunisa Lee’s beam routine.
Well. Classics went like Classics do. The HOPES session gave us a look at the wee ones which may or may not go the elite track. The junior session had 8382934 competitors, and the senior session featured a lot of reintroduction to competition jitters for the gymnasts — and hopefully, the working out of them.

But before I get to the elites…one of the HOPES gymnasts caught my attention. Her name is Kaliya Lincoln.

It always amazes me when younger gymnasts have senior elite level poise on beam. This is great for 10-11 yrs old. Honestly, it’s good for a gymnast of any age.

As for the elites, the beginning of this quad (2017-2020) feels a bit like the 2009-2012 one for the U.S. team, where there were only a few returning gymnasts from the previous season and the gymnasts that would eventually contend the London Olympic team weren’t due to become seniors until the middle of the quad (or, in the case of Alicia Sacramone or Anna Li, not make a comeback to elite until the middle of the quad).

My point is kind of bolstered by a junior, Emma Malabuyo, outscoring the top senior all-arounder Alyona Shchennikova (56.750 to 54.950). Emma also posted the highest score of both elite sessions on floor. Granted Ragan Smith didn’t do all around at Classics, which is customary for the front-running seniors. It underlines the fact that the current women’s U.S. National Team is really young, and fans are going to have to be patient while this group gains the experience and depth the previous National Team had.

Speaking of Ragan, this competition was only confirmation for me that she’s ready to be the leader of the U.S. team. The two events she competed looked great — she even won bars! However, it was her beam that stole the show.

Continue reading “Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics”


4 U.S. Gymnasts I’m Looking Forward to Seeing as Nationals Approach

With Classics happening this upcoming Saturday, the late spring/early summer hiatus is nearly done for U.S. gymnasts. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone compete, but these are the 4 senior elites I’m most curious about as competition picks back up.

Ragan Smith
Since all but a few of the gymnasts who went through the Olympic Trials process last year have moved onto NCAA or are taking a break, the primary spotlight has settled itself on Ragan. It’s always interesting to see how athletes do when the expectations increase. I don’t think it will be an issue for her at all.

Jade Carey
Kinda like what happened with Ashton Locklear a few years ago, Jade is someone who is always on the camp rosters and has a lot of buzz, yet is still a mystery because she hasn’t been in a big competition to-date. If the scores she’s getting at camp materialize at Classics and Nationals, she could pull a Kayla Williams and go from unknown to (possible) World Champ at a lightening-fast speed.

Jordan Chiles
Since Nationals last year, each time Jordan has tried to compete something has come up — be it injury or something else. I’m so hoping her (delayed) senior elite debut goes well. If she competes up to her potential, she’ll make World team selection real interesting.

Margzetta Frazier
I’m also really rooting for Marz. We’ve seen the social media clips of all the skills she’s been training, but it’s been nearly a year since she competed. Hopefully, she’s at full strength. If she hits the upgrades, she could make World team selection interesting too.