SZA’s “Ctrl” Empowers

SZA

SZA my dear, I love your music. Even though your album has been out for some time now, I must write about it. I fell in love with your surreal sound about a year ago when Spotify introduced us. At first, I was thrown off by your ethereal aura which resonates through much of your music, but it is also what caught me. I was instantly attached when I heard “Warm Winds.” The streaming service continues to keep this love strong when they throw in your tracks from time to time on my playlist. So of course, I feel I must dedicate time to addressing my feelings towards your latest project “Ctrl.”

SZA, you are phenomenal. Weird and honest. Beautiful and loving. An emotional warrior who is true to herself and owns her self-discovery through the highs and lows of relationships. It is the combination that I see and others see, that makes you so easy to vibe to. Thank you for going against the norm and charging forward in your truth. This expression of said truth is eminent in “Ctrl.” This songstress is rated R – raw, real and relatable. Her music stands a testament to what many of us want to say, but have difficulty in finding the words.

In her track “Normal Girl,” the beat has a trance like energy that intertwines with a hip hop sound. This track resonates with me through its message. Many want their parents to be proud of them. However, it is difficult to be yourself with the weighing feeling of your parents’ approval. Now to be approved by your lover’s folks too? Ugh! It’s tough to get a break.

I can hear the passion from her croons in “Broken Clocks.” I cannot see her, but I feel it in the way she sings. “Ohhhhhhh!” Yes girl, I hear you. Her story is truth; she sings of having an overwhelming job while dealing with a chummy dude. LIFE!!!!! Hahahaha. Many of us deal with situations in which we shouldn’t entertain our energy into. But yet, nothing is ever so simple to do, because you know, “You love me.”

SZA continues in tales of self-discovery through “Pretty Little Birds.” Poor aves, they got to deal with flying into the stupid window repeatedly. And yet, they still flap their little wings and fly towards the sky. “Pretty Little Girls, Pretty Little Girls, we hit the window a few times;” in truth we are very much like these feathered creatures in how we make mistakes but are dynamic in our strength to never give up. My soul wants to twirl to this track. Heavenly and full of flight, the collection of sounds can make one want to soar.

Ms. Twenty Something herself reveals her truth about the fear of love, not being where she thinks she should be and holding onto those who matter most to her heart in “20 Something.” We stumble through these times making mistakes repeatedly trying to figure how to do this adult thing right. May she survive the stormy waves of this period; when the waves are rough they always become calm again.

Another tune about birds comes through in “Doves in the Wind.” The song is lit. The end. Oh, and clearly, we control men with our babymaker “flowers.” With bars from Kendrick Lamar describing the wonders of our wombs and the hype, the smooth sound pounce into the ears making one enamored with excitement from the track. Sit back, bob your head and chill to this feature.

SZA packs in a gutsy punch of honesty in  “Supermodel.” We all want to be a supermodel to someone. Perfect skin, hair, butt, boobs, abs, lips or whatever it is that society is telling you must be excellent in to make you a match for that person. She goes in on this track letting it all pour out on how much she needed her man and how she gave him a gift of “dirt” after he left her for someone else.

“Why I can’t stay alone just by myself, wish I was comfortable just by myself, but I need you, I need you, I need you.”

Whoever is reading this, I want you to look in the mirror, look into your eyes and say “I need you.” There is no one out there that can do more for you than yourself. You can be happy with yourself. You can have peace by yourself. Whatever you are looking for in that other person is already residing right from within. Heaven knows, I used to feel like I needed to be someone’s supermodel, but I am super in just being myself; flaws and all. Know that you are too.

More tunes from this package of sound give me life through her journey of sharing a man in “The Weekend,” not-your-average girl anthem in “Drew Barrymore,” her bubbly wild tale “Love Galore and more. SZA makes us listen and warms the hidden parts of us afraid to live in our imperfect truth. This daring dive into her attempts for control decked out in 80s sounding nostalgia and hip hop grooves allow one to feel freer in accepting their own truth. For sure, I know I do. Thank you Queen for doing what you do best and never feel afraid to lose control.

Rain On Me

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Flowers from my mom’s garden at night.

So I was supposed to write this the other night. But after finding out Chester Bennington passed away, I lost the urge to pour my words onto this page. The thing about words though, they tend to have a way of finding their way from the brain to actually breathe life. Sometimes, I just can’t let them fade away. It’s crazy how many thoughts I have that I want to write down and it just never makes it. My brain is constantly in a word fertilization stage – probably 85 percent of my thoughts don’t escape my lips. Maybe 15 percent either show up on this humble space, leaves my mind to another’s ears, or shows up in some other form of communication. But there is this true sense of refreshment that lights up throughout me whenever I decide to let these words live.

I constantly tell myself that I need to write more, but I end up just writing in my head. But let me tell you, it feels so good when I finally ignore my daily distractions and allow myself to indulge in this space. For those of you reading now or have read in the past, I truly appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to experience the little increments of my mind and spirit in the form of literary expression.

Anyway, the other night I went into my backyard looking for some mint my mom grows. She has a garden of various vegetables, fruits and herbs including tomatoes, cucumbers, thyme, dill and raspberries. I was going to make myself a fruit smoothie. As I was about to go outside, it suddenly started raining. The sweltering heat broke for just a bit to cool our little corner of the Earth. I hesitated for a bit, but then decided to go because I really wanted the smoothie. Plus, it’s only rain.

Outside, the water felt so nice. The whole atmosphere of it all is incredible. Have you ever done it? Just gone outside and stood in the rain? You got to try it. Let the water touch your skin. The cool wind will spiral around you however it feels. The pitter patter sound of the rain drops will enter your ears and sooth your mind. Close your eyes. Let the moment take you.

After I got the mint, I stood outside longer, closed my eyes and imagined being in a rain forest. I could see a stream of water on the forest floor. Tall trees surrounded me enveloping the whole area. The sky was adorned with leaves only left with a small space to see the grey hovering above. I was enamored by the moment. The pleasant sense of it all kept me grounded. I breathed in the positive energy flowing around naturally and breathed out any stress or worries that consumed me. For that moment, I was in paradise.

After some time, my stomach reminded me that I needed to feed it and I went inside. As humans, I think it is important for us to remember to be still sometimes. We live in this fast paced world. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us what to wear, how to spend, how to eat, how to basically live. Stress plague our minds on a daily basis. We often times forget how to honor ourselves. How to cherish our light. How to breath and even embrace the beauty in being able to let air fill and leave our bodies.

There is power to the simplicity to do the very thing we did the first moment we entered this world. Peace enters your life the second you choose to embrace you. I ask you to take  one moment at least once a day to just forget your day’s qualms, sit still and simply breath. Cherish you; always.

I let the rain bring me back to that moment of honoring myself. Any time I get caught in the rain and it is not too intense, it feels great to let the rain bring me to peace. After society tries so hard to shake my senses and make me feel like I am crazy, nature always has a way of bringing me back to the true reality of just being. For when those skies open up and the storm ain’t too crazy, (Let’s be real; I won’t be caught getting struck by lightening or intentionally soaked), I will embrace what the Earth has to give. For sure, I want the skies to rain on me.

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Black Girls Learn Love Hard by Ras Baraka

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I went to this incredible conference called Queen Geniuses founded by Regine Roy at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn on March 18. The whole day was filled with enthusiasm, spirit, passion and an overflowing feeling of inspiration through speeches, workshops and performances. I was truly happy to be there. One of the components of the day included a workshop called “It Really Takes A Village” hosted by black feminist Dequi Kioni-Sadiki. I learned a lot including how the Black Panthers are the reason our kids receive free breakfast in their schools. Towards the end, Kioni-Sadiki shared an empowering poem called “Black Girls Learn Love Hard” by Ras Baraka (Dope poet and the current mayor of Newark, NJ) I fell in love with the difficult truth it portrayed about the struggles of being a black girl. Check out this engaging tale of how hard a black girl loves:

“Black Girls Learn Love Hard”

Black girls learn to love hard, A concrete love

An in spite of love, Even though love

An in between crying love, They learn love hard.

They rush to grade school dodging whistles.

And lewd stares from passing cars of men on their way to work.

They learn vulgarities as compliments

They pretend to get used to being touched when they don’t want to be

And get attention because they are pretty

Everyone wants to feel them, Press up on them

Rub against them, throw them down

Cuss them, Smack them

Penetrate them, Out of love

A be strong love, A hard love to swallow

Young girls sit on stoops and porches, In beauty parlor conversations

Watching their older sisters, With black eyes and bruised self-worth

Learning to be second, And how to hate men and love them.

All in the same sentence…..

Some girls watch their mothers get beat before, Breakfast

And get a ride to school quietly, In their boyfriend’s car

……They carry his drugs, Hold his weapons in their purses

Do time in jail, Fight other girls over our indiscretions

They love hard

Some girls learn to be alone, Some fall in love with crack or wine

And strain their withered brown bodies across the hood, Like a forgotten dream

Some girls met love in the dark while they were still

Vulnerable and small, From a familiar hand in a place they knew

Before they were even virgins, Shaking with terror and confusion

They know love as fear, Something they did to themselves

Love can’t be trusted/it’s ugly and happens to you when

Your back is turned, Love is too hard 

No one remembers that they used to be beautiful, Or smart

Or someone’s daughter, Someone’s sister/friend/a human being

They don’t get to be sweet or gentle, Or cared for

They have to do it alone, No help

……No time for pain or tears……..Black girls learn love hard

They learn sex as dialogue

They reason/their worth/best thing they have to offer

And some start talking at a very young age

They got a “ill na na”

Black girls learn to love hard, A concrete love

An in spite of love, An even though love

An in between crying love

They learn love hard.

Musical Love Match!

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Ahhhhhhh love. It’s a chased after emotion that bring out both the best and the worst in all of us. We fight, cry, scream, but also smile, laugh and take in the essence of someone who causes our hearts to beat ten times faster than normal. At times, it’s difficult to describe the wonders of what love can bring. However, there have been many different musical artists who have been able to do just that. Here on the Heartbeat Life, we have complied a short list of r&b artists who beautifully mesh together and who have made us swoon over their creative gift of capturing love into their sound.

Chris Brown and Tinashe/Sevyn Streeter: Chris Brown has had many different collabs with a variation of artists whether it be David Guetta or Tyga. However, he has also made beautiful sensual music with R&B newbies Tinashe and Sevyn Streeter that take us on a fun ride of love. In “Player,” the chemistry between Tinashe and Brown is so evident, you would fan yourself from the sizzling fire between them. But based on style, innovation and tone, Streeter and Brown also make a dynamic duo in their pop induced, rhythm and blues flavored sound.

Avant and Keke Winans: Don’t even get me started on them. Their voices together is the definition of love. Their earth shattering sound in “First Love” brings back or even creates the insistent stomach activity of butterflies fluttering around at the first signs of the most desired four letter word in the world.

Usher and Alicia Keys: Their song together will always have you thinking about your first. Cherished memories are uncovered when listening to “My Boo.” One can’t help but reach out their hand and have it drenched in the wake of warmth from that person who started it all.

Tamia and Fabulous: Though Fabulous is a rapper, this combo just gives one the feels. Every time it comes on and Tamia starts -“I think you’re truly something special. Just what my dreams are really made of. Let’s stay together you and me boy. There’s no one like you around,” it makes me want to melt into the floor from just how “fabulous” this tune truly is.

Usher and Monica – OMG!!! Do you remember that episode of “https://www.youtube.com/embed/r9WxDQSnAcU“>Sister, Sister”? Yes!!! Let’s take it back. This track “Slow Jam” is a classic which will stay imprinted in the our hearts in how much of  a sweet musical masterpiece it is.

There are many more like R.L. and Deborah Cox or Justin Timberlake and Beyonce that leave an imprint in our brains for how these artists intertwine their incredible voices to make magic. Over the last few years, the art form has made its transitions. However, we will never forget the tunes that reminded us of what love feels like.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!  Hope you are all spending it with those you love or by spending time loving you.

 

 

Wild Dreams

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A princess slowly glides down a spiraling stairway. Her prince awaits her below. Everything around is a heavenly glow of white embracing the two in a majestic moment of warmth. The princess continues to make her way until she reaches a full on gaze of her savior. The man ready to capture her heart is an image of perfection at best. Donned out in an all white uniform, he takes her by the hand and leads her to the dance floor. Her heart is full she moves along gracefully with her prince. A lovely sound of classics delightfully drums out a tune enhancing the purity of the moment. After they dance, the prince guides her to a piano and places the soft sounds pattering out from above. She warms her arms around him and feels the uttermost pang of security.

But then she wakes up and realizes that it was all but a dream. Her heart breaks a little in the overwhelming feeling of truth that her prince charming was just an imagination cooked up from her wild mind.

It’s sometimes hard to come to terms with reality. A sweet pipe dream for romance can be the drive that pushes us to a beautiful happy ending. Being swept away by a prince charming or even an enchanting princess feels like the goal for romance. However, that’s all it is, just romance. We must remember that real love brings the good and the bad, the pain and the passion, the setbacks and the breakthroughs.

Fairy tales paint this vision of perfection that is both breath taking, but also disappointing. Embrace the truth in real love and let it mold you. For we are human beings and we are so beautifully flawed.

 

I Got You by Ciara

If you’re not gushing from the absolute adorableness beaming from Ciara’s “I Got You,” then there is something wrong with you. Seriously, I think you need to get your head examined. My goodness, Ciara literally must have dipped this into her heart because it is oozing with love and compassion. The clips of her and her oh-too-cute son will keep a permanent smile on your face all throughout. You will truly witness the unconditional joy and love this new mother has for her child through the lyrics and visuals. If you never wanted a child, this four minute clip just might change your mind.

 

Next Life Time by Erykah Badu

When we’re lucky enough, love finds us. Once it grabs us for a wild ride, we want to hold on as tight as we can. But the roller coaster of love takes some for a real dip when someone else comes into the picture. Your heart is split when there’s two trying to own it. The lovely Badu takes on this journey in her classic track “Next Lifetime.” She sticks to the first man who has her heart, but offers the other another chance in a different world, a different time. The gentle sway of the light beat plays along with her pleasing rasp of a voice. It tells the story of the chemistry that erupts from her other even though the flames of her current haven’t been put out. Many have claimed to be gripped by this confusing situation. Listening to it in her eloquent form can ease the memories just a bit.