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Do Record Labels Endorse Negative Stereotypes Of Black Men?

Represenation Of Black Men By Record Labels Do Record Labels Endorse Negative Stereotypes Of Black Men?

Black men in the music industry have never been hard to find.

In today’s musical climate, there are very few genres of music that haven’t been touched by the black male, from Jay Z and Lil Wayne in the world of Hip Hop, to British boy band JLS in the realms of Pop.

For years, the issue of how black men are portrayed in the music industry has remained a well discussed one.

With even the likes of Rapper Game airing his thoughts on why many of his own contemporaries are presented in a light  contrary to their  actual realities , this is one hot topic very  few have little to say about.

Now we here at That Grape Juice HQ want you to weigh in…

Do Record Labels Endorse Negative Stereotypes Of Black Men To Help Boost Sales?


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Jazmine Sullivan: Product vs Promotion

jazmine 999 Jazmine Sullivan: Product vs Promotion

The 2008 debut of Missy Elliott’s Pennsylvanian protégé Jazmine Sullivan was indeed an introduction to some. But given her songwriting resume (see: Christina Milian, Monica, Jennifer Hudson) and already established Youtube following long before ‘Fearless’ hit shelves, by the time ‘Need U Bad’ blared from Urban radios, her unmistakable contralto was already a celebrity.

Showcasing a maturity in tone and technique far beyond her years, many would be forgiven for not knowing the ‘Bust Your Windows’ beauty was only 21 the year her debut LP arrived on record shelves. Heralded by many as the second-coming of Lauryn Hill, Sullivan’s soulful servings instantly gained her mainstream notoriety – some even christening her as R&B’s long-awaited messiah. Four hit R&B singles would follow ‘Fearless’ as it made an impressive top 10 debut. And, with Jazmine garnering an impressive 5 Grammy nods for the album, it appeared she was on her way to the same heights once held by Hill. Unfortunately, that trek to compeer Hill quickly turned uphill.

For, while her singles (that never made much noise on Pop charts anyway) were losing ground on home fronts, the singer was unceremoniously snubbed at the 2009 Grammy’s. This, of course, only furthering fears that the ‘Fearless’ follow-up would suffer a sophomore slump.

Enter ‘Love Me Back’ – ‘Fearless’ unsuccessful successor headed by R&B hit ‘Holding You Down (Goin’ In Circles)’. And, though marginally besting the first week sales of her first album, ‘Love Me Back’ wasn’t getting much love from record buyers. Consequently, many believe, leading the soulful songstress to ‘retire’ from the industry indefinitely.

That Grape Juice wants to know – what is the problem? Clearly one of this generation’s leading talents, the promo from her introductory hype alone helped float her first album sales. Albeit very deserved, could the lack of such her second-go-round have played a role in its successor’s sink? Lack of singles? Bad videos? Some may even argue weight gain, but the successes of the Adeles of the world could counter that argument.

Or, regardless of Jazmine’s mega-talent, was the material from ‘Love Me Back’ too dated and unappealing to garner mainstream success?

You tell us. Product vs. Promotion? What’s Jazmine Sullivan’s shortcoming?

Your thoughts?

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Album Wars: Who Will Come Out On Top?

drake rihanna Album Wars: Who Will Come Out On Top?

2011 has certainly been the year of groundbreaking albums.

From Adele‘s ’21’  at the start of the year  to Lady GaGa‘s long awaited ‘Born This Way‘ in May which was then followed by Beyonce‘s ‘4‘ in June, it is fair to say that the earlier quarters of the year proved to be a bountiful one for Pop fans everywhere.

Now it seems the final four months of the year are looking to be just as competitive, with the likes of Drake, Rihanna, Jason Derulo, Leona Lewis ,Nicole Scherzinger and Mary J.Blige all releasing new LP’s before the year ends.

Who do YOU think will come out on top?


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Resurrecting R&B (Part 3)

RB dead e1310585377755 Resurrecting R&B (Part 3)

R&B is on a respirator.  Once a celebrated genre that has given the music industry some of its most praised acts (see Luther, Whitney, Aretha, Marvin), the musical styling has unquestionably lost its identity to hip hop and now Electro-Pop.

The question at hand: is R&B on its last breath or is revival in its future?  In a three part series, That Grape Juice will analyze three sectors of the fallen genre:  ladies (songstresses), males (crooners), and groups (both male and female) to determine if resurrection is in its future or if it will find permanent rest in the history books

Ladies first, gentlemen next.  So, last, but certainly not least, groups.

Recently browsing a Billboard chart, I was tempted to do an R&B roll call. Single ladies? (spare, but here). Fellas? (few but still there). Groups? (*insert cricket sound*). Let’s face it, the R&B group is extinct. Gone are the glory days of Motown where The Temptations and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles dominated airwaves and The Supremes reigned supremely on radio and charts alike. The Motown movement paved a precedent by which the 70s (Isley Brothers, O’Jays, too many to mention) and 80s (Levert, Debarge, Guy, New Edition) eased on down the road to chart success. Assisting R&B’s lead solo acts in solidifying the African American presence on Billboard, they effortlessly constructed the soundtrack to this generation (and its parents’) ‘old school’.

But, while the groups of yesteryear provided launching pads for some of R&B’s brightest stars (The Supremes – Diana Ross, Levert – Gerald Levert, Labelle – Patti Labelle, Jackson 5 – Michael Jackson), the 90s saw a new brand of R&B group. While Boyz II Men and En Vogue led the pack and were arguably the greatest grandchildren of their R&B forefathers (in terms of comparability), many other 90s groups unveiled an unparalleled blend of sass, attitude, and sex appeal. TLC, SWV, and Jodeci, later followed by Dru Hill, 112, and Jagged Edge are just a few of the groups from that era who helped redefine R&B while fusing with other popular genres of the era. And with the late 90s and early 2000s being dominated by Destiny’s Child, R&B groups were still proving that they were truly ‘survivors’.

Oh, how the times change. With Destiny’s Child’s subsequent disbanding, rebanding, then re-disbanding, no other R&B groups have risen to such pop prominence since. The mid-2000s saw B2K and later Danity Kane be sole representatives of the genre on the Pop charts. That, however, was surely short-lived.

Where, oh where, did the groups go?

We’ve seen many-a-90s group reband (SWV, Jodeci, TLC, Dru Hill), while some never left. But even collectively, their presence on Pop charts is nondescript. And with no noteworthy new class in waiting to take the reins:

That Grape Juice wants to know:

Is there room for a new class of R&B groups on the charts?


Will this sector of the genre become permanently absent?

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Jennifer Hudson: Product vs Promotion

jennifer hudson 1234 Jennifer Hudson: Product vs Promotion

Peruse of the Pop charts may give fans a new reason to ask ‘Where You At’ to R&B belter Jennifer Hudson.  The Dreamgirl, who seemingly saw her rise to fame happen overnight, has now found audiences sleeping on her material.  But, to doubt Hudson’s celebrity would be ill as her star in other formats seems to burn as brightly as ever with endorsement deals and silver screen appearances showing without shortage.  However, the platform that originally put the ‘Spotlight’ singer in the spotlight has found itself fading.

Fans first saw Hudson make her way through the ranks of American Idol with fellow belter Fantasia.  The latter walked away with the crown, but Hudson (later) walked away with the gold.  Her 2006 film debut in ‘Dreamgirls’, opposite Pop megastar Beyonce, and 2008 self titled debut album lifted the Idol alum to dizzying heights of decoration (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy).  But, as Hudson’s headlines fluctuated from chart toppers to personal tragedies and triumphs (that later led to an extended break from the public eye), every year of her absence still saw her active on the big screen but not Billboard (‘Sex and the City’, ‘Secret Life of Bees’, and ‘Fragments’).  Of course, only leaving fans that much more anxious (and angry) for new material from the Chicagoan songbird.

3 years after her first tread on charts, the singer returned with ‘I Remember Me’ led by the ballad ‘Where You At’.  With stiff competition from R&B comeback kid Chris Brown, Hudson’s promotional promenade left no stone unturned, hitting (what seemed like) every major hotspot available at the time.  It seemed to pay off.  With no single in sight on Billboard’s Hot 100 upper half, the singer still managed to move 165k her first week.  However, fans quickly forgot ‘I Remember Me’.  And with watch for its follow-up single ‘No One Gonna Love You’ fading due to everlasting press for the singer’s Weight Watching, ‘Remember Me’ was ironically minimized to a distant memory.

So, what is the problem?  As Brandy, Mya, and many other R&B divas can attest, extended breaks in an ever-changing Pop landscape doesn’t lend many favors.  But, many will argue Hudson’s entire package (look and sound) have improved since her debut effort.  On the other hand, with Electro-Pop still being the dominating force in the industry, is there just not a place for R&B acts who curtail choreography and a troop of background dancers bumping to a beat?  Or, though Hudson’s promo schedule saw no shortage of stops (even months after its release), was there just too much promotion of the wrong single? Material not up to scratch?

We want you to weigh in:  Jennifer Hudson – Product or Promotion?  What’s to blame?

Your thoughts?

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Trapped In the Closet: Hiding In Hip-Hop (Part 1)

sagging pants 1 e1315485609822 Trapped In the Closet: Hiding In Hip Hop (Part 1)

‘How We Do’ rapper The Game may not be mostly remembered for insightfulness and thought-provoking statements, but his sentiments on closeted homosexual rappers in the industry did cause a firestorm this week. Blazing the blog-o-sphere, discussions on Game’s ‘insight’ (or maybe just plain sight) had tongues wagging. Agree or disagree, his disposition doesn’t delve into the unknown – just the unspoken.

Traipse the political terrene and anyone not living under a rock has seen the last couple of years spawn unprecedented progress in gay rights period, let alone in the Pop musical landscape. Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Ricky Martin, and Adam Lambert are just a few of the openly bi or gay stars who are pushing an envelope (arguably) signed and sealed by Melissa Etheridge, George Michael, and Boy George before them. But while Pop is busy pushing an envelope, hip hop maybe busy hiding it, sweeping it under the taboo throw rug. For while the male-dominated industry has embraced ‘openly’ bisexual rapstress Nicki Minaj, that embrace may border more on fantasy than respect. This, of course, would open up the argument that women who openly flaunt alternative lifestyles are more easily accepted than men.

Regardless, in a land where hyper-masculinity is often used to denote (and sometimes disguise) one’s ‘true’ hip hop identity, those who do not succumb to the stereotype are often branded ‘gay’. There are few R&B male singers who are relevant that haven’t had the title accompany their name at one period of time. So, we’ve already asked you:

‘Will Hip Hop ever accept an openly gay/bi male rapper or singer”. And we, as ever, appreciated your feedback. But now, let’s twist it. That Grape Juice wants to know:

Why, when other genres are beginning to embrace being ‘out’, does Hip-Hop not?

‘Would you still support your favorite rapper/singer if he or she came out of the closet’?


Click here to WATCH Part 2 of Trapped In the Closet: Hiding In Hip-Hop
on That Grape Juice TV!

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The Results Are In. Rap’s Reigning Emperor Is…

f8abffa09253eaa2fd8854a4c0d3c142 The Results Are In. Raps Reigning Emperor Is...

You voted in your thousands, all in support of who you believed deserved the title of Rap’s Reigning Emperor.

In a list which included the likes of both The Game and Kanye West,  Rappers of both sexes were included to pay homage to the plethora of both male and female Rappers whose artisty has both shaped and influenced the way the world sees Rap/Hip Hop music to day.

Now, find out who YOU decided was most deserving of this title below…


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