Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maxwell UPDATE

I THOUGHT this was included in my original post on Maxwell, but I notice now that it was not...But to all my NYC Maxwell fans--sure you've already heard by now--but Maxwell will be performing at Radio City Music Hall on Oct. 9th. YAYYYY!!! Finally Finally FINALLY...Tickets just went on sale, and start around $50 a pop..Yeah, he's worth it!! By the way--I'm pretty pumped for someone who won't have the cash for tix, HA! Oh well, I'll have my day..until then, maybe it's time for me to step up my dial game, and maybe I'll get thru to Mr. DJ!
For those going, I hate you so much right now! =D
Good day folks, I'm going home to sulk now...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Soapbox Diaries 1st Edition, Volume II..My Beautiful Struggle

Since it'll be a long time before I can afford a therapist, I started a blog. LOL, that's not the only reason...I also love to write and have gotten away from it professionally, only to realize something is missing...Blogging helps. But there are a few issues in my life I rarely share because of the hurt behind it--we all know that feeling. So I've discovered transparency (while keeping a few secrets to myself) is therapeutic as well, so today is my first deep deep down post. I hope you can appreciate my BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE.

I was 15 before I had my first real boyfriend. Nowadays, I’d say 15 is an age most parents will allow their daughters to start dabbling with dating, but at the time I felt I was light-years behind my peers. After all by that time, many of my girlfriends had had at least 2 or 3 steady boyfriends, several guys I knew were sexually active, and there were plenty of foul, but sadly true rumors going around to make up for everyone else in between.

As for me, I was never the “pretty friend”—I was the shy, laid-back, dark-skinned, athletic chic with the tomboy body to match—so even after I grew out of my tomboy phase during my sophomore year of high school, it seemed my ‘role’ had been cast. I just began to accept it. I’m forever grateful that many of my pretty friends are more than just a cute face. Several are still close to me today and are both beautiful inside and out, but unluckily for me, I began to harbor some crazy, silly opinions of myself during my teenage years. What I felt I lacked in physical beauty, I tried to make up for with my talents in sports and music and wearing nice clothes, but the real reason behind my shortcomings is another blog for another day. Needless to say I had a hard time being comfortable in my own skin.

And then there was Dante*. I admit there was never real chemistry between us or even a strong attraction—well actually that’s me speaking for myself in hindsight—but at the time all I knew was there was someone who actually liked me and thought I was the pretty friend. He was cute. Chocolate complexion, about 6”1’, lanky build, three years older than me. One thing that was attractive about Dante* was his eyes—the color of dark brown sugar, so clear and innocent—and the prettiest, long eyelashes I’d ever noticed on a guy.

Dante* and I met one summer during a week-long religious meeting I attended with my grandparents. I honestly don’t remember exactly how we met, but he was the friend of a friend of a friend. He was from Cleveland about an hour from me, which meant long distance calls, but we exchanged numbers anyway to keep in touch. The first night he called, we talked for hours about our likes and dislikes and after we decided we had enough in common to warrant liking one another, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. There were no frills or thrills about this ‘relationship,’ no real drama, miraculously lasted about six months. Long story short, after running up his parents’ phone bill to $200+ a few months in a row with no job to pay them back, after the time he embarrassed me by hitching a ride to da ‘Yo with $20 talkin about dinner and a movie (plus gas $$ to get back!), after pissing me off a few times by pressuring me into a couple cheap feels, after I found out he dropped out of high school and didn’t seem to have plans to go back—we broke up. He realized he really was in no position to be someone’s boyfriend, and I realized I wasn’t that desperate for a boyfriend. I’m a crybaby, so I cried a lil bit the day after we broke it off, and I was cool. More importantly I learned a lesson about how wanting a guy to find me attractive and like me for who I was, put me in a position to date a guy I felt no sparks for whatsoever.

Looking back, I can finally realize that I was never as bad looking as I thought. It was how I felt and perceived myself. For a very long time my self-esteem and level of self-confidence was only as high as how I saw myself through others’ eyes.
Cockiness is never a good look in my book (unintentional rhyme), but being confident in what you bring to the table is always attractive and sexy. It’s taken 23 years of living for me to realize this, now I’m working to implement it into my life.

I spent a lot of time hurting inside, because I lacked confidence and didn’t know how to get it. I refuse to pass this type of hurt on to my children, especially if I give birth to a daughter. It will be my most important mission to make sure she never experiences the disappointments I faced in robbing myself of personal joy. The joy that comes in embracing who you are and yes, what you look like. Ladies, I don’t care where you are in the dating game; please don’t ever settle for less.


HARD WORK, SECOND EFFORT, DEDICATION, LOYALTY & LOVE...I am the epitome of them all.

Just Let Ya Souuulll Glowww...1st Edition Vol. II

Today's 90's throwback artist is CeCe Peniston. Gosh, whatever happened to CeCe Peniston! You remember her singing, 'Finally, it has happened to me, right in front of my face'...Homegirl could blow!
Both of her CD's that I remember Finally & I Thought Ya Knew contained both love ballads as well as a fusion of New Jack Swing/Dance music, which in videos the girls had real choreographed dance routines and danced so hard they had to wear knee pads. Oh boy I had fun trying to keep up with those videos...Since several of her singles were dance hits, there are probably hundreds of mixes of her songs out there, so I'm liable to relive my enjoyment for her music whenever I'm shopping in Express or NY & Co. When I was younger my mom subscribed to that Columbia House club that had the 'Buy 12 CD's for a Penny' gimmick, so you know we had alllll the latest R&B jams. To this day my mother still owns all of those CD's, and when I'm at home and in a nostalgic mood, I go down into the basement and play all the music I used to dance myself into a frenzy as a kid. CeCe Peniston's albums are at the top of that list.
Peniston's career was kind of up and down after her second album, I Thought Ya Knew, released in '94 failed to be properly marketed by her record label (a la Wikipedia), but her talent is undeniable to this day. Why do the good folks I want to hear always get screwed!!
The last I remember of CeCe Peniston was around 1997, when I got to see the stage version of "The Wiz," with Peniston as Glinda The Good Witch. The movie version gives me the CREEPS, and I've also seen the stage version of "The Wiz" when Stephanie Mills played Dorothy, but the version and cast which included CeCe Peniston is by far a great and the only good memory of "The Wiz" for me. She looked beautiful!
So, on to the music. The first video, "Keep On Walkin'" is my favorite of hers from her debut album, Finally, and the second, "I've Been Hit by Love," is from I Thought Ya Knew.

And I'm out this mutha!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maxwell, Where Art Thou?

This past Christmas '07, Spanish Harlem and I were walking through the Queens Mall one night on our way to Macy's, (which is open for 24 hrs. right before Christmas..geez that would never go down where I'm from!) when I noticed a face that looked wildly familiar on a Gap ad. Double take, stop dead in my tracks and all---wait..Is that Maxwell?? Sure enough, it was in all of his suave, sexy glory rockin a fly pair of retro shades and even flier haircut--And I must say, I LOVE his new look. Preppy yet rugged, masculine--mos def a good look for Maxwell. I've never been a fan of men with big hair or braids as it is, but that's JUST ME.
So with the ad, I asked the question I know many of us want the answer to--Where the hell is the music Maxwell??!! We need you!!
Fast forward to Summer '08 and I get my answer: Just when I thought the Al Green tribute during the BET Awards couldn't get any better (Anthony Hamilton & Jill Scott Hel-looo), this man walks out on stage..I bout passed out..he sounded great and looked delicious.
And now, e'rybody and they momma are swooning over his latest performance during an event for the HollyRod Foundation out in Cali, that went down a couple of weeks ago. He performed "This Woman's Work" (of course), and lil miss hostess Holly Robinson-Peete was mos def feelin' herself, but I would've been too! Still no new music, but once again, he sounded great and looked delicious. Check the flick out below.
And Maxwell, if you're reading: please, please PUH-LEAZE tell me you're working on a new album! Because as much as I 'heart' "This Woman's Work," I need more! I welcome you with open arms!!!
Also check out my personal favorite Maxwell song from the Love Jones Soundtrack (oh yes!), 'Sumthin Sumthin Mellosmoothe Mix'...gosh even after a decade I could listen to it on repeat for a good two hours and not complain.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Like I said in my previous post, I had some free time on my hands this weekend and welllll...I got a lil blog happy...can you tell? hehehe..I'm just excited to be writing again quite honestly, so I hope you all enjoy..I've already gotten some positive feedback from fellow writers/homies, so I feel real good about that. Just be sure to spread the word ya hear?! Cuz when I start gettin personal, I'd rather have some folks reading who don't already know my biz, or know me well enough to put the pieces of my biz together....Ha!

ANYWAYZ--earlier this evening I was talkin to my Southern Homieskillet, PictureMane, who is doin his thing with his photography hustle. This weekend he shot his first wedding (that means he officially OFFICIAL!), big ups to ya homie! I was all excited to hear about how the weekend went, but one particular event of the weekend really struck me as er--interesting.

So we all know that when a man (and a lot of women too) is celebrating his last night of Single-dom with his boys, strippers are almost always apart of the action. But what I hadn't anticipated was the fellas bringing their girls..ladies..girlfriends..along for the ride at the female's request! Apparently the bachelor party didn't discriminate on the bachelorette's, which is cool, but I'm sorry--you will not find me kickin it with Spanish Harlem at the strip club. period. And apparently when they all arrived, PictureMane said there were quite a few male/female couples already up in there like they were ready to catch a live jazz set or somethin, chillin all comfortable-like.

I haven't been under a rock, I've heard about females going to the strip club with their boos before, but I guess this is just a lil too freaky for my liking, especially kickin it with my man the night before his boy's wedding. I'm sure some guys get their rocks off on this kinda thing, but I want to hear from from the females--has going to the strip club with ya man become an acceptable date-night activity???

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let My Hop On My Soapbox Right Quik (My Weekend)...

I might have to either start a personal music blog or dedicate the weekends of Miss Concrete Jungle to music, because all weekend I've been sitting on my computer reading music blogs and reliving my love for 80's/90's R&B (and some Hip-Hop)--and just music I love in general. For the first time in awhile I haven't had any major plans for the weekend and spent a lot of time at home alone while Spanish Harlem (my bf) was at work, so I took full advantage. I found two great music blogs: soulbounce.com & 90's R&B Junkie, which I've added under 'MESSAGE!', and between those blogs, YouTube and Pandora.com, I rocked the weekend away in pure content mode.

Music has always been a huge part of my life, mostly manifested through growing up in the church. Singing, playing the piano, being in a youth choir, choir directing, writing poetry/lyrics has always made me a happy camper, so much so, that people who've known me for a long time wonder why I never pursued music professionally. I guess for me, musical talent just came naturally to me and was something I could always call my own, so I never felt the need to become a 'professional'.

My lazy weekend activity reminded me of how I used to spend HOURS alone in my room listening to CD's, learning to play Gospel and R&B joints by ear, singing in the mirror, pretending I was directing a choir..I miss that..Now that I'm out in the real world, I've become too 'busy' to do what used to make me happy or calm me down when I was upset.

Music has such power, and I've become so disheartened by the industry which no longer seems to cultivate or even encourage true artistry--it's pathetic. So many musical acts (they don't even deserve the title artist) are out here selling their souls just to get on the radio, oversexualizing and blatantly disrespecting a craft that has the power to truly touch people's lives. There are alot of great artists out there truly doing their thing, but too often you have dig and search just to hear them. School districts are taking away music programs as if they're really spending our tax dollars on something more beneficial, I'm just through. I fear that our lil brothers, sisters and cousins will not have a real appreciation for what music is all about at the rate things are going.

Maybe subconsciously this is part of the reason why I never pursued music professionally; because I much as I love it, I didn't have the patience for people who would only try and tell me what to sing, how to sing it, what to wear, what to do, etc. etc. OR try and tell me to pick another career becuz making it big in music is like making it to the NBA or hitting the lottery.

But sadly instead of dealing with it in the music industry, I chose to chase after Corporate America, which is a whole 'nother beast, only to discover--not for me. So now I'm on a journey that I'm sure will include music one day, I'm just not sure in what capacity. I just hope I figure it out soon, because NYC is not a place for folks in limbo. So, We'll see what happens.

For now check out this joint from Monie Love (I forgot about this one!) that I found on 90's R&B junkie..Remember when this was the female hip-hop game??


'Belly 2'...Get Outta Here!!

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the TV trailer for this earlier this week..Whose idea was this?? Did they think putting the 'Belly' stamp on it would make people want to see this straight-to-DVD crap?? Since when was 'Belly' a Cali movie about the Bloods and Crips?? I'm from the Midwest and even I'm offended by this, so I know East Coast lovers of the original 'Belly' are beside themselves..Any fan of the movie for that matter..It doesn't even make sense..I was watching a couple of the trailers on YouTube, and it's always referred to as a film entitled "Millionaire Boyz Club," not 'Belly 2' so once again I beg the question, WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?? It's almost like right before it was advertised, somebody was like 'Oooh let's name it Belly 2!' as an afterthought. There was no need for a sequel, especially for this nonsense. Maybe, MAYBE I could see if the original characters were killed off in the movie--or even better yet, real life, but the ones who make the film what it is are all still living!! Maybe if it was Boyz In Da Hood 2 maybe just because it's a gang film based on the west coast---no wait, I even take that back, please forgive me---this just should've never happened! I mean for real, am I the only person upset about this?? In case you forgot here's the opening scene (U know u love it) from the ORIGINAL, one and ONLY 'Belly.'

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Just Let Ya Souuulll Glowww...

I am SO glad I'm an '80's baby and grew up in the '90's, because luckily I benefitted from the tail end of when R&B was poppin'--consistently. Growing up in church singing gospel solos and whatnot, I never paid much attention to Hip-Hop unless I liked the beat (sad, I know), so naturally I gravitated more toward R&B where I could relate better to vocal ability than I could lyrical flow. And before industry execs and VIACOM made the image more lucrative than talent and art, R&B and I had a real love affair goin on..I don't think R&B really exists anymore, but boy do I miss it..To me the true test of how music can move you is how acurately a particular song can take you right back to a certain point in your life, and the last time music did that for me was during the 90's. Play me any 90's R&B hit and I can tell you what grade I was in, who I was crushin on, what the styles and trends were, you name it! But now, music just isn't as powerful or memorable as it once was, and I hate it! So I digress, lest I get all pissy..Let me start this series off with the two songs from the 90's, which are tied for my favorite songs of all time. #1 is 'Lady' by D'Angelo, and #2 is 'Diamonds & Pearls' by Prince...

HARD WORK, SECOND EFFORT, DEDICATION, LOYALTY & LOVE (of the late 80's & early 90's!)

'Da Truth!

Early this week (when I still had cable..long story..Bronx residents beware: the folks at Cablevision are some perps..) I caught Eric Benet's new single, "You're The Only One" on my FAV music channel VH1 Soul and liked it instantly. The single has a real ol' school, 'they don't make music like this anymore,' 'make u wanna be in luv' feel to it, so I hope folks will take notice when his new album drops this fall. But the joint also got me to reminiscing about how much I've always loved his voice and enjoyed his music from day 1. Like any true music aficionado, I can't stand it when artists with bonafide talent spend the better part of their careers on the underrated radar, and Eric Benet is unfortunately one of those artists in my book. Let's forget for a moment the whole tragic end to his relationship with Halle Berry, and remember that before his 'he's gotta have it' days, Benet was and still is 'da Truth!! Luckily enough, in my opinion I will say some of his early limelight was squashed by the likes of D'Angelo, Maxwell, etc., so at least he wasn't overshadowed by some wack wannabes (which happens WAYYY to often nowadays). So 'Da Truth is my tribute to the true artists out there..Below check out "You're The Only One" & "Femininity" which I'm sure you remember from his debut album...

HARD WORK, SECOND EFFORT (always worth it), DEDICATION (never give up on your craft), LOYALTY & LOVE...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Minority Report

I'm not referring to the blog, though you should check it out ----->

But I've come up with a title for my posts that will highlight news the masses should know, yet it's only reported to the minority--the minority unfortunately being folks who actually pick up a newspaper (or read it online) and read past the front page every now and then..Don't get me wrong, it's not all your fault if you're in the majority, because mainstream media only shows us what they want us to see or read. But just remember the rest is up to you and I...So check out this story I found on a blog a few weeks back, which was reported by the New York Times about a rising tragic crime being committed against Albinos in Tanzania. Deep stuff....

HARD WORK, SECOND EFFORT, DEDICATION, LOYALTY & LOVE (for your people)...We gotta speak for those who can't speak for themselves!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"I'm an Artist...So I'm Sensitive About My Sh&t..."

I got the title of this post from Erykah Badu when I had the pleasure of seeing her in concert at Wingate Park in Brooklyn a few weeks back..a BOMB free show if there ever was one..but as she was preluding the next single off of her latest album 'New Amerykah Pt. 1 4th World War,' she showed a bit of vulnerability about the crowd feelin the new joint (as if she really has a reason). There was no need to worry tho, becuz it was hot!! I'm so glad there are three more parts, becuz Part 1 is a well-planned tease..ANYWAYZ So now as I decide to share my own work, I'm borrowing Erykah's quote and this will be the title of each such post. Check out a piece I just wrote called WANNABE vs. JIGGABOO...Peace and a Bottle 'a Hair Grease!


OK, so after a few years of contemplating going natural with my hairstyle, I have finally done the do! I think after I got tired of my comb getting stuck in my hair as I grew it out, I said to hell with it, cut it to the roots!! And now, I love it on so many levels, and wonder why it took me so long to finally whack it all off. Initially my fear was how I would look, or rather would I have the confidence to pull the look off, and I must say having my perm chopped off to a length comparable to my man’s when he hasn’t had a fresh cut in a couple weeks, has added a swag to my step…As cliché as it may sound, I feel free…I feel bold…I feel kinda hot…

I feel like I’ve taken a huge step in the direction of living my life by my own terms, irregardless of what others have to say about the life I choose—and for me—that is a certified victory. I know there are many theories in existence surrounding black women and their hair, it’s our crowning glory, there’s a deep-rooted history. All that kept running through my mind was the scene from School Daze between the Jiggaboos and Wannabes.

Would Curtis still find me attractive with short hair? Will my family and friends look at me sideways, I was hoping my mother wouldn’t say Tara don’t you dare… Am I now out of the running for a whole slew of careers? Does natural hair make me more ‘black’, or more pretty, or less pretty, or more socially aware? Is it really just hair? It’s funny how such a simple change can affect personalities and attitudes and opinions and career opportunities…All I know is I’m still me. I will always be Tara Charisse.
No more $$ on a wash and set, just wash it myself and I’m out the door, I’d rather put that $30 toward my student debt…I don’t have to fold my pillow to keep from smashing my curls, only to wake up with a crick in my neck…No more spritz, or black gel, or the sound of my hair sizzling like some bacon, or running when it rains so my hair won’t get wet…Once had bangs and my face broke out—tryin to look cute, and this is the thanks I get?

I didn’t cut my hair because I moved to New York and became a different person, or because I have some big point to prove to the world. If anything I cut my hair because deep inside I was always scared to go against the grain of everything everyone else said I should be or look, and I can’t be that girl. This is about building self-assurance and esteem. So if going back to nappy roots isn’t it…if being naturally me isn’t it, I guess I don’t know what it means. It’s time to start from scratch and begin letting the complete me come out, so I’ll start by pulling my self-esteem off the shelf…Now I just gotta hold my head higher and look folks dead in the eye…Wow maybe I am changing a little…so allow me to reintroduce myself…


Hi! My Name Is...

I feel like I'm introducing myself at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the 1st time...I'm nervous as hell about this! Hi, My Name Is Miss Concrete Jungle, and as I usher myself into the world of blogging, I'm kinda bugged out--but ready nonetheless--the time is now!

So welcome to the Concrete Jungle, I'll be your tour guide..Allow me explain what you're getting into, because this is the Concrete Jungle for two reasons...
#1: I hail from the Midwest by way of Ohio and attended college in Louisville, Kentucky, so when I moved to NYC in summer '07, I'd never seen so much concrete and so little grass in my life! I kinda wish concrete was a natural resource on it way to depletion so that the city could truly be organic rather than some man-created look-alike, but OH WELL.

#2: With probably the most diverse melting pot culture on earth, NYC is a jungle (in a good way) compared to the landscapes I'm used to where everyone looks the same and real individuality is taken for a joke.

The blog is my take on the city and the world around me, as I journey through putting my stamp on American history (hehe, hey I gotta dream big) and epitomize my favorite quote: Hard Work, Second Effort, Dedication, Loyalty & Love (a quote I got from my older cousin/big brother when I was young and I never forgot it). The quote says a lot about me as a person and ALOT about what I've found it takes to make it in the Concrete Jungle, so it will apply to all my posts. This is a huge step and personal journey for me, so as I grow and develop, the direction of the blog may change. Until the growth process is complete, just bear with me, because at times the subject matter will be random and all over the place. Just always keep in mind Hard Work, Second Effort, Dedication, Loyalty & Love. That's enough for now, or else I won't have anything to write about!

Welcome to the Concrete Jungle...I hope you enjoy your stay!