“Watch what you say, baby girl. Watch what the fuck you say.” — Whitney Houston
I’m not entirely sure why Jhené Aiko blocked me on Twitter. I have a working theory, though.
A few years ago, I participated in a panel at Genius’ Brooklyn headquarters. The topic was the state of R&B — but notably, we would be talking about R&B while consuming copious amounts of wine. Yes, me, a highly opinionated person, being offered an opportunity to drink free wine and talk shit at 5 p.m. If my memory is right, this was around the same time I was chasing a certain legendary Black media company for thousands of dollars in money owed, so I was already in the mood for a drink or two.
I wish my goofy ass had embraced sobriety or sativa that day instead.
I’m a social drinker, but this time I was being very social. Before we went on stage to drink wine, we drank wine backstage. I made sure to drink enough water to not sound like a complete country-fried idiot — but I continued to drink on stage. Which is all to say that while I might not have been drunk-drunk, I was perhaps not in the best position to make what I thought at the time was a nuanced point.
That point was something to the effect of: I thought Jhené Aiko didn’t have the biggest voice, but I thought she uses the voice she has well. I was saying that I was a fan, but she wasn’t a Sade, who had a fuller voice than folks gave her credit for. Something like that. (I swear that I’m not one of those gay boys that will stab you to death or say ridiculous things such as “vocal bible,” but I also have my stannish moments, and they’re not all related to my Lord and Gyrator Beyoncé.)
I have no clue what really fell out of my mouth. I just recall gasps and laughs in the seconds after and, later, tweets talking about how I was “shading” Aiko. I honestly didn’t think about any of this in the days or weeks after. There was no reason to.
It wasn’t until I randomly wanted to reference some new single she released that I realized she had blocked me for allegedly talking shit.
Unfortunately, I’ve been here before.
A while back, I wrote about being disappointed to find out that the legendary Toni Braxton had also blocked me on Twitter. As much as I revere one of Murrlyn’s finest, I took the L on that. I mean, I have long described her as “The Shug Avery of R&B,” which I intended to be a compliment, but strike one? Strikes two through 12 for sure included calling her various sisters’ names — like “Mountie Braxton” (Trina) because she spoke like she used to sneak out of her parents’ house to hang out in Quebec or “Left Behind Braxton” (Traci) or even “Yolanda Adams Face Braxton” (Towanda), which admittedly sounds rude even though Yolanda Adams is a baddie for God.
I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that my past words and actions as a writer might have consequences.… But as I get older, I’ve started reflecting on the way cruelty can creep into the delivery of opinions — intentionally or not.
I tell people I look like Dale from Rescue Rangers — or really any cartoon rabbit, because of my buck teeth — but not everyone shares my affinity for comparing oneself to animated characters or misfit toys, so I accept the block. That’s blood. I still went to Toni Braxton’s most recent concert. So long as she doesn’t read this and block me on Instagram, too, I’m cool with it. (The only other celebrity I can think of that has blocked me is Kenya Moore, but considering I find her Real Housewives of Atlanta character to be more or less an evil version of Valerie Cherish, I’m straight.)
I can make peace with those. Generally speaking, I don’t especially care one way or the other if celebrities don’t fuck with me. I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that my past words and actions as a writer might have consequences, and that’s before you take into account that a lot of celebrities on social media seem to think they’re there only to be worshipped.
I try to be respectful of public figures and not “@” them on social in consideration of their feelings, but I can’t control narcissists who search for their own names. Like, I am deeply apologetic for being slick, but I also don’t understand public figures who go out of their way to actively search for (unfiltered) commentary only to go on a blocking spree.
But like I said, I apologize. Oh, believe me, I do. I apologize, oh honest and true. (Anita Baker: one celebrity you’ll never hear me disparage no matter how much wine is involved.)
I don’t say this like I deserve a vegan chocolate chip cookie, but I’ve already been in the position where I’ve had to interrupt people who had the power to change my life to tell them that I wrote critically about them. That’s fine; I’d rather be honest than a fake-ass bitch. But as I get older, I’ve started reflecting on the way cruelty can creep into the delivery of opinions — intentionally or not.
Some months ago, I deleted my old blog, The Cynical Ones, not because I didn’t think it was still funny but because it’s no longer the best representation of me and where I want to go. Of course, I can’t take away the hundreds (if not potentially thousands) of articles floating across the internet with my byline on them. Or, apparently, the words people have attributed to me on Twitter.
I don’t kid myself into thinking Jhené Aiko cares about me one way or another. I assumed she searched her name that day, saw something she didn’t like, blocked me, and went about her day. My life will be perfectly fine if she never acknowledges.
But there’s more to it than that.
As I’ve tried to share publicly and privately, I struggled last year more than I care to admit. In some ways, I’m fortunate to still be here. I could go on forever about all that I did to feel better and keep moving forward, but one very important part of that — as it has been throughout my difficult life — was music. Specifically, Jhené Aiko’s music.
I’m much happier now, yet I continue to listen to her new music. Her blocking me doesn’t negate the benefits her music has had on me, but I do hate the idea that someone who positively impacted my life with her art thinks I’m a dick. So even if the apology never reaches her, I would like to say I’m sorry to Jhené Aiko for anything I released into the world that suggested I am nothing short of a fan. (And, really, thank you for music. It helped me out in ways I may never be able to explain.)
And if my apology isn’t accepted, here’s hoping her team won’t ban me from her upcoming tour. I already bought tickets.