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Rihanna, The Super Bowl, and Celebrating Black History Month All Year Long

Rihanna performing at the Super Bowl halftime show (photo via Instagram)

It’s often, and correctly, noted that Black History Month in February means that Black History Month is the shortest month of the year. February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincolm and Frederick Douglass — reasonable reasons to be sure. But still, it feels unjust that Black History Month is just 28 days (or 29 on a leap year).

But that’s the way it is and we have to make the most of those days. Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl — nothing is as important. That said, it’s fitting when Black musicians perform at the halftime show at the Super Bowl, and this year Rihanna put on a performance that seems to have split the country in two.

Either it was “soulless, boring and overpolished pap,” or it was a “brave, demonstrably unflinching show that only trolls could hate.” This is music, which is utterly subjective, so of course the truth is somewhere in the middle. Or either. Or both.

Rihanna performed a medley of some of her most popular songs, so if you’re a Rihanna fan you’ll likely have enjoyed it. If not, then you probably didn’t. The fact that a strong Black woman, a survivor of domestic abuse in the past, was dancing on platforms above the Super Bowl crowd, pregnant, was frankly a fucking victory.

Former president Donald Trump didn’t see it that way, but then he’s rarely right about anything so why would he start now? 

“EPIC FAIL: Rihanna gave, without question, the single worst Halftime Show in Super Bowl history — This after insulting far more than half of our Nation, which is already in serious DECLINE, with her foul and insulting language,” Trump posted to fascist bounce-box Truth Social. “Also, so much for her ‘Stylist!”

Wait – did Trump just go after Rihanna for her sense of style? Because that’s fucking rich (unlike, according to his tax returns, Trump). The man looks like the living embodiment of a Las Vegas hotel bathroom and he’s going after RIHANNA? He might want to check his ill-fitting suits before going down that particular alley.

Clearly, if the shots are coming from Trump’s direction, then Rihanna is doing everything right. That’s just how it is. If you’re on the fence about it, just know Trump hated it (probably because she’s long been vocally anti-Trump and he’s a giant man-child), so you should love it.

Rihanna won’t care. Hordes of adoring fans, at the game and at home, have been showing her support since her performance and they’ll continue to do so. That would be the case regardless of the month. Every month is Black History Month in reality. But it is important to have that annual alarm. Even if it does inevitably lead to incels and racists on social media asking, “But what about white history month? Don’t we matter?” Completely missing the point in the process. They’re usually the same idiots asking, “What about straight pride?” or “What about men’s rights?”

So beyond the obvious but vital “don’t be a racist asshole,” and “do what you can do expose and dismantle institutional racism,” there are plenty of ways white people can show support during Black History Month and every month that follows.

One of those ways is to support Black artists, filmmakers, and musicians. It’s impossible to celebrate them all individually, so deep is the well of incredible Black talent in this country (and beyond), but we can try.

Over at the LA Weekly, in the music section helmed by this writer, we’ve been doing exactly that and putting those musicians on the cover. Again, these efforts don’t begin and end with Black History Month. 

Maesu (pronounced May-Soo) is an Atlanta-bred, L.A.-based singer, songwriter, and producer, related to Temptations legend David Ruffin, and he’s just released the “Sex on GPS” single. We can’t recommend it enough. Maesu refers to his sound as world pop, which hits the nail on the head.

“It was predicted that I was going to be into music for real,” Maesu said. “My mom used to encourage me to take piano and trombone lessons at the Birmingham (Georgia) Jazz Hall of Fame. Every weekend, I used to walk a literal mile to the Jazz Hall of Fame to take piano and trombone lessons. It’s funny because it seems like a lot of my musical startings were from me being just like, ‘that’s cool.’ I wanted to mimic what I just saw. I wanted to learn certain songs. Like, my favorite songs. I wanted to learn to play just them, and it progressed from there.”

The new single works on a variety of levels, which is how Maesu works.

“What I like to do, at least my formula with pop music, is write the song in layers,” he said. “So if someone wanted to enjoy the song on that first layer of the cake, they can. It’s about sex with me on location please. It’s just a nice, sexy record. If you wanted to take it one more layer, the song is about me beckoning for sensual validation in a strained relationship. That was a real life thing – I was in a long distance relationship and it was quite strained. And to add a third layer to it, if you look at the lyrics, I’m speaking Spanish at certain times, sometimes a little French in there and also a lot of black American culture – when I say world pop, that’s what I mean. I think the point of pop music is to identify with as many people as possible.”

The following week we spoke to Nigerian L.A.-based R&B-ish artist Yinka. She has just released the Let’s Get Romantic EP.

“It started as an internal movement,” Yinka said. “Dating has been a bit crazy, everyone is saying ‘fuck love.’ You know what? I don’t think we hate love, I just think we’ve had bad experiences. Instead of seeing it as ‘fuck everyone,’ there’s more ways to express love. I started talking about what I wanted in a partner, what I wanted my romantic journey to be, and I think it just blew up into the whole EP where I tell different stories about love and real experiences, how it can be a short amount of time, but feel like forever and be a great experience. That’s what inspired the EP. Let’s get romantic again, let’s love love again. Even though we’ve had some challenges, let’s do it as a movement and do it together. Build from there.”

That’s just two awesome new Black artists you can support — and there are many more. And don’t let it end when February ends.

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