I am a genuine lover of food and I am not one to ever turn down a plate. Here is a running list of the best food I have eaten around the world.
This summer I travelled to Europe and was opened to a wealth of culture and delicious food. My first stop was London, England.
One of the things I had to try was the traditional English breakfast. When I first got off the plane, I dropped my bags off at my hotel and walked around the city for a bit. My first stop was at a cute restaurant about a block away from the British Museum. I was starving, and it was about 9 in the morning so I decided to get the day started right with the most important meal of the day. Now I know beans on toast is a weird concept in America, but it didn't taste that bad. Also, the flavors of the sausage, tomatoes, runny eggs and beans just all work together. I was in London for about a week and had an "English Breakfast" 3 times. When I go back to London, I wouldn't be surprised if I had it a few more times.
Another place I went to was Al Alrez, a Lebanese hookah bar and restaurant. Located in a very diverse section of the city, it had delicious food and great hookah. The service was okay...we arrived a little after 11pm after Wireless Festival had finished and it took a while to get seated and to place our order. Aside from that, the food was absolutely amazing. I had Sawda Dajaj, a sandwich with liver, pickles, tomatoes and garlic sauce, and we ordered tons of appetizers: french fries, stuffed grape leaves, fried vegetables and hummus. The food was absolutely amazing. Everything was delicious and the grape leaves and hummus were probably some of the best I had in my life. The atmosphere was great too. There were people of all different backgrounds hanging out in front smoking hookah and hanging out. We went there twice in a row and left both times around 2 or 3 am, I'm not sure what time they closed but we were definitely there for a while each night. When I come back to London, I'm positive this will be one of the first spots I visit.
Oh my god, this plate right here was one of the most amazing dinners I ever had in my entire fucking life. I still dream about that massive portion of macaroni and cheese and the giant fried pork knuckle, Schweinshaxe. I will admit, I was being greedy in the English Gardens. I had 4 plates and a liter of beer on my tray for no reason. But you know what, I didn't care, I had to try everything. How can I eat pork knuckle and not add German potato salad and skip out on sauerkraut? SAUERKRAUT FOR GOD'S SAKE. And Bavarian pretzels? Yup, add that onto the plate too. I paid for it later by throwing up half of my meal because for some reason I chugged my beer in front of a crowd of cheering onlookers from other tour groups, but I'll never forget that delicious food. Oktoberfest 2017, I'm coming for you, and you better load my plate up exactly like this picture.
Of course Italy has delicious food, how could it not? I made sure to say fuck carbs and indulge in pizza, pasta and tons and tons of gelato. Some of the best pizza I had in the world came from a rest stop in Italy, where I experienced major culture shock because I had just woke up from a 3 hour bus ride, and I was high off an Amsterdam space cake I had eaten at 6 in the morning, Aside from that, the pizza I ate was doughy, cheesy, meaty, salty and greasy all at the same time. The best pasta I had was the most basic recipe, spaghetti noodles and tomato sauce, but it was still way better than anything I had in the states. On top of that, gelato is not only great to eat to cool off in the 33 degree Celsius weather, they also come in so many flavors that it makes your head spin. I had at least 5 cones in 3 days, and it was totally worth it. My favorite flavors are the fruity ones, such as lime, peach and raspberry.
OBVIOUSLY I had to try escargot. It was good! I know a lot of people sniff their nose to it because it's snails, but who cares? Also, like I said, I'll literally try anything once. I should really be the host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. On a side note, why are a lot of shows about food and traveling around the world hosted by white guys? Anyway, one of my favorite nights in Paris was spending it with a new friend I had made on the trip and her mother. We went to Camille for dinner, where I had steak and fries and escargot. The steak was definitely one of the best steaks I've had in my entire life. Cooked medium well and perfectly seasoned, I ate as much as I could but I was too full to finish it. Mainly because I had a small snack of stuffed grape leaves and hummus at a Lebanese restaurant around the corner from my hotel. Either way, that steak is definitely worth writing about. The area where the restaurant was super cute too. Paris is so dreamy and I can't wait to go back. Also worth noting is the abundance of diverse food the city has to offer. My hotel was near the Moulin Rouge and offered everything from a two floor KFC to Turkish Kebobs. I loved the diversity that was offered in terms of food, markets and people and it opened my eyes to what the real Paris looks like. For dessert, we went to Armorino, famous for making their gelato in the shape of a rose. Here's a picture of me with my raspberry gelato rose.
While traveling in Europe opened my eyes to different cuisines from a variety of cultures, there's no place like home for food.
The United States
I'm okay with admitting that I did not realize the heavy Spanish influence in Colorado. I didn't realize how big Mexico was before the gringos came over and fucked things up. With that being said, Colorado has amazing Mexican food. Two of my favorite places include Sancho's (top picture) and Amanda's Fonda (not pictured). Sancho's was AMAZING. I had a sopapilla which is a fried tortilla and it was smothered with cheese, chicken, lettuce and tomatoes and a tamale on the side. They're known for their tamales in Colorado Springs and they didn't disappoint. Also the sapapilla was crunchy and super fluffy. Amanda's Fonda had great queso for FREE so I jumped at that opportunity. Also, Amanda's Fonda was the first food my friends and I had after a hellish 3 days stuck in Tennessee with a broken down car and after driving 10 hours straight to Colorado. I would've eaten dirt and enjoyed it to be honest. Shoutout to the bartender we talked to who I flirted with. I'll see you soon Alexis, and I hope to cash in that free margarita coupon you gave me.
Aside from Mexican food, in Manitou Springs my friends and I ate at a cute Turkish cafe and indulged in amazing hummus (if you're just now realizing my obsession with hummus, you're not the only one, I didn't even realize I talked about eating hummus in 3 different countries until now.), falafels, warm and fluffy pita bread and I ordered some delicious iced chai. The place was called Sahara and it was cozy and comfortable to spend an afternoon after some great shopping in the Springs. If you ever get the chance, go to Manitou Springs in Colorado, I highly recommend it.
Our final destination in the Springs was a brunch spot called Over Easy. The honey lemonade was really the key element that made the meal for me. I had avocado toast with biscuits and gravy on the side which was delicious, but the lemonade was amazing. The honey flavor was strong but complimented the lemonade very well. I would try to make it at home but we all know it's going to be a disaster. Guess I'll just have to make another trip to Colorado...
In LA, I met the love of my life, Japanese Ramen. My friend took me to Tatsu the night we came in and after taking my first bite Soul Ramen of I was immediately hooked. I also had to go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles because
A) I remember watching an episode of Snoop Dogg's show Father Hood in high school and he was obsessed with chicken and waffles and anything Snoop Dogg likes I like too. He seems like a good guy whose opinions I can trust.
B) My friend lives right up the street from it. Like a literal 3 minute drive. How could I not go to one of the most iconic hood spots in LA?
Although I stayed in LA for a total of about 18 hours, I know it's really big for a variety of food so I look forward to going back and seeing what other types of food I can sink my teeth into.
Having friends in San Francisco has its benefits, including getting the chance to eat at Apple Headquarters in their cafe. The Mac Cafe is the best because they offer upscale cuisine at an affordable price. I got seafood risotto that was black because it has squid ink in it and a side of Thai coconut seafood soup. (Hint, I love seafood) Risotto is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods, combining rice and creaminess all in one. It was delicious, but low key the mushroom risotto I had on my flight back to Washington DC on Air France was a little bit better, no shade to Apple though cause I damn sure ate that squid ink risotto. Other dining experiences in the city include the best panko fried salmon and white rice I had in Japan Town, which I ate entirely with chopsticks. I love salmon, but that salmon on my plate was other worldly. It made me realize that Japanese food is the shit and I plan on going to Japan soon to see what other foods I can try. Including ramen. A great brunch spot is Nopa, right up the street from the Painted Ladies from the opening credits of Full House. Nopa is a quaint modern restaurant that is highly popular in the area with an ever-changing menu. My brunch that day included sausage with hummus (there's that hummus obsession again) and poached eggs. I never thought about sausage and hummus together, but Nopa made me a true believer. On top of that, they have an absolutely divine custard french toast. I could totally go for some right now.
One of the main reasons why I love traveling, no matter where I go, is because of the food. I am curious about what foods are comfort foods in any culture, what food is the food you eat when you have no money, and what is the food you eat when you have some extra cash on your hands to spend. I look forward to more opportunities to travel around the world and try the delicious food, no matter how weird it looks, smells, sounds or tastes. Next time you travel, please do me a huge favor and say fuck it to your diet you're not even really sticking to, and try the weirdest thing you see on the menu.
After watching his career rise from my first episode of Parks and Recreation to Master of None, it's great to see how far Aziz Ansari has come and how much farther he's going to go. I've been a fan of Aziz since I first saw Parks and Rec way back in high school, and although I didn't follow the show after that, I always liked him because Tom Haverford is someone we can all relate to.
Aside from watching him on TV, I even saw him perform stand up in Richmond and he was hilarious. I'll always remember a joke he said, where he asked a couple where they were from and they said Mechanicsville. After a collective groan from the audience (It's kind of in the middle of no where with nothing to do), Aziz incorporated the hate of Mechanicsville into his set. It was funny but it was also one of those things where you had to be there to really get the joke.
Anyway, on top of that, his book Modern Romance is really fucking good. You might have some qualms like I did before reading the book: how can a guy explain dating to me as a woman (looking at you Steve Harvey)? But it's not like that. Backed by plenty of research from all over the world, Aziz dives deep into dating apps, and how dating has changed throughout generations. Here's a great excerpt from the book:
“In a sense we are all like a Flo Rida song: The more time you spend with us, the more you see how special we are. Social scientists refer to this as the Flo Rida Theory of Acquired Likability Through Repetition.”
While referencing a Flo Rida song might not be your thing, the idea of spending quality time with someone to find out the things you like about them is solid dating advice, especially in this world where our soulmate might be a swipe away. But don't ask me, just read the damn book. I promise you, it's worth it. Also, reading the book is exactly like sitting down and talking with Aziz. It's funny, and I learned a lot from it.
Master of None is a perfect culmination of Aziz and Modern Romance all in one. The show is refreshing in pretty much every sense of the word: diverse cast, the leading man is an Indian from an immigrant family, and great commentary on social issues. I loved learning the background story of Aziz's character's Dev's parents, immigrating from India to make a better life, and how when his dad started his first job, he ate lunch with his wife together in the cafe. It was definitely one of the sweetest moments of the show. Not to mention, I love how Aziz talks about being an Indian man and being virtually non-existant in all forms of media. One of the best parts of the show is the episode "Indians On TV" that opens to all the different ways Indians have been poorly represented on TV, including a clip of Ashton Kutcher doing a gross brown face act for a spot on a PopChips commercial.
This episode really opened my eyes to the racism that Indians (along with other minorities) face in Hollywood, and it was interesting to see him talk about it. My favorite show is The Simpsons, and I never thought twice of Apu, one of the few minorities on the show who was the complete Indian stereotype.
Not to mention, I love how the show showed him in intimate situations with him and his girlfriend that made him sexy. I've never not thought he was cute, but some episodes I was like damn, he's sexy and I would definitely let him hit. And I like and appreciate that because how many other shows have you seen a person of color, not usually known to be attractive, look good? All over the world, beauty is defined by how close you look to white as you can, and darker skin is never known to be beautiful. Don't believe me? Do a simple google image search of the word beautiful and it's full of white people. How many dark skinned, whether they're African American, Indian, South East Asian or otherwise are there? Probably not that many. And because when you're a minority and all you see are white people (who really aren't even that cute to begin with) as the prime example of beauty, if you don't fit that type, you start to believe you're ugly. With the resources and team that Aziz had, he had the opportunity to make himself, an Indian man, a sort of sex symbol, if only for just the show. And you know what? I have no problem with that.
I'm proud of the barriers Aziz broke for the show, and I'm proud of Aziz himself. I'm hoping that his exposure in the public will inspire others, whether they're Indian or not, to go out there and do what they can to be accepted into any field they want to go into. And seriously, if you have not watched Master of None, please do it now, it will not disappoint you. On a side note, is it weird that I'm totally trying to encounter a Denise experience?
With nothing but 41 cents and a love of Chance The Rapper, my friend and I took a 15 dollar bus ride to see him perform in Silver Spring, Maryland. I've been a big fan of Chance and have wanted to see him for a long time, and since the Richmond show sold out, I decided to say fuck it and buy tickets to see him in DC. At this point, there's no limit to where I'll travel to see someone.
Thankfully, my friend had friends that we could stay with after the show, so after linking up with them, we made our way to The Fillmore in Silver Spring. I was really excited to see him because my friend had told me that she saw him at Made in America last summer and he was good and had a live band. One of my favorite things about rap concerts is when rappers perform with a live band because I personally believe that is rap in it's purest form.
Showing up a bit after the doors opened, Metro Boomin' opened up the show and had the crowd going. It was funny because every time he played his opening ("Metro Boomin' want some more...") you didn't know what song was going to start because he's produced so many songs, most recently he produced the entire "What A Time To Be Alive" album by Future and Drake. He was a good option for the tour because he played the right music to warm up the crowd.
When Chance came out, he did not disappoint. Even though he doesn't have a studio album yet, I was dancing to songs off "Acid Rap" like it was released last week instead of 2 years ago. He had energy and was really engaging with the crowd. On top of that, he had a trumpet player in his band too. This gave the show a ton of flavor, and I was highly impressed. I left DC the next day full of Tony's Breakfast, wearing the same outfit I had come to the city in, and on a rush from the show the night before. I'm still suffering from post concert depression.
I really had a good time at the show, and my love and respect for Chance the Rapper has definitely gone up since. I support and admire what he's doing for his city of Chicago, and how he's active in his neighborhood by bringing light to issues that's going on in his community through his music and activism. I also love how he's so young and conscious. He's definitely going to be around for a while and I can't wait to hear more music from him and continue going to shows. Below you'll find a short video I compiled of the concert footage from my phone. It may not be the best video in the world, however, I feel that it's an accurate portrayal of the show's energy. Watch and enjoy.
As a conscious black woman, I am always hyper tuned to every day racism. I have to be, since you can catch it off guard if you're not paying attention closely. The most watered down version of racism that we've all been taught is that it's another person hating another person for the color of their skin, but racism is so much more insidious than that. Racism is your two white friends getting help out of a car from a man while I don't receive any help. Racism is your white friend getting a student discount at a store by just saying she's a student at a university, but when I do it, I have to show my ID card, and the store clerk asks me to give her my school email.
If you're white, or a white passing minority, you're not going to notice these micro-aggressions as much as I do. When I see it around my neighborhood or in my city, I get used to it, but when traveling around the world, it's a different story. Here are some examples of casual racism I've felt all over the world.
Over the summer on my trip around Europe, when I first got to Amsterdam, I quickly became friends with an Australian guy. When we got to a club and he bought me a drink, I hung out with him and his friends and he casually slung his arm around my arm and said to his friends "this is my nigga." Now I kind of did a double take to myself and low key pretended not to hear. The only reason being is that I wasn't quite sure of what he said and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. You know how sometimes white people will say nigga in front of you and you let it slide because they get only one opportunity. That's what I did, I gave him that pass because I was drunk, I had eaten a space cake, and it was really loud in the club. I was like, there's bigger battles to fight and this isn't it. It was just a really awkward position to be in so I said nothing. I told myself next time I hear that I would have to step my foot down and let him know that you don't ever need to say that word in front of me. Well, on the last night together, he said it again about me in front of his friends. I had to lay down the law and say "I'm not your nigga, and don't ever call me that ever again in your life." I probably won't ever see him again, but I'm glad that I stood my ground this time. It's hard to be "mad" at him considering that I know white people see and hear and do say "nigga" on occasion or maybe even all the time, but here's some insider advice: don't ever call a black person your nigga under any circumstances unless you okay it with them first. And you have to do it with every single black person you ever meet. Due to the history and sensitivity of the word, there's different rules for how to say it, and you need to respect that.
My second stories is one of my favorites because it's a celebrity encounter. In Venice Beach, California, actor Peter Dante, D-list celebrity famous for being a background character in Adam Sandler movies such as Grown Ups, Big Daddy, and Grandma's Boy, happened to be walking around drunk off his ass in a restaurant on the beach where my friends and I were eating lunch. After harassing my friend's boyfriend and stealing some of their french fries, he came to my table and touched all of my friends on their cheek with his finger except for me because I backed away from him. Now, I don't like people touching me and getting in my face when they're drunk because it's annoying and my personal space is important. This is the reason why I backed away from him. When I did this, his jaw dropped like this had never happened in his life and took offense to that. From there, he started talking shit about all the things he's done for the black community about how he's friends with Bob Marley, who I'm sure has been dead longer than I've been alive, and how he's reinvented things for black people. While staring at him in his face, I wasn't really surprised about his drunken racist tirade towards me, one of the things I'm scared of is a drunk white man because they're known to be their most racist while drunk. I wasn't too worried about him because I knew that I could remove myself from the situation, but I would have been ready to kick him in the dick if he had harassed me more. Being the docile negro that Martin Luther King Jr. speaks of only works until they hit that last nerve, and when that's struck, that's when the Malcolm X and Angela Davis comes out.
The final story comes to the topic of my hair. While traveling overseas I had long box braids in my head and got questioned about it all the time. It was annoying because I realized that even overseas, black women aren't allowed to have long hair without people questioning if it's real. Now obviously I know it was fake, however, if you're a white person, or a white passing minority, how many times have you been asked if your hair is real or not no matter the length? Not too many times huh? The fact that black women can't have long hair without someone being in disbelief that it's not there is not only annoying, it's disrespectful, especially considering that your favorite white and white passing celebrity has weave all in their hair, and a lot of the time it looks bad. I'm looking at you Kylie Jenner, since you want to be black so bad. Fix those closures, y'a'll. At least black women know how to have a bomb ass sew in that looks real even if you dig all around her hair.
Now I know that I will probably have to deal with this casual racism all my life, but at least I'm learning how to deal with it by speaking up and putting anyone who racially disrespects me in their place. At times it can be really frustrating when I notice it and realize that it's going to take a long time for things to be different, but I'm hoping that in the future I can explore other countries without stupid stereotypes following me along the way.
Traveling while having natural hair can seem like a reason to hold you back from doing it, but once you learn how to take care of your hair it can be simple. One of my favorite things about traveling with natural hair is the versatility of my hairstyles. For one trip, I can wear a protective style and for another trip, I can wear a twist out.
Taking care of your hair while on vacation is super easy, and you can take the essentials wherever you go, INCLUDING in your carryon. Suck it TSA. All you need are the following:
Once you have the essentials packed, you're good to go for any hairstyle! Being on vacation is a fun opportunity to experiment with different hairstyles because you can really capitalize on no one knowing you so you have the opportunity to wear anything you've always wanted to. I love trying out different hairstyles, here's some different styles you can try next time you go on vacation.
Protective styles are fun because it's probably the easiest way to take care of your hair while traveling. Whether it's box braids or crochet braids, protective styles can last up to 4 weeks and are super low maintenance. To keep these styles in top shape, I spritz the mixture in my spray bottle around my edges and in the parts of my scalp every night before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning.
Twists are a great way to not deal with your hair for a few days. Simply spray your hair with your water mixture, apply any styling cream, and do a simple two strand twist and wrap your hair at night. Since the wrapping of your hair will flatten the twists, you can pin them close to your head with bobby pins and put a headband over it. Another style is two large twists on both sides of your head. Twists are super easy so they're one of my go-to styles for everyday stuff.
I've never known how to wear any scarf other than a winter one around my neck, so I wear them on my head which is the next best thing. My favorite scarf I got from H&M a few years ago and have been wearing it ever since. I put it on my hair whenever I want to keep my twists in for a while and want to change up the look.
Whatever The Style, Make It Yours!
No matter what the style, choose what works best for you and what makes you comfortable. Traveling with natural hair is fun because our hair is versatile and you can change your hair in many different ways. So grab your styling tools and get those tickets to where you've always wanted to go and let go of any worries you may have of styling your hair while traveling the world!
When I was in 6th grade, my history teacher told us to pick three different countries to send letters to UN ambassadors. He said he does this with his students every year and the ambassadors usually send back letters or gifts. I chose Switzerland, Malaysia and another country I forgot, but the ambassador of Switzerland sent me back a lot of brochures, posters and other random things that I kept in my room and read for entertainment. From then on, I became obsessed with Switzerland, all because of the nice gesture of the ambassador. Who would have known that over a decade later I'd be standing on the top of the tallest mountain in Switzerland, admiring the beauty and the vastness of the Swiss Alps.
They say that when you hit rock bottom, the only choice you have from there is up. At the beginning of the summer, I had hit the bottom. I had lost my job, my car was on its last leg, and I had no idea where my next move was. Luckily, after I cried enough tears and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized that this was a great opportunity to do what I've always wanted to do. I had always said that I wanted to travel the world but I never really knew when the opportunity would come up. Turns out, this was the perfect opportunity.
At the beginning of July, I sat in the terminal of Dulles International, ready to take the solo trip to London to meet my best friend to attend Wireless Festival and then join a Contiki tour to the following European cities: Amsterdam, Rhine Valley, Munich, Tyrol Valley, Venice, Rome, Florence, Lucerene and Paris. Yes, it was as exhausting as you think, but I thought go big or go home cause at this point it's not like l had anything to do.
The first question I'm going to answer is this: yes, I did smoke weed in Amsterdam. Now that that's out of the way let's get back to the point. I was really excited to go on my trip because I was ready to be taken out of my comfort zone. I was going to 7 countries whose language I didn't know, (except French) with people I don't know, thousands of miles from home. How would I react to the situation? The unknown was exciting to me and I was ready to see where it headed.
I learned early on to have low expectations and I'm glad I did. Not even in a bad way, I just wanted to be open to any opportunity that comes to me and always keep in mind that some things aren't going to work out the way I want them to. More importantly, I wanted to learn new things about myself and the world around me. Like how Lucerene, Switzerland is apparently a hub for Indian food, or how I absolutely fell in love with the country of Germany and I want to get proposed to in the English Gardens. Or how French people aren't really rude at all even if you know little French.
The best example of low expectations was during my time in Italy. I had the best worst time. First of all, it was hot with the bluest sky I've ever seen, but also the most brutal sun. On top of that, because it's Italy, and EVERY place in the entire country is a tourist spot, tons of people are everywhere and where there's tourist come the vendors. I have never seen so many selfie sticks for sale in my entire life than when I spent my time in Rome.
On top of almost dying from heat exhaustion, forcing my way through the streets, almost getting trampled from a stampede of people running from a crazy man wielding a steak knife and almost getting run over by a cop car, some of my favorite nights on the trip were in Italy. I knocked back endless glasses of wine with other members of my group and really enjoyed getting to know them personally. I'm glad to have met people that I'll always keep in touch with that live around the world. On another note, shoutout to Australians.
Upon coming back to the United States, I realized that things come and go, and sometimes something in your life has to leave in order for something better to take its place. I had a lot of fun being overseas and I want to take the opportunity to capitalize on my youth and the time to travel all over and see the world. I'm hoping that my love of traveling will take me all over the world to learn new things and really admire the beauty of everything around us.
In light of the Emmy's, I am still basking in the glow of awe over the amount of women who won. Between Viola Davis' historic win, "Veep" sweeping up awards in almost all of the categories it was nominated for, and the supportive love of Taraji P. Henson, it just goes to show that women in media are killing it and there's no end in sight.
I am over the lack of diversity in women's characters in media. It’s no news that equal and fair representation is important, and when you write women characters as something more than just sex appeal, it brings more depth to the character and not to mention viewers. With this new trend of female writers in the media, I am excited and hopeful for the future of how women of all types, especially minorities, will be written into television shows and movies.
I want more black lesbians like M-Chuck in "Survivor's Remorse" who loves pussy as much as the average man. Give me more bad ass Aboriginal women like Kat Loving in "Strange Empire" who wears all black and can shoot someone dead with her eyes closed. Give me more women with personality, give me more women with layers who doesn't need a man to rescue her.
I'm hoping to see more women, especially women of color, in the media play roles that are more complex and developed. It's the dawn of a new era in writing in media, and I'm excited to see what women have to say. Here's to breaking that damn glass ceiling.
This summer, I was lucky enough to go to two music festivals in different countries: London for Wireless Festival and Philadelphia for Made in America. Although both cities are different, I realized festivals are the same no matter where you go in the world. In this, I discovered what I like to call the "Three Universal Truths of Festivals".
High waisted shorts were cute last summer but they're not trendy anymore. In addition, stop wearing bindis for fashion. It doesn't work.
Saying "excuse me" will not kill you, I promise. You may have to use a little attitude when you do it, but trust me, it will save you in the long run. Make sure you pay attention to where you're walking because people will be sitting (or passed out) on the ground and you don't want to be responsible for tripping over someone's neck. Also, remember to say "please" and "thank" you to those cleaning up the mess around the area and for serving you your drinks.
You're going to lose your friends at one point. You won't get service at all. But honestly, take a deep breath and enjoy the music and the people surrounding you. It's almost magical the feeling you get when you and thousands of other people are singing the same song along with the artist. Enjoy yourself, find your friends, and do it all again the next day.
In the midst of pumpkin flavored beer and fried oreos, I found myself rocking out to Boyz II Men classics at Innsbrook. Now I know if you're about a decade older than me (or my aunt), I know you're probably wondering why I was at a Boyz II Men show, but I mean honestly, who can pass up this opportunity. I almost never miss a chance to see an artist I like anywhere in Richmond.
I know I'm young, but people forget that I grew up in the 90s so yes, I remember listening to Boyz II Men songs in my living room with my mom and I probably even serenaded her at one point to the tune of "Mama" for Mother's Day. I'm sure all of us have done this at one point, don't lie.
My favorite part of the show, aside from seeing them dance in synch to their songs (they still got it!) was when Shawn Stockman and Nathan Morris took a break to play guitars while the rest of the Boyz covered songs. My all time favorite cover song was Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", one of the most iconic rock songs ever, and also "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran. Did you know that it basically uses the same beat as "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gay? I didn't. Either way, it's always nice to hear one of your favorite songs covered by an artist of a different genre, it changes the way the song is heard and it's refreshing.
I love seeing black people play guitars because guitar playing has been seen as such a white person thing. I know it's weird to think of it that way, but I'm sure you don't really pay attention to it. I always knew that rock and roll was inspired by blues which was inspired by gospel music by the black church, but almost my entire life, the only black guitar player I had ever known was Jimi Hendrix. Hell, I didn't even know Slash from Guns n' Roses was half black until I was 21.
The real kicker that fucked me up was finding out that Rosetta Tharpe, a black woman, practically invented rock music. She is known as the "Godmother of Rock and Roll" and yet you practically never hear her name, much less see black women in rock and roll as much as you see white dudes. Even black guys are on the come up in popular rock bands. I've always loved rock music and was often called "white" when I was in elementary and high school because of it, so you can imagine the anger I felt when I found out about Rosetta Tharpe. She was probably rolling in her grave. May she rest in peace.
Seeing people like Shawn and Nathan of Boyz II Men playing guitar onstage and branching out of their music genre to learn more about their art was really inspiring to me. Not only does it show more depth to their public persona, but it also redefines the stereotype of only white people playing the guitar. I'm all about representation of people of color in the media doing non-stereotypical things in defiance to society norms. As I'm still basking in the fun that I had at the show, being drunk in the crowd with my friends, doing donuts in an empty parking lot and ordering a lot of unnecessary food at a gas station, I'm hoping that Shawn and Nathan become masters at the art of guitar playing and inspire more people at their shows around the country and the world. Here's to Boyz II Men becoming a new rock band. I'm sure hoping so.
Fresh off the heels of a stomach flu, I drove with my friends to Virginia Beach to see J. Cole on his 2014 Forest Hills Drive Tour. I was excited because it included appearances by Jeremih, Big Sean, and YG. I've seen Big Sean before, but I was still excited to see him, along with Jeremih and YG, because I am obsessed with YG and when I saw him at Made In America summer 2014, his set went completely over my head. Don't be mad, I hadn't listened to My Krazy Life yet.
I would definitely say that the Farm Bureau Live Amphitheater in Virginia Beach is one of my favorite venues for shows, mainly because almost every summer I've been to a show there. This includes the Blink 182 reunion of 2009, Drake's Club Paradise in 2012, Shaggfest and Drake vs. Wayne in summer 2014. It's also another one of my favorite venues because it's about a 20 minute drive from the beach, so every summer my friends and I pack up and make the trip to our favorite hotel a block from the shore, stay there for about a day longer than necessary, and go to a show at Farm Bureau live. It's one of my favorite summer traditions.
Honestly, I'm probably one of the fakest J. Cole fans. I've seen him three times (almost four but the first time I had the chance to see him, the tickets sold out), but I was never really too impressed with his albums. It's not that I didn't like him, I had listened to "The Warmup", "Friday Night Lights", "The Sideline Story" and "Born Sinner", but truth be told, I didn't really get it. All of his albums sounded the same to me. I know a lot of pseudo-intelligent people (mostly guys) on social media blather on about how you have to have a "certain mindset" (cue the fucking eyeroll) to really understand J. Cole and his music, but I like to think I'm pretty knowledgable about rap music and even still I couldn't really say that he was one of my favorite rappers.
It took me being in a heated debate with some people at a birthday party to realize that maybe I should start paying closer attention to J. Cole and stop being so fake. In the whirlwind of me defending the "ghost writing" of Drake's music, someone brought up how "2014 Forest Hills Drive" went platinum with no features, a feat that hasn't happened in over 25 years. When I first listened to the album, it wasn't something that I had noticed, but upon realizing it, I was like damn...maybe the annoying quasi-intellectual boys on my Facebook feed were right.
When my friends and I arrived (late) to the show, (completely missing Jeremih and YG's set) and J. Cole came out, my opinions on him changed and now I can say that I'm a full blown J. Cole fan (the first step is admitting). He performed the entire album for all of us and it was a great experience. Even though I was turning up on the lawn with my closest friends and J. Cole was only a blip in front of me, the energy he put into his performance was electric. I finally got it and was shown the light.
From his performance, J. Cole seems like a very personable and relatable guy. Even though he's well on his way to marriage, I feel like I could we're compatible and we could totally date. Not to mention his activism is sexy as well, as he went to Ferguson on his own when Michael Brown was shot and marched with the protesters. In addition, he bought his childhood home the address of which he named the album, and he rents it out to struggling families. Talk about a man who gives back to his community.
Now that I have officially been woke to J. Cole and got on that higher mindset needed to listen to him, according to my Facebook friends, I'm excited to see his performance at Made in America this year. Throughout the end of his summer tour, he's been bringing guests to join him on the stage and hopefully he'll bring someone out this year. I'm looking forward to watching the continue rise and success of J. Cole.