In Defense Of Fresh & Fit

Fresh & Fit may not be my cup of tea, but the young brothers have a right to their mate preferences - no matter how inelegant they may be

“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”
-Optimus Prime

“Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”
-Abbott & Costello

The infamous dynamic duo of Myron Gaines and Walter Weeks – better known as “Fresh & Fit” – have done it again. In a recent live show where their special guest was female rapper Asian Doll, the pair fielded a question put to them as to whether either had ever checked out a dating app known as “BLK” – which caters to Black Americans (and, I suppose, those who love them?). The pair responded that not only hadn’t they visited the app, they had no intention of doing so, as they weren’t romantically interested in Black women. While no reasonable human being in the 21st century could really disagree with their stance on this point, the pair took things a step further – which many Black women and at least a few notable Black men online these days, like Dr. Boyce Watkins and Joe Budden, thought was a bridge too far.

Fresh & Fit went on to say that they weren’t into being “night riders” and that if others wanted to try their hand at messing aroung with “Sheniquas” they were welcome to do so; but as for themselves, it was gonna be a hard pass. It wasn’t long before the Outrage Machine kicked into high gear; BET weighed in on the matter (“Fresh and Fit Podcast Hosts Blasted for Mistreating Asian Doll and Other Black Women“, Tabie Germain, Jan 6, 2022), as did the ubiquitous Shade Room (“‘Fresh & Fit’ Podcast Address Resurfaced Clip About Dating Black Women: “There’s Nothing Wrong With Having Preferences””, China Lovelace, Jan 5, 2022) and of course, Bossip (“A Tom-Tastic Mess: Asian Doll Walks Off ‘Fresh & Fit’ Podcast After Dispute, Phonic Peons Goofily Giggle About Not ‘Night Riding’ By Dating Black Women“, Zack Linly, Jan 5, 2022).

As mentioned above, rap legend turned podcaster Joe Budden weighed in on the matter, fresh off his own brush with being #MeToo’d last year, covered in the venerable hip hop magazine of record, The Source (“JOE BUDDEN BLASTS ‘FRESH & FIT’ PODCAST: “I SEE WHY THEY HATE SOME OF YOU HAVING MICROPHONES””, Shawn Grant, Jan 6, 2022).

And on it goes.

Say what you will about Gaines & Weeks – and to be sure, I have quite a bit to say about them – they certainly know how to stay in the Black social media headlines, for better or for worse.

And while I have my own reservations, critiques and what I consider to be real, legitimate concerns about Fresh & Fit – I also find myself standing in solidarity with them on one very important, dare I say it, American principle: The right to freedom of association; the right to love whom we want. It’s something that has long been at the heart of “Black Love” issues for many years, and it’s high time we got a major flashpoint in that multi-decades debate out in the open and dealt with once and for all. And if it takes a “dudebro duo” to do it – I’m all for it.

Even while holding my nose.

Let’s go!

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Haven’t you heard? The wait is over, and it’s official – “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman” is a Number One Bestseller on Amazon is NOW available wherever fine books are sold – get your copy NOW!!! Better yet, get your personally autographed copy – CLICK HERE for more details! OK, let’s get back to the article!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: GIVING PROPS WHERE IT’S DUE
Let me both lay all my cards on the table while at the same time, being as diplomatic as I can here: I am NOT a fan of FNF. Their brand of content – that which they are best known for, that is – simply isn’t my cup of tea. The whole “dudebro, fratboy” sensibility, is one I’ve never shared. Sure, it’s easy – and tempting – to chalk this up to equal parts “hating” (the pat Black American response to ANY form of critique) and “being old” (since Black America has a hyper-obsession with youth and a pernicious suspicion of ANY Black male over 40). But the truth of the matter is that I like to think of myself to be mature enough to be able to entertain two thoughts in my mind at the same time – I can have my concerns and critiques of Fresh & Fit on one hand, and see their merits, talents, work ethic and why they have such strong appeal among so many younger men, Black and otherwise, at the same time.

Part of the reason for my admiration for them, stems from the way in which they have mastered the online social media game. Being Millennials, theirs is a truly digital world and something that I, a stompdown died in the wool GenXer, am still very much trying to learn. With over half a million subscribers on YouTube and at least 35K followers on Instagram, Fresh & Fit have shown themselves able to capture the social media zeitgeist by presenting an image to the world of two young jetsetting hot shots who take the world by storm and take no prisoners in the process. And really, what younger guy wouldn’t be taken in by that – at a time in your life when, let’s face it and rare exceptions notwithstanding – you’re pretty much a loser? It is completely understandable to see how and why so many younger guys relate to and lookup to F&F, because in so many ways they see themselves in the gawky & ungainly Gaines and the stammering & very short Weeks – no one would ever accuse either of being leading men and that is the painful reality of the vast majority of men in a Tinder Age. Yet, these guys have “made it” through sheer dint of force of will. That’s something to be commended, no matter how you slice it.

Their media production, management of social media and ability to get topflight guests like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki and social media bodybuilding sensation Mike Rashid, are top notch. And, like I said, their ability to remain in the social media spotlight in an incredibly crowded field and at a time of a pandemic – when just about everyone is sequestered at home, de facto or otherwise – is no small feat.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my concern with their recklessness, near brushes with #MeToo-ism themselves and their overall lack of maturity for grown Black men well into their 30s. No one is saying that they have to ape Bill Cosby’s Cliff Huxtable of the 1980s, but much of their behavior smacks of little more than college freshmen at best, if not high school washouts at worst. And their most recent remarks that are the topic of today’s column, yea, were to my mind, eye and ear, inelegant at best, if not downright cruel at worst. They could have definitely stated their case and responded to their viewer’s query sans all the “extra” that Black folks far and wide can’t seem to do without.

But you know what? Being older has the great advantage of being able to take the long view of things – to look back on times past – and to see how those times past has and continues to shape the present. And on that note – my reading of Black American “love history” – I can’t be but so miffed at F&F. Why?

Because far too many lovely ladies have hardly been eloquent themselves in their stating their views and opinions, preferences and desires regarding the Black men. Indeed, the historical record bears out that Black women have made a pretty penny dogging us Black menfolk out a far sight worse than anything Gaines and Weeks has said, not only within the last week, but within the past few years.

Let’s count the ways, shall we?

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Haven’t you heard? The wait is over, and it’s official – “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman” is a Number One Bestseller on Amazon is NOW available wherever fine books are sold – get your copy NOW!!! Better yet, get your personally autographed copy – CLICK HERE for more details! OK, let’s get back to the article!

BASHING BLACK MEN BY THE NUMBERS
While Black women can be seen and heard online (and indeed before the rise of the internet and social media!) bemoaning Black men – especially hugely successful ones like Gaines & Weeks – rushing to the first White or otherwise non-Black woman the first chance they get, in truth not only was that claim false (“Fact Check: 83 Percent Of Black Men Earning $100K Annual Income Marry Black Women”, Ann Brown, Jan 27, 2021), so was the claim that Black men somehow are unique in “bashing” anyone, let alone Black women, in song. The claim made by Black women from Tricia Rose, Patricia Hill Collins and others, that Black men were using the hip hop music art form to denigrate Black women en masse, is made somewhat specious when we consider that Black women themselves were either directly or indirectly creating, profitting and/or supporting – often through their purses – music that lambasted Black men on a whole. From Linda Clifford’s “Runaway Love” disco dance hit of the late 1970s, to Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” – with Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu and TLC in between for good measure – Black women were dogging out Black men at a time when hip hop was still in its infancy, and when it finally did come into its own as a pop cultural force across the globe, Black women were giving as good as they got on wax and song.

But since most controversial issues in Black American life tend to come down to “he said/she said”, let’s take a step back and have a look at the numbers and empirical evidence, shall we? Especially since the claim has been made by aggrieved sistas online, that Black men like Fresh & Fit – and by extension the Black Manosphere on a whole, is “making money off bashing Black women” – the following stats will put things into their proper context.

Three powerful examples will suffice. The first is from arguably the queen of NeoSoul music herself, the one and only Erykah Badu. The only female member of the NeoSoul music collective the Soulquarians, Badu’s “Tyrone” – which got its start from Badu freestyling on stage while on tour in London – wound up becoming an anthem for Black women everywhere about having to deal with the “Tyrones” of the world:

“It was a song I literally made up on stage in London in 1997. It was a spontaneous thing. Later, I looked around and saw they were having debates about it on TV and radio. They said I was male bashing. I had no idea that it would have such an impact. I was just making it up as I was going along. As the song blew up, I realized that I had to take some kind of stance. I began to challenge all the ‘Tyrones’ to do better. The song ‘Tyrone’ did its job musically and socially. Women loved it because that’s how they felt and men hated it because that’s how they were. As a result, it became an anthem. I’m not apologetic for ‘Tyrone.’ It’s the jam and I love it. It’s one of my favorite songs to perform on stage and it’s still hilarious to me.” (Songfacts.com)

“Tyrone” was the lead single on Badu’s “Live” album, which itself was released on Nov 18, 1997. It would go on to multi-platinum, selling at least two million copies. Now, let me back up here and explain a bit about how the music business works, even now in a digital age: In order for a record to “go platinum”, it must sell at least one million copies. “Multi-platinum” means that said record has sold at least two million copies or more, and so on.

Although there are differing pay scales for artists based on varying criteria, in general an artist will typically get about ten cents for every copy of a song sold. Moreover, artists don’t typically make the bulk of their income purely or even mostly, through their record sales; rather, they make the bulk of their money through playing tour dates, which explains how and why so many artists are on the road and traveling so much, around the globe.

But for the sake of simplicity in this column, we are going to stick to purely “units sold” just to give you, dear reader, a sense of just how lucractive “Black male bashing” truly has been and continues to be in our time today, to the lovely ladies, OK?

So, back to Badu and her smash hit “Tyrone”. As note above, it sold at least two million copies. At ten cents a pop on average, which is what we would expect for a newbie like Badu at the time, that would mean that she made at least $200K USD – certainly not breaking the bank (as our two other examples will clearly bear out – read on!), but let’s keep it all the way a buck: Who among us, today, is turning down upwards of a quarter million cold cash? “Certainly not I”, said the O-Man, LOL!

So, there’s that. Now, let’s consider TLC, whose “No Scrubs” followed “Tyrone” and continued the Black male bashing anthem trend, only a few years later. Appearing on the trio’s third album effort, “Fan Mail” and dropping in early 1999, by the summer of 2000 it had gone SIX TIMES platinum, and a little over a decade later – 2011 – it had sold more than ten million albums worldwide.

Yup, that’s right: TLC & Co. made at least ONE MILLION DOLLARS off of “No Scrubs” in straight up record sales alone – mind you, we are NOT including any touring dates, periodical payouts due to royalties, you name it. Just record sales.

Oh, by the way, I’ve found the website SongFacts.com to be a most helpful resource for researching the backstory on these musical gems; here’s the skinny on how “No Scrubs” came to be:

“This song is about men who have nothing going for them, but hit on women just the same, even resorting to hopeless tactics like hollering at them from the passenger seat of their friend’s car. The song vaulted the term “scrub” into the popular lexicon, and it became a well-used word to describe a worthless man.”

“Future Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss wrote this with help from producer Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs, and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle. Burruss and Cottle were members of the recently disbanded group Xscape, who had a hit in 1993 with “Just Kickin’ It,” and they had formed their own duo, which they called KAT (Kandi And Tameka). Briggs was an up-and-coming producer at LaFace records, home of TLC, and had written what would become “No Scrubs,” but with completely different lyrics. After meeting Briggs through their manager, Burruss and Cottle asked if they could try writing different lyrics to the song, which they then hoped to record.”

“Burruss got the “No Scrubs” idea after talking about some of her ex-boyfriends – she and her friends used the word “scrubs” a lot, which was big in Atlanta. She and Cottle finished the new lyrics and took them to Briggs, who instead of putting the song together for KAT, brought it to LaFace, where the execs decided it would be a great song for TLC. Burruss, who had songwriting aspirations but didn’t write in Xscape, was hesitant about giving up the song, but knew it was the right thing to do. It worked out well for her, as even though her singing career wound down, she became a popular songwriter, later teaming up with Briggs to write another man-basher: “Bills, Bills, Bills” for Destiny’s Child.”

“This was the first single released from Fanmail, the follow-up to TLC’s wildly successful second album CrazySexyCool, which sold over 11 million copies. “No Scrubs” kept them in the groove and was a major hit. The song was a no-brainer for radio stations, as it was a fresh sound from an established group that had already made the R&B, Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. A smooth, mid-tempo number with a very memorable title, it found a home on all these formats, as did their next single, “Unpretty.”

“The word “scrub” has developed many uses, including what you do to rid your computer of viruses or remove items from a budget. “Scrubs” are what hospital workers wear, and a show with that name debuted on NBC in 2001.”

“The group Sporty Thievz released a response song from the male perspective called “No Pigeons” that climbed to #12 US in July 1999, three months after “No Scrubs” topped the chart. This renewed the popularity of “No Scrubs” as radio stations played the songs back-to-back. It also put more money in the pockets of the “No Scrubs” songwriters, who were credited on “No Pigeons” because it used the same instrumentation.” (SongFacts.com)

That’s right – for you brothers who might’ve remembered the “No Pigeons” “clapback” record, TLC & Co. even got paid off of that, too, because “Sporty Thievz” weren’t savvy enough NOT to use TLC’s music – which meant that TLC laughed all the way to the bank – again.

Black man bashing is big business, ain’t it?

And finally, let’s consider yet another Black male bashing anthem, “Bills, Bills, Bills, by Destiny’s Child. It dropped the same year as “No Scrubs” – oh, how convenient – and was the lead single on Destiny’s Child’s “The Writing’s On The Wall”. Hailed as one of the best-selling R&B albums of all time, it sold at least 6.3M copies and went platinum many times over, meaning that Destiny’s Child made at least $600K-plus USD from the enterprise – again, pure, straight record sales. Nothing else.

And not to be outdone – and following up on the aforementioned ditty – here’s the SongFacts.com entry on how “Bills, Bills, Bills” came to be:

“This song is about a man who gradually becomes more dependent on his girlfriend for money; he runs up bills and then asks his girl to pay them. Kandi Burruss and Kevin “She’kspare” Briggs, who had already written the song “Bug A Boo” for the group and had worked with TLC on “No Scrubs,” came up with “Bills” on their second trip to Houston to write songs for Destiny’s Child. Briggs got the idea for the “can you pay my bills?” hook when they were in a grocery store. According to Burruss, she came up with the melody, and made sure the song wasn’t about desperate girls looking for a guy to pay their way, but ladies who thought they deserved better than a man who never picked up the tab. Burruss based many of the lyrics on a true story: a guy she dated would drive around her car and use her cell phone while she put gas in it.”

“When Burruss and Briggs went back to the studio, they had a writing session and worked on the song with group members Beyoncé Knowles and LeToya Luckett, who got writing credits on the song for contributing lyrics (this is something Beyoncé would often do: work with experienced writers and grab a lucrative writing credit on her songs). By the end of the session, they figured out that the reason they were asking a guy to pay their bills was because the guy was running them up, a distinction lost on listeners who heard only the chorus and figured the girls were looking for a sugar daddy.”

“This was the first single released from Destiny’s Child’s second album The Writing’s On The Wall, and it became their first #1 hit. Beyoncé was just 17 when they recorded it, and was still using her last name. There were four girls in the band, and the song’s co-writer, Kandi Burruss, was about 10 years away from becoming a Real Housewife of Atlanta. Burruss did have girl group experience – she was a member of Xscape, who had a hits with “Just Kickin’ It” and “The Arms of the One Who Loves You.” (SongFacts.com)

Say what you will about Fresh & Fit, the Black Manosphere or hip hop itself – it all pales in comparison to the real dough-ray-mee these lovely ladies alone have made – don’t even get me started on Janet Jackson’s breakout album “Control” with its lead single, “What Has He Done For You Lately” – which sold OVER TEN MILLION COPIES WORLDWIDE (so we’re talking about Jackson making a cool million off record sales alone).

All told, Badu, TLC, Destiny’s Child & Jackson, have made at least a combined upwards of THREE MILLION DOLLARS off of songs that painted Black men writ large in a bad light – and for those reading along who want to make the case for nuance, save it. You weren’t trying to hear nuance in the case of Fresh & Fit, were you?

The defense rests.

SHAMELESS PLUG AD BREAK: Haven’t you heard? The wait is over, and it’s official – “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman” is a Number One Bestseller on Amazon is NOW available wherever fine books are sold – get your copy NOW!!! Better yet, get your personally autographed copy – CLICK HERE for more details! OK, let’s get back to the article!

THERE IS NO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION DATING, LADIES – GET OVER IT
As noted above, Black women have always sought the right to assert autonomy over themselves and their life choices, while at the same time attempting to jawbone any Black man who attempts to do the same. In the half a century since Black people were truly set free, wrangling over “Who Leads?” between Black men and women in the intimate and romantic sphere has been the order of the day and will continue to be so for quite some time to come. If there is something good that can come out of this latest tempest in a teapot controversy Fresh & Fit find themselves in, it’s that Black men have a right to determine for themselves who, and under what circumstances, they are to partner with someone – and Black women writ large have little if any say in all of that. Moreover, no amount of cajoling, guilt-tripping, shaming or jawboning, is going to change matters – indeed, it’s only likely to make matters worse.

Black women would do well to ditch the notion that it is somehow “racist” if Black men (or anyone else) don’t choose them as mates; that’s a very bad road to go down. Instead, Black women should celebrate the right of everyone to choose those best suited for themselves to love.

Anything otherwise, and it merely makes them look like sore losers.

We’re done here.

Now adjourn your asses…

MOA

Mumia Obsidian Ali is a citizen journalist, podcaster, talk radio show host, commentator, newly minted dating coach and author of “The Book of Obsidian: A Manual for the 21st Century Black American Gentleman”. You can catch his daily live shows on YouTube & Mixlr, as well as his dating coach column at the Negromanosphere website. One of the “Three Kings” of the Black Manosphere, Mr. Ali has contributed to the creation and development of Black Male Media. Follow him on Instagram at @ObsidianRadio. He’s also a semi-professional pest.

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