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For the Love of Love & Hip-Hop

As the reunion of Love & Hip Hop season 2 approaches, I find myself wondering what about this show intrigued me, a grown ass man in his 30s, so much.  Conversations with some of my homeboys and thumbing through my Facebook and Twitter feeds on Monday nights (Love & Hip Hop airs Monday nights on VH1) revealed that as far as grown ass men who watch, I’m not alone.  Though the target demographic for the show is listed as adults 18-49 (http://www.reachingblackconsumers.com/2011/11/vh1/), it seems odd to me that dudes would get hip to a show largely centered on a bunch of women trying to find peace in their “relationships” (in my Dr. Evil voice).

I don’t watch Mob Wives or Basketball Wives or any of that stuff and I don’t know many dudes who do (unless of course their girlfriends/wives make them… tsk tsk).  I hate these types of shows.  I think they’re a waste of time and money.  I don’t care what the wife, baby’s mama, girlfriend, groupie, or chick on the side of Joe Average millionaire baseball player has to say, what she goes through in her “relationship,” or how much she hates her cast mates.  Can we even call them cast mates?  How about gold digger counterparts?  I digress…   The arguments get very old very quickly.  It’s the same he said / she said driven drama leading to the same types of cat fights over and over again (queue Tim McGraw & Nelly).  So Why Love & Hip Hop?  Why have I, a grown ass man in his 30s, invested two seasons following Somaya, Chrissy, Mama Jones, Emily, Olivia, Kimbella, and Yandy?  Let’s explore this gal by gal.

Mama Jones — aka Jim Jones’ mother.  Beyond being comically protective of Jim Jones, resulting in the occasional beef with Chrissy (more on her shortly), her storyline focuses on her building her ‘Psychotic’ brand of t-shirts and accessories, which seems fitting because she’s admittedly psychotic.  Mama Jones is nothing short of absolutely nuts, but at the end of the day she just loves her son a ton, so can anyone be mad at that?  I certainly can’t.

Chrissy — aka Jim Jones’ girlfriend or fiancée or maybe even his wife by now (hopefully we’ll find out when the reunion airs).  She’s by far my least favorite on the show.  She’s egregiously loud all the time.  To be fair sometimes her point of view is actually right.  The problem is that even when she does have a point her way of conveying it ruins the moment.  Her entire storyline is built around her “relationship” with Jim Jones.  She proposed to him and put a ring on his finger in season 1 (that’s not a typo, she actually proposed to him).  After months of trials and a whole lot of yelling, he finally returned the favor by proposing to her, and putting an even bigger, shinier ring on her finger.  Some say he came to his senses. I would argue he gave into all her very loud nagging, but what the hell do I know?  I’ve never been proposed to…  Again, I digress.  My big issue w/ Chrissy is that she’s just a rapper’s girl and nothing more, but given how hard and loudly she argues with those she takes issue with one would think she has a job.  But she doesn’t, and I for one think that’s wack.  Moving right along.

Somaya Reece — my personal favorite.  Somaya, not unlike Tila Tequila, started a buzz on MySpace back when people used MySpace.  I know this because at one point Somaya was in My Top 8 (that may or may not be a joke).  She’s been building ever since, modeling, rapping and *cough* singing.  A Cali girl, she flew out to New York to do the show and up her Hip Hop portfolio, reaching out to the likes of Jim Jones and Midi Mafia producer Swift.  She can be brash and annoying at times, but unlike some of her gold digging counter… err, cast mates her connection to Hip Hop and her storyline don’t entirely hinge upon a “relationship” with some dude in the Rap industry.  There was a moment in season 2 where Somaya and Swift all but hooked up, but it was a relatively quick part of her narrative.  In short, this woman’s out there hustling, networking, performing (albeit embarrassingly so at times – check out this wardrobe malfunction: http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/11/22/somaya-reece-wardrobe-malfunction/), chasing her Hip Hop dreams.  Is she the next Nicki Minaj? Maybe, maybe not, but either way I respect her drive.

Olivia — formerly on Fifty Cent’s G-Unit label where she built a lukewarm buzz at best, her storyline is built on her quest to make it big in the industry.  With the help of her charismatic manager Rich Dollaz, she’s also out there recording, networking, performing, and chasing her dream.  I dig that.  Side note: she hates on Somaya hard. They had beef in season 1 and it carried over into season 2.  She’s constantly pointing out that Somaya sucks both on stage and in the booth.  While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, I have to agree w/ Olivia in that she does have some room for improvement, but don’t we all?

Emily — another rapper’s girlfriend, Fabolous in this case.  Her story is mainly focused on her “relationship” with Fab, who openly cheats on her.  Mind you they have a kid together.  She spent much of season 1 trying to work it out with Fab and much of season 2 establishing her independence from Fab because well you know, he openly cheats on her.  The Emily/Fab dynamic plays out ridiculously on the show, especially given that homeboy refuses to be on camera so all we get is Emily’s sob to empowerment story.  That said, in my opinion she’s the prettiest girl on the show and she does work as a fashion consultant to folks in the industry, so more power to her for that.  Girl you be killin’ ‘em.

Kimbella — she’s a model in the industry who’s also Juelz Santana’s girlfriend/baby mama.  She spent much of season 2 fighting with Chrissy because she revealed to Emily that she had slept with Fabolous while Emily and Fab were still together.  That’s right, Kimbella slept with Emily’s man, told Emily about it, and Chrissy ends up beating up Kimbella.  You can’t script this kind of stuff; gotta love it.  Later in the season Kimbella also had a wine glass or two thrown at her by some other model chick named Erica, who then proceeded to try to rip Kimbella’s hair (or weave, or possibly both) from her skull.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Kimbella get beat up.

Yandy — last but certainly not least, Yandy was Jim Jones’ manager until she stupidly allowed her personal issues with Chrissy to ruin her business acumen w/ Jim.  The Chrissy vs. Yandy beef was a prime example of a situation where for the most part Chrissy was right, but I rooted for Yandy because she’s not annoying, has a job, and doesn’t yell all the time.  Also, Yandy had the best line of both seasons when she referred to Chrissy’s imminent marriage to Jim Jones as an ‘installment plan.’  Solid.  Though I can’t agree w/ the whole business/personal relationship debacle, for me ‘installment plan’ totally validates her being on the show.  I like Yandy a lot.

To conclude, what distinguishes this show from others like it is the Hip Hop angle.  When I was a kid back in the mid-80s my older brother and sister were in high school and listened to a lot of Rap music.  Naturally, I looked up to them and tuned in.  I was rocking to Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Salt & Pepa, Eric B & Rakim, etc…  By my teenage years in the mid-to late 90s I was addicted.  From The Chronic to The Slim Shady LP, Wu-Tang to The Fugees, Tupac & Biggie to Jay-Z & Nas and then some – I was and still am hooked.  Thus at the end of the day, a show about a bunch of bickering women who at times seem delusional in their “relationships” works for me because these girls are in varying ways tied to Hip Hop.  It’s these diverse connections that originally piqued my interest and how these connections evolved that kept me and many others (including grown ass men) tuning in.  Simply put, my love for Hip Hop led to my love for Love & Hip Hop.  Now let’s see how many wine glasses get thrown at the reunion…

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