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How Empire Changed Timbaland

After Empire creator Lee Daniels hired music producer Timbaland to be the television program’s Executive Music Producer, the Grammy Award winner sent the Academy Award nominee music to be used in the pilot episode.

As he recounted to Out.com, Daniels brought a copy of that first episode to Timbaland to show him how his music was used. Daniels was out of the room during the scene where Jamal and his boyfriend kiss. Said Daniels “I knew he was fascinated by seeing his music in the work, but he said, ‘Those guys kissing, man. Wow.’” When the music producer showed his family the pilot, he made his children leave the room during that kissing scene.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. This was the man who said “Some people listen to a song like ‘SexyBack’ and think, am I queer? Am I funny? If you are that way, you’re just that way. But if you’re a masculine man, embrace it. Have a glass of wine, put the record on and invite your girl over to get sexy.”

He has a point. When I listen to “SexyBack,” I ask “Am I queer?” That’s because Justin Timberlake doesn’t do anything for me. If I were a masculine man who drank, I’d have a girl over and get sexy for the song’s four minutes and three seconds. But I’m funny.

Per Daniels, who is openly-gay, Timbaland is singing a new tune. “[Working on this show has] changed his opinion on how he feels about gays. He said it. And I remember hanging up the phone and being very emotional after talking to him, and after him telling me that. And how he really had this epiphany. It was beautiful, and it deepened our friendship.”

That must have been some conversation. “Hi, Lee? It’s Timbaland. I’ve worked with many gay people in my twenty-five years producing music, and every one of them disgusted me with their talent and work ethic. But after seeing a fictional gay character recite scripted lines and give his, uh, male friend a quick kiss, I’ve had a change of heart. I can handle a gay person for a few scenes one hour a week, provided my kids aren’t in the room. Let’s have dinner soon. Feel free to not bring your boyfriend. Love ya (in a platonic way)!”

Today the man born Timothy Mosley turns 43 years old. There’s still time for him to continue evolving. Here are twenty tracks he produced or co-produced. WARNING: This playlist includes “SexyBack.” Be sure you’re masculine enough to listen! (Before anyone asks, his stellar work with Aaliyah is not available on Spotify.)

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The Evolution Of Jay-Z

“What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”

The above quote comes from Jay-Z. He was referring to gay rights in an interview with Poppy Harlow on CNN in May 2012. Referencing the lack of marriage equality nationwide, he said “I always thought it as something that is still holding the country back.”

He always thought this? Even in 1996, when he rapped about “Too many faggot niggas clocking my spending?” Or the following year, when he rapped ““Hate a nigga like that faggot?” How about the lyric in which he complains about “faggots” talking to the police, which is followed by his promise to kill those faggots? Or his rap “Why is you over here lookin’ at me while all these girls up in here? What you gay?” Or the song in which he calls rapper Nas, no strange to homophobic lyrics himself, a “fag?” That’s the same song in which he mocks Mobb Deep’s Prodigy with a gay implication. Was he ruminating about how gay Americans deserve the same rights accorded to straight Americans when he rapped “Now I ain’t down with who like me or who like you. That’s gay, I ain’t into liking dudes no way?” When he said “And since you infatuated with sayin’ tha gay shit, yes you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch,” was he really saying “I respect you as a man, for I am a man as well, and we are all equal?”

There are rappers, specifically Eminem, who defend the use of the word “faggot” by saying it doesn’t mean gay; it means weak. Equating a gay slur with weakness or a lesser-than status isn’t homophobic? First of all, that’s bullshit. Secondly, in the case of the Jay-Z lyrics cited above, he is referring to gay men.

Perhaps, like President Obama, who endorsed marriage equality shortly before the rapper’s CNN interview, Jay-Z has evolved. I’m skeptical that he “always” felt the lack of equality was holding the country back, but I’m glad he feels that way now. He is one of the two most-famous rap artists in the world. He is not running for office and trying to garner votes. His support means a lot. As Clinton Yates wrote in the Washington Post, “Hopefully, Jay-Z’s words can lead generations of music fans out of the fog when it comes to being an open-minded and accepting citizen of the world.”

Today Jay-Z turns 45 years old. Here are twenty of his finest raps, homophobia-free. Misogynist? That’s a discussion for another time.

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Glenn’s Ten – June 29, 2014

A handful of readers asked me to post Glenn’s Ten, the weekly ranking of my ten favorite current songs. I’m happy to oblige.

Glenn’s Ten for this week is:
1. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” – Sharon Van Etten
2. “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood
3. “Just One Drink” – Jack White
4. “Do It Again” – Röyksopp and Robyn
5. “Control” – Broken Bells
6. “West Coast” – Lana Del Rey
7. “Love Never Felt So Good” – Michael Jackson
8. “Hundreds of Ways” – Conor Oberst
9. “Come Get It Bae” – Pharrell Williams
10. “Ain’t It Fun” – Paramore

Rounding out today’s playlist are ten tunes that were #1 on this date in Glenn’s Ten history, in reverse chronological order.

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Hey, Big Boi

Winston + OutKast 002

In 2003 the two members of OutKast released solo albums packaged together as an OutKast double-CD. Big Boi’s album was Speakerboxxx and André 3000’s was The Love Below. The first single from Speakerboxxx was “The Way You Move,” which quickly rose to #2 on the pop charts, held back from the top spot by The Love Below’s “Hey Ya!” After eight weeks in the runner-up position, the Big Boi track moved to #1.

Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the 39th birthday of Big Boi.

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