Holiday SZN – My First Christmas In Jamaica

Last summer, I traveled to Jamaica for the first time since 2004. It was Seeing my family for the first time in years was both emotional and nostalgic. Though the trip was short, I decided that we would come back for Christmas and New Years. For the last few years, my mom and I didn’t do much for the holidays. Going to Jamaica was the perfect opportunity for some long overdue family time. Plus, it also coincided with the 50th anniversary of my grandfather’s death, and I knew my mom wanted to visit his grave. With all things considered (including a STRESSFUL year), we booked our flights for a two-week stay.

Vacation Awaits

Once December finally rolled around, I was too ready to leave for Jamaica. Classes were stressing me out, and I was desperately waiting to go home. December 21 couldn’t come any sooner, and once it did, I was out! My flight was leaving at six in the morning, so I left around 2:30 A.M. since I don’t live far from the airport. Being that my flight was so early, I only slept for about an hour (if that). The only downside to leaving so early is that most of the airport stores are closed. Once I got there, I wasted no time changing my clothes for the warmer weather (it was 30 degrees in Brooklyn and 85 in Kingston).

As soon as I walked out of the airport, I instantly felt the heat of the Jamaican mid-morning sun. Which I might add, wasn’t too bad for the first day of winter. In no time we were on the road to my aunt’s house, and I couldn’t wait to start my vacation and take a break from the stresses of everyday life.

Jamaica, Jamaica

A traditional Christmas in Jamaica usually includes rice and peas, macaroni pie, ham/pork, and goat (and/or chicken, beef/oxtail, and fish). For dessert, it’s Christmas pudding, black cake, ice cream, and you can’t forget sorrel as the holiday drink. Since Boxing Day is also widely celebrated, it’s pretty much a Christmas part two, as most businesses are closed for the holiday.

Over the course of the trip, my mother and I really got a chance to spend time with family and enjoy the holiday. I even met some older cousins of my grandfather’s, who’ve been nicknamed ‘The Golden Girls.” They’re out here living their best lives, traveling the world and planning new day trips everytime they come down to visit.

yas GIF

Not to mention that they’ve all been friends since high school, and now live together in Florida. In fact, they had invited us to go to a beach called Sugar Pot Ruins in Saint Mary, Jamaica. For those who may not know where it is, it’s not too far away from the well-known Ocho Rios. The beach itself is just along the border of the Saint Ann and Saint Mary parishes.

What the day trip all the more interesting was that it was a “blind meeting” of sorts. We were going with cousins that we’d never met — but it was a success!

poetic justice cousin GIF

It was almost as if we had all known each other for years, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Here are some of the pictures I was able to take down at Sugar Pot:

The Beauty That Is Jamaica

Now, of course, this rustic scenery wasn’t the only thing I was able to get in photos. I also had the chance to see some of the flowers that bloom in my uncle’s garden in Mandeville on New Year’s Eve. My late great-aunt, Carmen Stephenson was well-known for her garden, which has won numerous awards over the years. She also ran a flower shop, which my aunt and uncle have since taken over. I only wish that I could’ve taken more photos of the flowers.

Even though Jamaica’s national flower is the lignum vitae, you can expect to see plenty of orchids across the island.

Overall, to say I enjoyed my time in Jamaica was an understatement. I didn’t take too many selfies as I was living in the moment for the most part. I can’t wait to go back down, and learn more about my family’s history, and to enjoy more of Jamaica as an adult. Until next time!

 

 

 

 

Header Image & Photos: Amber Lauren

Gifs: Giphy

Amber’s Top 7 Albums of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, I must admit it was one hell of a year in music. From losing Prodigy of EPMD, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and countless others, to this year’s Grammy nods (and snubs). Even with Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” becoming the first #1 solo record by a female rapper since Lauryn Hill. Last year, I compiled a list of my top six favorite albums for the Odyssey. This year, I decided to repeat the list and add an extra album (6 for 2016, 7 for 2017 — you get the idea).

Though there were too many great albums to list, here are my top seven albums of 2017 (in no particular order).

 

Khalid – American Teen

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81sv1KUOTmL._SY355_.jpg

Image via RCA

Album release date: March 3

Song Picks: Location, Young, Dumb & Broke, Saved, 8Teen, Let’s Go

 

I was introduced to Khalid’s music earlier this year by a good friend of mine. Without a doubt, American Teen is a coming-of-age album of 2017. Telling stories of teen angst through his music, the 19-year-old newcomer has quite a way with words. His distinct, melodic voice has even earned him a Grammy nod for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best R&B Song (Location). With his debut year off to a great start, it’s no surprise that we’ll be seeing more of Khalid in 2018.

 

SZA – Ctrl

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Image via Top Dawg Entertainment

 

Album release date: June 9

Song picks: Supermodel, Love Galore, Doves In The Wind, Go Gina, Broken Clocks

 

I first heard SZA live a few year’s back at Afropunk 2014, and have been a fan ever since. In fact, it was this album (among other reasons) why SZA earned a spot in a previous article I wrote about the 2017-woman takeover. Despite the circumstances around the album, Ctrl instantly became the album of the summer. Storytelling from her perspective, the 27-year-old songstress opens up about vulnerability, loneliness, heartache, and self-esteem. Overall, SZA’s soulful vocals paint a picture of relatability, but more importantly, how to let go.

 

 

 

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

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Image via Top Dawg Entertainment

 

Album release date: April 14

Song picks: DNA, Loyalty, Element, Love, Duckworth

 

Following the hype and success of 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly, it’s no surprise that Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album was a hit. The 28-year-old Compton-native lets us in on his spiritual journey while rapping about everyday struggles. DAMN as a whole is filled with tales of one who seeks both freedom and redemption all while balancing a life of fame. Plus, Kendrick’s storytelling doesn’t get lost in translation and isn’t hard to grasp. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and take a listen to DAMN.

 

GoldLink – At What Cost

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Image via HipHopDX

 

Album release date: March 24

Song picks: Meditation, Herside Story, Summatime, Crew, We Will Never Die

 

I’ve had the privilege of seeing GoldLink live two years in a row, and it’s great to see he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. His debut album couldn’t have arrived at a better time, and the uniqueness of the album proves that. The lead single “Crew” featuring Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy was an instant hit and put the D.C.-native rapper on the map. Though GoldLink should sound familiar, as he was a member of the XXL’s 2015 Freshman class. At What Cost has plenty to offer, with features from Kaytanada, Jasmine Sullivan, Wale, and Mya to name a few. Even with these guest verses, GoldLink stands out on his own rapping stories of his beloved DMV.

 

 

Migos – Culture

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Image via Genius

 

Album release date: January 27

Song picks: T-Shirt, Bad & Boujee, Get Right Witcha, Slippery

 

From 2013’s Versace to 2017’s Culture, it’s safe to say that the Migos have come full circle. With the help of lead single Bad and Boujee featuring Lil Uzi Vert, the trio skyrocketed back into mainstream popularity. This album is on the more upbeat side of the list, and if you’ve listened to the 13-track project, you’ll understand why. As a whole, Culture not only exceeded everyone’s expectations but remained a staple throughout the year.  Complete with narrative raps about going from rags to riches to just about everything else, we can only imagine what’s in store for Culture 2.

 

Jhené Aiko – Trip

https://exclaim.ca//images/TripJhene.jpg

Image via High Snobiety

 

Album release date: September 22

Song picks: While We’re Young, OLLA (Only Lovers Left Alive), Sativa, Nobody, Sing To Me

 

This album came out as a surprise release but was well received all over. Though this is Jhené Aiko’s second album, her neo-soul vocals prove that she has grown overall as an artist. The 22-song project takes a peek into Aiko’s personal life and a whirlwind of emotions. It is here that we see Aiko’s more vulnerable, transparent side as she opens up about personal struggles. Coping with the death of her brother, childhood memories of her grandfather and everything in between, this album is definitely worth taking a Trip into her world.

 

Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

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Image via Genius

 

Album release date: July 21

Song picks: Where The Flower Blooms, See You Again, I Ain’t Got Time, 911/Mr. Lonely, November

 

Now, this album was one that I personally enjoyed listening to the most on my list. Tyler, The Creator has grown from his early days of Odd Future, and is no longer considered “the industry outcast”. Ditching the alter egos for this fourth album, Flower Boy is one that heavily relies on metaphoric wordplay. Unlike the other rap albums on my list, Tyler’s 14-song project dives into his sexual fluidity, a topic considered taboo in rap music. Though he doesn’t directly address it, this album showcases Tyler’s evolution as a rapper. Overall, Flower Boy is a colorful album that reveals the many sides and emotions of Tyler, The Creator and is his best work yet.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

Sampha – Process

Thundercat – Drunk

Kehlani – SweetSexySavage

Jay Z – 4:44

Big Sean – I Decided

 

 

 

 

 

 

Header Image Credit: Emma Darvick

Dating In College: Part 3 (Issa Collab)

So, I was recently invited to give my perspective on college dating by Mechel of LemonBorn.com. (Hey girl heyyyyyyyy!) This, of course, is an age-old concept that’s been a hot topic for decades and still is in 2017. So without any further ado, here’s my take on what it’s like to date in college.

How It All Began

Now my college dating experience is a little different being that I’m a transfer student. When I started community college in 2013, I had just gone through a bad breakup. In the middle of these new experiences, I unexpectedly reconnected with one of my best friends from junior high school. From there, I met more people that went to the school and we became quite the group of friends. After a while, I began to take notice of some of the guys on campus, and this sums up my first reaction:

sailor moon love GIFGranted I wasn’t aware of some of their “ain’t shit” qualities at the time, I was hooked. Some months later I started to date a guy over the summer. The relationship lasted for a few months, but it taught me a few things about myself. For starters, this “relationship” was really just a rebound that shouldn’t have lasted past the summer time. I had also realized that it got serious fast, and I wasn’t ready for that yet. When I broke up with him, I told him the truth about how I felt and we went our separate ways. It was also a little nervewracking to do since I was always the dumpee and not the dumper.

I Taught Myself About Myself

Overall, my early college experiences taught me about what I look for in a guy, and what I won’t settle for. I began to indulge in hookup culture (sorry mom), and that too taught me about myself. It wasn’t until I became caught up in the dreaded situationship that I really learned about self-worth.

oy vey facepalm GIF by Chaz French

For those who don’t know what a situationship is, it’s basically when two people are casually dating, and one develops stronger feelings than the other. One starts to act like they’re in a relationship, and the other will continue to be single. This normally leads to confusion and the question of “What are we?” hangs in the balance. It is very important to ask this question in the early stages, for the sake of knowing if whether or not you’re wasting your time. Especially if you feel that you two aren’t on the same page.

Far too often do I see young women (and men) staying faithful to someone who is single. Please remember that even though you may be more than “just friends”, that is NOT your s/o. They are single and free to do what they want, and you are too. And if they tell you they don’t want a relationship, believe them the first time. It doesn’t make it okay for them to string you along, and it also doesn’t mean to try and change their mind. Keep in mind that YOU have the power to determine where it’s going as well. If you feel like you’re wasting your time, tell them the truth. Yes, it’s going to be an awkward conversation but at the very least they deserve honesty over lies.

Transferring to UAlbany

I came to UAlbany in the spring of 2016, and only knew a handful of people. It was a huge shift in my life because now, I was away from the city and my friends. Though I was excited about this new experience, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. Though I’ve never actually dated anyone from UAlbany, I went on a few dates (nothing serious).

I was in the process of learning to love and value myself, so I didn’t take anyone seriously. Personally, I just feel that if I couldn’t love myself, then how could I possibly love someone else? Though I did notice a few things about UAlbany’s date culture as time went on. From rumors of who messed with who, to the concept of pseudo-“sister wives”. Some guys even “popped up” with girlfriends at the end of the year, but told people they were single. Simply put, the entire thing was and still is, a DAMN MESS.

real housewives of atlanta sips tea GIF

 

If it’s one thing about UAlbany, like any other university, people talk. It doesn’t help that the black student body (otherwise known as, Black UA) only makes up 13% of the student population. There are those who are still in happy, faithful relationships despite what goes on (hat’s off to you, bruh). But if you’re in a relationship and people know that you’re s/o is “out there”, it’s time to pack it up. Another thing about UAlbany is that a lot of people kiss and tell. Given that it’s their prerogative *Bobby Brown voice*, I often wonder if it’s really about “bragging rights.” To me, the idea is corny, and if you really have to run around and brag, then you have some growing up to do (though for some, it’s age appropriate — still doesn’t make it okay).

Being Cautious

More to the point, if you do choose to date at UAlbany, or whatever school you go to, just keep an eye out. If you’re just trying to enjoy casual dates and hookups, the same thing applies. Just make sure you don’t get caught up out there because the comeback isn’t always easy. And remember, if you’re just hoeing, please hoe responsibly.

 

shawn wayans message GIF

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of dating in college on LemonBorn.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

All gifs sourced from GIPHY

Header Image: Unknown

Buying Black: A Holiday Guide

Still shopping for last-minute gifts? Well, this holiday season, I encourage you to buy black. According to Nielsen, black spending power is nearly $1.5 Trillion. So what’s stopping you from using those hard-earned coins to support the community? When you’re going through that gift list, make it count where it matters with a black-owned business!

Frugal Finds NYC

Frugal Finds NYC

Frugal Finds launched seven years ago with the support of sponsors like Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Overstock.com. Making shopping easy and budget-friendly, the Jersey City-based company is your go-to for unique jewelry and accessories. In addition to having pop-up shops across the country, celebrities such as Eva Marcille, Tamar Braxton, and Shaunie O’Neal have all rocked pieces from the brand.

HGC Apparel

HGC Apparel

HGC Apparel was founded in 2008 by a Howard grad and brings back that 90’s vibe while emphasizing black pride. With popular clothing with vibrant colors and powerful messages, this brand definitely does it for the culture while celebrating black excellence.

Her Hu$tle

Her Hu$tle

A Brooklyn, NY-based lifestyle brand, Her Hu$tle is self-described as a brand that “designs cool ish for all the ladies who listen to trap music and Sade simultaneously”. Aside from custom earrings, apparel and drinkware, Her Hu$tle also sells workbooks and worksheets on how to effectively plan your business.

 

Juvia’s Place

Juvia’s Place

Known for their vibrant colors that work with any complexion, Juvia’s Place is a cosmetic brand that is both innovative and affordable. With pigmented shades perfect for any occasion, Juvia’s provides the essentials needed for your everyday makeup enthusiast.

 

Kashmir Thompson

Kashmir.VIII

Another brand that does it for the culture is Kashmir.VIII, a Cleveland-bred ATL-based artist. With a knack for black pop culture-inspired paintings and unique creations, Kashmir’s work has garnered the attention all over the U.S.

 

Legendary Rootz

Legendary Rootz

Celebrate black culture one T-shirt at a time by shopping with Legendary Rootz. Notably known for their “Brown Suga Babe” T-shirts, Legendary Rootz represents both black women and black culture as a whole.

Tees In The Trap

Tees In The Trap

Founded in 2014, Tees In The Trap highlights all things Hip-Hop, pop culture and everyday life from a woman’s perspective. Having collaborated with popular sites like Fashion Bomb Daily, Very Smart Brothas, and Awesomely Luvvie, this brand is a force to be reckoned with.

 

The Sole Catcher

The Sole Catcher

Self-described as a “neighborhood art dealer,” The Sole Catcher creates custom dad hats, apparel, and sneakers. Not to mention that they also sell hand-made sugar scrubs for oily skin, dead skin, and bikini lines.

 

The Wrap Life

The Wrap Life

Filled with vibrant colors and patterns, The Wrap Life creates “head wraps that inspire magical women”. The wraps are affordable and also come with a link to Youtube tutorials on how to style them. Plus, they also have a self-care section on their website complete with soaps, herbs, and incense.

 

 

Header Image: Fotolia

2017: The Year Of The “Unladylike” Lady

“Poppin’, smart, loud and proud black women taking over for the ’99 and 2000” – Solange

This past year has proven vital to the changing of the times. Whether in music, television, film or the world at large — they have all set the tone for a new generation of unapologetic, “unladylike” women who live their truths. Of course, this isn’t a new trend or fad in pop culture. Each decade has had their own share of women who shattered stereotypes, broke records and shaped the culture. For the ’90s, it was Janet Jackson, Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot. Beyoncé, Rihanna, and countless others ruled the 2000s. In 2017, we have SZA, Jhene Aiko, and Cardi B.

Music Choice dance dancing yes yas GIF

Throughout the year, these ladies have left their mark in more ways than one. SZA’s debut album Ctrl went gold, scored her a platinum single with “Love Galore”, and was arguably the soundtrack of the summer. Not to mention that some songs were featured in season two of HBO’s hit show, Insecure. Cardi B‘s “Bodak Yellow” was the first solo female rap record to reach #1 on the Billboard charts since 1998. Take this and add a few guest features and a surprise proposal from now fiancé Offset of Migos, life hasn’t been too shabby for the Bronx-native.

Jhene Aiko gave fans a look into her life and personal stories with surprise album, Trip. The 22-song album is laced with stories of Aiko’s personal life, displaying a rainbow of relatable emotions. And as for Rihanna, the bad gal launched her Fenty Beauty cosmetic line in September. With 40 inclusive foundation shades, a limited edition collection and a business valued at $72 Million, 2017 was a great year for the 29-year-old Bajan beauty.

rihanna money cash $$$ equal pay day GIF

The good, the bad, and the unladylike

Despite their W’s and overall successes, these women have all taught one thing: Be yourself, unapologetically. Though unapologetic women are no strangers to history, it’s still refreshing to see women leaving their mark on society. It’s also a reminder that you DON’T have to live up to society’s standards. Be loud, be aggressive, speak out, and don’t be afraid of your past — whatever that may be.

While many around the world have praised these badass women, there’s also those who don’t agree. You know, the ones who think that women should be a certain way and whatnot. It’s 2017, not 1957. Women are open with who we are and what we do, and shouldn’t face criticism for that.

SZA omg whatever eye roll sza GIF

 

Although the odds were against them, these ladies still kept on going. SZA’s Ctrl almost didn’t happen due to a label dispute with TDE. It was to the point where the label confiscated her hard drive filled with unreleased recordings. Initially, the album had 150 to 200 songs before cutting down to the final 14 tracks. Throughout Ctrl, SZA reflects on life as the side-chick (disclaimer – that isn’t okay, but it adds perspective). Presenting the storyline in songs like “Love Galore”, “Drew Barrymore” and of course, “The Weekend.”

On the flipside, Jhene Aiko’s Trip touches on trying different drugs, while reflecting on her personal life. A surprise release, the album is 22 songs worth of ups, downs, and triumph. Aiko also pays a tribute to her late brother, Miyagi who she seeks to find in men she dates. It wasn’t until she realized that the bond between siblings is stronger than any other. The neo-soul songstress even made a short film about the album available to check out on YouTube.

Gaining fans from videos on Instagram and joining Love & Hip-Hop: New York for two seasons, Cardi B became a name to get familiar with. Although, getting to where she is now wasn’t an easy road. Cardi B has discussed her past as a stripper. In fact, Cardi B credited it to helping her leave an abusive relationship and saving her life. Not bad for someone who used to only think of rap as a hobby.
In the last decade, Rihanna has solidified her star-status through pop culture and breaking records. Named Billboard’s No. 1 artist with a successful cosmetic line, Rihanna’s reign is stronger than ever. She’s even the face of November’s issue of Vogue Arabia. Of course, this is just some of the bad gal’s many accolades. The point is, SZA, Jhene Aiko, Cardi B, and Rihanna are proof that you don’t need to be anyone but yourself. So go out there, be you, and get those coins.

After all, well-behaved women seldom make history

sexy jhene aiko GIF by 2 Chainz

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5 Things To Know About Fenty Beauty’s Holiday Collection

At long last, the limited-edition Galaxy Collection has finally arrived worldwide. Fenty Beauty’s newest collection dropped October 13 and includes the Galaxy Eyeshadow Palette, Cosmic Gloss Lip Glitter, the Eclipse 2-in-1 Glitter Release Eyeliner, and Starlit Hyper Glitz lipsticks. With its debut still fresh, here’s what you need to know about the cosmetic line’s latest collection.

 

1. The Debut

SNEAK PEEK. The Holiday Collection drops Oct 13. Comment below if you're ready. @badgalriri @sephorafrance #sephoralovesfentybeauty

A post shared by FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA (@fentybeauty) on

Fenty Beauty’s limited-edition holiday collection was announced two weeks after it’s overall debut last month. Like the first launch, the Galaxy Collection is inclusive and offers something for everyone. The cosmetic line’s Instastory even featured a live demo of some products, allowing fans to get a preview of what the Galaxy Collection has to offer.

2. The Eyeshadows

Holla if you're ready for glitter-packed #GALAXYCOLLECTION!! Coming 12pm EST #FridayThe13th 💥. #rihgram @priscillaono

A post shared by FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA (@fentybeauty) on

Appearing in a metallic rainbow of 14 shades, the eyeshadows come packaged in a casing that matches the collection’s colors. Plus coming in pigmented, smoky and shimmery shades, they easily go from day to night. Depending on how much you use, you can either be subtle or dramatic (but a little goes a long way)!

3. Halloween Looks Galore

No matter what look you’re going for this Halloween season, the combinations and options are endless. Whether it’s Alien Bae realness or making your costume pop, the colors truly make all the difference.

4. The Lipsticks

STARLIT HYPER-GLITZ LIPSTICK. #GALAXYCOLLECTION. #FridayThe13th.

A post shared by FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA (@fentybeauty) on

Since the first collection didn’t have lipsticks, it’s exciting to see that the Galaxy Collection has not one — but four. The finishes are chrome, but the product is creamy and balances between glittery and smooth.

 

5. The Eyeliner Blending

You here for this? The Eclipse 2-in-1 Glitter Release Eyeliner drops #FridayThe13th. #GALAXYCOLLECTION.

A post shared by FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA (@fentybeauty) on

The Eclipse 2-in-1 Glitter Release Eyeliner comes in three shades and gets more intense as you blend it in. If you want to keep it as a metallic finish, just leave it to dry. But if you want a sparkly effect, use the Galaxy 2-way Shadow Brush to blend!

 

With the success of Fenty Beauty’s first collection, it’s no surprise that the Galaxy Collection will follow suit. Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that Rihanna’s makeup reign isn’t letting up anytime soon.

For a full review of the Galaxy Collection, check out what some of your favorite YouTube MUAs had to say: Alissa Ashley | Jackie Aina

 

 

 

Header Image: Fenty Beauty

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