VixenWHIT VixenWHIT

Whitney Houston Last Song: A Farewell

The room was filled to capacity -- full of Soul singers, producers, musicians, writers, the very best of the R&B experience. Where else could you see Faith Evans, Brian McKnight, Keke Wyatt, Kenny Lattimore, Michel’le, Anthony Hamilton, Monifah, Goapele, and Ledisi in the same venue?

I was there -- only a few steps from the stage on Thursday, February 09, 2012 -- at Kelly Price’s Pre-Grammy Party to hear Whitney Houston’s last song.

Whitney walked in gracefully, attached to daughter Bobbi Kristina, Gary, Pat, and the rest of her entourage. She stood and watched as act after act from the Soul tradition paid homage to the greatest songs and singers. Whitney danced, hugged, and seemed to enjoy a space amongst those whom she’d seen grow up in the industry.

As I watched her embrace honoree Kelly Price off-stage, I thought of our entertainers, our generation’s most impactful, who Whitney helped to mold. Credits began to roll through my mind: Mariah, R. Kelly, Mary J, Brandy, Monica, Aaliyah, Tupac, Faith Evans, TLC, Christina Aguilera, Usher, and the ladies of Destiny’s Child. All of these artists publicly revered her as their inspiration in the entertainment industry.

After Kelly took stage, she spent a few minutes celebrating Whitney saying, “She challenged me to be a better singer. Whitney stopped me in the middle of rehearsals for Heartbreak Hotel ... and I never held back again.”

As Kelly continued to sing praises to her idol-sister-friend, Whitney daintily walked up the stairs and stood face to face with her mentee. She gently grabbed the microphone and said, “I love you ... I’m so proud of you ... my friend.”

I pretended she said the words to me. We all did.

Then, just as we thought she would leave the stage without gracing the room with the sweetness of her voice, Whitney opened up and softly sang a gospel lullaby to Kelly. Whitney’s last song was “Jesus Loves Me,” a poignant final declaration of her love for God.

The entire crowd watched and listened to Whitney’s last song, some with eyes closed -- most with tears streaming down.

This was the Whitney Houston I remembered being introduced to before I even had a concept of what an album was. That big, blue Whitney album sat up high atop dad’s old record player. My mom would play “For The Love Of You” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” over and over in the late 80s -- my very first memories of hearing Whitney’s voice.


It would be many years before I fully understood Whitney’s impact on the music industry. I played those tapes -- yes, cassette tapes -- over and over again when singles were the hot buy at Sam Goody Record Store. The Bodyguard Soundtrack was the first I’d ever owned.

There were times that I would play “I Have Nothing” on repeat or try to make the piano keys match Whitney’s runs at the end of “Run To You.” She taught me discipline as an artist. This same discipline was evident in every record she recorded. Whitney didn’t give us no mess!

Her voice defined us. It was the indescribable possibility of young Black kids to create art more impactful than anyone could have ever imagined. Her pitch-perfect soprano made our hearts stop and chilled us to the core.

Her voice was the essence of excellence.

Back at Kelly’s Grammy Party, I came across another revelation on Whitney’s voice, and that was her dedication to social issues. I listened to the same voice used to help Nelson Mandela call an end to the apartheid movement.

In 1994, Whitney was present to headline an international campaign which celebrated the release of Mandela and signaled the end of the South African massacre which saw scores of men and women killed in hate. Whitney opened her Concert For A New South Africa with a moving Stevie Wonder cut, “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” one of the songs Wonder ultimately performed at her funeral.

Her voice was a siren for equality, a beacon for justice, in the same light as Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye.

She spent countless dollars and lent her artistic space in support of many charities over the years including Children’s Hospital, Save The Music, United Negro College Fund, and her massively affective Whitney Houston Foundation for children.

-

She gave the world so much more than her symphonious voice -- she gave the world color, hope, and life.

Near the end of Whitney’s last song, I marveled as I had forgotten about the pain, the drugs, and the questions about her sexuality, the accusations, the death threats, the stalking, the miscarriages, and the icy cold depression. I forgot how painful it was to be Whitney Houston.

She sang her song, and in some strange way it felt like she was singing her troubles over.

We’d all heard Whitney’s 2009 declaration, “I was not meant to break,” but we got to see the triumph with our own eyes, that night. The Whitney that stood before the packed crowd in Hollywood, less than two days before her untimely death, was vibrant, unequivocally beautiful, and stronger than ever.

She was strong for us.

That night I told Whitney, “I love you ... I’ve always loved you,” and in many ways, I spoke for all of us who grew up watching the AT&T Your True Voice commercial. I spoke for those of us who stared wide-eyed at the TV screen to see her pulverize the National Anthem. I spoke for those who would never get the chance to.

Whitney’s last song was more than an ironic happenstance. She sang her last song for Kelly and Faith, Bobbi Kristina, Cissy, her family, colleagues, haters, her fans, and all of the people she’d touched throughout her 48 years.

She sang for me ... and that was enough to remember the Whitney Houston that reshaped our culture, our spirits, and our lives.

Her last song was sung with dignity, pride, hope, and above all these things -- love.

God bless you, Whitney.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
KMazur/WireImage

Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

Continue Reading
Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

Continue Reading
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

Continue Reading

Top Stories