This is voyeurism inside voyeurism.
We start the first episode of Love & Hip Hop where we should — poolside on a hot city rooftop staring at a shirtless man. I can’t tell if this male objectification is meant to balance out the opening montage of women in hip hop videos, but, as we’ll learn later, this show’s definition of feminism is suspect.
Here we meet three of our ladies. The pool may be an apt metaphor — all three ladies are standing at the edge of some big changes in their lives, trying to figure out whether they should dive or not. And, as you can see/tell, the three ladies aren’t prepared for the jump either.
First there's Olivia, the formerly G-Unit-associated R&B singer.
We learn that her solo career hasn’t gone as she hoped, and now she’s prepping the follow-up to her 2001 debut. That is 10 years ago, as in, Willow Smith wasn’t walking yet. There is brutal and tiny competition out there.
Next we have Emily, the longtime –and semi-secret– girlfriend of Fabolous.
I say semi-secret because Emily says that even though they have been together eight years and have a son together, he doesn't take her on the red carpet or tell anyone about her. – I'm his family, whether he wants to admit it, – she tells us. Here’s proof that people get shifty eyes, even when they aren’t telling the truth to themselves:
Last up for this scene we have Chrissy, Jim Jones’ girlfriend, who is in a similar situation — they've been together for six years, but they haven't gotten married, and they don't have kids.
Chrissy tells us that the music industry isn't what it was, and that Jim Jones does what he has to do to make money, and that means dealing with “the stupid s*** that comes with it.” Here’s some of that:
MCing lady boxing matches inside of strip clubs. The athleticism and skill is truly breathtaking:
You’d almost believe this was a real sport, were it not for the punch-neutering boxing gloves:
They might as well have put nipples on those too. – I didn't know whether I had walked into a strip club or a boxing ring, – Chrissy interviews. She's actually walked into a boxing ring inside a strip club, so it's a Russian nesting doll of trashiness.
Chrissy is caught off guard by the event, and thus tries to catch Jim off his guard as well.
Her anger and yelling at the other females around the ring makes him giggle. She might as well be making fart noises, for how seriously he’s taking this.
Finally, a fight the other women in the audience could enjoy:
But it seems like he was taking her anger seriously. – I worry a lot about if my lady would ever leave me, – Jim interviews. – If she were to get up and leave your stupid ass…you couldn't fault her for none of it. – Speaking in second person hypotheticals aside, who knew Jim Jones had such a tender little heart?
Or that he lives in the suburbs? The next morning they talk through her issues with the strip club boxing gig. You’ve got to appreciate that Chrissy doesn’t have time for stupid s*** like taking off her jewelry before bed.
On to Somaya.
Somaya is a young rapper who has just arrived on the east coast to break into the business. Her accommodations are located inside the studio she's working from. They are…
…not fit for a rapper. Upside? If she can't find a pillow, that asbestos looks pretty comfy.
And the commute to work is short. Gross, but short.
Later Somaya has a meeting with Jim Jones to discuss working together. Somaya explains that she's already worked with one of his artists in L.A. so they already have a connection. The first question Jim asks her is how long she's been doing music — she answers that she's been playing violin since she was nine. A humble answer, but she wears her ambitions on her chest.
Jim’s advice: – Use your feminism as much as you can to get your point across. – The point he’s getting across right now is that he thinks “feminism” means this:
Luckily, Somaya thinks so too. Unfortunately for her, Jim is business first, feminism later: she asks to work with him on a track, and he asks if she's got money.
She promises to return not with money, but with a hot track. “I refuse to lose,” she interviews. With rhyme skills like that, how can she?
The next day, Olivia and Chrissy discuss Emily's situation with Fabolous. – If my dude was uncomfortable with me on the red carpet with him…how would you feel? –
“Like you were invisible” seems appropriate.
Next we have lunch with Emily and Mashonda, who we’ll see a lot of on Love & Hip Hop I bet.
Mashonda is an R&B singer and the ex-wife of Swizz Beatz, who, if you haven't heard, left her for Alicia Keys. So now we know the answer to Olivia’s question: You would probably feel like Mashonda.
Emily tells Mashonda that, once again, she dressed her boyfriend Fabolous for an event, then watched as he attended the event alone. This, despite their eight-year relationship and two-year-old son. Emily says that she's asked if she and Fabolous should take a break, and then she starts to cry. She realizes they have more in common than their earrings.
Emily takes a painfully long walk to her car…
…to contemplate her pain.
Back at the Jones residence.
Yay! Things are just as fun inside too. Chrissy and Olivia start pre-ballin
…before a night at the clubs. Jim is around too and glued to his phone, so Chrissy takes a quick peek.
She’s not quick enough though. She interviews that she tries to give Jim his space, just not too much space. Her shirt should probably read “take no chances”…
…because she doesn’t. Chrissy interviews that she heard about Somaya visiting Jim in the studio. She grabs the computer and Olivia and brings them over to the couch to do some Googling.
The results are not pretty. Well, they are pretty. Just not to Chrissy.
Olivia and Chrissy also discuss Somaya’s debut single which is called – Mira Mi Pum Pum. – It means – Look at my feminism.”
I love how Chrissy’s expression goes from laughter to disgust to incredulity. Cocktails and a show!
Chrissy and Olivia are on their way to an NBA draft party. That means there will be lots of young athletic men there. Emily meets up with them on the way, but in the car she reveals that she's – not allowed. – “Not allowed” what? To sit in the front seat? – It's just not motherly, – she says. These words come from Fabolous and not Emily, if you can't tell:
They get straight to their table and straight to table service, and things are going well. Peach Schnapps on ice well.
Then they spot Somaya. Or rather, her outfit calls to them like a beacon in a storm. Or a sequin in a storm.
Chrissy is offended, not by the sequins, obviously — she’s no hypocrite — but by the outfit’s overall effect.
She decides to take a closer look.
Not her strong suit, this whole quick look thing.
The ladies retreat to the bathroom to discuss Somaya. Chrissy reminds everyone that she won't do anything to stop Jimmy's money, but that only applies to the accounts receiving side. She’s worried Somaya’s trying to get money from him and is sniffing around his studio for it.
Somaya walks into the bathroom and confronts Chrissy, who is up for it, despite Somaya's intimidating height and blinding outfit.
Chrissy insists that she's not mad at Somaya, but she's mad at her shoes. I believe she’s mad at everything, including the shoes.
None of these ladies really look like they’re mad at anything, really, unless those smiles are actually bared teeth.
The whole thing kinda fizzles. Chrissy has won the bathroom, but she hasn’t won the war. For instance, Somaya’s rebuttal:
– You're a kept bitch, I'm the type of bitch who keep, – Somaya interviews.
Seems like Chrissy and Somaya would make a great couple actually.