If you woke up this morning and were shocked to discover that one of Black America’s favorite musical legends had gone home to glory, calm down. You don’t have to pull out your white painter’s cap, put on “Joy & Pain” and contemplate what steps you should take before you let go. Nothing happened to Frankie Beverly and all of the members of Maze are still standing right beside us and I’m told that they wish us well.
I am, however, appalled at the revelation that white people have no idea what that previous paragraph means.
Here’s what happened.
Late Friday evening, while reading tributes to the legendary disc jockey Tom Joyner, I began contemplating if he was the most “blackfamous” celebrity of all time. So I decided to ask the only organization that could answer this conundrum, Black Twitter:
If you didn’t know, a person is “BlackFamous” when most black people know their name and face, but white people have no clue. For example, Barack Obama is famous famous. But Clifton Powell is the standard-bearer for blackfame. Even if you don’t know his name, you know who he is and have enjoyed his work.
The Twitterverse immediately exploded with examples, most of which were hilarious:
John Legend even shared a personal anecdote:
But the most shocking answer was...
Wait. Did John Legend just say Stevie Wonder sang at his wedding? Not a recording but the real Stevie Wonder? And how do white people not know “Ribbon in the Sky?” As a walking, talking Stevie Wonder stan account, when black people tell me “Ribbon in the Sky” is their favorite Stevie Wonder song, I automatically assume they like Stevie Wonder in the same way that I like the Beatles—I know they exist but I only know “Hey Jude.”*
*I really don’t know “Hey Jude,” I just know they sampled Boogie Down Productions’ opening of “Criminal Minded.” I only hope John, Paul, Ringo and...Chad, I assume, paid KRS-1 his royalties.
Anyway, it turns out that the correct answer was Frankie Beverly, which I didn’t think was possible. I once met a woman who insisted she had been invited to multiple cookouts and was aware of “Frankie Beverly and the Maze” but apparently many, if not most white people, have no idea who uncle Frank is.
I am flabbergasted. How is this possible? To me, this is akin to having no clue who George Washington is or not being able to name the third planet from the sun. The black universe revolves around Frankie Beverly and Maze. Don’t they teach Frankie Beverly in Social Studies? He is so famous that we know his outfit. Frankie Beverly doesn’t wear a painters cap; painters wear a Frankie Beverly hat!
First of all, you can’t go to a black nightclub, 50th birthday party or family reunion without hearing “Before I Let Go.” I thought it was the national anthem until I was 14. It slaps intergenerationally. I’m willing to bet that tomorrow, there’s a choir marching in on the Pastor’s anniversary to a gospel version: “Before I Let God (Won’t He Do It).”
Anyway, White America has discovered Frankie Beverly. Tomorrow, Kylie Jenner will be selling white, Frankie Beverly-inspired “Kylie Caps” for $187.99 on her website. So if you notice a glut of Caucasians at Essencefest prancing off-beat while singing “We are One,” this is what started it. And to all the new fans of “Frankie Beverly and the Maze”...