Why Patti LaBelle’s “Thank You” To James Wright Is Enough

November 23, 2015  |  

I swear Black people can’t have nothing.

We got a real opportunity here to help one of us corner the mainstream pie market and here come folks with their conspiracy theories and negativity messing it up.

I kid, of course about the whole cornering the market-thing. Black folks’ empowerment will never come from capitalistic pursuits alone. But I am serious about folks shutting the funk up about Patti LaBelle’s pies.

We are literally talking about a $4 pie here. It really isn’t that serious. Yet folks have managed to wrap 400-years of oppression and Black empowerment into one little slice of a dessert. I have witnessed more folks debating the ramification of Patti’s pies and what it means for Black folks, than I have seen them discussing this upcoming presidential election.

And I am talking about silly accusations like, Patti’s pie are mental slavery. Or Patti pies are a trap set by Walmart, Black women and “emasculated” Black men to thwart a boycott that I’m pretty certain most Black folks were ignoring anyway. (This is a real meme y’all.) Or Patti’s pies are the reason we are not taken seriously politically. Or Patti pies are a ploy to give us all Type-2 diabetes. Or Patti’s pies were on the balcony when Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr was assassinated…

It’s like folks just don’t like to be happy. Or worse, we are so used to losing that we can’t even accept when one of us is actually winning.

It’s literally just pie.

If you like the pie, eat the pie, Anne Mae!

The worse of the Patti’s pie criticism belongs to the folks upset over credit.

More specifically, when asked by a TMZ reporter whether or not LaBelle would use James Wright, the talented performer behind the viral video review of her sweet potato pies, for “more stuff,” she said:

I did it myself…I was selling before the guy did his wonderful video….Thank you James…He is just a wonderful singer and a wonderful guy.”

Sounds reasonable to me.

But many folks believe LaBelle hasn’t been appreciative enough. They say that she should cut him a check or invite him or tour to be a background singer, or put his picture alongside hers on the pie box with the caption “As seen in the James Wright video.”

I swear y’all harassing LaBelle like one of those dudes who feels just because he bought us a drink at the club, he can follow us around all night until we give him some. That’s right I said it: Black folks are collectively acting like that dude in the club.

What’s most bothersome about the criticism is the subtle sexism behind it all. The idea that a woman can’t take ownership of her own accomplishment without giving everyone else credit.

Last I checked, we didn’t ask Drake to cut a check to Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa, as well as all the countless other women he whines about on wax.

And nobody’s asking Mark Zuckerberg to cut a check to all of us for making Facebook a global tech empire.

Likewise, when RL from the group Next got pissed that his song had been pilfered without financial compensation for the Why You Always Lying viral meme, everyone told RL to “mmmohmygod…stop f**cking whining.”

So why are we asking LaBelle to share credit for her success?

And no disrespect to Wright because I seriously love the dude and his beautiful voice. But let’s make this clear: he is not Patti LaBelle.

And Patti LaBelle is not some nobody from Fraggle Rock, Kentucky.

What LaBelle is, however, is a living icon. And not only does she have a long and noteworthy career in music, film, stage and television, but she has countless of awards and achievements, including inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

In addition to pie, she also makes BBQ and hot sauce, marinades and has her own line of cookbooks

The point is that Patti LaBelle ain’t no has-been, or up and coming. Patti LaBelle is down by law.

It is Patti’s well-known name and career that gave the sweet potato pie its value. It was Patti’s name and career that inspired Wright to make the video. And it was Wright’s imitation of Patti, which made the video go viral.

Not the other way around.

As much as I love Wright’s voice, I guarantee you, if he had sung the praises of No Name Brown’s locally famous poundcake, most of us would be like, “that’s nice. But she ain’t no Patti!”

So yeah, I don’t blame her for making it clear, Wright didn’t make Patti’s pie, but rather Patti’s pie made Wright a household name.

She called the man and said thank you. If she decides in the future to use him contractually for paid advertising, that would be great. But honestly, a thank you is enough.

Besides, if Patti would have cut him a check, then many of us would have been like, “see, I told y’all sheeple, it was all a setup…”

Because Black folks think everything is a trap.

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