Book Reviews


 

 

Have You Met Miss Jones? 

by Tarsha Jones

Review by Richard Sheppard

 

This average, middle-aged and conservative reviewer doesn’t listen to “urban” (black) talk radio, although from reading electronic media critics in the papers, urban radio seems very much like “adult contemporary talk radio” (white). The genre is defined by Howard Stern, a not unfunny guy whose shtick is nonetheless off-putting if only because Howard’s an over-50 guy hawking voyeuristic-guy talk to predominantly under-30 males, the sweet spot of radio demographics. Howard hasn’t changed his M.O. and now he’s on satellite radio; his has been an awesome run but I left his demo years ago and don’t miss it. Not that I listened slavishly anyway. No question he’s amusing, but all-too-soon, predictable.

Don Imus, who recently called the Rutgers women’s basketball team a bunch of “nappy-headed hos,” and faced national wrath led by that racial paragon Al Sharpton, is another big fish in the radio pool, although this reviewer justifiably considers Imus a fraud on par with some African potentates, maybe moreso. Although in retrospect, Imus suffered immensely for his sin while today’s urban (black) culture – music, primarily – glorifies the degeneracy of black culture by frequently using the “n-word” with little consequence, nay, it’s celebrated. It’s odd, because while blacks – primarily black males – go around calling each other “nigga” this and “nigga” that. You rarely hear white boys referring to each other as “honky” this or “honky” that, because it gets old, and stale as a joke, and yet the n-word is not supposed to be a joke, and blacks don’t call themselves the n-word as a joke. They call themselves the n-word because they are calling each other “nigga” with all the debased depravity that implies.

Go figure.

Ms. Tarsha Jones, author of this review’s title “Have Your Met Miss Jones?” is an example of a black female Howard Stern-type, commenting via radio on subjects her audience finds compelling. This, again, since I don’t listen to her, is, I gather from her book, a mish-mash of ghetto music gossip, miscellaneous rivalries and put-downs. It may be germane to ask at this point why I read the book in the first place if I didn’t listen to Ms. Jones’ radio oeuvre? And I don’t have the slightest idea if what she’s writing in her book jibes with what she does on the air?


I don’t know why, maybe I liked her picture on the cover. More likely, I never shy away from an opportunity to dip my toe in the black culture and mindset, if only for curiosity’s sake. Race issues are pretty hectic, probably over-hectic, but I wouldn’t shy away from seeing the other point of view. Meeting Miss Jones promised a relatively light and painless look into urban radio and a sassy sista’s mindset in a comparatively short book.

It delivers here and there. Here’s Tarsha’s life story, a pretty good one about a black girl from a broken but loving family rising to become a noteworthy radio personality. Her educational background is in “voice” or singing, and she had some modest success there. She endures the usual grade and secondary school motifs, schoolyard tiffs and good and bad teachers. She struggles in her studies, but does well enough to attend Syracuse University, enduring a series of casual boyfriends who she recognized were louts but insisted on staying with. This part of her story, the ambition, reveals a confident young lady who pays attention, sees opportunities and works with gusto at them.


Have You Met Miss Jones being sold on street vendor table in lower Manhattan on August 31, 2007. Close-up look pictured below.

Then there’s the Tarsh in the Men’s department, the abusive multi-broad boyfriends seem all too familiar in urban black culture. She seems pretty active herself in the department, but like most dames she claims she just wants Mr. Right. Her Mr. Right’s are mostly “wrong” in the sense of mistreating Miss Tarsh, catting around on her and on occasion belting her for minding. It’s a revealing look into brotha-sista relations. She mostly always has a boyfriend in the picture, usually some mope, but she does her own thing too as she strives for ascension in the super-libido’d world of urban music. She wouldn’t – and doesn’t – present herself as being “easy” but there’s clues in the book that she enjoys the love arts although sometimes enduring non-satisfactory poundings of a casual nature. She’s an attractive healthy young lady with some curvy moxie, yeah, a Miss Jones you’d like to meet. At least until the end of the book, she doesn’t get pregnant.
 

  

Have You Met Miss Jones being sold on street vendor table in lower Manhattan. The employee manning this stand, in blue shirt in above photo, became offensive after this photo was taken, demanding that book be purchased if photo had been taken of it.

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There’s the story of her professional rise. Her first “break,” comes when she meets pioneer rapper Doug E. Fresh and becomes what might be termed “hugging friends” with him. Though on the music scene Fresh is a little dated, pardon the pun, her Fresh connection is enough to get some decent industry introductions and pull together some recording and touring gigs. Tarsh relates her time with Doug is mostly platonic, at some point it isn’t. Fresh always has background baby-mommas and ultimately ditches Tarsh for same. Not so her relationship with Busta Rhymes, who drills Tarsh remorselessly while also providing hooks into the industry. Busta be real on the sista front, with gooms and goom hideouts all over town. Tarsh certainly leverages her relationships with Doug and Busta, but both make professional and personal “nigga” promises they seldom keep. Mainly, the brothas wanted their Tarsh and their baby-mommas too. Fresh in particular had a fleet of baby-mommas stashed in Harlem. Both Busta and Fresh stiffed Tarsh for gig and recording money too, tacky tacky dudes, more looks at the culture. Whether they be pimpin’ the sistas outright for their bodies, or shaving per diem checks, there sure are some cheap dinghy brothas in the industry. But you knew that?

Radio Gig to the Rescue

Eventually, Tarsh’s singing career isn’t taking off; it’s a constant battle to stay sleek enough to compete with the trim slinks topping the R&B hip-hop smoking sista charts. At one forlorn point, Tarsh considers the “kept woman” route. Which after all is pretty common one way or another in the male-libido-dominated show-biz world? Having had a taste of modest success coming out of NYC’s Astoria projects, and a promise of more, who can blame her? But just as the recording career stalls, Tarsh gets a sidekick radio gig slinging hip-hop gossip at an urban format NYC station. She does okay, but has her spats with her radio bosses and on-air co-talkers, and snits with rival station talkers. One of her on-air co-workers, a smarmy, succeed-at-all-costs nasty brotha calling himself “Star,” forces Tarsh out and never gets off her even after she’s gone.Yet another radio personality, the big fish in the urban talk radio sista pond, Wendy Williams, helps Tarsh land a gig in Philly (eventually, these two sistas too will become rivals). In Philly, Tarsh applies herself with verve and parlays that gig into a return to NYC, from where, I think, she still talks forth.

Tarsh’s story is straightforward with the urban moxie sista brio; girl struggles, girl makes good. Girl makes friends and enemies along the rocky path to celebritydom. I’m sure in her radio gig, to compete, Tarsh comes across as sassy, brassy, and “black is beautiful” fabulous. It likely works for her and bully for her. Yet one glimpses in her story plenty of instances where young ladies like Tarsh, without her strong sense of self, end up in the seamy grinder of celebrity-dom. They get their taste in a rapper or rockstar limo and that’s all the taste. It’s one thing to have to put up with odious, lying misogynists like Doug E. Fresh and Busta Rhymes and come out like Cinderella Tarsh in the end – cause there’s that element of to the story. It’s another to imagine the broken hearts and dreams of all the sistas who only got the part where Doug & Busta got their part, and end up or remain projects rejects. Tarsh so far has made it, and she’s fortunate because even though she’s street-smart, she seems very trusting, too. And in show-biz that’s a quality that’s exploited in ways physically and financially.

And who knows, if I can find her on the radio dial, I may even get to hear her voice, to go with her words.