In the last few years, I had taken to frequently referring to Whitney Houston as Nippy. For one, her attitude in recent years -- which we know was in direct correlation to her substance abuse -- seemed to beget the name "Nippy" and for two, isn't that a cool nickname? In any case, I like to use nicknames for artists that I feel especially affiliated with, for whatever reason. Tasia Mae, B-Rocka... and Nippy, to name a few. So when Nippy started doing drugs and asking us for receipts (which is truly an epic statement. Truly.) it followed that I would give a side-eye and shake my head and wonder "why Nippy? Why?" She didn't know me, but my soul knew her music and that's deep.

My earliest memories of music in my life include Michael Jackson, Helen Baylor, Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. By the age of 6, I knew the entire Whitney album front to back and back again. Even now as I, like so many others, listen to every Whitney song we can find, I'm amazed that I still know the lyrics to song I haven't heard in over a decade. As I watched VH1Soul play every Whitney music video ever I couldn't help but get chills and really be cognizant of how amazing she was vocally. Whitney hit her notes every time. She didn't slide into the note, she didn't look for the note, she didn't change the note, homegirl HIT THE NOTE. She was a pioneer for so many little black girls who wanted to see themselves on magazine covers. She successfully made the transition from R&B/Pop starlet to movie star. She showed us what it was to re-make a song -- re-do it so good that people forget there was someone who did it first. Whitney was the consummate entertainer, really. Thorough, amazing, Whitney.

Because she was so great at what she did, it was really easy for us to forget it sometimes. But I think there was a collective breaking of hearts when we heard about her failed attempt at a tour. Concert-goer after concert-goer complained that her voice wasn't right, that she wasn't ready to perform. And when I finally did hear her, I cringed. Her voice of gold seemed like it was gone forever. But we have auto tune and vocal coaches and studios. That wasn't the end of the world, and surely Whitney would be around long enough to really return to greatness so that one day we could be like our parents when they talk about Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight and Diana Ross in their heydey.

I was shocked when Michael died, but only a little. I mean we all knew something wasn't right with MJ, whether we thought it was drugs, or mental illness, or whatever we thought. We were sad to lose such a pioneer, such a musical genius, but could we say we were completely caught off-guard? Whitney, though? Damn. Whitney Houston is dead.

I feel for her daughter. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my mom even today, but let alone at 18. If you look at pictures of Bobbi Kristina and her mother in recent years you can see the adoration and admiration and love in her eyes. It's precious, but makes Whitney's death just that much more sad.

I hope that we all really reckon with the great loss R&B and Pop just got kicked in the face with. No Whitney Houston? I mean honestly, can you even fathom what the next decade of music will sound like with no Whitney Houston? Just last Thursday she was coaching Brandy and Monica -- two vocal powerhouses in their own right -- no more Whitney Houston coaching the next generation of music legends. No more Whitney Houston making movies with the next generation of big screen stars. No more epic Whitney Houston interviews. Damn.

So like so many other people who are saddened, shocked and grieving, I'm playing all my Whitney Houston music until I can really come to terms with the loss of greatness. I think that can be my contribution towards making sure that we don't forget that Whitney Houston was here, and she did great things for so many people's lives, even if it was just to show us that sometimes talent is all you need, is to keep playing her music.

One of my favs...

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