Another week, another exception made. Ciara is just a year shy of the 15-year threshold that I’ve applied to my Throwback Thursday posts, but today is her birthday, so who cares? The R&B singer turns 33 today.

Her debut single, “Goodies” (featuring Petey Pablo), spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is among the most successful debut singles of all time. Her debut album would produce two more singles that peaked at No. 2, and over the next half-decade, she achieved four more top 20 hits. She isn’t the commercial powerhouse she once was, but she’s still cooking and she looks better than ever. Happy birthday, Ciara!

PS: Peep Jeezy in the whip with Jazze Pha.

Normani and Calvin Harris released a collaborative EP, titled Normani X Calvin Harris, earlier this week. The project includes two trakcs: “Checklist” (fearuring WizKid) and “Slow Down.”

“Checklist” is a new musical frontier for Calvin Harris, who has given us mainly EDM and, more recently, funk. The song showcases his range as a producer and also serves as further evidence that Afropop — more specifically, Nigerian pop — is gaining prominence in the American music market. WizKid provides an assist to Normani on the vocals. Listen to the song below.

The second of the collaborations, “Slow Down,” is the much better song. Production-wise, Calvin Harris balances EDM and R&B beautifully; in terms of vocals, Normani’s performance is significantly better (perhaps because the song is closer to her style). Check it out below.

WizKid just dropped the video for “Fever” and it features fellow Nigerian superstar Tiwa Savage playing leading lady. The internet is speculating that something is going on between the two, but I think Tiwa is just a good actress. And not that it ever prevented two people from dating, but she’s a clean 10 years older and looks like it — and that has more to do with WizKid’s boyish looks. Check the video out below.

Drizzy Drake a.k.a. 6 God a.k.a. Champagne Papi turns 32 today. He has had a record-breaking year and I’m sure this birthday will be a special one for him. I honestly believe that when it is all said and done, he will be remembered as one of the greatest artists of all time.

It was tough to pick just one, but below is my favorite Drake song, “Look What You’ve Done,” which is an album cut from Take Care. Happy birthday, King Aubrey!

The day is almost over, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show some birthday love to one of my favorite artists, Miguel. The R&B god turns 33 today, so we firing up 33 shots! Below is a live performance of “Pineapple Skies” at the DC stop of the Python Tour, recorded by yours truly. Happy birthday, Miguel!

Cardi B is talking all her shit on her new single, “Money,” which arrives two days earlier than its original release date. The song is in keeping with what she said she cares about, and I ain’t mad. The beat knocks and the bars give you slight “Bodak Yellow” vibes. The song was produced by J. White Did It and is presumed to be the lead single from her sophomore studio album. Check it out below.

Dancehall artist Spice sent the internet into hysteria yesterday when she posted pictures of herself with what appeared to be bleached skin. I didn’t fall for it for a second because it takes a lot longer to bleach your skin that drastically — she looked like her regular self just a few months ago at the season 7 reunion of Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta. Also, if you’ve ever seen Spice and the way she carries herself, you’ll know that she couldn’t possibly be that insecure about her looks.

The prank was a publicity stunt to promote her new single, “Black Hypocrisy,” which addresses colorism within the black race. She dropped the video for the song today, and it confirms that she didn’t really bleach her skin. I think the whole thing is brilliant. Watch the video below.

In a livestream on Instagram this past weekend, Cardi B declares that she doesn’t care about being lyrical, explaining that she only cares about topping the charts and making money. As you can imagine, a lot of self-proclaimed “hip-hop heads” are up in arms and accusing her of being a fraud. I, on the other hand, have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Watch a clip from the livestream below.

First of all, I don’t know what Cardi means by “lyrical” — I find that most people use that word to describe rappers that are more “conscious” (for lack of a better term). If that’s what she means, I see nothing wrong with her not wanting to be that. I believe the best art is the one that is most sincere, and being “conscious” just so people can say you’re lyrical is actually quite corny. There are many rappers in the game right now that are feigning “consciousness” for critical acclaim, but I digress.

Now…about the money part. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with being money-hungry (especially when you come from humble beginnings), but it’s a little unsettling to see an artist be that blunt about it. On one hand, I love the honesty about her motivations, but on the other, it makes you wonder about her sincerity as an artist — would she put out a song she personally didn’t like if it was trendy? But then again, she’s made it clear that she gives no fucks.

Finally, based on my definition of “lyrical,” Cardi is lyrical enough in my book. I think anyone who can put together clever lyrics (regardless of subject matter) is a good lyricist. Does she rap as well as the greats? Hell no. But don’t let anyone tell you that a rapper has to stick to a narrow range of topics or fit a certain mold in order to be considered “lyrical.” Unfortunately, based on what I see in this video, Cardi herself has bought into a false idea of what it means to be lyrical.

Travis Scott’s music may not be my favorite, but I gotta give it to him for making dope-ass videos. The video for “Sicko Mode” dropped yesterday and it is the best I’ve seen in a long time. It is also a perfect example of the fact that good music videos don’t necessarily need to have a plot line — good costuming and visual effects will usually do the trick. Peep the clip below.