2024 Grammy Awards Recap

New Taylor, snubs everywhere, and lots of outfits
Biggest moments at the 2024 Grammys

The 66th annual Grammy Awards were last night at the Arena in the not-so-sunny Los Angeles, California. As storms raged outside the arena, I tuned in for close to five hours of red carpet coverage and the sparkling ceremony to watch music's biggest night and make my own judgments.

Keep ReadingShow less
Culture News

Killer Mike Was Right to Meet With Brian Kemp

How are activists supposed to "speak truth to power" if they're not allowed to be in the rooms where power lives?

Killer Mike of Run The Jewels performs at the Bunbury Music Festival, in Cincinnati2019 Bunbury Music Festival - Day 3, Cincinnati, USA - 02 Jun 2019

Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Killer Mike is widely considered to be one of the best political voices in hip-hop.

One half of the duo Run the Jewels, the Atlanta-based rapper is known for his outspoken support of progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and policies like Medicare for All, legalization of cannabis, and demilitarizing the police. He has advocated for voters not to let their support be taken for granted—to ask for something in return for their votes. But now he's coming under fire from Twitter for meeting with Georgia governor Brian Kemp.

Keep ReadingShow less
Culture Feature

12 of the Best Political Voices in Hip-Hop

There's a potent strain of leftist politics woven into the history of rap and hip hop, and these artists have been pushing it harder than ever in recent years.

A scene from Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” music video.

Via Vevo

With all the negative attention that Kanye West has been earning for himself in recent days...and months...and years, it's important to remember that he is a political outlier.

The vast majority of the time when rappers involve themselves in politics, they do not align themselves with figures like Donald Trump. There is a long tradition of hip hop artists using their platforms to call attention to important social movements and endorse liberatory left-wing politics.

These 12 artists are some of the most significant voices in hip hop and politics who have made serious efforts to spread important messages, and in some cases have done a lot more than that.

Keep ReadingShow less

On "Anyways," Young Nudy Wants to Be Famous on His Terms

After a slightly-tumultuous 2019, Young Nudy, who has spoken at length about how much he loves solitude, uses Anyways to mostly set the record straight and reaffirm his values.

Young Nudy - No Go (Official Video)

Young Nudy refuses to strip himself of his authenticity.

"Sh*t deeper than rap," he broods on "Deeper Than Rap" the bouncy sixth track off Nudy's new mixtape, Anyways. "I done seen a lot of n***** fall off tryna play with that trap." For Nudy, rap stardom is a real danger. After performing at a Super Bowl event in Atlanta last February, Nudy and his cousin 21 Savage were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, the latter being taken into I.C.E. custody for allegedly being "unlawfully present in the U.S." Nudy's currently free but admitted to Pitchfork that the whole ordeal scared him and put his name in headlines for all the wrong reasons. "I thought the promoter had set me up...they didn't tell me sh*t," he said.

While jail time and police encounters have been known to boost a rapper's reputation, Nudy thinks that speaking on legal woes is a corny way to garner acclaim. For him, maintaining "good energy" is imperative. In this sense, Anyways is rife with the same dark humor and sarcasm as 2019's beloved Sli'merre, but Nudy has honed in on his enunciation and often speaks across the project with a new-found sense of conviction. "I done got a lil' older, what y'all don't understand," he says on "Understanding." "I'm not that same n****, but I'm still that same n****."

It's true; Nudy's colorful anecdotes are still scattered throughout, ("N***** out here got my name in they mouth, let my name taste like sh*t."), but after a pretty crazy 2019, Nudy, who has spoken at length about how much he loves solitude, uses Anyways to mostly set the record straight and reaffirm his values. Everything feels more purposeful as a result, but while the instrumentals remain quirky, they don't take center stage as they did on Sli'merre, and that's too bad.

Granted, Nudy wants you to hear what he's saying, and there are still great moments of effervescence on tracks like "Blue Cheese Salad" and "No Comprende," but a lot of the album's heavier moments feel unrefined and, at times, recycled and contradictory. He says on "No Go" that he doesn't want to start any feuds with other rappers, but then a track later he addresses Gunna by name as he briefly questions his authenticity.

But moments of repetition are forgiven when Nudy speaks frankly. He is painfully aware of his toxic relationship with street life and dirty money. On "A Nudy Story," he speaks on his first robbery with nostalgia and recounts feeling intoxicated by the prospect of riches. ("I was amazed by that sh*t, like, "Do they make more of this sh*t?"). He was lured in quickly and was additionally hardened by his dad's sudden departure from his life. They have since reconciled, but the timing of it all made loyalty of the utmost importance to Nudy.

Anyways isn't the shot at mainstream recognition that S'limerre felt like it was. In fact, the former feels like more of a retraction. S'limerre was stacked with hard-hitting features from 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby and others, but Anyways is a strictly solo venture, and despite their unbreakable kinship, even P'ierre Bourne is notably absent from the project. But the mixtape's unrefined nature feels purposeful when put into a broader lens. The streets are familiar to Nudy, while Hip-Hop stardom, as shown by the recent murder of Pop Smoke last week in Hollywood Hills, is what's truly frightening and unpredictable. Nudy is gonna stay out of it for now and stay moving at his own pace. "I just be on some chill sh*t," he told Pitchfork. "I'm just worried about me. I'm trying to keep up with the future. The world is changing."


TV Reviews

Killer Mike Hits and Misses in 'Trigger Warning'

The rapper delivers a brash, uncompromising look at political and racial issues in both America and the black community in his Netflix series, but leaves something to be desired.

If you saw a soft drink at the grocery store called "Crip-a-Cola" that was produced in a Crip trap house, would you buy it?

That's just the question rapper and Run the Jewels MC Michael "Killer Mike" Render asks in an episode of his new Netflix series Trigger Warning. In the episode, Killer Mike examines the privilege of white street gangs like the Hell's Angels compared to black street gangs like the Bloods and Crips; the privilege being that the Hells Angels can make money off their brand whilst black street gangs can't and don't. This leads Mike to approach an Atlanta Crips crew with a plan to sell their own soda.

In Trigger Warning, Killer Mike delivers a brash, brutally honest and righteous take on the political and social tension in America and the black community — much like the rhymes his fans are familiar with him dropping. Throughout, Mike takes on sacred cows like societal attitudes toward the black church and black capitalism. Much of it speaks to the broader point Mike hammers home: "Kill Your Masters," an ethic of individualism and community that rejects authority.

In the first episode of the series, Mike challenges himself to consume products sold only at black-run businesses for 36 hours. This turns out to be more difficult than expected even in a Mecca of black culture like Atlanta. He can't even eat at a local barbecue joint because the pork didn't come from a black-owned farm and he can't buy weed since it was presumably grown by white people in California. It's an experience that leaves him longing for the heyday of black commerce that his parents and grandparents enjoyed. It's part of the show's objective to honestly discuss the issues facing the black community. It's also strongly connected to Killer Mike's desire to educate white audiences on real black history, especially those in his own fanbase.

So much of what makes it a worthwhile watch are the authentic conversations Mike has with folks. He discusses, for example, how the black church has too often failed the community and the need to create a new black spirituality that recognizes the beauty and excellence of black people. It's valuable to see these sort of topics talked about when such issues are rarely analyzed honestly in the mainstream media.

The series has an unmistakable resemblance to Comedy Central's NathanFor You — just a more politically-charged version of. It's filled with the same reality TV, mockumentary vibe, with cringey situations, and absurd social experiments that criticize cultural norms. In one episode, Mike invites an eclectic group consisting of a white nationalist, a Juggalo, a Black Lives Matter activist, a Jewish Renaissance fair aficionado, and a Native American Moor to perform a song before an RTJ show. During the recording session, the white nationalist refers to himself as a "white N-word" leading to a heated discussion about the use of the word. Later on, the white nationalist says it before an audience of hundreds, quickly silencing the crowd. The on-screen awkwardness is palpable.

These moments just add to the show's absurd nature.

Still, Trigger Warning leaves something to be desired. It's often provocative just for the sake of being provocative. The scene of the white nationalist blurting out the N-word is one case of this. It's done to shock viewers and contains no bigger lesson than "people on political extremes will say offensive things sometimes."

Sometimes the point he's attempting to make falls flat either because it's confusing or it lacks the political power typical of the rapper and political activist. Often, it comes off as reality TV, but it's not clear if it's done so to satirize the medium. In the final episode, Mike creates a fake new country called New Africa to protest the political divisions in America. It's an ambitious idea to discuss the legacy of black nationalism in the black community, but ends up as an uninspiring call for unity. One can't help but find these calls for unity coming off empty in the current political environment. His criticisms of the education system goes no further than: schools don't prioritize vocational skills enough. There's nothing about the inequities in school funding or public school privatization.

Killer Mike knocks it out of the park in some episodes with a frank look at hard-hitting issues in black America with his usual swaggering and uncompromising attitude. Other times, the show lacks a clear direction with muddled political and social commentary, but has a few provocative scenes to keep the audience entertained for 25 minutes. It's certainly something fans of Run The Jewels would enjoy checking out, and overall it's a unique entry into the Netflix original nonfiction canon.

Dan is a writer and occasional optimist. You can follow on Twitter @danescalona77.

POP⚡DUST |

"The Masked Singer" Is America's Favorite Joke

Remember the "Resident Evil" Films? We're So Sorry

Zac Efron's Ted Bundy Film Tries Too Hard to Be Cool