What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

‘Ebony’ magazine goes big for February cover

Artist Kadir Nelson channels ‘American Gothic’

10:42 AM

The February issue of Ebony magazine’s cover is enough to make it a collector’s item. It comes courtesy of the hands of Kadir Nelson, the California artist whose given us multiple iconic paintings recently, namely for The New Yorker. It’s an adaptation of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, painted in 1930, one of the most popular works of art in this country’s history. It’s part and parcel of what many consider to be traditional Americana.

By subverting the original image to include a black family, Nelson turns the concept of what we consider traditional values. By harkening back to the farming motif of the 1930 painting, with the big-city skyscrapers deep in the background, it upends the oft-stated assertion that black people are just huddled masses wasting away in the dangerous, chaotic, so-called inner cities of America. Coupled with the headline “Yes, We Still Can,” an obvious nod to President Barack Obama’s original 2008 campaign slogan, it presents an image of unity that isn’t associated with pain.

[‘The New Yorker’: Kadir Nelson’s ‘A Day at the Beach’]

When it comes to visual themes and black families, establishing new standards for normalcy is important. The nod to the non-nuclear construct of this unit, in addition to a very dark-skinned man (with waves, no less!) is also an important touch. This is old hat for Nelson, but during a month in which someone who has openly antagonized quite a few black people in his time will be getting sworn in as president of the United States, it holds particular weight to be publicly displayed in retail locations.

The issue will feature thoughts from nine authors on what the new administration will bring. In an excerpt that Ebony posted online, Kirsten West Savali of The Root expressed concern about how state-sponsored violence, both physical and economic, will affect black communities.

“After eight years of President Barack Obama, the anesthesia of liberalism has worn off, and many Black Americans are experiencing sharp pains in anticipation of what lies ahead,” Savali wrote in a piece titled Revolutionary Black Love Will Keep Us Alive. “Our very existence in this clarifying political moment is evidence that the White settler colonial project known as the United States of America is still functioning exactly as intended. Black people have always been forced to navigate bayous of bigotry with a dexterity that defies belief. We have always been placed in the position of saving a country that hates us in order to negotiate our own survival.”

Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker explained via a brief history lesson regarding how a certain portion of this country’s population has reacted following a series of events that challenge the basic underpinnings of white supremacy that uphold most institutional discrimination and systemic prejudice.

“This is a climate in which a particular kind of reactionary mindset will be empowered,” Cobb wrote. “We’ve already seen the increase in hate crimes. Then there’s the prospect of what will happen to vulnerable poor people when Trump produces an economy that’s even more favorable to a small percentage at the top, which is the group he has represented his entire life.”

The issue is on newsstands now.

Barack Obama holds final news conference

He keeps it classy, cool and wishes Donald Trump good luck

5:45 PMPresident Barack Obama stepped to the podium in the White House briefing room for the final time Wednesday afternoon and spoke at length about the importance of the media, the history of U.S. presidents, what he believes about the American people and what he plans to do after he leaves office. During the proceedings, he called on reporters by first and last name, a touch that showed the remarkably intimate relationships that a president can form with the people who cover him, particularly over eight years.

As far as overall tone goes, it was standard Obama: measured and slightly long-winded, with a side flair of comedy. Yet, when asked to speak on race relations in America, his reply was nothing but serious. “It is simply not true that things have gotten worse. They haven’t. Things are getting better,” he said. “I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation. I think kids are smarter about it. They’re more tolerant, they are more inclusive by instinct than we are. And hopefully my presidency maybe helped that along a little bit.”

Overall, it was nothing out of the ordinary, just a man leaving office. No tears, no overly weepy words, just a decent show of respect for the people in the room who showed up to do their jobs. Ultimately, he saved his best words for his response to the final question, when he spoke about his daughters.

“Man, my daughters are something. And they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up. And so these days when we talk, we talk as parent to child but also we learn from them. I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted [to the election]. They were disappointed. They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we’ve tried to teach them in our household and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom. And what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses. But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience. We’ve tried to teach them hope, and that the only thing that’s the end of the world is the end of the world. … They don’t mope.”

On Friday, Donald Trump will take an oath to become the 45th president of the United States of America. On Wednesday, the 44th ended his news conference with two words: “Good luck.”

Mike Tyson drops video for Soulja Boy diss track

The world definitely did not need this

5:30 PM

You might be asking yourself, what does the Soulja Boy vs. Chris Brown bout need to spice it up? Answer: not a Mike Tyson diss track. This foolishness, titled If You Show Up, that the former heavyweight champion of the world released is total garbage. What’s a shame is that we were borderline here for this completely ridiculous boxing match, but this song is so awful that anyone who even wanted to tune in to this for fun should probably reconsider.

The celebrity duel was intriguing for many reasons. One, seeing two actual celebrities step into a ring to beat each other up is comical on a certain level. But it also represented an interesting evolution in the state of hip-hop beefs. Instead of brandishing guns or shooting videos on Instagram, why not duke it out? Seems like an actually decent way to settle a score, with the added bonus of money going to charity. There was something genuinely funny about the whole thing, which possibly set a precedent for other stars to do this in the future.

Alas, Tyson ruined it. As serious as this squabble between Brown and Soulja Boy may be, the boxing match, reportedly set to be in Dubai, was clearly ridiculous. The latter is posting absurd videos of him training with similarly skinny dudes in a random home gym, an appropriate level of involvement for a situation like this. It’s funny because it’s stupid. The same way that arguing over Instagram likes is stupid, yet I digress.

Don’t get it twisted, we love Tyson. His cartoon was excellent and, in general, this phase of his life has been more entertaining than anyone expected or even really deserved. But this latest stunt screams of post-verdict O.J. Simpson, who had no idea what to do with himself so he just did any random thing to stay in the limelight.

It need not be pointed out that this song is trash top to bottom. But the video doesn’t even feature Tyson. It’s a bunch of models rapping the lyrics in scenes that are quasi-related to the content of the song. He throws in a shot at Floyd Mayweather, who was the original promoter of this fight, until a side beef erupted with Soulja Boy, not surprisingly. That random scuttlebutt aside, this video is still dumb.

Directed by Tonio Skits and produced by Damon Elliott, who describes himself on Instagram as a “🎥Producer 🎶Songwriter * Composer 💪Fitness Buff 🚴SOUL NOMAD💛,” this isn’t the first time they’ve worked together. There’s a whole slew of boxing-related parody videos, which actually ARE funny, compared to this diss track nonsense.


I wanted to like this fight. I was willing to shell out some dollars to actually watch this thing live, just for the showmanship aspect of the function. But this video is so laughably awkward that it gives one pause. These rhymes are way too boring and waaaaay too serious. This could have worked. It could have been funny. We would have all laughed and moved on. But now I’m forced to think that Tyson *actually* dislikes Soulja Boy, when we all know that’s not true and just a goofy stunt between Hollywood dudes.

We’re always rooting for you, Mike. But let’s leave the boxing rap to Adrian Broner, who really is about that life.

Daily Dose: 1/18/17

D.C. gets ready for inauguration

1:00 PMWe got the gang back together for another podcast this week to talk about Antonio Brown’s foolish antics, Steve Harvey’s wild week and Michelle Obama’s position as a style icon. It was a fun one. Tune in here!

Two days away. That’s how far we are from Donald Trump becoming president. This reality is certainly upon us, and if you live in Washington, D.C., like I do, there are reminders everywhere to let you know what’s about to go down Friday. There are fences and blockades everywhere and folks making plans to get way out of town. Many members of Congress are going to be skipping the festivities, Trump plans to write his own speech and Obama’s final news conference is upon us. And as it turns out, people like him a lot.

Speaking of the current president, he made a serious move Tuesday. Barack Obama pardoned helped out Chelsea Manning, the former Army data analyst whose classified document leak back in 2010 spawned the rise of WikiLeaks. He commuted her sentence, so she’ll be getting out in May, instead of in 2045. That’s a major deal, any way you want to think about it. As a transgender woman in a men’s jail, she’s also in a particularly tough space. Anyways, she’s getting out of prison soon and some people are not happy about it.

You can tell extremely interesting stories through food. As a matter of course, identities are forged around the things we put in our bodies to survive, so if you’re looking for a great way to learn about a particular person, place or thing, just ask them what they like to eat. And for some people, culinary exploration is also a conduit to educating themselves about their own past, from a cultural standpoint. Such is the case for Johnny Huynh, who reconnected with his Vietnamese culture through food.

Their season is over, but the New York Giants are still explaining that boat trip. Of course, at the time, no one said they thought it affected their play at the time, but they lost after a decent amount of players decided to head to Miami on an off day. But apparently, the wide receivers took that trip and invited the defensive backs. We know this because Landon Collins said so. He also pointed out that he declined to go with them, but the defensive backs also went elsewhere, but he wasn’t at liberty to speak on it. Uh, OK.

Free Food

Coffee Break: The scourge of sleeved jerseys in the NBA will finally be lifted. On Tuesday, Nike announced that it was doing away with this awful trend, which to be honest, I had finally just come around to liking. I always said that they should go full long sleeve before anything else, but I guess we’ll never see that day.

Snack Time: Legendary Nigerian funk artist William Onyeabor died Tuesday at age 70. His discography is incredible, and if you don’t know who he is, check out this half-hour documentary about his life.

Dessert: Need a gift for that big Tupac fan in your life? Here you go.

Daily Dose: 1/17/17

Serena Williams is back in the land down under

10:00 AMYour boy made an appearance on the True Hoop podcast with Amin Elhassan, and it was a great time. We talked All-Star Game cities, Rip Hamilton vs. Derrick Rose and Barack Obama’s best.

Martin Luther King III is not a character without controversy. You might recall his role at the center of various things involving his father’s legacy, including their whole family fighting over various dollars, but that’s another story. On Monday, he met with Donald Trump (at Trump Tower no less), a decision that I’m sure had his dad spinning in his proverbial grave, if you believe in things like that. Apparently, it was a “constructive” meeting. Sure.

The circus is leaving town. After more than a century on the American landscape, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down. The company claims it wasn’t due to PETA’s incessant protests, which led to a phase out of elephants altogether, but due to the nature of the entertainment industry. Basically, the company is losing too much cash to stay afloat. This isn’t a huge surprise. Circuses are archaic.

When you watch sports, do you yell at the screen? It’s a natural reflex sometimes: A player does something wild, or a ref blows a call, and you start going nuts. Then, someone invariably will turn to you and say, “Why are you screaming? They can’t hear you, you know.” Well, as it turns out, in the actual NFL, all that yelling actually does have an effect. Coaches get vocal with referees in games, because it straight up works.

The Australian Open is tremendous. Matches are played in the middle of the night if you’re stateside, and it’s hot as Hades at all times. Plus, because it’s the land down under, the fashion is typically on a fun level of neon that we can all appreciate. Plus, the Australian Open has the best side court setup of all the majors. Some feel like black box theaters with tennis happening inside. Most importantly, though, Serena Williams is back to busting heads.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you got shot, and were in a wheelchair, how do you think you’d live out the rest of your life? I don’t know what I’d do, but we do know what Tyrone Shoemake is doing with his. The Upper Body Boy is now a thing, so when you need inspiration in your life, check for him.

Snack Time: For MLK Day, the cast of TNT’s Inside the NBA went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights to participate in a simulated sit-in. The results were powerful.

Dessert: Here’s what happens when Young Thug doesn’t show up for a video shoot. It’s great.

Daily Dose: 1/16/17

Bishop Eddie Long dies at 63

4:00 PMWe had some more fun on the radio this weekend, so if you didn’t get a chance to listen to The Morning Roast, here’s the podcast. Yes, we talked politics and The Bachelor, back to back.

We could have had a really awkward situation on our hands today. Over the weekend, it was reported that President-elect Donald Trump was going to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. But since he had already started beef with civil rights movement icon, Rep. John Lewis, Trump had to cancel, because he might not have realized that Lewis is actually honored in said museum. Now, he says he’s going to visit with Martin Luther King III, which promises to be a mess.

Speaking of Washington, D.C., the last week has been odd. Since the inauguration is just a few days away, all sorts of things have been locked down, fenced off or otherwise blocked. The event, weekend and parade are a security nightmare on a local level and with all sorts of folks coming to town, it creates a real problem, logistically. Anyways, various groups have things planned for the festivities, if you will. Plenty people plan on protesting and one such collective will be theater groups.

Bishop Eddie Long has died. If you don’t recall, he was the Atlanta megachurch pastor who was accused of coercing young boys into relationships. As a result of his flair, his look and his open denial of the claims, he became famous on Black Twitter and eventually ended up being sort of an unfortunate symbol of what a lot of people consider to be the rampant hypocrisy within many black churches. He then started showing off a dramatic weight loss, which scared as many people as it impressed. He was 63.

I can’t imagine that Mike Tomlin is happy with Antonio Brown. After the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship, the Pittsburgh head coach gave a pretty rousing postgame speech. For whatever reason, his star wideout decided to live-stream said words. Seriously, a grown man actually decided to clandestinely document his boss after an excellent victory. Unsurprisingly, people are ripping him. And he specifically went against Tomlin’s words.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Portlandia is a favorite of ours in this household. Seriously, I love the show, because it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve probably ever seen on television that actually makes sense. Alas, it’s ending after the eight season, and that makes me very sad.

Snack Time: I’ve told you about Song Exploder before, and this episode with Solange talking about Cranes In The Sky is extremely fun to listen to.

Dessert: We don’t love pitch invaders, but we do love these two.