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

The Weeknd drops ‘Starboy’ video

and we now know that the old him is never coming back

4:45 PM

The Weeknd’s new personality as a mashup between Michael Jackson and Bruce Wayne is only getting started. On Wednesday, the Toronto native dropped the first video for the title track of his new album Starboy that features Daft Punk. In it, it’s clear that the old him is definitely behind us.

For a song that’s already dripping with symbolism between the lyrics and the cover art, the video takes things to the next level. Director Grant Singer is definitely on one with his latest visual from the XO artist’s arsenal. He also brought you The Hills, I Can’t Feel My Face and Tell Your Friends. But back to the show.

It starts off with a dramatic murder of what is ostensibly the old Abęl Makkonen Tesfaye, dreads and all on one side of the table. On the other, a masked man who eventually binds and suffocates the dreadlocked character. The struggle is real, then off comes the mask. We then see the new sleeker, definitively more active Weeknd, who proceeds to violently destroy the physical awards in the dead man’s house with a shining neon cross. There appears to be nothing particularly allegorical about it. The Weeknd’s old self, and what we did to him as a star in this business, created the new him.

The new him doesn’t give a damn. That’s why he’s driving a superhero-level sports car I’ll never be able to afford that apparently turns kittens into full-blown black panthers. The games are over.

Of all the apparently deeply personal lyrics on this song, the most poignant seems to be “look what you’ve done,” in the chorus. Maybe when he first emerged in 2011 as the eerie crooner whose tales of sex, drugs and deceit, he never thought it could change him. Maybe after he found himself catching flak for dating a young supermodel, then the center of a Super Bowl ad campaign, it became too much.

It seems if you’re a Canadian artist these days, there’s only so many darling compliments you can take before you go full bad boy. But compared to Justin Bieber and Drake, what The Weeknd is doing it for the culture better than the rest. I guess he really does come alive in the falltime.

Serena Williams breaks her silence

In powerful Facebook post, Williams addresses police brutality

6:00 PMFor her whole career, Serena Williams’ excellent existence in tennis has been an exercise in activism. Her entire approach to not just her appearance, but her physical game is a demonstration of blackness that turned the tennis world on its head and completely reshaped how America viewed not just black athletes, but black women in general. She has never been shy on speaking her mind or boycotting tournaments, and Tuesday she took to Facebook to address a matter very personal to her.

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As protests about the treatment of people of color by police officers spread from the NFL all the way down to the middle school level across the country, Williams’ voice is the most powerful. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has handled the spark he created masterfully, but is still ultimately a backup quarterback. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, when asked about the state of America, took a similar tact to Williams’ — calling his own family into the discussion.

“It’s a scary thought right now to think if my son gets pulled over, and you tell your kids if you just [comply], and you just listen to the police that they will be respectful and things will work itself out,” James said. “And you see these videos that continue to come out. It’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said he’s been pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and that my son is going to return home.”

While the NBA is a global league from a culture standpoint and the NFL is the biggest sport in the United States, Williams’ situation is in a different echelon. Her platform, because of the sport she plays and her popularity in general, enters a sphere that few active players in team sports can reach. We’re talking about a woman who crip-walked at the All England Club after winning an Olympic gold medal.

“I am a total believer that not ‘everyone’ is bad. It is just the ones that are ignorant, afraid, uneducated and insensitive that is affecting millions and millions of lives,” she wrote. “But I realized we must stride on — for it’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go. I than wondered than have I spoken up? I had to take a look at me. What about my nephews? What if I have a son and what about my daughters? As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ ”

Monday was her 35th birthday. The feeling and personal reflection in that post is palpable and poignant. There are people who believe that perhaps her tennis career is winding down. But she’s still got the behemoth that is Nike on her side and a human side that her fans adore and others are forced to respect. When she talks, people listen. No matter the language. If Williams sets her sights on taking her activism to the next level, both on the court and off, the movement gets a signal boost that no one else can provide.

Daily Dose: 9/27/16

Lester Holt gets his close-up at the presidential debate

1:00 PMI’ll be in New York City for most of the week, so for your purposes, imagine that I’m writing this from a lovely abode in Queens, not the Starbucks that I’m currently sitting in with a guy clipping his nails next to me.

So, that happened. On Monday night, the first presidential debate went down on Long Island and let’s just say that there were a lot of interruptions. Dressed in all red, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton laid a trap on national television for Republican nominee Donald Trump to walk right into. Not only did he do that, but he did so with boisterous gusto, effectively claiming that he knows traps because his people have the best traps. Alas, that’s not how traps work. Trump didn’t get any help from moderator Lester Holt, either. The vice president candidates disagreed on the outcome, but here’s the analysis.

Speaking of Lester Holt, there’s the whole matter of moderating. The NBC News anchor lost control relatively early, and had trouble regaining it by the time things really got hairy. He let Trump slide on one too many outbursts, so by the time he was really on the ropes, the desperation was so palpable that he was going to talk over any moderator on earth. But, then again, the job is not easy, because you don’t want to make it seem like it’s all about you. VICE‘s Harry Cheadle explores what the job is like.

We haven’t forgotten about you, Charlotte, North Carolina. While the police there are busy deleting tweets and not turning on body cameras, Monday night at a city council meeting, things came to a head. Residents showed up en masse to discuss the recent shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. It’s worth noting that there’s a law that will be taking effect Oct. 1 that will force a court order to get police videos released. At first, some thought authorities were going to stall until that could take effect, but people are still unhappy with what they did divulge. ABC News reports.

The NBA season is coming up and Monday was media day. People around the league were asked what they thought about the situation regarding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thinks that, overall, our ability to have conversations in this country is at an all-time low. Of course, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James addressed the matter, as well, but didn’t necessarily go as far as some thought he might. He says he plans to continue to stand for the national anthem once the season starts, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Gucci Mane and Harmony Korine have a pretty good bond. The two worked together on the 2013 film Spring Breakers and now are teaming up again. In a recent interview with GQ, the recently released from jail rapper from Atlanta revealed that he’ll be in a new film called The Trap. Obviously.

Snack Time: There are few things Lupita Nyong’o can’t do. Aside from her on-screen talents, she’s just an awesome person who seems like she’d be a really good friend. Also, she can rap a little bit, which always comes in handy.

Dessert: When they make a movie about this guy, it’s going to be awesome.

‘Please Forgive Me’ is not worth your time

unless you’re really into Drake’s action-hero, savior complex

6:32 PMDrake’s acting range keeps staying the same, but his short films keep getting longer. His latest foray into the “Aubrey saves woman from a band of goons” genre is a 20-plus minute oeuvre directed and written by Anthony Mandler titled Please Forgive Me. It’s shot beautifully, but the story is weak, the dialogue is even worse and ultimately you feel like the 6 God is trying to angle his way into a role in Bad Boys For Life.

This started back in 2010, when the Find Your Love video dropped. Also directed by Mandler, it featured a storyline that had the artist pursuing a girl dating a gang leader. The premise didn’t exactly make everyone in Jamaica (where it was shot) happy. Officials thought it portrayed their country in an overly negative light. People took it with a grain of salt and made a bunch of jokes about how “Wheelchair Jimmy,” his character for so many years on Degrassi, had finally grown up.

In 2013, it was Hold On, We’re Going Home that kept up this character of Drake being the sensitive lover who has no choice but to dabble in the thug world to meet the good girl — more on that later — he must save. That time it was set in 1980s-era Miami. It was a lengthier departure from the previous storyline although the theme was similar. There were cameos galore and we got to see Drake talking on a rotary phone. On the “did we need this scale,” it clocked in at unnecessary.

Now that it’s 2016, we’ve evolved to not only Apple Music, where it was released, but also a multisong soundtrack. There’s even a performance at one point. The plot is somewhere between Indecent Proposal and Belly, with a random photo shoot in the middle for Belgian model Fanny Neguesha. It’s sexy and serious and all the other things that a good vanity project needs to be.

It’s just not very good. There are long pregnant pauses in the acting, a bunch of lengthy panning shots of the star. Then we’re back to the squad in all-black, and this time Drake’s gun game is a little stronger. But again, what is with this persona? Back before he fully went nuts on the rap game and was just a kid on a show in Toronto living with his mom, he rapped this:

I been a mess since every girl I left went
and a got a new man but I’m the new version of Fresh Prince
and the beds got bunked for real, I switch wifeys every season like Uncle Phil

If he genuinely wants to reignite his acting career and take a career path along the lines of Will Smith, it’s probably time to get himself a part in a real flick — not just play parts in his own videos that emulate fantasies he’s had since that old basement apartment. He’s better than this.

FIFA disbands anti-racism task force

under the assertion that the group’s work is done

4:17 PMRacism is no longer a problem in soccer. At least, that’s according to FIFA, which made a decision to disband its anti-racism task force, established in 2013 by then-president Sepp Blatter. In a hilarious twist that only FIFA could manage, the association handed out its first-ever diversity award Monday to an Indian nongovernmental organization named Slum Soccer. You can’t make this stuff up.

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FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura claims that the program had its goals, met those goals and now is implementing them. Her hiring alone was an indicator of FIFA’s progress in matters related to diversity (she’s the first African to hold the position), but let’s be real. Fighting for diversity and continuing practices on inclusion are not issues that exist in a static vacuum. It’s an ongoing institutional function that touches more than just heads of federations, but trickles down to the crowd experience and even youth level academies.

Russia, the nation scheduled to host the 2022 men’s World Cup, was nearly kicked out of Euro 2016 because its fans were so out of control, with racist insults at players among the many reasons. One club is playing in an empty stadium in the Champions League as a result of racism, as well. To disband the very committee ostensibly formed to address these types of issues on a global scale — all while handing out an inaugural award highlighting your own efforts in diversity — is laughable. And no one is buying it.

“Never has the need to combat racism and racial discrimination been more evident than it is in the world we live in today … it is not something that any governing body with any semblance of responsibility can downplay or deny,” Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who has run for president of FIFA twice, said of the matter. He also called the decision “shameful.”

Even people on the committee were surprised. “I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” Osasu Obayiuwana, a task force member said to The Associated Press. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention.”

Just when you thought they were making headway by trying to get rid of the bad apples who created the corruptness within the system in which they work, this crops up, reminding all footy fans across the globe that it’s going to take a lot more than just levying fines and trying to throw a couple of people in jail to untangle the web of foolishness that FIFA has created.

Daily Dose: 9/26/16

The big night is finally here

1:40 PMOn Friday, I had the pleasure of going to The White House for the first time in my life. As it turned out, it was quite the day to be there, between the band and the guest list. What a weekend it was.

Monday night’s the night. We’ll finally get to see Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump face off in a debate, and it promises to be wild. They’ll be at Hofstra University, sort of home turf for both candidates, who’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York, obviously. Personally, I think this could be a royal disaster for Trump, who doesn’t necessarily do well with facts and respectful exchanges of ideas. NBC’s Lester Holt will moderate. Here are five things to watch for Monday at 9 p.m.

Speaking of presidents, there’s still the one in office. For all of the criticism President Barack Obama has received, there are certain things that he has actually accomplished, aside from just reelection and being the coolest resident of the White House, ever. As it turns out, he’s been decently effective at ending one of this country’s largest and most difficult problems: income inequality. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman explains.

When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show, it left a huge hole in the late-night television world. Comedy Central took the opportunity to hire a comedian of color, specifically South African Trevor Noah. He was never going to fill Stewart’s shoes in a day, a month, or even a year, but the way the program has evolved is interesting. Of course, Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show was canceled, but Noah’s bringing all the blackness. VICE profiled the late-night star.

Paul Pierce is going to play one more season in the NBA. Here’s the thing about Pierce: Ever since he got into the NBA, he was a confident player who knew what he could do. It took him a while to really get the respect he deserved among fans, but when people realized, it was on. It’s tough to see him announce his retirement tour, because he’s not a guy who’s going to be getting a ton of minutes, anyway. It’ll be his 19th season and his last.

Free Food

Coffee Break: No. 1, I had no idea that Pharrell was married. No. 2, I had no clue that he had children. No. 3, I have also learned that his kid’s name is Rocket, which is perfectly tremendous. Now, the family is expecting a new addition. Please get them a reality show.

Snack Time: Police in Danville, Virginia, are getting rather brazen with how they choose to do their jobs. Check out these photos of squad cars putting their hoods up to block dashcams.

Dessert: If you’ve got $300,000 lying around, you might want to bid on this insane vinyl collection.

President Obama invites the stars to toast museum opening

Tennessee State University’s band performed on the South Lawn to kick off the event

12:00 PMBy the time President Barack Obama took to the podium Friday, the White House floor had been studded with more black stars than ever. Samuel L. Jackson had accidentally photobombed a convo between Kobe Bryant and Rep. John Lewis. Dick Gregory had made his rounds, along with Harry Belafonte. Oprah and Gayle King had graced the room, and Phylicia Rashad had displayed her regal presence. Bob Johnson had done a little glad-handing and Fonzworth Bentley proved why he still is one of the best dressed men in America with his cream jacket-eggplant tie combo. David Adjaye had fielded quite a few compliments for his design work and Jesse Jackson had been moving around so much that he had to take respite on a baby stroller for a bit.

“This is easily the blackest I’ve ever seen this place,” DeRay McKesson joked, in town for a bit before heading to Charlotte, North Carolina. “I love it.”

The afternoon reception at the White House to commemorate the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall was a celebration of blackness that’s rarely been inside the walls of the presidential edifice built by slaves. So much so that the Obamas invited Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands to play on the lawn to kick things off.

Tennessee State is no stranger to big stages. But I doubt we’ll ever see an HBCU’s band transition from Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together to Chance The Rapper’s No Problem and on into Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice just a half-hour or so after a White House press briefing ended across the way.


The day before, Obama and the first lady sat down with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts after touring the new museum ahead of its opening. On Friday at the White House, he talked about how important the facility was, as a landmark and a storytelling tool. He noted the team effort it was to get this put together over the years. But while all that black excellence occupied that room, the volatile situations unfolding across the country were not forgotten.

“The timing of this is fascinating,” Obama said. “Because in so many ways, it is the best of times. But in many ways, these are also troubled times. History doesn’t always move in a straight line. And without vigilance, we can go backwards as well as forward. And so part of the reason that I’m so happy the museum is opening this weekend is because it allows all of us as Americans to put our current circumstances in a historical context.”

Earlier this week, the officer who shot and killed Terence Crutcher was charged with first-degree manslaughter. On Friday, a video shot by the wife of Keith Lamont Scott was released, unfurling a host of new questions. The president said he hopes the museum can help people in a tangible way.

“My hope is that, as people are seeing what’s happened in Tulsa or Charlotte on television, and perhaps are less
familiar with not only the history of the African-American experience, but also how recent some of these challenges have been, upon visiting the museum, may step back and say, ‘I understand. I sympathize. I empathize,’ ” Obama said. “I can see why folks might feel angry and I want to be part of the solution as opposed to resisting change …

“When I imagine children — white, black, Latino, Asian, Native American — wandering through that museum and sitting at that lunch counter and imagining what it would be like to stand on that auction block, and then also looking at Shaq’s shoes and Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac, my hope is that this complicated, difficult, sometimes harrowing, but I believe ultimately triumphant story will help us talk to each other, and more important, listen to each other, and even more important, see each other and recognize the common humanity that makes America what it is.”

Video released of Keith Lamont Scott shooting

The 43-year-old victim’s wife captured it on her cellphone

3:24 PMIn the wake of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday — and the way the city erupted as a result — Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts called for video footage of the killing to be released. “I do believe the video should be released,” Roberts said at a news conference Friday morning. “The question is on the timing.”

That time came later Friday, when NBC News released an exclusive video of Scott’s final moments. Unlike the footage released earlier this week in the case of the police shooting of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this one did not come from a Dashcam or police helicopter.

The video was taken by Scott’s wife, Rakeiya Scott, on her cellphone, as she watched her husband be killed.

WARNING: This video contains graphic content and may be upsetting to some viewers.

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Rakeiya Scott’s video does not show an actual view of Scott being killed. In it, however, you can hear her both pleading to her husband to comply with law enforcement and begging the police not to harm him. “He has a T.B.I.,” she says, an abbreviation for “traumatic brain injury.” Then, you hear four gunshots ring and her angrily scream, “Did you shoot him! Did you shoot him! Did you shoot him! He better not be f—— dead! He better not be f—— dead! … He better be alive!”

Remember, this video alone is certainly not enough to secure a conviction in the death of Scott. As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney noted at Friday’s news conference, video evidence does not establish probable cause.

And while we wait for official police footage of Scott’s killing to be released, it’s not surprising that the first video came from the cellphone of Scott’s wife. We’ve seen it before. Because at the sight of police, people take out their mobile devices and begin to document, fearing the worst that could happen. What does that tell you about the current state of community-police relations in this country?

Daily Dose: 9/23/16

Denzel Washington has a new movie out

2:00 PMI’m heading to the White House to cover something this afternoon. I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and have never set foot on the grounds even once. I am rather nervous, to say the least.

We’re at the point where the president needs to address the nation again. With our first presidential debate in the backdrop coming Monday, the situations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, mean that President Barack Obama needs to speak. This week, he visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens Saturday. There, he talked to Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts about a wide range of things, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s chances at the Oval Office and our country’s legacy of lawful segregation. Check out the interview here.

Speaking of brutality, if you haven’t seen the video of a girl being pepper-sprayed by police, you need to. The situation unfolded in Hagerstown, Maryland, where police decided that a 15-year-old girl who hit a car with her bike needed to be subdued, pepper-sprayed and arrested. I don’t know what’s going on in Hagerstown, but apparently the teens are real menaces, tearing up the town and upsetting apple carts. In all seriousness, this situation is absurd. The girl, who was charged with assault and disorderly conduct, is now speaking out.

My dad sees every single Denzel Washington movie ever made. He goes to the theater, often by himself, buys a ticket and watches the movie. It doesn’t matter how good, bad or ugly it looks, he’s a devoted fan. So, since there’s a new movie out with him in it, you can bet my dad will be in the theater. At this point, Pops talks about nearly everything in a “something a Denzel character once did” context. Anyway, Washington’s range is strong, but specific. FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey analyzes the four types of Denzel movies.

Steve Clevenger is not a fan of Black Lives Matter. Not familiar with that name? Well, he’s a backup catcher for the Seattle Mariners who grew up “in the streets of Baltimore,” as he puts it. He also decided that Thursday night would be a good time to get on Twitter and mock the protestors in Charlotte, who are upset about the death of Keith Lamont Scott. He threw in the old “lock ’em up in a cage” take just for good measure, and now he’s suspended for the rest of the season. Can’t imagine a 30-year-old journeyman like him has much place in the bigs at this point.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There are some headlines that are just too good to be true. “Jaden Smith Shared the Gospel of Boxed Water on an Eco-Friendly Field Trip. His dad, Will Smith, played chaperone” is definitely one of them. I can’t even imagine what being around that family is like, on so many levels. This little excursion sounds like it was incredible.

Snack Time: Around these parts, we love Nicole Byer. I first became a fan of her work on Girl Code, but now she’s got her own show and is flourishing. Check out this profile of the MTV star.

Dessert: This, friends, is why editorial cartoons exist.