Rockets may have a new owner and it’s not Beyoncé Houston Rockets sell for $2.2 billion, slated for restaurant owner Tilman Firtitta

After a couple of months of media hoopla that surrounded Beyoncé Knowles Carter’s interest in buying a stake in the Houston Rockets, the team will soon have a new owner, pending approval from the NBA board of governors.

The Rockets announced Tuesday that current owner Leslie Alexander agreed to sell the team to Tilman Firtitta, Houston billionaire and owner of Landry’s and Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, for $2.2 billion.

The announcement of the sale tops the ranks of NBA franchise ownership deals, a league source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, even better than the $2 billion Steve Ballmer paid for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014.

Firtitta originally made an offer to purchase the Rockets in 1993 for $81 million but it was sold to Alexander for $85 million. Firtitta is no stranger to sports as he was also an original investor in the NFL’s Houston Texans. He said he has no plans to move the team.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but it includes the operation of the Toyota Center. Fertitta has no other partners in connection with the transaction.

“I am truly honored to have been chosen as the next owner of the Houston Rockets,” said Fertitta, a native of Galveston, Texas, and a lifelong resident of the Houston area. “This is a lifelong dream come true. Leslie Alexander has been one of the best owners in all of sports, and I thank him immensely for this opportunity. He has the heart of a champion. Lastly, out of respect for the NBA’s approval process, I can say no more other than I am overwhelmed with emotion to have this opportunity in my beloved city of Houston.”

Alexander said he’s excited to welcome and pass the torch to Fertitta.

“He is a Houstonian, business leader and committed to the success and excellence of the Rockets both on and off the basketball court,” said Alexander. “I have personally known Tilman for over 24 years and don’t think I could have found anyone more capable of continuing the winning tradition of our Houston Rockets.”

The sale process started back in July. Fertitta told KRIV-Fox 26 earlier this year that he was interested in buying the Rockets after Alexander announced that the franchise was for sale. In February, Forbes Magazine valued the Rockets franchise at $1.65 billion — good for eighth in the NBA — with revenues of $244 million.

If Fertitta’s purchase is approved by the NBA, his hotel and casino will not be able to offer betting on Rockets games, ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported.

The Rockets won the NBA title in the first two seasons after Alexander bought the team. In 24 seasons under Alexander’s ownership, the Rockets have won 56.9 percent of their games, fifth-best in the league.

Beyoncé, Kevin Hart and others on a growing list of athletes and celebrities supporting hurricane relief efforts Many celebs are raising funds or lending a hand

NBA All-Stars, NFL players, MLB standouts and celebrities continue to publicly show their support for those affected by Tropical Storm Harvey, which continues to pummel the Houston area, displacing residents. While many have escaped the rising floodwaters and pouring rain, others are still seeking refuge.

President Barack Obama, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kelly Rowland, Chris Paul, James Harden, Eva Longoria, Drake, DeMarcus Cousins and other celebrities have tweeted their support, pledges and prayers to the people of Houston and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, many are going beyond social media to donate money and time. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander donated $10 million to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which was started by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

“Our hearts are heavy seeing the devastation that so many of our friends, family and neighbors are experiencing,” the team said in a statement.

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart took to Instagram with a call to action urging others to pledge funds.

“This is a serious matter,” Hart said in the video. “I’m going to lead the charge and step it up in this way.”

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Hart said he was donating $25,000 and beckoned for other stars such as Beyoncé, The Rock, Justin Timberlake and others to join in and spread the word.

Houston native and music superstar Beyoncé is giving back to her hometown. She released a statement to the Houston Chronicle saying, “My heart goes out to my hometown, Houston, and I remain in constant prayer for those affected and for the rescuers who have been so brave and determined to do so much to help.”

Beyoncé added, “I am working closely with my team at BeyGood as well as my pastor [Rudy Rasmus at St. John’s in downtown Houston] to implement a plan to help as many as we can.”

Established in 2013, the BeyGood organization does philanthropic work worldwide.

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Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt started a fundraiser Sunday to help the people of Houston.

“That’s our city,” he said in a video. “There’s going to be a lot we need to do to help rebuild.”

He originally set a goal of $200,000. After that goal was reached, he raised the stakes to $500,000. Paul’s $50,000 donation pushed the total collected by the fundraiser to $500,000. The total increased to $1 million by Monday night, prompting Watt to raise the fundraiser’s goal to $1.5 million. To date, that goal has been reached and the new goal is $2 million.

“I can’t even begin to describe what it’s like to see people come together for a common cause,” Watt said.

Singer Carl Thomas posted a video on Instagram with a message that says, “This is happening now.” He is seen in the video on a boat assisting in the evacuation process.

“I’m evacuating right now. I’ve got my dogs with me. Y’all pray for Houston. I’m not really worried; ultimately I know that whatever happens, it’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.”

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Nicki Minaj and DJ Khaled responded with $25,000 pledges. Chris Brown pledged $100,000 and took the time to express skepticism about donating to Red Cross, while rapper T.I. lent his support.

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The Houston Astros ownership group pledged to donate $4 million to the relief efforts. The Texans and owner Bob McNair donated $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund. The NFL Foundation said it would match the $1 million donation, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family pledged to match all funds donated to the Red Cross in support of Harvey flood relief up to $1 million.

Major League Baseball also contributed to the cause, joining with the players association to donate $1 million to the Red Cross and relief organizations chosen by the players.

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter, who is from the Houston area, said in a tweet that he will donate $10,000 to relief efforts for each home run he hits for the rest of the season.

Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, a native of the Houston area, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson he will donate $25,000 to relief efforts and an additional $5,000 for each sack he makes this season.

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MusiCares, a four-star charity established by the Recording Academy, started a relief fund to support members of the music community affected by the recent devastation of Harvey. The organization offers confidential preventive, recovery and emergency programs to address musicians’ financial, medical and personal health issues.

Assistance includes basic living expenses such as shelter, food, utilities and transportation; medical expenses, including doctor and hospital bills and medications; clothing; instrument and recording equipment replacement; relocation costs; home repairs; debris removal; and more.

“Now is a time when we must come together and take care of those who need help, as we are only just beginning to understand how life-altering Hurricane Harvey will be for its victims and their communities,” Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy and MusiCares, said in a statement. “It’s important that we step up and support the creative community, and take action to provide immediate assistance to members of our music family.”

Daily Dose: 7/14/17 Beyonce releases photograph of Sir and Rumi

All right, kiddos. It’s been quite the week here in Minneapolis. The X Games got underway Thursday night, but Friday is the first full day and I’ll be taking over The Undefeated Instagram page for the afternoon. This should be ridiculous.

Someone in our newsroom is actively hating on Beyoncé. “Does her photographer always have to be someone out of Alice in Wonderland? Sorry. Not supposed to troll the Queen. Forget I said that,” were the words of one writer who will go unnamed. Some of these jokes and memes are just plain hilarious though. Look at that photo. These children are going to grow up to be the most widely watched children on earth since Princess Diana’s boys were small. We can’t wait. Sir and Rumi are their names, in case you forgot. Also, watch this.

We officially have a start date for Bachelor In Paradise. Let’s be clear: This season is already wrought with controversy, and I do not feel good about this component at all. That being said, it’s important to note that this show is the best in the franchise, and it’s not even particularly close. But for us die-hard BIP fans, we’re going to have our ethics tested because after the consent dispute scenario, a major premise of the show as basically promoting rape culture is being questioned. That said, set your calendars and clocks for Aug. 14, kiddos.

If you were on your way to a job interview, would you stop to save someone’s life? What if you were living in a halfway house and had less than $5 to your name? That’s what Aaron Tucker, an ex-prisoner in Connecticut, did the other day when he was up first thing in the morning to interview as a busboy at a local barbecue spot. You know what, most of you out there would have just kept it moving and maybe called the cops. He missed the interview, but the community has reached out to help and job offers are coming in. GOOD.

Speaking of jobs, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders might be hiring. I say “might be” because with this new stadium they have to build in the desert, it’s obviously going to take bodies to do it. But in what I can only call a stroke of cynic genius, someone posted a hoax “pre-recruitment meetings” sign-up publicly that drew hundreds of people to an otherwise routine Las Vegas Stadium Authority meeting. In short, bringing the very people who need these gigs to the feet of those who will eventually decide who gives them. Mean, but brilliant.

Free Food

Coffee Break: This Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather promo tour has finally gotten good, now that they’ve decided to step up their disses toward each other. But now McGregor has brought 50 Cent into the situation, which is probably not a very smart move whatsoever. Curtis Jackson replied to him — on late night TV, no less.

Snack Time: We’ve all been waiting around for Vic Mensa’s new album, and we finally got something to rock with. His new song called “Wings” features Pharrell and Saul Williams. I love this song.

Dessert: I can’t think of anything better to send us into a weekend than two fighting pancake shops.

‘4:44’ is a Shawn Carter album. JAY-Z is dead Love, betrayal, shame, survival: JAY-Z hits the ball out of the park with intensely personal new album

These moments don’t happen. Hip-hop is a young man’s game. But for one night, the music universe revolved around JAY-Z, the sport’s finest elder statesman, with the release of his 13th studio album, 4:44.

The 10-track 4:44 is the most emotionally taxing project of JAY’s (he’s back to all caps) career. Ernest “No I.D.” Wilson, who produced JAY’s 2009 “Run This Town” and “Death of Autotune,” as well as 2007’s “Success,” among others, is the album’s lone producer, and he is irreplaceable. No I.D.’s music is more than just “beats,” or instrumentals. Without No I.D.’s soulful backdrops (inspired by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Kool & The Gang and more), 4:44 might lack the emotional connection it not only thrives on but quite literally survives on. But in the end it is JAY’s inward glimpse of himself — the man he was, the man he’s become, the man he grew to partially hate — that separates this album from his previous bodies of work.

Yet, where 4:44 will land in the rankings of JAY-Z’s catalog is a question better left for time. Off the rip, though, this is the greatest rapper of all time stripping himself down to essentials. It’s the project fans and critics have clamored for, for years: the authentic Jay Z. The desire has been for him to curb the flaunting of luxuries and come with the real on what it’s like to be one of the most successful people in the world — and also one of its most haunted.

But the writing had been on the wall. With his wife, Beyoncé, and his sister-in-law, Solange, using their last albums for their most personal work, it’s no surprise 4:44 unmasks itself as JAY at his emotional and creative zenith.


Fourteen months ago, and 10 days before the release of Beyoncé’s Grammy-nominated opus Lemonade, JAY-Z had a decision to make. On April 13, 2016, the final night of the NBA’s regular season, history was going to happen one way or the other. Would he fly to Oakland, California, for the Golden State Warriors’ record-setting 73rd win? Or sit courtside for Kobe Bryant’s final game with the Los Angeles Lakers? It was, to quote Marlo Stanfield, one of them good problems.

JAY chose to watch Bryant punctuate his first-ballot Hall of Fame career in the most Kobe Bryant way possible: 60 points on 50 shots in a five-point victory over the Utah Jazz, scoring or assisting on the final 19 points. The onslaught was the swan song of one of the culture’s most divisive, polarizing and accomplished spirits — a moment only dreams could create and talent, ambition and maniacal competitiveness could materialize. Neither could have envisioned that night 20 years earlier.

Rap was never given the chance to heal from those wounds — Biggie, Tupac — it helped create. But it spared JAY-Z.

Bryant and JAY, despite nine years separating them, came into the public’s eye together. Reasonable Doubt, the corner-boy manifesto and classic hip-hop debut, arrived on June 25, 1996. A day later, the Charlotte Hornets drafted a 17-year-old Bryant, only to send him to Los Angeles in return for Vlade Divac. Both JAY and Bryant escaped the shadows of their larger-than-life predecessors, The Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jordan, to carve their own places in history. But on that spring 2016 night in downtown Los Angeles, JAY witnessed a peer, one of the few in America who understands what it’s like to be that famous for that long, walk away from the game he changed in that manner. JAY certainly didn’t need a great album to call it a career on — in the same way Bryant didn’t need a historic game to cement his stature among basketball’s all-time greats. But still, the game had to be inspirational.

“Wow,” was the only word a stunned JAY-Z could mutter as he watched Bryant further ascend toward immortality. Little was he aware the same would happen to him a year later.


Before the release of 4:44, a legit critique of JAY himself was, What could he possibly have to talk about that would be beneficial to rap in 2017? He’s one of the wealthiest men on the planet, with a portfolio that shows no signs of slowing. His business ventures have helped redefine the image of what long-term success looks like in America’s most influential and most critiqued music culture. The album itself bookends a monumental June 2017 for Shawn Carter: Kevin Durant, a flagship client of his Roc Nation Sports agency, captured his first NBA championship, and JAY himself was inducted, with a speech from President Barack Obama, into the Songwriters Hall of Fame — the first rapper to be so honored. He also (with respect to the Obamas), makes up half of one of the most high-profile relationships in America, and he’s one of the few people in the world with direct lines to Jordan, Obama and LeBron James. And now he’s the father of three. And since he started from the bottom, so to speak, another valid concern is: Does JAY-Z even still have it anymore?

Sponsored listening parties for the album littered cities around the country. The one I attended, in Silver Spring, Maryland, was shut down by police for capacity reasons before the first song could be played. Speakers were moved outside the Sprint store where the session was to be held, ostensibly so the people stretching to the next block near a Whole Foods grocery store could hear the album. I went home.

It was for the best, too. As Jay’s confessions run deep, the album is perhaps best experienced solo. For years, I wondered how the trauma of shooting his brother, as he detailed on 1997’s “You Must Love Me,” followed him into rare heights of superstardom. I wondered how selling dope to people he loved may have left him with an inescapable sense of trauma. I wondered how often he reflected on having stabbed Lance “Un” Rivera, and how the incident nearly derailed his career. It’s all on 4:44. On the first track, at that. And more.

There’s an extended rebuttal (wildly and fairly speculated) to Kanye West on “Kill Jay-Z.”

You walkin’ round like you invincible / You dropped outta school, you lost your principles / I know people backstab you, I feel bad too / But this ‘f— everybody’ attitude ain’t natural / But you ain’t the same, this ain’t kumbaYe / But you got hurt because you did cool by ‘Ye / You gave him 20 million without blinking / He gave you 20 minutes on stage, f— was he thinking? ‘F— wrong with everybody?’ is what you saying/ But if everybody’s crazy, you’re the one that’s insane.

On the same song, in the second person, come some truths about what spawned the infamous elevator footage featuring him, his wife and his sister-in-law:

You egged Solange on / Knowing all along, all you had to say was you was wrong / You almost went Eric Benet / Let the baddest girl in the world get away / I don’t even know what else to say / N—-, never go Eric Benet/ I don’t even know what you woulda done/ In the Future, other n—- playin’ football with your son.

And on “Smile” comes the touching reveal of his mother Gloria Carter’s sexuality:

Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian / Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take/ Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.

Leaving little room for debate, the crux of the album is his marriage, and the image he sets in place for his three children. JAY’s demons are 4:44’s most enriching and difficult gifts. The emotional weight of his 2017 confessions rest on the timeline of his own words. JAY sat down with MTV for an interview in 1998 — in which, at 29, he discussed his views on love. “I loved the women I was with,” JAY said, “I loved things about them, but I’ve never been in love. They say love is forever. I never felt that forever type of thing. … I’ve never been away from anyone and … I can’t wait to get back to them. I guard myself. I won’t allow myself. But I know that. I’m on my way to recovery.”

Similar sentiments showed up two years later on Dynasty’s “Soon You’ll Understand”: It ain’t like I ain’t tell you from day one I ain’t s— / When it comes to relationships, I don’t have the patience / Now it’s too late, we got a little life together / And in my mind, I really want you to be my wife forever / But in the physical it’s like I’ma be trife forever.

The most important song on the album, by far, is the title track, “4:44.”

When Beyoncé dropped Lemonade last year, it was seen as the most empowering moment of her career. Comfortable in her own skin, she was openly uncomfortable in her own marriage. The Carters, who thrive in a carefully constructed privacy, were now a public case study — cracks in the armor were exposed. Conversely, Lemonade placed JAY in a position he’s rarely been in: not in control. The entire world knew of his apparent infidelity and how much of a toll it took on his marriage. He couldn’t jump in front of the narrative because he was the narrative. Big homie better grow up, Beyoncé warned on “Sorry.” He only want me when I’m not there.

Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’: Comfortable in her own skin, she was openly uncomfortable in her own marriage.

Beyoncé’s Lemonade admissions are agony expressed through art. But it’s likely their private conversations stuck with JAY more. Anyone familiar with infidelity can replay the range of emotions and questions. Why would you do this? Do you love him/her? Was it something I did? You promised me trust and then you broke it. You promised me forever, but even forever has a time stamp. How do you explain this to our kids? These are the consequences of selfish decisions. And it’s these consequences that left JAY up at 4:44 a.m., drowning in guilt, writing a record he calls one of the best he’s ever written.

“4:44” is “Song Cry” with the threat of divorce court. Even worse, an illustration of the cycle of flawed fatherhood Jay swore to eradicate in himself. The song is the most personal glimpse into the Carters’ relationship — one he pursued, but admittedly wasn’t ready for — and how his transgressions nearly separated them.

Is JAY-Z’s karma to blame for Beyoncé’s 2013 miscarriage? Probably not, but hearing JAY blame himself for his lack of presence is haunting. It’s JAY fully peeling back layers of vulnerability through tears. And because I fall short of what I say I’m all about / Your eyes leave the soul that your body once housed, he raps. And you stare blankly into space / Thinking of all time you wasted in on all this basic s—. It’s on this song where the truest extent of what JAY has put Beyoncé through boils to the surface.

And of his kids looking at him differently once they inevitably uncover his truth, he raps I’d probably die with all the shame. Courtside seats, chats with Obama and nine-figure business deals mean nothing in the grand scheme to JAY. You did what with who? What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soul mate? What follows next is the question that packs such a punch it nearly stops the album in its tracks: You risked that for Blue?

A marriage is many things. Things happen that leave scars for a lifetime. No matter his bank account or influence, he is the reason that many parts of his life will never be the same. It’s a weight he’s been living with his entire life, since he sold his first brick of dope. Only this time, instead of drugs, it’s broken promises. Even JAY-Z can be his own worst enemy.

This is Shawn Corey Carter’s new life story told through rap.


Both the production and lyrics of 4:44 have a natural partner in his 2001 masterpiece The Blueprint. Only now, he’s accomplished everything he said he would. It sounds foolish to even suggest that JAY-Z, three decades after the release of his first album, could find himself in the running for Album of the Year in 2017, especially when so many, perhaps with merit, questioned if he even still cared about rapping anymore.

But his constancy remains unrivaled. He outlasted DMX and Mase. Looked Eminem in the eye. Thrived during the prolific runs of 50 Cent and Nelly. Raced Diddy to a billion. Came of age with Outkast. Helped introduce Kanye to the world. Broke bread with T.I., Rick Ross and Jeezy. Sized up, but ultimately respected, Lil Wayne. And dubbed Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake as leaders of new school — although the war of subliminals with the latter rages on to the present day. And he’s done it all with a responsibility no other artist in rap has had to carry.

My boy died, and all I did was inherit his stress, Jay rapped on 1998’s “It’s Alright,” referring to the late Notorious B.I.G. Hip-hop was never given the chance to see Biggie at 30. Or Tupac Shakur with children. JAY-Z achieved both. Rap has not been given the chance to heal from those wounds it helped create.

But it spared JAY-Z. He grew older while they stay forever young. These are the ghosts with whom Jay-Z has boxed for 20 years. He is the survivor of the cautionary tale.

The only thing left to say is what Jay said while watching Kobe drop 60. Wow.

Explaining Beyoncé’s public performance of pregnancy and motherhood Reclaiming a positive image for black women amid a history of degradation and slander

They’re here!

Finally, really and truly here — according to news reports.

By “they,” of course, we mean Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins.

For months, we’ve been lapping up whatever dribbles of details we could find about Queen Bey and her pregnancy, dining on a steady diet of Instagram posts and public appearances as her belly kept growing with two more heirs to the Knowles-Carter empire. And true to form, Beyoncé took the opportunity to give us a spectacle laden with meaning.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Beyoncé’s decisions about how her pregnant body would be publicly displayed was her understanding that no one can define themselves by a series of negatives. Black womanhood and black motherhood are always performed in minute-by-minute assertions, and that doesn’t become any less true if you are married, or wealthy, or well-educated. Just ask Michelle Obama.

It’s not enough to say “We’re not welfare queens or breeding wenches or “subfeminine,’ ” to use Eldridge Cleaver’s word. Telling society what you are not is not the same as defining what you are, as evidenced by the efforts of black clubwomen in the early 20th century. Thanks to, as Mary Church Terrell wrote, “false accusations and malicious slanders circulated against them constantly, both by the press and by the direct descendants of those who in years past were responsible for the moral degradation of their female slaves,” black women learned to present themselves as largely asexual to counter prevailing images of themselves as wanton Jezebels. It’s a legacy that’s continued to affect how we see black women, into the 21st century, as we’ve learned that sexual respectability politicking is just as confining as stereotypes that defined black women as irredeemably lustful.

Rather than be pigeonholed, Beyoncé used her second pregnancy to position herself, and by extension black womanhood at large, as the center of life.


Of course it was all connected.

It turned out that the Feb. 1 Instagram announcement of twins and the library of maternity photos released on her website were a harbinger of what was to come at the Grammys less than two weeks later. A club flyer, if you will.

With her last two albums, it’s clear Beyoncé has become wedded to the idea of letting her work communicate in the aggregate. The whole speaks louder, more concretely, and more decisively than any one individual element. That doesn’t apply just to her music, or the music videos (Beyoncé) or cinematic offerings (Lemonade) paired with it. Beyoncé boasts an unparalleled skill in stretching her artistic statements into multipronged events, taking full advantage of the internet, her performances and even step-and-repeat photo ops to present a consistent narrative.

“I think she was giving us a different vision of what black children’s futures could be.”

Her Grammys performance was a continuation of what Beyoncé was already aiming to communicate with her pregnancy announcement, through a series of photographs that had been art-directed and contemplated quite deeply. Looking back, it now seems like the most visible chapter in a highly curated story: how Beyoncé was not only embracing pregnancy and motherhood, but providing new fodder for what it means.

While some rightfully detected traces of Peter Paul Rubens’ many works depicting the Madonna and child in Beyoncé’s explosion of florals, the kitschy, Sears portrait gallery nature of the photographs referenced something else: the provocative, radical appropriating element of a Kehinde Wiley portrait.

Wiley is known for painting black people in a style that references the old masters, elevating ordinary modern black people to the status of nobility by immortalizing them in the same mythmaking environs as lionized white historical figures. With her maternity photos, and at the Grammys, Beyoncé elected to do the same.

At first glance, Beyoncé’s decision to channel Wiley seemed incongruous. She’s not ordinary at all. This is a woman who is known not just as a mononym but as Queen Bey, and for a time King Bey.

Why install yourself like the subjects Wiley recruits off the street when you’re a woman with the power to turn a man into a “black Bill Gates”? Quite simply, Beyoncé was tapping into a pop cultural black populism. She took the subtext of Lemonade and made it plain with the speech she gave upon accepting the Grammy for best urban contemporary album. In it, she aligned herself with and understood herself to be a stand-in for all black women, especially American black women.

“We all experience pain and loss, and often we become inaudible,” she said. “My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. … This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”

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This might have been surprising if you only paid glancing attention to Lemonade, and took it as Beyoncé giving a public middle finger to her husband for cheating on her with Becky with the good hair. But the gossip was a lure for a deeper message.

Remember, the Lemonade film included the Mothers of the Movement: Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr and Lezley McSpadden, better known as the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, respectively. And so, on the night when Beyoncé was recognized for her work, her decision to depict herself as the madonna, as a multitudinous, many-armed deity, and as the orisha Oshun, was a decision to offer herself as a vessel for black women’s self-love. It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—- is a Star.”

Three years ago, Beyoncé opened the Grammys with a steamy performance of “Drunk in Love.” Seated on a French cafe chair, she writhed and vamped in fishnets and a black sheer leotard, exulting in the bliss of hot marital sexytimes, eventually joined by her husband. A British newspaper, Metro UK, responded with a headline spitting fire and judgment: “ ‘Whore’ Beyoncé angers parents with raunchy act.”

For Beyoncé to then align herself, and by proxy, black women as a whole, with the iconography of the madonna was significant. When you consider that she did so after releasing a self-titled visual album that was a frank celebration of sex, it’s explosive. Even on Beyoncé, released in 2013, the singer was toying with imagery of the Pietà, casting herself as Mary and a black man as the fallen Christ in the video for “Mine.”

Beyonce portraying “Mary” in the “Mine” video


As with just about everything she does publicly, Beyoncé takes basic ideas and remixes them to great effect to suit her own needs. So of course she did it with a public pregnancy, too. Beyoncé’s pregnancy was political because black women’s bodies are laden with politics, whether we want them to be or not. Such is the burden of history.

Government has long sought to define and characterize black motherhood for its own ends. There are the “greatest hits” we all know and detest, such as legally defining black women as unrapeable in service of a “capitalized womb,” or determining that babies born to enslaved women inherited the status of free or enslaved from their mothers. There’s the Moynihan report’s prescription that black women’s achievement needed to be impeded in service to black men, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s use of the mythical welfare queen as a scapegoat, and even former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s attempt to characterize the Affordable Care Act, with its provisions for free birth control and well woman exams, as a governmental “Uncle Sugar” enabling the actions of wanton, morally bankrupt women.

But attacks on black motherhood have also manifested in the form of attacks on their children, something that was visceral in Beyoncé’s inclusion of the Mothers of the Movement in Lemonade. Beyoncé communicated that there was no space between herself and these women. She is the mother of a black child, subject to the same dangers resulting from white fear and white supremacy. There’s no daylight between Beyoncé and, more recently, Diamond Reynolds, the woman whose partner, Philando Castile, was shot to death by a police officer during a traffic stop, in front of her young daughter, who was seated in the back of the car.

It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—– is a Star.

But while Lemonade, with its opening salvo of “Formation,” references modern attacks on black children and black motherhood, the fear black mothers harbor runs deeper than the past few years. It spans generations. Perhaps no such attack drives that point home like the gruesome 1918 lynching of Mary Turner and her unborn child in Brooks County, Georgia.

After a black man shot and killed a white plantation owner, a lynch mob murdered Turner’s husband as part of a rampage of terrorism and revenge. Turner, 21 years old and eight months pregnant, had the temerity to protest. Upon learning that Turner intended to seek legal recourse for her husband’s murder, the mob came for her.

According to The Mary Turner Project, a Georgia educational collective dedicated to preserving her memory, “ … at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a ‘whiskey bottle’ with a ‘cigar’ stuffed in its neck.”

Simply terrorizing Turner was not enough. It wasn’t just that her husband was considered a threat — so was she, and the black child she surely would have imbued with a sense of justice and liberty had they lived.

Lemonade is partly about defiance and resilience. And arguably, there’s no greater show of defiance than making the decision to bring a black child into this world and shower it with love and pride and joy, knowing the hostility that awaits her or him.

The legacy of our society’s anxiety toward black female bodies are evident in the work of Beyoncé’s artistic predecessors. After Beyoncé’s Grammy performance, Vanessa Williams tweeted, “They never showed my pregnant belly when I sang my nominated “Save the Best for Last” — Oh how times have changed! Kudos Beyoncé!” The vision of a conservatively clothed, pregnant Williams was apparently too controversial for the Grammys in 1993, two years after Demi Moore appeared nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair.

In her 2003 memoir Chaka! Through the Fire, Khan revealed the angst of male record company executives who worried that her sex appeal would vanish because of a C-section scar cutting its way across her belly.

So what is there to do? How do you find a way to be celebratory instead of huddling in fear? Khan responded by continuing to perform in her trademark itty-bitty stagewear, exposed scar and all. If you’re Beyoncé, you bring the house down at the Grammys. If you’re Erykah Badu, you start ushering in black life.

While there are few public images of Badu pregnant with her children, Seven, Mars or Puma, she appeared in the September 2011 issue of People in a photograph that accompanied a story detailing her work as a doula — a service she provides for free to pregnant mothers, subsidized by her financial success as singer.

Badu appeared with her hair parted in the center. It flows in waves down her shoulders and over her breasts. She’s dressed in a loose-fitting white caftan, accessorized with a long, gold beaded necklace and rings of various sizes on both hands. In her arms, she’s cradling a nude black baby, Marley Jae Taylor, then 2 weeks old, whom she delivered. She’s standing in the middle of a Dallas field, surrounded by tall grass that appears to have parted for her. She called herself the “welcoming committee.”


The Grammys may have been the high point for audience numbers — it was more accessible on network television than Lemonade was on HBO — but Beyoncé’s pregnancy messaging apparatus continued to churn with her public appearances with daughter Blue Ivy and Jay Z at NBA games, when she and Blue Ivy showed up to the premiere of Beauty and the Beast or celebrated Mother’s Day dressed in the high-fashion equivalent of Mommy-and-Me togs.

Instagram Photo

All those images of black fertility and black motherhood rippled across the internet to reinforce the ideas first introduced with Lemonade — and then were reintroduced at the Grammys when Beyoncé deliberately lingered on a line from poet Warsan Shire about the “hips” that “crack” from giving birth.

Even the pink tuxedo Blue Ivy wore communicated a vision of black girl power. When her mother wants to convey messages about female power, she tends to revisit variations on menswear. She did it in the stagewear for her performance of “Love on Top” announcing her first pregnancy. It’s an element in the music videos for “Suga Mama,” “Upgrade You,” and “Haunted,” all of which feature Beyoncé playing with the idea of gender roles.

Blue Ivy Carter and Jay Z during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

At the Grammys, Beyoncé, who endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president with a performance in which she and all of her backup dancers wore pantsuits, seemed to echo the most memorable notes of Clinton’s postelection concession speech: “Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” Clinton told the little girls of America on Nov. 9.

As she delivered an acceptance and concession speech of her own (if you choose to believe, as I do, that Beyoncé knew before the Grammys that she wouldn’t win Album of the Year), the singer had a similar message.

“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent and capable,” she said, again becoming a megaphone for the desires of all black mothers.

Beyoncé owned April 2016 with her ‘Elle’ cover, the launch of Ivy Park and the release of ‘Lemonade’ The natural look held up a flattering mirror to women of color

Last year’s calendar should have read:

January

February

March

Yoncé

May

…. and then June — because Beyoncé ran the entire month of April. She launched Ivy Park on April 14, premiered the visual album Lemonade on April 23 and kicked off the Formation World Tour on April 27 (it ended up averaging $5.2 million in gross per show).

The orchestration of the month’s activities was no accident, as the number 4 holds special meaning for both Beyoncé and her husband, Jay Z — from birthdays to names, tattoos and anniversaries. This April, in honor of the one-year anniversary of Lemonade, Beyoncé launched the Formation Scholars program, which will “encourage and support” incoming women students at Washington, D.C.’s, Howard University, Atlanta’s Spelman College, Boston’s Berklee College of Music and New York City’s Parsons School of Design. Beyoncé Knowles Carter’s confidence in the impact of Ivy Park and Lemonade was illustrated by her strategic cover story and photo shoot for Elle’s May 2016 issue. (She was also on the cover of Elle UK the same month with a slightly different look.)

For the rest of us, the process went something like this: Your life was snatched by Bey au naturel on the cover of Elle, and you bumped the Lemonade album on her husband’s Tidal (the only place you could find it) while getting dressed in Ivy Park gear to head out to see Queen Bey on her tour. This was life, all of summer ’16.


The Elle shoot started at the crack of dawn in a Los Angeles dance studio. “We were told 5 [a.m.],” said Samira Nasr, Elle fashion director and stylist on the shoot. “It wasn’t even 5:01, and [Beyoncé] was on set. She’s an absolute professional: kind, courteous.” Beyoncé’s team collaborated with Elle to produce a cover that would usher in the revitalization of being an authentically natural girl.

The Elle cover was shot with the visuals for Lemonade in mind. “I do remember it was … all within that same time,” said stylist and hair entrepreneur Kim Kimble. Kimble styled Beyoncé’s hair for both the Elle cover and Lemonade visuals. “Covers, shoots, videos, album packages — all those things are very related. We wanted consistency.”

At the studio, Beyoncé was asked to do a dance that the creatives could shoot. We didn’t know Lemonade was coming,” said Nasr, but “she had her dancers with her. They did this routine that was amazing! But only later, when Lemonade dropped, did we realize they were actually doing one of the dances from the first single.”

Kimble applied leave-in conditioner and a dab of gel to Yoncé’s tresses as she allowed them to air-dry and then styled the soft curls with a curling iron. Makeup artist Sir John dusted Bey’s face with a no-makeup makeup look. Ivy Park was the focus of the shoot, so the styling was straightforwardly athletic. Cue the famous “Beyoncé wind.” The cover ushered in perhaps Beyoncé’s most honest message to fans: one of self-love and self-care.

What made the Elle cover so special is that for the first time, people didn’t see Beyoncé and want to look like her. For once, she looked like the rest of us. It reminded women of a mirror. A well-put-together reflection in a mirror, but a reflection nonetheless. And that was powerful for women of color. Kimble, who has had a working relationship with Beyoncé for 17 years, said, “It was all about … texture … we did a little African-inspired and Victorian sort of installation when it came to hair. … That was the benchmark of what we were doing when we were creating.”

Fresh off the release of her 2008 Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé graced the January 2009 cover of Elle wearing bone straight long hair, also styled by Kimble. Now, no longer in need of a “Fierce” persona, Beyoncé encouraged women to find their own “park,” away from the beauty standards and fashion trends, and simply be their best selves.

We were told 5 [a.m.]. It wasn’t even 5:01, and [Beyonce] was on set. She’s an absolute professional: kind, courteous.”

As talented as Beyoncé is, not everything comes easy. Her first venture into the fashion world, House of Deréon, never took off in the mainstream. Shortly after the launch of Ivy Park, Beyoncé was awarded the Fashion Icon of the Year award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). With a new fashion venture named after her daughter (Deréon was her grandmother’s surname), Beyoncé created her own fashion business redemption.

In a world where there is a fashion trend for pretty much anything — work, the gym, a night out — Beyoncé gave us the anti-trend. It isn’t tied to any one physical activity. Not yoga, the gym, or even dance. Ivy Park’s pieces fall off your shoulders and sway as you move, doing whatever it is that you do. For most of us, Ivy Park came down the lane like a fast break we didn’t see coming.

“Shortly after [Beyoncé’s cover] you see Alicia Keys wearing her natural makeup, natural hair. … You start to see more and more of that, especially from women of color.”

And while Ivy Park continues its success with its spring/summer ’17 collection, which stars Yara Shahidi, the Elle cover, which ranks alongside Tyra Banks’ 1997 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and Naomi Campbell’s 1998 Vogue Italia, will live on as one of the most meaningful covers in fashion history. Elle’s May 2017 cover features Angolan model Maria Borges. Borges, 24, ripped the runway in 2015 with her baby ’fro at Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

“Definitely, Elle is ahead of the trend,” said Kimble. “Shortly after [Beyoncé’s cover] you see Alicia Keys wearing her natural makeup, natural hair. … You start to see more and more of that, especially from women of color.”

“It’s the Bey factor,” Nasr said of Ivy Park. “She kept different body types in mind. She did all the work with her team to get it to a place where she felt was perfect and ready to be put out there, and then she released it — like she does everything. It’s just done in a thoughtful, in-depth way. … My impression of her is that’s how she approaches things. She does the work.”

Tina Knowles Lawson receives impact award for philanthropic efforts Knowles Lawson and six other women were recognized at the Variety Power of Women Luncheon

Fashion designer, businesswoman and philanthropist Tina Knowles Lawson has been honored by Sundial Brands with the company’s first Community Commerce Impact Award for her philanthropic work in the community. The award was presented to Knowles Lawson by natural hair care company SheaMoisture at the Variety Power of Women Luncheon in New York on April 21.

Along with her busy life as the mother of Grammy-winning sisters Beyoncé and Solange, Knowles Lawson has made it her mission to be involved in the lives of young people in her community. In 2002, Knowles Lawson donated $1.5 million to help build the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth, along with close family friend and Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland and St. John’s Church in Houston. Three years later, Knowles Lawson and Rowland teamed up again to establish The Survivor Foundation to help provide transitional housing for Hurricane Katrina evacuees who were forced out of their homes and relocated to Houston and surrounding areas.

In 2010, Knowles Lawson and her family donated an additional $1.5 million toward a housing project for the homeless in Houston. That same year, Knowles Lawson and daughter Beyoncé created the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at Phoenix House Career Academy in New York. The seven-month cosmetology training program for adults not only empowers women but also teaches marketable job skills that can be used to hold a sustainable career after completion of the program. Most recently, Knowles Lawson and husband, Richard, launched the Where Art Can Occur Theater Center in Los Angeles, which serves as community support for local artists.

Richelieu Dennis, CEO of Sundial Brands, hugs Tina Knowles Lawson during Variety’s Power of Women luncheon.

Aurora Rose/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Taking into consideration everything Knowles Lawson has done for those around her, choosing to honor her charitable efforts was a no-brainer for Sundial Brands founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis.

“When considering honorees for our inaugural Community Commerce Impact Award, one name rose to the top, and that was Mrs. Tina Knowles Lawson,” Dennis said. “A successful entrepreneur. A tireless philanthropist. A humble humanitarian … this is a woman who uses her platform, her businesses, her resources and her voice to create organizations that drive positive change for those in need. … It seems only fitting that our paths would not only cross but connect in service to others and ensuring we leave this world a better place than we found it.”

Knowles Lawson, who said she was humbled to be chosen for the award, used part of her speech to thank Sundial Brands for honoring her, and she encouraged others to use their blessings, platforms and resources to help those in need.

“This award is very special because it not only recognizes success, but also the giving back part of our lives,” Knowles Lawson said. “There is a Scripture that has been one that I’ve taught my girls from an early age: ‘To whom much is given much is required.’ In simpler terms, it means that everyone in this room has been immensely blessed, and it’s important to share those blessings with people who were given very little … give some time to some young people, volunteer at your church or your organizations, go hang out at an inner-city school. Just a little goes a long way in changing lives one at a time.”

Other honorees recognized at this year’s luncheon included co-anchor of CBS This Morning Gayle King, actress and singer Audra McDonald, actress Jessica Chastain, media executive Shari Redstone, actress Blake Lively and vice chairwoman of the Clinton Foundation Chelsea Clinton.

Four reasons the Just Blaze-hosted Pharrell vs. Timbaland beat battle will be different from Blaze vs. Swizz Beatz It’s all 757 everything: Timbaland and Pharrell will be the next two producers to jump behind the wheels of steel

Iconic music producer and world-renowned DJ Justin “Just Blaze” Smith might have stumbled on to something.

Back in February, Blaze and super producer Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean squared off in an Instagram Live beat battle as the two musical creatives ran through their prolific and equally legendary catalogs, including DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” Beyoncé’s “Freedom,” Ruff Ryders’ “Bust Ya Gunz,” Drake’s “Lord Knows,” Jay Z’s “Coming of Age” and nearly three hours more of classic records that featured a previously unreleased track featuring Jay Z, Nas, Jadakiss and DMX.

The back-and-forth, “anything you produced, I produced better” contest is by far one of the most entertaining moments in rap in the past year. But it also opened up the floodgates for the possibility of other dream matchups. And late Tuesday night, Just Blaze confirmed the next installment. It’s all 757 everything.

**thinking face emoji**

  1. Timbo vs. Pharrell? The ’90s portion alone of both of their catalogs is ridiculous. And the 2000s? Once we start bringing in acts such as Justin Timberlake (who has albums produced by both Timbaland and Pharrell) and The Clipse (whose work with Skateboard P — such as “Grindin’,” “Mr. Me Too” and “Keys Open Doors” — is responsible for some of the more critically acclaimed hits since the turn of the century)? This could get really ugly, in a really good way, really soon.
  2. Swizz and Just’s battle featured a predominantly hip-hop vibe. Different here could be the extent to which both Tim and P unleash their R&B catalogs, featuring names such as Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Playa, Brandy, Ginuwine, SWV, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Kelis and Blackstreet. If that happens, this might be worth a date night at home with your better half.
  3. Oh, and the Jay Z section of the battle? “N— What N— Who,” “Big Pimpin’,” “Is That Your Chick?” and “Hola Hovito,” then Skateboard P following up with “So Ambitious,” “I Just Wanna Love U,” “Frontin’ ” and then “Allure”? Keeping it a buck, too, that’s not even cracking the surface of their work with Blue Ivy and the twins’ dad. Jay himself might have to make an appearance at this battle.
  4. Speaking of appearances, I’m with Just Blaze. Pharrell’s catalog is deep using his name alone. He’s one of the most recognizable faces in the world, with a signature voice to match. But this present-day acclaim can sometimes overshadow his work as one half of The Neptunes, the production duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. They reportedly met in junior high school at a band camp for gifted musical students. Together, the two produced a plethora of influential and massive hits spanning the course of multiple generations, artists and presidential administrations, and in the process they created a sound never to be duplicated. If Chad Hugo shows up, the Virginia native in me might react more emotionally than LeBron James did after Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year.
This is — as with Just Blaze vs. Swizz — far more than a beat battle. It’s a much-needed history lesson.

For years, I’ve insisted that the Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, Ginuwine and Static Major quintet has never received its proper praise as one of the greatest musical factions of my lifetime. Couple that with a generation of music fans who only know Pharrell as the “Happy” guy or Pharrell the solo act. This is — as with Just Blaze vs. Swizz — far more than a beat battle. It’s a much-needed history lesson. There’s no news on a confirmed date for the showdown just yet, or how it will be broadcast. Whatever the case, Just Blaze just made the spring a little bit hotter. I have but one request for him though: Make sure Busta Rhymes is in the building. In fact, make Busta the sideline reporter, a la Craig Sager. So far, this battle series seems a casual, intimate kind of organic social thing. Not a lot of bells or whistles — just music that has become part of the soundtrack of our lives. So far.

Style was the true star of the All-Star Game Beyoncé was clearly not the only one who came to slay

New Orleans, Louisiana - February 19, 2017: Beyonce and Jay-Z enter the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, Louisiana. Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Beyoncé, Jay Z and their daughter, Blue Ivy, enter the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans. (Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated)

A guest shows off an exotic jacket and sweatshirt combo at the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Custom sneakers worn at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Restaurateur Guy Fieri at the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans. (Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated)

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Chains and vintage All-Star jacket worn by Ticket Jerry at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

The New Orleans Pelicans Senior Dance Team gets ready to perform at the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Under Armour sneakers and Stance socks worn by Stephen Curry before the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

DJ D-Nice wears a Leica M10 camera at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Houston Rockets mascot Clutch the Rockets Bear tries to cover his Rockets tattoo after a risqué performance during the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

State Farm All-Star Saturday Night in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Film director Spike Lee exits the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Nike shoes worn by Questlove of The Roots at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Comedians Chris Tucker and Dave Chappelle pause for a photo with a fan at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated

Nike shoes worn by comedian Dave Chappelle at the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Brett Carlsen for The Undefeated