Daily Dose: 9/19/17 Chris Long to donate six game checks to Charlottesville, Virginia, students

All right, gang, I’m back from Los Angeles after getting stuck on planes all day Monday, which was not fun at all. But, good news, I’ll be on Around The Horn again Tuesday afternoon, so please do tune in to ESPN at 5 p.m.!

President Donald Trump spoke at the United Nations on Tuesday, and it was extremely eventful. Instead of a measured speech in front of all of the world’s leaders, he went full fire and brimstone and basically threatened to blow up North Korea. If you’re wondering, that’s not typically how these things go. He also called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man,” which is a nickname I definitely don’t understand. He also threw a shot at Iran, calling it a “murderous regime.” Overall, though, Trump’s relationship with the United Nations has been a rocky one.

When it comes to community policing, St. Louis has an awful reputation. After the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, put the entire city and its environs on the map, we’re back in the state in a similar situation. Last week, another officer was acquitted in the killing of a citizen. The entire thing is on body cam, which didn’t help put the cop away in the end. We’ve seen this movie so many times before, and the people are speaking out against it yet again. There’s an eerie Groundhog Day effect to all of this, but here’s a timeline of everything, starting in 2011.

Are things getting better for black people in America? Well, it depends on whom you ask. For someone my age, you’d say definitely not. It seems that around every corner people are appropriating the culture and disrespecting legacies and, in general, are not here for our presence. But if you’re older, you might think it’s better than, say, the 1950s or ’60s. But if you’re white, you apparently believe that things are certainly improving. That’s according to a new study from Yale University. The numbers there are fascinating.

Chris Long has a permanent invitation to the cookout. The superwoke NFL defensive lineman has been extremely vocal about his feelings on the state of the nation and not afraid to stand up, as a white guy, for what he sees as injustice. He also happens to be from Charlottesville, Virginia, where we recently saw one of the ugliest scenes in modern history during a white supremacist rally. Now he’s putting his money where his mouth is, as he will donate six game checks to start scholarships for high school students in his hometown. What a boss.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Nas and Nicki Minaj are dating. Not only that, but the two Queens, New York, rappers are stunting on Instagram for everyone, letting the world know just how strong their bond is. Check out these photos of the two in matching Gucci outfits, stunting around Queensbridge. Peak blackness.

Snack Time: The incredible return of Gucci Mane continues this month, with the release of his autobiography, aptly titled The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. If you don’t have time to read it, here are a few things we learned.

Dessert: Apparently, there’s an entire underwater city developed strictly by octopi. It’s called Octlantis, natch.

Growing up Gucci Mane With a new book, new album and new reality show, the Atlanta star is ready for prime time

Radric Delantic Davis wanted the Christmas his mother couldn’t afford to give him — and the eighth-grader was willing to sell slabs of dope to make it happen. Toward the end of 1993, Davis, then 13, had his eyes on a pair of jeans, some new Air Jordans and a Starter jacket. Going back to school, postholiday break meant his classmates would show off their gifts from Santa.

But when his mom told him that bills were really tight and that she could only give him $50, Davis, today known as hip-hop star Gucci Mane, left the apartment with the money and walked to the other side of Mountain Park in East Atlanta’s Zone 6. Davis, who was already selling marijuana for his older brother, Duke, handed a dope man his mother’s $50 in exchange for two tightly wrapped slabs of crack cocaine, roughly 1.5 grams each.

“Now you owe me $50,” Gucci recalls the drug dealer telling him. “Get it?”

It was the moment Gucci realized he was officially waist-deep in Zone 6’s drug game — even if he didn’t have a clue of what he was getting himself into. “I remember … trying to carve out my own individuality,” he said. “I felt like fashion [was] a way to express myself, and I knew the only way I could get it at the time was that route: selling crack. I felt like dope would be the best route … at that time. That wasn’t one of the best decisions I ever made, but I was young.”

“There’s a lot of pain and heartache associated with the drug game that kids need to know about.”

Gucci’s family life, drug dealing and arrests — as well as the perfection of a musical style that would help elevate the careers of a slew of young Southern artists such as Migos, Young Thug and Zaytoven — are on full display in the new The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. In the book, co-authored by Neil Martinez-Belkin, Gucci, who has four top-10 rap singles — including this year’s hit with Migos, “I Get the Bag” — digs deeper into his upbringing than ever before, offering insight into how a kid caught up in Atlanta’s drug game made it through violence, rap beefs, a crippling addiction to the drug lean and run-ins with the law, including a 2005 murder charge (which was eventually dropped), to become the undisputed king of trap music.

“I finally know what it’s like to be a professional, to feel what’s going on,” Gucci said just ahead of the release of the book and his 11th studio album, Mr. Davis (due Oct. 13). The BET reality show Gucci Mane & Keyshia Ka’Oir: The Mane Event, featuring his fiancée, is set to debut Oct. 17. “I now appreciate that, and I’m not trying to take my talent or those opportunities for granted.”


By the time Gucci moved to Atlanta with Duke and his mother, Vicky, in August 1989, he had already experienced the highs and lows of family life.

Growing up in his grandfather’s house at 1017 First Ave., an olive-green two-bedroom near the train tracks in Bessemer, Alabama, young Radric took to his grandfather, the closest thing he had to a father. Gucci remembers Walter Davis Sr. as someone he’d run to and help walk with the rest of the way. He’d dive under his bed in laughter when his granddaddy chased him. But his granddaddy was a drinker, with bourbon often fueling those drunken stumbles home.

Amanda Dudley

When Radric was 7, his grandfather suffered a fatal heart attack. Losing the patriarch of the family triggered infighting that went on for years — his mother and aunts spilled blood on multiple occasions. “My granddaddy’s death divided the family,” Gucci said somberly. “Eventually, we figured it out, to be a tight-knit family again. But I learned a lot in that house.”

“I didn’t want to get caught up in that corner again, so I had to get creative.”

His brother Duke would head down to the Bessemer Flea Market and come home with whatever hip-hop cassettes he could find. The brothers would listen to the albums they could get their hands on, from Run-D.M.C. to N.W.A., committing lyrics to memory, rhyming back and forth. Soon, the bedroom they shared was covered in posters ripped from Word Up! magazine. “He definitely helped shape my taste in music,” he told me. “It kind of formed my love for hip-hop.”


This was long before Gucci’s idea of reaching out to local bootleggers (as a way to get his music out to the locals) came to fruition. With Bessemer in the rearview mirror, Gucci was living in deep financial fear in East Atlanta, worried about how his mother was seemingly always behind on rent and why they couldn’t pay the light bill. “I learned young that if I ain’t got s—, then I just ain’t got s—,” Gucci writes in the book. “If I wanted something in life, I would have to find a way to get it myself.”

Gucci said that while he’s glad he experienced what it was like to sell drugs, it’s a part of his life he never wants to return to — a point he’s trying to make clear to young people tempted by the hustle and the money. “Everything isn’t as glamorous as it seems,” he said. “It ain’t all glitz. … There’s a lot of pain and heartache associated with the drug game that kids need to know about in order to deter them from taking that route.”

Brandon Putmon

By the time he was 21, Gucci was hustling every day on the corner of a Texaco gas station, which had become a place of trade. He was in college at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College when his formal education came to an end. In April 2001, he was arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to 90 days in jail. It was the first time Gucci had been charged with a crime — and the experience made him think about pursuing music.

“It forced me to make a choice,” he said. “I didn’t want to get caught up in that corner again, so I had to get creative. It made me go, What else can you do? I wanted to challenge myself to try to make a career of being a rapper.”

More than a year removed from a stint in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Gucci, who started writing the memoir while incarcerated, knows his comeback was never a sure thing. If he could do some things over again, he would. But the trap king’s roots, and his past, remain close to his head and his heart.

Cam Kirk

“I would tell my young self, ‘Hey, Gucci, you got an amazing future ahead of you. You’re a fascinating person. You’re going to be one of the most remarkable people to ever walk the face of the earth,’ ” he said. “So with that being said, you gotta conduct yourself with class, you gotta conduct yourself professionally, because the world is going to watch you and the world is going to imitate you.”

Daily Dose: 9/7/17 Gucci Mane’s long walk to freedom

Just want to thank everyone who tuned in to Around The Horn on Wednesday. It was a long, fun trip to get there, for those of you who don’t know. Also, I filled in Thursday on The Dan Le Batard Show, if you want to check that out here.

Hurricane Irma is already doing major damage. In the Caribbean, the storm has basically destroyed Barbuda, and 13 people are already dead. This event has brought quite a bit of turmoil to the sports world already, with various games and things having been moved around because meteorologists are calling it basically the biggest storm of all time. In Miami-Dade County, Florida, alone, it appears that 400,000 people are at risk of getting hit by the winds and rain. That Miami Dolphins-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game might not be the only one delayed in the coming weeks.

New York City is an interesting beast. Having lived there when I was 18 years old, I didn’t love it. Before that, having visited and stayed for so many times with family, I had. But now, being an adult and it being a necessary part of life, I can deal with it. But the so-called charm of the city versus what it actually has to offer is always an interesting battle. That said, taxicabs are still the domain of reality when it comes to basically all walks of life. This interview with a New York cabbie who photographed his customers for decades is really a fun one to watch.

Gucci Mane’s come-up is officially complete. We all know the story. After landing himself in jail for his longest stint yet, he decided to make a turnaround. He relied on his girl Keyshia Ka’oir, a fitness-product maven, to help him revamp his life, and now it’s in the clear. According to Fader, Big Guwop has done so well on his probation that it is being terminated entirely in September. To be honest, I didn’t even know this was a thing. What a year it’s been for East Atlanta Santa.

The Los Angeles Clippers are going full Hollywood. That sounds odd, of course, because they’re already in Los Angeles. But when it comes to the bright lights and famous people, that’s usually the territory of the Los Angeles Lakers. But that doesn’t mean the Clips can’t make it happen when they need to. Instead of having the usual scorers table setup, they’ve broken that up to create something they call “star seating.” While in theory this looks like a decent idea, in practice I imagine it’ll be a logistical disaster on many levels.

Free Food

Coffee Break: For all of the things that people had to say about the Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and everything that happened in Las Vegas recently with the police, there are still plenty of people who have to explain why they’re protesting, to make people happy.

Snack Time: A$AP Rocky never ceases to amaze me. His newest exploit is a signature luxury line of vape pens that even have the wood grain finish. For the distinguished smoker, presumably.

Dessert: Even though I am one of these people, reading this gives me anxiety.

Lonzo Ball and LaVar Ball: Can their new reality show keep up with the Kardashians? The new Facebook series is produced by the same creative team

Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2 | “Bittersweet Victory” + “Forging a Path” | Aug. 31

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in an Uber with my boy when Gucci Mane and Drake’s hit “Both” came on the radio. See the power of the mind is not a joke, the Canadian kingpin rapped in one of the 2016 song’s more recognizable lyrics. Man, I said that I would do it and I did. “I’m surprised LaVar Ball hasn’t taken that line,” my homey said with a laugh, “and ran with it.” Call the man a lot of things, but make sure “right” is one of them. Love LaVar, hate him or be annoyed by him — Father Ball called his shot.

It’s tough to remember the first time the name “LaVar Ball” made ripples in my corner of the universe. It seems he’s always been in the public lexicon despite the fact that he’s still a relatively new name in pop culture — and one that even has Jay-Z buying into what he’s cooking. Ball, the person, isn’t foreign to anyone familiar with the AAU circuit. He’s an overly involved dad invested in his kids’ professional athletic future. Go to any AAU game in the country and there’s a LaVar Ball — or 12 of them. The only difference is LaVar’s sons are all Division I-bound — and, in his eldest son’s case, the most recent No. 2 overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. Lonzo Ball is already an insanely hyped lottery pick in the NBA’s most historically glamorous franchise.

Ball’s antics — loving, comical, arrogant and problematic — have all led to the reality series (properly titled) Ball In The Family. The 10-episode trek, airing on Facebook Watch, chronicles the life of basketball’s newest first family. There’s Lonzo and his younger brothers, LiAngelo (who recently played in a pickup game with LeBron James) and LaMelo (who recently played in the most publicized amateur contest of the summer versus phenom Zion Williamson and became the youngest player ever with his own signature shoe).

There is also their mother, Tina; Lonzo’s high school sweetheart, Denise; and, of course, the Dre Johnson of basketball himself, LaVar. Broadcasting the show on Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform with nearly 2 billion monthly users, may just ensure that the Ball family revolution is digitized.

And if there’s any humanizing moment for LaVar, it’s his “private” moments with his wife.

If the first two episodes seem to resemble another high-profile, polarizing family, you’re not tripping. Bunim/Murray Productions, the minds behind Keeping Up with the Kardashians, have their hands on Ball. The series kicks off by taking a look into life leading up to Lonzo’s big day in June. The Ball brothers are comically familiar in terms of personality types. Lonzo’s the oldest and most chill. LiAngelo is the GQ model of the clique. And Melo’s the goofy younger brother (with Nick Young shot selection) who is treated as such.

There’s a designed system at play, and one that’s so ingrained in not only LaVar but the entire family too — so much so that LiAngelo moves into Lonzo’s UCLA apartment intending to focus on school and basketball, not parties. All of the sons follow the same path that Lonzo broke the barrier for, and which was mapped out, on the show as apparently in real life, by sports’ most outspoken patriarch. There are no new or explosive revelations in the first two episodes. No plot twists. The family is who we thought they were: laser-focused on the success of dad and sons, which is either a huge selling point or a huge deterrent depending on what side of the aisle one sits on.

On an “unscripted” date night with Lonzo and his girlfriend, the future of their relationship is the topic of conversation. This leads the No. 2 pick to joke that he can’t see how their relationship will change now that he’s in the NBA — except for when he travels to Miami on the Los Angeles Lakers’ annual East Coast road swing.

But let’s do the math here, though. Lonzo is a 19-year-old, living in Los Angeles, who gets lit to the Migos and Future. He’s the face of the Lakers and a household name before he’s even scored his first official bucket in the league. And the All-Star Game is in L.A. in 2018, too? If he’s half as good as most expect him to be, then Jesus be a faithful commitment between these two young and in-love souls.

The most revealing part of the 18-minute episodes centers on a part of the Ball family we knew little about: LaVar’s wife, and the boys’ mother, Tina. Mrs. Ball suffered a stroke in late February, and in the first two episodes she is attempting to learn how to walk again. She’s learning how to talk again. And if there’s any humanizing moment for LaVar, it’s his “private” moments with his wife. LaVar successfully rejects the idea of a speech pathologist helping his wife, insisting instead that he be the one to be there with “his girl” each step of the process. The idea seems insane but status quo for a man whose stubbornness is the reason he landed this documentary. In a particularly memorable scene, he teaches his wife how to say “I love you” again. Lonzo, LiAngelo (called “Gelo” in the show) and LaMelo also express love and adoration for their mother. They’re insanely attached to her, and her stroke did scare them. In the Balls’ rise to fame, she has often been kept out of the news cycles, for obvious medical reasons. Now appears to be her time to step into the spotlight.

The characters basically hold a middle finger up to pro basketball norms as it relates to taking control of one’s own destiny.

LaVar is, of course, the series’ main attraction so far. At least through the first two episodes — 10 in total, with the next seven released in weekly installments — he’s more than enough to hold your attention. The characters basically hold a middle finger up to pro basketball norms as they relate to taking control of one’s own destiny. Pass or fail, if the Balls actually do ball out, it’ll be because they built and walked on their own path.

There is one surprise, though. Lonzo orders his steak medium well. I threw up a little bit in my mouth. The best steaks are medium rare or medium. Any other temperature is for the people who confuse “your” and “you’re” in texts and justify it by saying it doesn’t matter because it’s a private conversation. It does matter! And it absolutely matters that Lonzo Ball is purposely cheating himself out of the delicacy that is steak by essentially ordering a piece of leather for his entrée. I’m really starting to second-guess my hot take prediction for the season of him finishing with at least 22 10-assist games. It’s like I don’t even know who this kid is anymore.

Kennedy Center is bringing hip-hop center stage and Simone Eccleston is making it happen A full season at the nation’s premier performing arts venue signals the art form is adulting

Four decades after its birth in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop has moved into the era of adulting. Among the many markers of maturity, one of the most significant happens today when the nation’s premier home for the performing arts announces its first full season of hip-hop programming.

The performance season at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., was curated by A Tribe Called Quest co-founder Q-Tip along with the center’s first director of hip-hop programming, Simone Eccleston.

And while this moment says something important about the evolution of a still-young art form, it also marks a necessary evolution in the tradition-bound world of high art. After years of lower-profile partnerships with hip-hop festivals and free performances in its lobby, the Kennedy Center is moving hip-hop out of the programming D-League to join theater, opera, jazz, dance and classical music as featured art forms.

The season will open Oct. 6 with a performance featuring Q-Tip and Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz, and closes in spring 2018 with a multimedia performance of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 book-length letter to his son, Between the World and Me.

Besides the big-name acts to open and close the season, the schedule is light on live performances, relying heavily on curated dance parties. The center is also re-upping its longstanding partnerships with hip-hop advocacy organizations Hi-ARTS and the D.C.-based Words Beats & Life. The programming, which isn’t limited to music, includes a staging of Chinaka Hodge’s Chasing Mehserle, a performance piece about Oakland, California, and gentrification.

The Kennedy Center will host a 35th anniversary screening of Charlie Ahearn’s Wild Style, a documentary about the early days of hip-hop, followed by a panel discussion including Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Caz and Busy Bee.

The commitment of full-time staff and space to hip-hop sets the Kennedy Center apart from other marquee arts institutions such as Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center while expanding the definition of American culture. Like jazz and the blues — and even the iPod one might play them on — hip-hop is a uniquely American invention, a beacon of coolness that shines brightly around the globe.

“As the nation’s cultural center, that’s a heavy-duty title that we hold,” said Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter. “It’s important that we have all of the nation represented here. And candidly, we still have a long ways to go. … Hip-hop is a 40-plus-year-old art form. It ain’t going away. It isn’t a fad. This is an art form that continues to develop and grow and have impact, and it is broadly seen throughout several generations as the voice of their generation, and how could we not have it fully here at the center? The sophistication of the work that’s being done has to be brought here.”

The hiring of Eccleston, 37, and the announcement of the new season are only the latest in a series of events that suggest hip-hop is thriving even as it starts to get gray around the temples. That maturation isn’t just an accounting of raw years of existence, but also the emotional growth in the genre’s most high-profile acts. Certainly, earlier hip-hop featured adult, introspective voices such as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Little Brother, Consequence and Talib Kweli. But witness the confessional nature of Jay-Z’s 4:44 or Dr. Dre confronting his past sins as a woman beater in the HBO documentary The Defiant Ones.

Simone Eccelston

André Chung for The Undefeated

Hip-hop is now old enough to inspire nostalgia and reflection. In the past few years, there have been the retrospective gazes of The Get Down and The Breaks, and Jigga’s induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame — heralded by consummate Jay-Z fan President Barack Obama. And don’t forget about Snoop Dogg pooh-poohing misogyny, releasing an album one critic called “the audio version of linen pants and fish fries,” and co-hosting an Emmy-nominated reality show with an ex-con 30 years his senior, Martha Stewart. Even Atlanta trap god Gucci Mane seems like a new man after exiting federal prison last year. Rather than touting his time as a signifier of masculinity, Gucci was candid about just how unpleasant the experience was.

It was only roughly 20 years ago that Eccleston was hopping on the D train from the Kingsbridge stop of her childhood home in the Bronx to go to her first rap concert at Madison Square Garden. Now, her task of making hip-hop a fixture at the Kennedy Center seems obvious, if not overdue.

Wait. Wasn’t this already a thing?

When the Kennedy Center announced in 2016 that it had netted Q-Tip as its artistic director of hip-hop culture, the move was part of a trajectory that had been in the works for years. Moran had been lobbying Rutter for more hip-hop programming. So had former White House social secretary Deesha Dyer, who had covered the scene in Philadelphia as a freelance journalist.

“[Dyer] and Jason really pushed me over the edge to say, ‘OK, we should do this more than just one-offs and really make it something,’ ” said Rutter, whose background is in classical music. “We have programs for young artists rising, and then we were doing these big names … but how do we really have that bigger impact? We were going to need somebody to curate it all. And that’s where having an artist and then an administrator [came in], because you can’t really have an artist who’s not supported by an administrator.”

Q-Tip offers name recognition and communicates something about the center’s intentions tastewise. Eccleston, on the other hand, is an experienced arts administrator well versed in the nitty-gritty duties needed to realize an artist’s vision. Before traveling south to Washington, she spent more than 11 years at Harlem Stage, finishing as its program director.

Previously known as Aaron Davis Hall, Harlem Stage is known for promoting artists of color. Eccleston was a natural fit for its hip-hop ambitions: a product of the borough whose Latino and black musical influences melded to birth the genre in the first place, she completed graduate studies in arts administration at Drexel University and studied curatorial practice in performance at Wesleyan University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Eccleston’s first job was at Artistas y Músicos Latino Americanos, a nonprofit in North Philadelphia.

Rutter and Harlem Stage executive director Patricia Cruz say Eccleston possesses a valuable skill set: She’s got a good ear for finding new talent, she’s passionate about nurturing relationships with artists, and she’s got a knack for developing community outreach and education programs.

While at Harlem Stage, Eccleston took responsibility for an initiative to connect New York City students with playwrights, choreographers, musicians and dancers from around the world. Also, Cruz said, “She developed programs that were scholarly, that really communicated to an audience what this artist’s intent was, what their philosophical approach to what they were doing was, so that audiences could understand this was not just performative.

Simone Eccleston

André Chung for The Undefeated

“We’re not just putting people on the stage and saying, ‘Here. Enjoy them.’ It’s not entertainment, in that regard. It’s about the ideas the artist is representing. … For us, if art is to have a meaning for people in their lives, I think it is critical to have a context and talk about the history.”

Q-Tip may be the initial draw, but if you want to see your favorite act on stage at the Kennedy Center (cough OutKast cough), Eccleston’s the person you want to lobby.

Let’s talk about sex music!

Perhaps surprisingly given her age, Eccleston is not an evangelist for ’90s hip-hop. Sure, she grew up loving De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Kwamé, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill. She watched WNYC-TV’s Video Music Box and remembers dancing in the street when someone would start playing their radio in Kingsbridge.

But she’s not stuck in the decade.

“We’re always like, ‘It’s the golden age, it’s the golden age,’ ” Eccleston said. “I think that that doesn’t allow for the music and the artists to evolve. I think it’s about creating space for the next generation of artists. Who knew Kendrick [Lamar] was coming? When you think about the fact that [’90s artists] created space for alternate views of black masculinity, just the joy in music, just the intellect. It’s like being brilliant and comfortable with that. Not having to necessarily play to specific ideals of what masculinity looked like, what it meant to be black at a specific point in time.

“I think that they created space for us to be complex, diverse and really tell our stories. They were able to create these pathways within that generation of artists. I think that it’s interesting to see people that kind of take on the mantle and continue to move it forward.”

When it comes to revealing her musical tastes, Eccleston is a skilled politician. Asked to choose between Biggie or Tupac, the native New Yorker initially named Biggie. But there was an addendum: “You know what? Tupac was also very brilliant,” she said. “Just from an activist standpoint, in terms of being a woke MC.”

Eccleston has the potential to be an inspired choice as an administrator for a genre that has a complicated relationship with black women. While she straddled the East Coast/West Coast divide, for instance, she was fully comfortable sharing her thoughts about Kendrick Lamar’s lyrical endorsement of stretch marks on “Humble.”

“I was like, ‘Go ahead, Kendrick!’ ” Eccleston said, grinning.

Simone Eccleston

André Chung for The Undefeated

“I think that there are certain images, certain artists, that are celebrated who may have had some augmentation. That is seen as beauty, or as beautiful. Then young women that may look up to the artist, or the ideals that are being portrayed in music videos, they then think that they have to alter who they are in order to be considered beautiful or attractive. We need to interrogate that, which is why it was great that Kendrick celebrated stretch marks.”

While hip-hop isn’t the only genre that features misogynistic themes and lyrics, it is the one that often gets publicly dinged for it. Eccleston, like many of her feminist friends who are also hip-hop fans, has experienced times where she felt that a particular artist or song just wasn’t for her.

“I think it’s important for us to maintain healthy critique,” Eccleston said. “I think that it’s also important for us, as we’re looking at the songs that we may want to challenge, or the artists that we may want to encourage to dig a little deeper, to look at all of the other work that’s being done that either celebrates us or provides a multidimensional portrayal of who we are.

“It’s delicate because you have to provide space for an artist to be an artist, you can’t censor them. … It’s just real complex because we all have our hopes for something that we’ve seen ourselves reflected in, something that provides us with a sense of space. I think we’ve all got to continue to complicate it and disrupt it.”

Eccleston now has the power to further that disruption. With the Kennedy Center’s resources, she can expose audiences to lesser-known female emcees such as Brooklyn, New York, rapper Jean Grae and Snow Hill, North Carolina, artist Rapsody. She wants to bring more female graffiti artists and beat girls into the fold.

“There’s a whole generation of hip-hop … culture producers that are impacting literature and theater and scholarship, and it’s getting pressed into that. I think that one of our roles as an institution is to create space for the celebration of all of those things so people understand the depth, the breadth, the complexity of the culture,” Eccleston said. “I think it’s important for people to know hip-hop culture isn’t just one thing.”

What now?

One of the most significant challenges Eccleston faces will be making the Kennedy Center feel accessible to everyone.

While it’s a national institution, it’s situated in a city that for decades was majority black and is still majority minority. Eccleston is adamant about wanting the community to feel a sense of ownership and investment in the center, rather than seeing it as a stodgy, predominantly white institution finally granting validation to a still relatively young art form.

While existing partnerships, such as those with Hi-ARTS and Words Beats & Life, the D.C. nonprofit dedicated to advancing hip-hop culture, provide a foundation, the Kennedy Center faces hurdles that predate Eccleston in attracting eventgoers who are economically as well as racially diverse. The most obvious hurdle may be geography. The Kennedy Center is situated in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom/West End, a neighborhood that’s home to George Washington University, where tuition and fees run nearly $70,000 per year. Its immediate neighbor is the Watergate complex.

Of course, black people frequent the Kennedy Center. They show up for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s yearly appearance. They line up to see Brandy play Roxie Hart in Chicago, to hear George Benson, to witness the brilliant athleticism of Misty Copeland. And it has no problem selling out concerts like the ones Nas and Lamar did with the National Symphony Orchestra.

But the center is still figuring out how to extend the same sort of welcome to audiences with fewer resources, and that’s where the inclusion of free dance parties, open to the public, appear to come into play.

Simone Eccleston

André Chung for The Undefeated

These concerns aren’t exclusive to the Kennedy Center. They bubble up every time hip-hop veers into spaces such as Broadway that are traditionally coded as white. Class and accessibility were a big part of conversations surrounding Hamilton, so much so that its practice of making tickets available to those who couldn’t necessarily afford its astronomical market rate prices has become central to the show as it’s expanded into multiple cities. That includes the upcoming production of Hamilton coming to the Kennedy Center. (Hamilton, while heavily influenced by hip-hop, is still under the Kennedy Center’s theater programming slate.)

“Part of the goal in terms of instituting hip-hop as an integral part of our institution’s work is about creating space for the community to engage in the work that we’re doing,” Eccleston said. “To see themselves and their culture reflected. Right? That’s how I got into the arts, understanding the significance of it. As many opportunities as we can create for people to know that this space is theirs and open to them. A place that they can call home. I think that that is important.”

While there’s a moral argument for expanding hip-hop into a dedicated programming season at the Kennedy Center, there’s a financial one as well, especially when you consider the graying fan base for opera and classical music. The Kennedy Center relies on funding from corporate sponsors, philanthropists and paid memberships that unlock access to ticket presales and opportunities to hobnob with talent. If additional hip-hop programming results in more memberships from rap fans with money to drop, that’s all the better for hip-hop and the Kennedy Center. So far, it appears Q-Tip and Eccleston will have to figure out how to find a balance between buzz and revenue. While names such as Fab 5 Freddy and Kurtis Blow may draw older, more financially established attendees, a healthy dose of current voices is necessary too. Yes, hip-hop is famous for its backward-facing references and samples, but it’s always charging forward to new musical territory, thriving on the spirit of reinvention.

Still, if this experiment goes well, who knows? We might one day see the same programming in the ritzy fine arts institutions of New York — you know, the birthplace of hip-hop.

‘The Wopsters’ are coming Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir have a new reality show on BET

Instagram Photo

Considering the year he’s had, Gucci Mane’s life has to be pretty interesting at this point. His comeback star turn has reached epic proportions, and he’s been putting out music the entire time as well. Now, it could take another step toward the top.

On Monday, his fiancée, Keyshia Ka’oir, announced via Instagram that the two would be starring in a new series called The Wopsters on BET, leading up to their wedding on Oct. 17. And for as much as we’re looking forward to more Guwop, the real star here is Ka’oir. This could be the Hollywood come-up she’s deserved for some time. If you don’t know, she’s a serious entrepreneur who, when this all is said and done, can take full credit for Wop’s life now.

She’s a fitness entrepreneur who’s been at it for years. Her “link in bio” game crushes yours. In an era in which the hustle from wherever you are to celebrity is finally being rewarded for black women (see: Blac Chyna and my personal favorite, Cardi B), this should do wonders for Ka’oir. By the way, if you don’t know the full story of how they met or how they managed to keep things together while he was in jail, and how she got him home without a whole bunch of nonsense from cameras, read this. It’s excellent.

A famous black couple on television living healthy lifestyles and enjoying life? Yes, more of that please. And make sure that Zaytoven writes the theme song and plays at the wedding.

Aux Cord Chronicles XI: Rooftop vibes From 2 Chainz to Beenie Man and Mya to Drake — 51 songs to jump-start your summer

This 11th edition of Aux Cord Chronicles is predicated on something we all love: the benefits of warm weather. And what’s the point of having longer days and warmer nights without the appropriate soundtrack to go with it? While the title says “rooftop,” #ACC11 is transferable to lazy days on the beach, boat parties (if you’re ballin’ like that) and any other situation where you and your people can, as someone once put it, “look forward to the memories of right now.” With songs from Xscape, Timbaland and Magoo, Beenie Man and Mya, Usher, Miguel, Drake, UGK and OutKast, Beyoncé, Rihanna, SZA, Travis Scott and a ton more, there should be something here for just about everyone. You know the rules by now. Hit us up on social media and let us know your entries. Let’s get it. After all, I’m not going to say our Aux Cord Chronicles is the best thing to happen to music since Don Cornelius created Soul Train. But I’m not going to stop you from saying it, if the spirit moves you.

Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff — ‘Summertime’ (1991)

Just like it’s not the holidays until Donny Hathaway tells us so, it’s sure not summer until The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff give us the go-ahead with this Grammy winner. Here it is/ The groove slightly transformed/ Just a bit of a break from the norm: Seriously, play “Summertime” around just about any age group and you’re guaranteed to get a reaction. Based on a sample from Kool & the Gang’s eternal B-side, “Summer Madness,” this is truly one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Mary J. Blige — ‘You Remind Me (1992)

While the remix is great in its own right, my heart and unyielding love will always remain with the OG New Jack Swing-era version. Certain songs have an uncanny ability to make me wish I was in college when the song was new, and popular. The way you walk/ And the way you talk/ And the way you move and … oh to be at a historically black college when Blige’s first Top 40 hit was played at every house party.

2Pac — ‘I Get Around (1993)

Compared to his bigger, more controversial releases — 1995’s Me Against The World, 1996’s All Eyez On Me and The 7 Day Theory — Tupac Shakur’s sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. But it should. The 1993 album was a focused project showcasing a 22-year-old Shakur tackling issues of police brutality, women’s rights, inner-city blues and, yes, his penchant for “getting around.” I love the way she licks her lips/ See me jocking / Put a little twist in her hips/ ’Cause I’m watching: With verses from Digital Underground’s Money B and Shock G (who produced), not even New York radio personality Funk Flex can deny the staying power of Strictly’s second single.

Xscape — ‘Just Kickin’ It (Remix) (1993)

There’s an entire generation who knows of Kandi Burruss and Tameka “Tiny” Harris from their reality shows. But real ones know they represented 50 percent of ’90s quartet Xscape — along with LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott. As a foursome, these ladies produced a trilogy of platinum albums that included six Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 songs, including this one. But we’re focusing on the remix. It’s almost as if you can see you and your friends, drinks in hand, with the city’s skyline behind you as you sway to the Staples Singers’ sampled beat, singing the hook. It’s one of the best hooks from the ’90s. Period.

Da Brat — ‘Funkdafied’ (1994)

Want to feel old? Da Brat’s classic — her Jermaine Dupri-produced introduction to the world, her first single from the album of the same name — is actually older than most of the seniors who graduated from college this year.

Junior Mafia feat. The Notorious B.I.G. — ‘Player’s Anthem (Remix)’ (1995)

Could’ve gone with 1994’s “Big Poppa.” Could’ve gone with “One More Chance,” from the same year. But I went with “Player’s Anthem (Remix)” for two reasons. One, Kim’s verse — Big Momma shoots the game/ To all you Willies and criminals — is still flames. And, two, the hook is just as cold today as it was 22 years ago when Biggie stood as The King of New York.

Timbaland & Magoo feat. Missy Elliott & Aaliyah — ‘Up Jumps Da’ Boogie’ (1997)

We praise the Bad Boys. The Death Rows. The Rocafellas. The No Limits. The Cash Moneys. For bona fide reasons, too. But if I’ve said this a million times, that means I have at least another 2 million to go. The Timbo-Missy-Aaliyah-Ginuwine-Static Major quintet and the sounds they produced in the late ’90s and early 2000s were paramount for my growth as a music fan. It’s tough to call “Up Jumps” a purely Virginia classic, especially when the record hit No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the pop singles chart. And the record wasn’t full-fledged hip-hop or R&B but a weird, happy mix of both that came to define their sound. It’s utterly ridiculous how much great music they released in that span.

DMX — ‘How’s It Going Down’ (1998)

Yes, I’m aware X’s first album classic, It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot, has been in an Aux Cord Chronicle before. It’s not my fault that it fits various moods. And, OK, sure, the song is about infidelity and a potential drug run. Coming through, like I do, you know, getting my bark on/ Knew she was a thug ’cause when I met her she had a scarf on. But you can’t tell me this doesn’t feel like warm summer nights with cold drinks and chill vibes.

Beenie Man feat. Mya — ‘Girls Dem Sugar’ (2000)

It’s Beenie’s song, no doubt about that: Excuse me baby/ But I really just have to tell you this / It’s been a while/ I’m admiring yuh tenderness. Yet and still, let the record forever show Mya as the real MVP here: You can take the stars like the sky for you /There’s nothing in this world that I couldn’t do for you. A must-have for any kickback. And if there’s a rooftop and view of a city’s skyline, or sunset at the beach, even better.

Fabolous feat. Jagged Edge & Diddy — ‘Trade It All Pt. 2’ (2002)

Enough to make you wanna grab your throwback jersey or jersey dress and remember when life was so much easier 15 summers ago. Salute to ESPN’s Jalen Rose in the video, too.

Usher — ‘Bad Girl’ (2004)

A classic from Confessions, the best R&B album of the 2000s. I meant what I said the other week, too. Usher was truly the most unstoppable force in R&B for a good minute.

Sleepy Brown feat. Big Boi & Pharrell — ‘Margarita’ (2006)

Because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. And because it’s a vastly underrated Pharrell hook — Go with me for a ride / Aren’t you feeling nice? — that deserves more appreciation.

UGK feat. OutKast — ‘International Players Anthem’ (2007)

Or, as it’s known in my life — the perfect rap song. I challenge you to come up with five more legendary opening lines than So, I typed a text to a girl I used to see / Saying that I chose this cutie pie with whom I wanna be/ And I apologize if this message gets you down / Then I CC’d every girl that I’d see-see ’round town. In the decade since its release, I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love this iconic collaboration. Yes, iconic. The real fun is in debating who had the best verse. There’s no wrong answer, but if you’re asking me today, I’m going with Pimp C. Chad’s sermon opening as soon as the beat drops (a decision he was originally against) sounds like the gates of rap heaven opening up. Bless everything about this record.

Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne — ‘Girls Around The World’ (2008)

We all remember how influential the words “featuring Lil Wayne” were in the mid- to late 2000s. At the peak of his powers, The Best Rapper Alive connected with Lloyd, who had his own impressive run during the same time, as the two waxed poetic on their favorite topic: women.

F.L.Y. — ‘Swag Surfin’’ (2009)

Also known as the updated “Electric Slide.” I couldn’t name another song by Georgia’s own Fast Life Yungstaz if my life depended on it. But that’s OK because this really is one of the all-time great party gospels. And, apparently, graduation songs. While we’re here, one of the great regrets in my life is never getting to Swag Surf with the Obamas at the White House. I’d never try it at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. now, though. They might think I’m having a medical emergency and then deny me health insurance because they’ll see Swag Surfing as a pre-existing condition. Disclaimer: Just so we’re clear, though, it’s Lil Wayne’s version over everything. So why not go with it here? Well, simple. Wayne’s freestyle doesn’t have the Man, I got that swaggggggg/ My hat matchin’ that baaaagggg … part. Which, of course, is the calling card of the whole vibe.

Rihanna feat. Drake — ‘What’s My Name’ (2011)

It’s crazy to believe six years have already passed since this song was one of the biggest records on the planet — Rihanna’s eighth U.S. No. 1 and Drake’s first. It ensured that Rihanna topped the U.K. singles charts for the fifth consecutive year, putting her in the company of Elvis Presley. But when Rihanna and Drake finally do what they’re supposed to do — drop their joint album, AubRih — this will be known as the collaboration that started it all.

Beyoncé — ‘Love On Top’ (2011)

I still haven’t forgiven Beyoncé for overshadowing my most recent birthday with her pregnancy announcement. But I have to remember she did the same thing to someone else on Aug. 28 when, at the 2011 MTV VMAs, she said, “Tonight I want you to stand up on your feet, I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me” — then proceeded to perform “Love On Top” without missing a beat. She revealed to the world that Blue Ivy Carter was on her way, much to the delight of Jay Z and Kanye West, seen here in much simpler times. It’s a great and soulful and upbeat song — one that’s going to be around for a long, long, long time. You’re the one that gives your all / You’re the one I can always call / When I need to make everything stop / Finally you put my love on top. It’s a wedding reception classic.

Drake feat. Majid Jordan — ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ (2013)

Almost like you should be on a boat, in a white linen outfit, with a Cuban cigar off the coast of Santorini, right? In a career with countless smash records, the second single from Aubrey’s third studio album Nothing Was The Same is Drake at his most infectious. He’ll be performing this at his Las Vegas residency in 20 years. Also, the video is a classic Drake juxtaposition: with guns, murder and the betrayal of false friends and Drake saving the damsel in distress. But doing so over a smooth, R&B-laced record.

YG feat. TeeFli — ‘Do It To Ya’ (2014)

God bless Tha Dogg Pound homage. YG’s laid-back summer ode — from the modern-day classic My Krazy Life — deserves all the love it receives three years after its release. Pool party, day party and rooftop-tested. Pool party, day party and rooftop-approved.

Jamie xx feat. Young Thug & Popcaan — ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’(2015)

This song should’ve been so much bigger than what it was. Side note: It is featured on NBA Live 16 and NBA 2K17.

The Internet — ‘Get Away’ (2015)

When we’re recapping the best albums of the 2010s come December 2019, The Internet’s Ego Death will deserve serious consideration. “Get Away,” the LP’s opening track, sets the mood perfectly. This group has mastered the art of mood music.

Future — ‘March Madness(2015)

What’s wild is that after 200,000 listens from me alone, it still tugs at the heartstrings just as much as it did when I heard basketball great LeBron James’ favorite song in Los Angeles for the first time. I really hope I can weave Dress it up/ And make it real for me into my wedding vows.

Miguel — ‘Waves’ (2015)

It’s been almost two summers since Miguel dropped Wildheart. There’s no way I can hear “Waves” and not instantly reminisce on summer nights in Los Angeles, house parties in Hollywood and the Fourth of July at Manhattan Beach with the homies. If I could ride that wave right now … That year on the West Coast was a dope period in my life, and one I’ll carry with me forever. And since we’re on the topic, some new music from the “late bloomer” wouldn’t be a bad look at all this summer.

NxWorries — ‘Scared Money’ (2016)

We talked a lot about artists like Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott in 2016. For good reasons, too. All of their albums knocked. But one of the coldest and most underrated was Yes Lawd! from the duo of Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge. Truth be told, any cut from their winsome collab project applies here. But whenever anyone does a Paid In Full homage, they had me at Hello.

Gucci Mane feat. Drake — ‘Both’ (2016)

We may never see their mythical collab album, The 6ers, and that’s fine. It’s probably best not to ruin a good thing because this The Return of East Atlanta Santa standout, produced by Metro Boomin and Southside, is hitting its stride just as the weather takes a turn for the warmer. Perfect.

PARTYNEXTDOOR — ‘Not Nice’ (2016)

This song just reminded me to book my vacation. We’ll leave it at that.

Chance the Rapper feat. Knox Fortune — ‘All Night’ (2016)

Confession: While Coloring Book instantly became a personal favorite last year, “All Night” was the one record I always skipped. Then, I started hearing it when I was out, to the point where I came to understand the song’s intention — stop treating me different and just party. Sure, I could’ve easily chosen “No Problem” and been just fine. But there’s something about warm weather, good vibes and hearing Is you is or is you ain’t got gas money/ No IOUs or debit cards, I need cash money at just the right time.

Bruno Mars — ‘That’s What I Like’ (2016)

Cool jewel be shining so bright / Strawberry champagne on ice: It’s of the truly awesome feel-good songs of recent memory and shows no signs of slowing down as you prepare to make summer memories with your Day 1s.

Kap G — ‘Girlfriend’ (2016)

Credit Issa Rae’s Insecure in particular, episode 6, Shady As F— for putting me on to this song.

The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk — ‘I Feel It Coming’ (2016)

It’s that song you hear at post-work happy hours as the day drifts from evening to night. You’ve heard the song a thousand times already. Just as long as you’re cool with hearing it another 10,000 times by the end of the summer. It’s The Weeknd and Daft Punk. You can’t expect anything less.

Travis Scott feat. Young Thug & Quavo — ‘Pick Up The Phone’ (2016)

Honestly, just let the entire Birds In The Trap Sing Brian McKnight ride. No, for real, press play on the first song and step away from your phone. Thank me later. This cut in particular is the seamless and perfect collaboration featuring three of the game’s most sought-after and enigmatic forces. Tell me you wouldn’t listen to an EP from all three. I dare you.

D.R.A.M. — ‘Cute(2016)

Girl, we need to go out on a date/ We can really do a little something/ If it’s cool, I’ll pick you up at 8/ We can really do a little something/ We can really do a little something, baby/ Looking at this pretty face, it drives me crazy. Don’t forget that the Hampton, Virginia, native dropped a stellar album last year. On it was this lighthearted number about breaking the ice with that someone who caught your eye at the day party.

Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos — ‘Slide’ (2017)

Nearly went with Frank’s “Biking” featuring Jay Z and Tyler, The Creator. But I decided it was in my best interests to ride with this. Minus a brief bit of controversy, ’17 has been Migos’ most successful year, one in which they became a bona fide crossover rap supergroup. Yet, while it could mean nothing, what’s good with Takeoff not being on two of Migos’ biggest hits this year — the unstoppable “Bad and Boujee” and this one?

DJ Khaled feat. Beyoncé and Jay Z — Shining(2017)

Nearly went with Khaled and Drake’s “For Free” here, but it’s best to give some up-and-coming, lesser known artists a shake — you know, like the Carters. No, seriously, I’m not sure I need a full-length project from Blue and the twins’ parental units, but it’s no denying Mr. & Mrs. Carter held it down for all the married couples wanting to prove you can mix business and pleasure.

Migos — ‘T-Shirt’ (2017)

I know that “Bad and Boujee” was the most popular song in the universe at one point this year. But you’re going to hear that song any and everywhere this summer. That’s not to say you won’t hear “T-Shirt” just as many times, but it’s the slightly better song. My only regret about this record is that The Three Wise Migos should have taken their own advice before taking the Saturday Night Live stage with Katy Perry last weekend. Do it for the culture/ They gon’ bite like vultures. Truer words have not been spoken in 2017.

Drake — ‘Passionfruit’ (2017)

The dude who just took home a record 13 Billboard Music Awards makes this type of vibe easier than anyone doing it right now (and over the past decade). I’m of the belief that the “Madiba Riddim” + “Blem” combo is more lethal — and that “Blem” is low-key the best song on More Life, but all that said, it’s “Passionfruit” that could well become Drizzy’s 2017 “One Dance” or “Controlla.”

Wale feat. G-Eazy — ‘Fashion Week’ (2017)

Folarin’s SHINE crept in under the radar, but he does have a nice little summer ditty with this. An easy and fun listen, and, if you live in the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia), you can expect to hear this at any and every function between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Ed Sheeran — ‘Shape Of You’ (2017)

I mean, look. This song’s undeniable, fam.

Goldlink feat. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy — ‘Crew’ (2017)

Simply put, the best single of 2017. From my personal favorite project of 2017.

Rick Ross feat. Ty Dolla $ign — ‘I Think She Like Me’ (2017)

It was dope to see Rick Ross come back in full force this year with the great project Rather You Than Me. Who else could flip a chorus into 40 million / Out in Cannes with Leonardo DiCaprio / While out on bond / Pray I go to trial rapido. No one does luxury rap quite like Rozay.

French Montana feat. Swae Lee — ‘Unforgettable’ (2017)

If, somehow, you still doubted Swae Lee’s star power, let this be what finally converts you. “Unforgettable” sounds like a record you’d hear shopping at an H&M in Dubai. It’s got that far of a reach.

Future — ‘Mask Off’ (2017)

As if there was any doubt that Future’s first career Top 10 Hot Billboard 100 hit would make the list. And if you’re gonna run this — because you’re definitely running this, since it’s the law of the land — run “Draco” right after this. Thank me later.

Jeremih feat. Chris Brown & Big Sean — ‘I Think Of You’ (2017)

Alongside two talented artists with several songs worthy of inclusion on this list, it’s Chris Brown who absolutely owns this record. He does it running away, too. Therein lies the crux about Brown. Even in 2017, he remains one of the most naturally virtuoso entities in the game (his new single “Privacy” rings off, too). He’s so gifted that it’s frustrating.

SZA feat. Travis Scott — ‘Love Galore’ (2017)

Gimme a paper towel / Gimme another Valium / Gimme another hour or two / Hour with you. Out of nowhere, SZA and Scott gave us the summer anthem we never knew we needed.

Kendrick Lamar feat. Zacari — ‘LOVE.’ (2017)

Kung Fu Kenny’s critically adored DAMN. has its fair share of slappers. “DNA” and “Humble” are already mainstays. And I’m guessing sooner than later, his Rihanna collaboration “LOYALTY.” will dominate summer airwaves because RiRi is allergic to not making a hit. But, man, this one? Keep it a hundred / I’d rather you trust me than (to love me) / Keep it a whole one hund’, don’t got you I got nothing. Somebody’s legit going to fall in love to it this summer.

2 Chainz feat. Gucci Mane, Quavo & The Trap Choir — “Good Drank 2.0’ (2017)

Like a certain Canadian mentioned earlier, The Honorable Dos Necklaces could have his own individual playlist, too. “It’s A Vibe” with Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz and Jhene Aiko is beyond worthy of inclusion here. But trust me on this. You have not lived until you’ve heard a gospel choir sing Put that thing up in her ribcage. You’ll wonder how you ever lived before. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music needs to hurry up and get here. Like yesterday.

Wizkid feat. Drake — ‘Come Closer’ (2017)

My colleague Bre, The Undefeated’s resident Drake aficionado, says this is her favorite Drake verse right now. Too mix up in drama to go outside / Too mix up in drama to free my mind / Jealous people around me / I need to change my life. Honestly, it’s hard to knock it. The song as a whole is hella chill and tailor-made for long summer nights, cookouts and/or plush excursions. Just another summer mainstay from The Canadian You Love To Hate.

Lil Uzi Vert — ‘XO TOUR Lif3’ (2017)

The most perplexing song on the list. On the surface, it’s a fun record. Then you actually listen to the lyrics. Push me to the edge. The hook, at least.

Calvin Harris feat. Future & Khalid — ‘Rollin’ (2017)

I’ve been rollin’ on the freeway/ I’ve been riding 85/ I’ve been thinking way too much/ And I’m way too gone to drive/ I’ve got anger in my chest/ I’ve got millions on my mind/ And you didn’t fit the picture/ So I guess you weren’t the vibe. Get you some this summer.

Playboi Carti — ‘Magnolia’ (2017)

Another song you won’t be able to escape this summer unless you stay in the house and avoid all social interactions where music is played and drinks are served. And for what it’s worth, it’s already received LeBron James’, Kyrie Irving’s and Iman Shumpert’s seal of approval.

DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne — ‘I’m The One’ (2017)

Given the cast of characters, Khaled’s newest creation had no choice but to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. No rap record has done that since Eminem’s “Not Afraid” seven years ago. But if we’re really being truthful with ourselves, all credit goes to Asahd. Khaled’s been batting 1.000 since little man graced the world with his presence.

Aux Cord Chronicles X: Bob Marley Forever Bob Marley only lived to be 36 years old. Here are 36 songs celebrating his life and legacy

Last August, Bob Costas was gushing over Usain Bolt being the fastest man alive. The fastest man to ever live, really. Costas, so energized by Bolt’s domination of the 100 meters, proclaimed that the track and field legend had surpassed the popularity of Bob Marley, his fellow countryman. The remark was met with instant side eyes, the expected onslaught of memes and stark disapproval, which were not a slight on Bolt, an 8-time gold medalist who has established himself not only as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete but one of the most decorated in history, regardless of sport.

But we’re talking about Robert Nesta Marley here: Marley and his far-reaching influence beyond Jamaica — South Africa, in particular. A musician, yes. A Rastafarian, of course. An iconic face of the pro-marijuana movement, absolutely. Canonized for his stances on human rights, no question. But there’s an entire universe surrounding Marley — the man, his music, his life, his beliefs, his humanitarianism and his ability to unify gang leaders and political rivals — that very few in music have sustained for decades and generations. The 10th chapter of Aux Cord Chronicles is dedicated to the man himself — and the legendary Wailers. Thirty-six songs for the 36 years of a life that created music that still serves as the soundtrack of lives in Kingston, Harlem, Los Angeles, London, Johannesburg, Dubai and everywhere in between.

Simmer Down(1963)

Credited as Marley and The Wailers’ first hit, the record — which sounds like Motown, had the label been hip to reggae at the time — is a kind of “stop the violence” anthem. Marley, then 18, made the song to appease his mother, Cedella, who was worried about the guys her son was running with in Trench Town. The ode’s focus rests solely on the shoulders of the local “rude boys” who were making news for the ruckus their violent behavior was causing. Once you know about the background, the song sounds completely different.

Stir It Up” (1967)

Written about his wife, Rita, “Stir” has since become a stoner’s classic in a catalog that has its fair share.

“I’m Hurting Inside” (1968)

Suffering from cancer, and with only a short time left to live, Marley performed the final concert of his life in Pittsburgh on Sept. 23, 1980. During rehearsal, the ailing singer instructed the band to play this song over and over. And over. He never performed it.

Guava Jelly” (1971)

You say you need me/ I need you, too/ Baby why don’t you stop your crying/ And dry your weeping eyes/ You know I love you. For all the lovers out there who aren’t together, but really should be together.

“Acoustic Medley” (1971)

Just Marley, his guitar, his voice and a string of classics, including “Stir It Up,” “Comma Comma,” “Cornerstone” and more.

Sun Is Shining (1971)

While not the most popular from Bob and The Wailers’ catalog, it’s undoubtedly one of the grooviest. He later re-recorded this for his 1978 Kaya album.

No More Trouble (1973)

We don’t need no more trouble. It’s wild. The more things change, the more they stay the absolute same. The whole world should sit down and smoke a doobie and listen to Bob. I guarantee a lot of the issues could be solved.

I Shot the Sheriff (1973)

Had Bob had his way, the song would’ve sounded a tad different. The hook was originally intended to say “I shot the police.” Alas, “the government would have made a fuss, so I said, ‘I shot the sheriff’ instead … but it’s the same idea: justice.” Someone ask Ice Cube or Dr. Dre if they knew this heading into recording NWA’s own law enforcement protest anthem 15 years later.

Bob Marley performs on stage at Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1976.

Erica Echenberg/Redferns

Concrete Jungle(1973)

Bob spoke about love. Bob spoke about liberation. Bob spoke about the benefits of marijuana. But something he could do just as well is wax poetic about the struggle, and about what it was like growing up in a world where hopelessness runs rampant and positivity teeters on the brink of extinction.

Get Up Stand Up (1973)

Bob and The Wailers’ original version came about after an emotional trip to Haiti. The country’s poverty called Marley to action. The internationally famous anthem was often the last song Marley would perform onstage. But by 1978, he began to question whether the song had done its job. “How long must I protest the same thing? I sing ‘Get Up Stand Up,’ and up till now people don’t get up,” he said in the 2011 documentary Bob Marley … In His Own Words. “So must I still sing ‘Get Up Stand Up’? … I want people to live big and have enough.” This was also the last song he performed live.

Burnin’ And Lootin’” (1973)

While “Simmer Down” was a call to stop the violence, here Marley and The Wailers took a U-turn. In fact, they took a shot at fellow Jamaican artist Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 “Many Rivers to Cross,” asking sarcastically: How many do we have to cross?/ Before we can talk to the boss? Subliminal disses didn’t start with hip-hop.

Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)(1974)

Bob was pulled over by the cops at 3 in the morning. And he had to throw away his “herbstalk” (aka loud pack) before the boys found it.

Them Belly Full (1974)

The voice of the voiceless, Bob offered the eternally relevant prophecy A hungry mob is an angry mob. (Not so) Funny how these lines apply today. And not just with regard to food either.

“Talkin’ Blues” (1974)

Tupac Shakur once said, “There’s gon’ be some stuff you gon’ see that’s gon’ make it hard to smile in the future. But through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain, you gotta keep your sense of humor. You gotta be able to smile through all this bulls—. Remember that.” Bob basically said the same thing on “Talkin’ Blues.”

No Woman No Cry (1975)

By any metric, this has to be at the very least a top five track from Bob. Top three, even. Hell, catch me on the right day, this might be the GOAT. The live version, which Rolling Stone dubbed the 37th greatest song ever recorded and “one of reggae’s most beloved performances,” is an absolutely perfect song from beginning to end. Also: Marley made sure childhood friend Vincent “Tata” Ford received writing credit in order to keep Ford’s soup kitchen in Kingston open through his death in 2008. In an obiturary for Ford, Spencer Leigh wrote in The Independent that while Ford did not actually write the record, Marley often spread out his writing credits to ensure “lasting help to his family and friends.”

Bob Marley on 5/27/78 in Chicago, Il.

Paul Natkin/WireImage

Positive Vibration (1976)

If you get down and you quarrel every day/ You are saying prayers to the devils, I say/ Why not help one another on the way/ Make it much easier. Bob was speaking that real. “Positive” is featured on the 1976 album Rastaman Vibration, the first Marley release to crack the top 10 on Billboard’s 200.

“Crazy Baldheads” (1976)

We’re going to chase those crazy baldheads out of town. You can likely guess who Marley and The Wailers are talking about here. On arguably his most explicitly revolutionary record, Marley’s call gets real when discussing his people’s plight. Build your penitentiary, we build your schools/ Brainwash education to make us the fools, he sings, Hate is your reward for our love/ Telling us your God above.

War(1976)

A month before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I called for world peace. This song is largely, and literally, the musical interpretation of Selassie’s October 1963 speech before the United Nations General Assembly. Rastafarians view Selassie in a religious context, believing he was the living incarnation of God.

Waiting in Vain(1977)

You can’t be waiting around forever on love that may never come back or come around. Easier said than done, but Marley and The Wailers deliver a seminal Exodus standout as well as a timeless ode to all the hopeless romantics who want love to play in their favor just once.

Three Little Birds(1977)

For anyone born after Marley’s passing, like yours truly, this is probably one of the first songs from his catalog you were introduced to. It now stands as one of his most popular records, but believe it or not, it actually didn’t chart as a single until 1980.

“One Love” (1977)

If the world could use any song as a uniting force these days, it’s this one.

Guiltiness (1977)

For anyone living life under a false pretense, attempting to maintain an image that isn’t them, or who is portraying anyone other than him or herself, this Bob is for you.

Exodus (1977)

It’s the title track from the album that turned Marley into an international tour de force. It also wasn’t recorded in Jamaica. Rather, the song and album were recorded in London after a December 1976 assassination attempt on him and his wife, Rita.

“Crisis” (1978)

Again, another high-quality stoner anthem. But Bob’s commandment — to keep finding the beauty in life, despite the evils in life — reigns supreme.

Is This Love?” (1978)

This was dedicated to his wife. I’m willing and able/ So I throw my cards on your table/ I want to love you—I want to love and treat/ Love and treat you right/ I want to love you every day and every night/ We’ll be together, yeah!/ With a roof right over our heads/ We’ll share the shelter, yeah/ Of my single bed. Needless to say, we see why Rita said, “I do.”

Jammin’” (1978)

One of the all time great feel-good songs. And, no, this isn’t up for debate.

Bob Marley performs on stage at Crystal Palace Bowl on June 7th, 1980 in London, United Kingdom.

Peter Still/Redferns

Running Away” (1978)

You can run away from your troubles, Bob insinuates, but eventually you’re going to have to address them. And if you believe your problems have no peer, just know there’s someone out there dealing with far worse. A song about perspective.

“Kaya” (1978)

I feel so high I even touch the sky. Yep, basically. Widely viewed as one of the greatest smoking anthems ever, let’s just say if there were an official 4:20 playlist, this would be on there. Former Wailer Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” would be there too.

Wake Up and Live (1979)

The final song on 1979’s Survival was along the lines of the project’s militant theme. Basically, what the O.G. is saying here (long before Gucci Mane) was don’t get lost in the sauce. And don’t get in your own way. There are enough distractions in the world.

“Zimbabwe” (1979)

Every man got the right to decide his own destiny. That’s reggae icon speaking truth to power. This song actually became the rallying cry for African rebels revolting against the Rhodesian government in the Bush War.

Forever Loving Jah” (1980)

His faith was solid. That wasn’t going to ever change.

“Coming In From The Cold” (1980)

When one door is closed, don’t you know, other is open? My grandma always tells me you can spend time sulking over a setback or someone telling you “no.” But you’re just allowing the “yes” that was meant for you to go to someone else. I knew she liked Bob Marley, but I didn’t realize she used his lyrics in everyday life.

“Could You Be Loved” (1980)

Marley wrote this with the sole intention of it being a hit. Mission accomplished. His Uprising tour (the last of his life) would take him into the United States, and he figured reggae would not be immediately accepted — hence the song’s disco feel. Because — believe it or not, at least in America — Bob wasn’t the iconic symbol of freedom and timeless music he’s been immortalized as in the decades since.

Redemption Song (1980)

The last cut on the last album Marley recorded resulted in one of the greatest sociopolitical records ever recorded. All I ever had, redemption songs/ These songs of freedom. Records like these prove that though his physical presence is no longer here, Bob Marley is still very much alive, well, relevant and kicking.

“Iron Lion Zion” (1992)

While it was recorded in the early ’70s, this wasn’t released until 11 years after his death. Fun fact: Island Records’ Trevor Wyatt discovered the record by pure chance. How, you ask? He left the rehearsal cassette playing while pouring himself a glass of water.

Turn The Lights Down” feat. Lauryn Hill (1999)

Bob and The Wailers recorded the original in 1977. But it’s the addition of L-Boogie — who, of course, married and had five kids with Bob’s son Rohan — that gave a classic a brand-new paint job. It’s become a classic in its own right.

Daily Dose: 4/13/17 Maxine Waters will not be undersold

I’m still upset about Charlie Murphy. Know that when Domonique Foxworth, Mina Kimes and I first started The Morning Roast, Habitual Line Steppers was a show name that we strongly considered calling the program. RIP.

The first time I heard Maxine Waters’ name, it was in a song. As a high schooler in the 1990s, I was massively into Rawkus Records and basically everything they released. One such project was the Lyricist Lounge tape, and there was a track called “C.I.A.” with KRS-One, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha and Last Emperor. It was peak rap/rock if you even want to get into all that, but whatever. “I want all my daughters to be like Maxine Waters” was one line from KRS. Anyway, she’s the only one in Congress truly standing up to the president.

When black women disappear and nobody bats an eye. We know this. On the totem pole of “people whom society considers important,” they are lowest. Now, we have a very disturbing tale of another black woman whose life ended under questionable circumstances. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was the first black woman to serve on New York state’s highest court. She was found dead on the bank of the Hudson River. She was from D.C. and graduated from Columbia Law School. This is a really sad story.

Just so you know, “grooming” is a word for animals. When you go get your hair cut, you are not being groomed. Anyway, some people take this SUPER seriously when it comes to their dogs. And for as much of a “do you” person as I am, folks who decide to make absurd caricatures of animals creep me out. If you are paying people money to dye your dog’s hair, that’s weird. Sorry, it just is. But because I feel that these monsters need to be exposed, here’s a bunch of pictures of wackos doing psycho stuff to animals that have no choice.

We all know how we feel about Gucci Mane. In short, he’s the gawd. Now that his life is in complete makeover mode, people forget about Goon Guwap. The streets will never forget his contributions. On that note, let us never forget the time that someone orchestrated an elaborate hoax that involved him saying, “I might be” to a judge when asked whether he was guilty of a crime. That’s what came to mind when Carmelo Anthony was asked about getting traded by the Knicks and he said, “They might.”

Free Food

Coffee Break: You know how Fox News is constantly doing all those “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE DOING ON SPRING BREAK?!?!?!” segments? Now Bill O’Reilly is the one going on spring break since advertisers are pulling out of his show left and right.

Snack Time: I feel like there are life-changing GIFs that come out every week. Maybe I’m too attached to that medium. Or perhaps this is just the golden era of GIFs and you can never take that away from me! Check it out.

Dessert: When this movie comes to your town, go see it. Trust me.

2 Chainz: Baller or nah? We checked out whether the ‘Based on a T.R.U. Story’ and ‘Watch Out’ rapper really could ball in high school and college

From singer Brian McKnight to actress Gabrielle Union to rapper Master P, singers, actors and rappers have often bragged about their past athletic accomplishments. #ShowMeTheReceipts, a monthly feature at The Undefeated, will authenticate those declarations. In this month’s installment, we verified rapper 2 Chainz’s receipts.


Darrick McGriff went over to Tauheed Epps’ home to check out something that may have needed repair. As he made his way through the house, McGriff saw a basketball. He knew Epps, more famously known as rapper 2 Chainz, had a basketball court outside. One thing led to another, and McGriff, the leading scorer for Alabama State his junior year when Epps joined the basketball team as a freshman in 1995, found himself shooting around.

“Tauheed said, ‘You know what, Beaumont? You still got it in you: Still can’t walk by a basketball without picking it up,’ ” McGriff, a Beaumont, Texas, native recalled. “I said, ‘Which one of us can?’ ”

It must have been August, as it was sweltering that day in Atlanta. The old Hornets teammates decided to put up a few shots, and then it took a competitive turn, becoming a game of H-O-R-S-E. It started off friendly, but then a wager got placed here and there and it became more than just fun and games. Ultimately, though, the house won.

“I guess I’ll say it on the record,” the 43-year-old McGriff mused, “I kind of let him win. You know, I didn’t want to go to his house and do that to him. I want my brother to invite me back.

“I didn’t want to rough him up, so we just shot some 3s.”

Before Epps was a 19-time BET Award nominee, five-time BET Award winner, six-time Grammy-nominated artist and 2012 winner of the Soul Train Music Awards‘ best hip-hop song of the year, he won a Class AA state championship as the sophomore sixth man on the North Clayton High School basketball team in 1993.

On the court, he was known for his lanky frame, mesmerizing ball-handling skills, ability to play all five positions (if need be) and for his wet jump shot. Off the court, McGriff said, Epps was known for his propensity to call nearly everyone “Shawty” with that oh-so-recognizable Atlanta drawl, and for his casket-sharp wardrobe. If someone walked into Epps’ and Robert Jackson’s college dorm room, they might mistake it for a Polo Ralph Lauren store.

Jackson, who has been friends with Epps since playing alongside him for two years on the North Clayton varsity team and two seasons at Alabama State, took how much Polo they wore a step further.

“The Polo belt, boot, chino khakis, socks, jacket, and then that’s for the winter,” Jackson chuckled. “For the spring, you needed some blue jean shorts, shirt, skippers [no socks], hat, you had to have Polo towels … your sweatsuits had to be Polo, your track pants … you had to be Polo’d down.

“We would go shopping around. We wouldn’t just find something from Lenox Mall in Atlanta. We would go out to Perimeter [Mall], we’d go out of town, we’d go to the outlet occasionally. We would want to find something that nobody else had.”

The 6-foot-5 Epps went to Alabama State after Division I schools such as the University of Memphis showed interest. Alabama State already had Jackson, a guard, on its team, and in recruiting him, the Hornets staff got a chance to see Epps during his junior season.

Epps played in 35 games for Alabama State from 1995-97 and averaged 2.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists. In McGriff’s final game, it was Epps who stole the show when the team played against Alcorn State. In 10 minutes, the future DJ, rapper and periodic actor scored 14 points and collected seven rebounds.

“I was the leading scorer, so everyone expected me to take the lead, but he was the high scorer in my last game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament,” said McGriff, who is now a contractor in Beaumont. ” … He was kind of all over the place when it came to defense, ’cause he had long arms, had some good steals, went coast to coast. He hit a few 3s and just had an all-around good game.”

Epps has reinvented himself several times since graduating from college. After four nominations, he finally won his Grammy award (best rap performance) for his feature on Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem,” alongside Lil Wayne.

“Everybody has their trials and tribulations and stories of where they came from, but it’s very, very humbling for me,” 2 Chainz said during his Grammy acceptance speech in February. “I got my first Grammy today. I’ve been doing what I love doing. You know, [I’ve been] working my a– off. There’s been a lot of long nights and short days. There’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of long prayers, but let me tell you, it don’t stop. So, like I say, each and every day I try to get better than I was the previous. Shoutout to my crew, my family in here and the label.”

Almost two weeks later, Epps blessed music fans with his 2.0 version of his 2016 song, “Good Drank,” featuring Gucci Mane and Quavo from Migos. Gucci Mane and Epps appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon accompanied by a “trap choir” to perform the newer rendition of the song, which replaced Quavo’s hooks but maintained his ad-libs.

The appearance on the late night show was succeeded by Epps releasing “Good Drank 2.0 (Trap Choir Version)” on his SoundCloud for the masses. All this is just an appetizer for Epps’ much-anticipated new album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, which is rumored to include artists such as Justin Bieber and Drake in the mix. In January, a photo of Epps and Drake in the studio was posted on Epps’ Instagram account.

Originally, he was a member of the Playaz Circle duo with Dolla Boy. Known as “Tity Boi,” Epps signed with fellow Atlanta artist Ludacris’ Disturbing tha Peace label, which is under the Def Jam/Universal tree, and in 2007 he gained mainstream recognition after his collaboration with Lil Wayne on “Duffle Bag Boy.”

In 2011, the College Park, Georgia, native changed his name from Tity Boi to 2 Chainz, and the following year he released his debut album, Based on a T.R.U. Story, which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 its first week.

“Around 1997-98, he decided he really wanted to become a rapper,” Jackson said. “He was like, ‘This is something I can do.’

“I loved it because it was his own different tune. He and Ludacris have a whole different kind of flow, so when Tauheed was able to start branching out into his own, that was the coming of Tauheed at that point. … He was going to be a down South, Georgia rapper and bring his own twang to it.”

Since that point, 2 Chainz has dusted off his hooping skills a few times at Philips Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks play, to challenge former Hawks and NBA legend Dominique Wilkins. The first time was in 2015, when 2 Chainz beat the Hall of Famer in a game of H-O-R-S-E. Now, you know anyone as competitive as Wilkins is going to ask to run the game back, which is exactly what happened when the two played again in December 2016.

This time, Wilkins was able to pull out the victory and even things up at 1-1. 2 Chainz went to Twitter to suggest that Russia may have rigged the results, a jab at the suspicion surrounding the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Our conclusion? He’s legit. 2 Chainz’s receipts get a passing grade from us.

Have a suggestion for #ShowMeTheReceipts? Know of an entertainer who spent time in his or her past life as an athlete? Let us know here at The Undefeated. Leave a message on our Facebook page.