The top 16 sports-themed music videos We ranked them on two major factors: song popularity/relevance and the quality of the sports theme acted out

What are the best sports-themed music videos ever created? A simple question, but one that appeared to go unanswered when doing a casual stroll of the internet.

These aren’t videos in which the artist is just wearing a jersey, these are the videos in which a sport is being played.

On Wednesday, Space Jam celebrated its 21st birthday, and from that movie we were blessed with some memorable sports-themed music videos. But that got a few of us at The Undefeated thinking about what would rank as the best sports-themed music video and then what would the rest of the list look like.

Thanks to sports/culture writer Justin Tinsley, strategic analyst Brittany Grant, associate video producer Morgan Moody and audience development editor Marcus Matthews, here’s what we came up with after two days of discussion.

The list ultimately was decided and ranked on two major factors: song popularity/relevance and the quality of the sports theme acted out in the video. Other contributing factors were considered for where songs should be placed.


16. used to This/Future ft. Drake

Both Future and Drake are up there in terms of artists who’ve been putting out hits consistently over the past few years (They have a whole album together, and Future gave us our national anthem, “March Madness.”) That being said, “Used to This” took the last spot because it was essentially “Best I Ever Had.” The only difference was the women who were dressed like they were about to play soccer instead of basketball, and slipping on a jersey and having women stretch for three minutes does not make for a strong sports-themed video.

15. best I Ever Had/Drake

We don’t have to say too much for this song. Yes, “Best I Ever Had” was hot when it came out, but even the actresses in the video said, “All you taught us how to do was stretch.” That “Used to This” kind of took from “Best I Ever Had’s” example of having women in uniforms stretching but not actually playing is the only reason it didn’t come in dead last on this list.

14. space Jam/Quad City DJ’s

We wish somebody would tell us Space Jam had a better video than “Hit ‘Em High.” We would hee-hee and keke like we’ve never done so before in our lives. Just how does the song named after the movie not have a better video? And that was one of the reasons “Space Jam” received such a low ranking.

Crumping on a basketball court and doing a little shoulder shake doesn’t make for a sports-themed music video. If we’re keeping it a stack, the song is kind of riding on the movie’s coattails. The sports portion of the video comes exclusively from snippets of the movie.

Otherwise, we’d have a music video of referees and dancers twerking and break-dancing. Look, if Michael Jackson can play basketball against Michael Jordan, Space Jam could’ve come up with something.

13. jam/Michael Jackson

Jackson made a whole video playing basketball in his dress shoes. He played a short game of H-O-R-S-E against the best basketball player in the world, Michael Jordan, and then he tried to teach Jordan how to dance. Iconic. You had to know that eventually both of the most famous people with the MJ initials would work together, and look at God not disappointing.

Then we come to find out that Jackson is later in the video playing in the 5-on-5 game on that random court inside the warehouse. We have questions, like tons, about why such a pristine court is just chilling in a warehouse.

12. basketball/Kurtis Blow

Kurtis, Kurtis, Kurtis, why were your teammates randomly fighting in the middle of the game? More importantly, why did they decide that instead of your standard square up, they were going to pick kung fu as their fighting technique of choice? Like one of these dudes brought out nunchucks and another had a stick. This is a really violent brawl, and we couldn’t identify anything that happened to warrant all that.

You’ve got dunking in the sky, but the game is being played at night. Just what’s the truth? Kurtis, even you looked confused. The cheerleaders were also mad basic, and if you’re going to have a video start with them, they had at least better be coordinated.

But points were given for the players wearing Converse shoes, maintaining hair throughout all of that action and Blow rapping straight facts about the history of the game.

11. movin’ On/Mya ft. silkk the shocker

Since we’ve mentioned several videos on this list that used cheerleaders as background pieces in their video, consideration was given to Mya doing the inverse in “Movin’ On.” We can argue about whether cheerleading is a sport another day, because at the end of the day, a whole basketball game was being played in the background.

Mya was at peak popularity in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and not only did she not care that home boy scored the game winner, she cheered her life away, gave the most “I can’t be bothered” eye rolls to ol’ boy and then drove off with her new boo. Look up the definition of unfazed in the dictionary and that last 30 seconds of “Movin’ On” will be patiently waiting for you.

10. pop Bottles/Birdman ft. Lil Wayne

Y’all out here drinking champagne with a few seconds left in a close game? Y’all wild. And seeing as that was really the only sports scene acted out in the video, points had to be deducted.

If you just take a second to think about the sheer number of tracks that Wayne was featured on in 2007 and until he released Tha Carter III, the production is crazy. There wasn’t a feature Wayne didn’t like during that stretch.

Now, going back to “Pop Bottles,” most people know that when a sports team wins a championship, the players celebrate by popping bottles of champagne, spraying it on one another — it’s a whole mess. But in a way, since Wayne and his teammates were drinking champagne before he hit the game winner, that tells you just how much confidence they had that they were going to win. We’re talking “Wipe Me Down,” “gas tank on E, but all drinks on me” levels of confidence.

9. basketball/Lil Bow Wow ft. Jermaine Dupri, Fabolous and fundisha

Any video that includes Fabolous making four or five jersey switches deserves an automatic place in the top of any sports-themed music video ranking. And the basketball played in Lil Bow Wow’s cover of Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” was far and away better quality, which is why it received the higher ranking.

That dude playing basketball in Timbs with socks up to his knees nearly knocked this thing down a peg, but fashion in these videos isn’t a deal breaker. The chain-link net also added some points to the overall score.

8. fight Night/Migos

Quite frankly, “Fight Night” couldn’t have had a music video that was anything other than a boxing match. Facts. You’re not going to have a song with that title and talk about Rocky, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, and not have the music video showing a boxing match. You’re bugging otherwise.

But that wasn’t the scenario the Migos gave us. The fight looks like it was fought in Las Vegas, they had a weigh-in and news conference, and the main event was spliced together with a dramatic, classic opera score.

During the fight itself, we’re most impressed with how these women’s edge control maintained and how their eyebrows remained fleeky throughout the bout. Wow, their faces withstood water and sweat, so it must have been the tears of God in their setting spray bottles, because their makeup was undefeated in that fight.

7. hardball/Lil’ Bow Wow ft. LiL Wayne, Lil Zane & Sammie

So instead of playing a baseball game on an actual grass field, these cats played on a blacktop diamond in front of fans wearing basketball jerseys to a baseball game. They wore baggy jean shorts and baggy oversized baseball jerseys and sported eye black, which is commonly used in football and, to a lesser degree, baseball. But, hey! At least they had the bat flips down pat.

This song came out in 2001 when Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds were at their respective peaks. Sosa gets a cameo in the video, while Griffey is mentioned throughout the song. So sort of similar to our top pick in terms of a black athlete having a tremendous rise at that time and playing off it.

6. I Don’t F— With You/Big Sean

Big Sean real live threw the ball to the defender on the opening play of the video. That ball was absolutely nowhere near his intended receiver. We hate that the only football-themed video in this list had to start like that.

How was Big Sean the No. 1 recruit in the nation, and with four minutes left on the clock he’s throwing ducks? The plot did not do this video any favors, but after some debate, it was important to remember that, ultimately, he did lead the black team back from a 24-14 deficit with less than four minutes to play. He also hit that O button hard to spin past that would-be tackler for the game-winning touchdown.

Kanye West as your coach, E-40 as the announcer and Teyana Taylor as a cheerleader were all winners for their respective roles in the video. Overall, the cheerleaders didn’t do a whole bunch for the culture as much as the ones in our top five, so the video was docked points for that.

As for the cultural impact, Big Sean just made a song about a mood a lot of people were already on. The song was a whole mood driving, playing sports, for that one co-worker you’ve got. Big Sean really had a banger with this one that anyone could relate to.

5. Hit Em High/B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J And Busta Rhymes

“Hit Em High” was the best song from Space Jam. Don’t @ us. And it was without question the best music video of the songs from that movie. And if for whatever reason you can’t look at that track’s lineup without feeling the need to pick up a basketball and find the nearest blacktop, then we truly have nothing to talk about.

If we had to imagine a theme song and the video to accompany it for the Monstars theme song, this black-and-white video with black-and-white jerseys, a black-and-white court and fans wearing nothing but black-and-white clothes shot with a fisheye lens at points would be it.

We shouldn’t have to spell out Space Jam‘s credentials to y’all, BUT if we must, this movie blended the Looney Tunes (some of the greatest cartoon characters from childhood) with the greatest basketball player of all time (Michael Jordan) and turned out a timeless classic. You didn’t need to know exactly how Jordan was going to win that game, you just needed to know that the man WHO NEVER LOST A SINGLE NBA FINALS wasn’t about to lose in this movie either.

4. take It To Da House/Trick Daddy ft. Trina

A historically black college and university style band to kick-start the video? A full house doing the wave — we cannot tell y’all how much we wish this song came out after the “Swag Surf,” ’cause that is black people’s version of the wave.

Cheerleading captain Trina leading the “Sha walla, walla, sha bang, bang, sha walla, walla, slip-n-side thing, what, what, shut up” cheer? And an epic comeback that’s complete with a missed free throw that is dunked so hard it shatters the glass to win the game.

And the beat slapped? Oh, Trick Daddy DID THAT with “Take it to Da House.”

3. batter Up/Nelly, St. Lunatics

A whole run was scored because of a pit bull intimidating the pitcher and umpire. The national anthem starts: “The fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill.” The scorekeeper is using the grease from St. Louis-style ribs to keep the score. And the trophy has a gold rim on the top.

We genuinely don’t believe that the video could’ve been any more St. Louis if Nelly had wanted it to. A woman had a weave made of a baseball mitt and baseballs all sewn in, and that wasn’t even the least believable thing in the video.

The twerking on the mascot, oversized pants, outfits made completely of denim and the “U-G-L-Y” chant are perfectly early 2000s.

2. make Em Say Uhh/Master P Ft. Fiend, Silkk The Shocker, Mia X & Mystikal

When I look at this video, I genuinely wonder why in the world it appears Master P is playing against his own teammates. And because part of the ranking is based on the actual sports scene being played out, “Make Em Say Uhh” took a tumble in my original ranking.

However, my co-workers insisted the cultural relevance, the fact that Master P dominated the latter part of the ’90s and, as Morgan Moody put it, “Master P had a tank on a basketball court!” should absolve him of that. I mean, if I don’t question the gold tank in the opening scene and the gorilla, then dunking on your own teammates is forgivable.

Master P also got points for having Shaquille O’Neal in the video going crazy after he alley’d to himself and, as Rembert Browne put it in his 2013 Grantland article, “The best cheerleading section. They make the Compton Clovers look like the cast of Pitch Perfect.” Can’t forget wearing do-rags for street basketball either. That was crucial here.

1. mo Money Mo Problems/The Notorious B.I.G, Puff Daddy, Mase

Mase Gumble as the color commentator, Puffy Woods winning the Bad Boy World Champion PGA Tour, and that spectator was spot on when he said, “He’s unstoppable” before that iconic beat drops.

Forget 10 years later as Puff Daddy (P. Diddy) said in the video, 20 years later, “Mo Money Mo Problems” is still on top. And the fact of the matter is that thanks to “Mo Money Mo Problems,” Notorious B.I.G. achieved two posthumous No. 1 singles. The first was “Hypnotize,” which hit the top of the Billboard charts on May 3, 1997.

First off, Puff went with a golf theme, playing off Tiger Woods’ triumph at the 1997 Masters, so the video won points for going with a sport that black folks aren’t traditionally associated with. Second, Hype Williams is still a genius for the fluorescent-lined tunnel, the pressurized air chamber to which we’re immediately introduced and those dancers high-stepping as the fireworks go off. And if you don’t know the story behind the red leather suits, June Ambrose revealed the conversation that led to Mase and Diddy sporting those bad boys to The FADER in May 2016.

“Listen, without the risk-taking, there are no trends being born. So, I didn’t have a choice. It was my job to forecast what the trends were going to be, not follow them. Did I know that it was going to be such a big hit? Yeah. I knew that it was going to work.”

Damian Lillard’s second album ‘CONFIRMED’ makes its debut Trail Blazers guard says Dame D.O.L.L.A. has grown as an artist

There is a crown sitting on Damian Lillard’s head as he prays. The Portland Trail Blazers guard is shirtless and wearing a gold rope chain. He has a Rolex on his arm.

This scene on the cover of his album, CONFIRMED, under Lillard’s rapper name Dame D.O.L.L.A., is an ode to three of the greatest rappers of all time: the late Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., and the living legend Nas.

“The crown is a shoutout to Biggie as one of my inspirations in music,” the two-time All-Star said. “The prayers hands is a nod to ‘Pac, my favorite rapper of all time. And the gold rope and Rolex is a nod to Nas, another all-time great who I’m a big fan of and have great respect for.”

Dame D.O.L.L.A’s sophomore album dropped Friday on his independent label, Front Page Music. Scott Storch, Verse Simmons and Huss, among others, are the producers. Lillard’s new single, “Run It Up,” also featured rapper Lil Wayne and debuted last month.

“Working with Lil Wayne is always great. Anything he’s a part of in music will automatically be elevated, so I appreciate his involvement,” Lillard said.

CONFIRMED follows the Oakland, California, native’s successful debut album, The Letter O. Lillard said he has grown as an artist since his first album finished its opening week seventh on the Hip-Hop & R&B charts. Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith offered respect to Lillard, saying he “never thought I would see someone as equally talented [in] hoop and rap.”

“I’ve grown as an artist just by having a better understanding of the sound I’m looking for, more general topics and not so much my personal story, tempo is increased, different flows and just a more comfortable position putting this project together. The process wasn’t new to me,” Lillard said.

The summer of Mo’ne Davis’ magical Little League World Series A play-by-play of the historic 2014 ‘Sports Illustrated’ cover that almost didn’t happen

LeBron James told the world, “I’m coming home.New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter embarked upon a farewell tour in his 20th and final season. The U.S. men’s basketball team won gold at the FIBA World Cup in Spain, and Germany’s national soccer team emerged victorious at the World Cup in Brazil. And Serena Williams became the first woman to win three consecutive U.S. Open titles since the 1970s. The summer of 2014 revitalized the typically dreaded period of the sports calendar with memorable performances from the most dominant competitors around the globe. Yet somehow that brief era belonged to only one athlete: Little League phenom pitcher Mo’ne Davis, 13.

Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen reported on Davis’ unprecedented 2014 Little League World Series run. “She was the biggest sports story,” he said, “in a summer full of sports stories.”

Mo’ne — who is now 16 and still chasing her dream of playing Division I college basketball, though she hasn’t given up pitching just yet — led Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons into Williamsport, Pennsylvania, becoming the first African-American girl to play in the Little League World Series. But the history-making didn’t stop there. She also became the first girl to pitch a shutout and earn a win, after a 4-0 victory over Nashville in her first start of the tournament. With long, swinging braids, piercing hazel eyes and undeniable ability on the mound, Davis threw a 70 mph fastball that she paired beautifully with an array of off-speed pitches. And on Aug. 25, 2014, she appeared on the front of Sports Illustrated — the first Little Leaguer in history on the cover of the magazine.

Leading up to the 2014 Little League World Series, longtime Sports Illustrated cover photographer Al Tielemans, a native of North Philadelphia, pitched a story to the magazine about the star female pitcher of his home state Dragons. The magazine sent two reporters to join him in Williamsport. Yet, as much potential as there was in the story, many things had to fall into place for Mo’ne to actually make the cover.


On Aug. 9, 2014, while on a two-day vacation in Philadelphia with his wife, Tielemans picked up an issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He stumbled across a story about a local Little League team playing the following night in Connecticut for a spot in the Little League World Series. By the end of the next day, Taney was headed to the Little League World Series to represent the Mid-Atlantic Region after a three-hit, six-strikeout, shutout performance in an 8-0 win over a team from Newark, Delaware — from a 13-year-old female pitcher named Mo’ne Davis. Slowly but surely, Mo’ne became the focus of sports chatter around the country, and Tielemans wanted to capitalize on the buzz. He quickly drafted an Excel spreadsheet for Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone that mapped out the entire double-elimination tournament of the Taney Dragons and, more importantly, what it would take to get Mo’ne on the cover of the magazine.

Meanwhile, Chen had just wrapped a cover story on Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen (the story would appear in the magazine’s Sept. 8, 2014, issue), before boarding a plane departing from Pittsburgh. Soon, he’d receive a call from his editor about a Little League pitcher he’d never heard of.


Leading up to the 2014 Little League World Series, how much did you know about Mo’ne Davis?

Tielemans: I heard a team from Philly was playing for a regional championship. I saw that they won and that they were going to the Little League World Series. That Monday morning, they started having Mo’ne Davis on the morning talk shows, just kind of mentioning it as a blip, like, ‘Oh, a girl pitcher pitched the Philadelphia team’s way to the Little League World Series.’ But that was about it.

Chen: I got off the plane having just finished a story. I was kind of in a cave for that story, not really aware of what was going on. The magazine’s baseball editor at the time, Steve Cannella, I remember getting this phone call from him as I’m getting off the plane. He asks me, ‘Does the name Mo’ne sound familiar to you? … Have you been following her story?’ My answer is, ‘No, what are you talking about?’ I think it was that afternoon when she had the breakout game, struck out a lot of hitters and threw a shutout. I think Twitter went nuts and by the time I landed a lot of people had heard about her, and all those people were tweeting about her. I hadn’t checked my phone, or watched ESPN or anything. … It just goes to show you how quickly things snowball in this day and age. You wake up one morning and no one’s heard of Mo’ne Davis. Then you get a phone call and you’re one of the last people who’ve heard of her story. It wasn’t the huge sensation it would become, but within the sports world it was already exploding. I had no plans to go to the Little League World Series. We had no plans to send a writer.

Tielemans: I felt like the media was restrained about her and the team going into the Little League World Series. It wasn’t overboard. It was respectful about the fact that they were kids. Then, when she pitched on Friday, obviously it blew up.

Starting pitcher Mo’ne Davis #3 of Pennsylvania pitches during the 2014 Little League World Series.

Drew Hallowell/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Can you set the scene of Taney’s Friday afternoon game against Nashville, and Mo’ne’s shutout?

Chen: I had a great reporter working with me in Williamsport. Her name is Emily Kaplan (now of ESPN). We kind of tag-teamed. I wrote the story, but she did a huge amount of reporting … I went to Philadelphia and did a lot of reporting on the city and Mo’ne’s school. I watched the game that Friday on TV. Of course, I show up there and everyone in Philadelphia is rooting for her.

“She was just like a rock star, or Brazilian soccer player — she only needed one name to be recognized.” — Albert Chen, Sports Illustrated

Tielemans: It was an overcast day. Kind of threatening rain, but it never did. It was your classic first day at Williamsport. There was a buzz because it was getting started. … It was a great day to shoot. … Williamsport is a great place to shoot. You’re just so close. Just the fact that I had proposed this story … I felt like I was sitting on something that could really explode, and that’s always exciting. Everybody was there talking about Mo’ne.

Chen: If they lose, if she doesn’t do well in her start, it’s still a wonderful story, but is it a story we should be running in the magazine the following week, when there are many other things going on in the sports world? If they had lost that game on Friday, then the conversation is obviously every different.

Tielemans: When she won, and was dominant, it became a great story.

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The first girl to appear at the Little League World Series for a U.S. team in 10 years, Mo’ne dominated. In Taney’s 4-0 win over Nashville in the opening round of the tournament on Friday afternoon, Mo’ne threw 70 pitches, with eight strikeouts and zero walks, while allowing just two hits. Before her performance, no girl had pitched her team to a win or thrown a shutout at the Little League World Series. The victory advanced Taney to a game against Pearland, Texas, on Sunday night. With Sports Illustrated going to press on Monday night, Taney needed to win for Mo’ne to make the cover of the magazines that would hit newsstands on Wednesday. A loss on Sunday would’ve brought Taney to face double-elimination on Monday and potentially be eliminated before the magazine’s release. Down 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth and final inning against Texas, Taney rallied with two runs to win the game, 7-6, which kept the team alive until Thursday and meant Mo’ne was destined to grace a national cover.

At what point did you realize you were writing, or shooting, for a possible cover?

Chen: After her performance Friday, when she threw the shutout and won the game against Nashville, when I woke up Saturday morning and knew she was the talk of the sports world, I knew that this was potentially a cover story.

Tielemans: That’s essentially what I originally proposed. It was like, ‘Hey, this is a story. Here’s the deal — if this and this happens, you can put her on the cover and you’ve got three days before they can even be eliminated.’ But if something else happened that was more important, it could’ve been bumped easily. You go in with the idea and the people at the magazine make the decisions. You give them your material and just deal with whatever happens. It just so happened that it played out.

“It was totally cool that a girl went in and mowed down a team of Little League players.” — Al Tielemans, Sports Illustrated photographer

Chen: I had to start writing the story on Sunday knowing that there was a chance it wouldn’t run. Sunday night is the night that they played the game where they were down 6-5 going into the final inning and they scored two runs in the sixth inning to win that game. If they had lost that game, there wouldn’t have been a story in that issue of the magazine, and she obviously would not have been on the cover.

I didn’t know, for sure, that I was writing a cover story until Sunday evening around 9:30, 9:45, when that winning run was scored. I turned in the story the very next morning, and I don’t know why I remember this, but I was actually a little bit early filing.

What are some of Sports Illustrated covers of note that you’ve written or shot for? And where does the Mo’ne Davis cover rank in the conversation?

Chen: I had the Andrew McCutchen cover. Probably one of my more prominent ones was I did the cover story on the baseball player Josh Hamilton. That got a lot of buzz. I have a bunch of college football covers as well.

Tielemans: Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper on the baseball preview issue. I had the picture of Anthony Rizzo when the Cubs won the World Series for the cover. I did the NBA preview in 2014 with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. I did Nick Foles’ snow game. I did when Bubba Watson won the Masters. Portraits of David Price with the Rays and Joey Votto. I did the cover when the Steelers beat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

Chen: The Mo’ne cover got more attention than any other cover I’ve written. I don’t think there’s any question about it. Spike Lee did a short documentary on Mo’ne. I went to Philadelphia to talk to him about it and was interviewed on camera. Spike Lee definitely has not called me up for any other cover stories I’ve done.

Tielemans: It’s wayyyyy up there. It’s kind of hard to match the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years. But a lot of the Mo’ne cover has to do with the fact that I pitched it, I mapped it out, I explained it, and all of the pieces fell into place. There’s so much luck involved in this business. I don’t get any attention out of getting the cover, but when the cover gets attention, it is cool. It’s pretty fun when your cover gets a lot of play, and it got a lot of play when Mo’ne was on TV. It was a cool feeling.

Chen: What makes me feel good about it is it was really the right 13-year-old. I imagine there are very few 13-year-olds on the planet that can really handle that kind of attention and pressure, everything that goes with being on the cover of a magazine. She was the right 13-year-old in terms of her being able to handle the attention, and the craze, and the history and the frenzy that came along with it. She was able to handle it. … All credit to her for that.

Tielemans: Going into it, I did not know that there had never been a Little Leaguer on the cover.

What do you think Mo’ne’s story meant to the sports world at the time in 2014? And what does it mean now?

Chen: A lot of things happened that summer, but August of 2014 will always be remembered as the summer of Mo’ne. She stole the show. She was front and center. She was just like a rock star or Brazilian soccer player. She only needed one name to be recognized.

Tielemans: What made it cool for me was she was just a kid … a normal 13-year-old kid. She was very friendly, very respectful, and as shy as the 13-year-old you’d expect her to be. She fit in with those guys completely normally.

Chen: I think it’s still a unique story for sure, because you peel away all the layers and it was a story about so many different things. About gender, about race, about so many larger things. But at the end of the day, it was a story about pitchers blowing away hitters in the Little League World Series, so I think her name still resonates with some people.

Tielemans: It was totally cool that a girl went in and mowed down a team of Little League players. She really went out and did it. Just a kid out there throwing baseballs. The normalcy of it all is what made it so absolutely cool.

Drake just joined the game, but these celebrities have held down their beverage brand partnerships for years What You Got On My Drank?: Top 7 most Undefeated rapper/alcohol beverage partnerships

Now, I’m all for a good adult beverage when it comes to chillin’ at a good social outing or just winding the day down. One thing is certain, and that is the fact that my choice has never been influenced by a celebrity endorsement.

That’s why the news of rapper and actor Drake jumping into the whiskey game didn’t really move me. Everything Drizzy touches turns to gold, so I’m sure the venture will be a success, but will his partnership with Virginia Black Whiskey have staying power?

Perhaps.

In October of 2016, the $39.95 bottle of bourbon was the highest-selling liquor in Toronto. According to the Toronto Star, on Sept. 30, Virginia Black topped single-day sales at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario after “moving 1,779 bottles across 220 stores.”

Weeks after its launch in June 2016, 4,650 bottles were sold in the province, raking in $186,000 in retail sales. To put this into perspective, Ciroc sold 1,855 bottles in its first week. Virginia Black was launched with ex-financier Brent Hocking and company Proximo Spirits. According to Business Insider, the brand sold 30,000 cases globally in its first year.

The verdict is still out on the taste for me, but he’s already causing a buzz taking a shot at Dos Equis.

The liquor business and rappers go back as far as Snoop Dogg and Tupac and their St. Ides partnership. But, thanks to Drake, we’ve decided to break out my list of the Top 7 most Undefeated rapper/alcohol beverage partnerships.


#7 Roc-A-fella – Armadale Vodka

Armadale Vodka was Jay-Z’s first venture into the liquor game, but this one was with his Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam partner Damon Dash. It was 2002 when Jay-Z and Dash purchased Armadale Vodka. Dash said in a statement back then that “Roc-A-Fella has always respected quality vodkas, such as Belvedere and Grey Goose. Just like we do with our businesses, we wanted to present a vodka that represented the best. And we feel Armadale is of elite quality.” Although the two have parted ways, this wasn’t the last of either in the liquor business.

Hip-Hop mogul Damon Dash arrives at “A Night of Celebration” in honor of director Rob Minkoff and the completion of “The Haunted Mansion” at Minkoff’s home on Nov. 20, 2003, in Los Feliz, California.

Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

 

#6 Ludacris – Conjure Cognac

Being a big cognac drinker and fan of the rapper, I gave this a fair shot. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Kim Birkedal Hartmann founded Conjure Cognac in 2009. With a decent taste and at $48 a bottle, it’s nice but not good enough to trade in my Hennessy.

#5 Rick Ross – Belaire Rose Champagne

Rozzay made being down with the “Black Bottle Boys” a real thing. I’m not a big champagne drinker, but I bought a couple of bottles once for the wife on our anniversary, not a bad sip. She was impressed. Luc Belaire is a brand of sparkling wine with two varieties: a Rare Rosé and a Rare Brut. The Maybach Music Group founder became the brand ambassador in 2013 and fused Luc Belaire and the rap game. Priced at $30 to $50 per bottle, it’s not a champagne that will break your pockets.

#4 Jay Z – Ace of Spades

This drink is the champagne of champions these days but is a bit overpriced at $300 a pop. Formally named Armand De Brignac, it got its street name from the label of the bottle and was acquired by Jay-Z on Nov. 5, 2014. So far it has three different blends. One contains grape varieties of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. One is a rosé and a chardonnay, and in 2015 under Jay-Z’s reign a demi-sec and pinot noir. It debuted in the video for “Show Me What You Got.”

Jay-Z poses with “Ace of spades” Magnum at his American History Inaugural Gala at Club Love on Jan. 16, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

Prince Williams/FilmMagic

#3 50 Cent – Effen

This is a good, affordable vodka with multiple flavors from Curtis Jackson. Kudos to 50 for working his drink into his show Power, but an even bigger salute for recently making $60M by selling his stake in July. In 2016 it was announced that the rapper, producer and actor was partnering with Effen Vodka. According to XXL, 50 Cent is still with the brand in some capacity. Effen issued a statement in July stating, “Contrary to any inaccurate media reports, EFFEN Vodka’s partnership with 50 Cent continues.”

Instagram Photo

#2 Jay Z – D’ussÈ

Jay-Z’s most recent brand venture is the fine French cognac D’ussè, and this will put you back about $45 a bottle. Aimed at a younger audience, Hov has infused the drink into his hip-hop empire and even sipped it from his award at the 2013 Grammys. Even rapper Lil Wayne has a song title “D’ussé” after the drink. Its round shape and gold double cross give it the appeal it needs to attract some buyers. Bacardi launched the VSOP cognac in June of 2012 in New York City, when it announced Jay would be the brand’s frontman.

#1 Diddy – Ciroc

Puff is an expert marketer, so it should come as no surprise that his vodka comes in at No. 1. When it comes to my vodka, I prefer Tito’s or Ketel One, but Ciroc is definitely the go-to when it comes to the club, lounge or house parties. The ladies and men seem to love its sweet taste, and whenever a new flavor drops the fam flocks immediately to the liquor store to cop the latest offering from Sean Combs.

Combs became the face of Ciroc in a joint venture with beverage company Diageo. Its growth has been consistent, and it keeps making noise on the scene. Combs told Fortune in 2014 he’s had challenges in diving into the liquor business but he keeps moving forward.

“With Ciroc, people may have thought that [the vodka] was for African-Americans. People wanted to put it in a box. So the biggest lesson I learned is that I had to work harder to overcome those perceptions and create a wonderful product regardless of my color, regardless of my celebrity. The reality is I have to work harder than other brands to do that.”

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.

The long-lost ‘T-Wayne’ is finally here The T-Pain and Lil Wayne collaboration dates back to 2009

All it took was eight years and a #TBT for T-Pain and Lil Wayne to give the people what they want.

On Wednesday, T-Pain randomly hopped on the ‘gram and posted a photo of an album cover featuring a split image of the Tallahassee “rappa ternt sanga” and New Orleans’ own Lil Wayne, with the caption “I’m feelin reeeeeaaaaalll spontaneous right now #2009#TheMissingPageInTheHistoryBook.”

Pain also tweeted the image with the two words “Do it?” and a follow-up tweet, saying, “This ain’t for y’all new n—as. These the lost files from ’09 and I’m tired of em just sittin on my hard drive. #FreeC5” — a nod to the long-awaited unreleased fifth installment of Wayne’s Tha Carter series.

Then, on Thursday, he did it. T-Pain just up and dropped the eight-track T-Wayne almost a decade after the project was set to release in 2009. If you remember, back then, Pain and Wayne were both at the peak of their reigns in the hip-hop and R&B games. If we’re being foreal, it was hard to find a track that Lil Wayne and T-Pain weren’t on. They were go-to artists, especially for features. So when they teamed up on the smooth 2008 hit “Can’t Believe It,” it was an absolute swish. And when they went on the road together on the I Am Music Tour from December 2008 to April 2009, tickets were a must-cop. (I still have a “T-Wayne” T-shirt from that tour, btw.)

Eventually, though, T-Pain’s career began to fall off after Jay Z essentially ended it himself with his 2009 track “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” — a lyrical shot at the audio technique Pain popularized on his songs. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne went to jail, and his time behind bars forever changed him musically.

That left us without the anticipated collab project, save the banger “Damn, Damn,” which dropped in 2010 before Wayne began his sentence. So Thursday was truly a delightful surprise. We aren’t blaming Pain and Wayne for taking so long since, you know, life happens. And, to be honest, a lot of people probably forgot that T-Wayne was actually a thing.

But, we are always here for the spontaneous drop — even if it takes years.

Maybe, for #TBT next week, Dr. Dre will bless us with Detox. Or, we’ll get the Tha Carter 5. Fingers crossed.

Rolling Loud. Essence. Lollapalooza: The 13 best rap and R&B festivals of summer 2017 Chance is everywhere, there’s a hip-hop cruise — plus two big weekends in New Orleans

Summer is upon us — why not make a trip to George, Washington (yes, that’s an actual place), or East Rutherford, New Jersey? By June, even the small city of Manchester, Tennessee, will be a go-to destination. As random as these places may seem, they are music meccas: home to iconic summertime festivals.

The official start to summer isn’t until June 21, but while festival season spans nearly six months of the year (bookended by Coachella in mid-April and Made in America in early September), summer is the peak fest time. Jazz, hip-hop, old-school R&B, trap music — there’s a festival lineup of musical artists out there for everyone.

Be careful, though. Lineups and locations can be deceiving. If there’s one thing we’ve learned early on this season, it’s to resist attending a festival organized by Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. The recent debut of the inaugural Fyre Festival was an utter disaster. It began with so much promise: There was a dope lineup of artists, featuring Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, Rae Sremmurd, Migos and Lil Yachty, and the location was the Bahamas’ Great Exuma (which has an interesting historical connection to America). The festival now faces a $100 million lawsuit. Fyre, though, is an exception to the rule. Festivals reign supreme come this time of year, and summer 2017 has much to offer. Below are the festivals that should be on your radar as we wind up basketball season, head deep into Major League Baseball and WNBA, and prep for NFL preseason.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — New Orleans

Usher, Black Thought and Questlove perform with Usher & The Roots during the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

April 28-May 7

Notable performers: Stevie Wonder, Usher and The Roots, Snoop Dogg, Alabama Shakes, Patti LaBelle, Nas and the Soul Rebels, Corinne Bailey Rae, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Happening right now in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is blessing people with an all-star lineup that specializes in feel-good sounds. There’s the legend Stevie Wonder and the O.G. Snoop Dogg. There’s the sweet-singing Patti Labelle (hope she brought some of her pies) and the Grammy Award-winning blues rock collective Alabama Shakes. Boomers and Gen X-ers from far and wide get to two-step to Maze and Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go,” while hip-hop preservationists get to witness Nas float through tracks from his 1994 Illmatic. But the one set in particular to circle in red ink? Usher performing with The Roots. Imagine Questlove on the hi-hat cymbals of “You Make Me Wanna.” Lord, give us strength.

Rolling Loud — Bayfront Park, Miami

May 5-7

Notable performers: Everybody and they mama

Do I go see Future at 9 p.m. on one stage, or Travis Scott on the other stage at 9:30? Do I go see Kendrick Lamar at 10, or Young Thug at 10:30? These are the unfathomable questions that festivalgoers will ask themselves at Rolling Loud — which is the best hip-hop festival lineup since the Rock The Bells days of the mid-2000s. Rolling Loud has come a long way since its debut as a one-day show in 2015 with Schoolboy Q as the headliner. In 2016, it was a three-day event with Future leading the pack. This year’s lineup, though? Kendrick Lamar, Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Young Thug … the fact that Migos is on the fifth line of the bill is mind-boggling.

Broccoli City Festival — Washington, D.C.

Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals perform on the main stage at the 2016 Broccoli City Festival.

Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images

May 6

Notable performers: Solange, Rae Sremmurd, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty

In the backyard of the country’s 45th president will be a unique display of unapologetic and green-living blackness: Broccoli City. The festival boasts brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi, who form Tupelo, Mississippi’s, own rock star rap duo known as Rae Sremmurd — the geniuses behind the 2016 megahit “Black Beatles.” The young phenom 21 Savage will be out there “trappin’ so hard,” and headlining the show will be Solange, fresh off winning her first Grammy for “Cranes in the Sky,” the lead track from her No. 1 album A Seat at the Table. Remember, don’t touch Solange’s hair. Don’t touch Lil Yachty’s either. He’ll be taking the stage at Broccoli City, too, swinging his red-beaded braids.

Powerhouse 2017 — Glen Helen Amphitheater, San Bernardino, California

May 6

Notable performers: Big Sean, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled

Lil Wayne hasn’t released an album in almost two years, but people still love Weezy, and they’ll be there to see him break out his deep catalog of hits at the Powerhouse, hosted by Los Angeles’ Power 106 FM. Wayne will be joined by Detroit’s own Big Sean and the king of the summer anthem himself, DJ Khaled, who recently dropped “I’m The One,” the first single from his highly anticipated album Grateful. And with Khaled set to take the stage, you gotta wonder: Which surprise guests will he bring along? (Insert eyes emoji) Hope his 6-month-old son and executive producer, Asahd, is one of them.

Sasquatch! Festival — Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington

Leon Bridges plays an acoustic pop-up show at the Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre on May 29, 2016 in George, Washington.

Suzi Pratt/WireImage

May 26-28

Notable performers: Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Kaytranada, Mac Miller

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend than with Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper at one of the most beautiful venues in the country? The Sasquatch! Festival, which launched in 2002, is bringing both for the three-day festival. Ocean headlines Day 1, and Chance closes out Day 3. These two artists became musical gods last summer, with Ocean dropping his first album in four years, and then another album days later, and Chance releasing a Grammy Award-winning mixtape. Both deserve to be on that stage as the last act of the night. Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

Spoiler alert: This won’t be the last time you see Chance’s name on this list.

The Governor’s Ball — Randall’s Island Park, New York City

Fans react as De La Soul performs at the Governors Ball Music Festival, June 4, 2016 in New York.

BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

June 2-4

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Schoolboy Q, Majid Jordan, Kehlani, Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang Clan, Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Ferg, YG, Wiz Khalifa, Logic

Another Chance The Rapper festival appearance? Yup, another Chance The Rapper festival appearance. Can’t knock the hustle, and what’s so crazy is, while he’s hitting all these festivals, he’ll be in the thick of his own nationwide spring tour. In New York City, he’ll tee up an epic weekend of music. To be honest, the roster for Day 2 rivals the depth of the Golden State Warriors: YG, A$AP Ferg, Rae Sremmurd, Wu-Tang Clan and Childish Gambino. Sheesh. If you have to pick just one day to go, Saturday is your day.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — Manchester, Tennessee

Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs onstage at Silent Disco during Day 4 of the 2016 Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival on June 9, 2016 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts and Music Festival

June 8-11

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Tory Lanez, D.R.A.M., Skepta, Gallant

The city of Manchester, Tennessee’s, population of approximately 10,100 balloons by tens of thousands when the masses flock to the fields and stages of Bonnaroo, where the wide range of performers include U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Travis Scott and D.R.A.M. And, yes, Chance The Rapper will be at Bonnaroo. His festival appearance tally is up to three.

Summer Jam — MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Travis Scott, Kanye West and Big Sean perform at the 2016 Hot 97 Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium on June 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Manny Carabel/FilmMagic

June 11

Notable performers: Too many to count

Summer Jam is an institution. Since 1994, the New York City radio station Hot 97 has preserved the sanctity of the hip-hop genre and black musical culture by hosting artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Big Pun, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z — let’s just stop there, because we could be here all day listing names. Chris Brown, Fat Joe and Remy Ma, Migos and DJ Khaled “& friends,” as noted on the lineup, are among 2017’s crop. One of the most special sets of the show will certainly be delivered by Faith Evans. It’s been exactly 20 years since her husband, The Notorious B.I.G., was murdered in Los Angeles in 1997. She’ll likely perform songs from her new album, which features the slain rapper. Will there be a hologram? R.I.P., B.I.G.

Summerfest — Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee

June 28-July 2 and July 4-9

Notable performers: Future, Big Sean, Migos

Scrolling through the lineup page of 2017 Summerfest, it’s hard to get past a row without discovering another bomb artist who’s scheduled to perform. Ironically, Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year. The main amphitheater features Paul Simon, Pink, The Chainsmokers, Future, Big Sean, Migos, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow. (How much you want to bet Willie Nelson and the Migos blow an L together?) But don’t sleep on the ground-stage performers, who include Alessia Cara, Steve Aoki, Ziggy Marley, T-Pain, BJ The Chicago Kid and more.

Ironically, Milwaukee’s Summerfest has the most diverse bill of any festival this year.

ESSENCE Festival — New Orleans

Singer Andra Day performs onstage at 2016 ESSENCE Festival Presented by Coca Cola at the Louisiana Superdome on July 3, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for 2016 Essence Festival

June 29-July 2

Notable performers: Diana Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Chance The Rapper, Solange, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Monica, Jazmine Sullivan

Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift for your mama, aunt or granny that you will enjoy as well? Go ahead and cop those ESSENCE Festival tickets. They’ll love you forever, because this lineup is LOADED. Three generations of #BlackGirlMagic will take the stage in the form of Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and Solange. If that isn’t enough R&B for you, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, India.Arie and Monica all have you covered. New Orleans hometown hero Master P will also be performing. Oh, and Chance The Rapper will be there (that’s four festivals and counting).

Summer Fest Cruise — Miami to Nassau, Bahamas

June 30-July 3

Notable performers: Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Migos

There is nothing in the history of this universe that could be more fun than a five-day cruise from Miami to the Bahamas featuring performances from Future, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky and Migos, hosted by none other than DJ Khaled. If you haven’t booked yet, congratulations, you played yourself. Don’t worry, though, DJ Khaled’s Snapchat stories will keep you in the loop — and in the process give you the worst fear of missing out you’ve ever had.

Lollapalooza — Grant Park, Chicago

A general view of crowds watching Flume perform on the Samsung stage during Lollapalooza at Grant Park on July 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

Aug. 3-6

Notable performers: Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Rae Sremmurd, Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Yachty, Joey Bada$$, 6lack, Sampha

Lil Chano from 79th is coming home. After winning three Grammys and embarking upon a cross-country tour (with multiple festival appearances in between), Chance The Rapper is returning to his hometown of Chicago in August as one of the headliners of the four-day, jam-packed Lollapalooza festival. Chance has to bring out former President Barack Obama during his Saturday set. The two saints of Chicago dancing together onstage would be nothing short of legendary.

Made in America — Philadelphia

Jay-Z performs with Pearl Jam during Budweiser Made In America Festival Benefiting The United Way – Day 2 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on September 2, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Sept. 2-3

Notable performers: Jay Z, J. Cole, Migos, Solange, Run The Jewels, Sampha, Pusha T, Vic Mensa

The finale of festival season couldn’t feature two better top performers. A mentor and mentee. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel Son. One of the greatest of all time in American music and one of the leaders of its new school. Jay Z and J. Cole are the marquee names of this year’s anticipated weekend, with Hov headlining after the warmup from Cole. With Jay’s sister-in-law Solange also on the bill, Made in America 2017 will be all about keeping the family close and fans screaming.

Khaled’s ‘I’m The One’ is the latest of the DJ’s party anthems A look back at his best records ever — with the help of his son, Asahd

DJ Khaled is rap’s greatest networker. If you follow him down any social media avenue — Snapchat is of course his platform of preference — then you were well-aware that his new single “I’m The One,” featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo (of Migos fame), Chance the Rapper and longtime collaborator /friend Lil Wayne, arrived early Friday morning. It did. And, yes, to answer your question, it’s day-party-ready, already.

It’s a fun, lively record, one you’ll party to throughout the summer and make memories with. And in an increasingly volatile world where headlines often promote paranoia, music’s responsibility is to both reflect the times and to provide temporary escape. Balance is key — “major key.”

Oh-eh-oh-oh-oh, oh-eh-oh / I’m the one: Bieber’s hook is tailor-made for Top 40 radio. And Quavo hits with Steph-Curry-from-the-free-throw-line accuracy: You can run inside my life / From that fame bus. Chance’s joy is infectious, and his We just watching Netflix/ She ain’t got no cable (OK though) line hits hilariously close to home. Plus, if you listen closely, that stampede you hear in the distance is a flood of Instagram pics captioned with Lil Wayne’s I’m the best yet / And my best is yet to come — they’re all being typed right now. “I’m The One” follows “Shining,” Khaled’s hit with The Carters; they’re both singles from his forthcoming 10th album, Grateful.

“I always stay focused and I always stay positive, even through trials and tribulations. I’ve never been the person that complains,” Khaled recently told XXL. “I’ve always been the person that tries to find the solution.” That he does. His Snap essentially serves as his own sitcom as he navigates life searching for Drake vocals, worshipping plants in his garden, getting lost at sea, touring the country, annoying his fiancée Nicole Tuck and dropping jewels on his new best friend — his son, Asahd. He curates the culture around him, finding an equilibrium of personal blessings and professional success. Nearly everyone in rap is a self-promoter. Khaled just does it better than most. Even as his local media organization, the Miami New Times, says Khaled’s career “doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” walk with me as we rank some of Khaled’s biggest hits. And instead of using mics or stars to dish out grades, we use what really matters: Asahd’s visage.

2007 — ‘We Takin’ Over’ feat. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman & Lil Wayne

There’s a lot to love here. Tip batting leadoff and absolutely obliterating the beat with a saxophonist’s smoothness and D-boy’s bravado is one. Khaled’s running is two. Khaled and Ross pay homage to Biggie and Puffy driving in reverse on the highway, a la 1997’s “Hypnotize.” But more than anything, the highlight here is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. — better known as Lil Wayne. This is peak Weezy at his unquestioned 2007 apex. I am the beast / Feed me rappers or feed me beats. As the song builds up to this climax, Wayne does not disappoint. Khaled had hits before (see 2006’s “Holla At Me” and “Born N’ Raised”), but this was his first anthem. In fact, Wayne liked the beat so much he doubled back for his solo version on the 2007 classic mixtape Da Drought 3.

Rating: 5 Asahds

2007 — ‘I’m So Hood’ feat. T-Pain, Rick Ross, Trick Daddy & Plies

I said it once and I’ll say it a million more times — the T-Pain era was incredibly entertaining, and he should receive far more credit than he does. I am also biased toward “I’m So Hood,” as it was one of the most memorable anthems of my senior year at Hampton. The hook is fun and, in his days before he became a life coach via Instagram (and perhaps an Uber driver), Plies’ verse is an all-time ratchet soliloquy. Which, yes, I’m still here for a decade later.

Rating: 4.5 Asahds

2010 — ‘All I Do Is Win’ feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg

This is my mom’s favorite Khaled song — although she may or may not actually know who Khaled is. She got into Apple Music not too long ago, and one of the first songs she downloaded was this. Why? Because they play it at every South Carolina State football game she attends. This might be Khaled’s biggest crossover record to date. It’s interactive — everyone feels it and acts it out — which works perfectly in large venues like football stadiums, where everyone wants to win. There’s a reason that every time Khaled performs somewhere he normally leads with this record. A premier record in his career.

Rating: 4 Asahds

2011 — ‘I’m On One’ feat. Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne

Remember where you were six summers ago, and remember how massive this was. It was the anthem, no debate.

Rating: 5 Asahds

2016 — ‘For Free’ feat. Drake

Asahd’s pops hyped this up on Snapchat for weeks, and he still, somehow, undersold the potency of “For Free.” In fact, the only negative thing one can say about the record is that they never filmed a video for it. There’s a reason Khaled is in constant pursuit of Drake vocals. Because they — not to be confused with Khaled archnemesis, #They — rarely miss. Even 2013’s “No New Friends” was a hit, but it now sounds like a completely different record in light of Rick Ross’ explosive “Idols Become Rivals.” The lone exception is 2009’s “Fed Up.” That being said, Toronto and Miami join forces yet again here for not only the song of the summer but the best single in Khaled’s decadelong career.

Rating: 5 Asahds

2016 — ‘I Got The Keys’ feat. Jay Z & Future

While it’s unclear as to whether Khaled holds any sort of stock in the key emoji, he spent all of 2016 drilling us with the importance of “keys” in our daily lives. So much so that Jay Z took a break from being a stay-at-home dad and delivered his own set of life lessons: Key to life, keep a bag coming + ‘Til you own your own you can’t be free / Till you own your own you can’t be me. Plus one more: My swag different, that bag different/ My wife Beyoncé, I brag different. I mean, it’s not Reasonable Doubt or Blueprint Jay, but Hov showed in 2016 he could get still stunt with the best when he feels like it.

Rating: 4 Asahds

2017 — ‘Shining’ feat. Beyoncé & Jay Z

Asahd’s gotten producer credit on a record with Jay Z and Beyoncé, over half a million Instagram followers and has already appeared on magazine covers. Meanwhile, I can’t figure out how to get the apostrophe over the “e” in Beyoncé without copying and pasting from Google and still get excited when the likes on my IG posts go from names to numbers. Yes, my life is quite sad sometimes. Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. Carter reflect on the good life, but what’s really dope — to me, at least — is hearing Jay’s excitement as he prepares for life with the twins. The joy of fatherhood — something Khaled knows all about.

Rating: 4 Asahds

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.

Being a black Power Ranger New actor RJ Cyler joins the elite and small club of black superheroes

RJ Cyler is the new Blue Power Ranger. Not the Black one.

Well, he is the black one. But his costume is blue.

He was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. “Duval County,” Cyler said emphatically of the big port city. He spent most of his adolescence dancing, skating and playing a lot of video games. A DJ since he was 16, Cyler also played drums for and sang in his church choir. Though he admitted he can’t sing all that well. “I think,” he said, “they were only doing it because they felt like that was the Christian thing to do.” He also grew up watching Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, favoring the Red and the Blue Rangers because those were his favorite colors. “I’m not,” said Cyler, “a confused gang member or nothing like that.”

What is he? A part of a growing list of young black male actors breaking out in Hollywood — John Boyega (Star Wars), Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Corey Hawkins (24: Legacy) and Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta). He also joins the ranks of Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as blacks starring in big-budget superhero franchises that gross billions of dollars.

For Cyler, that’s Power Rangers (Lionsgate), a 21st-century reimagining of the original series that debuted on Fox Children’s Network in 1993 and aired each weekday afternoon and on Saturday mornings. The show’s initial characters, Zack, the Black Ranger; Billy, the Blue Ranger; Trini, the Yellow Ranger; Kimberly, the Pink Ranger; and Jason, the Red Ranger, will all be returning.

Last Halloween, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving dressed up as a milly-rocking Red Ranger.

During the height of the show’s popularity, if any of those original five cast members even went out in public for dinner, dozens of fans would line up for an autograph, sometimes ignoring other arguably more famous stars at the same restaurant. The Power Rangers would regularly outdraw Santa Claus at shopping malls. The Los Angeles Times once referred to Rangers mania as “the pre-adolescents’ equivalent of the Beatles.”

That impact lives on: Lil Wayne named a track from his 2012 mixtape Dedication 4, “Green Ranger,” referring to the show’s most popular character. Professional wrestler Austin Watson, who performs in WWE as Xavier Woods, has long incorporated Power Rangers into his character, even starring as the Black Ranger in a fan fiction YouTube series.

Last Halloween, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving dressed up as a milly-rocking Red Ranger. And in 2015, famed film director Joseph Kahn released a critically acclaimed fan film that envisioned the Power Rangers as dark, brooding mercenaries, a la Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. There’s also the someone’s-drunk-uncle-on-the-highway Blue Ranger who took over the internet last year.

When they’ve met the Power Rangers, even grown men have cried.


Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was created in 1993 by former music producer Haim Saban. The Godzilla-like, low-budget series about five teenagers being given intergalactic and prehistoric superpowers quickly became one of the most successful children’s television shows of the 1990s. Saban, who also produced the highly successful animated X-Men series, had his Power Rangers idea rejected by almost every major network before Fox greenlit the show in the summer of 1993.

The cast from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (from left to right): Amy Jo Johnson, Thuy Trang, Austin St. John, Walter Jones and David Yost.

Alamy

Then-Fox Children’s Network president Margaret Loesch, who was responsible for putting the show on the network, was told by the head of Fox Broadcasting to shelve the project before it even aired because it would be a “disaster.” But within months of the show’s September 1993 premiere, it was the highest-rated children’s show in America.

The most recent season of Power Rangers averages a respectable 1.5 million viewers a week, but during its first and second seasons, the show averaged 4.8 million and 6.9 million viewers a day, respectively. During its peak, five martial-arts-practicing teenagers were regularly battling the likes of Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake and Maury Povich. And at one point, Power Rangers was drawing more TV households than Oprah Winfrey. With a mixture of cartoonlike explosions and monsters, plus teenage superheroes whom the targeted audience could relate to and aspire to be, Power Rangers unearthed the secret formula to capturing the attention of candy-riddled children.

While the show’s strongest viewership was among boys age 8-11 racing home from school to watch each episode, it was No. 1 among 2- to 11-year-olds, scoring a whopping 40 share within a month of its premiere episode. Alongside Bobby’s World, Tiny Toon Adventures, X-Men, Batman: The Animated Series and Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, Power Rangers made the now-defunct Fox Kids the most-watched channel for children’s programming in the early 1990s. A children’s research executive estimated at the time that 26 million kids were watching Fox programming in 1994, not including the millions of children watching across 40-plus other countries.

The show spawned two movies — 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie and 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. They grossed more than $70 million combined. And according to the Los Angeles Times, 1 million videocassettes of the series were sold over a two-week span in December 1993. Power Rangers was the No. 1 boys brand in the world from 1993-97, responsible for more than $5 billion in product sales for Saban and his production company. Saban Entertainment made an estimated $1 billion in U.S. sales based off Rangers paraphernalia within its first 15 months alone, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Fox executives estimated that the total rose to $2 billion when including worldwide sales.


Tall, wiry and as baby-faced as a high school freshman, Cyler, 22, has played a teenager on numerous occasions, including in the new Power Rangers. An admitted “weirdo” who will rock a bucket hat and taco-adorned dress shirt one day and a gold grill and tie-dye T-shirt the next, he’s also a fan of Star Wars, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, and considers the Isley Brothers his favorite musical act of all time.

Growing up, he was the water boy for his middle school’s basketball team. “It was because,” he said, “I wasn’t good enough to be on the basketball team.” At Jacksonville’s Englewood High School (which boasts such distinguished alumni as the Washington Nationals’ Daniel Murphy and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst), he was named sophomore class president. “I was definitely Theater-Band Geek/Straight-Up Boss Subgroup C [in high school],” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2015.

“At one point, Power Rangers was drawing more TV households than Oprah Winfrey.”

Cyler knew he wanted to be an actor at 16. “I used to watch the Disney Channel,” he said, “like it was a drug.” He needed to be in a career that allowed him to express his creativity, and when he heard a commercial about an acting camp in Los Angeles, he went, excelled, and the next thing he knew he had a one-way ticket out of Jacksonville, which he compared to a war battlefield. “If I wouldn’t have moved out of Jacksonville when I did, nine times out of 10 I would be in jail or dead, and that’s not just being a stereotypical thing, it’s just in my city, it’s not a place where you can just be like, ‘Oh, yeah, do this, do that.’ No, people die in my city every single day.”

In 2013, the family totally committed to his dream when his parents cashed in their retirement savings so the then-17-year-old and his mom could move to Los Angeles. After about a year of just him and his mother Katina living on the West Coast, Cyler’s “papa,” Ronald, sold the family’s home in Jacksonville and drove to California to join them. But shortly after Ronald arrived, life, said Cyler, “kicked me in my nuts.” For three months, the family was homeless. They lived out of their Toyota Highlander and at a Motel 6. The family’s faith kept them whole. “If God brought us to this place, [there was] a reason for it, so we can’t question that,” said Cyler. “We just got to remember that we gon’ make it through.”

The family got back on its feet after Cyler nabbed a role in the award-winning indie teen drama, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. “I lost my mind,” said Cyler said about booking the movie. “I just screamed … at the end of the day, God is too damn good.”

RJ Cyler attends a fan event at Y100 on March 6 in Miramar, Florida.

Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Saban's Power Rangers

Which makes Cyler a busy man these days. HBO’s raunchy comedy Vice Principals premiered last summer, and the second and final season is set to air this year. In it, he plays the foul-mouthed teenage son of no-nonsense character Dr. Belinda Brown. The series premiere of the Jim Carrey-produced Showtime sitcom I’m Dying Up Here debuts in June — Cyler co-stars. And he will star alongside Brad Pitt in Netflix’s Afghanistan war satire War Machine in May. In December 2016, it was reported that Cyler will star in a “modern retelling” of Cyrano de Bergerac called Sierra Burgess Is A Loser.

That busy schedule leaves no time even for a girlfriend. “Oh, hell, no. My last — oh, Jesus Christ! My last relationship showed me why I just need to chill.” Although, now that he is more visible than ever, he has a twinkle in his eye for singer and former Disney star Zendaya. “Ever since she’s been on TV, she’s always had a really cool, cute vibe. And now that she’s growing up, she’s just bossy lady-ing it up. That vibe is like 10 times worse, and I’m like, ‘Yassssss, queen, yasssss.’ ” Zendaya, though, can’t hold a candle to actress and country music star Reba McEntire. “Reba is one fine country woman to me.”

Cyler, like many, was excited to hear about Power Rangers coming back to theaters, and about a year after the studio’s announcement, he was asked to audition. In the middle of filming War Machine, Cyler sent in his audition tape. He was soon offered the part by director Dean Israelite. “I lost my mind,” said Cyler. “I was like, ‘Hell, yeah! I’m in.’ ”


In the nearly 25-year history of Power Rangers, there have been more than 100 actors and actresses who’ve donned the show’s patented multicolored spandex suits and helmets. Of that total, 16 are black, though there was no shortage of representation on-screen. David Yost, who starred on the series from 1993-96, came out as gay in 2010. And one of the biggest headlines to emerge in the run-up to the new film is that there’s a gay character in Power Rangers: “the first big-budget superhero movie to feature an LGBT protagonist.” From the show’s inception there was a concerted effort “to avoid racial and sexual stereotyping,” Loesch, the former Fox executive, told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. (An African-American playing the Black Ranger and a Vietnamese-American playing the Yellow Ranger on the original show, though, was a coincidence.) “For a change, female characters are as vital as the males. They’re superheroes, and little girls don’t have that too often,” Loesch added.

The women performed their own stunts and went toe-to-toe with their male counterparts, leading to young girls to make up more than 40 percent of the show’s audience after its first season. The TV show appealed to a diverse audience, and dodging stereotypes in the new film, Ludi Lin, who is Asian, is a shirtless male hunk who also raps. “The fact that it was a diverse cast,” said Walter Jones, the original Black Ranger, Zack Taylor, “it gave everybody a possibility of being that hero.”

Per Adilifu Nama’s 2011 Super Black American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes, other than Eartha Kitt as Catwoman in the Batman television series (1967), Avery Brooks in A Man Called Hawk (1989) and Carl Lumbly in M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-95), there was little to no representation of African-Americans as superheroic. While the 1990s was a golden age of black television — The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin and Living Single, and more — it did lack black characters, such as a Superman or Batman, saving the world. Black comic book heroes such as Luke Cage, Falcon and Green Lantern premiered in the 1960s and 1970s, but the Black Ranger, as a part of the culture-defining television series, became the default hero for black kids growing up in the 1990s.

From left to right: Roger Velasco, Catherine Sutherland, Selwyn Ward, Tracy Lynn Cruz and Blake Foster from Power Rangers Turbo.

Alamy

Blacks have donned every costume color on the show. In 2015, then-21-year-old Camille Hyde became the first black actress to play the Pink Ranger. Every season has a character who plays the leader role — normally the Red Ranger — and black characters have held that position three times — Jessica Jones and Empire actor Eka Darville starred as the Red Ranger in 2009. Though none has been a black woman.


Walter Emanuel Jones heard about an audition for a new kids superhero show between auditions for Star Search. Jones was trying to break into show business as an actor, singer and dancer, and Saban Entertainment was looking for a suave, hip individual who could do two of the three for its upcoming children’s show. For the Detroit native, this was an opportunity to showcase his various talents, overcome a rough childhood in the Motor City, and play a black crime fighter. Jones, a former college roommate of Jamie Foxx, beat out thousands of others to play Zack Taylor on the first season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

With his signature hairstyles — the hi-top fade, and later on, twists — as well as smooth dance moves and unmitigated swagger (he once dapped up the show’s robotic sidekick, Alpha 5), Jones embodied early-’90s hip-hop music, style and fashion. He even created his own form of martial arts called Hip Hop Kido — the only character in the history of the show to do so — which mixed b-boy breakdancing and Jackie Chan-inspired tae kwon do.

“It’s literally a kids movie, it’s a show. Shut up. God, Everything isn’t about race.”

Jones, when he went home to Detroit, saw firsthand the effect his casting had on little boys and girls across the country. “Listen, I grew up here,” he would tell students at his former schools. “I grew up in a single-family household with a mom who couldn’t always pay the bills … I didn’t know what my direction was going to be right away, but I found an opportunity and I took advantage of it, and I’m able to succeed. If I can do it, you can do it.”

He remembers one incident during the show’s pilot episode in which he was told to constantly say, in a stereotypical fashion,“What’s up?” when entering a scene. “They wanted me to say [it] like 25 times: What’s up, what’s up … whazzup, whazzup, what’s up, what’s up. This whole crazy thing, and I was like, ‘Can I not say what’s up that many times? It’s a bit excessive.’ ”

Actor Walter Jones attends the Third Annual Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Nov. 1, 2014, in Los Angeles.

Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Jones left the show at the height of its popularity in November 1994 over contractual issues, but unlike most former Power Rangers actors, he has carved out a nearly 30-year career, working as both a film and voice actor. “I’m proof that kids from underprivileged areas have what it takes to achieve whatever they want,” Jones told PR Newswire in 1994. “If they put their minds to it.”

The 16 actors who’ve taken on these roles — not including two who had recurring roles during seasons two and three — have unfairly been tasked with representing the millions of young black kids who’ve watched Power Rangers over the past two decades. Some readily accept that duty, recognizing the importance of black faces on television, while others are more colorblind, focusing on the broader impact the show has had on all young children.

John Mark Loudermilk, who was a part of the 2013-14 “Megaforce” seasons, and identifies as “Hispanic plus white slash half black,” was the franchise’s most recent black male character. As a child he gravitated to the Black Ranger, and once on the show, referred to himself as the “brown Billy,” in reference to the original white character. The 25-year-old, who was adopted by white parents when he was 2 weeks old, has never paid much to attention race. “Being the token brown guy, if you will, I never really thought about that,” said Loudermilk. “I don’t really look at people as a color. I see people for who they are in their heart.”

Keith Robinson, who appeared on the show in 2000 as part of “Lightspeed Rescue,” didn’t watch the show as a teenager, but once he moved to Los Angeles, he took an acting class and the first role he read for was one on Power Rangers. He played comic relief Joel Rawlings, who also happened to be a cowboy. “It was unique that they did make him a black cowboy,” he said. “Which was [something] you … see hardly ever on TV.”

Robinson, who’s since appeared in 2006’s Dreamgirls and 2007’s This Christmas, filled a void simply by existing. Representation, he realized, matters, even on a campy show about fighting poorly contrived monsters like the Pineoctopus. “You see a lot of young black boys who say, ‘Hey, there’s somebody who looks like me. I can be a superhero. and be positive.’ ”

Karan Ashley was the first black woman to play a Power Ranger, appearing in seasons 2 and 3 as Yellow Ranger Aisha Campbell. She also starred in the franchise’s first feature-length film, 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Ashley was once in the all-girl singing group Krush, who appeared on the soundtrack for 1992’s Mo’ Money. She’s also had guest roles on Kenan and Kel, The Steve Harvey Show and One on One.

The stars of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

“I loved my character, obviously. I was the Black girl,” Ashley told the Los Angeles Sentinel in 2015. “They let me get braids — they let me be the Black girl. For me, it was such an important thing to be a positive role model for young Black girls because I felt like we had never had that on TV, especially that young.”

Nakia Burrise replaced Ashley in 1996 to become the show’s second black female character, spending two seasons playing Tanya Sloan, the Yellow Ranger. Like Ashley, Burrise also starred in a movie — 1997’s Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie.

The California native studied theater at UCLA, alongside former Grey’s Anatomy actor Cress Williams, and was cast in the fourth season of Power Rangers during her junior year. After leaving the show in 1997, Burrise has since appeared on Smart Guy, Moesha and various television commercials.

And she, too, directly saw the impact of her face being transmitted to millions of little black kids every day. “Power Rangers gave children and adults alike the feeling that you can do anything. ‘Oh, my gosh, I see someone on television that looks just like me and is saving the world.’ It gave them the opportunity to look up to someone.” Aside from representation for African-Americans, Burrise said, the show was also meaningful for the millions of impressionable youths tuning in as well. “There were a lot of elements to the show that really helped with bullying, self-image, making right choices in life,” she said.

“People come up to [me] all the time,” said Burrisse, “and tell me how Power Rangers or my character saved their life.”


The character Billy Cranston was the nerdy, awkward outcast of show who was always picked on by bullies, and was normally the butt of everyone’s jokes. Unlike the other well-trained members of the Power Rangers group, Billy didn’t originally know any martial arts, and was less undaunted when it came to facing raspy-voiced antagonist Rita Repulsa and her gang of Putty Patrollers. Despite those limitations, Billy was the most intelligent citizen of fictitious Angel Grove, California, most notably creating the group’s wrist communicators — the precursor to wearable technology like the Apple Watch.

Yost was nowhere near as intelligent as his character. “The writers would write these ridiculous lines with all these big words, and I had no idea what my character was saying, so I’d have to go into my dressing room and break out the dictionary.” And, as is the case for many bespectacled youths navigating adolescence, no child wanted to be the Blue Ranger. “Sorry, but our 8-year-old a—s really weren’t down with the one mega geek on the squad,” Black Nerd Problems’ Ja-Quan Greene wrote last year. But that all may change with a black man taking over.

“I used to watch the Disney Channel,” RJ Tyler said, “like it was a drug.”

Like Jones before him, Cyler brings a coolness to his character that was perhaps absent with Yost. The new Billy has traits of the old — dresses like a high school science teacher, gets picked on a lot — but he also brings in bits of Cyler. From his deadpan humor (“That’s a strong a– hologram”) to his facial reactions, all the way to his fresh shape-up, Cyler could make kids want to be the black Power Ranger, even while wearing blue. “I think he’s going to be a little bit more humorous than my Billy was, maybe,” Yost joked. The character is also on the spectrum in the new movie.

But for Cyler, color — whether referring to race or the hue of his costume — never crossed his mind when considering the movie. Heading into the audition process, he knew would be reading for the part of the Blue Ranger, believing that Billy’s persona — quirky and geeky — matched up perfectly with his. “This just sounds like me when I was 13.”

From left: Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Dacre Montgomery, Ludi Lin and Becky G in a scene from Power Rangers.

Kimberly French/Lionsgate via AP

During casting, there were no ethnicities designated for any of the starring roles, so he wasn’t limited to just going out for the Black Ranger because of who played the part almost 25 years ago. “Power Rangers had no business being something that was looked at as, ‘Oh, they’re doing this for racial reasons.’ It’s literally a kids movie, it’s a show. Shut up. God, Everything isn’t about race,” he said. “It’s just annoying when people read into stuff too much. It’s just like, ‘Oh, crap, there’s no way in hell that the black dude could be the smart dude?’ You guys are serious right now? It’s the dumbest s— I’ve ever heard of.”

Ever since nabbing the part, Cyler has been asked by just about everyone why he isn’t playing the Black Ranger. For those who grew up on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, nostalgia won’t allow them to accept a Zack who isn’t black, a Kimberly who isn’t a Valley Girl in distress or a Billy without blond hair and glasses. As much as the world evolves and demographics change and societal norms are broken, humans are still creatures of the past, comfortable only when things stay the same. But for Cyler, the young man who broke into Hollywood just two years ago, and whose future is as bright as the metallic armor he wears, the answer is rather simple for him.

“Bro … I’m a Power Ranger, period.”