BIG3 league shows signs of promise in Brooklyn debut Despite injuries and rust, former NBA players were competitive in Ice Cube’s new venture

NEW YORK — There was no mic in his hand. No sound check. No Raiders cap. But O’Shea Jackson, better known as Ice Cube, was still center stage, sharply dressed in a suit and tie as he stood courtside an hour before the debut of his BIG3.

The day wasn’t perfect: Allen Iverson was clearly not Hall of Famer Allen Iverson anymore. Chauncey Billups didn’t attend because of ongoing talks about a front office job with the Cleveland Cavaliers. There were injuries, and some kinks still needed to be worked out. But for the most part, the debut of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league of former NBA players was competitive and well-attended by a star-studded crowd of 15,177 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“It’s a great environment,” NBA All-Star James Harden told The Undefeated. “It’s rare to get these actors, actresses, stars of whoever you are, all in one building for one circumstance. It’s a dope event. Dope environment. Good music. Good vibes. And I’m happy to be a part of it and a witness of it. … The way this turned out, Ice Cube and whoever else put this on did a really good job.”

The game of 3-on-3 basketball has been popular in the United States for decades and is growing worldwide. It will debut as a sport in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Perhaps by then, the United States might want to bring the best players from BIG3 to represent the country.

Power’s DeShawn Stevenson tries to go for the layup while Tri-State’s Jermaine O’Neal defends during the game between Power and Tri-State on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players.

Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated

Music legend, actor and film producer Ice Cube, along with entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, announced the launch of BIG3 on Jan. 11. The league has eight teams, its most notable player is Iverson, and it also features former NBA All-Stars Jermaine O’Neal, Kenyon Martin and Rashard Lewis. Coaches include Iverson, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, George Gervin, Rick Barry and the intimidating Charles Oakley and Rick Mahorn.

Brooklyn rapper Fabolous performed between the second and the third games, to the locals’ delight.

Whoopi Goldberg, LL Cool J and Power actress Lela Loren were in attendance, as well as former NBA stars Paul Pierce, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Sam Cassell and Jalen Rose. Harden and Rockets teammate Lou Williams, new Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris were there as well. National media outlets covered it, and Iverson’s news conference was packed.

LL Cool J (left) shakes hands with Ice Cube during the intermission between games on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players.

Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated

There were cool jerseys with nicknames on the back such as “The Answer” for Iverson and “W. Mamba” for Brian “White Mamba” Scalabrine, “White Chocolate” for Jason Williams and “Junkyard Dog” for Jerome Williams, who barked for the camera pre-game.

In the BIG3 the game ends when one team scores 60 points, with halftime arriving when a team reaches 30. There is hand-checking and a 4-point shot.

“Everybody that is in this league wants to ball,” Ice Cube told The Undefeated. “They’re not here just to hang out, shoot around. They are real ballers and wanted real competition. They were tired of playing in the Pro-Ams and stuff, and they were ready to play with their peers. It was our job to set the stage … it’s their job to take the league to the next level.”

The former NBA players took the games to a respectable level that Ice Cube could be proud of.

Three of the four games were close. Lewis’ 3-point play clinched 3 Headed Monsters’ win over Mike Bibby’s Ghost Ballers in the opener. DeShawn Stevenson nailed a game-winning 3-pointer to lift Power past O’Neal’s Tri-State and slapped hands with Ice Cube afterward. There were boos when shooting struggles took place with Iverson on the bench coaching during his 3s Company’s victory over the Ball Hogs. Al Harrington scored 25 points as Trilogy cruised in the final game, blowing out the Killer 3s sans Billups by 15 points.

Tri-State’s Jermaine O’Neal shoots over a fallen Jerome Williams from Power during the game between Power and Tri-State on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players.

Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated

“You walk out there and see the crowd, and it’s like that feeling you get at school the first day or your first NBA game of the season,” Lewis told The Undefeated. “Every year, that first game was a big game. I couldn’t sleep last night, and I had that same [nervous] feeling coming here.”

BIG3 play should improve over the 10-week season as players get the rust off. There is no way Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, 48, is going to keep missing wide-open 3-pointers. But there were some disappointments for the fans, including the superpopular Iverson being more of a coach-player than a player-coach.

Iverson’s 3’s Company teammate DerMarr Johnson told The Undefeated it wasn’t until recently that the 2001 NBA MVP decided he would play, so Iverson hasn’t been working out that long. It felt like a playoff game as the crowd roared in anticipation when the four-time NBA scoring champ ran to the floor slapping the hands of fans. Iverson, an 11-time NBA All-Star, started but came out shortly afterward to take off an irritating television mic. After chants of “We want A.I.” brought him back onto the floor, Iverson looked like he needed more practice as he made one jumper and missed five shots, dished out two assists and had one steal in nine minutes of play.

“The best part about this game here tonight and all the other games, it was exciting all throughout,” Iverson said. “It didn’t need Allen Iverson the player, per se.”

The 42-year-old Iverson understands that he is the face of the BIG3 playerwise, but he prefers to coach. He signed autographs during halftime and was gracious with his time with the media. His presence alone is huge for the BIG3. And with each week of play, the fans and media will remain curious and infatuated with whatever he does.

Ball Hogs’ Dominic McGuire tries to go up for a shot while defended during the game between 3’s Company and Ball Hogs on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players. (Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated)

Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated

”I signed up to be a coach, player and captain. Coach part is going to go on throughout the game,” Iverson said. ”Playing part is not going to be what you expect. You’re not going to see the Allen Iverson of old out there.”

BIG3 had a lot of cool swag for sale, including a jersey of a star player from each team. It wouldn’t be surprising if jersey sales for Iverson and “W. Mamba” did well. Billups’ jersey with the Killer 3s that reads “Mr. Big Shot” was available for sale, but he may never wear it. The 2004 NBA Finals MVP is still in negotiations with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the president of basketball operations position, sources told The Undefeated. Billups did not attend Sunday’s games, and a source told The Undefeated that Billups didn’t want to be a distraction on BIG3’s first day with the Cavaliers situation so fluid.

The first day of BIG3 games will be shown on Fox Sports 1 on Monday night. Fans watching on television will get a condensed version of games and also bleeped-out curse words from the likes of Payton. The first two games seemed to take about an hour. If the score were cut to 50 or 42, the contests would probably be quicker and more fan-friendly, with better play because of fewer minutes. But for the first day, most of the players appeared to be in good shape, motivated and even physical, as some dove to the floor for loose balls.

“What a great idea. I think it’s 20 years late, but it’s time for it,” Drexler said.

The BIG3 should get better from here. Iverson, the former Philadelphia 76ers star, may get in better shape knowing that a stop in the City of Brotherly Love is only three weeks away.

3’s Company captain Allen Iverson warms up on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players. (Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated)

The one thing the BIG3 can’t control is injuries.

3 Headed Monsters guard Jason Williams left Game 1 with a knee injury, but Payton expects him to return to action in Philadelphia. Power captain Corey Maggette also suffered a leg injury that isn’t expected to be too serious. Trilogy captain Martin pulled a hamstring as well. Iverson complained about his legs being tired after playing just nine minutes.

“It’s going to be competitive,” said Lewis, who made the BIG3’s first 4-point shot. “It’s on TV. You have the internet nowadays. Nobody wants to be embarrassed. Guys came ready to play. I just think it’s a little different. [Williams] came and greeted us and said the doctor said nothing was wrong and everything was fine. That’s good. We’re going to need Jason Williams.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if more former NBA stars decided to play in the future.

Several BIG3 players mentioned Kevin Garnett. Pierce spoke highly of the event and seemed curious about possibly playing. The fans also chanted, “We Want Kobe,” during Iverson’s game. Former NBA players such as Lewis, Andre Owens, Josh Childress, Dominic McGuire, Rasual Butler, Derrick Byars, Rashad McCants and Lou Amundson might get another look at the NBA because of BIG3.

BIG3 also gave longtime NBA fans a chance to either attend or watch and introduce their children to Dr. J, The Answer, The Glide, The Glove, K-Mart, The Ice Man and Ice Cube.

“It’s about getting a chance to see guys you can’t see anymore, especially in this setting,” Ice Cube said. “Seeing our Hall of Fame coaches, celebrating what they did for the league and what they did for us. And now, they’re competing like they are used to. This is not a charity game. This is not a one-time tournament. This is a season. So these guys are fighting for the chip, and it’s going to be great to see them back.”

The BIG3 has people of color and women in elite roles.

As one of the two co-founders of BIG3, Ice Cube may be the most notable African-American to be atop a professional sports league since Manny Jackson owned the Harlem Globetrotters. Former NBA sharpshooter Roger Mason Jr., an African-American, is the president and commissioner of BIG3.

Trilogy’s Kenyon Martin screams after scoring during the game between Trilogy and Killer 3s on June 25 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The BIG3 League, created by Ice Cube, debuted with four games of 3-on-3 basketball featuring former NBA players. (Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated)

Anthony Geathers for The Undefeated

Amy Trask, who was previously named the NFL’s first female CEO by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis in 1997, is now CEO of BIG3.

“Look, doesn’t that say it all?” said Trask to The Undefeated. “I had the great fortune and tremendous privilege in my life of working for two men, Al Davis and now Ice Cube, neither of whom are remotely concerned about my gender. We’re all here to do a job.

“Race, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other individuality has no bearing whatsoever on whether any individual can do a job. It’s absolutely irrelevant if we are engaged to do a job.”

Next up for the BIG3 is Charlotte, North Carolina. The television debut and the sold-out crowd in Brooklyn will probably help sell tickets at the Spectrum Center. The arrival of Maggette, a former Duke star, McCants, a former North Carolina star, and former Charlotte Hornets forward Lee Nailon should be attractive to the locals. Perhaps even Michael Jordan will show up in the arena his Hornets play in to join the NBA family reunion as a spectator.

“I’ve been excited about it since they had the press conference in January. I can always say I was one of the first players to play in it during the first year it was created,” Lewis said.

Patrice Rushen should be a future Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee The consummate composer and singer helped define a golden era of smooth R&B

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriters Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


They remind me / I’m lucky I’m falling / In love with you darling

— Patrice Rushen, from her 1982 hit “Remind Me”

Long before I knew anything about Patrice Rushen being an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, respected songwriter or the current chairwoman of USC’s Popular Music Program at the Thornton School of Music, the pint-sized pianist shepherded me through the summer of 1982. Her superb seventh album, Straight From the Heart, was the background soundtrack playing on Howard University’s FM radio station, WHUR, in my stepfather’s light blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, or during Jack Daniel’s-and-Coke-fueled card games next to the water sprinklers in auntie’s backyard.

I stared for hours at the Straight From the Heart cover — back before music videos and digital streaming deprived folks of other visual privileges. Miss Patrice in front of the nondescript Olan Mills backdrop was pretty in a completely approachable way, thank God; she was every black girl in seventh grade during that era named Michelle, Sabrina or Crystal. I traced the soft bird feathers in Rushen’s perfect hair and stared longingly at her neat cornrows exploding into a riot of shiny glass beads.

“Forget Me Nots” was the biggest single on Straight From the Heart, the one that earned Rushen a Grammy nomination (she has three) for best female R&B vocal performance and her sole Top 40 pop hit. It’s still a monster jam, with the cleverest one-two finger-pop opening in R&B music history. The killer bass groove and melody has also been sampled to death by the likes of Will Smith, George Michael and MC Solaar, thereby ensuring it has had a long life in mainstream pop culture and serving as a reminder that Rushen should be enshrined in the hall.

But “Remind Me” (written by Rushen and Karen Evans) was, and still is, my all-time favorite song, a perfect 5-minute, 18-second tonic that has soothed my fears and given me hope for 35 years.

The warm opening organ arrangement lays down a groove that never lets go as the story of innocent love and appreciation unfolds. I still can’t wait for the “yeah, yeah” chorus — it’s the opioid earworm that has you strung out like an addict.

The best thing about “Remind Me” is that Rushen isn’t a Hall of Fame singer. She’s not Aretha, Patti LaBelle or Whitney. But who is? Who can actually sing a Chaka Khan song out loud and in front of other people, without hurting your own feelings? Sometimes you just want to luxuriate in your jam and sound just like the artist. Rushen’s normal-girl voice, a smooth soprano, allowed you to feel the song without all the effort.

Of course, 1982 was a killer year for R&B album releases. Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Prince’s 1999 and Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love were all released that year, as were Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium, What Time Is It? by The Time, and Gap Band IV. The incredible list goes on and on: Luther Vandross’ Forever, For Always, For Love and Get Loose by Evelyn “Champagne” King and Living My Life by Grace Jones.

Soul and R&B music was changing in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Rushen explained to Soul Train host Don Cornelius that year. Her approach to music:

“… more or less illustrates the change that black music is going through every so many years. We’re getting back to the groove again, to the way things really, really feel. Kind of blending the complexities with the simplicity, and putting it together for another thing. It’s very, very exciting.”

Rushen is here for me and my kids. The only other singer/songwriter who even comes close is Michael Jackson, and that’s complicated in a bunch of different ways. That’s also another story. I now play the song at least three times a week, hoping that it’ll be that song for my two boys.

The Heart of a Songwriter: PartyNextDoor The OVO singer/songwriter should one day be in the Songwriters Hall of Fame

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriters Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


Room full of beautiful women, but I want one/ Room full of women and they notice me/ Now all they wanna listen to is Jodeci

— PartyNextDoor from “Freak In You”

PartyNextDoor turns 24 next month. And despite an ever-evolving catalog of hit records, he maintains a semblance of anonymity in a genre where very little is secret. But the young Mississauga, Ontario, native already boasts songwriting credits with two of the biggest pop stars in the world: Rihanna and Beyoncé. The towering responsibility of penning lyrics, which almost immediately become worldwide calling cards, for the biggest names in music isn’t so much a challenge for the former church choirboy as an escape. “It’s the same process [as when I write for myself],” he said, “but I can go into imagination with other people. You know, go into a different bag.”

It’s this type of moody ambiance that defines OVO’s most sluggish yet savagely romantic records.

Born Jahron Brathwaite, OVO’s enigmatic pen has secured writing credits on Rihanna’s magnum opus, Anti — in particular, last year’s smash “Sex With Me” and the No. 1 pop hit “Work” featuring OVO honcho Drake. And moments after the conclusion of the 2017 Grammys, DJ Khaled unleashed the first of what should be a string of massive hits from Beyoncé and Jay Z with their “Shining”; PND wrote for Beyoncé on the track: Money don’t make me happy/ And a fella can’t make me fancy/ We smilin’ for a whole ’nother reason/ It’s all smiles through all four seasons. PartyNextDoor has also already established himself as a solo artist in his own right. He released his third full studio album, P3, last summer, led by the hit singles “Not Nice” and “Come and See Me.”

It’s said solo work that requires a different level of self-realization. A level he wasn’t always totally comfortable with. Credit marijuana for the breakthrough. “I was so against smoking weed ’cause I always wanted to be in control, but my friend convinced me to smoke weed one day,” he told The FADER in 2015. “And as soon as I smoked weed, that’s when I started writing like that.”

Writing like what? Writing like what you would say in a DM and you knew no one was ever going to take a screen shot. It’s PND’s desire to tell truths that led him to release his recent five-song Colours 2 EP. Recorded entirely over production from longtime collaborator G.Ry (who also scored production credits on Drake’s More Life), the project sticks to the script of Party’s vibe. It’s mysterious, yet honest in its intentions. It’s melodic, yet enigmatic to the point where Party’s fantasy could be just that — or reflections of an idea simply yet to become reality. And his music is sexual — yet vulnerable. No record on the project encompasses the ROYGBIV spectrum of emotions than the subtle cover of Jodeci’s 1995 ode, “Freek’n You.”

His version is called “Freak In You” and is more of a question than action. Room full of beautiful women, but I want one/ Room full of women and they notice me/ Now all they wanna do is listen to Jodeci. It’s this type of moody ambiance that defines OVO’s most sluggish yet savagely romantic records, so many of which flow from the pen of PND. Old-fashioned ideas of “love” aren’t the driving emotions. Love is often a revolving door at October’s Very Own. Love is the desire for companionship, however temporary. This is your time, PND croons, I need to know if you’re down/ ‘Cause if not, I know there’s more around. Reality.

Much of the allure from the songwriter arises from the picturesque yet flexible vibe his music emits. “Freak” plays on words — If you want it/ Burnin’ rubber (skrrt)/ Burnin’ through these rubbers is exhausting/ Drop, drop, hot/ Baby girl, it’s Crossfit. But the lyrics are also clear in their intentions, a characteristic that came to define Jodeci’s music, a la 1991’s “Come and Talk To Me” and 1993’s “Feenin’ ” — Ain’t no peer pressure, sings PND. Girl, it’s what you wanna do/ So what kind of mood you in?/ You know what I wanna do/ You see what I see.

“Freak In You” falls in line with erotic PND songs such as “Persian Rugs,” “Break From Toronto” and “Recognize.” It’s easy to imagine lips touching lips. G.Ry’s dark yet carnal backdrop makes it easy to imagine the daylong text sessions leading up to the night’s main event. And it’s easy to understand why so many of his songs aren’t safe for work. So pretty, girl, you belong in a gallery / What’s your fantasy? (Your fantasy?) / Say something you ain’t never did (ain’t never did). What PartyNextDoor is trying to do is be the soundtrack for our memories. Even if you can never speak on them.

Xscape member Kandi Burruss creates the soundtracks of our lives From Beyoncé to Justin Timberlake, ‘No Scrubs’ to ‘Bills, Bills, Bills,’ this ‘Real Housewife’ should one day be in the Songwriters Hall of Fame

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriters Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


No one got out of the ’90s and the early 2000s without grooving to a Kandi Burruss song — even if they didn’t know it. The infectious singles she’s written have launched superstars and promoted female empowerment (with a backbeat), and her work continues to soundtrack our lives. Burruss’ songwriting skills helped to establish the careers of Beyoncé (1999’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Bug a Boo”), Justin Timberlake (2000’s “It Makes Me Ill”), Alicia Keys (2001’s “Jane Doe”), P!nk (2000’s “There You Go”) and even TLC, with the classic 1999 “No Scrubs” (written with Tiny Cottle, Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes). Gems, all. And the critically acclaimed “Scrubs” was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys, was a No. 1 pop hit in the United States and a massive success worldwide.

Burruss became famous as a singer in the girl group Xscape in 1992. They had three back-to-back platinum albums — 1993’s Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, 1995’s Off the Hook and 1998’s Traces of My Lipstick — and scored six Top 10 pop songs, including “Understanding,” “Just Kickin’ It” and “Who Can I Run To.” But here’s what was missing: Burruss’ voice as a songwriter. She never actually wrote for the group back then — Jermaine Dupri guided Xscape’s creative direction — but once Burruss got hold of a pen, she had a brilliant run as one of pop music’s go-to songwriters. Of course now, her fame has grown exponentially because of her turns on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta. But Burruss has been setting pop culture afire long before reality TV cameras started whirring.

How did you transition from being in a girl group to being a songwriter?

When our group first started, I used to make up songs for myself and come up with little ideas. I used to ask Jermaine, ‘Please let me write, or try to write.’ He was starting this thing where maybe he’d have a skeleton of the song … and he’d let us write on a verse or something. So I started coming up with song ideas outside of the group, going to the studio outside of the group … working with different producers. Just trying to work on my craft. And when our group started having problems, and LaTosha decided she wanted to go solo, I told Tameka, we need to do our own thing. So we start working with producers for our demo.

Is that how “No Scrubs” came about?

That was one of the songs we’d done for [Xscape]. Played it for L.A. Reid. L.A loved it and wanted it for TLC. I was like, ‘Let them have it.’ Because, in my mind, we could write more songs, and secondly, I always wanted to write for other artists but didn’t know how. But from there, my songwriting took off. I was able to write for everybody after that.

When did you know “No Scrubs” would be such a major track?

Before the song came out, I saw L.A at some little party. He was like, ‘I’m gonna make this the biggest song of your career!’ I was just happy to hear the song was actually going to be on the album. I didn’t know they were planning on making it the first single. It took off so quickly. It’s a song I love. I loved it when me and Tiny did it. I thought it was a great song.

Take me into the studio. Where did you and Tameka begin?

It was a do-or-die moment. My goal was, I don’t want to be in this position again where my fate is left to somebody else. I was talking to Tiny about how it’s really important for us to write our own music, so when we present it to the label we can show them that we can be our own executive producers. We can have more control over our projects. That was the whole goal of writing … we wanted them to see our vision.

“I can come up with a whole song and you can just be tapping the table.”

What is your inspiration for songwriting?

My inspiration was always relationships. I used to have this notepad that I’d write titles in. I was always great with melodies, but I knew, if you have a hook with a dope title, something easy to remember, and a subject people can relate to, that was the key to a hit. All those years of watching Jermaine come up with Xscape’s songs, that’s what I picked up. “No Scrubs” was in my notepad because that was a saying we used to dog out ninth-graders in high school — it was the name for underclassmen. But as I got older, me and my friends would call out dudes who weren’t on their s—. They were scrubs. It was just one of the many titles that I had.

How would you characterize your style of writing?

Before everybody started doing the singy-rappy type of style, I remember when I worked with N’Sync — and Justin Timberlake was like, ‘You need to put a name to this! It’s kind of like you’re singing, like you got melody, but you rapping! Maybe you should call it mapping!” He was just saying because it’s a melody and rap. I was like, ‘Um. No!’

You had a big job with Destiny’s Child’s sophomore album, 1999’s The Writing’s On The Wall. The group was looking to mature their sound.

I have five songs on that album. It was by chance that I ended up working with them. I remember [the producer] She’kspere … they flew him down … he flew me down, and I didn’t know how that was going to go. When you have a girls group on the same label, sometimes it can be a little awkward, like, ‘What’s she doing writing on that album?!’ Also, one of the girls was dating one of my ex-boyfriends at the time! Everything worked out fine.

You’ve either worked with new artists or people at very transformative moments in their careers.

Working with someone new, you have the chance to set the tone.

That said, you didn’t shy away from people with massive careers like Mariah Carey. You worked with her on Rainbow (1999).

I loved Mariah … I would love the opportunity to work with her again. I didn’t feel like I really was able to do the best for her. She was really busy … working overseas. We had to send her files. Then she would call me over the phone during her breaks, and we collaborated. We came up with something pretty good, [but] I still would have rather been able to be in the studio with her.

P!nk’s “There You Go” was massive. You had a white girl with a soulful voice who looked like she could be in a grunge band.

I always knew her as this white girl with an urban voice. I was excited to work with her because I knew the label was going to be supportive of her. I wanted to give her something that was dope. It was kind of easy. I just had to give her a hit. Now she [has] transformed into this rock star, which is so much different than where she was when she first started. I’d love to work with her again at this phase.

You helped introduce us to Alicia Keys with the “Jane Doe” track on her debut, 2001’s Songs in A Minor.

The title “Jane Doe” was in my notebook that I keep telling you about. At the time, Michael Mauldin was working with her — and obviously that’s Jermaine’s dad. I really like new artists. I loved the fact that she was a musician and that she produced a lot of her own stuff. I thought that whole thing was dope … that’s something that I envy in a good way: people who can play what they’re thinking. I can come up with the melody of the song and everything in my head, but I can’t play it. I can come up with a whole song and you can just be tapping the table, and I can come up with a whole song around it. Because in my head I hear the music, but I can’t play it. So when I’m around other people that can play and actually put beats together with what they hear in their head, it’s something I wish I could do.

“When I worked with N’Sync, Justin Timberlake was like, ‘You need to put a name to this! It’s kind of like you’re singing, like you got melody, but you rapping!’ ”

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are just now being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Were you surprised to hear that?

What took so long? When you think of superstar writing teams, I mean, they’re at the top of the list. Jam, Babyface, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder. They’re at the top.

What have you learned from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis?

They’re inspiring. Every time I’ve met them, they have kind words.

You come from a world of hip-hop. What does it mean for you that Jay Z is getting inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame?

I think it’s dope. You can’t deny what he’s accomplished with his career. As a rapper, he has done things that other rappers could only dream of doing. It’s well-deserved.

What does it mean to you that “No Scrubs” still has resonance today? So much so that a part of it is on the biggest track in music right now, with Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

“No Scrubs” has turned into three No. 1’s for me. Do you remember “No Pigeons,” the response to “No Scrubs”? That was No. 1, too. And then, now, Ed Sheeran’s song. For a record to be able to multiply into three hits, thank the Lord! It’s crazy. It does feel good … and I’m appreciative of Sheeran being inspired by “No Scrubs” and including us in his current hit. I admire him as a songwriter. And to know he’s inspired by something that I wrote? It’s dope to me.

What do you hope for your legacy as a songwriter?

I just want to have those songs that when people listen to it they can say, ‘Oh, you know that was a Kandi song!’ Or it makes you feel a certain way, or you play it when you’re going through something. Or … you can remember where you were when you played that record. I hope my songs bring good thoughts to people’s minds.

Why Ice Cube should be a future Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee The film mogul is one of rap’s all-time great wordsmiths — and cultural forecasters

This week, Berry Gordy, Jay Z, and James “Jimmy Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They will join immortals such as Little Richard, Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, Dolly Parton, Nile Rodgers, Jerry Garcia, Marvin Gaye, Cyndi Lauper and more. This week The Undefeated celebrates future Songwriting Hall of Famers — the ones who make the whole world sing and bop, and even milly rock.


For 400 years — I got 400 tears, for 400 peers/ Died last year from gang-related crimes/ That’s why I got gang-related rhymes

— Ice Cube, from 1991’s “Us

Ice Cube pulls up on a group of friends. It’s the summer of 1989 in Los Angeles. All young black men, all from the South Central area, his friends are slanging crack. Cube, by then, is already famous, the most vicious wordsmith of America’s worst nightmare: the rap supergroup N.W.A. He rolls the window down on his Jeep.

“Yo, y’all don’t need to be out here,” he said. “All you’re gonna do is get arrested.”

His boys looked at him, puzzled. In 1980s South Central Los Angeles, the streets were a war zone. Born O’Shea Jackson in 1969, four years after the Watts riots and during the rise of the black liberation movement, Cube’s life was a courtside seat to gang and police violence. He saw black boys’ and girls’ lives cut short by violence that turned neighborhoods into prisons, and to graveyards.

Does a résumé as decorated and diverse as Cube’s obscure who he is as a songwriter?

As in many major U.S. metropolitan areas, crack was the crème de la crème narcotic. For users, crack was an escape. “It is also a drug of desperation, linked to the urban poor’s struggle to be part of the greater society,” said Joyce Hartwell, founder and director of New York’s Recovery Hotline and Addiction Anonymous Education Project. Fast money, cheap product, economically deprived ‘hoods: an elixir for violence.

Ice Cube in 1992

Waring Abbott/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In Los Angeles alone, the murder rate had risen every year since 1985. In 1988, the year N.W.A. released Straight Outta Compton, there were 452 gang homicides — 29.7 percent of all area murders. In 1989, 554 gang homicides accounted for 32.7 percent of all homicides. The numbers would only increase, rising to 803 gang murders (39.4 percent of all) by the time the Los Angeles riots popped off, for a long list of reasons, in the spring of 1992.

So it makes sense that Cube’s friends were dumbfounded. The songs he wrote, for example, for Eazy-E’s 1988 Eazy Duz It, weren’t soundtracks of their lives. Nor were the songs quite entertainment. Cube’s lyrics, motion picture moments on records like Straight Outta’s “8 Ball (Remix),” were their lives. Cube’s friends were trapped in a hell of crack, guns, gangs, liquor stores and funeral homes. “Everybody can’t rap,” one of his friends said. “You’re living good, so you can say s— like that. If you wasn’t making money, you’d be right out here with us.”

Cube recognized quickly his platform, and the responsibility that came with being one of the most recognizable rappers in the country. For Cube, his art was chemotherapy for a cancer the country had long ignored in neighborhoods portrayed as ground zero on nightly news broadcasts. He thanked his friend and bought him a beer.

“[I said] thanks for setting me straight. Peace,” Cube told Spin in 1989. “No, I didn’t say ‘peace,’ cause peace is a fictional word. Peace is a dream.”


Thirty years after the Straight Outta Compton album, Ice Cube is a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer. He’s sold over 15 million albums through his solo work and compilations and as a leader of N.W.A. and Westside Connection. Cube has long since established himself as a force in Hollywood as a producer, screenwriter and actor, starting with 1991’s timeless ode to life in South Central, Boyz N The Hood. From there, cult classics such as 1998’s The Players Club, acclaimed smashes such as 1999’s Three Kings, as well as his Friday, Barbershop and Ride Along series strengthen his portfolio as he heads into thriller territory. Come later this month, he’ll have successfully placed Allen Iverson back on a basketball court with the creation of his BIG3 basketball league. And just last weekend, Cube gave Bill Maher a lesson in the use of the N-word. But is one of rap’s finest lyrical storytellers the victim of society’s selective amnesia? Does a résumé as decorated and diverse as Cube’s obscure who he is as a songwriter?

“It’s Ice Cube’s lyrics that forced people to take the West Coast seriously.” — Todd Boyd

“Ice Cube is the first guy outside of New York to get recognition and visibility for his lyricism,” said Todd Boyd, professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He’s the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture. “It’s Ice Cube’s lyrics that forced people to take the West Coast seriously.”

Cube’s relentless output during the late ’80s and early ’90s writes its own chapter of American history. He’s one of gangsta rap’s main creators, along with Ice T, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His music shed light on the despair, anger, yet resiliency of life in the ’hood. Cube’s 360-degree view of the black experience in America was a persuasive counterpoint to politicians and critics who painted black individuals and groups with broad strokes.

It was Cube’s call of duty to tell South Central Los Angeles’ story — which, in turn, spoke for the millions nationwide dealing with similar situations. By doing so, he warned America of a simmering resentment. His graphic street scriptures, however bold and outright disrespectful of women, law enforcement and whatever else, function as the Old Testament for what exploded on television screens across the world in the wake of the Rodney King verdict.

The first three songs on the album Straight Outta Compton, which sold 3.5 million copies (and led eventually to the acclaimed and successful 2015 biopic of the same title), became part of a 1988 hip-hop trifecta, along with Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and the launch of Yo! MTV Raps, which changed the culture, and music as whole. Straight Outta Compton represented art by fire. And Cube was its lead arsonist.

“Straight Outta Compton”: Straight outta Compton, crazy m—–f—– named Ice Cube/ From the gang called N—–s With Attitude/ When I’m called off, I got a sawed-off/ Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off/ You, too, boy, if you f— with me/ The police are gonna have to come and get me/ Off you a–, that’s how I’m going out

“F— Tha Police”: F— the police, coming straight from the underground/ A young n—- got it bad ’cause I’m brown/ And not the other color so police think/ They have the authority to kill a minority/ F— that s— cause I ain’t the one/ For a punk m—–f—– with a badge and a gun/ To be beaten on, and thrown in jail/ We can go toe-to-toe in the middle of a cell

“Gangsta, Gangsta”: Here’s a little something about a n—- like me/ Never should’ve been let out the penitentiary/ Ice Cube, would like to say/ That I’m a crazy m—–f—– from around the way/ Since I was youth, I smoked weed out/ Now I’m the m—-f—— that you read about/ Takin’ a life or two, that’s what the hell I do/ You don’t like how I’m living?/ Well, f— you!

“Not all of what we say on records describe us,” MC Ren said in 1989. “We also describe the exploits of people around us. So this is telling it again, like it is and how people really behave.” As N.W.A.’s acclaim and infamy spread, so did its influence. Fishbone’s 1991 The Reality of My Surroundings, the Geto Boys’ 1990 “City Under Siege” and Public Enemy’s 1990 “Fight The Power” further enunciated a desperation. For Cube, it wasn’t about taking — or making — rap music literally, lyric for lyric. It was a reclamation of identity.

“[Black people] lost 400 years of teaching, of schooling of any kind of knowledge of our culture,” Cube said in a 1991 interview. “Right now, we’re in the process of getting that back through rap music.” Cube’s music was the crystal ball. On 1990’s “The N—- Ya Love To Hate,” Cube advises: The day is coming that you all hate / Just think if n—-s decide to retaliate … then Kicking s— called street knowledge / Why more n—-s in the pen than in college.

But it’s his second solo album, 1991’s Death Certificate, where final warnings were spelled out. This was Cube masterfully executing a concept album in the early ’90s, a new task for the still-infant genre, yet Death is comparable to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 What’s Going On, or Stevie Wonder’s 1973 Innervisions. Aside from Cube’s spectacular songwriting was his attention to sequencing detail. While the first half of the project revolves around life in the ghetto (“The Wrong N—- To F— Wit,” “My Summer Vacation” and “A Bird In The Hand”), the second half is Cube offering cultural and societal critiques (“Us,” “True To The Game” and “Color Blind”).

Certificate’s complex commentary provided validation that Cube was far more — if more was required — than a “gangsta rapper.” And importantly, gangsta rap itself was far more than violent imagery. “Cube was of that moment,” Dr. Boyd says. Racial and political tensions were high in the early ’90s. “And if you were tapped into that moment, you understood something was about to pop off. You didn’t know what it was. You didn’t know what form it was going to take. But you felt it. Cube personified that.”

His music shed light on the despair, anger, yet resiliency of life in the ’hood.

On Death’s “I Wanna Kill Sam,” Cube skillfully lacerates the federal government: Tied me up, took me outside/ And I was thrown in a big truck/ And it was packed like sardines/ Full of n—-s who fell for the same scheme/ Took us to a place and made us work/ All day and we couldn’t have s— to say/ Broke up the families forever/ And to this day black folks can’t stick together/ And it’s odd/ Broke us down, made us pray — to his God.”

Cube’s cutthroat examination of the medical discrimination black people receive in South Central also goes under the microscope “Alive on Arrival:” Woke up in the back of a trey / On my way to MLK/ That’s the county hospital, jack, ha/ Where n—-s die over a little scratch/ Sittin’ in the trauma center/ In my back is where the bullet entered/ “Yo, nurse, I’m gettin’ kinda warm!”/ B—–s still made me fill out the f—— form.

For “Black Korea,” Cube experienced backlash for his attack on Korean-Americans: So pay respect to the black fist/ Or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp/ And then we’ll see ya/ Cause you can’t turn the ghetto into black Korea. “Korea” was largely viewed as a lyrical retaliation for the March 1991 killing of Latasha Harlins by a Korean-American store owner — a death that, along with the Rodney King verdict, is canonized as the two biggest sparks for the riots. Cube apologized for the song in February 1992, saying the record was not an indictment of all Korean-Americans but a rebuke of a select few stores “where my friends and I have had actual problems.”

Two months after the apology, the four Los Angeles Police Department officers who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted. To Ice Cube and residents of South Central, the verdict wasn’t surprising. This was no isolated incident. And soon, the Los Angeles skyline was painted with smoke rising from the flames that enveloped Los Angeles streets. The deplorable conditions that Cube had lamented for years, attempted to explain in interviews and broadcast to an entire country had finally come to fruition.

“That’s the only way you can get white people to hear what black people have to say. If you tear s— up,” Cube said of the riots. “This country uses violence for its justice. But then the country gets mad when we use violence for our justice.”

Ice Cube didn’t necessarily predict the L.A. riots as much as he diagnosed urban illnesses. Communities were ravaged by drugs. Resources provided to other parts of the vast city were omitted from South Central. Desperation led to violence. Although rap music had its faults, and didn’t please a lot of people, Cube’s music wasn’t created with the intention of making people feel good.

It was created with the intention of the listener feeling the pain and hopelessness of so many of the people Cube grew up around. He peeled back American hypocrisies and, in his own way, changed the course of American pop history. Cube did it for his people. He did it for those same friends he pulled up on in his Jeep, some of whom may not even be alive anymore.

“When it comes to records,” he recently told Apple’s Beats 1 radio station, “I just think you gotta be a voice for the voiceless.”

How to match NBA socks with the perfect kicks Stance’s ‘Overspray’ collection gives sneakerheads a chance to freshen their look

When it comes to playoff basketball, Stance has your back — or feet, if we’re keeping it 💯. In April, the official sock provider of the NBA released the “Overspray” collection, featuring socks representing 10 different teams. So, in honor of the playoffs and NBA Finals, The Undefeated took socks from the collection of five playoff squads and matched them with the perfect pair of sneakers. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not included in the “Overspray” collection, but we gave the 2016 NBA champions a socks-and-sneakers combination anyway. Here at The Undefeated, we gotta make sure everyone is fresh during the postseason.

Who should replace Jerry West on a new NBA logo? The choice is yours

Ayesha Curry heads a food-inspired empire Her brand now includes a book, cooking show, restaurant, meal-kit service and a campaign to combat food waste

Mother, NBA wife and Food Network personality Ayesha Curry says she wants her kitchen to be a relaxed environment.

“It doesn’t need to be stuffy. I want to make it fun. I like to pour a little glass of wine, my husband will turn the music on — making it an event,” she said with a laugh.

She and her husband Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA MVP, have welcomed the world into their kitchen and their lifestyle. This includes their two children and Ayesha Curry’s new business endeavors, all while Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors chase another NBA championship in the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And it all started in 2002 as a church friendship.

Ayesha and Stephen met when Ayesha’s family joined the Central Church of God in Charlotte, North Carolina. Retired NBA player Dell Curry and his wife Sonya, along with their three young children, Stephen, Seth and Sydel, were members of the church as well. After Stephen and Ayesha’s friendship blossomed into a relationship, the two were wed in 2011. They now have two daughters, the famous Riley, 4, and their newest addition, Ryan, who will turn 2 in July.

Ayesha Curry’s branding journey started with a blog. Her Instagram account grew to more than 5 million followers. She followed up with a cookbook last year. Then there is a pop-up restaurant, her Food Network show, now in its second season, a meal-kit subscription service, an upcoming cookware line and an initiative to help families become more conscious about food waste.

“It’s been such a dream come true for me because as a little girl, that’s what I would do, I would just watch people cook all day,” Curry, 28, told The Undefeated. “It’s so crazy for life to come full circle and for me to have this opportunity. It’s been a great experience for me. I love it so much.”

Growing up, she took a keen interest in cooking personalities such as Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse.

“I watched them, and I studied them, and I looked at their hands,” she said. “I definitely learned from my mom and my grandma. I come from a Jamaican family. That’s my background. The food is so full of flavor. There’s no other option for you but to know how to cook. I was always in the kitchen from a little girl … watching them … helping them. I’ve just fallen in love with food and cooking time and time again. I love it.”

Her book, The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well, was released in September 2016. A month later, her new cooking show, Ayesha’s Homemade, premiered on the Food Network.

She recently launched a meal-kit delivery service, Homemade.

“We’re in our fifth week now with our meal kit,” Ayesha Curry said. “We’re the only nationwide company that is catering to families. The main focus in the program is family. It’s about making it a weekly event. The whole goal is preparing a family meal at home. Positive response. People have been loving it so much.”

Homemade is developing an online community for subscribers, who will get weekly live streaming access of her cooking.

“With the meal kit, for me it’s about helping people find that ease of life,” Curry said. “Even for myself, I created it because I needed something to help me at least once a week with dinner so that when I was coming home after a long day’s work I was having to worry about like where the food was coming from or having to stop in the grocery store. I know that one night a week everything’s done and I feel like, especially as millennials, we are looking for ways to have that ease of life because we all are so busy and so that’s why I have the meal kits. Just having things in your life to have that ease of life is so important for me. I think that’s how I try and keep it all together.”

People who plan their meals typically have lower grocery bills and make fewer shopping trips, resulting in less wasted food.

“A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to cooking meals,” she said. “I have people ask me all that time. It’s saving time and it’s saving money.”

Curry partnered with chef Michael Mina to open International Smoke, a barbecue-themed restaurant that grew from a pop-up concept in Mina’s San Francisco space RN74, in 2016. It’s due to launch in June.

She is also concerned about food waste, a global problem that affects the environment, economy and food security. She recently partnered with Salvage Supperclub, an organization that raises awareness about food waste by encouraging in-home meal preparers to retain food they would usually throw out. The group says that the average American family wastes about $1,600 of food a year and that food is now the largest contributor to landfills.

In honor of Earth Month, Curry hosted her first Salvage Supperclub dinner in Los Angeles on April 19. Attendees enjoyed a seven-course tasting menu featuring ingredients that were perfectly fine but otherwise would have ended up in the landfill. The event was held in a repurposed dumpster to encourage a conversation about the impact of food waste on the environment.

Curry said she wants to help families love food more and waste it less to help them save money, time and the environment. “I want to figure out a way to not waste the food and turn it into to something cool,” Curry said. “I love that creative process.”

Her busy lifestyle requires a lot of balancing, but she remains inspired.

“I think it’s a learning process for me still,” she said. “Having great women around me and knowing that the women around you are going to be realizing that I’m not alone. I’m never going to feel like I’m giving enough.”

Her advice to busy moms is to “do it headfirst, think about it later, know that everybody’s good, my husband’s happy. If the laundry’s not done, it’ll happen later. Don’t sweat the small stuff, basically. I think also figuring out ways to simplify your life is how you create that so-called balance.”

Miss USA 2017 Kara McCullough: ‘Don’t ever doubt yourself’ The second black woman (and D.C. resident) in two years to take the tiara is all about the power of confidence

Women of color have now taken home the Miss USA crown two years in a row. On May 14, Miss D.C. 2017, Kara McCullough, went “back to back” when she became the 66th Miss USA. Army Reserve officer Deshauna Barber, Miss D.C. 2016, won the competition the year before.

McCullough joked early on in the Miss USA 2017 pageant about being “like Drake” in her hopes of being the second consecutive black woman from the District of Columbia to win the crown, and it all came to fruition. Leading up to the competition, the 25-year-old said, she sat down to have dinner with her coach and was asked, “Do you think you can be Miss USA?” Her answer: “Of course,” she explained.

McCullough admitted, though, that she wasn’t fully confident in her ability to take the title. The hardest task, she said, was not strutting her stuff across the stage or answering the judges’ questions (although her answer on health care did cause quite a stir). For the reigning Miss USA, most difficult task was believing that she actually had the goods to walk away with the crown. But she did lean in and brought to the stage an absolute faith that she would be crowned Miss USA.

“Like, this could be yours,” McCullough told The Undefeated. “So go after it, which is a message for women everywhere. Have confidence. Don’t ever doubt yourself. It’s OK to celebrate your accomplishments. Just really have confidence, because no one can hold you back but yourself.”

The job of Miss USA will take McCullough away from her day job as a scientist for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a bit into the world of philanthropy, world traveling and, she hopes, making change. The newly crowned queen is looking to inspire youth and continue making her parents proud. She also hopes to inspire kids everywhere through her personal project, Science Exploration for Kids.

“As Miss USA, I’m really looking forward to going to the schools and continuing to do science projects with the kids. I’m also looking forward to going to high schools as well. Doing symposiums and seminars, maybe helping them with their college essays. Showing them the benefits of majoring in a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathmatics] subject and the job opportunities that are available while you’re in college, internships, as well as when you graduate. I’m really looking forward to working with the Miss Universe organization on so many aspects when it comes to STEM enrichment in children.”


The South Carolina State University graduate was positioned for success by her love for sports. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a concentration in radiochemistry. McCullough found a love for playing basketball as a freshman in high school when her family relocated back to Virginia Beach, Virginia, after living in Japan. She was named captain of her junior varsity team and later captain of her varsity team during her senior year.

“I finally had an opportunity to be a part of something, to be a part of a team,” McCullough said. “It felt really good to say I was on the basketball team.”

She also encourages the Bethesda Storm, a basketball team of sixth- and seventh-graders that she coaches with similar messages. What began as an outlet for her to interact with children and give back to her community over a year and a half ago became another love for her.

“I didn’t start playing until the ninth grade, but to see these ladies on the court, it really touches my heart because they’re putting effort into the game and it shows their passion for it. I tell them, those are going to fuel you past the basketball courts. The lessons you learn during practice, I’m giving you to take off the court as well. They were so receptive. I love those girls to death.”

When asked what’s the one thing she hopes to impress upon us all, her answer is simple: “Have no fear.”

Throughout it all, she credits her parents for keeping her grounded and hardworking.

“ ‘You know, KD [her parents’ nickname for her], you’re beautiful on the outside, but you’ve never been a nasty or ugly person,’ ” McCullough said, recalling a statement from her mom. “To hear my mother actually say that is reassuring. My dad called me Monday to tell me about how he went to the cleaners back home in Virginia Beach, and they have an article of me posted on the wall. He told me, ‘You know, my chest swole up. Like, you know that’s my daughter, right? Kara, you really made Daddy’s heart happy. My chest is big, like, my daughter is Miss USA.’ ”

According to the Miss USA website, McCullough’s mother is a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer. She was born in Naples, Italy, and was raised in Virginia Beach before moving to Washington, D.C.


Two of her responses during the pageant sparked controversy. When asked whether affordable health care is a right for all Americans, McCullough replied, “I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted health care, and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs. So, therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunity to have health care, as well as jobs, to all the American citizens worldwide.”

McCullough also explained that she prefers the term “equalism” to “feminism.”

“I try not to consider myself, like, this die-hard like, ‘Oh, I don’t really care about men,’ ” she said at the pageant. “But one thing I’m going to say is, though, women, we are just as equal as men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace.”

In an interview with Good Morning America, McCullough wanted to clarify both comments, although she was not surprised by the backlash.

“For me, where I work at with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ‘equalism’ is more of a term of understanding that no matter your gender, you are still just kind of given the same accolades on your work,” McCullough said on GMA. “I believe that if a person does a good job, they should be, you know, credited for that in a sense.”

She added, “I don’t want anyone to look at it as if I’m not all about women’s rights, because I am. We deserve a lot when it comes to opportunity in the workplace, as well as just like leadership positions. I’ve seen and witnessed firsthand the impact that women have.”

Summer 2017 movies are full of melanin and just plain cool John Boyega, Rihanna, Kevin Hart, Kerry Washington and ‘Tupac’: an opinionated summer film guide

All that hot weather we’ve been wishing, hoping and praying for has finally arrived — so now it’s time to head indoors! Go ahead and pack your snacks — and stuff ’em far down in your purse: Summer movie (and blockbuster) season is upon us. A number of highly anticipated films are finally hitting the multiplex, and The Undefeated Culture team has you covered on which ones are worth ordering online in advance. Now, let’s all go to the movies!


Baywatch | May 25

Frank Masi/Paramount Pictures

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, Zac Efron, Ilfenesh Hadera

Baywatch? More like Baewatch, amirite? Either way, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new film surely will be an excellent introduction to summer blockbusters everywhere. At 45, and fresh off so much success of The Fate of the Furious that there’s talk of his own spinoff, Johnson is at his absolute best. He can do big-deal movie thrillers, premium cable TV shows, prime-time network sketch comedy or just about anything else he decides to take on. In this film, he brings David Hasselhoff’s beloved ’90s TV series to the big screen and teaches a new recruit (played by Efron) the tricks of the trade, all in the name of solving a big old criminal plot. We smell what’s cooking.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie | June 2

Studio: DreamWorks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment

Directed by: David Soren

Featuring: Kevin Hart, Jordan Peele, Ed Helms

Kevin Hart already took home an award for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie — well, sort of. After the animated film’s late May premiere, Hart presented and jokingly accepted the award for “top collaboration” at the Billboard Music Awards with Underpants co-star Helms. In the film, based upon Dav Pilkey’s best-selling children’s novel series, Hart voices fourth-grader George Beard, who teams up with his best friend Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) to hypnotize their cruel school principal, Mr. Krupp (Helms), into believing he’s Captain Underpants, the hero of the comics that George and Harold write together. Peele follows up his critically acclaimed thriller Get Out as the voice of George and Harold’s nemesis: child prodigy Melvin Sneedly. Watch out, Despicable Me 3Captain Underpants might just be the best animated movie of the summer.

Wonder Woman | June 2

Studio: DC Entertainment

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Featuring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Some of us have been waiting for a Wonder Woman feature film since Lynda Carter twirled her way into superhero lore back in the ’70s. So, stakes is high (as De La Soul would say) for the first female-led film to flesh out the mythic story of Princess Diana since Jennifer Garner portrayed Elektra in 2005. Israeli actress Gal Gadot, best known for playing Gisele Yashar in the unstoppable Fast & Furious movie franchise, is the perfect behind-kicking, take-no-prisoners crime fighter.

The Mummy | June 9

Studio: K/O Paper Products and Sean Daniel Company

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman

Featuring: Courtney B. Vance, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella

Courtney B. Vance continues to ride high on his Emmy-winning portrayal of famed attorney Johnnie Cochran in FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson. In Mummy month, Vance takes on his newest challenge, starring alongside Cruise, Wallis and Boutella in a reboot of the box office series that Brendan Fraser made an international success (and inspired a roller coaster!). Vance plays a colonel in the film.

All Eyez on Me | June 16

Studio: Morgan Creek Productions

Directed by: Benny Boom

Featuring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Jamal Woolard, Danai Gurira, Jamie Hector

After years of setbacks and legal dramas, the life and times of Tupac Shakur will hit the big screen in one of the most anticipated films of the year. Shakur’s saga has been the subject of seemingly countless documentaries since his 1996 murder, including a highly anticipated Steve McQueen-directed doc, but Eyez ranks as the first time ’Pac’s story receives the biopic treatment. And, much like the man himself, the film doesn’t come without its share of controversy. Shakur’s family does not support the movie, according to sources. So it’ll be interesting to see how the depiction of rap’s most beloved martyr plays out.

Cars 3 | June 16

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Directed by: Brian Fee

Featuring: Kerry Washington, Owen Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Chris Cooper

If you’ve got the kids with you, it’s probably best you don’t take them to see All Eyez On Me. However, variety is the spice of life, and while Kerry Washington is the proud mom of Isabelle, 2, and Caleb, 5 months, it’s going to be a while before they understand the significance of mom’s fabled role as Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal. That being said, it’s easy to imagine Mama Washington as very happy showing her kids her first animated role. She’ll be playing Natalie Certain. In her words, Certain is the “super-smarty-pants statistician” who “knows everything there is to know about the ins and outs of statistics when it comes to racing.” Vroom.

Transformers : The Last Knight | June 21

Studio: di Bonaventura Pictures and Hasbro Studios

Directed by: Michael Bay

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

C’mon, son. Not another Transformers movie. This is the fifth installment of the series that debuted in 2007 with Shia LaBeouf in the lead. With Michael Bay in the director’s chair, these films are guaranteed to be action-packed, and people love them enough to have turned Transformers into a billion-dollar franchise. But, man, the plots of the past few movies have been absolute struggles, and now Mark Wahlberg is the main character. Meh. Will we go see Transformers: The Last Knight this summer? Probably. Only to support the homie Tyrese, though.

The Bad Batch | June 23

Studio: Annapurna Pictures and VICE Films

Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Featuring: Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey

So there are cannibals. Yep. From the director of the buzzy “first Iranian vampire Western” emerges a film around a bunch of steroid-abusing weightlifters living in a camp based in what screams dystopian America. There’s a cult leader in another place called Comfort, and everything seems to be a comment on everything going on right now in real life. The film has been called “creepy … savage,” and if that’s your cup of tea, with Lisa Bonet’s husband Jason Momoa on deck as well, then your summer is already made.

Baby Driver | Aug. 11

Studio: Big Talk Productions, Working Title Films and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

Yasssss to having a tiny bit of anticipation for this film: It’s been described as “an action movie … powered by music.” Prepare yourself for some laughs now, ’cause Driver — though Wright calls it “visceral, darker, more cynical” — is sure to spark an LOL or two or three. We haven’t seen Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey in the same film since Seth Gordon’s 2011 Horrible Bosses, and they had us cracking up, all up and through there. This action-packed “dark” comedy is the fix you need if you like fast cars, crime and humor. It involves a not-well-planned heist that could take a wrong turn at any time. The getaway driver is a kid named Baby who was browbeaten into working for the biggest boss (Spacey, not Rick Ross) in the crime business. Foxx plays the role of Bats, part of the crime crew.

Spider-Man: Homecoming | July 27

Studio: Marvel Studios

Directed by: Jon Watts

Featuring: Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Garcelle Beauvais

Peter Parker just wants to be a normal kid. But we all know he can’t be because of a bite from a genetically modified gangster spider that gives him superhuman spidey qualities. We’re thrilled about this reboot because it’ll be far more multicultural than we’ve seen from this series before — joining the cast are Zendaya as the super-smart Michelle, Buress as a know-nothing gym teacher and Bokeem Woodbine as Shocker, a criminal who is going to give Spider-Man a run for his web. Also in this film are Garcelle Beauvais and Donald Glover. It’s lit!

Wish Upon | July 14

Studio: Busted Shark Productions

Directed by: John Leonetti

Featuring: Sydney Park, Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn

Basically: a super-scary movie about being careful what you wish for. King, who was so great in 2013’s The Conjuring, gets seven wishes from her hoarder dad, and what had been a life of embarrassment and sadness is suddenly all gravy — until it isn’t. The Walking Dead’s Park (formerly of Nickelodeon’s Instant Mom) is in a classic best friend role.

Lady Macbeth | July 14

Studio: BBC Films

Director: William Oldroyd

Featuring: Cosmo Jarvis, Florence Pugh, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank

Having already made its way around the festival circuit to rave reviews, this film, set in Victorian England and focused clearly on “themes of abuse, violence, race and class,” is a summer thriller you can’t miss. Plus, it apparently has “more black characters than all the Austens and Downtons put together.” A racially ambiguous Cosmo Jarvis stars opposite his lover, lady of the house Florence Pugh. Naomi Ackie plays a maid, but this is not The Help. An adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this film is noir-ish, it’s sexy and, perhaps most alluring of all, it’s quite the opposite of the typical, whitewashed 19th-century period film.

War for the Planet of the Apes | July 14

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Director: Matt Reeves

Featuring: Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis

Break out your “Rest In Peace Harambe” T-shirts for this one. Our boy Harambe surely would’ve gone down swinging in the epic battle between apes and humans that will be depicted in July’s War for the Planet, the third installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and followed up with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. It’s tough to pick sides between the apes, led by their intelligent king chimpanzee Caesar, and the humans, led by Col. McCullough, who’s played by the one and only Woody Harrelson. Harambe will be cheering on his homies from heaven.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets | July 21

Studio: EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films

Directed by: Luc Besson

Featuring: Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Herbie Hancock

If you’re into sci-fi flicks where groups of species live in perfect harmony appreciating diverse cultures and experiences until an antagonist threatens to destroy everything with a pulse, this one’s for you. As it relates to Rihanna? The “Needed Me” singer stars as a shape-shifting entertainer named Bubble, and director Luc Besson described her as a complete joy to work with. The futuristic thriller is just the latest in a growing thespian résumé for RihRih. She starred as Marion Crane in the final season of Bates Motel and has a leading role in the new Ocean’s Eleven all-ladies-everything adaptation, Ocean’s Eight.

Girls Trip | July 21

Studio: Will Packer Productions

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Featuring: Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish

We’ve never seen black women on film like this before — sex-positive, carefree and ready for the turn-up. From producer extraordinaire Will Packer, four college friends reunite and head down to New Orleans for the Essence Festival seeking a much-needed reprieve from the melodramas of everyday life. The girls are on tilt: A lot of raunchy, good-natured fun goes down — and we’re all the way here for it.

The Dark Tower | Aug. 4

Studio: Weed Road Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel

Featuring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick

Yo, Stringer Bell is back! The fine-as-hell criminal mastermind is not playing with these Dominican and Greek drug lords who are out here trying to mess with his money on the rough streets of Baltimore. OK, that’s a lie. But some of us love The Wire and Idris Elba so much that things like movie plots, co-stars and origin story revelations are completely immaterial. So: all right, fine. Elba plays the last Gunslinger, a heroic savior in Stephen King’s sci-fi multiverse book series of the same name. He’s trying to save the Dark Tower from falling and keep civilization from crumbling, or some such thing. Whatever. Did we mention that Idris Elba is in it and has, like, a lot of scenes in the whole movie? Yeah, some of us are very excited.

Detroit | Aug. 4

Studio: Annapurna Pictures

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Featuring: John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie

Please, please, please let this film, which is a kind of behind-the-scenes of the 1967 Detroit riots, be on the up-and-up. Folks were nervous (and rightly so) because, according to the initial trailer and the IMDB credit list, there appears to be an erasure of black women. From the director of Zero Dark Thirty, this film is poised to tell the story of the horrifyingly relevant Algiers Motel Incident that occurred during the 1967 racial unrest in the Motor City, which was then perhaps the most industrially significant city in the nation.

Ingrid Goes West | Aug. 4

Studio: Star Thrower Entertainment and 141 Entertainment

Directed by: Matt Spicer

Featuring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell and Billy Magnussen

O’Shea Jr. takes on his next big screen task — but this time he’s not playing his famous father. Instead, it’s a supporting role as Aubrey Plaza’s love interest in the dark comedy that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance Festival. Jackson credited his real-life love of Batman, of all things, with helping him land the role: His character in the film is a screenwriter obsessed with the legendary superhero.

Nutjob 2: Nutty by Nature | Aug. 11

Studio: ToonBox Entertainment, Red Rover International and Gulfstream Pictures

Directed by: Cal Brunker

Featuring: Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Will Arnett, Jackie Chan, Katherine Heigl

Listen. Maya Rudolph and all her “funniness” can never steer you wrong, even in animation. Whether you’re planning a staycation with the kids or you want to keep them busy on a random day, this summer movie will do the trick. Nutjob 2: Nutty By Nature picks up with Surly Squirrel and his homies. This time they are battling the evil mayor of Oakton, who is trying to get rid of their home, Liberty Park, to build an amusement park. But these animal friends are not at all here for it. They’re taking back their territory.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard | Aug. 18

Studio: Millennium Films and Cristal Pictures

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman

What we do know is there is a whole lot of profanity in this R-rated buddy movie: Jackson is a superefficient hitman who must be guarded by the exasperated Reynolds. Not every black and white character-driven smart-guy bromance can be the original 1982 48 Hrs. But here’s hoping?