Rihanna truly in love — what would that album sound like? The world is clamoring for music from a happily dating creative titan of business — how will life influence Robyn Fenty’s art?

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is growing up.” James Baldwin

Venture at your own risk, into Rihanna’s Instagram comments. Some of the chat is difficult to follow — unless one is fluent in Navy lingo (her intensely loyal fan base) or emoji talk. But millions of the 66.7 million global fans of @badgalriri are in her comments supporting the superstar’s continuous transformation into, among other things, a modern-day Madam C.J. Walker.

The self-proclaimed bad girl is the quarterback of three brands: Fenty Beauty, Fenty PUMA and her body-positive lingerie line Savage x Fenty. As CEO and creator of Fenty Beauty, Rihanna is involved in every step of the process, from ideation to production to marketing, and the brand is not only a financial phenomenon but also, particularly for women of color, a cultural lifeline. “Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter,” Rihanna told Time in 2017. “That’s something I will never get over.” What fuels her apparel and cosmetics empire is the same secret sauce that powers her music: passion.

Which brings us to another and final frontier of Rihanna’s Instagram comments: the relentless cries for new music. Fans aren’t just asking, either. They’re demanding.


Rihanna’s professional résumé, as 2019 kicks off, is unimpeachable. Harvard Humanitarian of the Year. Accomplished actress. Top-selling digital artist of all time. She said no to the Super Bowl, opting instead for solidarity with exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick. President Donald Trump caught smoke too. There’s her estimated net worth of more than a quarter-billion dollars. And she’s only five No. 1 hits away from passing Mariah Carey for the most by a woman in Billboard history — and seven away from The Beatles for the most, period. Whenever Rihanna does decide to release music, it will be a worldwide event.

She’s also experienced the pain of losing love both romantic and blood-bound. Rihanna lost her cousin Tavon Kaiseen Alleyne to gun violence the day after Christmas in 2017. “Now each time I hug somebody lately, I hug them like it’s the last time,” she said. “That may be my biggest life lesson, not to wait on anything, not even tomorrow.”

Which brings us to the final frontier of Rihanna’s Instagram comments: the relentless cries for new music.

Nearly three years have passed since the release of Rihanna’s magnum opus, Anti. And it’s been nearly two years since we’ve heard music from her: the features on DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” Kendrick Lamar’s “LOYALTY.,” and N.E.R.D’s “Lemon.” Snubbed by the Grammys, Anti pushed Rihanna’s career to a new stratosphere. A deeply personal, sensual and at times gut-wrenching listen, it was the singer’s first album since 2012’s Unapologetic — and one that broke the trend of Rihanna dropping an album every year (except 2008) since 2005.

Now, Rihanna, in her Instagram comments, has confirmed that her musical sabbatical will end in 2019, but she has not confirmed much else. Some suggest her new work may take the form of a reggae-inspired album. Other reports suggest it could be a double album: one-half island vibes and the other half pop-driven. Like Rihanna herself, though, the only predictable reality is the unpredictable one. Which is why the only information known about her film Guava Island with Donald Glover … is that she’s involved in a project with Donald Glover called Guava Island.

Yes, Rihanna is that one who will pop off if the tea leaves read as such — yet she’s also this sweet, almost unrealistically accessible supercelebrity. One with personal connections to fans. She’s also a woman who seems in control of and confident in her sexual agency and prowess.

Now almost a year into her 30s, Rihanna — who has been linked over the past decade to Matt Kemp, Drake and Shia LaBeouf — is reportedly “smitten” but still mysterious about her love life with billionaire Saudi boyfriend Hassan Jameel. But for Robyn Fenty, life so often influences art. She’s fallen out of love. She’s fantasized about the concept of love. She’s longed for love. It seems she’s always loved herself. But what if this time — she’s actually in love?


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Rihanna’s career completely shifted a decade ago when she was assaulted by Chris Brown. Before the assault, they were one of the music industry’s most beloved young couples, groomed for the kind of success in which then-newlyweds Jay-Z and Beyoncé were flourishing.

“I’d say … to any young girl who is going through domestic violence, don’t react out of love.” — Rihanna

Both burst onto the scene in 2005: Brown with the Top 10 hits “Run It!” and “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)” and Rihanna with the platinum No. 2 pop single “Pon de Replay.” Brown was pegged by many, including Rolling Stone, as the next Michael Jackson. Billboard named him Artist of the Year in 2008. That same year, Rihanna took home her first Grammy for “Umbrella,” her pop ditty with Jay-Z. It’s both fascinating and pointless to envision an alternate universe where Brown and Rihanna perform, as they were scheduled to, at the 2009 Grammys.

“To fall in love with your best friend it … can be scary because … the emotions … they get the best of you. Life takes over,” she told Diane Sawyer in November 2009. “The more in love we became, the more dangerous we became for each other, equally as dangerous.”

All of it called to mind the high-profile, tumultuous relationships of K-Ci Hailey and Mary J. Blige, Sean Penn and Madonna (although the singer, in a 2015 court document, said Penn never physically assaulted her) and Andre Rison and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. What happened in that Lamborghini on Grammy night 2009 — according to Brown, it began with a confirmation of infidelity on his part — ended with pictures of a viciously battered Rihanna leaked to TMZ.

“I felt like people were making it into a fun topic on the Internet, and it’s my life,” she said a decade ago. “… I was disappointed, especially when I found out the photo was [supposedly leaked] by two women.”

There was a short-lived reconciliation, and the burden of that decision and how it affected women she’d never meet kept Rihanna up at night. “I’d say … to any young girl who is going through domestic violence, don’t react out of love,” she said. “F— love.”

The 2009 incident played out in Rihanna’s Rated R, the album she began working on a month after the assault. She cried and lashed out at herself on the record. “[R] was very therapeutic for me,” she said. “I got to vent.” Records such as “Rude Boy” and “Russian Roulette” and “Te Amo” all became international hits, all showcasing a different side of a suddenly vulnerable Rihanna — but a Rihanna refusing to suffer in silence. I still love you, but I can’t do this, she confessed on “Stupid in Love.” Originally written for Brandy, the song’s pleas were tailor-made for Rihanna’s life in the moment: I may be dumb / But I’m not stupid.

Then came the 2011 worldwide smash “We Found Love,” from Talk That Talk. Traces of past love lingered in her music, as the video featured a Chris Brown look-alike and Rihanna in a passionately combative, bizarro fairy-tale companionship. But Rihanna’s career wasn’t just trending upward — she was skyrocketing. As “Love” spent its first 10 weeks atop the Billboard 100, the woman behind the music seemed not so different from many others in their 20s. Falling in and out of love, or what felt like love. Burying oneself in work.

“I’m not necessarily happy being single. It’s not really that cool,” she told Ellen DeGeneres. “[Putting my time into my work] definitely affects my personal life. My personal life is pretty much nonexistent.” Rihanna was then, and is now, self-reliant. It’s a form of protection and projection. But we’re all human, and Rihanna gets lonely too.

Isolation and heartbreak have historically made for provocative soundtracks. Artists such as Blige, Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, Amy Winehouse, Adele and others have all benefited, and suffered, from centering authentic emotional strife. Rihanna doesn’t completely fall into that wheelhouse — but insecurity and vulnerability rest in her most personal song performances. Don’t slip, don’t slip / ’Cause a n—- might push up on it/ Don’t really wanna lose this moment, she pleads on “Loveeeeeee Song” from Unapologetic. Why window-shop when you own this? From the same album, “No Love Allowed”: He’s the only one-one-one I ever let get the best of me/ He say he care, but no tears in his eyes/ And ask me if I’m alright/ N—-, is you blind? They resonate. We’re all insecure and vulnerable about someone.

Rihanna’s professional résumé, as 2019 kicks off, is unimpeachable.

And the culture industry’s rapid creation of rumors freaked her out. “I’ve had to be so conscious about people — what they say and why they want to be with me, why people want to sleep with me,” she said. “It makes me very guarded and protective. I’ve learned the hard way.”

A decade of searching for the unconditional affection of someone who gets her, combined with her huge impact on culture beyond music and propensity to reveal personal growth in her music: A 2019 album from Rihanna is nothing short of tantalizing. What separates Rihanna from the rest of what figures to be a loaded musical palette in 2019 is that nearly 15 years into her career, she’s still an impossible-to-abandon mystery.

I know you’ve been hurt by someone else / I can tell by the way you carry yourself / If you let me, here’s what I’ll do/ I’ll take care of you.

— 2011’s “Take Care”

Love was the topic near her heart in the weeks leading up to Anti. That’s why the album’s songs bled together. Lustful chemistry in “Work.” Regal eroticism in “Sex with Me.” Revenge in “Needed Me.” Companionship in “Close to You.” Drunken apologies in “Higher.” All part of the emotional tool kit that comes with offering a piece of her soul.

“I haven’t been having sex, or even really seeing anybody, because I don’t want to wake up the next day feeling guilty,” she told Vanity Fair. “I mean I get horny, I’m human, I’m a woman, I want to have sex. But what am I going to do — just find the first random cute dude that I think is going to be a great right-for-the-night and then tomorrow I wake up feeling empty and hollow? I can’t do it to myself. I cannot. It has a little bit to do with fame and a lot to do with the woman that I am. And that saves me.”

So let unnamed sources talk about how enamored Rihanna is with beau Jameel. She herself is as tight-lipped about her love life as she’s ever been, which, in 2019, makes her a unicorn. But follow her actions. Listen to her words closely. She’s in a different place. In her most intimate moments, the longing for a family to call her own follows her — to repeat the blessings she grew up with and erase the generational curses she couldn’t avoid. Motherhood inspires her. “I’m not gonna be able to take my eyes off my kid,” she said last year. “I know that already about myself.”

Whenever she’s ready to tackle the topic again, whenever she’s ready to let the world in on a journey that became global fodder a decade ago, one can bet it won’t be in her Instagram comments.

Her most intimate self is revealed through music. There’s this enigmatic recklessness in her that the world clamors for. There’s something about a bad girl with good intentions. A rebel with a cause whose nearly unparalleled success still leaves her with the same insecurities, fears and desires as those who worship the ground she walks upon. Robyn Fenty’s music matters because she’s grown along with her catalog. How rare that is cannot be understated.

In Vogue’s 2018 profile, she asked, “OK, so now that I’m 30, are there things I’m supposed to do? … What do you do at 30?” We’re about to find out. And Rihanna’s never marched to the beat of her own drum. She’s the whole parade.

After trip to Mecca together, the path splits for NFL brothers Hamza Abdullah never played again and battled depression. Younger brother Husain played three more years in the league.

A look at the intersection of sports, faith and religion

Brothers and NFL defensive backs Hamza and Husain Abdullah decided they needed a break from football.

It was 2012, and the two men, both devout Muslims, were about to enter free agency. Husain, the younger brother, suggested they perform hajj, the five-day pilgrimage to Mecca and the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia. That year, hajj occurred in October — right in the thick of football season. NFL players typically get only four days off per month during the regular season, and those days can’t be grouped together.

The brothers decided they would take the season off. Earlier that year, retired San Diego Chargers player Junior Seau fatally shot himself in the chest. The legendary linebacker was not a Muslim or a teammate to either Abdullah brother, but he was their role model.

“He was the NFL,” said Hamza. “He was our hero. He gave his life for the game of football.”

They were heartbroken, and they worried it could happen to them.

For both men, the journey to Mecca represented a chance to focus on what mattered most to them: being good husbands, fathers, Muslims and community members. But the time off also put their football careers at risk.

Hamza never played in the league again and suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. Husain caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs for three more seasons but suffered multiple concussions and faced a controversial penalty for sliding into prayer after a touchdown.

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For the brothers, it was their faith that helped them withstand being Muslim in the NFL through Ramadan and their transition out of the league. Now it guides the way they support their families, colleagues and surrounding community.

One brother is out of the league

When the Abdullah brothers returned home from Mecca, they set their sights on training and getting signed for the 2013 season.

“My faith shouldn’t be a burden. It’s an asset,” Hamza said.

“I started working out more and watching film,” added Hamza, who had played in a reserve role for the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals. “Husain worked on a tackling style that helped to protect his head.”

Husain, who had played four seasons in Minnesota, was picked up by the Chiefs in February 2013. Hamza was happy for his brother and felt optimistic that he would get a call too. But the NFL draft passed, summer training camp passed and, eventually, Hamza and his agent stopped calling each other. When the 2013 season officially started in September, he knew his NFL career was over.

“It was painful,” said Hamza, now 35. “I had to mentally shift from being an active player to a retired player.”

Depression started to set in.

“At that time, it was tough because I didn’t know why I was feeling so low and so down. I felt like I was just underneath everything. When I first sought therapy, the therapist implored me to hold on to my faith.”

Hamza had been released three times during his seven-season NFL career, including twice during the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

During Ramadan, he developed a routine to keep up his calories and stay hydrated. He made sure to weigh at least 220 pounds at the beginning of the month because he knew he would lose weight. Once Ramadan started, he would rise before dawn to eat breakfast, then start a day that involved practice, weight training, napping, reading the Quran, attending meetings and then breaking his fast after dusk. In addition to filling up on food, he drank at least half a gallon of water and 64 ounces of Gatorade and Pedialyte over the course of an evening.

Hamza signed with the Cardinals in 2009 and said that team felt more accepting of his faith and his practice of Ramadan. He said the trainers were more willing to work with him. “They thought that [embracing my faith] made me a better player and representative of the team.”

Arizona Cardinals’ Hamza Abdullah lines up against the Houston Texans during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010 in Glendale, Ariz.

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

In solidarity, his teammate Michael Adams would fast from foods that weren’t good for him. “It meant a lot to me,” Hamza said of Adams’ support.

Hamza didn’t complete his fast in 2011, his last year in the league. Ramadan occurred in the hottest part of the summer, and he lost 12 pounds in one day. “I prayed about it and asked that God give me the strength to walk in his path.”

Leaving the NFL would test his faith, family and friendships.

The frustration of navigating the NFL’s benefits system in addition to financial woes and depression came to a head on Halloween 2013. Hamza took his grievances to Twitter, posting some 50 tweets lambasting the league for issues ranging from misdiagnosing injuries to treating players like slaves. He also revealed he had been contemplating suicide.

“Every time I go to sleep, I pray that Allah takes care of my family, just in case I don’t wake up,” he tweeted. “And quietly, I’m disappointed sometimes when I do wake up. I’m married to a beautiful wife, have 3 beautiful children, and my financially GOOD, yet I don’t want to wake up.”

He didn’t act on these thoughts at the time. He tried to focus on building a new life, moving his family from Arizona to Southern California to Dallas and finally to Seattle, where they currently reside. He did motivational speaking engagements and published a memoir, Come Follow Me: A Memoir. The NFL. A Transition. A Challenge. A Change.

But Hamza still struggled with depression, and in 2017 he checked into an inpatient therapy facility in Southern California that had treated football players in the past. That first stay lasted 30 days. He returned for two months over summer 2018.

“I no longer wanted to live if I was harming or hurting the people I love the most,” Hamza said. “When I felt like I couldn’t contribute anymore, I felt like it was over.”

While in the facility, he took pills and slit his wrists. Fortunately, the clinical director found him before he lost consciousness. Hamza turned to his faith for help.

“I asked God to forgive me for wanting to end my life,” he said. “God is forgiving and merciful.”

Hamza has since returned to Seattle and sees a therapist regularly. A second book about the transition of NFL players into retirement is in the works.

The other brother returns to the field

Husain was 27, two years younger than his brother, when they decided to go to Mecca. He was focused on the social and physical sacrifices required to thrive as Muslims and professional football players. (Both men had played in college for Washington State.)

“It’s not whether you can or can’t, it’s just are you willing to take that lonely road,” said Husain, now 33. “It’s more of a lonely journey, because you don’t indulge because of your set of values.”

He loved the game and got along with his teammates and coaches on the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he played from 2008 through 2011. But he suffered four concussions in a year and a half. And he was around people who drank, smoked and gambled, activities that observant Muslims are expected to avoid.

“For me, I started noticing that this is going to end, no matter how much money I make, no matter how much notoriety I get. Anything I do on the football field, I need to make sure I focus my attention on what matters most and put that first,” Husain said.

In 2014, a year after signing with the Chiefs, Husain was doing well. He’d successfully avoided head injuries, and NFL Films and The New York Times had run features about his experience fasting for Ramadan while training. A month later, he made headlines again after intercepting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returning the pick to the end zone. Husain then slid into a prayer, kissing the ground on his knees.

Husain was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Game officials said the slide into the end zone was an illegal celebration. But critics noted that Christian players like Tim Tebow and Brandon Marshall have prayed after scoring without penalty. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid commented, “When you go to Mecca, you should be able to slide wherever you want.” The NFL later said the play should not have been penalized and that Husain would not be fined.

In 2015, Husain got a fifth concussion. His eyesight was affected, and he had to wear glasses to read and watch TV. He tried to stay positive, but he also thought about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He thought about the fates of Seau and other NFL players who’d suffered from impact-related trauma. Although he said he received excellent rehabilitative care from the Chiefs, he decided that continuing to play football was not worth the risks. In March 2016, at the age of 30, Husain retired.

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His transition out of the NFL has been smooth. He earned a master’s degree in dispute resolution and conflict management. He started the Ashab Network, which provides a space for Muslim athletes and artists like college basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad to support each other. He runs a company that helps Amazon deliver packages and is developing a business that provides career coaching for athletes transitioning out of sports. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and two children.

Ask the Abdullah brothers whether they would play in the NFL again if they could do it all over and their answers are quick and as different as they are. Husain is a solid yes. Hamza is a strong no. Hamza added that he would tell Muslim players to wait until they retire to perform hajj.

The NFL’s most cool relevant 11* They’re fashion forward, they give back, they get social — and they play well too. From Kelce to Cohen to a world-famous asterisk, a look at these pros when they go off the grid.


Are artists taking a knee ahead of the Super Bowl halftime show? Travis Scott is reportedly booked, but some fans — possibly even Jay-Z — are opposed to it

Update: TMZ is reporting that Travis Scott has signed on to join Maroon 5 for the group’s Super Bowl LIII halftime performance. The decision certainly adds some hip-hop weight to the show, as Scott has had a massive year, dropping his critically acclaimed No. 1 album Astroworld, and selling out tour dates across the country.

However, Meek Mill has already spoken out against the decision, and fans are also pointing out that it’s only natural for Scott to strive for even more mainstream attention, given his relationship with Kylie Jenner (the couple has a child together).

Now, the NFL has a hip-hop star, weeks of social media publicity thanks to whatever the Kardashians have up their sleeves, and the perception that they do, in fact, welcome urban acts. My prediction: Scott proposes to Jenner onstage.

Variety is also reporting that Jay-Z is trying to talk Scott out of performing.


The NFL may have an accidental decentralized protest on its hands as performing artists take a metaphorical knee ahead of Super Bowl LIII’s halftime show on Feb. 3 in Atlanta. Artists are doing this either in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, or because performing at the show doesn’t do much for their actual or cultural bottom lines. And the league has no one to blame but itself.

In September, a month after news broke that Maroon 5 would be the headliner, speculation abounded as to who might be the special guest or co-headliner. In October, US Weekly reported that Rihanna turned down an offer to perform, citing solidarity with Kaepernick. Over the summer, Jay-Z, who has been vocal about his solidarity with the exiled quarterback, made it known that he’d previously declined to perform at a Super Bowl. And just this week, Variety reports that upward of six acts, from Mary J. Blige to André 3000 have been offered the opportunity to perform with Maroon 5. All, at this time, and citing various reasons, have turned it down.

Jay-Z rapped about the NFL’s biggest musical showcase on his and Beyoncé’s recent, Grammy-nominated “Ape S—”: I said no to the Super Bowl / You need me, I don’t need you / Every night / We in the end zone / Tell the NFL / We in stadiums too. The lyric isn’t hyperbole either, as Jay-Z and Beyonce’s 2018 On the Run II tour grossed upward of $150 million as they performed at stadiums around the world. Yes, even including the very same Mercedes-Benz Stadium that will host the Super Bowl in Atlanta.


The message is clear: These artists, especially the many hip-hop and urban acts on the bill, just aren’t valuable enough for the main stage.

The NFL has yet to make a declaration, but the unofficial official announcement about Maroon 5 was met with near universal confusion and/or disdain. Yes, they’ve been platinum recording artists since their 2002 Songs About Jane, and have headlined seven tours. Regardless, though, having them headline the halftime show is another instance of the NFL picking white or non-urban artists when any number of as-successful black artists would fit.

As the NFL — even with rebounding ratings — loses black cultural cachet (which in so many ways determines overall American cultural cachet), some black artists who may have previously seen the Super Bowl show as a way to reach a wider audience don’t really need it. Artists such as Beyoncé — with 121 million Instagram followers, and Rihanna with 66 million — nearly reach daily the amount of people (roughly 100 million people a year) who watch the Super Bowl in a given year.

The NFL has been at best reluctant and at worst discriminatory in its avoidance of urban artists headlining the halftime show since Justin Timberlake snatched off a piece of Janet Jackson’s top, exposing her breast during Super Bowl XXVII in 2004. It would be three years before another black artist (Prince) even touched the stage, and a rapper has yet to be named as a headliner — despite hip-hop/R&B being America’s foremost cultural music genre, surpassing rock in 2017 (the elephant in the room being the Black Eyed Peas, who headlined in 2011, but they are led by a white female vocalist, and were releasing a brand of music that was hip-hop adjacent at best).

Instead, the NFL has largely opted for legacy acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and The Who, and new pop from Katy Perry, who appeal to so-called middle American audiences. The situation reeks of a league that wants to appeal to its white fan base while ignoring the black fans who are dedicated to it — not to mention the majority of people who play in it. This is the same criticism the league has dealt with in relation to its handling of the Kaepernick protests and the ongoing refusal to rehire him after he kneeled during the national anthem to protest the police brutality and systemic inequality faced by people of color in the United States.

And it’s not like people don’t feel that energy. Take, for instance, Cardi B, who appeared on Maroon 5’s chart-topping “Girls Like You” and seemed a sure bet to join them in their set for the seemingly annual Urban Performer Who Outshines The Vanilla Headliner While Not Being Billed As A Headliner Invitational. But back in February, TMZ cameras caught up with the then still-relative newcomer and asked her — rather sarcastically — when she’d perform in the Super Bowl and she said that she would “when they hire Colin Kaepernick back.”

The situation was easy to dismiss because the idea of Cardi B (known back then for Love & Hip-Hop, and one hit about bloody shoes) being a big enough star for the big game was a long shot. Now, though, as Billboard’s Top New Artist, with seven current Grammy nominations, and a record-breaking year in sales and streaming, Cardi B could surely headline. However, she’s yet to commit to Maroon 5 or the NFL. In September, TMZ reported that Cardi B would only perform if given her own set.

The booking of Grammy-winning Maroon 5 for the 2019 Super Bowl is even more of a transgression given that majority-black Atlanta is an African-American cultural capital with a rich history of music that has dominated the American music scene for most of the 21st century. So it’s absolutely a slap to not have a global superstar from ATL — Usher, TLC, Ludacris, Outkast, or Monica — get the Super Bowl halftime showcase.


But.

The first Bud Light Super Bowl Festival will take place from the Thursday to the Saturday before the game and will feature Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Migos and Ludacris. One night will also feature Aerosmith, who headlined the Super Bowl in 2001.

So it’s clear that the NFL understands there’s a demand to see these acts, both locally and for the swarm of fans who will enter Atlanta for the event. The message is clear, however: These artists, especially the many hip-hop and urban acts on the bill, just aren’t valuable enough for the main stage. So here, perform for our fans off camera. “Between bringing some of the biggest acts out there right now,” said a Budweiser rep, “along with some local Atlanta flavor, we hope that we can give people a chance to come together, drink a few beers and have an unforgettable experience during Super Bowl weekend.”

The situation reeks of a league that wants to appeal to its white fan base while ignoring the black fans who are dedicated to it — not to mention the majority of people who play in it.

But there’s another concert series, curated by Grammy-winning Atlanta legend Jermaine Dupri. He’s collaborated with everyone from Mariah Carey to Usher to Jay Z, and was recently inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Organized by the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee seemingly in direct response to the local artists’ halftime snubs, the concert, free to the public, will be held the week leading up to the game and is set to be a true ode to Atlanta culture with artists such as the Ying Yang Twins, Goodie Mob, Waka Flocka and more to be announced. “I don’t care what anybody say,” Dupri told Atlanta last week, “besides what the people of Atlanta feel is being represented with this show.”

So, sure, the Super Bowl bump exists, with artists enjoying sizable boosts in streams and YouTube views post-performance. That was the major selling point to persuade artists to foot the bill and do a show pro bono for the NFL (the league covers production costs). But such a national TV audience isn’t as important for artists who have many other ways to reach fans in 2018, and especially for black artists who have to weigh the pros and cons of the crossover exposure of a halftime show compared with the potential backlash of looking like a sellout for teaming up with an NFL that has earned the ire of so many black Americans.

Twenty-five years ago, Michael Jackson changed the Super Bowl halftime show forever, transforming the event from a negligible, boring few minutes featuring local marching bands and dancers to a must-see spectacle of the most popular musicians in American history. For these 2½ decades, it has seemed impossible that we’d ever get to a point in which the Super Bowl halftime show would ever lose relevance again. But thanks to the NFL’s handling of the black artists who are at the forefront of pop music and the black fans who support them, the unthinkable is on the horizon: a Super Bowl halftime show that it simply isn’t worth it for artists to be a part of. And one in which fans opt to re-up on pizza and nachos instead of tuning in.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is a heart-stopping, world-shifting romance The first movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s fiction establishes Barry Jenkins as one of America’s finest architects of on-screen intimacy

There is a moment in Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s deceptively simple 1978 portrait of working-class black life, when the character Stan slow dances with his wife.

Stan is shirtless and stressed, and as they move in unison to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” his wife pulls him into the refuge of her arms. It is sensual and sensitive and sweet all at once.

It is, to borrow from modern internet parlance, a MOOD.

If there is anyone who has carried and built upon the legacy established in that one scene, it is writer/director Barry Jenkins. In his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins has fully established himself as one of American cinema’s finest architects of intimacy.

This is the first film adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction. (Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, released in 2017, is a documentary that uses the words of Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House.) Beale Street tells a simple story of thwarted young love. Tish (KiKi Layne), 19, and Fonny (Stephan James), 22, have grown up together in 1970s Harlem. Now, their filial love takes a turn toward romance, the kind that washes over them with waves big enough to smooth the edges of modest-at-best apartments and the stress of financial insecurity. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, move into a downtown loft where Fonny can work on his wood sculpting, and build a life together. But their plans are interrupted by a vengeful police officer.

When a Puerto Rican woman is raped, the officer instructs her to identify Fonny as her assailant. Fonny is jailed for a crime he did not commit. Tish, her sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), her mother, Sharon (Regina King), and her father, Joseph (Colman Domingo), pull together to clear Fonny’s name. Meanwhile, Tish is pregnant. The outlook is grim.

Although racial injustice is the omnipresent truth of Beale Street, it is not the whole of it. Through flashbacks, Jenkins transports his audience to the hopefulness of just-discovered love and the sanctuary it provides from the soul-crushing hardness of a city like New York.

KiKi Layne (left) as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

Beale Street is replete with scenes of Tish and Fonny walking through the rain under a tiny red umbrella after a perfect first date, shrieking in celebration when they finally find a landlord who will rent them a loft, finding home in each other’s eyes as they ride the subway together.

Even as he illustrates the stakes of Fonny’s imprisonment, Jenkins allows his audience to luxuriate in a bitter sort of beauty. The emotional crux of the film hinges on a conversation Fonny has with his friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), who explains how three months in prison broke something in him. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” plays in the background, and a helplessness makes itself known in Daniel’s eyes. The guards can do whatever they want, Daniel tells Fonny. He doesn’t offer specifics. It is enough, and it is terrifying.

As with Moonlight, much of the story of Beale Street relies not on dialogue but on body language, especially on the eyes of its actors. Layne offers a stunning performance, full of innocence but absent naiveté. Jenkins tells stories as though they are symphonies with movements, a point that is punctuated by the spare strings and occasional horns of Beale Street’s score (by composer Nicholas Britell, who also scored Moonlight). Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer also deserves credit for curating selections from John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billy Preston.

On screen, it’s clear that Jenkins believes not just in love but also in romance: real, true, heart-stopping, devoted, world-shifting romance, the kind that isn’t just difficult to find but cuts through cynicism and shame.

Coincidentally, this romantic movie is being released in the same week that the general public is learning about a silent film clip from 1898 called Something Good-Negro Kiss, thought to be the earliest cinematic depiction of black people kissing:

On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced that Something Good-Negro Kiss would be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a rare artifact of black humanity, one that counters the hateful propaganda of minstrelsy and the racist sex panic that declawed films like 1943’s Stormy Weather.

With Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and now Beale Street, Jenkins has added something invaluable to the movie canon: a Sunday kind of love, one that will last, not just past Saturday night but far, far into the future.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is a heart-stopping, world-shifting romance The first movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s fiction establishes Barry Jenkins as one of America’s finest architects of on-screen intimacy

There is a moment in Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s deceptively simple 1978 portrait of working-class black life, when the character Stan slow dances with his wife.

Stan is shirtless and stressed, and as they move in unison to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” his wife pulls him into the refuge of her arms. It is sensual and sensitive and sweet all at once.

It is, to borrow from modern internet parlance, a MOOD.

If there is anyone who has carried and built upon the legacy established in that one scene, it is writer/director Barry Jenkins. In his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins has fully established himself as one of American cinema’s finest architects of intimacy.

This is the first film adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction. (Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, released in 2017, is a documentary that uses the words of Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House.) Beale Street tells a simple story of thwarted young love. Tish (KiKi Layne), 19, and Fonny (Stephan James), 22, have grown up together in 1970s Harlem. Now, their filial love takes a turn toward romance, the kind that washes over them with waves big enough to smooth the edges of modest-at-best apartments and the stress of financial insecurity. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, move into a downtown loft where Fonny can work on his wood sculpting, and build a life together. But their plans are interrupted by a vengeful police officer.

When a Puerto Rican woman is raped, the officer instructs her to identify Fonny as her assailant. Fonny is jailed for a crime he did not commit. Tish, her sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), her mother, Sharon (Regina King), and her father, Joseph (Colman Domingo), pull together to clear Fonny’s name. Meanwhile, Tish is pregnant. The outlook is grim.

Although racial injustice is the omnipresent truth of Beale Street, it is not the whole of it. Through flashbacks, Jenkins transports his audience to the hopefulness of just-discovered love and the sanctuary it provides from the soul-crushing hardness of a city like New York.

KiKi Layne (left) as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

Beale Street is replete with scenes of Tish and Fonny walking through the rain under a tiny red umbrella after a perfect first date, shrieking in celebration when they finally find a landlord who will rent them a loft, finding home in each other’s eyes as they ride the subway together.

Even as he illustrates the stakes of Fonny’s imprisonment, Jenkins allows his audience to luxuriate in a bitter sort of beauty. The emotional crux of the film hinges on a conversation Fonny has with his friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), who explains how three months in prison broke something in him. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” plays in the background, and a helplessness makes itself known in Daniel’s eyes. The guards can do whatever they want, Daniel tells Fonny. He doesn’t offer specifics. It is enough, and it is terrifying.

As with Moonlight, much of the story of Beale Street relies not on dialogue but on body language, especially on the eyes of its actors. Layne offers a stunning performance, full of innocence but absent naiveté. Jenkins tells stories as though they are symphonies with movements, a point that is punctuated by the spare strings and occasional horns of Beale Street’s score (by composer Nicholas Britell, who also scored Moonlight). Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer also deserves credit for curating selections from John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billy Preston.

On screen, it’s clear that Jenkins believes not just in love but also in romance: real, true, heart-stopping, devoted, world-shifting romance, the kind that isn’t just difficult to find but cuts through cynicism and shame.

Coincidentally, this romantic movie is being released in the same week that the general public is learning about a silent film clip from 1898 called Something Good-Negro Kiss, thought to be the earliest cinematic depiction of black people kissing:

On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced that Something Good-Negro Kiss would be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a rare artifact of black humanity, one that counters the hateful propaganda of minstrelsy and the racist sex panic that declawed films like 1943’s Stormy Weather.

With Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and now Beale Street, Jenkins has added something invaluable to the movie canon: a Sunday kind of love, one that will last, not just past Saturday night but far, far into the future.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is a heart-stopping, world-shifting romance The first movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s fiction establishes Barry Jenkins as one of America’s finest architects of on-screen intimacy

There is a moment in Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s deceptively simple 1978 portrait of working-class black life, when the character Stan slow dances with his wife.

Stan is shirtless and stressed, and as they move in unison to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” his wife pulls him into the refuge of her arms. It is sensual and sensitive and sweet all at once.

It is, to borrow from modern internet parlance, a MOOD.

If there is anyone who has carried and built upon the legacy established in that one scene, it is writer/director Barry Jenkins. In his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins has fully established himself as one of American cinema’s finest architects of intimacy.

This is the first film adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction. (Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, released in 2017, is a documentary that uses the words of Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House.) Beale Street tells a simple story of thwarted young love. Tish (KiKi Layne), 19, and Fonny (Stephan James), 22, have grown up together in 1970s Harlem. Now, their filial love takes a turn toward romance, the kind that washes over them with waves big enough to smooth the edges of modest-at-best apartments and the stress of financial insecurity. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, move into a downtown loft where Fonny can work on his wood sculpting, and build a life together. But their plans are interrupted by a vengeful police officer.

When a Puerto Rican woman is raped, the officer instructs her to identify Fonny as her assailant. Fonny is jailed for a crime he did not commit. Tish, her sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), her mother, Sharon (Regina King), and her father, Joseph (Colman Domingo), pull together to clear Fonny’s name. Meanwhile, Tish is pregnant. The outlook is grim.

Although racial injustice is the omnipresent truth of Beale Street, it is not the whole of it. Through flashbacks, Jenkins transports his audience to the hopefulness of just-discovered love and the sanctuary it provides from the soul-crushing hardness of a city like New York.

KiKi Layne (left) as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

Beale Street is replete with scenes of Tish and Fonny walking through the rain under a tiny red umbrella after a perfect first date, shrieking in celebration when they finally find a landlord who will rent them a loft, finding home in each other’s eyes as they ride the subway together.

Even as he illustrates the stakes of Fonny’s imprisonment, Jenkins allows his audience to luxuriate in a bitter sort of beauty. The emotional crux of the film hinges on a conversation Fonny has with his friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), who explains how three months in prison broke something in him. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” plays in the background, and a helplessness makes itself known in Daniel’s eyes. The guards can do whatever they want, Daniel tells Fonny. He doesn’t offer specifics. It is enough, and it is terrifying.

As with Moonlight, much of the story of Beale Street relies not on dialogue but on body language, especially on the eyes of its actors. Layne offers a stunning performance, full of innocence but absent naiveté. Jenkins tells stories as though they are symphonies with movements, a point that is punctuated by the spare strings and occasional horns of Beale Street’s score (by composer Nicholas Britell, who also scored Moonlight). Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer also deserves credit for curating selections from John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billy Preston.

On screen, it’s clear that Jenkins believes not just in love but also in romance: real, true, heart-stopping, devoted, world-shifting romance, the kind that isn’t just difficult to find but cuts through cynicism and shame.

Coincidentally, this romantic movie is being released in the same week that the general public is learning about a silent film clip from 1898 called Something Good-Negro Kiss, thought to be the earliest cinematic depiction of black people kissing:

On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced that Something Good-Negro Kiss would be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a rare artifact of black humanity, one that counters the hateful propaganda of minstrelsy and the racist sex panic that declawed films like 1943’s Stormy Weather.

With Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and now Beale Street, Jenkins has added something invaluable to the movie canon: a Sunday kind of love, one that will last, not just past Saturday night but far, far into the future.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is a heart-stopping, world-shifting romance The first movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s fiction establishes Barry Jenkins as one of America’s finest architects of on-screen intimacy

There is a moment in Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s deceptively simple 1978 portrait of working-class black life, when the character Stan slow dances with his wife.

Stan is shirtless and stressed, and as they move in unison to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” his wife pulls him into the refuge of her arms. It is sensual and sensitive and sweet all at once.

It is, to borrow from modern internet parlance, a MOOD.

If there is anyone who has carried and built upon the legacy established in that one scene, it is writer/director Barry Jenkins. In his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins has fully established himself as one of American cinema’s finest architects of intimacy.

This is the first film adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction. (Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, released in 2017, is a documentary that uses the words of Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House.) Beale Street tells a simple story of thwarted young love. Tish (KiKi Layne), 19, and Fonny (Stephan James), 22, have grown up together in 1970s Harlem. Now, their filial love takes a turn toward romance, the kind that washes over them with waves big enough to smooth the edges of modest-at-best apartments and the stress of financial insecurity. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, move into a downtown loft where Fonny can work on his wood sculpting, and build a life together. But their plans are interrupted by a vengeful police officer.

When a Puerto Rican woman is raped, the officer instructs her to identify Fonny as her assailant. Fonny is jailed for a crime he did not commit. Tish, her sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), her mother, Sharon (Regina King), and her father, Joseph (Colman Domingo), pull together to clear Fonny’s name. Meanwhile, Tish is pregnant. The outlook is grim.

Although racial injustice is the omnipresent truth of Beale Street, it is not the whole of it. Through flashbacks, Jenkins transports his audience to the hopefulness of just-discovered love and the sanctuary it provides from the soul-crushing hardness of a city like New York.

KiKi Layne (left) as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

Beale Street is replete with scenes of Tish and Fonny walking through the rain under a tiny red umbrella after a perfect first date, shrieking in celebration when they finally find a landlord who will rent them a loft, finding home in each other’s eyes as they ride the subway together.

Even as he illustrates the stakes of Fonny’s imprisonment, Jenkins allows his audience to luxuriate in a bitter sort of beauty. The emotional crux of the film hinges on a conversation Fonny has with his friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), who explains how three months in prison broke something in him. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” plays in the background, and a helplessness makes itself known in Daniel’s eyes. The guards can do whatever they want, Daniel tells Fonny. He doesn’t offer specifics. It is enough, and it is terrifying.

As with Moonlight, much of the story of Beale Street relies not on dialogue but on body language, especially on the eyes of its actors. Layne offers a stunning performance, full of innocence but absent naiveté. Jenkins tells stories as though they are symphonies with movements, a point that is punctuated by the spare strings and occasional horns of Beale Street’s score (by composer Nicholas Britell, who also scored Moonlight). Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer also deserves credit for curating selections from John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billy Preston.

On screen, it’s clear that Jenkins believes not just in love but also in romance: real, true, heart-stopping, devoted, world-shifting romance, the kind that isn’t just difficult to find but cuts through cynicism and shame.

Coincidentally, this romantic movie is being released in the same week that the general public is learning about a silent film clip from 1898 called Something Good-Negro Kiss, thought to be the earliest cinematic depiction of black people kissing:

On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced that Something Good-Negro Kiss would be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a rare artifact of black humanity, one that counters the hateful propaganda of minstrelsy and the racist sex panic that declawed films like 1943’s Stormy Weather.

With Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and now Beale Street, Jenkins has added something invaluable to the movie canon: a Sunday kind of love, one that will last, not just past Saturday night but far, far into the future.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ is a heart-stopping, world-shifting romance The first movie adaptation of James Baldwin’s fiction establishes Barry Jenkins as one of America’s finest architects of on-screen intimacy

There is a moment in Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett’s deceptively simple 1978 portrait of working-class black life, when the character Stan slow dances with his wife.

Stan is shirtless and stressed, and as they move in unison to Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” his wife pulls him into the refuge of her arms. It is sensual and sensitive and sweet all at once.

It is, to borrow from modern internet parlance, a MOOD.

If there is anyone who has carried and built upon the legacy established in that one scene, it is writer/director Barry Jenkins. In his adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins has fully established himself as one of American cinema’s finest architects of intimacy.

This is the first film adaptation of Baldwin’s fiction. (Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, released in 2017, is a documentary that uses the words of Baldwin’s unfinished work Remember This House.) Beale Street tells a simple story of thwarted young love. Tish (KiKi Layne), 19, and Fonny (Stephan James), 22, have grown up together in 1970s Harlem. Now, their filial love takes a turn toward romance, the kind that washes over them with waves big enough to smooth the edges of modest-at-best apartments and the stress of financial insecurity. Tish and Fonny plan to get married, move into a downtown loft where Fonny can work on his wood sculpting, and build a life together. But their plans are interrupted by a vengeful police officer.

When a Puerto Rican woman is raped, the officer instructs her to identify Fonny as her assailant. Fonny is jailed for a crime he did not commit. Tish, her sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris), her mother, Sharon (Regina King), and her father, Joseph (Colman Domingo), pull together to clear Fonny’s name. Meanwhile, Tish is pregnant. The outlook is grim.

Although racial injustice is the omnipresent truth of Beale Street, it is not the whole of it. Through flashbacks, Jenkins transports his audience to the hopefulness of just-discovered love and the sanctuary it provides from the soul-crushing hardness of a city like New York.

KiKi Layne (left) as Tish and Stephan James as Fonny in If Beale Street Could Talk.

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

Beale Street is replete with scenes of Tish and Fonny walking through the rain under a tiny red umbrella after a perfect first date, shrieking in celebration when they finally find a landlord who will rent them a loft, finding home in each other’s eyes as they ride the subway together.

Even as he illustrates the stakes of Fonny’s imprisonment, Jenkins allows his audience to luxuriate in a bitter sort of beauty. The emotional crux of the film hinges on a conversation Fonny has with his friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), who explains how three months in prison broke something in him. Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” plays in the background, and a helplessness makes itself known in Daniel’s eyes. The guards can do whatever they want, Daniel tells Fonny. He doesn’t offer specifics. It is enough, and it is terrifying.

As with Moonlight, much of the story of Beale Street relies not on dialogue but on body language, especially on the eyes of its actors. Layne offers a stunning performance, full of innocence but absent naiveté. Jenkins tells stories as though they are symphonies with movements, a point that is punctuated by the spare strings and occasional horns of Beale Street’s score (by composer Nicholas Britell, who also scored Moonlight). Music supervisor Gabe Hilfer also deserves credit for curating selections from John Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billy Preston.

On screen, it’s clear that Jenkins believes not just in love but also in romance: real, true, heart-stopping, devoted, world-shifting romance, the kind that isn’t just difficult to find but cuts through cynicism and shame.

Coincidentally, this romantic movie is being released in the same week that the general public is learning about a silent film clip from 1898 called Something Good-Negro Kiss, thought to be the earliest cinematic depiction of black people kissing:

On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced that Something Good-Negro Kiss would be added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It is a rare artifact of black humanity, one that counters the hateful propaganda of minstrelsy and the racist sex panic that declawed films like 1943’s Stormy Weather.

With Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and now Beale Street, Jenkins has added something invaluable to the movie canon: a Sunday kind of love, one that will last, not just past Saturday night but far, far into the future.