Megan Thee Stallion wants to go as hard as the guys It’s a big summer for the ‘Big Ole Freak’ rapper, with her first album and a date with Cardi B

Hip-hop is in Megan Thee Stallion’s blood. The 24-year-old Houston spitter is amassing a ride-or-die following with her two-fisted, blush-inducing rhymes, as heard on her latest NSFW single “Big Ole Freak,” but she was introduced to the rap game by her mom. You see, back in the early 2000’s, Megan’s mother, Holly Thomas, went by the emcee name Holly-Wood. When most girls her age were playing with dolls, young Megan was already a microphone fiend.

“I remember leaving school and my mom would pick me up and we would go straight to the recording studio,” recalled Megan. “We would be in that damn studio from 7 p.m. till 2 in the morning. My mom thought I was asleep or watching TV, but I was really listening to the instrumentals being played over and over. So I would be in the other room just writing rhymes in my little kid’s folder, just things that I thought sounded cool. I owe everything to my mom.”

This is why Megan’s current success is so bittersweet. Her mother, who guided her career as her manager, died in March from a brain tumor. Certainly she would be proud to witness her daughter become the most heavily anticipated rap rookie on the scene since Belcalis Almánzar put the Bronx on her back. At 5 feet, 10 inches, Megan possesses a towering aura and a relentless, swaggering rhyme attack that sounds like a combination of UGK’s Pimp C and Lil’ Kim.

One moment, Megan’s delivering gloriously ratchet lines such as, “The way I beat the beat up I ain’t rapping this is violence/Hos want a pity party I ain’t got the violin.” The next she has anime nerds going crazy with lyrical tags such as, “Got the moves like I’m Ryu/Yellow Diamonds Pikachu/When I turn my hair to blonde I’m finna turn up like Goku.”

After initially turning heads in late 2016 when she stole the show in the rooftop Houston Cypher, Megan released her buzzy 10-song 2018 mixtape Tina Snow, which has racked up more than 11 million streams. A record deal with 300 Entertainment, the label co-founded by Def Jam heads Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles, soon followed. Her growing fan base of “Hotties” and a list of influential co-signs — from Missy Elliott to Drake, who is set to be featured on the remix to “Big Ole Freak” — are more proof that this internet favorite has made it to the big leagues.

View this post on Instagram

Friends in Vegas 💙

A post shared by Hot Girl Meg (@theestallion) on May 2, 2019 at 9:40pm PDT

All this and she still finds time to attend Texas Southern University. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m in school all day,” Megan explained. “So I schedule my shows around my classes.”

Her debut album Fever, which features Three 6 Mafia’s Juicy J and DaBaby, is dropping May 17. She’s got an opening slot on Cardi B’s all-female concert showcase, Femme It Forward, which kicks off May 25. And there’s a string of music festival appearances. Megan is not here to play with y’all.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Do your professors and fellow students at Texas Southern treat you differently given that you are pretty much a big deal?

What’s so crazy is a lot of times I just assumed that people at my school just didn’t know that I was a rapper. So when a student tells me, ‘Oh, Megan … I see that you are going to be doing a show at this spot,’ and then the whole class is like, ‘Yeah, girl … we are coming!’ that still surprises me. I even had one of my professors come up to me after class like, ‘I follow you on Instagram. I see that you have the Tina Snow alter ego. …’

That sounds awkward.

It was crazy. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! Please don’t follow me! Just be my professor, please. Don’t be a Hottie!’ But seriously, it’s OK. It just really blows my mind. Now I’m thinking, OK, should I clean up my act on social media because my professor is following me? (Laughs.)

“I’m like, oh, my God! Please don’t follow me! Just be my professor, please. Don’t be a Hottie!”

You don’t shy away from explicit content. But at the same time, a raw song like “Big Ole Freak” is empowering. Did you always know you wanted to make that an underlying message in your music?

It was really kind of an accident. I know that I like to talk a lot of s—. And I know that a lot of women may be scared to say certain things or may be scared to carry themselves in a certain type of way because we’ve been conditioned to just be little princesses. We’re supposed to be prim and proper. People hold women up to a ridiculous high standard to the point that we don’t get the chance to let loose.

So when I listen to some of my favorite rappers like Juicy J and Pimp C … I’m like, ‘Wow, these lyrics are so crazy, so raw! This would sound really good if a woman were saying them.’ So if this is raunchy as the boys can get, if this is as hard as they can go, I feel like women should be able to do that too.

It’s clear there’s no self-censoring happening here.

None. (Laughs.) When I’m writing my lyrics, I just want to be as out there as I can be because I want women to know we don’t have to put any limits on ourselves. If you want to go hard, go hard.

The first time I heard you was on “Stalli Freestyle,” which became a viral sensation. How important was that clip in letting the music industry know that you were a legit emcee?

When I did the ‘Stalli Freestyle,’ it wasn’t even about me thinking, Oh, I’m going to f— the streets up with this one. It wasn’t me just trying to be anything outrageous. I just really enjoy rapping. And I really love just putting it out there on the internet to let people know, hey, I got flow … I can rhyme. I just like to keep my fans engaged. I want to let everyone know that there’s a new girl out here and everybody needs to stay on their toes.

Houston has a rich hip-hop history of lyricists, from Scarface to Bun B. Who was your biggest influence growing up in H-Town?

Pimp C is my favorite rapper. When I was growing up, my mom played a lot of UGK. She played all the Pimp C songs. Pimp makes me feel very arrogant. He makes me feel cocky. It’s all about the way that he rapped. When people listen to my music, I want them to feel how Pimp C made me feel. His flow just really does something to me, just his whole swag and how cool he is. When I’m writing, I’m either thinking about Pimp C or I’m thinking about Biggie.

“I just want to be as out there as I can be because I want women to know we don’t have to put any limits on ourselves.”

Being that you rep Houston, I’m going to put you on the spot: Suave House or Rap-A-Lot Records?

(Laughs.) I’m staying neutral. Houston is so big you can’t even compare what everybody has going on. Those are two different, iconic labels … two different types of sounds that were being put out. We all live in Houston.

Tell us about the impact your mom’s hip-hop career had on you?

She was a huge influence. I would come in her room and my mom would be in the bed writing rhymes. She had CDs with instrumentals on there, so I would sneak in her room and take the instrumentals while she was writing. And she would be tripped out, like, ‘Where are my instrumentals at? Megan, have you seen my CDs?!’ And I’m like, ‘Mom, what are you talking about?’ (Laughs.)

OK, stealing your mom’s own rhyme instrumentals is peak hip-hop.

For real! She actually thought someone was coming into our house and taking her rhyme instrumentals. But it was me! Little did she know I was in the cut getting ready for my turn.

At 5-foot-10, you are pretty tall. How was it being the tallest girl in class?

I never thought that I was that tall. I just thought that all the rest of the kids were little. So when I finally got to third grade, when boys started to really like girls, they would crack on me and say, ‘Oh, you tall.’ And I was like, ‘So what? You little!’ It wasn’t until I made it to ninth grade that all the boys started catching up to me. So we were all cool at that point. But I always thought that tall women are beautiful and sexy. I wouldn’t want to be really short. I feel like the air is different down there.

Well, you are definitely in rarefied air given that you have been getting shout-outs from Missy Elliott, Solange, Drake and Q-Tip. How trippy is that?

That’s really crazy to me. I mean, the biggest shock was Missy. She’s a queen. When I saw that tweet I was like, ‘Oh, my God! Missy Elliott knows about me!’ That’s wild. And Q-Tip has been a real mentor. He gives me great advice. He’s my No. 1 gasser. He tells me all the time that I have crazy rhymes. Just to have a legend like Tip to be a sincere fan of mine … that really just blows my mind. That lets me know I’m doing something right, because one of the OGs is telling me that I’m live!

Stylist and sneaker designer Aleali May on Jordans, Maya Moore, Kawhi — and California love ‘Girls have always been sneakerheads … but we’re starting to get noticed, and it’s just the beginning’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “When I got a Jordan, we all got a Jordan,” Aleali May told a crowd of sneakerheads at 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend. The we whom the 26-year-old stylist and fashion consultant was referencing? Women.

When May, who has more than 340,000 Instagram followers, collaborated with the Jordan Brand in 2017, she became the first woman to design and drop a unisex sneaker. After she worked for both Louis Vuitton and Virgil Abloh’s Chicago RSVP Gallery, May’s stylish and megapopular “Shadow Satin” Air Jordan 1 paid homage to her South Central Los Angeles roots. The shoe also paved the way for her to team up with four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore, the first female basketball player to sign with the Jordan Brand.

“As far as my style, it’s definitely a mix between streetwear and luxury.”

In December, the women’s-exclusive Maya Moore x Aleali May Court Lux collection was released, featuring new designs of two shoes: Moore’s favorite silhouette, the Air Jordan 10, and May’s second take on the Air Jordan 1.

Through a partnership with eBay during All-Star Weekend, May donated pairs from the Court Lux collection to be sold, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Project Fit, a charitable organization dedicated to encouraging kids to live an active and healthy lifestyle. The shoes were displayed at a pop-up gallery in Charlotte called The Vault, where May interacted with a group of sneaker enthusiasts and signed pairs for women wearing her Air Jordan 1s. The Undefeated caught up with May to talk personal style, working with legends — and her all-time fave eBay steal.

How long have you been collecting?

My uncle has been buying them from me since I was a little girl and I ain’t know what Jordans was. He was in high school, so he was like, ‘I’m fresh … my niece about to be fresh … we gon’ be fresh together.’ I probably really started collecting when I was in high school because you used to come to school with all the fresh s—. You either had the Jordans or you don’t. So I got my first little job at 16. I was like, ‘I’m gonna spend my money at Foot Locker and Finish Line.’ That’s how it worked. But eBay had such a great platform because you could pick so much from it. I think that was the first place where we were seeing things for resale … Jordans or designer.

What’s the best pair of shoes you’ve ever found on eBay?

Black Cat Air Jordan 4s. I found them a couple years ago. … I actually gotta get them redone because the bottom opened up, but that was a really good find. I got them for, like, $160 in my size. I was like, ‘Ohhh, this is great!’ That’s the best part. You find grails and they’re for a really good price and in your size, that’s rare.

How often are you on eBay?

Honestly, I was on it the day before yesterday … I was looking up vintage Chanel. As far as my style, it’s definitely a mix between streetwear and luxury. A lot of times when I am looking for key luxury pieces, it’s gonna be stuff that’s old, and eBay is the first place I go.

Instagram Photo

What’s your grail sneaker?

That’s hard when you have, like, 300 pairs in your closet. I’d probably just say my Black Cat 4s … and the white and forest green 4s. Really like Air Jordan 4s, 8s, 1s. I do have a couple pair of 1985 Air Jordan 1s. When you have shoes older than you, that pretty much solidifies what grail means.

What was it like working on your first Air Jordan 1 collaboration?

That was crazy. It was one meeting in Portland — actually, eight meetings in a day, back to back to back. It was amazing because they were really like, ‘What do you want to do? … What silhouette?’ I was scared. I didn’t wanna say it … but I was like, ‘Jordan 1 … that is what I wear.’ It’s just such a grail shoe. They asked me what I wanted to do with it, and I said, ‘Corduroy … you know, like the Slauson swap meet slippers.’ I just really wanted to incorporate my city in the shoe and be able to represent that because I felt like L.A., we didn’t have our own Jordan. The process was just amazing. They were open to the idea and the story. I had no idea it was gonna take off the way it did.

And what was the goal for your Court Lux collection with Maya Moore?

The first one was more like the young Aleali, who grew up in South Central. A girl who made it out of the ’hood. The second one highlighted what defined Aleali’s style. You know when you’re in your high school years, a lot of those times you’re like, ‘Who am I?’ … My whole deal was when you had people like Pharrell putting together high-end fashion and streetwear, it was always colorful. I took inspiration from the Viotech Dunk and put it on a Jordan 1 for the ladies. Switched it up. I added a fur tongue that’s removable, wanted people to take my story and add their own to it. And Maya Moore had the Air Jordan 10. It was the first women’s pack. We just really wanted to represent both sides: fashion and basketball. That’s what a Jordan is. These worlds coming together, and two women representing.

What’s your relationship like with Maya?

When we first met, it was … natural. It was the launch for a women’s line. We came in there and it was just like, ‘Yup! Yup!’ … Two women really doing it in their own respective fields. That’s what it’s about, bridging these worlds. With this collaboration, I gained so many fans of Maya’s and vice versa. We’re opening up each other’s worlds to others. She’s just really cool. I’m just happy to be in a room with two GOATs, Jordan and Maya.

Instagram Photo

Maya decided to sit out the 2019 season to pursue ministry — how important do you think that decision was to her?

She’s gonna go for it, and no matter what, she’s gonna be undefeated. She already has so many titles. … No matter what, people are going to support her. I really support her.

Who’s the coolest person you’ve seen wearing one of your pairs?

Kawhi Leonard … he had the first ones on. And it’s because he’s from California, and that’s superpersonal for me. I just like how he doesn’t really talk. He’s very low-key. I’m not really the most outgoing person, but my clothes speak for themselves. I feel like, with him wearing those on the sidelines, that just spoke so much about him. Here’s a dude from California, reppin’ the wave. You barely hear anything from him, but he chose to wear my shoe that night. He knows.

“When you have shoes older than you, that pretty much solidifies what grail means.”

What’s next for you sneakerwise?

I’m just trying to represent women in streetwear, women in footwear design, and just those young girls out there who are like, ‘I grew up in a place like South Central. How can I do it too?’

How important is it to illuminate the fact that women are sneakerheads just like men?

It’s natural for a girl to like a pair of shoes, no matter if it’s a heel or a sneaker … and be like, ‘I want to collect these.’ The recognition is the part that’s new. We’ve always been sneakerheads … but we’re starting to get noticed, and it’s just the beginning.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

From small-screen ‘Grown-ish’ to the silver screen’s ‘Superfly,’ this is Trevor Jackson’s year But not long ago, ‘I was going to quit acting. I didn’t want to do it anymore.’

First, there was a breakout television series, followed by two movies and the release of a brand-new album. For singer and actor Trevor Jackson, there couldn’t be a better year.

Jackson, 21, is best known for his roles as Zurich in Burning Sands, Aaron Jackson in Freeform’s Grown-ish and Youngblood Priest in the remake of the 1972 black cult classic SuperFly, which hits theaters Wednesday. This isn’t too shabby for someone who thought of walking away from acting before his role in the television drama series American Crime.

“I was going to quit acting before American Crime because I was trying to focus on my music,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want to do it anymore. My mom was just like, ‘Go,’ and I went and fell in love with it again. Everybody who was on set — Tim Hutton, Andre 3000, Regina King — I was awestruck and inspired by these people. It kind of made me fall back in love with the process.”

His role in SuperFly deepened his passion for acting.

“Priest was a character that was interesting,” Jackson said. “I was trying to find the person that I was afraid of but I also thought was extremely cool. The experience was amazing. I think the coolest thing was working with such amazing people. You got Joel Silver, who has done so many classic films. Director X is a legendary director, and all the actors. They’re all so good at their jobs. It was a blessing to be doing what I love around people that I love.”

Music remains a passion. Jackson signed with his first record label at 15 and released his latest LP, Rough Drafts, Pt. 1, in March. He hopes to continue acting and singing for as long as he can.

“I want to continue balancing,” Jackson said. “I can’t live without either. Even when I was shooting Grown-ish, I recorded most of this album. We would get off around 7 and I’d come home and record. They’ve both saved me. When I wasn’t working, acting and wasn’t getting hired, I was doing music. Whenever one wasn’t happening, the other one was always there. They’re both very close to my heart.”

What was one of the craziest moments you’ve had on set?

I think the craziest moment was when I made Halle [Bailey] cry on set of Grown-ish. She’s vegan and we had tacos. There were beef tacos, chicken tacos and vegan tacos. She was eating a vegan taco, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you know that’s the wrong meat. They had the wrong names on the tacos.’ She started crying. Everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, Trevor. You’re such an a-hole!’ I’m like, ‘I’m sorry! I was just kidding.’ My job is big brother on set. My job is to torture them.

When did you feel like you made it in the industry?

I don’t think I can ever have that moment because I’m always trying to outdo myself. I don’t look to the left or right of me to see if I’ve made it or not. I always kind of look inward. I feel like I’ll never feel like that.

Have you ever been starstruck?

Perfect time to ask me this. I freaking met Tom Hardy at CinemaCon. He and Denzel [Washington] are like my top two favorite actors of all time. I met him, I yelled at him. It was me and Jason [Mitchell]; he loves him too. He was having a conversation, and we came up behind him and were like, ‘Dude we’re sorry but we freaking love you. You’re a legend.’ I’m pretty sure he was wondering who we were, but we took like three pictures. Then I met Matthew McConaughey on the plane and I was like what’s happening with my life? He took my clothes off the plane and asked whose bag it was, then carried my bag off the plane. I can always say Matthew McConaughey carried my luggage. I met Will Ferrell too. These are all people I admire and love totally and am inspired by daily. That was too much.

If you weren’t acting or singing, what would you be doing?

I’d be surfing. I’d probably be a pro surfer, skateboarder or playing basketball. That’s how my life is. If I wake up one day and I want to pursue that, that’s what I’ll do. I always try to follow what God puts in my heart to do or achieve, and I don’t stop until I do that. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger. That dream kind of died, but it can come back around.

What’s the last show you binge-watched?

Ozark. It’s probably one of the greatest shows I ever watched.

Which pro athlete would you never want to trade places with?

The ones that I don’t know their names.

What’s your current fashion obsession?

I love silk shirts. They don’t have to be real silk, as long as they look silky and feel silky. They can be 10 bucks. If they look right and feel right, I’ll wear it.

What songs are at the top of your playlists these days?

There’s a song called ‘Tequila’ by Dan + Shay and another called ‘The Long Way Around’ [by Brett Eldredge]. These are all country songs. I love country. It’s my favorite kind of music.

What is the most embarrassing music you have to admit you listen to?

I’m not gonna lie, when Hannah Montana first came out, I was an advocate. I loved it!

What are you looking forward to achieving this year?

I want SuperFly to do very, very well. I want the album to do well, and hopefully a great season two of Grown-ish. And I want to start filming another movie by the end of the year, whatever it may be.

If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I can only pick one? I have more than one, and it would be Prince and Michael Jackson. If I had three, I’d put Martin Luther King Jr. in there.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Keep God first and all things will be added unto you.

Actor Keith Powers: ‘I don’t think Dre or Cube even know that was my cousin’ Powers enjoyed playing Ronnie DeVoe in ‘The New Edition Story’, but tapped into the verdict of his cousin Rodney King in ‘Straight Outta Compton’

When actor Keith Powers’ starred in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton as Dr. Dre’s younger brother Tyree Crayton, he used the Rodney King verdict as a prominent backdrop. Channeling the anguish he and many felt of lack of consequences of the four cops filmed beating King, the part was more than a notion for Powers. The 25-year-old is cousin to the late, King — the police brutality victim who inspired the 1992 L.A. Riots. The part hit close to home.

“I don’t think Dre or Cube even know that was my cousin,” said Powers to The Undefeated. “To this day, it’s something powerfully connected to me and forever impacts me.”

Powers, also known for playing Ronnie DeVoe in BET’s miniseries biopic The New Edition Story, now stars in the Freeform drama Famous in Love from author Rebecca Serle and Pretty Little Liars showrunner I. Marlene King, which airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET.

The fictional show follows a group of actors and the ups and downs they endure in Hollywood where loyalty, trust, jealousy, fear and love are all tested. Powers’ character, Jordan Wilder, is the young superstar that everyone wants to meet and be… but lies from his past are catching up to him fast.

Acting was not the Power’s first claim brush with fame. When pursuing scholarships to play college football, he was getting recruited by JE Model agency in San Francisco, which later led to him signing with the esteemed agency, Wilhelmina. As a model, he’s walked the runway for Calvin Klein during Milan Fashion Week in 2014 and he is featured in GQ editorials and campaigns for brands like Guess.

Building on that momentum, Powers quickly found his way into acting where his film credits grew to include House Party: Tonight’s The Night, MTV’s Faking It, AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead and Netflix’s Reality High to name a few.

The oldest of four shared how the most challenging part about acting is how it’s not always based on whether you’re good or not, but how the network is casting to sell tickets or get more viewers. The Sacramento native still practices and prepares but recognizes that he has to keep faith and “trust the process” as NBA player Joel Embiid would say.

Powers’ favorite athlete period is Muhammad Ali, his basketball fandom is for Lebron James, but not necessarily the Cavaliers, and he once met NBA player Nick Young backstage at a fashion show earlier in his career.


Describe yourself during basketball season?

I’m yelling but I have moments where I’m really quiet because I’m stressed out. But I’m usually more stressed during football games when I’m watching my [San Francisco] 49ers.

If you could be any athlete, dead or alive, who would you be?

That’s tough, but I’d say Muhammad Ali. He’s a hero. I love what he stood for and the confidence he possessed. Ali was so vocal in sports and politics. I was also thinking of two others—LeBron James and Michael Jordan—but who doesn’t want to be them? LeBron is my favorite athlete but it doesn’t mean I like the Cavs. If the Cavs lose and LeBron’s stats are good, I’m happy.

Who is your favorite superhero?

This may sound strange [and he’s not really a superhero] but The Joker. There’s something unique about how he thinks. He’s so messed up in the head but also so intelligent and understands the reasons why he became a villain. The Joker is the epitome of not trying to impress people.

What is your favorite album and why?

KOD by J. Cole. It’s an album that speaks to this generation and was needed. My favorite track is “FRIENDS.” He’s keeping it real with his friends and telling them that they don’t need to do drugs to deal with their problems, and that there’s better ways to deal with them.

Have you ever been star struck?

When I walked the Calvin Klein runway for Milan Fashion Week I got to meet a lot of celebrities backstage like Future and Swaggy P [Nick Young]. What was kind of cool about meeting [Young] was that he knew who I was from watching this [basketball comedy] show series I used to be on called “Sin City Saints.”

What would you tell your fifteen year old self?

Keep faith and “trust the process” as Joel Embiid would say. I’ve gone out for jobs that I didn’t get and I remember being sad and frustrated, but when I look back now, it all had to happen that way in order for my path to clear up for certain successes. Life is never going to work out the way you think but you have to keep faith that it will all work out. I’ve seen a lot of actors quit because it didn’t happen at the pace they wanted. They could be superstars now but quit too soon. I don’t want that to happen to me so I just keep going on this marathon.

What was your first major purchase?

Last April I bought a house in LA.

Craziest lie you ever told?

I have a couple but I do remember one when I was in second grade. We had a project about where we are from and for some reason I said that I was born in Chicago. I got in a lot of trouble for it, and I still don’t know what made me lie about that.

Baltimore Ravens rookie Lamar Jackson is into 21 Savage and NBA YoungBoy — and old-school Miami Hurricanes football The Florida native counts Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and Odell Beckham as fave wideouts

It has sunk in for Lamar Jackson: He’s a professional quarterback in the NFL. But some of the responsibilities that go along with his position with the Baltimore Ravens, who went 9-7 last season, still feel surreal. It’s May 2018 and the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner is signing cards and participating in a Panini America rookie photo shoot in Los Angeles. It wasn’t all that long ago this reality was a just dream taking root in his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida. “Get ready!” Jackson says when thinking about what he’d tell his elementary school self. “The world is wild and different. Totally different.” Jackson conducted this interview while signing a mountain of trading cards. How many, exactly? “Three thousand of them,” he says with a laugh. But the first round pick is more than amped to wax poetic about his Mount Rushmore of wide receivers, his game-day ritual, Kodak Black, and much more.


Who’s the one teammate that you’d trust to cut your hair?

None of them. They don’t know how to cut. I never seen none of them cut themselves or anyone else, so I know they won’t touch mine. At all.

What’s your game-day ritual?

I like to listen to music. I listen to Kodak Black, NBA YoungBoy, Young Thug and Future before the game. I like to have fun with my teammates, too, you know? It’s a game at the end of the day. It’s business, but it’s a game at the same time.

Speaking of Kodak, how close were you all growing up?

Yeah, we’re from the same neighborhood. We just went to elementary school together. He was doing his thing. I was doing mine.

As a quarterback, you know the value of a great wide receiver. Who is on your Mount Rushmore of wideouts?

My favorite? Randy Moss. He’s No. 1 to me. Hmmm, who else? I really like consistent receivers, though. Like the ones that make you change your defense around to cover him. I like Odell [Beckham Jr.].

What about somebody like Terrell Owens?

Oh, my God! I don’t know why I didn’t say T.O.! He’s definitely No. 2! Then Odell. I don’t really have a fourth. No! Chad Johnson. Those my boys there.

If you could go back in time and attend any sporting event live, which would it be?

Oh, my God, that’s wild! [It’s not sports] but I’ll say Lil Wayne and them when they was with the Hot Boys. Definitely them. But what else? I’d like to watch Sean Taylor play live. I’d like to watch those great Miami Hurricanes when it was all of those guys like Ed Reed playing. That 2001 team, definitely.

Favorite throwback TV show?

I have a few. Martin, The Wayans Bros., The Jamie Foxx Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Proud Family. I love a lot old Cartoon Network shows too.

Name three songs that define your mentality heading into your rookie year.

I can’t really tell you, because when I’m out there [on the field] my mindset is different, because I hate to lose. I don’t really have no songs in mind right now. Not that I can think of at least.

What’s the last concert you attended?

21 Savage and NBA YoungBoy. It was in Louisville.

What’s one place you’ve always wanted to visit but hadn’t gotten there yet?

Brazil.

Where does your courage come from?

Definitely becoming a man at a young age. My mother raised me on her own. All that came into play. I had to mature early.

Royce Da 5’9” on sobriety, boxing and why he stopped watching NBA games The Detroit rapper is at his best yet with a new album, ‘Book of Ryan’

In 2002, Ryan Montgomery — who you know better as Royce da 5’9” — unapologetically rapped, If you hate me, you hate the D on track two of his debut. He meant that. “Rock City,” which also featured his best friend and frequent collaborator Eminem, was a Detroit battle cry. It was an anthem for the gritty can’t-stop-won’t-stop hustle of Detroiters everywhere — or, as Royce so eloquently states, his hometown was “a city full of Tommy Hearns thumpers / Grant Hill hoopers / Barry Sanders runners, stunners.” All still true.

His new offering, Book Of Ryan, is a collection of honest and thought-provoking rhymes fresh off of Royce’s viral freestyle moment, during which he rapped for 10 minutes straight on Funk Flex’s show. This new project is his seventh studio album and features guest work from Eminem, J. Cole, Pusha T, Jadakiss, T-Pain, Logic, Robert Glasper, Marsha Ambrosius and others. And in case you’re wondering: 16 years and countless albums later, he’s still unapologetic as he delivers perhaps his best and most reflective album ever.


Who was your childhood hero growing up?

My dad. I watched him do great things. One of the greatest things I watched him do was overcome addiction. I watched that at a young age. I watched him be at that crossroads where he had to pick his family over drugs. And my Uncle Tony [Montgomery, or Dr. Detroit, as he was also known] was a pro boxer. Those two guys were my heroes.

How did watching your dad go through that struggle — and watching your uncle Tony, who quite literally was fighting for a living — inspire you as an artist?

My dad’s was a more mental thing, where my uncle’s was more of a physical thing. … You can do all the training you want. The pads don’t hit back. The bag don’t hit back. But when you get in the ring, whatever you’re naturally made of is gonna show. It’s the same thing as fighting a drug. I watched my dad exercise mind over matter.

“If anything, it’s easier to open up and let it flow like I’m in therapy than it is to try to come up with punchlines.”

Where does your courage come from?

My dad! It’s scary, sometimes I talk to my kids and I’m like, Jesus Christ, I just sounded exactly like my dad! You know, even if I’m just like yelling down the stairs.

What’s your favorite sport — and why do you love sports so much?

I grew up in a very athletic family. My dad was a quarterback in high school. He also played basketball, shooting guard. Basketball was my first passion. I like boxing. Obviously, my uncle taught me how to fight — early. And I follow boxing now more than any other sport. Boxing and basketball are very creative sports. You’ve gotta be visually talented, you’ve gotta be able to see it before you can do it. … It’s cerebral, especially when you’re playing point guard. Which probably explains why I traded in my basketball dreams for music dreams, because once I started writing raps, I let go of basketball … like, I don’t watch NBA games to this day.

What’s one album you think is a classic that not a lot of people think of as one?

Shyne — Shyne’s first album. He just dropped it at the right time. … I had just gotten my first car, my Lexus … that I bought when I got into the music business … a Lexus GS300. I got sounds put in the back of it, and the Shyne album is all I used to bump. This is before I started getting into a lot of trouble, and I just associate it with good times.

How do you find out about new music?

When I built my studio in Detroit, there’s a TV that’s in my room … I never turn it off. I keep it on [BET] Jams because they play videos all day. Nobody talking, it’s just videos — only videos. I just keep it on without the sound. … That’s how I found out about Budgie. Like I looked up, video was playing, I see two kids standing there holding a baby, rapping, with a bullet wound in his shirt. … I’m like, ‘What the heck is this?’ I hit the button on the speaker so I can hear the sound, and I’m like, ‘Yo, this is crazy.’ And that’s what made you reach out to him. So that’s how Budgie ended up on the album. And this was before he signed with Shady [Records].

“Boxing and basketball are creative sports. You’ve gotta be visually talented, you’ve gotta be able to see it before you can do it. It’s cerebral.”

What’s the first concert you ever went to?

One that I did, probably when I was opening up for Usher. I’d never been to a concert. … Kids from my generation, we didn’t go to concerts.

What’s the last concert you went to?

Probably one of Em’s shows. I didn’t go to Coachella. The last one that I went to that I didn’t perform at, was … Em and Rihanna. In Detroit. And the New York show.

What would you tell your 15-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to listen to generic advice. At that age, the stuff that we hear all the time — ‘Don’t do drugs, kids’ — it sounds so generic that you almost pay it no attention at all, and it’s like you feel like those [people] are just talking to hear themselves talk. Like, ‘Don’t drink.’ That probably could have been one of the most important things I could’ve beat. If I hadn’t done that, it would have been a completely different path, and that’s not even coming from a place of regret. You always wonder, ‘Damn, man, like everything is so great right now, I wonder what would it be [like] if I had been this sharp all through my 20s.’ All of my problems that I had … all roads led back to liquor somehow. I made my job so much harder. Don’t drink … don’t hesitate to listen to the generic advice.

“All of my problems that I had … all roads led back to liquor somehow. I made my job so much harder.”

How challenging was it for you to arrive at this place where you’re very comfortable talking about the demons?

I’ve arrived at a place where … whatever I’m writing down, if it comes from the heart, it really shouldn’t take me a lot of time to think about it. It shouldn’t take so much thought. If anything, it’s easier to just open up and let it flow like I’m in therapy than it is to sit and try to come up with punch lines. I’m at a point now where I’m comfortable in my skin. … I’m not afraid to anymore.

Sounds like this is your most personal album ever.

It’s real personal, but I think it was time. Every artist should have at least one album where you feel like you know the individual you’re listening to after listening to the music. Every artist should just have that, at least one time.

San Diego Chargers rookie DB Derwin James: ‘It’s time to put on the pads. I’m ready to go’ But what happens when he plays his bestie Jalen Ramsey?

A month before commissioner Roger Goodell called his name on the opening night of 2018 NFL draft, Derwin James already had lofty praise to live up to. When cameras were rolling at Florida State University’s pro day on March 20, Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey delivered the ultimate co-sign of his former college teammate. “Top player in the draft this year,” Ramsey told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. “Should go No. 1 overall, but you know how things go in the draft. You never know … top 5, top 10, top 15.”

In their final mock drafts, ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both projected James to be taken by Tampa Bay with the seventh pick. But the first 15 NFL teams to draft — the Buccaneers included — passed on the 6-foot-1 ¾-inch, 215-pound freak-of-athlete safety. That was until No. 17, when James fell into the laps of the San Diego Chargers. Despite dropping on the draft board, James is still oozing with confidence and swag. The Undefeated recently caught up with San Diego’s newly minted defensive back about his brand partnership with New Era Cap, his relationship with Ramsey, and why he changes his hairstyle so much.


How does it feel to finally be in the NFL?

It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I’m excited. I’m happy that I got the opportunity to finally live out my dream.

Heading into the draft, what team did you think would take you?

Tampa or San Francisco. After it went past them, I said, ‘OK, maybe I could be going to Green Bay.’ After Green Bay traded back, I thought, ‘I’m going to the Chargers.’

Was it nerve-racking, waiting?

It was crazy. I obviously thought I’d go earlier, but once I put on that New Era hat — that Chargers hat. It was an amazing feeling.

“I loveddddd fitteds, because my head was so big as a kid.”

You partnered with New Era ahead of the draft. Have you always been a hat guy?

Growing up, I was a fitted hat guy. Then they came out with the snapbacks, so I converted. But I loveddddd fitteds, because my head was so big as a kid. It would look weird sometimes when my mom would put other caps on me. We couldn’t ever find the right one to fit my head.

The draft cap is a big part of the experience — where will you keep yours?

My hat and my jersey, both of those I’m hanging on my wall. They’re gonna be in a case. Nobody can get to them.

How did you choose your draft outfit?

My favorite colors are red and black. And I went to Florida State, where our color is garnet. So I thought I’d do something along the garnet and red line. I wanted to be a little flashy. I talked to my suit man, and said, ‘Gimme something nice.’

You grew up in Florida, went to Florida State and will now be playing in San Diego — but what’s the coldest place you’ve ever been?

When I was in Green Bay on my visit, it was like 3 degrees. I was like, ‘Oh, s—!’ They told me it was a nice day — that sometimes it’s below zero. Say what!

Do you have any game day traditions or superstitions?

I’ve got my wristbands that I’ve been wearing since high school, and then I got some in college that I have to have on every game. But, for the most part, I just go with the flow.

“My dream scenario would be me, Casey Hayward, Jalen Ramsey, Landon Collins and Earl Thomas. Nobody could complete a pass.”

You always post your ever-changing hairstyles on social media — how do you pick them?

I get a lot of feedback from my teammates on that. They say I have more hairstyles than women do. But I just like being different, being my own self. I don’t really try to copy anybody, or be anybody that I’m not. Being diverse and versatile is just the person I am.

Who’s the most famous person following you on social media?

Probably OBJ [Odell Beckham Jr.].

Take us back to the first time you met Jalen Ramsey — and how has your relationship with him grown over the years?

I met him when I was in high school. I’d already committed to Florida State in 2012, and I think he was just getting there. I built a relationship with him on visits, and he told me he … was going to take me under his wing. And then when I got there, he stuck to his word. Our relationship grew over the years, and he’s like my brother.

Where were you heard Jalen call you the best player in this year’s draft — and how did it make you feel?

I was out in Cali training. When he said that, I wasn’t really surprised, but that was a big compliment coming from a guy like him.

Your dreams corps of defensive backs — who would they be?

My dream scenario would be me, Casey Hayward, Jalen Ramsey, Landon Collins and Earl Thomas. Nobody could complete a pass.

“Now [my number is] 33, so you get Derwin James 2.0. Supercharged.”

Which quarterbacks are you most looking forward to facing this season?

S—, I wanna face all of them. I mean, I haven’t seen a quarterback damn near since October, November. The suit and tie — all of that is out the way. It’s time to put on the pads. I’m ready to go.

You wore No. 3 at FSU. Why No. 33 in San Diego?

Three is my favorite number, so I was thinking for the Chargers, I was just gonna supercharge it! Add another 3. Now it’s 33, so you get Derwin James 2.0. Supercharged.

What’s your favorite tattoo?

My Florida State tattoo … it’s on my left soldier. I got it in 10th grade, and it’s the most meaningful tattoo I have, besides my mom’s name.

Outside of football, who is your favorite athlete?

Floyd Mayweather.

Have you ever met him?

A couple times. He’s a great guy. The media tries to judge him, but he’s really down-to-earth. He’s a winner, he’s a competitor, and he comes from the struggle. One of my favorite people.

In the next five years, what can we expect from Derwin James?

I’m not gonna come in and promise no Super Bowls, but you’ll see a guy that’s gonna work his butt off. I just feel like I’m in a great situation and a great system around a lot of great coaches. The team was already great before I got here. I’m just tryna come in, do my job and hopefully we pull out some ball games together.

Any message to the teams that passed on you?

See you soon.

Comedian W. Kamau Bell says we’re all just waiting for ‘the straw that breaks the racist camel’s back’ The ‘United Shades of America’ host has thoughts on Starbucks, Rage Against the Machine and comedic journalism

Comedian W. Kamau Bell’s Emmy-winning series, United Shades of America, recently returned to CNN. The show, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET, follows Bell around the country as he has conversations with all sorts of people, from doomsday preppers to residents on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Usually he’s in the role of curious everyperson, asking questions to get us better acquainted with all the folks who make up the country.

But recently, Bell found himself in the position of expert when it came to the matter of two men who were arrested and removed from a Philadelphia Starbucks for being black and not purchasing a drink. Bell was the target of a similar slight in 2015. He was at an outside table at the Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley, California, with his wife, who is white, and her friends. According to Bell, an employee saw him as an unwelcome interloper and told him to “scram.”

I spoke with Bell about the renewed relevance of that incident, along with the latest season of his show, which includes episodes about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Gullah Geechee culture and the border.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Do you think there is a heightened understanding of racism since the election? The Starbucks incident not only turned into a multiday news story, they’re shutting down 8,000 shops for racial sensitivity training.

You think about all the racist things that have happened to black people — and I’m just focusing on black people for the sake of this conversation — in the history of this country, we don’t know about, like what percentage do you think we know about? You have all of the racism from like, even this morning, I was walking out of my kids’ school and this white woman I don’t know goes, ‘Mr. Michael!’ Mr. Michael is a black man that plays guitar for kids at the library who is shorter than me, has a full beard, doesn’t wear glasses, there’s like all sorts of different ways I’m not Mr. Michael. And I go, ‘Nope.’ And she goes, ‘Oh, I thought …’ and I just kept walking.

I was like, ‘Should I tweet this?’ No, because I’m going to have Twitter all day going, ‘Everything that happens to black people is racism.’ We don’t tell our friends and family about it because then somebody will talk about it all day long. The thing that happens when someone looks at you weird on the subway instead of sitting down next to you. You don’t tell those stories to everybody.

Black people in this country have been waiting forever for the straw to break the racist camel’s back so that America can finally confront its legacy and present, future of racism. So every time that something like this happens, we get excited. Maybe this is it. Maybe it’s not Stephon Clark being shot in his backyard. Maybe it’s these two black men at Starbucks being kicked out.

You’ve said that you think comedy can fix creative issues but it can’t fix real-world issues. But your show spends quite bit of time in the real world.

Yeah, we do, but I think that what I’m doing in the real world is highlighting those issues, but I’m not fixing them. I’m just sort of going, ‘Hey, look at this thing.’ That is either something you should know more about or something that’s really bad that we’ve gotta fix. But I’m not, I can’t think of myself as, the actual fix of the issue. At the best, I’m like the doctor that diagnoses you and then walks out of the room and says, ‘I hope another doctor comes.’ I think that comedy is great with lubricating the conversation or getting people to pay attention. I think the arts are great for that in general.

One of my favorite bands is Rage Against The Machine. Now, you know, Rage Against The Machine has some great songs that are about political activism and about responding to oppression but they’re not actually political activism. They’re just songs.

I try to do things to help people out and highlight black voices and support causes, either through my privilege or through money. But I know that’s different than making a TV show. When people say the show’s either a tool of activism or education, then I feel like I’m doing a good job.

Do you feel like that’s enough?

No, it’s not.

Over the course of several years, I had to sort of convince people, producers on the show, that it’s not enough to just talk to somebody who’s an activist. We actually have to say what organization they work with and actually say in a way that people can hear it so they can Google it later. You know what I mean? Or be clear about where the agenda lies. And go, ‘Oh, and I went here where people are allowed to volunteer.’ You make sure that that is part and parcel of the thing, encouraging people to get involved.

I can’t waste time convincing people of how I want the show to be done at this point. It’s got to be done the way that I want it to be done, which is certainly pointed and clear. I want it to be relatively easy for teachers to use it as a tool for education and/or activists use it as a tool for activism. If it’s not entertaining and doing that, then it’s not the show I want.

Now that you’re in your third season, do you feel that you’ve worked out exactly the way you want it to be?

I’m never satisfied, so I still look at every episode like, ‘Why did we do this?’ ‘I should have done that better.’ ‘Who let me wear that shirt?’ The show is still a work in progress. I still watch [Anthony] Bourdain’s episodes and think, ‘Jesus, how did they do that?’ There’s still a goal, and I’m not trying to do Bourdain’s show, but it feels like that is a pure expression of him. And I feel like with my show I’m still working on getting it to be the pure expression of me.

That’s hard with television no matter what you’re doing.

That’s why I still do stand-up comedy, ’cause I can step up on stage, just sort of think of a thing, say the thing, see what people react and then say good night.

A bunch of comedians are doing some marriage of comedy and news, such as Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver and Samantha Bee. There’s this overlap with journalism because they’re both in the business of seeking truth. Or truth-telling.

I think they’re both in the business of trying to explain the world. And I think we certainly know journalists who explain the world in a way that is not truthful. And we know that there are comedians who explain the world in a way that is not truthful. So that’s the one thing I would say, we’re both trying to explain the world. But then it’s about what our agenda is in trying to explain the world.

Do you think comedians are more effective at delivering truth?

I think comedy is always the most effective way to deliver truth, not just through comedians but comedy in general. Every public speaker in the world is trying to open on a joke. It’s the first thing they tell you in public speaking. Everybody who is a good public speaker is using humor. Martin Luther King Jr. used humor. Malcolm X used humor. Maya Angelou could be funny. It doesn’t mean they’re cracking jokes, but they’re using humor to sort of get the message across. I think comedy is the most effective way to communicate anything because if somebody laughs at what you say, you know they were paying attention. It doesn’t mean they agree with you. It just means you know they were paying attention.

It makes sense that the comedians that America always elevates to be the best examples of the art form are the so-called ‘truth-tellers,’ people who are politically minded, whether it’s Richard Pryor or George Carlin or Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock. Those are the people we put as the best versions of the art form. Margaret Cho, Joan Rivers. There’s a lot of comedians who are funny, that make a lot of money, but we don’t at the end of the day put them on that Mount Rushmore of America’s stand-up comedy heroes.

‘Why didn’t you punch him in the face?’ First of all, I wouldn’t have, because that’s not how I do it.

I see you’ve got an episode on Gullah Geechee culture, and you’ve got an HBCU episode. Are you planning to sue Beyoncé for stealing all your ideas?

[Laughs.] We do mention Beyoncé in the Gullah Geechee episode. Lemonade certainly came out before we did that, but she did the Coachella thing, and we can’t re-edit that episode. Beyoncé, give me a heads-up next time! You’re making me look bad, Beyoncé! I thought we had something. No, I didn’t. She doesn’t know who I am.

The thing that’s possibly good is that it helps people come to those episodes with a little more knowledge. Maybe they’ll be more excited about our episode. I can’t promise that our HBCU episode is going to be as good as Beyoncé’s Coachella performance. I’m not prepared to say that as much as CNN might want me to say that for headlines: ‘Kamau Bell says his HBCU episode is better than Beyoncé’s Coachella performance! But I do think it’s a good companion piece.

Is there anything you regret about sitting down with white supremacist Richard Spencer?

That it didn’t happen closer to the time it aired. That’s the only thing I regret. People were asking me questions about things that hadn’t happened yet. ‘Why didn’t you punch him in the face? First of all, I wouldn’t have, because that’s not how I do it. Second of all, he hadn’t been punched in the face at the time I sat down with him. I would have asked him about it. I regret that we didn’t tape the episode and air it a week later. But that’s not how our show works.

The thing we didn’t do this season is we didn’t interview any sort of quote-unquote obvious TV villains like Richard Spencer or the Ku Klux Klan because I was tired of it and I didn’t want people to think it was my go-to move. I don’t want people to predict what I’m gonna do based on, ‘Oh, he’s gonna find some white supremacist somewhere and sit down across from him.’ I feel like I got the white supremacists’ voice in the show and also America runs on white supremacy, so we don’t have to go find a person. It’s there; it’s always running on America’s computer. That did maybe hurt CNN’s ability to put out a clip of me sitting across from someone who wants to kill me and certainly that gets us good headlines and things. But I feel like I’m tired of it and I think America’s probably tired of it, too, because we are always sort of talking about the divide. We’re going to talk about the divide but we’re just going to focus on the part of the divide that I think needs to be focused on.

I don’t need to do an episode about HBCUs and go across from somebody who’s like, ‘I don’t think there should be HBCUs.’ We hear that every day.

You have an episode in Alabama this season. How did spending time in Alabama when you were a kid influence your adult life?

Every year of my life I would spend nine months with my mom in, like, Boston, and then I would go to Alabama for three months for every summer. And the worlds couldn’t have been more different. And then eventually I traveled back and forth so much that people in the North would go, ‘You sound like you’re from the South’ and people from the South would say, ‘You sound like you’re from the North.’ And so I was always like an outsider wherever I went. It taught me how to travel. It taught me how to go anywhere and be portable, how to talk to people wherever you go, and that’s what I do now. I travel all over the place. I’m portable and pretty good at talking to people no matter where I go. It also proved to me at a very early age that there wasn’t one version of America. I knew there was two: The North’s version of America and the South’s version of America, and then when I got older I found that there was even more than that.

It taught me from a very young age that a lot of people thought they knew what America was. But no, there’s a lot of different Americas out here.

Superproducer Zaytoven’s gospel truth about trap music: It needs to be ‘spontaneous and unorthodox’ He’s a man of faith, plays the organ and the keytar — and creates huge hits with stars like Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj and the Migos

It’s an unlikely one, but the combination of church music and trap music has been a flourishing formula for Xavier Dotson, known in music circles as Atlanta superproducer Zaytoven. Since the mid-2000s, he’s been the visionary behind tracks for artists such as Gucci Mane, Future and the Migos, and he is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of trap music.

Yet it’s hard not to hear the influence of his Christian upbringing on his sound. Zaytoven, the son of a pastor and choir director, moved to the South after being born in Germany and growing up in California’s Bay Area. And when he’s not working a studio soundboard, he’s been, for 11 years and counting, on a sanctuary organ as lead musician for two different churches. “Every time that man touch the piano, I hear church. I hear God. Worship,” says fellow producer Cassius Jay in the latest installment of Red Bull Music’s The Note documentary series. It follows Zaytoven’s journey from a home studio to the realm of musical genius, just as the man of faith is set to release his debut album, Trap Holizay, on May 25.

Before the release of the 17-minute short film, which he scored himself, The Undefeated spoke to Zaytoven about his relationship with Gucci Mane, the first time he met the Migos, LeBron James’ future and more.


Growing up, what did church mean to you?

Everything. Growing up in church, as far as my sound, that’s where all my music comes from. The riffs, how to stay on rhythm, how to improvise. It’s also where I learned how to decipher right from wrong, how to do things and how to treat people.

Do you have a favorite gospel song?

That’s all I listened to growing up. I can more so name some of my artists, like Commissioned, The Winans, Deitrick Haddon, Travis Greene, Tasha Cobbs.

Of the many instruments you play, which was the hardest to master?

I really only play the drums, keyboard and organ. I’ve played a little bit of guitar, but I’ve never mastered it. I started on the drums as youngster, but the keyboard really just kind of kept my attention.

“Spontaneous and unorthodox, that’s what trap music should be. When we’re talking about hustlin’ music, it shouldn’t be all the way well thought out.”

Early in 2017, you played a keytar at the Migos’ first show after the drop of Culture. How did you pick that up?

That was one of the first times I played the keytar. It’s the same thing as a keyboard, but me holding it around my shoulder. So I’m like, ‘I’m finna do this!’ We never practiced with it — none of that. I bought the keytar and had used it once before with Gucci Mane on Jimmy Kimmel. I felt this is something I could do with artists. It was a way I could perform and not just be in the background.

The new documentary touches on the studio where you got your start, “Mama’s Basement.” How did you come up with the name?

Because that’s exactly what it was [laughs]. It was my mom’s basement. That’s where we were recording all the music, where all the artists were coming. When you see the footage in the documentary, you’re gonna see how valuable that basement was. The music that’s popping right now — all that stems from that basement and what we were creating down there that long ago.

Who’s the biggest artist that came through that basement?

Nicki Minaj was there on a daily basis … just like Gucci. I don’t have the studio there anymore, but it’s definitely legendary.

What’s the one piece of studio equipment you couldn’t live without?

MPC [music production controller].

Who’s the voice on your “Zaytoven” drop — and how’d you come up with it?

That’s my daughter, Olivia. She’s 8 years old now, but she might have been 4 when I had her do that. I had a drop before that said ‘Zaytoven,’ and it was kind of electronic. I’d used it on my early records. The Gucci stuff, like the Hard to Kill album. But once new producers started coming in and using new tags, I was like, ‘Hold on … I wanna make a new one.’ That’s when I had my daughter go in, and it worked so perfectly.

“I invited the Migos over to the house. A couple weeks later, you got ‘Versace,’ one of the biggest songs out that year.”

There are often debates surrounding the origin of trap music. What are your thoughts on how it began?

I heard of trap music before I started doing it, with T.I.’s Trap Muzik and Young Jeezy’s Trap or Die. I think the debate is about different styles of trap. If you listen to trap music today, it’s the sound I created with Gucci Mane. Not saying that we started it, but what we were doing was different than what T.I. and Jeezy were doing. Jeezy was doing trap music, and it sounded real theatrical. It was serious; it sounded like a movie almost. T.I.’s trap was just great-quality rap music, talking about trappin’. When me and Gucci were doing it, it was unpolished and edgy. A lot of that is because I really didn’t know what I was doing. The beats would have 808s that were too loud and overlapping, the keyboard might be too low, he might be off the beat or say something you can’t understand. That was the form of trap music that became popular and lasted so long because it was spontaneous and unorthodox. To me, that’s what trap music should be. When we’re talking about hustlin’ music, it shouldn’t be all the way well thought out. Everything we did was on the fly. The beats were made in 10 minutes, the song was made in 10 minutes.

Speaking of Gucci, at what point did you realize he was special?

Almost from the first time I met him, when he came down to my studio trying to write a song for his nephew. Some people got an ‘it’ factor. You feel like, ‘Man, that dude right there is a star.’ And he wasn’t even rapping at the time. It ended up working out — going from him writing a song for his lil’ nephew to him recording, to me and him recording every day, to we got a song on the radio, to we got mixtapes out. And now, it’s years down the road and the sound we created is still dominant.

How did you cross paths with the Migos?

I first saw Quavo rapping on the internet. It was just him in a room with the ceiling fan going. I don’t know why it caught my attention, but I was like, ‘Man, this guy right here is a star.’ Then a rapper by the name of Yung L.A., who used to come to my house all the time, said, ‘Zay, there’s these lil’ young dudes rapping on your beat, saying, ‘Bando’ … they going so crazy.’ I respected Yung L.A.’s opinion so much I immediately went to look up the song. They did a little video for “Bando,” and once I saw them I knew for a fact that they were finna blow up. I started calling around and asking different people who they were. It just so happened that I went to a show with OJ Da Juiceman, and Quavo steps on my foot — as he’s walking out of VIP, and I’m walking in. I’m looking for him, and [the Migos] were looking for me. I invited them over to the house. A couple weeks later, you got “Versace,” one of the biggest songs out that year.

What’s the best destination in the world your music has taken you?

I did a show in Paris last year, and it was the craziest. They were so geeked up I was there, I couldn’t even believe it. It was freezing cold outside and they were taking their shirts off, surfing through the crowd. I never thought somewhere that far out really knew about me and my music.

“I’d definitely have to say LeBron is the best player in the game.”

Any stamp you’d like to add to your passport?

I’m doing my first tour now, so wherever a show takes me, I’m willing to go and ready to go. But I do wanna go back to Germany. I was born there.

Do you have any memories of living in Germany, and how did you end up in Atlanta?

I was a baby. I don’t remember nothing. The reason I moved from there to California to Atlanta is my dad was in the military.

Which athlete do you think is your biggest fan?

Man, I wish I knew! So I could get his phone number and call him (laughs).

Who’s your favorite athlete right now?

I’d definitely have to say LeBron [James] is the best player in the game.

Where do you think LeBron will play next season?

I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been keeping up. I haven’t watched one game of football or basketball the whole year. I gotta get back locked in. I’m still a Golden State fan because I represent the Bay Area. But it’s hard to say. I’m not sure where LeBron will be next year.

Super Bowl LIII next year is in Atlanta. How lit will that weekend be?

The city is going to be on fire. I think that’s the best place to have it. Atlanta finna be so turnt up. It’s gonna be bananas.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Sydel Curry is brand-new, with a new wine, a new Neiman Marcus personal brand — and a new fiancé The former college volleyball player, and younger sister of Stephen and Seth, keeps the faith but also believes in ‘manning up’

The Curry family has been building an empire for quite some time — and Sydel Curry, a former Division I athlete who retired from volleyball in 2017, is a huge part of that. The daughter of former NBA sharpshooter Dell, and younger sister of both NBA champion and two-time MVP Stephen and Dallas Mavericks guard Seth, she is also engaged to Atlanta Hawk Damion Lee.

But Curry has arrived on her own terms. She recently teamed up with Neiman Marcus to launch her own brand, “A Curry Girl.” Curry’s brand is growing through partnerships, but it began with her lifestyle website, a space where she shares her passions, opens up about her faith and spreads awareness about the importance of mental health. “This year, I’m putting myself out there,” she said. “I have true anxiety issues, which is partly why I’m a homebody. But more than anything, I’m an ordinary girl that just wants to create my own extraordinary experiences.” The 23-year-old recently graduated from Elon University, landed a full-time job as service concierge at Tesla and has career goals focused on helping others — all the while trying to live her best life, of course.


Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

BOW YA NEK. My dad is from a small town in Virginia, and he’s super Southern … ‘Bow ya nek’ is a way of saying ‘man up.’ My dad and I have matching tattoos of it.

Favorite late-night food run?

Wingstop.

Most frequently used emoji?

The crying laughing emoji.

Have you ever been starstruck?

I don’t usually get starstruck, but as I was walking into this year’s NBA All-Star Game and was holding my fiancé’s hand, Jesse Williams walked out of a car. I gasped so loud my fiancé turned and said, ‘Excuse me?’

Last concert you went to?

Daniel Caesar.

“I’ve had a counselor — since a bad relationship I was in, out of high school — and she has really helped me. So I want to be that for others.”

Last show you binge-watched?

Gilmore Girls for the 16th time.

Last book you read?

The Bible.

Favorite place to eat in Oakland, California?

Plank in Jack London Square.

Last stamp on your passport?

Turks and Caicos for a siblings-and-significant-others trip this past summer.

A place you’ve never been to but you’re dying to visit?

I want to island-hop around Greece, which is inspired by The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Favorite board game?

Monopoly.

Best or most thoughtful gift you ever received?

It’s the simplest ones that I love. For my high school and college graduations, all of my family members made videos telling me how proud of me they are. I rewatch them from time to time.

What would you tell your 15-year-old self?

It’s not that serious.

What’s in your fridge?

Nothing edible! Week-old eggs and wilted spinach.

Who are you as “A Curry Girl”?

A sum of the myself I am to other people … a little sister, a daughter, a fiancée — that’s so weird to say — and a huge believer in God. I’m hardworking, independent and aware of my mental health.

Where do you see yourself professionally in the next five to 10 years?

I want to be a marriage and family therapist. I’ve always had a passion for people and knew I wanted to be a counselor. It’s important that we really nurture ourselves and relationships, and sometimes we need someone to lead the way. I’ve had a counselor — since a bad relationship I was in, out of high school — and she has really helped me. So I want to be that for someone/others.

Where does your courage come from?

From the people around me. I learn a lot from other people and their experiences. I know that if I’m going through a hard time, I know that I’m not the only one.

This week, you and [Stephen’s wife] Ayesha announced that you two are launching a wine called Domaine Curry. What sparked the idea?

In our family, we love wine. We go towards any kind of cabernet that’s big, bold and superjammy. Ayesha and I wanted to do a project together that explains our relationship and explains the women in our family. The 2015 vintage is called Femme 31. In Proverbs 31, it talks about the virtuous woman. There’s a Scripture there that explains how a woman gains her earnings in the field and plants her vineyard. The virtuous woman takes care of her family and herself, just like the women in our family. We wanted to make something we can pass on to [nieces] Riley, Ryan, my future daughter and all of the Curry women.

NBA Finals prediction?

Warriors in five.