Chris Mathews Answers The Call: What Would Will McAcoy Do?

August 27th, 2012


What would Will McAvoy do? For the uninitiated, Will McAvoy is the fictional news anchor from Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series Newsroom. He’s high minded, bold, and he does not suffer fools gladly–McAvoy was created as the ideal modern day newsman. So when confronted with a smarmy or evasive or  deliberately misleading subject, a journalist could do well to ask himself, “What would Will McAvoy Do?” This is the questioin Chris Mathews must have pondered when he took on RNC head Reince Priebus, who  defended Romney’s birther remarks. Read Full Story »

Before Childish Gambino Conducts His Next Interview, He Must Read This

August 21st, 2012

Watching the talented and confident Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, get pushed off balance in an interview with upcoming Chicago rapper Chief Keef is irresistibly uncomfortable. There are awkward pauses. One-word answers. Non-answers. And sincere attempts by Glover to make a connection fell flat each time. The entire ordeal offers the same queazy appeal as that clip from CNN’s Crossfire, in which Jon Stewart appeared to wreck the show from the guest’s chair.

As one who has spent a considerable amount of time with interview subjects that have been uninterested or hostile (or both), I feel his pain. So, I reached out to some music journalists who have some experience in the matter to offer their interview secrets for hostile subjects. Mr. Gambino, you are welcome. Read Full Story »

The Burden Of An Illmatic MC, Hunting The Great Ghost Of Nas

August 15th, 2012

Blame excellence, blame perfection and aggression. Blame one of hip-hop’s most beautiful moments for the prison that traps Nasir Jones today–blame Illmatic. (“Still Matter,” The Source, Dec. ’01)

That’s how I began the Source cover story on Nas that was published more than a decade ago when hip-hop was in the throes of the Jay-Z/Nas saga. Aside from the hand-wringing that comes with all major post-Pac/Biggie beefs, it was an exciting time for rap fans who appreciate the sport of rhyme. 

More on that later. For now there’s this matter of the new accusations that Nas used ghost writers for his Untitled album which dropped in 2008. What gives this rumor legs is that it is being purported by writer Dream Hampton, who has punctured the circles of celebrity and benefited by being washed in a wealth of inside information. Read Full Story »

The Great Plagiarists Society: Fareed Zakaria Joins The Club

August 12th, 2012


Fareed Zakaria, who is among today’s sharpest and clear-minded foreign policy journalists, was caught red-handed. A plagiarist. He copied a passage of a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore for his column in Time, “The Case For Gun Control.”

It was mostly a few sentences that outlined facts and numbers. He could have easily filtered the graf through a word strainer and come out clean (by using trick No. 2). Or just given credit. Read Full Story »

Belafonte Challenges Jay-Z And Beyonce To Do More

August 11th, 2012

On Sunday night I posted to this site some thoughts about rappers and how they and their wealth will shape our future. I predicted that Diddy, 50 Cent and Jay-Z will emerge as the next major social-justice-seeking black celebrities, akin to Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby.

Their accumulation of wealth and their continued growth as parents and world citizens, I argued, is pointing them in the direction of giving back. They will follow Russell Simmons who has transformed himself from party-promoting hustler to prominent philanthropist.  That was the idea.

On Tuesday (August 7), Mr. Belafonte responded. Read Full Story »

The Gabby Douglas Effect: The Heavy Weight Of A Golden Image

August 8th, 2012


There are famous children and there are children of famous people. The public closely watches both to see what they will make of their unusual lives. There’s always a chance that the pressure will affect the child in a negative way as they grow into adulthood.

It’s the type of thought that floods your mind when you’re watching the movie Beasts Of The Southern Wild. Lead actor Quvenzhané Wallis was five-years-old when she was chosen as the film’s star. Now, like many fathers of daughters, I’m looking forward to her growth as an actress and as a person–with fingers crossed. Read Full Story »

Michael Steele’s Big 2014 Political Plans… Over Breakfast

August 7th, 2012

With vice presidential sweepstakes taking over the airwaves, Michael Steele’s announcement that he is looking at (read: going to run for) the Maryland governor’s race is small potatoes. But it would be a big deal if he were to win. Read Full Story »

Belafonte, Cosby, Gates: The Remix

August 6th, 2012

Most of the time they asked me to use the power of my art to service some specific need.” –Harry Belafonte

Bill Cosby, the crotchety comedian who has gone on a jihad against saggy-pants-wearing young people, has earned the right to be a finger wag. His groundbreaking sitcom reimagined the black familiy as affluent. And in 1988, the Cos donated $20 Million to Spelman college.

The Fat Albert creator is not alone as the monied savior for black causes. Harry Belafonte helped bankroll the civil rights movement, giving valuable funds to the SNCC. Oprah and Bill Gates have made an impact as global do-gooders. Read Full Story »

Daughter Plays The Tracks, Daddy States The Facts

August 5th, 2012


“They grow fast, one day she’s your little princess/ Next day she talking boy business, What is this/… I ain’t tryna mess your thing up/ I just want you to dream up” –Nas, “Daughters”

VIBE Magazine used to publish a column in which Bobbito Garcia played several records for a celebrity and the celebrity would give his or her opinion on each song.

It was called “Bobbito Plays The Tracks, [Insert celebrity NAME here] States The Facts.” A long and clunky title for a column, but it was from a classic era, where the rules were being written and rewritten. Read Full Story »

Rewriting Ali: Me, We

August 4th, 2012


Never read a Jonah Lehrer book, peeped a James Frey lie, or knowingly bookmarked a Jayson Blair article. While fraud soaks the roots of some great literature, the truth is always better, even if/when it shakes our realities.

Alex Haley’s Roots calls into question the Autobiography of Malcolm X (Exhibit A). But like Martin Luther King’s “long arm of justice,” truth is an enduring friend (or patient foe).

Muhammad Ali must have known this when he was out reciting “his” poetry, some of which he most likely did not write. He made a name for himself by mastering the sweet science, he impressed with his sweet poetry, but he became legend for his strong moral stance.

It’s why Mos Def, I mean Yaslin Bey, channels the champ with dramatic flair. In the new Louis Vuitton ad, he pays homage to Muhammad Ali’s slick-talk and biting wit by reciting Ali’s poem known as Rumble In The Jungle, which was designed to taunt George Foreman before the big 1994 fight in Zaire.

Mr. Def stands in the center of a boxing ring for a bout of Ali-inspired spoken word, while artist Niels Shoe Meulman paints the canvass with the word, “Word.” It’s nicely shot and well done.

But Ali’s other poem would have been well-used here. His biggest piece of work was also his smallest and least provocative. A little two-piece that went like this: Read Full Story »