Crowns & Hops Afropunk Story

Beny Ashburn & Teo Hunter of Crowns & Hops

Wrote this story recently on Teo and Beny, who run Crowns & Hops. They’ve been serving (and introducing) craft beer to a community who often isn’t invited in by the brands who are currently at the top: Black people.


I sat down with them out here in LA, had a few brews, and talked about what they’re doing to change the game. The answer is a lot. They’re doing a lot. Read the story here.

Safura’s First Mother’s Day

My wife Safura and our daughter Noémie

As joyous as being a parent is, let’s be honest: Sometimes it is work. I’m eight months into being a dad and there are days that I put our daughter Noémie down in her crib for the night and I’m thinking, “Whew! See you in the morning! I’m about to ice out a glass, pour things in it you can’t sip until you’re 21, and enjoy my night!” I’ll make a drink for my wife Safura and the evening begins. On a night like tonight, we’ll dim the living room to movie theater-level darkness and start the latest Game of Thrones.

We get 5-10 mins in and, all of a sudden, I see something’s glowing that’s not the TV or baby monitor. Safura’s on her phone. “What’s up?” I ask. She flips her iPhone screen towards me and reveals that she’s looking at pictures of Noey. Here’s one of her at on playground swing last week. Scroll a little to the left and there’s a video of Noémie dancing to Mommy’s surprisingly decent beat-boxing. Lol, oh, and she took this slo-mo clip of her shaking blocks out of a box days ago. GoT paused, I laugh and enjoy the pics for a second, then wonder aloud, “Yo, weren’t you with me all day with Noey? How… Why are you looking at that album now?”

Saf’s eyes light up. “She’s just so cute! That’s my baebeeeee! Can you believe we made this beautiful girl?” Yes. As a matter of fact, I can. I was there for that. Y’all, could you imagine working at Popeye’s all day, then coming home and frying chicken for dinner? Nah, right? You’d be like, “I’m about to jump on this salad… or pasta…” Not chicken. Shoot, you might not even want to talk about food!

But Safura is that mom. She moms all day and then when she’s “off” at night, she moms hard some more. She buys her Converse sneaks while dragons fly on screen. She worries if those two coughs Noey let out at 3:12 mean she might be sick. She researches the best products for our baby’s East/West African/Iranian’s head of hair. She loves her Noémie.

For real, Safura is some kind of super. I knew that when we got married two years ago. But today, me and my little homie Noey celebrate our hero for another reason: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

We love you.

Black “Cool” and Men at The 2019 Met Gala

Billy Porter in The Blonds and Giuseppe Zanotti boots at The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss )

As far as cultural currency in the Black community is concerned, cool ranks highly. We hold on to that shit like big bills in our pocket. It’s for that reason that I think that we are constantly the most boring attendees annually at the Met Gala. Last night at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s marquee event, Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Rock, Trevor Noah, and others looked great! But more-so like they were entering a really nice fashion dinner than what was essentially a costume party celebrating the museum’s new exhibit around Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.’”

They looked chic, suave, and—sadly, safe. Safe from teasing. As I played armchair fashion critic, I joked on Twitter last night that it looked like most of the Black straight men were dressed like maybe they wanted to be a bit more eccentric but stopped way short it, fearing they’d earn the ire of magazine editors’ Worst Dressed recaps on Tuesday morning. Or worse: Getting roasted in that viscous (albeit sometimes hilarious) way our culture does in the barber shop, on radio shows, on Bossip, or in Instagram comments is scary in the most trivial way.

Michael B. Jordan in Coach at The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images)

On the pink carpet, Jordan rocked a dope satin and sequin tuxedo. He was asked about his look by E! Online and said that he wanted to find something that was “masculine, but [didn’t] run away from the theme.” Michael found that balance. Good for him. You can’t tease him for looking “weird,” though he won’t be praised for going wild either. Jordan was dapper, not camp.

That’s like coming to a Halloween party dressed as a football player. Sure, you wore a costume. But even if the jersey shimmers, that’s not the dude whose outfit will be remembered weeks from now. So I’m showing love to the handful of brothers who came to show out, not just show up. Most notably Billy Porter (above), the Pose actor who’s been bodying red carpets all year and Native Son and Moonlight star Ashton Sanders wearing that throwback silky wig and Telfar ‘fit.

Ashton Sanders in Telfar at The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

Shout out to Odell Beckham Jr. for coming through with his arms and legs out in the Thom Browne kilt. Even French Montana, who repped his Moroccan culture, brought a little something different.

As I said last night:

Peace to all the dudes out there who make a little noise. That’s cooler than “cool.”

Game of Thrones Talk with SZA

SZA on the set of “Power is Power” | Shot by Henry Arres

SZA teamed up with Travis Scott and The Weeknd for “Power is Power,” the lead single from For the Throne: Music Inspired by the HBO Series Game of Thrones. Now just because she’s on the soundtrack for TV’s most popular show doesn’t mean that she’s a true fan of it. Luckily, she is.

‘Game of Thrones’ superfan SZA taps into her inner Khaleesi in a new single

I got on the phone with her last week for the Los Angeles Times to not only talk about the track’s upcoming music video, but also why she loves the HBO drama.

“There are some real things for us to relate to on the show,” she told me. “Maybe not fucking my brother [alluding to the incestuous relationship Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, has with her brother Jamie], but you know… the other stuff.”

Agreed, agreed.

Give it a read here.

Rest Well, Neighborhood Nip’

When I was Music Ed. Asst. at VIBE back in the day, one of the things I did was essentially host new artists. If you were a new act in Hip-Hop/R&B and your label/team knew right, they’d plan a meet-and-greet with our staff.

In 2009 Nipsey Hussle visited our office a little after we moved to Wall Street. I got him situated in the conference room. Wrangled staff to come listen to “this LA rapper with a Snoop feel.” (I was trying to sell jaded staffers on leaving their desks to hear new music.)

Once I loaded his CD into the boom box and hit play, everyone acted like being there was a decision they didn’t make reluctantly. Lol, he was dope! I remember liking “Hussle in the House.” But what I loved was the brief Q&A I had with him in the conf. room when the music stopped.

I’m not going to lie to y’all and act like I remember specific words from that chat. But I do recall being impressed with him because listening to him speak and hearing his accent, slang, and such… you’d think he was just another around-the-way LA hood cat. Wrong.

His ideas were elevated. He talked about investing in real estate being a goal. He talked about how being in the studio was the key to leaving the mess of his old life behind. He talked about wanting to put his people on.

In the years since it was a joy to see Nipsey hustle and win. Especially last year. His album Victory Lap was as good of a business move as it was musically (And musically it was great!). I enjoyed his press run for it, too.

In interviews he talked about getting his body and mind right. Manifestation/visualization. Being a true businessman. You could tell he’d taken The Turn. Like he had ascended and become a true hero of our culture that was doing good in our community with his actions. Inspiring!

I think that’s when our stars become most dangerous. When they’re connected and communicate their success blueprint to their community. When they’re not greedy and try to lift more of their people up by using their voice to share. Nipsey seemed like that dude.

Neighborhood Nip. I loved that nickname.

His death hurts. I just hate it when it looks like the bad guys won. They took one of the good ones. Took a guy that people could feel because he literally could still be touched. He was still in the hood. Not stunting or showing out.

Doing business. Bringing money into it. Lifting it up. Showing people the way daily. Ugh. I don’t have a thoughtful finale to this chain. It sucks that he’s gone. He was good for us. He was good.

Tour Fashion: Jay-Z and Beyonce’s On the Run II | Drake and Migos

As the game changes and traditional reviews become less of a commodity (who wants to read a play-by-play of a concert when it’s being plastered by fans over social media, city-by-city?), I’ve had to find ways to cover shows and qualify my access to all the cool shit I get to go to. It’s a blessing to get a free pair of tix to see huge acts rock.

How Beyonce, JAY-Z, Migos And Drake Made Their Tour Stages Fashion Runways, Too

A decade in the biz and great relationships means that no-strings-attached assists happen all the time. Still, why not mix a little work in with play and get a good story off? So instead of doing a basic review of the Drake and The Three Migos and Jay-Z and Beyonce’s On the Run II tours, I stepped to it from a fashion perspective. What brands assisted these guys in looking like the icons they are? I ended up talking to Migos’ stylist Zoe Costello and designer LaQuan Smith for Vibe Magazine and learning about what goes into draping Jay, Bey’, Drake and the Atlanta amigos for the road.

Read it here.