Frank Ocean on Hate, the Orlando Shooter & the other F-Word

Frank’s last four Tumblr posts have been short reactions to hate crimes or death (Prince’s untimely passing). His latest came this morning, about that tragic shooting at a bar frequented by the LGBT community in Orlando just over a week ago. They are sad words. They are thought-provoking words.

I appreciate that Frank shares what’s on his mind during grim times in the world.

As a fan, I hope he’s doing well. Understanding that he’s had his own issues with his sexuality, a hate crime of that magnitude had to have brought up some bad memories for him. Frank strikes me as a person that feels deeply. And people like that immerse themselves in their own turmoil.

All I’m saying is I hope his next post is about something happy. But, really, maybe I should just pray for better gun laws and that more people let love into their hearts so that wild shit like this doesn’t happen on the regular anymore. Then we’ll have less news like this to report and one of my favorite musicians won’t have to Tumblr about gloomy memories of when he first heard the word “faggot.”

Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

That Time I Interviewed Kevin Hart and He Was Dead-Ass Serious the Whole Time

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Kevin Hart | photo via Instagram

Comedians are not funny all the time. And I’m not talking about when they’re on stage. I mean in life. You can’t expect a professional funnyman to be hilarious during a casual convo any more than you can bank on a Starbucks employee to whip up a frap’ for you during their off time.

Still, when I interviewed Kevin Hart in 2011 for Entertainment Weekly, just after he shocked Hollywood by investing $750000 in his independent stand-up comedy film Laugh At My Pain and producing it via his Hartbeat Productions company and CodeBlack, then scoring a $2,000,000 box office weekend debut, I expected a couple of jokes when I was set to speak to him about his success and how it all went down.

When he hopped on the phone to talk to me, though, I realized within the first 30 seconds that there’d be no punchlines in this chat. He was anxious to talk about his business acumen. About the groundwork he laid. How he strategized. About the risks that led to the weekend’s gratifying reward.

As you read this, Kevin is having a moment. He just released a sneaker through Nike Yeah, that shoe up there. He’s signed to them as an athlete (those that follow him know this is more than a vanity play. He’s an all-around fitness fanatic that has become a runner over the last two years). They’re dope, too.

And this Friday (July 17) Central Intelligence, his new movie with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, comes out. It’s a good time to be Kevin Hart.

In a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, he spoke, again, about his business savvy. Now not only is he flourishing as comedic actor, but he’s in the early stages of creating a Netflix-esque service for fellow comedians. His blueprint is Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service, which guarantees that artists involved get a bigger piece of the pie when their audiences tune in. Kevin also speaks about putting those around him in positions to succeed (Ex: his personal trainer will now be involved with his Nike endeavors, too).

In his BFC interview, Kevin was “On”–delivering jokes like he was performing and promoting his products like a seasoned salesman. But each time he gets to talking about future endeavors, the showman transforms into some cross between a motivational speaker and goal-driven businessman.

Like my buddy said in that tweet, I could watch Kevin Hart pressers all day. It’s comedy with a heap of real inspirational rap. He always charges up my battery a bit.

Every time I see him speak or do an interview and drop a gem, I always think back to my EW interview from five years ago. We had a great convo. I never laughed. “I’m trying to become a mogul,” Kevin told me. And when I hung up the phone, I thought, “This guy is a comedian, but none of this shit is a joke to him.” It’s still true.

Bonus: Dude just dropped the trailer for his next comedy film What Now?, out in October. He’s funny here.

Gucci + Gia Coppolla = Great Story

This is fresh.

Gucci x Gia Coppola’s The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice Film

Publications and brands today are constantly looking for ways to create content that isn’t corny, tells a story and makes them money without feeling like blatant advertising.

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Actors Lou Doillon and Marcel Castenmiller | photograph by Dan Regan for Vogue

 

Gucci reached out to director Gia Coppola for this 4-part short film called The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s an update on the Greek myth about Orph’ (I always shorten names), who was known to charm all with his music. All the clothing featured is from Gucci designer Alessandro Michele’s 2016 Pre-Fall collection. It’s very well done and a great example of how you can tell a compelling story while selling a product (fly-ass Gucci garments in this case) and a media company (Conde Nast and their branded content army 23 Stories) can use it as respectable content they’re proud of. This is the type of thing I hope to do one day.

Also, shout out to Dev Hynes, who produced the music for Gia’s Orpheus. I’m looking forward to his forthcoming album, Freetown Sound.

Random-Ass Fun Brad Fact: When I was in the 6th grade at Martin Luther King Middle School I took Greek as a foreign language and our teacher gave us new names of gods and mythical figures. I was Spartacus.

That SUPER Feeling, X-Men: Apocalypse and Drake

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Pompous critics hype to get critical thoughts and hot takes off, like so. | Me, sometimes :-/

 

There’s a certain and unfortunate level of pretentiousness that infects critics. I’ve been guilty of it, too. We journalists (or critics or bloggers or whatever) are, hopefully, trained writers and analysts that—again, hopefully—have a huge interest in what ever we’re covering. So we invest a ridiculous amount of time in order to become an “expert” in that field. It might be politics, sports, art (paintings/TV/FIlm/Music/Whatever, etc…). I’ve learned as an entertainment and pop culture guy that critical analysis, yes, is important. But what I’m trying to focus on nowadays is feel.

The thing that maybe makes me an “expert” is the context I can put things in. For example, let’s briefly talk about Drake’s Views album. Now if I was writing a proper review, I would talk about his whole catalogue, dive into this new album, then compare and contrast where I could while talking about what his more inventive peers are doing. And based on all that I’d arrive at something along the lines of:

On Views’ “U With Me,” Drake says he “made a career off reminiscing.” It’s true. Typically the Toronto underdog turned Pop stud’s memory raps yield noteworthy results. Unfortunately, trips into his past on Views lead avid fans listeners to narratives they’ve often heard from him before. Especially as it relates to his romantic endeavors. This guy has got so. many. exes. With Drake, it seems like the names of his women change, but what they do to him don’t. [Gives examples of repetitive storylines that we’ve heard from him that appear again on Views].

But I’d also talk about how the album felt. Feel is important. The mood on “Redemption” made me feel like drowning in a swamp of my own wrongdoings. “Controlla” made me want to wind my hips like an extra in a dancehall video. “Weston Road Flows” made me wish the drive I was taking while playing the album could last a little longer, because I didn’t want it to end. So despite Views being about 20 minutes too long with content that isn’t fresh, it’s far from the creative failure I’ve seen many critics pan it as.

Now with all that said, walk with me.

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I saw X-Men: Apocalypse recently. Clearly, coming out just weeks after Captain America: Civil War and the massive praise it got put it in the tough situation of critics comparing them to each other. But I enjoyed it. First, let’s start with meh-ness. The story was cool enough. In short, an ancient mystical being with an enormous ego, Apocalypse, returns from centuries ago with plans to destroy a 1980s-era Earth that he believes praises false gods and technology. If all goes his way, he’ll restore it to a world he rules. Of course, the X-Men must stop it.

The script and dialogue are well done. I do wish there were more fighting and battle sequences. There’s basically one big one at the end and it probably ranks fourth among 2016 superhero flicks so far. (Civil War, Deadpool, and Batman vs Superman, who it does beat in the comedy category. BvS was dry as hell.) And I’m really wondering why Bryan Singer was so hype about casting Jubilee and her yellow coat in the film and then proceeded to not showcase her powers once. No fireworks or sparkles. None. WHY?

 

Though I did enjoy Wolverine’s savage-ass cameo, Cyclops’ origin story and Quicksilver’s heroics at the halfway mark. So the movie was good, not perfect. But here’s how I’ll explain why I feel like Apocalypse was worth my $14 ticket and, really, how I grade all comic book flicks. The question is Did It Make Me Nerdilly Feel Pumped and Ready To Save People and/or Fuck Shit Up?

Story time!

In 2013 actor Henry Cavill’s first foray as Superman, Man of Steel, came out. Critics mostly hated it. It scored at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer. But after I saw it, I remember feeling, well, bigger. At the time, I lived in Brooklyn and saw it at the UA Court Street Stadium in Carroll Gardens. Admittedly, Steel wasn’t the best. However, the feeling it gave me was real. That day I was wearing a plaid red Ralph Lauren button-down over a t-shirt. When I left the theater and hopped on my bike to head home to my BedStuy apartment, I unbuttoned it and sped back to the crib like I was running late for a meeting with my couch.

Why? Because Superman made me feel faster, stronger even—like when I would watch Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, or Ronin Warriors as a child and wanted to play fight and do karate on my little sister at home. There I was—then a man in his mid-20s—peddling like a Tour de France cyclist with my shirt flapping in the wind like a cape. No villain to fight. No wrong to right. No Lois Lane in sight.

That’s how I felt, though! So yeah, a critic’s job is to critique. And as was the case with Man of Steel, there are some holes I can poke in Apocalypse. Things I would have liked to see. But any superhero movie that can bring out that kid used to duel with imaginary monsters and morph into a costumed crusaders is getting a good review from me. I don’t care how many plotholes it has. I’ve got to blast through that snooty critic armor and ask myself if I caught that hero vibe.

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Like this.

 

Watching the X-Men battle against Apocalypse brought that out of me. That feeling is priceless. $14 is cheaper than priceless. Actually, it’s a steal.

Great & Gone, Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was more Hip-Hip than your favorite rapper. He took some losses. But when you’ve done as much as he’s done socially as a revolutionary, physically as the most graceful hit-man ever in the boxing ring, and inspired so many, you will forever be undefeated. All hail to the Greatest Of All Time.

In that interview above, Ali said after boxing he’d spend his remaining time on Earth preparing himself to meet God. “If there’s a heaven, I want to see it,” Ali said. I’m sure he’s been welcomed with open arms by the supreme being.

Cruel Winter? ‘Champions’?

 

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When the whole squad has bars and you even let extended fam dance on the syths, too.

Kanye West feat. Travis, Quavo, Big Sean, Yo Gotti, Gucci, 2 Chainz & Desiigner.

Apparently, there’s a Cruel Winter album coming. Clearly, Gucci Mane is having the best week ever. Maybe G.O.O.D. Fridays are back. But who the hell knows? The title for this song Kanye debuted on Big Boy’s radio show this morning isn’t even confirmed.

‘Net God bless this random-ass NightsInOctober character for ripping the song. Lord knows Universal/Def Jam will be taking it down in 3, 2…