Yes, Please | Versace Men’s Spring-Summer 2020 Fashion Show

“For this collection, I wanted to explore the elements that empower a man. It’s definitely the confidence, the freedom and desire to express himself without hesitation.” – Donatella Versace

The patent leather pants. The black trench. The chained black tote bag. The moto jacket with the fringes. The slacks with the flared bottoms (I’m not sure if I can pull that silhouette off. But I can’t knock it until I try it!). The sparkling blazers! The boots!

Damn, why don’t I have any friends at Versace yet?? This collection is insanely good.

23 | XIs | Me: Like Mike, Just Not on the Court

23 | XIs | Me: Like Mike, Just Not on the Court

Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan XI Concords | image c/o Nike

Back in 1997 I was 12 and a lanky, baby-faced eighth grader, standing 5’10.” Each day, I’d race home after school, scramble to get my homework done then hop on my bike to cycle to a basketball court.

On the court I’d show off moves I’d gained confidence in through hours spent practicing in my driveway, most of them bootleg renditions of what I’d seen Michael Jordan do time and time again on television. Jab steps. Pump fakes. Reverse lay-ups.

If my neighborhood friend Leo was playing on the opposing team and not guarding me, he’d yell what he thought I’d do out to the dude who was: “Watch out for his fadeaway!”

I’d post up about 8-10 feet from the basket, damn-near sitting on my defender with my arm extended for my boy Shyaka to feed me.

I watched endless VHS footage of MJ, so I’d fake right before spinning left, shoot, and that ball would make the chained nets jingle when it went through. Easy. Like…

I drooled over MJ’s moves and his shoes, fiending over every pair of the Air Jordans that’d hit the streets annually.

And when Brand Jordan dropped the XI commercial with MJ leaping maybe five stories high to dunk on an obnoxiously tall rim, I wished for the sleek sneaks that rocketed him up there, too.

But I had no business wearing $125 sneakers in the mid-‘90s. Nor could my parents have afforded them if I acquired the nerve to ask.

When you’re a kid, you’re still gullible enough to believe that sneakers will make you jump as high as the athlete endorsing them. Like when Spike Lee wished for Genie Little Richie to make him become Michael Jordan in a pair of Air Jordan VIs.

*Record scratch.* Unfortunately, reality bites.

If it wasn’t obvious from me telling you about fond memories from—of all windows in my life—middle school, my journey as a true hooper was short. I had a middling high school career that ended after senior year when no D-1 colleges recruited me. My childhood dream was over.

The good thing about my high school experience, however, was that I did discover a new interest that would last me a lifetime: Storytelling.

In high school homeroom, I’d eat a junk breakfast and read Mr. Haversack’s Washington Post. Mostly the sports pages. I fell in love with Michael Wilbon’s witty columns and takes on basketball. He inspired me to choose print journalism as my major when I enrolled at Howard University. When I graduated, I chose entertainment journalism–specifically music–to be my focus.

When I got my first job at Vibe Magazine I’d spend mad time in the lab sitting beside the Music Editor, getting better. I’ll never forget him transforming the intro paragraph about a truck speeding towards the subject of my first big feature, rapper Wale, into something awesome by taking my simple verb and swapping it for “careening.”

Entertainment Weekly editors helped punch up my album reviews, teaching me to make my writing tighter. Editor-at-Large Rob Kenner’s tips carried my Lana Del Rey cover story at Complex to a special place.

Throughout those years, I gained so much wisdom from countless writers and editors. Some were veterans who literally sat down beside me to help, others were word wizards who assisted me by producing amazing profiles that I consumed in the same studied manner I peeped Michael Jordan’s Come Fly With Me and Air Time movies in my parents’ basement.

By the time I became Features Editor at Billboard, I had racked up some great stories. Unlike in sports, there aren’t many championship moments. But my tenure at Billboard was when I felt like I had finally arrived. At Billboard I covered Kanye, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Rick Ross, Pharrell, James Blake, Lady Gaga, Beyonce…

It seemed like whatever I spoke up about at our weekly meetings turned into something unique, fun, and worthwhile on our site or in the magazine’s pages. I was on fire.

One Friday after a meeting in summer 2014, our Billboard Editor-in-Chief Tony Gervino stopped by my desk and asked me to come to his office. I meandered in, my chest tightening, my heart beating a mile a minute.

“You wear a 13, right?” he asked. Correct. He reached under his desk and handed a box over to me. “Thanks for always speaking up in the meetings.” I cracked the box open…

These bad boys

The white from the Concord XIs inside had an angel aura glowing around it. Those shitty fluorescent tube lights we had hummed on the patent leather and made the toe box glisten as well.

There I was in my Editor-in-Chief’s office, six years after beginning of my career, 12 years after my hoops dreams died, and 19 after I first peeped MJ debut the XIs.

As I looked down on those sneakers, designed and endorsed by a man whose name is synonymous with excellence, it dawned on me: it wasn’t an NBA championship trophy that I had been chasing after all. It was that Jordan-like mental state where my skills, talent, and hard work all clicked inside me like some marvelous triangle of dopeness.

Donning an NBA jersey might not be in the cards for most of us, but the awesome thing is that you can dunk and swish in all walks of life. Once you find your calling, it’s game time. Get after it and the trophies will come.

I made a pretty elaborate chain of Instagram Stories that partners with this pieces. Gifs, vids, art, music… The whole kit and caboodle is now in my Highlights section. I strongly suggest you head over to my IG page to give it a look-see.

Give Lucky Daye a Play

Lucky Daye | Photo by Madeleine Dalla c/o Keep Cool/RCA Records

“[I] know it’s been a while/ Since you left, I been solo/ Now you like to dance, I went ham on your photos.”

As I writer, I appreciate well-penned song lyrics. In the 22 words opening lines above, Lucky Daye accomplished so much. Since he’s split from an old girlfriend a while back, he’s solo and emotionally so low. What’s he being doing with the time that he presumably would like to be spending with her? Peeping her social feeds. And boy, has she been living! Among other findings, Lucky sees that she’s picked up a new hobby: Dancing.

Over a simple guitar riff, he sets the tone for what will be a moving mid-tempo song about being at the intersection of lack and yearning, looking at the phone and hoping that special someone will ring you. What I love just as much as the lyrics is that they’re paired with a bouncing Bossa Nova-lite instrumental that doesn’t scream “SAD!” His voice and harmonies are what make this an R&B track. Sad bops, a genre that I’d define as songs that are lyrical tearjerkers with beats that make you dance, are hard to come by. But here I am, grooving to Dayes’ pain like it’s a club record. Well done.

Last December, my wife and I were driving from the crib in North Hollywood to The Forum in Inglewood to see Travis Scott. You might assume we blasted some music that matched the energy of the alt Hip-Hop artist we were about to see. But as we pulled out of the driveway, I felt like giving a new guy a spin.

I’d just gotten an email about Daye, a New Orleans singer who had just dropped the first third of his album at the end of November. I heard his debut single “Roll Some Mo” on Spotify’s Are & Be playlist and was in possession of the rough version of his entire album thanks to a link his publicist at the time emailed me. During the hour-long drive, I would often interrupt whatever conversation we were having to say some variation of the following: “Damn, this dude is talented!” My girl agreed.

Digesting it, we marveled at what the rest of the world would later know as II when it dropped at the top of February and the trilogy in its whole form, entitled Painted, on Memorial Day weekend.

Being a sharer, it’s no fun silently sitting on fire music. Since that Christmastime cruise, I’ve wanted to jump online and tell folk about the glory and sadness of Painted‘s “Flood.” Or the basic conversational beauty of “Misunderstood.” Oh, and the bridge on “Call”? *Palms face*

But I didn’t want to share that link I was trusted with, nor did I want to encourage any Internet lames to start their engines and go sleuthing for songs Lucky didn’t want found at the time. When Painted finally dropped in full, I played it like I’d never heard it before. And it’s been in steady rotation since. I used to really get off on hearing amazing music early because of my work and access. Now I can’t for people to sing what I’ve been humming to myself.

Yesterday I was on the set of my guy Theophilus London’s video for his upcoming single “PRETTY.” During lunch, one of the actors for the short put down his chips and guac’ to connect his phone to a speaker and play music. The first song he cued up? Lucky’s “Real Games.” Several heads in the room the room began to bounce with familiarity. One actress looked up from her glowing iPhone screen with curiosity to ask who it was she was hearing for the first time. “I like this!” she said through a smile. I just took it all in, laughing and dapping up a the DJ as the song morphed into its second, rap-heavy half.

R&B comes in many different forms nowadays. The genre is full and diverse. SZA. Childish Gambino. Steve Lacey. Solange. Sid. They all are in this Cosmic R&B world I’ve been enjoying. Lucky’s in there, too. His voice has a charming soulfulness to it that sells his love songs, just enough dirt on it to support the raps sprinkled throughout Painted, and the splashes of funk and jazz are refreshing, to say the least.

For those of you who just got hip to Lucky, welcome! For y’all who haven’t given him a burn yet, there’s still room on the luxury bandwagon I’m driving. In honor of Daye’s roots we’re serving gumbo, followed by beignets. You are also welcome.

Moderating at Eeeeeatscon Los Angeles

Me moderating the Grooves to Food panel at Eeeeatscon in Santa Monica

Big thanks to The Infatuation for having me out to host the Grooves to Food panel at Eeeeeatscon in LA. Had a fun time rapping with the Homestate taco sister queens Andy and Briana Valdez, Mayer Hawthorne, DJ Them Jeans, and Delicious Pizza boss Rick Ross.

Much love to my bro Anthony Demby and Infatuation co-founder Andrew Steinthal for the invite. That little food site Andrew started not too long ago is really taking off, eh?

I can still taste the Shake Shack and Petit Trois collab burger I beasted. What a delightful, fat-ass day that was for me.

Daddy Issues, But in Space | Brad Pitt in Ad Astra

Every year there’s another outer space movie trying to put its hands in my pockets.

Every year I scoff and go, “Another space movie? I’ll pass.”

Then I see who it stars, watch the trailer, and ease way off my stance. I’m going to see Ad Astra, just like I saw Ryan Gosling’s First Man in 2018. It looks good!

In the film Brad’s dad Tommy Lee Jones went missing during a space mission years ago. Inspired by his father, Brad also becomes an astronaut and is apparently shocked to find out that pops may still be alive out there with E.T. brewing up something that could end all life on Earth. (It always comes down to the ol’ “…or our planet will be lost!” plot-line.)

Brad Pitt and daddy issues in space with a side of possible worldwide doom? Sold! I’ll be in the theater this September.

Wedding in Bretagne

Cousin Isabelle & Pierre Le Leannec | Photo by Joseph Wete

Before this weekend I hadn’t attended a wedding since I was the groom of my own in 2017. Though mine was an amazing occasion I’ll celebrate forever, it’s way more fun to be a guest at one than to host.

I went to Bretagne, a small region west of Paris to celebrate the union of my cousin Isabelle to hometown boy Pierre Le Leannec and his welcoming family. In my experience as a wedding co-star two years ago, I found myself whizzing through the hectic big day. Months of planning finally meets the moment of execution. My wife and I were anxious for several reasons—both grand and trivial. For starters, it was our damn wedding! We were promising and devoting our lives to each other in front of family, close friends, and… God!

Then there was the silly stuff like:

  • Would the food we choose be delivered as planned during the reception? It wasn’t. Our catering service plated the trout we didn’t choose and tried to pass it off as the sea bass we did.
  • Would the ceremony—which we rehearsed for to avoid mistakes—go off without a hitch? Well, mostly. I practiced lighting candles with a classic cigarette lighter, but somehow a long lighter (which I had never used in life at all prior) replaced it at showtime and I clumsily fumbled with it in front of our guests until giving it to someone else to light. Not cool.

It was an awesome day, but the well-earned hype of its meaning and the pressure we put on the production of the night resulted in us in searching for perfection rather than fully being in the moment.

Do you know what I was concerned about the day before my flight to attend Izzy and P’s wedding?

  • How good I’d look in my Ralph Lauren suit, Yves Saint Laurent shirt, and Bally shoes and making sure I packed my pocket-sized Aquaphor for my ankles because I’d be rocking no-show socks. 
  • How much wine I’d enjoy through the trip. 
  • The fun I’d have with my family at the lux Airbnb my sister found.

See the difference? When my brother Joseph and I sat back in our balcony seats for the wedding, I got to do something I wish I could have done more of on my wedding day: simply enjoy myself and be present. I didn’t have everyone in attendance asking for pictures. No marriage vets interrupted me to provide How To Husband wisdom. I didn’t… As I write this, I know that these words can come off as ungrateful.

To be clear, receiving love and congrats on your wedding day is a good thing! But if you’ve been a bride or a groom, you know that it also eats away at the time you could be spending marveling at your new spouse and getting drunk. That’s fun, too!

The ring. | photo by me

At the ceremony in Bretagne, I just sat in appreciation. Isabelle and Pierre looked incredible. Izzy the American recited her memorized vows in French. The Frenchman returned the sentiments in English. 
Joe and I took turns flexing our camera skills. When I wasn’t snapping, I often thought about and felt the energy in the room. The joy. The love.

Isabelle’s parents, Zachee & Carol | photo by me

I noticed everything. There is Auntie Carol and Uncle Zachee (Isabelle’s parents). It must feel wonderful to give your daughter off to such a great partner. There’s my eldest Uncle on my mother’s side, Isaac, here to bring some Cameroonian proverbs to the table. Oh, it’s my dad in… Are those alligator wingtips?.. Yes! Yes, they are!

Dad and Uncle Isaac | photo by me

At the reception, the conversation was light, worries nonexistent, and the vino consumption gratuitous. Oiu, monsieur! I’ll take another glass. Merci!
Aside from spending half a Wham! verse dancing with Isabelle and Pierre, I spent most of my time watching them and the entire hall be happy and celebrate.

Wifey couldn’t make it, so the broski was my date.

They sang and performed David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” There was a video short that featured family members sharing memories of the newlyweds. Pierre’s best buddy’s speech was the ideal balance of embarrassing close-friend jabs and heartwarming recollections, noting that the San Francisco couple had corniness in common and that Pierre has looked like his shaggy self since he was a kid.

I’m typing this from my Sky Priority Air France seat (leg room!) nine hours deep into a 10-hour flight back to Los Angeles. I’m jet-lagged in a disorienting way (the France/LA time difference is a whopping nine hours and this was only a four-day trip) and in bad need of kisses from my wife and daughter, who couldn’t make this run with me. But my spirit is also full.

Izzy & P | photo by me

Pierre and Isabelle’s gift registry begins with a note about how all those who attend their destination wedding have already given an incredible gift to them with their presence. Interestingly enough, after witnessing their nuptials, I’m coming back home feeling like I scored some treats, too. Congratulations, Pierre and Isabelle! And thank you, Pierre and Isabelle!

Tyler’s “Earfquake” and IGOR

Tyler, the Creator | photo by Sam Rock

One of the things I love most about seeing creatives at work and in their element is their freedom. When an artist—especially a performing musician—is really in their bag, it’s beautiful. Look at the video for Tyler, the Creator’s “Earfquake.”

What the fuck is this? In it he stars as a ‘60s-era singer rocking on a late nite show. He’s wearing a blond bowl cut wig and towards the end of the short, he flicks a cigarette away from his piano, which eventually burns down the set. It makes no sense. There’s no narrative. I don’t know if the piece (one that spends its first minute locked in on a hilarious interaction between host Tracee Ellis Ross and Tyler) means anything at all. But damn, it’s good.

The way he ticks on beat at the 2:20 mark. The smog and gunk on his sky blue boxy suit. The faint into the arms fire fighters. The flames raging behind him as he sings in front.

*Chef’s kiss*

The shit is gorgeous.

Similar to the IGOR album this song comes from, the “Earfquake” video seems to come from the magical land of No Fucks. Most of us only vacation there when we’re in the shower and the house is empty. It’s a place I wish we all lived, where its natives create stuff that comes from their hearts and act accordingly. It doesn’t matter if your voice sounds like Whitney Houston’s or the garbage disposal in your kitchen, if you dance like Michael Jackson or Elaine Benes. You just sing, because that’s how you feel.

In turn, I’m feeling this wave Tyler’s on.