Daniel Caesar seems to be handling pressure well. With success comes expectations. Fans of the smooth singer wonder if he’ll be able to surpass his Freudian album’s gorgeous collection of songs and those in the industry have touted him “Next,” as in the next great R&B singer, the prince that will soon be king. Having so many believe in him is a gift and something to appreciate, sure. But it can also be stifling mentally.
Can’t really explain why I didn’t post this cover story I did for Flaunt on here months ago. But this is a goodie. The interview happened just before SZA began prepping for her Coachella weekends. I met her on set for the cover shoot and from the start, I knew—at least—that she’d be warm and kind.
Her publicist guided her over to me. “This is Brad,” I heard her tell the singer as they approached. I extended my hand for a shake and for a split second I thought she was going to leave me hanging. SZA looked right past it. We all know that anxious feeling when you think you’re about to be made to look like a fool. It consumed me. Then, boom. She walked right into my chest for a hug. There was an awkward relief. “Oh!” I thought. “This is going be good and different.”
From there, she was pretty open and just the unique blend of quirky and cool that anyone who’s listened to her debut album Ctrl would expect her to be. We talked about insecurities, depression, and fantasies as she munched on her Shake Shack chicken burger.
SZA’s had a roller coaster existence as of late. On the high side, she just dropped her earthy “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” video, where she and Donald Glover get close in the forest. She can also be found making a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video, shooting a coy look our way before Glover gets loose on a car roof.
On the low end, she has reportedly run her voice ragged. When I saw her in May at the Forum performing during her set at TDE’s Championship Tour, she sounded solid. But her pipes, she said recently on Twitter, are busted. “My voice is permanently injured,” SZA wrote. She can be a bit dramatic at times, I notice. Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith just told fans, “ I will get her with the best doctors and she will be fine.” I believe him.
When SZA and I spoke, she said she’s anxious to get started on her sophomore album. Obviously, it’ll probably be a while before she’s at full strength in the studio. But if you’re looking to learn a bit more about the Jersey hugger, read my cover story here.
One of the things that has been most exciting about my role at Flaunt Magazine is the ability to tell full stories here. For 10 years I’ve been interviewing creatives. Over the last four years, I’ve learned how to produce and edit video shorts. And since starting at Flaunt last July, I’ve not only been able to do exhibit the aforementioned skills, but I’ve been producing events that compliment the articles as well.
But the part that excited me most–outside of showcasing dope fashion–was the my pitch of putting together a dinner that celebrated a diverse collection of women in several facets of fashion, the arts, and entertainment. Collaborating to accomplish a goal is a winding road. Our ideas took many turns. Revolve entered the mix around January as the space (the roof) where we’d have it.
Long story short, it turned out swell. I had a hand in just about everything–from how we’d title the dishes on the menu to connect to theme of the shoes to flower arrangements on the tables to selecting guests to each person having a hand-drawn sketch to identify where they sit and take home.
To go from one phone call in November to looking at 40 attendees (art curators, designers, models, actresses, influencers…) enjoying themselves on a rooftop dinner in February because of great ideas and teamwork is pretty damn awesome. Looking forward to doing more things like this.
Whenever I interview someone who’s incredibly well known and popular, my goal is an obvious one: Find something new out. Most people know this person’s general life story and highlights.
So my question for you—after you read this interview I had with Kobe Bryant for Flaunt Magazine—is did you learn anything new about him? I think I dug out about–hmmm–three intriguing nuggets. Each third of the story has one.
Talking to Kobe and Disney animation legend Glen Keane (he drew Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast!) about their Oscar-winning short Dear Basketball was a treat. I’m a huge Kobe fan. Players who entered the NBA in the mid-‘90s were the ones I watched bloom into stars and Kobe was my favorite. The skill, the passion, the talent, the Hip-Hop meets Air Jordan 2.0 vibes… He was dope. So much so that I wouldn’t play as anyone but the Lakers on NBA Live or 2K from about 1997 to maybe 2010 or so when I stopped being a consistent gamer.
It was difficult to keep my cool, but thankfully I don’t think they could tell. The interview went well and writing the piece was a breeze. We rapped about Michael Jackson, storytelling, discovering your life’s purpose as a youth and more. Give it a read.
During the photo shoot for this interview, I was talking to his Dear Basketball publicist about one of my goals for the new year. We were just days into 2018 and knowing that I closed ’17 eating wild and glorious amounts of food and sweet treats, my goal was to lose 15 pounds in January. Kobe overheard me. About 10 minutes later, he walked over and looked me up and down—sneakers to the longest strand of hair on my head.
“You’re trying to lose weight?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. I told him that I’d looked up Dwyane Wade’s weight (we’re about the same height), saw that he’s 220-ish and thought I could get there with some discipline. Kobe asked how I was feeling so far. Cutting back on eating garbage is pretty easy, I explained. But the 4-5 gym workouts a week that I had picked up were making me sore and tired as hell.
A smirk crept onto his face as his shoulders shrugged, like a two-piece combo of indifference and hilarity just presented itself. “Your body will get used to it,” he said through a light chuckle. “Yeah,” I responded. “True.” We shook hands. He left. On my way home, I too laughed. That was such a Kobe response.
Kobe probably never complained about the temporary pain he endured during the thousands of hours he’d spent training in gyms, running on tracks and recovering from numerous injuries. He knew it was part of the process. A little work and pain now, a trophy later. That’s a fair exchange. I took it all in while sitting in the back of my Lyft headed home, grinning ear to ear. “Kobe didn’t give a fuck about my gym pain because he’s a bad-ass and bad-asses aren’t trying to hear that shit,” I thought. “That’s why I love that dude.” Then I snapped out of it. Haha, what a nerd I am sometimes.
One of the things I love most about my job is when I get to connect my life experiences to art and this was one of those times. My wife and I went to SZA’s concert in September. Prior to it I had been excited to see her live. Her debut album Ctrl was one of the year’s best. It’s narrative is one of a young woman finding herself in her world and feeling like she wasn’t enough of the things she admired in others. I tend to connect with artists who experienced what I’ll call an inferiority complex, feeling that they lack in blatant and not so obvious ways.
In my formative years, I was a skinny kid with glasses and jacked up teeth who envied the cool kids, but never managed to be one. I wasn’t invited to one birthday party or sleepover, nor did I do anything more than hug a girl that I crushed on back in high school. Nerd City, y’all. Population: me. I’m sure there were people who felt like me around. But just as the teenage experience for those who are quite far from Mr. Popular status is portrayed in the movies, it felt like an immensely lonely one.
Since then I’ve grown a bunch and become a person that I’m super happy with. And if you’ve heard Ctrl, it seems SZA has, too. When I first went to her show, I had no plan of writing the piece that it became. At first I wanted to make my story for Flaunt exclusively about her. But as we watched her perform, hearing the things she’d say between songs, I knew I’d have to write something that included me.
I don’t want to spoil your read by telling you why, so just go for it. Thanks for letting me share.
One of my goals when I joined Flaunt this summer was to work with brands that I’m a fan of. Throughout my career, I’ve mostly been a proper music journalist. But towards the end of 2016, I was blessed with opportunities to do a load of stories that connected music and fashion for Billboard. And now that I’m with Flaunt, I’m either writing or editing pieces that are fully fashion-oriented.
This year Nike celebrated the 35th anniversary of their Air Force 1 and use the birthday to give the white-on-white sneaks a fresh look via the lens of five premiere streetwear designers and influencers: Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, Acronym’s Errolson Hugh, Roc-a-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Just Don’s Don “Don C.” Crawley and musician Travis Scott. I’m a huge fan of each of them and spoke to the guys for the piece.
Building a relationship with Nike was also a big 2017 goal as well. I’m super excited to share the fun stuff we at Flaunt are working on in 2018 with them thanks to this story and the foundation it laid. But in the meantime, check out my chat with the fellas. One of my favorite anecdotes in there comes from Biggs, who had a hilarious way of ensuring that his Airs 1s stayed clear of dirt and being stepped on in NYC streets back int the day. This is another one of my favorite interviews from my 2017.
Here’s one reason why interviewing celebs and people who are interviewed often sometimes sucks: Their guards are especially heightened and they’re used to enduring awful “journalists” who ask mundane, unenthused, or worse, thirsty questions.
Among my goals as a question-asker is to make interviews feel more like conversations. Comfort is key. But even more than that, understanding that the best way to get a good conversation with essentially anyone is to actually care about the subject’s being and craft—not who they’re penetrating or some click-bait-ey topic of the moment. Fortunately for me, I spend the bulk of my time talking with creatives.
So when I sat down with pop singer Charlie Puth after watching him rock at the Staples Center here in Los Angeles, I asked him about what I had just witnessed: Here’s this guy who’s known for super poppy songs and hooks like the one here alongside Wiz Khalifa—the most YouTubed music video ever.
But throughout his set, he sounded super soulful. So I asked him about where that came from. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise. And from there came a great conversation. Give it a read. I wasn’t a sucker journalist, maintained my integrity and you, the reader, get a good read. It’s one of my favorite interviews from this year.