Our ‘Strong’ Friends | A Sad Week for the Quietly Hurting

Anthony Bourdain was found dead at age 61 this morning in his hotel room in France, forever at rest after an apparent a suicide. I told my wife about it as she got dressed for work. The news soured the start of our day. We both enjoyed his positivity and his Parts Unknown CNN show, where he explored lands far and varied via food and conversation with both dignitaries and common folk alike. Bourdain admittedly was a heroin addict in his twenties before cleaning up and becoming a renowned chef. Clearly, he was still dealing with other issues.

It’s the kind of day where people get on social media and share grief, along with numbers for suicide hotlines and one-liners like “Check in on your strong friend.” That saying’s a popular one, because those who seemingly “have it all”—a family, money, a good attitude, flourishing career, and so-on—are typically the ones who do more of the helping and unfortunately receive less actual emotional support.

The last week has been peppered with sad, surprising news and reminders of highly regarded creatives and public figures suffering from or succumbing to depression and hidden demons. Kanye West’s latest album opens with “I Thought About Killing You,” where he admits he’s considered suicide. “They’ll say, ‘He died so young,’” West raps, thinking of what fans would utter if he ended it all. “I done had a bad case of too many bad days,” he continues in a relatable when it rains, it pours string of bars.

On Tuesday (June 5) fashion designer and billion-dollar brand boss Kate Spade was found dead at 55 in her New York City home. She reportedly hanged herself with a scarf. Another suicide. June 7 would have been Prince’s 60th birthday, had he not died of a fentanyl overdose in Spring 2016. The bottle that contained the drugs he used were not prescribed, nor was it labeled properly, suggesting he abused the painkiller and got the pills from an unofficial source. I wonder how many people genuinely asked him—a philanthropist who often gave in secrecy and offered his mentorship to gaggles of next-gen musicians—of his wellbeing.

Really, it’s possible that your “strong” friend may be putting on a front. A smile can be a deadly mask. The idea that a thoughtful conversation opening with an earnest “How are you?” can save someone from themselves is one that should be championed. Like the signs on New York City subway cars say to discourage crime, “If you see something, say something.”

If you catch someone you’re following on Twitter shoot out a thread of gloomy messages or lyrics to grim songs, it’s probably worth reaching out to them. Notice what people are connecting with. If someone sounds a bit off on the phone, try to come over and see them. Some people are screaming for help quietly.

I’d also like to encourage another sentiment: Check in on yourself. Ask yourself how you’re doing. How are you feeling? Not so hot? Talk to your friends. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. See a therapist. It doesn’t make you weak.

Do something to help your emotions out of that rut. I’ve never been in a mental ditch deep enough to do anything drastic. Though I’ve surely been in the dumps and know that the power of my wife’s hug and kiss, a laugh on my cell with my parents or a solid text exchange with a homeboy can be transformative.

Others sniffing out your ills and coming to the rescue is awesome. But I just wanted to remind everyone to start within, then look beyond. Help yourself. Help others. Let’s all try to be the reason those close to us find peace here on Earth, instead of hoping it meets them in heaven.

Luka Sabbat Needs Festival Fashion Boys & Girls to Chill

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Luka Sabbat | photo c/o LS’ Instagram

 

With festival season upon us, young gun model Luka Sabbat has some words to heed in regards to trying too damn hard to look good while you’re dancing in the dirt:

“But really, just wear a white tee, some jeans and a pair of sneakers that you can fuck up. You’re at a festival, not fashion week. Some people do too much and get mad when their clothes get fucked up. Nobody came out to see your outfit. We came to see the artists.”

Luka Sabbat on Walking in Yeezy Shows, John Mayer’s ‘Ill Swag’ & Coachella Style Tips

So true. There are dozens of Best Looks at Coachella lists that include both musicians and fans out there. But more times than not, when I see the fan ‘fits, some variant of what Luka says up there comes to mind. Why not just throw on some old Chucks, Levi’s, a tee, scarf, and hat (props to those who know to bring hoodie for the night chill)?

I talked to Sabbat about that and some other fun topics—walking in Kanye West’s Yeezy shows, John Mayer’s low-key style and more. Check it out.

Fun Facts About The-Dream from my Billboard Q&A

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The-Dream | shot by Miguel Starcevich | c/o Roc Nation

 

The-Dream just dropped his Love You to Death EP, so I talked to him for a bit for Billboard. It ended up being an awesome, lengthy convo that topically ranged from his theory on why dating sucks for young Black men, taking artistic risks, and why more colleges should have Male Studies courses.

The-Dream on Love You To Death EP: “I’m Trying to Find the Rest of the Things That Make Me Whole”

There’s also a bunch of insight on his contributions to Beyonce’s Lemonade, Rihanna’s Anti, Solange’s A Seat at the Table and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. Here are some fun (and one not-so-fun) facts from the talk:

  • Dream’s a painter! Jay-Z and Beyonce both own Terius Nash originals.
  • He wanted to make a Purple Rain-esque movie for his first album Love Hate.
  • Solange LOVES “Fancy“!
  • He was dumped by his prom date.

Give it a read.

A Little Bird Talk with Travis Scott

 

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Travis Scott at Travis Birds Pop-Up | Shot by Sara De Boer

 

The tour merch era is back and killing. Between people rocking vintage/“vintage” Ramones or Metallica tees and modern stars like Kanye West and Justin Bieber cranking out concert apparel, it’s clear the trend won’t be going anywhere soon. Joining the collection of artists making rock merch worth copping is Travis Scott.

All You Need to Know About Travis Scott’s Los Angeles Merch Pop-Up

I met up with him last Friday at his pop-up shop out here in L.A., where he sold his Travis Birds line that’ll pair nicely with his 2017 tour for his Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight album. Levis trucker jackers with eagles drawn on the back, dad hats, sweats and more. You can wear them to the show or, like most will, everywhere else to be fly.

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Travis Birds line | Shot by Brad Wete

 
We talked about his love for Toyotas, Jack the Eagle (who fans will meet on tour), and how he whipped up the designs for the TB. Give it a read at Billboard.

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Travis Birds tee | Shot by Brad Wete

 

 

Francis Starlite’s ‘Friends,’ Bon Iver and Kanye West

I’ve been rooting for this guy Francis Starlite for a while. Sometimes when I’m asked who my favorite interview subjects have been, I recall this time I spent on the phone with him for Entertainment Weekly.

I’m guessing this is his new single. Looking forward to seeing what else he’s cooking up. This is fresh.

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…

 

Kid Cudi Billboard Q&A

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Kid Cudi

 

Kid Cudi’s last album, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven is a bummer. The spirit of the December 2015 set it is straight demoralizing and somber—even for Cudi. Which is saying a lot, because as a fan I know that he’s never been the smile-for-no-reason type musically. Still, Bullet, a rock album immersed in depression, drugs and doubt is especially sad.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this Ted Talk with him up on stage speaking at his old Cleveland high school to students and saw a lively Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi smiling and—dare I say—happy? I had to know how the hell he went from sounding like a guy that was one pill or drink away from having an #RIP hashtag in front of his name on social media to this guy seemingly past his darkest days.

Kid Cudi Reveals His Struggle With Drugs and Depression: ‘I Was Living a Nightmare’

I reached out to Billboard and told them what I wanted to do: Interview Cudi to find out if my wishful thinking was true. And they were with it. So a few weeks later I met up with Cudi at a recording studio in Los Angeles, where he spent the first 5-10 minutes playing me “Frequency” just hours before he’d release it to his fans via SoundCloud.

It’s a refreshing take on that Cudi most of his followers fell in love with eight or so years ago thanks to his first two Man on the Moon albums and offshoots like Indicud. Waning hums lead to a woozily sung hook, followed by tight raps that are lifted by a galvanizing “I’m done up ’til sun up!” chant.

Once the music stopped, Scott spoke. A lot. About:

  • getting over depression.
  • how he tried to use cocaine to help.
  • reconnecting with Kanye West.
  • not being interesting in making Man on the Moon 3
  • ejaculating on doubters.

I’ve interviewed him a bunch in the past and he’s always been candid. But this time I’m less proud about the more headline-grabbing quotes I got from him and more that he’s speaking about choosing to be happy. It really is a choice that eludes many.

Give it a look here.