Bohemian Rhapsody

Mom put me on to Queen. She spent a good bit of time in London during her formative years in the ’80s. When I was a kid in the ’90s, we’d clean the crib while listening to Queen: Greatest Hits I & II. I can still see her dancing to “Radio Ga Ga” in our Silver Spring Towers apartment’s living room. “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Bicycle Race” used to be my jams!

Rami Malek’s looking good as Freddie. For a while, I was a bit bummed that Sacha Baron Cohen left this role behind. This trailer’s easing my nerves, though.

Maybe I’ll see it with Mom this fall.

TDE’s Nike Collab for The Championship Tour at a Tour Stop Near You

 

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TDE’s Championship Tour merch | images c/o Nike

 


 

Last week I hit the Forum in Los Angeles for the Championship Tour, which features Kendrick Lamar, SZA Schoolboy Q and the rest of Top Dawg Entertainment’s roster. I’ve seen both Lamar and SZA in the last year. But this trek was a refreshed, abbreviated version of their 2017 tours and it was an added treat to see Q, Isaiah Rashad and Jay Rock for a bit.

I was hanging with buds from Nike, who were introducing their collab line with TDE via the SNKRS Stash experience. Concert attendees with the SNKRS app were alerted around 9:30pm through push notifications that Lamar’s Cortez Kenny III available for purchase. Of course, they sold out in minutes. But Nike’s move adds a nice touch, beyond exclusivity. Not only do you have to have the Internet and quick fingers, but also be at the specific location your favorite rapper is to get clothes and kicks that rep his team.

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This weekend the SNKRS Stash app returns for the Championship Tour’s Houston stop. Look at the dates below to find out where else you can be a part of the action:

Houston, TX at Social Status – May 19-20
New York, NY at Concepts – May 26-30
Boston, MA at Bodega – June 4-5
Toronto, ON at Livestock – June 11-12
Chicago, IL at Notre – June 14-15

Bravo, “This is America”

Within the first 24 hours of this video dropping, I peeped several creatives of note singing their praise of it. Takashi Murakami, Ava Duvernay, Virgil Abloh, A$AP Rocky and many, many more love it.

I always enjoy these occasions, when we can all gather around a something and appreciate every bit of it. In this case, it’s the music, lyrics, dances, symbolism, ad-libs from southern Hip-Hop’s all-stars, artistic direction, and cinemetography. Childish’s Gambino’s “This is America” music video is the best clip of 2018 so far. It has inspired a collection of think pieces on its cultural, racial, and political impliations and impact and It’s fun reading the different interpretations folks have of it.

Thinking Back to When Childish Gambino Wasn’t Black Enough

It’s rare, I think, that things in the African American ethos–with such subject matter and heavy content–go viral. The last “Hey, did you see XYZ? Let’s talk deeply about it.” moment we’ve had on the positive side on things was Jordan Peele’s Get Out at the top of 2017. Glover’s video has about 42 million YouTube views as of 4pm here in Los Angeles. Big numbers in general, but especially for something only three days old.

Let’s keep spreading this fire. Donald is right on time with this one. Well done.

Can We Give Two Thumbs Up for This One Man of the Woods Track?

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Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods album cover


 

The reviews are in on Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods and—whew!—they’re rough. Some are saying Justin, who once was on the pulse of what was sonically new and exciting, has lost a step on his fourth album. Others say it either lacks direction or its moving in an unappealing one. A few more think they were led astray, being sold a deeply personal album and instead getting something with less depth than a puddle. But I think there’s one track we can all agree on being unquestionably good: “Montana” is a pure jam.

Track 12 might be the best moment on Timberlake’s Man of the Woods album. It’s sexy, kind of dangerous. Over a galloping bassline, there’s a sleek Daft Punk-ish future disco feel with a hint of the Knight Rider intro courtesy of resurrected production duo The Neptunes swirled with Bee Gees ‘70s-smooth delivery. There’s also this gentle guitar strum that comes in every five seconds, which makes it old Western gorgeous. I imagine this playing during a scene in Tom Ford film that doesn’t exist, where a grizzled Ryan Gosling skirts off down an empty desert road in a vintage car into a burnt orange sun setting in the lavender sky—escaping a doomed world with a bronze vixen riding shotgun.

“Montana” makes me want to learn about the Northwestern state of Montana. Justin’s making it sound so fly that it’s made it on to my mental Places To Visit with Wifey list. I’ve got to figure out what secret he and John Mayer (who retreated there years ago to repair himself) know about its glory.

In some fantasy world where I help Timberlake make this album, “Montana” is the centerpiece of this MOTW concept record. The plot: A couple madly in love is exhausted with the hectic, troubled metropolis they reside in. When the two have their first child, Silas (whose name means to “Man of the Woods”), they decide—after years of fetishizing the idea of leaving it all behind—to actually make the shift to a snowy haven. Of all places, Montana is the mission. And there, ladies and gents, is my stab at fan fiction.

There’s another convo I want to have with y’all some day about the time I decided spending energy on overwhelmingly negative critiques of art is not for me and when I arrived at the intersection of It’s Wack Being Mean St. & What’s the Point? BLVD. That week was a doozy. My overall feeling nowadays is that if an artist makes something and is pleased with their product, I’m only damning it if it truly causes harm to its audience. But gone of the days of me dedicating 500 words to things I simply don’t like. This album from Justin, admittedly, is my least favorite offering from him. But even then, there’s still a goodie that I’m giving a shout out to from it.

Anyway, agree that “Montana” is flames? Think any other MOTW tracks will become hits or have moments in the sun once the pile-on is over? Time will tell.

 

-bw

Writing About SZA and Recovering from Ugly Duckling Syndrome

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SZA | image by Sage c/o RCA Records


 

Hey there. Want to read this thing I wrote about connecting to SZA’s music, being a recovering ugly duckling and happily making it to a confident place? Yeah? Well, here you go.

SZA Wished to be ‘Normal,’ But Like This Writer, She Did Much Better

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.

 

-bw

Backstage with Charlie Puth

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Charlie Puth at Los Angeles’ Staples Center (July 12) | photo shot by David Romo

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.

Charlie Puth Has More Heart and Soul Than You Know

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.

A Cynic Stands Corrected: Witnessing Fan Love at Katy Perry’s YouTube Crib

 

I went to the spot where Katy Perry recently hosted her four-day live-streamed existence to promote her latest album, Witness. Now an empty makeshift “home” and temporary pop-up shop, super fans were allowed to visit and poke around. You could lay in the bed Katy jumped on, sit on the couches that several comforted several of her celeb friends and things of the sort.

Why Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’ Pop-Up Embodies What Being a Fan Is All About

WILL YOU BE MY #WITNESS? 👁

A post shared by KATY PERRY (@katyperry) on

Covering it for Billboard, I have to admit that I essentially came into it with a “Who would want to go to this?” attitude. But after hanging around a bit, seeing how dedicated some of Katy’s fans are and reading bits of the notes they wrote her, I left with a lot more respect for not only Katy (who I’ve always appreciated as an artist), but her followers—many who have used her music to power themselves through breakups and sickness. Give it a read.