First Impressions of Beyoncé’s New Album ‘Renaissance’ 

After a six-year wait, Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance is finally here, and it’s made for the dance floor. 

“To all of my fans: I hope you find joy in this music,” Beyoncé wrote in a letter to fans this week. “I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.” 

She recorded the 16-track album throughout the pandemic, explaining that it helped her find escape during an extremely difficult time. And now that it’s finally being released into the world, it’s her hope that it will provide release. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment,” she explained. “A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.” 

So, does it live up to the hype? What’s the best song? Are there any big surprises? Members of the Complex staff came together to share our first-listen thoughts on Beyoncé’s Renaissance. Dive in below. 

Best song? 

Jessica McKinney: “Church Girl” is a perfect mix of soul, gospel, and dance. It’s impossible not to dance to, especially with the way The Clark Sisters’ sample melts into the beat. Plus, there are a bunch of empowering one-liners and quotables from Beyoncé. 

Karla Rodriguez: “Cozy.” It feels like someone is speaking affirmations over you and it makes you feel so damn good about yourself. Listen to it while you’re walking down a busy street, and you’ll see. 

Andre Gee: I feel like I’d be cheating by taking the obvious rap and bounce influence of “Church Girl,” so I’ll say “Plastic Off The Sofa,” which is a tender face caress of a song.  

Alana Yzola: It’s a three-way tie between “Virgo’s Groove,” “Cozy,” and “Thique.” 

Jordan Rose: The sample on “Church Girl” is beautiful, and the duality between the name and the subject matter is so clever.  

Aria Hughes: That’s so hard to say. A lot of the songs feel like they could be two or three different songs. But right now I keep replaying the second half of “Move.” It brings in the afrobeats sound that she tapped into with The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack, but something about this interpretation feels specifically Beyoncé. There’s a groove you get lost in, which I believe was her main goal with this album: for us to get lost in the sonics. The lyrics also resonate. (“Move out the way. I’m with my girls and we all need space. When the queen comes through, part like the Red Sea.”) It’s Beyoncé proclaiming her arrival or return, and I’m here for it. 

Trace Cowen: “All Up In Your Mind.” 

Drea O: “I’m That Girl.” It’s empowering. 

Stefan Breskin: “Cuff It.” I think it could’ve been the lead single. 
 
Eric Skelton: “Virgo’s Groove,” and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Virgo (OK, maybe a little). I’m dying to hear this song in a room full of people. Those runs! 

Biggest skip? 

Jessica: “Break My Soul,” although the transition from “Energy” to “Break My Soul” was *chef’s kiss*.  

Karla: “Virgo’s Groove” is just fine, but I’m a Scorpio so I simply can’t relate (lol). 

Andre: No skips over here.  

Jordan: There’s no glaring skip for me, but the transition between “Virgo’s Groove” and “Move” was a bit jarring. I would have liked an intermediate track between them, before the tempo jumped like it does. 

Alana: I wouldn’t skip, but gun to my head, “Cuff It.” 

Aria: I think “Break My Soul” sounds better in the context of this album, but it’s still not a favorite. 

Trace: None. 

Drea: “Break My Soul,” only because it’s in constant rotation, literally everywhere. I’m a little tired.  

Stefan: “Plastic Off The Sofa.” 
 
Eric: I’ll probably come back to the intro (“I’m That Girl”) the least. It’s not bad, but the album gets better as it goes on. 

Best thing about the album? 

Jessica: The transitions are seamless. Every track absorbs the other, and you don’t even realize you’ve listened to half of the album already.  

Karla: The way every song just melts into the next. I’ve been getting a little too used to albums sounding like they were cooked in the microwave in under 10 minutes, but Renaissance feels like it was oven-roasted. 

Andre: The way each track built into the next and created a sonic world. For instance, the way the kicks were added to the end of “Cuff It” so it would smoothly lead into “Energy” is really top-notch work by the producers.  

Jordan: Renaissance is a dance album that’s still able to blend melodic, dance, and bar-centric tracks together in a way that makes sense. It’s something only someone like Beyoncé could do at this high level.   

Alana: THE TRANSITIONS! 

Aria: Beyonce’s dedication to being the best she can be as a singer, songwriter, and producer. Also, her dedication to looking to the past but bringing it into the future. The songs are layered and varied, with references pulled from so many different places. She has a very academic approach to making music that feels really well-researched and well-executed. And I also just love her range. She uses her voice in so many different ways on this album.  

Trace: Beyoncé has captured a collective mid-pandemic feeling of wanting to dance through the pain, all while championing the importance of dance music at large, including the history of house. 

Drea: The way it was put together, sonically. It’s really an experience—the Beyoncé experience we all love. She delivered.  

Stefan: The transitions. If you’re not paying attention to the elapsed time on each song resetting to 0:00, you’ll lose your spot on the tracklist. Beyoncé is the queen of transitions in her live arrangements, but seeing it done throughout an entire project is more than I could have asked for.  

Eric: It’s fun as hell. Beyoncé is an album artist who throws herself into the specific mission of each project, and this time she wanted to “release the wiggle” in her fans. Well, I haven’t been able to stop moving since I pressed play. Mission accomplished. 

Worst thing about the album? 

Jessica: It was difficult to hear about the drama surrounding the samples on this project (in particular, the Kelis’ grievances over her music being sampled on “Energy”) and not have a sour taste in my mouth.  

Karla: The album loses steam a little bit toward the middle. 

Andre: This isn’t about the album per se, but the Kelis-Neptunes sample drama was a black eye on what had been a dope album rollout. I do agree with Kelis that even if she technically doesn’t own her masters to “Get Along With You,” Beyoncé’s team could have hit her up and told her about it beforehand. 

Jordan: I didn’t have any real issues with Renaissance. The melodies are beautiful, and despite some of the subject matter not really advancing through the album, I don’t think it had to for it to still be good. 

Alana: Given the credits, I was hoping to hear Drake as a surprise on “Heated.” 

Aria: I don’t know if this is a bad thing about the album per se, but I selfishly want to hear Beyoncé speak about her creation process, and it would be a shame if we don’t hear that directly from her. The leak and Kelis drama that preceded the roll out was also unfortunate, but it is what it is.  

Trace: None. 

Drea: The album leak and rollout was not a great look, but Beyoncé can really do no wrong. I love the project so far. 

Stefan: Beyoncé did what she was trying to do: create a place to scream, release, and feel freedom. But when you commit to a sound this much, there becomes a specific time and place you can listen to the album, and I don’t think I’m always going to be in the mood to release the wiggle. 

Eric: Part of me is disappointed to not hear any ballads after six years of waiting for a new Beyoncé album, but it’s a minor complaint. That’s clearly not what Renaissance is for. Maybe we’ll get some songs like that on act ii or iii

Biggest surprise? 

Jessica: I thought there were going to be a lot more features. Aside from Tems and Beam, and voiceovers from Grace Jones and TS Madison, there weren’t a lot of guest appearances. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but after seeing the credits, it was shocking to see that most of those names (Drake, Jay-Z, etc) played a background role.  

Karla: I usually prefer when Bey gives us big vocals, but I didn’t mind what she did with this. 

Andre: No big surprises, but I thought there would’ve been a Jay-Z verse on here where he atones for “Ghetto Techno.” 

Jordan: It sounds like Beyoncé has been working on her bars over these last few years. While her melodies and vocal prowess have only gotten better, Bey flexes a new lyrical pocket that is really impressive on some of these songs. 

Alana: “Church Girl” ended up being a twerk anthem?! 

Aria: The transitions. I mean, it wasn’t a huge surprise to me, because she does this so well with her live shows. But to see her integrate it into the album was a welcome surprise. She really wanted us to listen to this as a full body of work, or a project you can play at a party from front to back. And I was surprised by the amount of samples. Beyoncé has always sampled other songs, but the way she infused this many into one song was masterful.  

Trace: This is the most immediately I have been fully immersed in a new Bey album, and I wouldn’t be shocked if this ultimately becomes my favorite era of hers. 

Drea: I’m surprised Beyoncé was rapping so much on the album. She did just as much rapping as she did singing.  

Stefan: No features. Seeing the writing credits had me fantasizing about the potential of a Beyoncé track featuring Drake, while they’re both in their dance music bag.  

Eric: At this point, it’s not really a surprise to hear Beyoncé make a song like “Thique” (she’s been making great rap songs for years) but the first time I heard that raspy whisper flow in the first 30 seconds, my jaw dropped. What a song. 

Overall first impressions? 

Jessica: Renaissance is a cohesive and seamless dance project that gives us what we want and need right now: a good time.  

Karla: I love an album you can play from top to bottom without skips, and Renaissance is now one of them.   

Andre: Beyoncé and her collaborators did an incredible job here. Amid a trend of producers re-working classic samples for singles, Beyoncé is the first one I’ve seen to be intentional about it with a trio of albums devoted to the premise.   

Jordan: One of the most impressive things about Beyoncé is that she’s been in music for over two decades and still finds a way to reinvent herself with every album. Renaissance is nothing like Lemonade, but it creates its own space that makes comparing the two feel unnecessary. From the songwriting to vocals and production, she has managed to somehow hit another pinnacle. 

Alana: It’s an endless party. Given that Beyoncé said she wrote this during the pandemic, I expected it to feel a little more heavy. But it’s so light and free and just what we need right now. The lyrics don’t change the world or anything, but it allows you to just be here, and be present. 

Aria: I’m thankful to be alive while Beyonce is creating. The end.  

Trace: I didn’t realize how much I needed an album like this at this exact moment. Thank you, Beyoncé. 

Drea: I love the album and appreciate Beyoncé for delivering a quality project.  

Stefan: This is one of the best listening experiences I’ve had with a new album this year. The traditional rollout, detailed physical copies, and dozens of press photos helped build a complete world around Renaissance, and I’m looking forward to seeing her expand with act ii and act iii. 

Eric: She did it. She pulled off the challenge of making a fun dance album full of samples that pay homage to the past, while still pushing her own sound forward and experimenting in an enjoyable way. It’s been a rough couple of years and the world deserves an album like this right now. The rest of the summer is going to be fun as hell. 

‘Nope’ Proves Keke Palmer Deserves Every Lead Role Hollywood Has to Offer—and an Oscar

Jordan Peele’s Nope is everything movie fans have come to expect from him. 

The director’s third feature film is over the top, odd in the best ways, terrifying, smart, original, and captivating, as well as perfectly cast. The film also follows the trend of Peele’s mysterious films continuously summoning audiences to theaters in an era where Marvel, franchises, and reboots rule the box office. Nope opened with $44 million on its opening weekend, making it the best for an original film opening since Peele’s Us, which made $71.1 million in April 2019.

The director knows that people are thirsty to be entertained, while others want to be stimulated. That’s why he made Nope a spectacle that is also injected with thoughtful commentary and symbolism that will feed the curious minds who love to dissect his films. Peele’s casting choices are also one of his greatest strengths as a filmmaker and that was reinforced by having Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as his leads in his third directorial project. 

The sci-fi thriller’s storyline is about siblings OJ Haywood (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer), who have been Hollywood horse trainers since they were children. The film picks up six months after their dad’s bizarre death and OJ is the one living and working full time at the ranch, while his sister pursues other paths like acting, directing, singing, producing, etc. OJ is the muscle behind the operation; he cares for the horses and the ranch, but he is too introverted and reserved for a Hollywood set. Emerald is the one with the charisma and the upbeat energy needed to work in showbiz. OJ looks to his sister for rescue when they’re on set for a commercial at the start of the movie, and from the first time you see Palmer on the screen, all your focus shifts to her.

As the film progresses, we learn that there is an otherworldly object, or creature, living in a cloud above the ranch that may have caused their father’s death. Down on their luck and short on money, the Haywoods set out on a mission to capture the creature on video so that they could have the “Oprah shot” that could launch them into fame and wealth. There has been a connecting thread of societal commentary throughout Peele’s films that he often leaves open to interpretation for the audience, and Nope was no exception. In this case, the film explores Hollywood and the film industry and how Black people have had “skin in the game” since the beginning of filmmaking. 

The chilling horror moments in the film provide plenty of jump scares while also showing the great lengths people are willing to go to get that one viral moment that could change their lives because anyone in their right mind would pack a bag and leave. Nope also explores the trauma that child stars often live with through Ricky “Jupe” Park’s (Steven Yeun) story, as well as the importance of siblings—who are oftentimes the people by your side when shit hits the fan regardless of your differences, which Emerald and OJ so perfectly represent here.

Both of the characters are so incredibly dissimilar, but so are Palmer and Kaluuya in their delivery as actors. Palmer’s character Emerald helps the tense film breathe a little easier. She adds levity, humor, and an authenticity that’s difficult to portray if that’s not something you already carry within. During a global press conference for the movie, Complex asked the actors what they learned from each other as professionals during filming, a question that gave them both pause. “I found it hard to show joy and be natural. And be extroverted and natural with it. It’s a very hard balance to do. It is way harder than people realize,” Kaluuya said. “People look at drama and think (it’s difficult)—but it’s kind of really simple. But in terms of being joyous and exuberant and then having a reality and a realness to it is very difficult, and Keke has that for free, naturally.” 

He added: “She’s just got it. That is what I was taking in a lot, the decisions she made, like, ‘Oh, that’s how you do that? That’s how you could do that? I didn’t see it that way or think of that way, I never would have arrived at that.’”

Emerald’s humor is perfectly sprinkled throughout Nope, and at times you almost forget you’re watching a horror film. Palmer, alongside Brandon Perea (who plays an electronics store employee named Angel Torres and also delivered a standout performance), add the necessary comedy to make the story feel more realistic. Even in real life, sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. Both Emerald and Angel don’t seem to take things as seriously as OJ does at first, so in the hectic moments where they do panic, the audience knows it’s for good reason. Palmer shines the brightest in the third act, though, going from the film’s comedic relief to a full-on horror and then action star—adding even more excitement for all the roles she will inevitably land after Nope.

Palmer’s relaxed acting style is comparable to some of the most seasoned and respected actors out there. She’s genuine and raw and completely natural at what she does, which makes for the best acting. She may have decades of experience, but Nope is her best performance yet. Emerald is her vessel to let the world know what she is all about. Peele recognized that in her when they met, and he told Complex in an interview that he wrote the role specifically for the actress. She hits the full spectrum of human emotion throughout the film—joy, fear, sadness, confusion, resilience, etc.—and those last 15 or so minutes of the film undoubtedly belong to her. Palmer is a star, and an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actress category seems appropriate here.   

Palmer is also obviously not alone in her greatness. Kaluuya delivers yet another masterful performance as OJ, who is a quiet, focused man of few words, and whose priority is the ranch and its animals. In the film’s most frightening moments, Kaluuya’s character stays calm. OJ keeps his cool while managing to also show slight glimpses of fear, intimidation, heart, and determination as he dodges the creature in the sky. The actor’s poise in the roles we’ve seen him in so far is what made him a star and an Oscar winner so early on in his career. I’ve referred to him as the Denzel Washington of our generation, but that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. Peele referred to Kaluuya as being to him what Robert De Niro is to Martin Scorsese, which is the most fitting comparison, and my only hope is that there will be more collaborations between them down the line. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/keke-palmer-nope-lead-roles/third-act

The Supreme Court Is Not Supposed to Have This Much Power

And Congress should claw it back.

Only after Republicans lost control of Congress in 1875 was the Court able to enforce its contrary interpretations of the Constitution—to devastating effect. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 and related cases, the Court refused to enforce federal civil-rights laws on the theory that the newly enacted Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments gave Congress no power against private racial violence or discrimination in public accommodations. For the next half century—as part of what the historian W. E. B. Du Bois called the “counter-revolution of property”—the Court condemned the Reconstruction Congress as a group of unprincipled fanatics. And it invented new doctrines that authorized the Court to invalidate federal legislation that it thought went too far toward interfering with white business interests. It was during this period that judicial supremacy took hold as a dominant ideology in the United States.


This bears repeating: Judicial supremacy is an institutional arrangement brought to cultural ascendancy by white people who wanted to undo Reconstruction and the rise of organized labor that had followed. And that makes sense, as judicial supremacy can harness the power of an entrenched minority and use that power to undermine the more democratic legislative branch. Decades after the Court in Marbury v. Madison first anticipated that it might disagree with Congress about a federal law’s constitutionality, the justices finally convinced skeptics of the need for this authority by disempowering Congress and unraveling its legislative efforts to establish political equality.


Paul Finkelman: America’s ‘Great Chief Justice’ was an unrepentant slaveholder In the nearly 150 years since Reconstruction, the thrust of judicial supremacy has continued to be revanchist. Through the 21st century, the justices overwhelmingly have exercised their claim of supremacy over Congress to insulate the wealthy and powerful from federal labor laws, federal voting laws, federal civil-rights laws, federal campaign-finance laws, and federal health-care laws. Decisions such as Citizens United and Shelby County are typical examples of how the Court has overruled Congress to make it harder for ordinary people to participate in American democracy on equal terms. But their damage goes beyond even that: Because the limits of our constitutional imagination can extend no further than the opinions of those who happen to sit on the Court, judicial supremacy has also impoverished what we think is possible through democratic politics—and through organizing for political change at the national level.


In the nearly 150 years since Reconstruction, the thrust of judicial supremacy has continued to be revanchist. Through the 21st century, the justices overwhelmingly have exercised their claim of supremacy over Congress to insulate the wealthy and powerful from federal labor laws, federal voting laws, federal civil-rights laws, federal campaign-finance laws, and federal health-care laws. Decisions such as Citizens United and Shelby County are typical examples of how the Court has overruled Congress to make it harder for ordinary people to participate in American democracy on equal terms. But their damage goes beyond even that: Because the limits of our constitutional imagination can extend no further than the opinions of those who happen to sit on the Court, judicial supremacy has also impoverished what we think is possible through democratic politics—and through organizing for political change at the national level.

Rather than look to the Court to glimpse some fundamental truth from scant constitutional text, Americans ought to demand that their elected representatives engage in the hard work of national lawmaking. Congress must act, even if it means overriding the interpretations of the Court and reshaping its jurisdiction. Encouragingly, members of the House have recently passed bills to enforce their understanding of what federal laws our nation demands and our Constitution permits—including reproductive freedom and voting rights. But the bills have all stalled in the Senate for two reasons that remain within its control. One, the filibuster, will be abolished as soon as 50 senators recognize that a permanently incapacitated Senate is far more destructive than an active Senate that But the other obstacle may be more pernicious: a fear among legislators that there is no point to legislating if the Court will simply invalidate anything Congress achieves.might one day be controlled by an opposing party.

Yet as the Reconstruction Congress recognized, everything the Court has the power to do comes from federal statutes passed by Congress—statutes that a majority of Congress always has the power to amend. Conflicts over constitutional interpretation are not really over who has the best understanding of words inscribed in an old document. They are about who—or which actors in our system of national government—can deliver on a particular, and inherently contested, meaning in the context of our current times. It is a question of political leadership, not legalism.
There is nothing unconstitutional about Congress reasserting its authority to define the nation’s highest law. The experience of Reconstruction brings into view this firmly grounded practice. In fact, a surviving remnant of the Reconstruction Congress’s work—today codified in 42 U.S.C. § 1983—has underwritten some of the most famous cases in modern constitutional law. In Section 1983, Congress instructed federal courts to stop state or local officials from depriving anyone of their “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Section 1983 is what Oliver Brown invoked when he challenged Kansas’s segregation laws in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, what “Jane Roe” invoked to challenge Texas’s abortion law in Roe v. Wade, and what James Obergefell invoked when he challenged Ohio’s same-sex-marriage ban in Obergefell v. Hodges. While these landmark cases invalidated state laws, the justices were following, not undermining, Congress’s orders. The decisions overruling state interpretations of the Constitution don’t represent judicial supremacy, but rather Congress’s ability to make and enforce national constitutional commitments.

It’s June again—that time of year when Americans wake up each morning and wait for the Supreme Court to resolve our deepest political disagreements. To decide what the Constitution says about our bodily autonomy, our power to avert climate change, and our ability to protect children from guns, the nation turns not to members of Congress—elected by us—but to five oracles in robes.
This annual observance of judicial supremacy—the idea that the Supreme Court has the final say about what our Constitution allows—is an odd affliction for a nation that will close the month ready to celebrate our independence from an unelected monarch. From one perspective, our acceptance of this supremacy reflects a sense that our political system is simply too broken to address the most urgent questions that we confront. But it would be a mistake to see judicial supremacy as a mere symptom of our politics and not a cause.


Contrary to what many people have come to believe, judicial supremacy is not in the Constitution, and does not date from the founding era. It took hold of American politics only after the Civil War, when the Court overruled Congress’s judgment that the Constitution demanded civil-rights and voting laws. The Court has spent the 150 years since sapping our national representatives of the power to issue national rules. These judicial decisions have destroyed guardrails that national majorities deemed vital to a functional, multiracial democracy—including protecting the right to vote and curbing the influence of money in politics. Even worse, the Court’s assertion of the power to invalidate federal laws has stripped Americans of the expectation, once widely shared, that the most important interpretations of the Constitution are expressed not by judicial decree but by the participation of “We, the People,” in enacting national legislation.


In the decades before the Civil War, when national parties violently contested the constitutionality of slavery west of the Mississippi, the center of gravity was Congress. As the historian James Oakes recounts, when a border-state senator proposed asking the Supreme Court to decide the issue in 1848, other senators ridiculed his idea as implausible. “The Constitution was interpreted as variously as the Bible,” Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire responded. White southerners believed “the Constitution carries slavery with it,” while northerners construed the Constitution “to secure freedom.” As Hale and his contemporaries appreciated, resolving such a fundamental national disagreement could never turn on a court’s answer to which interpretation was more correct. Rather, the winning interpretation would depend on whether adherents could build sufficient political majorities to control the national government. The Supreme Court did attempt to decide the question in its infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision—interpreting the Constitution to hold that the federal government lacked the power to abolish slavery anywhere in the United States. But rather than accept this novel assertion of judicial supremacy over Congress, the Republican Party responded with defiance. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln successfully ran for president on a platform of repudiating the Court with national legislation. In his inaugural address, he remarked that “the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court,” then “the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Through the Civil War and the Reconstruction era that followed, the politically dominant Republicans in Congress enacted legislation to build a multiracial democracy in the United States for the first time. Some of these laws boldly overruled the Court, including statutes in 1862 and 1866 that began the abolition of slavery and recognized the citizenship of Black people. Others prevented the Court from retaliating against Congress’s interpretation of the Constitution, such as legislation stripping the Court of jurisdiction over certain matters. Still others enlisted the Court in the project of enforcing Congress’s constitutional judgments. Acts in 1870 and 1871 instructed federal courts to enforce the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments against recalcitrant state officials, while acts in 1870 and 1875 tasked judges with banning voting restrictions, lynch mobs, and racial discrimination.

Congressional checks on the Supreme Court are also very different from the calls for “nullification” by slaveholders before the Civil War, their descendants during the civil-rights movement, and Texas legislators today. The Civil War itself resolved that the representatives of states must enforce their constitutional interpretations not by defying the government created by the Constitution but by participating in it. For the past two centuries, Congress has been the branch of the federal government where our democracy’s pursuit of equal justice under law has most often been realized. The question is not whether some commitments—abolition, reproductive freedom, racial equality—are worth making supreme and constitutive of a national American identity. Rather, the question is who gets to decide the content of those commitments for all Americans: the 50 states, a five-justice majority, or our national legislature.


If the Court is today eviscerating those very constitutional commitments through its case law, Congress should enact or amend federal statutes to advance a different understanding of a nation built on democratic justice. It should reshape the Court’s ability to intervene in these disputes, including by restricting the Court’s authority to set aside federal legislation. And it should conscript the Court in enforcing federal commitments when resistant state officials brazenly declare that the national government has no jurisdiction to protect Americans from their parochial rule.
The thing stopping Congress from reversing each wrongheaded decision the Court issues this month therefore isn’t the Constitution. It’s our failure to demand more from our elected representatives.


The promise of a genuinely multiracial democracy will fade if Americans are unwilling to embrace structural reforms that can make our policies and our politics more responsive to majority rule. How Congress allocates the power to interpret the Constitution should be at the heart of those reforms. We simply cannot build a better politics if we don’t reclaim the authority of Congress to resolve our most fundamental disagreements. Rather than allow a handful of us to define the Constitution’s meaning in a mystical ritual each June, the rest of us should define it with the hard, messy work of American politics year-round.

Commentary: With attack on UCLA’s Big Ten move, Newsom conveniently forgets he pushed NIL domino

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in challenging UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, is now taking on the banner of the same university presidents that he shrugged off during the NIL debate.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Nearly three years ago, when Gov. Gavin Newsom joined LeBron James and his ensemble to sign California’s historic “Fair Pay to Play Act” into law on James’ HBO show “The Shop,” Newsom was more than happy to tell the truth about college sports. In fact, he seemed downright giddy.

“The jig’s up,” Newsom said on Sept. 30, 2019. “Billions and billions of dollars, 14-plus billion dollars goes to these universities, a billion-plus revenue to the NCAA themselves, and the folks who are putting their lives on the line, putting everything on the line, are getting nothing.”

Newsom rightfully predicted that Senate Bill 206, which allowed California college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) for the first time, was going to induce a flood of similar legislation across the country, forcing the NCAA’s hand and forever altering the “power arrangement” between player and school.

Maverick Carter, James’ longtime friend, asked the governor who was the bill’s biggest opposition.

“School presidents,” Newsom said without hesitation. “They don’t even outsource the phone calls. ‘What the hell are you doing destroying college sports?’ … ‘You’re destroying the purity of amateurism.’ Not once did they talk about the needs of these kids.”

Right before signing the bill, there was a smugness about Newsom as he said, “I don’t want to say this is checkmate. But this is a major problem for the NCAA.”

Three weeks ago when UCLA ditched the Pac-12 Conference and University of California system peer UC Berkeley for the Big Ten, the big business of college sports suddenly became a major problem for Gavin Newsom.

Or at least that’s how he played it Wednesday when he blasted UCLA’s handling of its Pac-12 exit, saying that the public university was unacceptably secretive and disregarded the harm the move will bring to Berkeley and other league members. Once again showing a flair for the dramatic, he made an unusual appearance at the San Francisco meeting of the UC Board of Regents to join the board’s closed discussion on the issue.

“The first duty of every public university is to the people — especially students,” Newsom said. “UCLA must clearly explain to the public how this deal will improve the experience for all its student-athletes, will honor its century-old partnership with UC Berkeley, and will preserve the histories, rivalries, and traditions that enrich our communities.”

Newsom is now taking on the banner of the same university presidents that he shrugged off when it suited him on the high-profile NIL issue, the same higher education leaders who have watched their athletic departments lose their souls in pursuit of the almighty football dollar and looked the other way as the donations from proud alums piled up.

Thanks to the peculiar experiment that is American college sports, much of those donors’ pride over the years has been at least partly based on their alma maters’ athletic achievements and enjoying bragging rights over a rival.

Yet, the presidents of every California Pac-12 school lobbied hard against NIL because they feared — correctly — that college athletes receiving money of any kind, even from third parties and not the schools themselves, would inevitably lead to full-on professionalization, players being classified as employees and directly sharing in the revenues they’ve helped to produce.

So of course they were calling Newsom panicking back then. They also knew the jig was about to be up.

Newsom did the right thing in signing the NIL bill. History will applaud him for it. But for him to act now as if it’s a shock that UCLA athletics would knife the UC system and its Pac-12 brethren in the back to gain potentially $70-plus million in yearly revenues and wipe out more than $100 million in debts is disingenuous and intellectually insulting to taxpayers and voters.

If Newsom wants to have a more nuanced conversation, he should know that the future of NIL and where athlete pay is headed played a significant role in why USCand UCLA knew they had to leave the floundering Pac-12 for the Big Ten, which is in the process of negotiating a media rights package reported to go well over $1 billion with the addition of the Los Angeles schools.

Here in California, there is already a petition sitting with the National Labor Relations Board that is asking for USC and UCLA athletes in the revenue-producing sports to be classified as employees — a notion that has been approved of by NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. We can assume that USC‘s and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, which will ask athletes to make frequent cross-country trips to compete while balancing their studies, is only going to bolster the argument they are being treated differently than normal students for the university’s financial benefit.

It could take months, or years, or a decade to get there, but once college football and men’s basketball players are employees, they will collectively bargain for a share of revenues, which will put a major dent in athletic department budgets that depend on the windfall from those sports to fund their nonrevenue teams.

USC and UCLA leaders — the same ones who were trying to persuade Newsom to not sign the NIL bill — were forward thinking enough to see that they had no choice but to thrust their hands into the Midwestern money jar if they wanted to keep Trojans football fans and Bruins basketball fans who expect national championship contention happy long term.

What Will Chris Smalls Do Next?He did the impossible: Unionize an Amazon warehouse. Then the hard part began.

In early April, Chris Smalls drove down Canal Street, a blunt in his left hand and an iPhone in his right. He somehow juggled the steering wheel, too, guiding his boat-size Chevy Suburban through Saturday-evening traffic, glancing every so often over the wheel before looking back at the YouTube video playing on his phone. As the leader of the Amazon Labor Union, the first group in the country to successfully unionize an Amazon facility, he had been busy. He had already given two interviews that day, talked to a potential donor, and discussed renting an 11,000-square-foot space for the union’s headquarters. In recent days, he had fielded dozens of messages from workers across the country seeking advice about organizing their own Amazon warehouses as well as media requests from places like The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. “I’ve gotten messages like, ‘Yo, we need you to save the country’; ‘We need you to save gun laws’; ‘We need you to save abortion rights,’ ” he told me. “I’m the savior now of everything.”

Spending time with a 34-year-old whose to-do list is topped by “Save the world” had proved difficult, which is why I was riding around with him in his car — he was juggling me, too. Smalls stubbed out the blunt and turned up the volume on the YouTube video. The clip featured Jimmy Dore, the left-leaning comedian, talking about Smalls’s recent appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Smalls was slammed on Twitter for appearing on the program, and he was annoyed by the suggestion that he was a pawn being played by Fox News. “Do people think there aren’t any Tucker Carlson fans who work at Amazon?” Smalls asked. “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, bro — it’s about workers.” Dore was making a similar point. “The video makes Christian Smalls look great,” Dore said. “I love the fact that he’s not wearing a shirt and tie and he’s just being radical.”
At that, Smalls smiled with satisfaction, his gold grills glinting. He was decked out in what he called “union drip”: Versace sunglasses, diamond earrings, chains coiled around his neck. The bling is a core part of his appeal and his politics. For working stiffs used to being bossed around by, well, their bosses, it epitomizes the belief that 40 hours of work a week should afford people more than just basic survival. It should buy a decent apartment, some savings, and maybe even jewel-encrusted fronts — Smalls’s version of bread and roses.

His fashion sense has spawned thousands of #UnionDrip hashtags and grabbed the attention of fashion designers and Hollywood. His image has also resonated with today’s blue-collar labor force, especially at Amazon, where the workforce skews young and three-quarters are Black and brown. His ALU is part of a burgeoning movement led by young workers instead of professional activists and without the support of traditional labor unions, whose bureaucratic professionalism and nonconfrontational tactics are considered by some to be stale and ineffective. Smalls calls this the “new school” labor movement, and he is its most visible practitioner. “They’re looking at me,” Smalls said of old-school unions like the SEIU, which he blames — along with Democrats — for abandoning low-wage workers and being too cozy with big business to rein in billionaires like Jeff Bezos. “If they was doing shit, they’d probably get some attention too. But they ain’t doing shit.” Switching to the third person, he said, “Chris is actually putting in the work.”
Smalls has been celebrated by everyone from President Joe Biden to Jesse Jackson as the prime author and strategist of what the New York Times called “one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation,” which came amid spiking rates of union activity across the country, with employees organizing at Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, REI, Activision, and Apple. But until he was fired in March 2020, Smalls was just another worker at the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, where he and 8,000 other employees packed up and shipped nearly every sex toy, phone charger, book, and roll of toilet paper that New York City residents ordered from Amazon.com. He formed the ALU in an audacious attempt to reform the second-largest private employer in America. Last year, Amazon spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants; on the day of its victorious union vote, the ALU, then a ragtag group of 20 members, had just $3 left in its bank account.
Since then, Smalls’s task has been to prove that his union could replicate its first win. He dreams of organizing every Amazon facility in the U.S. — that’s hundreds of thousands of workers. As the ALU’s leader, it is Smalls’s job to use his charm and clout to raise funds, corral sympathetic politicians, attract new members, and put pressure on Amazon to capitulate to the union’s demands. By making himself as well known as possible, in other words, Smalls hopes to expand the size and power of his union. “It’s a lot of pressure,” he told me, “but my voice was meant for something bigger than packing up boxes in a warehouse.”
That project, however, has already run into setbacks. On May 2, a vote to unionize a Staten Island sorting warehouse, LDJ5, failed, arresting the ALU’s momentum. Amazon has brought a case before the National Labor Relations Board to have the victory at JFK8 thrown out in a trial that is expected to be decided in August. And as the ALU prepares for contract negotiations for JFK8 that could drag on for years, the organization has been mired in infighting stemming from the perception that Smalls is now too busy being a celebrity to join his comrades in the trenches. “He thinks everything is about Chris Smalls,” Most Daley, an ALU member, told me. “We’re supposed to be a worker-led union, and he ain’t a worker no more.”

Smalls bristles at the notion that he has abandoned the ALU, underscoring that the success of this union specifically and the new-school movement more broadly has so far been powered by his prominence — his celebrity serves the movement, he insists, not the other way around. He noted that his critics “wouldn’t last one fucking day in my shoes. You want to be on TV? You want to travel the country? You want to have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Sure, take it all.”
Helping millions of workers rise up against a new American oligopoly may be too much to expect of a single person. But as we drove down Canal Street on that bright day, just two weeks after the JFK8 vote and before the LDJ5 debacle, Smalls seemed to have no limits. He cranked the wheel of the Suburban and steered onto Mulberry Street, where he hoped to hit the bars. (The previous night, he partied nearby with Paperboy Prince until 3 a.m.) He slotted the giant SUV into an impossibly small parking space on Baxter Street, bumping the Saab in front of him to fit. Then he stepped into the street and slipped his arms into a red satin jacket. On its back was stitched in big blood-orange letters EAT THE RICH.

Jussie Smollett attempts career comeback with LGBT film on BET+ streaming service

Jussie Smollett has launched his directorial debut with BET+ “B-Boy Blues.” The LGBTQ+ centered show will debut on the streaming network June 9, just in time for Pride Month.
This project marks the first for Smollett since he was found guilty of making false reports on what he alleged to be a hate crime. He was then sentenced to 30 months’ probation, 150 days in jail, after making false reports to the police in January 2019 that he was a victim of a hate crime.
“Through our content slate, we are intentional about representing the fullness of the Black experience, including that of the LGBTQ+ community,” BET+ exec VP/GM Devin Griffin said to Variety. “‘B-Boy Blues’ is an artful, heart-rending film about the complexity of love – something we all can relate to.”

“B-Boy Blues” is based on the James Earl Hardy novel and will star Timothy Richardson, Brandee Evans, Marquise Vilson, Broderick Hunter and Thomas Mackie. 


JUSSIE SMOLLETT RELEASED FROM JAIL PENDING APPEAL: ‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL TO CHARGE SOMEONE TWICE,’ LAWYER SAYS


The indie film first debuted in 2021 at the American Black Film Festival. The film won the Narrative Feature Fan Favorite Award.


Smollett’s first project since released from jail is described as “a clash of class and culture when Mitchell Crawford, a college educated journalist from Brooklyn and Raheim Rivers, a bike messenger from Harlem, fall in love.”

“B-Boy Blues is a beautifully bold, funny, heartwarming bro-mance and I was thrilled to partner with Jussie to help this wonderful film gain greater exposure,” Mona Scott-Young of Monami Entertainment told the outlet. 


JUSSIE SMOLLETT RELEASED FROM JAIL: WILL HE SUCCESSFULLY APPEAL CONVICTION? LEGAL EXPERTS WEIGH IN


“Falling head over heels and fighting for love are universal emotions and experiences and we are so grateful to BET+ for shining a powerful spotlight on the still seriously underrepresented black LGBTQ+ community and bringing this impactful love story to an even greater audience.”
Three weeks after Smollett was released from jail, he released a song titled “Thank You God.”
The former “Empire” star shared the single on his Instagram account, which according to his bio is “currently run by” the Smollett family. 

DJ Dahi ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised’ If Kendrick Lamar’s Hard Drive Contains ‘Thousands’ of Unreleased Songs

Over the past decade, DJ Dahi has established himself as one of Kendrick Lamar’s most trusted producers.
Five years after crafting the beat for one of the standout songs from Kendrick’s 2012 debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city (“Money Trees”), Dahi and Lamar teamed up on the Compton rapper 2017 album DAMN, which featured five Dahi-produced tracks (“Yah,” “Loyalty,” “Lust,” “XXX,” and “God”).
Once again, DJ Dahi is credited with producing five songs off of Kendrick’s latest full-length offering Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, including album highlights like “Rich Spirit” and “Count Me Out.”
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Dahi opened up about the five-year creative process behind the album, revealing that Kendrick’s hard drive is filled with countless songs that didn’t make the LP’s final tracklist.
“I can tell you, for sure, he has probably like 30 songs from me,” Dahi shared. “I mean, he obviously has songs he’ll complete but also a lot of it is an idea, and it’s a really dope idea. Then we plug that idea in as a hook or a verse line. With this creative process it’s really just getting those ideas out and then being able to come back and be like, ‘Oh, I can use this or this part of this.’”
Dahi went on to tease the possibility of Kendrick having “thousands” of unreleased songs on his hard drive. “His process of recording is pretty nuts,” he explained. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if we looked at the hard drive and he has thousands of songs.”

How a Contrast Media Shortage Is Affecting Medical Scans in the U.S.

A COVID-19 lockdown in China temporarily shut down an important production facility for iodinated contrast media, a drug commonly used to enhance medical scans. Here’s how the shortage is impacting health care.

Fact checked on May 24 2022 by Vivianna Shields, a journalist and fact-checker with experience in health and wellness publishing.
Hospitals across the United States are being impacted by a recent shortage of iodinated contrast media (ICM). Given to patients intravenously during certain medical scans, this type of medication enhances the ability to see blood vessels and organs, helping health care professionals diagnose potential problems—such as infection, inflammation, and cancer—based on those images.
 
“Imaging is a multidisciplinary consult service that extends to impact most areas of medicine,” Laveil Allen, MD, executive medical director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Radiology Department, told Health. The contrast is what allows providers to see clearly through a patient’s body, much like eyeglasses can assist our vision. “Imaging services are the eyes of medicine, and preserving our vision is an essential component to providing care,” he adds.

The shortage is being caused by the temporary shutdown of a GE Healthcare production facility for ICM in Shanghai, China, due to a COVID-19 lockdown. The company is one of the major contrast media manufacturers, alongside Bracco, Bayer, and Guerbet. “When that plant was shut down, GE was suddenly unable to meet the supply-demand of its existing customers,” Matthew Davenport, MD, FACR, vice-chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Commission on Quality and Safety, told Health.


“They have since moved up the production capability in their facility in Cork, Ireland, and began airlifting contrast media to the United States. Nonetheless, there’s still an acute supply chain shortage,” said Dr. Davenport. He added that GE has informed that a level of normalcy should be reached by June 30, but considering the backlog and potential shipping challenges the crisis could continue throughout the summer.

Affected Hospitals and Health Systems
The shortage is affecting all hospitals that relied on GE Healthcare as their preferred vendor. According to Dr. Davenport, most health systems have agreements to buy contrast from specific manufacturers. “Any place that had preferred vendor contracting with GE was massively affected because they didn’t have any redundancy in their supply,” he said.
 
The extent to which each institution will be impacted also depends on how much stockpile of ICM they had before the shortage. “I’m familiar with some institutions which had a pretty large stockpile, so they’re going to be able to ride this out without too much effect,” said Dr. Davenport. “Others do not have much contrast available, and they will not necessarily make it to the end of the shortage. So, it is a serious issue.”
Mitigation Strategies
In an attempt to avoid a situation where the contrast media simply runs out, institutions around the country are adopting strategies to reduce its use to the minimum amount necessary. The ACR recently released a statement recommending a series of mitigation strategies.
The committee includes using alternative exams that don’t require ICM, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. In certain cases, providers may opt to perform a CT scan without contrast.
“Appendicitis is a good example,” said Dr. Allen. “We routinely scan the patient with contrast to identify if they have appendicitis. It can increase the sensitivity and specificity of the exam. But we can also identify it on a non-contrast CT exam.”
It is also possible to reduce the dose of contrast based on the patient’s weight. Another measure that has been adopted is to repackage contrast media into smaller volumes to eliminate waste. Non-urgent exams and procedures may also be postponed.
According to Dr. Allen, he and his colleagues at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center immediately formed a radiology command center to develop a series of tactics to handle the shortage when they were first alerted. The changes, according to an article accepted for publication by the Journal of the American College of Radiology, reduced contrast usage by about 50% in less than seven days at their health system.
 
“The big thing is that we want to make sure we have contrast for our most critically ill patients to perform life-saving imaging or procedures that require contrast,” said Dr. Allen. The use of ICM is indispensable, for example, in cases of stroke, when it is used to diagnose the condition through a CT scan and to potentially treat it through neurointervention. Contrast is also necessary in cases of a heart attack during cardiac catheterization, a procedure that is used both to diagnose and treat the condition.
Impact on Patients
With these measures in place, patients with scheduled exams or procedures may get a call from their hospital to postpone their appointment. Or they may learn they will undergo a different imaging technique than what was originally planned.
“These decisions are being made thoughtfully by physicians and other health care providers who have the patient’s best interests in mind,” said Dr. Davenport. “They never want to be in the situation where they have to make these decisions, but they’re doing it in a way that is as thoughtful as possible and putting the patient first. So, I think there is some amount of reassurance to this.” Dr. Davenport noted that it is always a good idea to talk to your health care provider to discuss the alternatives.
“Because your examination is altered from what it was originally scheduled to be, it does not mean that your care will be any less,” added Dr. Allen. “We will not sacrifice our patients’ care. Just be cognizant that you may have been scheduled for one exam, and you may be contacted and instructed that you’re going to get an alternate exam to find an answer to the same problem.”