A MONONYM IS possessed of a certain celebrity: Prince, Madonna, Iman. No surname needed, thank you very much. Just a couple of syllables and the whole of the mononym’s grandeur flashes across our consciousness.
Solange. Two mellifluous syllables and her face springs to mind: the fierce, open gaze, those striking full eyebrows. Solange the singer, songwriter, choreographer, visual and performing artist, with four, soon to be five, albums to her name. Solange the 2017 Grammy winner: Best R&B Performance, “Cranes in the Sky.” Solange, who earlier that year performed for President Obama and the first lady at their final White House party. Solange, whose acclaimed 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table” yoked artistry to activism with its piercing inquiry into race and identity in America, with lyrics such as, “You got the right to be mad / But when you carry it alone, you find it only getting in the way.” Solange the culture maker, whose performance art, digital work and sculpture have been exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Tate Modern in London. Solange, named the Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year in 2018.
Though the conflict between Drake and Pusha-T has been wrapped up, one popular conversation birthed from the feud is the existence of rules (if any) in rap beef. Drake’s appearance on HBO’s The Shop spawned a debate across hip-hop, as he stated that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed in rap. Rappers and music industry individuals attempted to argue on both sides, though no general consensus was established.
While still on promo for their Beloved project, Dave East and Styles P (who both recently gave their opinion on the topic) stopped by radio veteran/media personality Funkmaster Flex‘s show on Hot 97. At the end of the video above, around the 6:09 mark, Flex took the time to go on an explicative filled rant addressing the issue of those who seek to establish guidelines in lyrical warfare.
Flex, in his usual candid, unabashed fashion, made his stance unequivocally clear.
“If you get your feelings hurt, fuck you, it don’t really matter,” he began. “If you don’t write your own shit, you ain’t qualified to give motherfucking rules on the fucking game, you fucking bozo.”
The sentiment Flex expressed echoes that of an earlier statement made by Styles regarding the Drake/Pusha T incident. Styles told Hot 97 “you can’t expect in any type of warfare, any type, not just rap, ain’t no rules.”
This isn’t the first time Flex has addressed Drake, as his disdain with the Canadian superstar has always been about the actions taken by Drake that are contrarian to the hip-hop purist (i.e. the infamous Quentin Miller reference tracks).
This wasn’t how Joe Budden planned on becoming famous. In fact, he didn’t plan much of anything. Now he’s on the charts, but not for his music.
Instead, as of Thursday, Joe Budden has the No. 1 podcast on the iTunes music podcast chart — five slots ahead of the NPR standard-bearer “All Songs Considered.” The Joe Budden Podcast With Rory and Mal is produced at a friend’s house in Queens.
Mr. Budden had a brief taste of mainstream success as a rapper with a Top 40 hit in 2003 before his career stalled. Now he has become a kind of volatile elder statesman of hip-hop, holding forth on his podcast, social media and YouTube before an audience of millions. His soliloquies and tirades, whether a careful examination of a rap diss or a nuanced defense of XXXTentacion, the controversial young rapper who was murdered in June, lend him a credibility he never quite had as an artist.
Mr. Budden is now banking on a new partnership with Spotify to expand on his success. Starting this fall, his podcast will stream exclusively on that platform. (He plans on still uploading videos of the show on YouTube.) The goal, according to Courtney Holt, head of studios and video at Spotify, is to “develop out not just this show, but other shows in the future.” When asked why he thought Spotify was the best home for his show, Mr. Budden said simply, “They weren’t afraid of me.”
Seated at the dining room table in his Montclair, N.J., home, Mr. Budden is just as he seems as a podcast host: expressive and candid and unembarrassed to recount a series of personal and professional misfortunes and poor decisions, from his battles with addiction, messy physical fights that spilled onto social media to rap beefs and shady recording contracts that left him broke for most of his rap career.
He was also accused of beating an ex-girlfriend, and even though charges were dropped, the allegations continue to dog him. “Even if you’re innocent of those things, therapy teaches you to always pay attention to the part that I played in things,” Mr. Budden said. “I didn’t do any of that stuff, but how did I get here? I frequented strip clubs, I popped pills. My life was in disarray. It made me say, ‘No more.’”
I’ve always had an open relationship with cosmetic surgery and thought about treatments to correct features of my body I find particularly panic-inducing. A detail on my face, that I’m ashamed about for some reason, has driven me to entertain elective surgery. A fear of wrinkles before my mid-40s has had me investigate botox at the age of 24. I’ll admit I’m haunted by the generic, hyper-smooth faces and android children of celebrities and former models I see staring back at me from screens, magazines and billboards. But I’m not alone in my interest in these kinds of ‘light adjustments’, in fact they seem entirely normal, almost casual, these days. In Australia young people are spending over $1billion on non-surgical procedures every year and they’re becoming increasingly willing to own it. At an age where appearance is everything, the lure of a quick fix is overwhelmingly tempting. And thanks to a multitude of procedures that range in prices and recovery times a quick fix is getting quicker and cheaper.
Dr Naomi is a popular surgeon at Sydney’s Manse Clinic who acknowledges that the recent years have seen a surge in younger clients, with around 40 percent now under 25. She sees this as being the result of awareness and relative affordability. With some treatments priced as low as $300, Dr. Naomi agrees that people come to her for a variety of reasons. From young beauty achievers dabbling in different procedures to others trying to fix a particular problem and those into more mainstream procedures like lip and cheek fillers and botox, she’s seen it all.
I ask her about patients wanting to look like celebrities, and the impact of celebrity culture on her industry. She explains, “It’s much less about big name celebrities than you would expect. Mostly people will bring in before-and-after images from a cosmetic injectable Instagram account, or an image of a girl I’ve never heard of with a few hundred thousand followers.” There’s also an addictive quality to having procedures. “The retention rate is huge. The majority of patients who have one treatment will want to have treatments forever.” And even though Kylie Jenner might have surprised followers by returning her lips to their original state for now, Dr. Naomi believes the procedures are here to stay. “People who are plastic positive used to be the freaks, but now it’s the plastic negatives who are seen as body shamers”
Bella is a 19-year-old Melbourne-based student who spoke to me about her motivations for having her lips filled twice in the last year and suggested that taking photos of herself played a role. “I had really thin lips and I was always overly pouty in my photos to make it look like I had bigger lips. But you could tell, you could see my teeth because I was sticking my lips out so much.” Her friend Saraia, also 19, has had her lips filled three times since she turned 18. “I thought my face would look better with bigger lips, just to balance everything out and make my face more symmetrical. The first time I got them done I wasn’t satisfied and wanted to go bigger. I think it’s just more of a norm at the moment, like it’s very common and not really a thing.”
Omarosa Manigault Newman, the reality show villain who campaigned for Donald Trump and followed him into the White House, is an amoral, dishonest, mercenary grifter. This makes her just like most people in Trump’s orbit. What separates her from them is that she might be capable of a sliver of shame.
Naturally, Manigault Newman’s new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” is self-serving, a way to avenge her 2017 firing and make money telling us what we already know about this wretched administration. Nevertheless, she had other options for cashing in. She has revealed that she was offered a $15,000-a-month position on the Trump re-election campaign in exchange for keeping her mouth shut. She could have had a career in right-wing media; an African-American celebrity willing to say that the Republican Party isn’t racist will always find patrons.
Instead, she chose to speak out against the man who made her a star, and repent for her complicity in electing him. She may be a manipulative narcissist, but she’s behaving more honorably than any other former Trump appointee.
That’s not a high bar, and I wouldn’t take most of the claims of “Unhinged” at face value. But we don’t have to, because Manigault Newman has receipts. When I got a prepublication copy of the book on Friday, I wasn’t sure what to think of the scene in which Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, fires her, making thuggish threats to destroy her reputation if she doesn’t go quietly. On Sunday, “Meet the Press” played her recording of the exchange, which unfolds exactly as she described.
Similarly, I didn’t quite trust her account of the post-firing phone call she received from Trump, in which the president expressed surprise and dismay that she has been let go. “No one even told me,” she quotes him saying, adding, “I don’t love you leaving at all.” But on Monday, the “Today” show played Manigault Newman’s recording of this exchange. And that $15,000-a-month contract? You can read it yourself in The Washington Post.
Of course, just because Manigault Newman is telling the truth about some things doesn’t prove that she’s telling the truth about everything, including the alleged existence of outtakes from “The Apprentice” in which Trump uses racial slurs. “Unhinged” has lots of evidence-free gossip, including speculation that Trump was sleeping with Paula White, the pretty blond prosperity-gospel preacher who gave the invocation at his inauguration. My opinion of Trump could scarcely be lower, but I won’t be convinced that he floated the idea of being sworn in on “The Art of the Deal” instead of the Bible, as Manigault Newman claims, until I hear it myself. (Lordy, I hope there are tapes.)
Still, there’s no question she has useful knowledge of our ruling clique. Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Unhinged” is its insights into how Manigault Newman, a former Democrat who’d worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, rationalized being part of Trump’s white nationalist campaign. I’ve always been mystified by how the president’s enablers, who understand his venality and incompetence, justify their behavior to themselves. (Even most bad people want to believe that they’re good.) Manigault Newman is an unreliable narrator, but her book is still the best account we have of how the Trump cult — a term she uses repeatedly — looks from the inside.
Her version of her own motivations is probably sugarcoated, but it still isn’t pretty. She’d been part of a pro-Hillary Clinton “super PAC” and was bitter that she didn’t get a job on Clinton’s campaign. Meanwhile, Manigault Newman, who grew up in poverty, knew she owed her cherished celebrity to Trump. (As she points out, he likes to surround himself with fame-worshiping people whose fortunes depend on him.) “The Trump team, unlike HRC, was true to its word and had officially brought me on board as a senior adviser and director,” she writes. “Regardless of whether Mr. Trump was being taken seriously, I was.”
She suppressed whatever unease she felt about selling out by trying to convince herself that she was representing African-American interests in the campaign and administration. Manigault Newman did graduate work at Howard, the revered historically black university. She had roots in African-American Democratic politics. When she switched sides to back Trump, the disgust of old friends and colleagues hurt. Throughout “Unhinged,” you sense her trying to explain herself to them.
Studies have shown that the people who are most likely to leave cults are those who maintain intimate links to people outside them. Manigault Newman, who last year married a pastor who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, could never fully sever ties with Trump critics.
In the end, you don’t have to trust her sincerity to see “Unhinged” as a serious indictment of Trump. Either she is telling the truth when she calls Trump “a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist” in serious mental decline, or the Trump campaign’s former director of African-American outreach, a woman frequently called upon to testify to Trump’s lack of racism, is a lying con artist. No matter how little credibility Manigault Newman has, the man who gave her a top-ranking job in his administration has less.