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.

Solange, the Polymathic Cultural Force

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 4.23.38 AMA 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.

Funkmaster Flex Seems to Take Shots at Drake Again: ‘You Ain’t Qualified to Give Rules’

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).

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How Joe Budden Became the Howard Stern of Hip-Hop As a rapper, Joe Budden had a hit 15 years ago — and then a string of bad luck and poor choices. Now he has emerged as a podcast star.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 9.57.20 PMThis 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.’”

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/22/nyregion/how-joe-budden-became-the-howard-stern-of-hip-hop.html

how injectables lost their stigma

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.

skin

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.”

Welcome to the Resistance, Omarosa

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.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/opinion/columnists/omarosa-unhinged-book-trump