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Privileged

When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little.

When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.

You’d think.

But nope.

I still remember my reaction when I first heard what happened to Thabo. It was 2015, late in the season. Thabo and I were teammates on the Hawks, and we’d flown into New York late after a game in Atlanta. When I woke up the next morning, our team group text was going nuts. Details were still hazy, but guys were saying, Thabo hurt his leg? During an arrest? Wait — he spent the night in jail?! Everyone was pretty upset and confused.

Well, almost everyone. My response was….. different. I’m embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why I want to share it today.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me just say real quick — Thabo wasn’t some random teammate of mine, or some guy in the league who I knew a little bit. We’d become legitimate friends that year in our downtime. He was my go-to teammate to talk with about stuff beyond the basketball world. Politics, religion, culture, you name it — Thabo brought a perspective that wasn’t typical of an NBA player. And it’s easy to see why: Before we were teammates in Atlanta, the guy had played professional ball in France, Turkey and Italy. He spoke three languages! Thabo’s mother was from Switzerland, and his father was from South Africa. They lived together in South Africa before Thabo was born, then left because of apartheid.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Thabo was one of the most interesting people I’d ever been around. We respected each other. We were cool, you know? We had each other’s backs.

Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was? About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??

Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.

I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.

Cringe.

It’s not like it was a conscious thought. It was pure reflex — the first thing to pop into my head.

And I was worried about him, no doubt.

But still. Cringe.

A few months later, a jury found Thabo not guilty on all charges. He settled with the city over the NYPD’s use of force against him. And then the story just sort of….. disappeared. It fell away from the news. Thabo had surgery and went through rehab. Pretty soon, another NBA season began — and we were back on the court again.

Life went on.

But I still couldn’t shake my discomfort.

I mean, I hadn’t been involved in the incident. I hadn’t even been there. So why did I feel like I’d let my friend down?

Why did I feel like I’d let myself down?


A few weeks ago, something happened at a Jazz home game that brought back many of those old questions.

Maybe you saw it: We were playing against the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook and a fan in the crowd exchanged words during the game. I didn’t actually see or hear what happened, and if you were following on TV or on Twitter, maybe you had a similar initial viewing of it. Then, after the game, one of our reporters asked me for my response to what had gone down between Russ and the fan. I told him I hadn’t seen it — and added something like, But you know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.

Of course, the full story came out later that night. What actually happened was that a fan had said some really ugly things at close range to Russ. Russ had then responded. After the game, he’d said he felt the comments were racially charged.

The incident struck a nerve with our team.

In a closed-door meeting with the president of the Jazz the next day, my teammates shared stories of similar experiences they’d had — of feeling degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling. One teammate talked about how his mom had called him right after the game, concerned for his safety in SLC. One teammate said the night felt like being “in a zoo.” One of the guys in the meeting was Thabo — he’s my teammate in Utah now. I looked over at him, and remembered his night in NYC.

Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.

This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others. And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.

It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.

It was about racism in America.

Before the meeting ended, I joined the team’s demand for a swift response and a promise from the Jazz organization that it would address the concerns we had. I think my teammates and I all felt it was a step in the right direction.

But I don’t think anyone felt satisfied.


There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks. It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.

And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.

But I look like the other guy.

And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known.

But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.

I realize that now. And maybe in years past, just realizing something would’ve felt like progress. But it’s NOT years past — it’s today. And I know I have to do better. So I’m trying to push myself further.

I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do.

How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately.

And I don’t think I have all the answers yet — but here are the ones that are starting to ring the most true:

I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.

I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.

I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental — as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.

I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way — in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.

But maybe more than anything?

I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable.

We all have to hold each other accountable.

And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.

And I think the standard that we have to hold ourselves to, in this crucial moment….. it’s higher than it’s ever been. We have to be active. We have to be actively supporting the causes of those who’ve been marginalized — precisely because they’ve been marginalized.


Two concepts that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are guilt and responsibility.

When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference.

As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.

It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide.

And it’s about understanding that Black Lives Matter, and movements like it, matter, because — well, let’s face it: I probably would’ve been safe on the street that one night in New York. And Thabo wasn’t. And I was safe on the court that one night in Utah. And Russell wasn’t.


But as disgraceful as it is that we have to deal with racist hecklers in NBA arenas in 2019? The truth is, you could argue that that kind of racism is “easier” to deal with.

Because at least in those cases, the racism is loud and clear. There’s no ambiguity — not in the act itself, and thankfully not in the response: we throw the guy out of the building, and then we ban him for life.

But in many ways the more dangerous form of racism isn’t that loud and stupid kind. It isn’t the kind that announces itself when it walks into the arena. It’s the quiet and subtle kind. The kind that almost hides itself in plain view. It’s the person who does and says all the “right” things in public: They’re perfectly friendly when they meet a person of color. They’re very polite. But in private? Well….. they sort of wish that everyone would stop making everything “about race” all the time.

It’s the kind of racism that can seem almost invisible — which is one of the main reasons why it’s allowed to persist.

And so, again, banning a guy like Russ’s heckler? To me, that’s the “easy” part. But if we’re really going to make a difference as a league, as a community, and as a country on this issue….. it’s like I said — I just think we need to push ourselves another step further.

First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.

And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.

That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think, if we’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.


I’ll wrap this up in a minute — but first I have one last thought.

The NBA is over 75% players of color.

Seventy-five percent.

People of color, they built this league. They’ve grown this league. People of color have made this league into what it is today. And I guess I just wanted to say that if you can’t find it in your heart to support them — now? And I mean actively support them?

If the best that you can do for their cause is to passively “tolerate” it? If that’s the standard we’re going to hold ourselves to — to blend in, and opt out?

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s not even close.

I know I’m in a strange position, as one of the more recognized white players in the NBA. It’s a position that comes with a lot of….. interesting undertones. And it’s a position that makes me a symbol for a lot of things, for a lot of people — often people who don’t know anything about me. Usually, I just ignore them. But this doesn’t feel like a “usually” moment.

This feels like a moment to draw a line in the sand.

I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.

The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.

The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong.

And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

So if you don’t want to know anything about me, outside of basketball, then listen — I get it. But if you do want to know something? Know I believe that.

Know that about me.

If you’re wearing my jersey at a game? Know that about me. If you’re planning to buy my jersey for someone else…… know that about me. If you’re following me on social media….. know that about me. If you’re coming to Jazz games and rooting for me….. know that about me.

And if you’re claiming my name, or likeness, for your own cause, in any way….. know that about me. Know that I believe this matters.

Thanks for reading.

Time for me to shut up and listen.

The Playlist: Cardi B Hits Pay Dirt, and 11 More New Songs

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Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos — and anything else that strikes them as intriguing. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at theplaylist@nytimes.com and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

What’s the opposite of a palate cleanser? Currently, Cardi B is featured on the No. 1 song in the country, Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You.” It is not her best, nor most apt work. So here comes the palate roughener? “Money” is effectively a stripped-bare version of BlocBoy JB and Drake’s already-bare “Look Alive,” and a de facto lo-fi rejoinder to Cardi B’s steady pop incursions over the past year. The trash talk here is pure, if a little staid: “I like boarding jets, I like morning sex/But nothing in this world that I like more than checks.” Instead, “Money” — the first solo single Cardi B has released since giving birth in July — is notable for its acknowledgment of new-mom problems: “I got a baby, I need some money, I need cheese for my egg.” JON CARAMANICA

 

Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V is finally being released

Tha Carter V is coming out this week — but for real this time.

A week after rumors of Lil Wayne’s long-awaited album proved to be false, the rapper himself has announced that the hotly-anticipated project will finally see the light of day on Thursday, his 36th birthday.

In a video posted to YouTube (see above), the five-time Grammy winner shared the news, thanking those who have stuck with him over the years. “I always give y’all all of me, but with this album, I’m giving you more than me,” he said. “This is four, five, six years of work that you’ll be listening to.”

A date for Tha Carter V comes seven years after the Carter IV and four years after it was delayed days before the planned release date due to the dispute between Wayne and his mentor/Cash Money boss Birdman.

Earlier this year, Wayne and Cash Money settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit, and last month, Birdman appeared onstage with Wayne and publicly apologized to the rapper.

Eminem – Lucky You ft. Joyner Lucas

From the album Kamikaze, out now: http://shady.sr/Kamikaze http://eminem.com http://facebook.com/eminem http://twitter.com/eminem http://instagram.com/eminem http://eminem.tumblr.com http://shadyrecords.com http://facebook.com/shadyrecords http://twitter.com/shadyrecords http://instagram.com/shadyrecords http://trustshady.tumblr.com Music video by Eminem performing Lucky You. © 2018 Aftermath Records

Eminem’s album ‘Kamikaze’ is on track to break records

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(CNN)Eminem has proven once again that he’s a hit maker.

The rapper’s latest album, “Kamikaze,” is quickly rising to the top of the charts after its surprise release last week.

The Detroit native is currently on track for his album to hit No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The feat would mark Eminem’s ninth No. 1 album, according to Nielsen Music.
“Kamikaze,” produced with his long-time collaborator Dr. Dre, is Eminem’s tenth studio album. Cover art for the 13-track collection features a fighter pilot crashing his aircraft with the words, “FU-2” on the tail.
Eminem get political with a reference to President Trump on the album.
“Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / to meet in person to see if I really think of hurting him,” he raps on “The Ringer. “Or ask if I’m linked to terrorists / I said, ‘Only when it comes to ink and lyricists.'”
This isn’t the first time he’s criticized Trump. At the BET Awards last year, Eminem called the President a “racist grandpa” during a freestyle rap.

Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott on Love, Making It Work, and the Kardashian Curse

She’s a billionaire business mogul. He’s the most electric rapper in the game. How did they come together? How do they make it work? And can they survive the Kardashian Curse? Mark Anthony Green sits down with the world’s most powerhouse power couple.

It’s Kylie, from the jump, who controls the tempo. The youngest Jenner and her well-oiled glam squad bounce around Milk Studios, in Hollywood, with supreme purpose. Her half-male, half-female contingent is like Ocean’s Eleven, except with more crop tops and lip fillers. And instead of a case full of phony casino chips, there’s just a roller bag full of luscious hair extensions that need meticulous untangling. Midway through the shoot, the photographer and stylists start praising a particular photo on the monitor, but King Kylie shuts it down. “People are going to turn it into a meme,” she says, like some kind of social-media medium. “Let’s move to something else.” She later tells me that Kim and Kanye are the ones who taught her to be more assertive on creative things. “I just want the best cover photos for me and for you guys.”

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Joining her in the studio is her 27-year-old partner, Travis Scott. They’ve been together for about a year, but this is their first photo shoot together. What’s the binding force between a rage-thirsty rock star from Missouri City, Texas, and a beauty mogul of Calabasas royalty? Other than their newborn baby girl, Stormi? What’s that shared frequency that’s responsible for the most dynamic celebrity couple of modern times? We’ll get to that, but what I can report is that it’s not a mutual admiration for posing in front of a seamless. Taking pictures is a lucrative sport for one and medieval torture for the other.

Travis has a much smaller team with him. Just his manager—who works from a laptop the entire shoot—and a bag of what smells like some of California’s loudest weed. Between shots, he just kind of paces around, with his head down and his lanky limbs covered in expensive clothes. A wall or photo light would stop him and send him in a different direction. He looks like one of those Microsoft screen savers from the ’90s, careening off the edges of the monitor. “He was whispering to me the whole time,” Kylie tells me afterward, smirking. “He just doesn’t like taking the photos.” Travis hates anything that slows him down. (He even hates restaurants; the man despises wasting time in restaurants.) And he admits that he’s “impatient as a motherfucker” during photo shoots, despite really liking the end result. But it isn’t simply young angst that makes hurry-up-and-wait painful for Travis. It’s “la flame”—the internal fire, the rage, “the piss,” as he calls it, aggression in its funnest form. It’s why Travis, a decade into a notoriously energetic career, has made his case for having the best live show in hip-hop history.

A few years ago, at a nightclub, I saw Travis swing from a chandelier while performing. One of the gold baroque leaves he held on to for dear life cut his hand, and he was beginning to bleed pretty badly. He paused for a second. Smiled. Then pressed his bloody palm against the ceiling, leaving a red handprint, and kept rapping. That energy, that commitment—that’s why there’s an entire generation of young tattooed daredevil rappers coming up behind him who look to Travis as the source, and who’ve taken his lead.

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That may be the thing between the two of them, the binding force: influence. Not in some Adweek marketing sense—in direct-contact-with-the-people kind of way. When they say jump, kids will do it…off a balcony. (That actually happened to Travis.) These two make the mosh pits, memes, and moments that trend and move the needle. They forge 2017’s most overused four-letter word—vibe—and they’re masters at 2018’s: wave. You can’t pause when catching a wave. And that’s their art. Their common thread. Which helps explain how their relationship went from zero to Stormi in just a few months.

“We don’t go on dates,” Kylie tells me. In fact, their first date wasn’t really a date. They were at Coachella—neither can remember where, exactly, they first met—and the whole thing just turned into a hang that went well. While she tells me about it, she begins to giggle about the story she told Travis that got his attention that night. The story wasn’t anything special, but that’s what made it real. How’d you meet your significant other? It starts normal, right?

But then their second date, by all definitions, was anything but normal. They caught the wave. Kylie Jenner—and nearly 100 million followers of hers—just abandoned her life in California and took off on tour with Travis Scott.

“Coachella was one of the stops on his tour,” she explains. “So he said, ‘I’m going back on tour—what do we want to do about this?’ Because we obviously liked each other.”

What do we want to do about this? That’s an early-2000s Matthew McConaughey big-screen-heartthrob line. Holy shit. “And I was like, ‘I guess I’m going with you,’ ” she said, to complete the scene.

READ MORE:https://www.gq.com/story/kylie-travis-cover-2018