How hip-hop did Megan thee Stallion so wrong
Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the music industry’s shameful silence on the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion to the week in racism, from pop-culture picks to a must-read LEVEL story, it’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re loving what you’re reading, tell a friend to tell a friend.
Last week, scrolling my Instagram feed meant risking being blindsided by a graphic image of Megan Thee Stallion’s bullet wounds. Rap’s hottest act posted the photo of her battered foot to prove to online skeptics (read: misogynists) that she had, indeed, been shot last month. The following day, she revealed that Tory Lanez had pulled the trigger after they had an argument. It remains to be seen how the legal system will deal with the case — Lanez was arrested on a gun charge after the incident, but posted bail shortly thereafter — but we do know it was truly shameful how hip-hop as a household handled Meg’s ordeal.
Hip-hop’s icons (Cam’ron and 50 Cent) and plebians came out of the woodwork with goofy takes. There were shooter-truthers who denied it’d ever happened. Some said Meg should’ve known what what she was getting into given Lanez’ history of violence against women. Others claimed she should’ve told the police the truth from the jump — classic victim blaming. On the flip side of the absurdity coin, there were those who criticized the rapper for violating street code by “snitching,” despite the fact that Meg admitted she didn’t tell police that Lanez was armed on the night of the shooting. (Plus, that term is reserved for criminals who inform police about others living that same lifestyle, which clearly doesn’t apply here.) Just say y’all hate Black women and go!
Megan Thee Stallion has shown grace to everyone since first stepping into the spotlight, whether putting on twerk tutorials for the weak-kneed among us, testing the Henny limits of celebrities and fans alike by “driving the boat,” and inspiring young people to think about the reality of climate change. She even led a Santa Monica beach clean-up with fans during last year’s hot girl summer. What celeb does that? Megan has been a light in the darkness of the pandemic. Now in need of a shred of the same grace from hip-hop, members of the culture didn’t just ignore her; some, like CyHi the Prince, outright blamed her while others, like Boosie, refused to comment.
The foolishness is expected from internet trolls, but aside from a few exceptions — Bun B, Chance The Rapper, Cardi B, T.I., and a handful of other rappers — Megan’s industry homies stayed shamefully silent. Where’s all that energy folks had for Black Lives Matter all summer?
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For Tory, his fate lies in hip-hop’s hands. If history is any indication, he’ll be fine. We’ve seen abusers recover from the scandal of their harm. Up until this point, Lanez and his publicity team, FYI PR (which also represented Chris Brown after he brutally assaulted Rihanna up until 2011) are playing the game, trying to avoid the story in hopes that folks forget about it. He’s gone zero dark thirty on social media after being extremely online during the pandemic. Wonder why that might be? The answer is simple: because he can get away with it.
The idea of justice for Black women in America — legally, politically, and culturally — is an entire farce. It’s unfortunate a victim-centered understanding of justice requires a transformation that untethers Blackness and womanhood from punishment, suffering, and violation. Justice for Meg and other survivors of America’s patriatrical violence requires a total change in the order of things, a shift toward healing the wounds of our collective trauma. Megan deserves a lot more love from those who claim hip-hop’s heart. Her humanity earns her mending. That’s where justice begins.
—Tirhakah Love, staff writer
This Week in Racism
🗑 Harlem Globetrotter goes on local Alabama TV, receives official Alabama welcome (hint: it’s not an Edible Arrangement)
Back in January, Maxwell “Hops” Pearce went on Birmingham’s local Fox affiliate to shoot a live segment promoting a Globetrotter game taking place in the area. As part of the segment, he gave a ball-handling demonstration, at which point the station’s meteorologist and one of its anchors began throwing fruit at him to see if he could catch it. First, a tangerine; annoying, obviously, but the man’s a damn Globetrotter, so he handled it like a champ. Then came a banana. Here’s where the record scratches and the restaurant goes silent. See, if you’re a human being, you likely understand that throwing bananas at people is some Class A Bullshit — and that when said people are Black, you’ve upgraded to all the way to Misdemeanor-Level Evil. You know who didn’t realize that? Fox6 anchor Clare Huddleston, who gave an “oops, didn’t mean to offend you!” on-air apology only after Pearce spoke about the incident last week. Wait, you mean a Fox-owned network showed a fumbling ignorance about racist subtext? There must be some kind of mistake! (CNN)
🗑 Mississippi school board member goes on racist rant; in other news, Mississippi has school boards
Okay, what the hell is happening with local politics?! First it was that Virginia mayor cracking an Aunt Jemima joke, then it was the Michigan “country road commissioner” who refused to wear a mask because of BLM demonstrations in Detroit. And now it’s Dan Stuckey of the Lawrence County school board, who during a meeting last week filibustered for more than 20 minutes about “radical Black pastors” who were upsetting the [checks notes] unimpeachable race-relations tradition Mississippi is known for. “We don’t have a race problem,” said Stuckey before going on to issue the piercing analysis, “You ever notice the people doing what they’re supposed to do don’t have no trouble with the police?” Tell that to Jacob Blake, Dan. (WLBT)
🗑 Tired of Southern states monopolizing boneheaded racism, Idaho says “hey, what about our White supremacist militias?”
In early June, with the country embroiled in nearly daily demonstration against police brutality and systemic racism, the high school kids of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho got in on the act as well. As they marched through town, they found themselves flanked by hundreds of White dudes wearing camo and armed to the teeth. They were just there to protect the students from encroaching antifa hordes, they claimed — which, lmaoooo — but soon belied their own bullshit by screaming expletives like “n****r-lover” at the demonstrators, and in one case telling a 17-year-old marcher that she deserved to be raped for protesting. Welcome to north Idaho, where militias like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters operate with near-impunity, despite their explicit anti-government stance in many cases preaching racial separatism. “If [civil war is] coming,” one resident says, “North Idaho is the heart of the new confederacy.” All together now: YIKES! (Idaho Statesman)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
🎧 Nas, King’s Disease
Let’s keep it two Virgils: Nasir was a damn mess, a byproduct of a kooky Kanye West summer of 2018. Nas’ next at-bat, helmed entirely by Hit-Boy, is that project’s antithesis. Over production that’s simultaneously modern and nostalgic, Esco reflects on failed relationships (Nicki?), successful business moves, the beauty of Blackness, and the life of a king who’s never lost his connection with the people. Looks like someone was paying attention to LEVEL’s 40 Over 40 list! (Spotify)
📱 Verzuz: Monica vs. Brandy
Swizz and Timbaland have dreamed up their share of classic head-to-heads, but few seem as well-matched on paper as the (non-Mary) queens of ’90s R&B. Their chart numbers are damn near identical, their rivalry was the stuff of legend — and with Jill Scott and Erykah being the only two women featured thus far, it’s about time we got a little more gender parity in the mix. The joy is ours. (8/31, IG Live/Apple Music)
British illustrator Olivia Odiwe doesn’t just sell prints of your favorite rappers — she makes miniature sculptures of iconic album covers that bang almost as hard as the albums themselves. Works of art, indeed. (Instagram)
LEVEL Read of the Week
An Oral History of the Coming to America TV Show You Never Knew About
In 1987, Eddie Murphy was a box-office king, and had production companies in his name to make movies and TV of his own. So when Coming to America became a hit, he pitched a TV adaptation — starring Tommy Davidson as Prince Akeem’s little brother. What could go wrong? Only everything. Read the story.
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