Save the disrespectful energy for Terry Crews, not Black women

John Kennedy
Published in
5 min readAug 18, 2020


Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From Nas’ problematic punchlines 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.

The hype train for Nas’ upcoming 13th proper studio album, King’s Disease, is chugging along with the momentum of a locomotive — for a reason few would have anticipated one week ago. The project’s first single, “Ultra Black,” is a celebration of the beauty of being Black, with Esco’s prideful rhymes shining over Hit-Boy’s mellow production like a gold chain laying atop an ultra-black tee. But one line that caught everyone’s attention seems to have sent the buzz off the rails, resurfacing the question of why Black men too often fail to protect Black women.

After giving props to some pillars of Black culture, Nas shoots his shot: “We goin’ ultra Black, unapologetically Black/The opposite of Doja Cat, Michael Blackson Black.” On its surface, the punchline delivers on its unpredictability and timeliness. (It’s presumably a nod to a series of bizarre-yet-murky 2020 news bits revolving around the singer/rapper’s relationship to her biracial identity — and her alleged association to racists, which is thus far unsubstantiated.) Sure, hip-hop is a full-contact sport, and this is relatively tame for the guy who made “Ether.” But on the other hand, the line is a double whammy of colorism and misogyny.

Juxtaposing Doja’s light-skinned complexion with that of the darker Michael Blackson — on a song seemingly intended to uplift and rally Black folks — seems needlessly petty and divisive. And just as J. Cole was criticized for tone-policing Noname earlier this summer, Nas’ diss to Doja Cat is another form of belittling and patronizing — rather than protecting — a Black woman. (It doesn’t help that Nas’ ex-wife Kelis’, also a Black woman, alleged a few years back that he’d been abusive during their marriage, a charge he’s denied.) Taking aim at a Black woman who’s been admittedly conflicted about her ethnicity, and apologetic about past music and statements that reflect that inner strife, may elicit a chuckle, but it doesn’t really score any MC points, especially considering that there are so many other prime (male) targets worthy of that kind of critique.

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This isn’t Nas’ first multiracial rodeo; he’s laid into Tiger Woods and Cuba Gooding on wax in the past. You just wish he (and other Black men in hip-hop) focused not on going after Black women, but instead holding other men accountable for their bullshit — guys like Talib Kweli, who spent several days this summer harassing a Black woman via Twitter, or Terry Crews, who’s been loud and wrong with his ultra wack take on Black Lives Matter (his name rhymes precisely with “scary views” — too easy). As for the controversial headline grabber from “Ultra Black,” it probably should’ve remained buried within the gutter of Nas’ book of rhymes.

John Kennedy, senior editor

This Week in Racism

🗑 Just In Case You Needed to Settle This Whole “Racism Is Learned” Thing

Meet Daniel Sims. Daniel Sims was one of two dozen or so folks who showed up at an Alabama county commission meeting last week to protest the possible removal of a Confederate statue outside a nearby courthouse. Daniel Sims is a member of Captain John Rayburn Camp 452 Sons of Confederate Veterans (which is a very long way to say “we like to play with cannons”). Oh, and Daniel Sims is Black. If you’re looking for an explanation for this Clayton Bigsby-ass tale of woe, let him tell you himself: “My whole family’s White. I went to all-White school. Grew up in an all-White neighborhood. My grandfather was White and he was the main one that fought in this war here and he’s taught me everything I know.” To which we say … wait, your grandfather was in the Civil War?! No wonder you’re on this bullshit, you’re 112 years old! (WHNT-TV)

🗑 Days Since Someone Talked Slick About Kamala Harris: 0

It’s not like we didn’t see this coming, but the political cartoonists are lining up to show their ass at the prospect of a Black woman being on a presidential ticket. The Australian, which is basically the New York Post of Down Under — owned by Rupert Murdoch, fond of op-eds that complain about “condescending identity politics” — published a cartoon that depicted a grinning Joe Biden referring to Harris as “this little Brown girl.” The paper’s editor said that it was using Biden’s own words against him, and that the cartoon’s intent was to “demean racism, not perpetuate it.” That’s great, because if you’re trying to find a country most able to find the satire in it, it should definitely be one that seems to still find blackface acceptable. (NYT)

🗑 Wow, Guess Someone Really Didn’t Like The Office

Black fans of NBC sitcom The Office know that beloved character Stanley Hudson is a real one — he’s here to do a crossword, eat a pretzel, and go the hell home. But when actor Leslie David Baker launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spinoff show called Uncle Stan, not everyone saw the light. As Baker shared on his own Instagram page, a mouthbreather going by the name “fuhrerjeremy” let loose with a torrent of what is clinically known as Wild-Ass Racism. N-bombs flew. Photos of lynchings were DMed. Of the 21 sentences typed in the dissertation of hate, the only one we can bring ourselves to type is “You won’t get any of my White dollars.” That account has now been taken down, either because Instagram banned it or because ol’ fuhrerjeremy drowned in his own White tears after realizing that his White dollars couldn’t come close to the Black dollars Leslie David Baker was stacking in syndication checks. (USA Today)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

🎧 Burna Boy, Twice as Tall

Afro-fusion has swept the globe in recent years, turning Burna into a megastar; this time out, though, the Nigerian artist is going a little deeper. The features swing bigger — Yossou N’Dour, Stormzy, and Naughty By Nature (!) all show up — and the topics feel weightier. The continent’s been out firing, but now he’s making clear that last year’s African Giant was just a warning shot. (Spotify)

📺 Lovecraft Country, HBO

Last week, we told you to check out the Matt Ruff novel that the new HBO drama would be adapting. This week, we’re happy to tell you that the show is straight flames. A mashup of Jim Crow-era race drama and golden-age genre fiction, it’s the newest project from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions — and with a cast that boasts Black acting treasures Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue Ellis, it’s got the chops to be the next Watchmen.

LEVEL Read of the Week

The Black Internet Gold Rush That Wiped Away $75 Million in 18 Months

Twenty years ago, an unprecedented economic bubble formed around web startups, pouring billions of dollars into companies that barely had a business plan. Most of those companies were trying to sell things, but a slew of urban-culture saw a chance to revolutionize media. We’ll let you guess how it ended. Read the story.



John Kennedy
Writer for

Editor-in-Chief, LEVEL