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LEVEL
Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Beauty

In LEVEL. More on Medium.

A brief reflection on an iconic lyric and a reminder that Black men and boys are beautiful too

Photo: Nelson Ndongala on Unsplash

In the 1994 remix of “One More Chance,” The Notorious B.I.G. lists in great detail his effortless finesse with women of all races and ethnicities. The classic cut samples El DeBarge’s “Stay With Me” and features his wife, Faith Evans, and Mary J. Blige on background vocals. It’s partly comical, partly offensive, and all NSFW. Still, apart from a beat that lingers, a few lines really stick with you.

Momentarily putting aside glaring concerns with misogyny in hip-hop, I’ve spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time considering the social influences that led Biggie to rhyme “Heartthrob, never/Black and ugly as…


Dear Level

You may not be on board with every makeover. Here’s how to be supportive anyway.

Illustration: Olivia Fields

In 1993, I decided I wanted to stop chemically treating my hair and just let my natural curls do their own thing. It wasn’t a popular concept at the time; a woman’s beauty and femininity were still tightly connected to how she styled her hair. But for countless reasons, both political and professional, I wanted no parts of artificially straightened hair anymore.

My boyfriend, a college senior, was not supportive. His idea of glamorous was Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton. And my plan — a half-inch Afro — was not what they were rocking.

I told him why…


Dear Level

We’ll walk you through this one, champ

Illustration: Olivia Fields

Do you know what a Stroopwafel is? It’s a pastry, from the Dutch city of Gouda. (Yeah, the same place the cheese comes from.)

The official definition of a Stroopwafel is two thin layers of soft-baked dough pressed together around a caramel filling.

My definition of a Stroopwafel, though, is yumdroolomgsoftwarmsweetyum.

Up until last week, my temptations were the normal things: Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked, Doritos, soda — like any kind of soda ever — and homemade sugar cookies. But now I’m ruined.

How did I discover this amazing Dutch treat? My soon to be husband, Shane, brought some…


The Ultimate Guide to Black Men’s Hair

When a haircut feels like the opposite of self-care, follow these steps

Illustration: Kingsley Nebechi

The second season of Atlanta, subtitled “Robbin’ Season,” captured a distinct type of psychological horror: the larceny of life itself. Throughout the season, the main characters of the Donald Glover-created FX comedy were relieved of their time, their dignity, and their sense of physical safety. But the most distressing episode wasn’t the Teddy Perkins experience, Earn’s managerial shortcomings, or Alfred’s traumatic venture into the woods — it was a routine trip to the barbershop.

In “Barbershop,” the season’s fifth episode, Alfred spends a day being dragged through hell by a barber who constantly puts his safety and freedom in jeopardy…


The Ultimate Guide to Black Men’s Hair

After a life of stressing my hairline and waves, I found liberation and power in its unapologetic Blackness

Photos courtesy of the author

You never forget that first pang of rejection. It’s a feeling akin to taking a medicine ball to the chest, a slap of rubbing alcohol on a freshly cut neckline. You know the vibes. And if you’d regularly rode the yellow bus to my elementary school back in ’92, you would’ve had a front-row seat for my earliest humbling.

Her name was Cassie. Like me, she made a daily commute from a not-so-great school district in Queens, New York, to one with enough textbooks for every student. Our ride was 45 minutes each way — just enough time for some…


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BLACK MEN’S HAIR

Pull it together in eight simple steps

Photo Illustration. Source: Will Humphrey

Black hair’s prosperity relies on threat avoidance. The climate, your pillowcase, and even one’s own fingers can betray the goal of optimal hair health. Our best shield against damage is a protective style — typically cornrows, two-strand twists, or braids — changed every couple of weeks. We call it “protective,” but these twists also stimulate hair growth, strengthen your ends, and even manage to look good. For LEVEL’s Black Hair Guide, YouTube’s Black hair savant, William Humphrey (WillOnAWhim) breaks down how to install braids, while retaining all the moisture your hair needs. …


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BLACK MEN’S HAIR

William Humphrey isn’t just entertaining his hundreds of thousands of subscribers — he’s showing that hair care can be self-care

Photo Illustration. Source: @willnotwilly

Less than two minutes into the video, William Humphrey is doing his best Whitney Houston impression. Well, his tub of Wet Line Xtreme hair gel is doing its best Whitney Houston impression, it just happens to be in Humphrey’s voice. Humphrey himself is doing his best Brandy impression — the Cinderella to the gel’s Fairy Godmother, as per the 1997 TV-movie version of Cinderella. And it goes a little something like this:

Wet Line Xtreme Gel: I’m yo’ fairy godmother, whatchu want? And hurry up, ’cause I clock out at 12.

Will: I’d like a wash ’n’ go.

Wet Line…


THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BLACK MEN’S HAIR

No YouTube tutorial prepared me for this

Photo illustration. Source: Glass Joe/Getty Images

Growing up, I spent several summers at my aunties’ hair salon. I got to watch (and learn) firsthand how a sew-in works, how to properly execute a blowout, and most crucially, what to do when a track falls out right before prom night and emergency surgery is needed. From a young age, I’ve been reasonably knowledgeable about everyone’s hair but my own. A low-cut Caesar has been my calling card into early adulthood, and the style served me well.

I was, as they say, in my bag — and that bag smelled like essential oils.

Then, I hit the full…


The Ultimate Guide to Black Men’s Hair

A note from LEVEL’s editor-in-chief

You were supposed to be reading this at the end of March with a fresh cut. Your hair was supposed to be unmatched like Snoop seconds after a deep conditioner. Then Covid-19 hit, and our collection of stories celebrating hair didn’t feel all that appropriate. How do you celebrate hair when the barbers and shops can’t operate for the foreseeable future?

Then an incredible thing started to happen. You started leaning into your hair journeys. Puff gave into his gray beard. Ray Allen proudly showed off his George Jefferson natural state. And DJ Khaled, a man who certainly doesn’t skimp…

LEVEL

Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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