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

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In LEVEL. More on Medium.

Illustration: Davide Barco for LEVEL

The voice-chat social platform skyrocketed in popularity last fall, largely due to an influx of Black users. But we’ve heard this song before.

It was the night of December 8, and a group of Black users on Clubhouse were threatening a boycott.


Branded gear and questionable collabs used to make brands seem desperate—now it’s making them cash

We’re used to taking unlimited Ls on Jordan reissues. We’re used to Supreme drops getting botted and cleaned out within minutes. But we didn’t expect other brands to get in on the action — let alone find success with it. Over on our sibling pub MARKER, Adam Bluestein dives into what he calls “Merchmageddon”: a world in which companies responded to the pandemic by unleashing a damn torrent of branded gear and goods. Think Dunkin’ allover-print joggers; Ca$h App brand streetwear; Chicken McNugget-shaped pillows.


Photos: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix, FOX/Getty Images, CBS All Access

Some of the genre’s best and brightest come together to talk about why they made the transition from rap magazines to TV and movies—and how

It’s easy enough to pinpoint the birth of hip-hop: August 11, 1973, when Kool Herc threw that pivotal back-to-school party for his sister at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx. Doing the same for dedicated hip-hop journalism, though, proves tougher. What we do know is that college student David Mays started The Source as a one-pager at Harvard University in 1988. By 1993, Time Inc. had launched Vibe; XXL would follow in 1997. …


Outsmarted by savvy internet users, investment institutions rewrote the rules to maintain the status quo

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“This is some bullshit!” I said aloud to no one, as I watched a red dial draw circles on my iPhone screen before being replaced by a “Connection Error” message. It was Thursday morning, just after the stock market had opened for trading, and I’d lost count of how many times I’d attempted to purchase shares of stock in AMC Entertainment — yes, the struggling movie theater franchise — via Cash App, only for the requests to conk out. I knew these weren’t mere technical difficulties. There was some foul shit going on.


Just Rankin’ Sh!t

It’s hard to believe these brands are for us, but not by us

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

5. Wingstop

With the way Rick Ross shouts out this chicken spot, you’d think it’s officially part of his MMG empire. But Rozay is one of rap’s great, ahem, storytellers, so it should be no surprise that he only owns a few franchises here and there, not the whole shebang. Still: Don’t sleep on the lemon-pepper!

4. Sally Beauty Supply

There are a lot of tragedies around curly and coily hair products being vended by non-skinfolk, but Sally’s not being Black-owned feels [Law & Order: SVU narrator voice] especially heinous. The name was a dead giveaway — Sally?! — yet here we are, shocked once again.

3. BET


My documentary ‘SMOKE: Marijuana + Black America’ tracks the recent cannabis boom — and how racism has already crept in

Erik Parker in SMOKE. Photos: courtesy of the author.

As the producer for the 2014 documentary Time is Illmatic, I’ve interviewed Nas more times than I can count. By this point, we’ve developed an easy rapport and settled comfortably in the zone between industry connection and working friendship. I’m used to him being subdued and reserved when he comes on set and takes a seat. But the last time, there was an added distance — this one socially mandated. Hand sanitizer, elbow bumps.


THIS WEEK IN RACISM

It’s an embarrassment of riches in our weekly roundup of the world’s most preventable disease!

Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life — but no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we’re pleased to introduce our weekly racism surveillance machine. …


Corner Store Chronicles

The sisters who’ve carried on the store their parents built, Cardenas Grocery, adapt and adapt in a community that often forgets them

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s “Corner Store Chronicles” series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.


Corner Store Chronicles

This San Pablo market and liquor store is vital to the immigrant community it serves

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s Corner Store Chronicles series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.


Corner Store Chronicles

When Carver Neighborhood Market was vandalized earlier this year, patrons rallied to support the grocer that offers fresh produce in one of Atlanta’s food deserts

Illustration: Derrick Dent

When 2020 is said and done, it’ll likely become known as the year of massive uncertainty. But with so much instability (from Covid-19 to crimson skies on the West Coast), corner store culture remains familiar. LEVEL’s “Corner Store Chronicles” series pays homage to the power of the store that delivers the warmth and care that ACME will never replicate. Whether known as bodegas, tienditas, or another term of endearment where you’re from, our hoods would be nothing without them.

LEVEL

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

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