Sign in

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


In LEVEL. More on Medium.

It’s time for a musical litmus test for enlightenment

Photo: Gems/Getty Images

After the most recent Verzuz event this past Sunday, I’ve come to a social determination: There can be no further race conversations with people who are not familiar with Earth, Wind & Fire’s catalog.

The Verzuz format is so simple that it’s collectively embarrassing that no one thought to put it into motion prior to the pandemic: Put two legendary musical acts in the same room and make them have cookout debates over whose catalog is better. Almost none of the acts bring competitive energy to the challenge, with most artists appropriately deferring to each other’s greatness throughout. …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Rest in power, weird-ass kings and queens!

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Dishmantled via Quibi

6. ‘Rapper Ninja Warrior’

Yes, the premise was exactly what it sounds like: Blindfolded MCs navigated an obstacle course populated with swole-ass gladiators, rapping all the while. And the only reason this is the least-weird entry on the list is because Eric Andre actually managed to prove its potential on his self-titled Adult Swim show. Honestly, if Quibi had lived long enough to add the show to its platform, we might have become paying subscribers.

5. ‘Home Movie: The Princess Bride’

Only in 2020, a year in which everyone was at home and a billion-dollar company was absolutely desperate for content, could “a bunch of actors re-enact The Princess Bride

After years of making us laugh at our pain, the most likable man in comedy focuses on the most painful thing of all: our jobs

Photo courtesy Roy Wood Jr.

Roy Wood Jr. is the kind of guy who makes everyone comfortable. He has a talent for making strangers feel as if they grew up with him on his street in Birmingham, Alabama. Even if you have dissimilar viewpoints and values, you’d still want to sit and have a beer with him. It’s part of how Wood has been able to spend his career tackling difficult topics. It’s also why the 42-year-old comedian has remained busy, even in the midst of a pandemic.

In addition to being a correspondent on The Daily Show, Wood recently launched Roy’s Job Fair, a…

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s first Silk Sonic single is a dope soul throwback, but it’s not a savior

Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic performs during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards broadcast on March 14, 2021. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Earlier this month, power duo Silk Sonic — a collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — dropped its first single, “Leave the Door Open.” Produced by Mars and D’Mile (written by Mars, .Paak, D’Mile, and Brody Brown), it is, I suppose, a hit. It is everywhere. Given how the music industry has moved the goalposts to count streams as a portion of sales, if it isn’t a hit, nothing is.

And, because the song taps into historical Black musical forms and Mars is attached to it, we all have to have an argument about it.

Part of what’s interesting…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

‘It’s Friday; you ain’t got no job… you ain’t got shit to do’

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: New Line Cinema via Amazon Prime Video

4. Friday: The Animated Series (2007)

We knew this short-lived MTV2 toon would be weird when we realized John DiMaggio — the voice of Futurama’s Bender — would attempt to channel the greatness of John Witherspoon’s Pops. What we didn’t anticipate was Smokey’s character looking like dude from ToeJam & Earl. Friday has never felt so fugazi.

3. Next Friday (2000)

Ranking this sequel so low should be as illegal as the cash stuffed in Joker’s hydraulic pump. Sure, Chris Tucker’s absence is felt in this follow-up set in the suburbs, but Mike Epps seamlessly fills the void as Day Day. Damn near every moment he’s on screen is hysterical…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

It’s April, fools!

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium. Source: Getty Images.

7. Tyler, the Creator

The best elements of Punk’d tend to be natural reactions to manufactured shenanigans; Tyler’s didn’t disappoint. After a taco truck explodes at a children’s charity event, the former Odd Future frontman smiles ear to ear while running toward a man engulfed in flames — not to offer help, but to capture footage on his phone. Fake reality sets in when he’s blamed for the blast. “Yo, is he okay?” asks Tyler, the destroyer. “I can’t go to jail if I fucked up, right?”

6. Brandy

Leave it to Ashton Kutcher to turn racial profiling into a riotous prank. When stopped by two…

‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ is the perfect reintroduction

Lil Nas X at the MTV Video Music Video Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on August 26, 2019. Photo: Efren Landaos/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

I watched the “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” video no less than five consecutive times when it dropped at midnight last Friday, March 26.

When I randomly couldn’t sleep at 6 a.m. later that morning (symptoms of surviving a pandemic), I rolled over and watched it some more. I won’t go over all of the dope little nuances and easter eggs Lil Nas X packed into three minutes and 10 seconds; Mikelle Street did, and you should go read about them. …

What you see in the artist’s latest is a function of what you bring to it

Still: Lil Nas X

The video for Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” may not shock everyone who encounters it, but I think it’s safe to say that it is shocking to most people who encounter it. I find this shock largely amusing, but then I’m a Prince fan who played Dungeons & Dragons in the ’80s. I’ve seen this kind of pearl-clutching before.

Everything about Lil Nas X is hilarious and his resting smirk face suggests even he thinks so. He knows what he’s doing with his music, and his videos, and his presence, and he doesn’t care that you…

This Week in Racism

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

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

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 created a weekly racism surveillance machine. …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Happy 30th birthday to the best thinly veiled music biopic of all time. All tiiiiime!

A black and white photo collage of the members of The Five Heartbeats.
A black and white photo collage of the members of The Five Heartbeats.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

6. Terrence “Dresser” Williams

Dresser had a decent voice, but getting washed in a dance contest by an old man — in front of your homies, no less — isn’t the most promising indicator of solo stardom.

5. Anthony “Choirboy” Stone

It’s hard to find a name less sexy than Choirboy. Yet somehow, even when the whole band was bombing, he was the only member who ever got shit thrown at him while onstage. Doesn’t exactly scream “we want more.”

4. J.T. Matthews

J.T. had crazy pipes, heartthrob appeal, and was a total womanizer. Sounds like a solo breakout to us.

3. Flash

Eddie Kane Jr. put it plainly in one of the…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store