What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

All hail King Bey, queen of the desert and mistress of the internet

#Beychella served up a panoply of blackness, from HBCUs to Wakanda and Fela Kuti to Nina Simone

11:37 AMThe internet has been taking a hammering lately, especially from people who don’t quite understand it.

Earlier this week, a good portion of the chattering classes tuned their televisions to cable news to watch congressmen grill a tech billionaire using a booster seat about his creation, and how it and Vladimir Putin together might be responsible for the downfall of Western democracy. Or something. Earlier this month, the federal government seized the online classified site Backpage.com, shutting it down and putting sex workers at risk by moving their work further into the shadows, many argued. And the Cannes film festival banned Netflix from entering films in its competition, in part because French film purists argue that Netflix is destroying the communal aspect of consuming film.

If you pay attention to the news, the overwhelming conclusion is that the internet is a dangerous place full of lies, conspiracy theories, hate speech, free porn, and Russian trolls and it’s making us worse as human beings. And there’s some truth to that.

But it’s not the whole story of the internet. Leave it to Beyoncé to remind us.

The first lady of Tidal, Houston, fish fries, and — let’s just say the modern African diaspora — made history (again) late Saturday night as the first black woman to headline Coachella, the oovy-groovy, hippie-dippie, psychedelic-infused annual music festival in the California desert. Naturally, she used it to serve up a panoply of blackness, from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to Zamunda to Wakanda to Egypt to Fela Kuti to Nefertiti to Malcolm X to James Weldon Johnson to Nina Simone. But her decision to livestream her entire two-hour performance is what makes Beyoncé as astute as any tech billionaire about the power and possibility of the internet.

It’s not the first time she’s used the internet to vault herself into international conversation. She did it with the surprise release of BEYONCÉ, with the HBO debut of Lemonade, with the launch of her expertly curated website and Instagram account. Beyoncé knows how to create a moment.

But choosing to livestream her Coachella performance signals something more. Rather than limiting her audience to the tens of thousands of ticket-buying festival attendees in Indio, California, Beyoncé created an internet community around #Beychella, harnessing a Southern-fried When and Where I Enter moment to be exported, dissected, and re-created.

This was something everyone with an internet connection got to witness, too. For free.

It’s exactly the sort of democratizing act that used to give us hope in the internet. Because what is the simultaneous clattering of keyboards about #Beychella if not a moment of community, a mechanism for sharing our amens together as we all visit the sanctuary of Beysus?

Fully aware of her dual status as greatest living entertainer and black American woman, Beyoncé didn’t go to Indio to assimilate to the typical Coachella drag of crop-top fringe, ripped denim, and muddy boots. Instead, she brought an HBCU-style halftime show and a probate exhibition, complete with a marching band and dancing dolls. She aggregates elements of black culture, high and low, American, African, Creole, and everything in between, and spits them back out into something new, craveable, and instantly consumable.

Honestly, how many people knew who the orisha Oshun was before Lemonade dropped? Don’t lie, either.

Fully aware of her dual status as greatest living entertainer and black American woman, Beyoncé didn’t go to Indio to assimilate to the typical Coachella drag of crop-top fringe, ripped denim, and muddy boots.

Ever since she released “Formation,” Beyoncé has been exploring ways to carry black people on her back via a series of high-profile, unapologetic salvos in the culture wars. There was the Super Bowl. There was the Grammys. And now there’s Beychella. Forget about Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress. We got Beyoncé in go-go boots.

Thanks to the internet, we bear witness to the way police are weaponized against innocent black people waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia Starbucks. And thanks to the internet, we can rightfully raise hell about it, too. And then, because the nonstop reminders of how black people aren’t fully recognized as people is exhausting and depressing, we can have a much-deserved moment to celebrate ourselves, even if that moment happens to be at 2 o’clock in the morning on the East Coast.

Some will skip over the art and jump straight to arguing that Beyoncé has commodified black liberation.

But I’d say Beyoncé has assessed her power in the world, the possibilities of the internet, and combined the two to march on as an evangelist of black feminism.

Wyatt Cenac can’t fix the world, but he’s sure going to try

The comedian’s new HBO show, ‘Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas’ isn’t about identifying everything wrong with the world. It’s about finding solutions.

12:46 PMThe most unusual thing about Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, the comedian and Daily Show alum’s new late-night show for HBO, is its startling focus on finding solutions to complex, scary, seemingly impossible problems.

This approach to late night, to comedy and to, well, life on earth is, frankly, surprising. After all, Cenac, 41, is a self-proclaimed nihilist. And his show, which premieres Friday night, joins a field of late-night comedy shows that, to one degree or another, are about all the ways our hair should be on fire because of nutjobs with too much power. They’re all influenced by the OG of this model, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which called out hypocrisy and incompetence. Now we have:

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: calls out corruption and incompetence
  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: calls out sexism and incompetence
  • The Rundown with Robin Thede: calls out racism and incompetence

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: offers a nightly summation of all these things while making us laugh before we’re all vaporized in a nuclear Holocaust.

Perhaps sensing that there’s only so much ha-ha-hair-on-fire programming an audience can take, Cenac has steered Problem Areas in the other direction. While billionaires such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson may be looking for ways to bail on Earth, the vast majority of humans can’t afford to do that. The pragmatic approach, Cenac suggests, would be to make Earth work — you know, while it’s still here. This is particularly amusing given that Cenac’s last show, People of Earth, was a fictional comedy for TBS about a journalist investigating an alien invasion. Apparently the aliens aren’t going to save us.

And so, through 10 episodes, Cenac is taking a look at police violence and what can be done to curb it. His studio audience is composed not of other humans but of Siri and Alexa, and Cenac takes his television audience through his “problem areas” in the comfort of a ’70s news set appointed with lots of wood and earth tones. The show re-examines the death of Philando Castile with expert interviews, including of police officers.

The result is a show unlike anything else on late night, a mix of mirth, seriousness and palpable sensitivity. Problem Areas, whose executive producers include Oliver, Cenac and Oscar-winning documentary director Ezra Edelman, feels like a cross between 60 Minutes and Last Week Tonight, but hosted by a guy whose affect suggests he’s just taken couple of hits off a really good vape pen.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s interested in answering questions that too often are ignored. After showing a clip of the daughter of Castile’s girlfriend attempting to comfort her mother, Diamond Reynolds, while she’s handcuffed in the back of a police car, Cenac asks, “For the people of Philando Castile’s community around St. Paul, what needs to happen for them to feel safer? How do they get a different outcome?”

Can another late-night comedy news show change the world? Probably not. But maybe it can inspire us to think differently. And that’s a start.

Taylor Swift’s cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ is the bland potato salad Chadwick Boseman warned us about

Seriously, no one thought to suggest another song?

11:14 AMLet’s get the facts out of the way first. Country megastar Taylor Swift’s cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1978 landmark cookout classic “September” is the latest in the Spotify Singles series. Previous installments include Miley Cyrus covering Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” and Demi Lovato doing Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way.” There are several other examples, but you get the gist of the blueprint. To be fair, covers are a staple in music dating back before Swift or the internet itself were even born. There’s no denying Swift’s song will introduce the original to an entirely new audience in her massive fan base. And if EWF can get some coins off this on the back end, it quite simply is what it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ns8f77qtz8

But all that being said, this — this, my friends — is the “bland a– potato salad” King T’Challa was telling us about last week during Black Jeopardy on Saturday Night Live. (Seriously, watch the skit and tell me it doesn’t fit this to a tee.) Swift might very well be a huge fan of the record. Millions of people have a sentimental attachment to “September.” It’s a classic in quite literally every sense of the musical definition. You can’t go to a black family reunion and not hear “September.” You can’t go to a black family’s house over the holidays and not hear the song at some point. And you absolutely can’t go to a wedding reception and not hear it — the first half of the reception because we all know the back half of the reception is when the open bar and twerking commence. This isn’t even hyperbole when categorizing the record as one of the most important of a decade that produced a plethora of timeless anthems and albums. You can’t strip the soul and groove away from a song and expect it to fly. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

To keep it a buck with you, I’m not even mad at Taylor. She’s obviously connected to the song enough to want to pay homage. I’m more so mad at everyone else who was in the studio session. Like no one thought to say, “Maybe ‘September’ doesn’t need a banjo in it.” Like no one suggested, “What do you think about [insert another song]?” True story — one time I purposely moved in the barber’s chair when I was 8 or 9. I wanted to get a bald head like Michael Jordan and I had a basketball game that weekend, so in my mind this would all work perfectly. Nevertheless, my mom cursed me out, telling me I “looked more like a bright a– light bulb” than my favorite player. I played horribly that weekend, and it’s all because I went rogue in the barber’s chair. In my mind, that’s what happened on this cover of “September.”

Last but not least, though, R.I.P. Maurice White. And since we’re all gathered here today, we might as well listen to the original.

‘Art of a Champion’ exhibit celebrates best playoff sneakers from Nike, Jordan and Converse

Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving represented the three brands — and kicks they made iconic

4:20 PMNEW YORK — Back in 2012, a white mouthguard worn by LeBron James throughout one of his first playoff runs as a member of the Miami Heat featured one simple inscription: “XVI.” What those Roman numerals signify, 16, means a lot to the King and should to every player in the NBA. That’s because 16 wins in the postseason are what it takes to earn the distinction of being called an NBA champion.

On Monday, Nike, Air Jordan and Converse honored the upcoming 2018 playoffs, as well as that coveted number James put on his mouthpiece several years ago as motivation, with the exclusive “Art of a Champion” exhibit at Nike’s New York headquarters in midtown Manhattan. It featured a collection of 16 different pairs of sneakers from the three brands, representing multiple generations of basketball. Each pair, including a revamped version of the black-and-white low-top Converse that Bill Russell sported in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals and the “Pass the Torch” Air Jordan 1s that celebrate Kawhi Leonard’s winning Finals MVP in 2014, were put on display below unique portraits of the shoes, crafted by a group of artists.

Other sneakers in the collection included Kobe Bryant’s “Final Seconds” Nike Kobe 1 Protros, Kevin McHale’s “No Easy Buckets” Converse Fastbreak high-tops, Scottie Pippen’s “Trifecta” Nike Air Maestro IIs, Rasheed Wallace’s “Rude Awakening” Nike Air Force 1 High Retros, Maya Moore’s “Rook to Queen” Air Jordan 11 lows, Wes Unseld’s “Intangibles” Converse Star Player Oxes, Moses Malone’s “Fo’ Fi’ Fo” Nike Air Force 1 Low Retros, Kevin Durant’s “Battle Tested” Nike Zoom KD IVs, LeBron James’ “25 Straight” Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 1s, Julius “Dr. J” Erving’s “The Scoop” Converse Pro Leather mid-tops, Michael Jordan’s “Last Shot” Air Jordan 14s, Ray Allen’s “Locked and Loaded” Air Jordan 28s and “Gold Standard” Nike Air Force 270s. Every pair will be available at retail from April to June.

Before the gallery was unveiled, ESPN’s Cari Champion hosted a panel discussion with Allen, Wallace and Erving, who shared their favorite playoff memories from their careers and the shoes they wore at the time. Allen repped Air Jordan (he’s been signed to the brand since its inception in 1996). Wallace, an Air Force 1 aficionado during his 15-year career in the league, talked Nike. And Dr. J, the O.G. of the bunch, reminisced about the old-school swag of Converse.

“It’s a lot to be said about this shoe, as well as the history of Converse,” said Erving, pointing to the Converse on his feet. “Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, the inspiration came from Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson.”

With the reporters, influencers and sneakerheads in attendance, Allen, Erving and Wallace stuck around to detail the experiences they had playing in their signature shoes that the gallery featured. In the middle of the exhibit stood the WNBA’s silver championship trophy and NBA’s gold Larry O’Brien Trophy, which many of the 16 pairs on display helped players obtain.

BET’s ‘The Quad’ ends after two seasons

The show’s co-creator Felicia Henderson sent out a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to fans

2:02 PMOne of BET’s most gripping nighttime dramas is coming to an end after only two seasons.

The Quad, which aired its season two finale on April 3, was one of BET’s most entertaining original shows set on the campus of a fictional historically black university. Many of the storylines that stretched over two seasons covered both pleasant and harsh realities of campus life, including corruption, sexual assault and financial woes.

The show featured prominent and seasoned actors such as Anika Noni Rose, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jasmine Guy, Sean Blakemore and E. Roger Mitchell. Plot twists and exposure to storylines of the show’s many characters were continually developing before Monday’s announcement.

A message tweeted out by the show’s co-creator Felicia D. Henderson indicated that lower ratings led to the show’s cancellation. According to Nielsen ratings, the show’s second season averaged a 0.2 in the adults 18-49 demographic and 553,000 viewers per episode in Live+Same Day — each metric down around 30 percent from the first season.

Henderson’s message was largely a thank you to fans who supported the show throughout during its two-season run.