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

Craig Mack, Bad Boy Records’ foundational artist, dies at 46

The ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ MC was in a long battle with heart disease

9:47 AMHailing from Long Island, New York, Craig Mack was actually the first star of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records. The news was confirmed late Monday that Mack, 46, died after a long battle with heart failure. Lesser known to some, Mack, with his distinctive, gravelly voice, predated the label’s grandest star, The Notorious B.I.G.

The creative and innovative “B.I.G. Mack” marketing campaign, fueled by Combs, gave the label undeniable steam in the early ’90s. And it was the remix of Mack’s 1994 “Flava In Ya Ear” and “Get Down (Remix)” that became his lasting calling card. The former features a classic opening 16 bars from The Notorious B.I.G. While The Notorious B.I.G. of course skyrocketed to crossover fame during his short life, Mack (who’d found some success with his debut Project: Funk da World) eventually left the public eye altogether. He dedicated his life to church, with rumors of him joining a religious cult surfacing online several years back.

You won’t be around next year / My rap’s too severe / Kicking mad flava in ya ear … The odyssey of Combs, Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy have become an undeniable hip-hop curriculum. Mack, though? “Nobody got to understand his story,” said close friend and producer Alvin Toney. “I wanted the world to know the talent he had. It was something I wanted people to enjoy, but it was cut short because he was very religious and wanted to go to church.” Mack’s death comes less than a week after the 21st anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 murder in Los Angeles.

The rumors are true … the Jay-Z and Beyoncé Tour is happening

And if there’s anything else you want to know, the Carters will tell you when you need to know

2:15 PMIt’s all about getting in front of the narrative. That’s how you control it before it controls you. That’s how the Carters do it. From addressing rumors of an impending divorce, to the release of two critically lauded albums in Lemonade and 4:44, to the birth of twins, the announcement of a Jay-Z and Beyoncé tour is the latest in a series of head-snapping breaking news for America’s most famous couple not named Obama.

The international leg kicks off June 6 in the U.K. and will cover 15 cities before wrapping up on July 17. It goes stateside on July 25, starting in Cleveland for the first of 21 shows. Tickets go on sale for Citi, TIDAL and Beyhive loyalists on Wednesday. General admission sales will be available starting March 19 on LiveNation.com. View the official tour trailer below.

P.S. — With Beyoncé headlining Coachella next month and a joint tour right behind it, this all but confirms new music is on the horizon, right? Has to be, right? This announcement will only send the long-standing rumors of a joint project between husband and wife into overdrive. And given the operatic aspect of their lives over the past couple of years alone, it’s not like they’re hurting for subject matter.


From E:60: The improbable rise and uncertain future of Isaiah Thomas

The brand-new member of the Lakers talks about what comes next in his far-flung path through the NBA

8:34 AMMost people didn’t start hearing about Isaiah Thomas, picked dead last in the 2011 NBA draft, until the 2015–16 season. Despite his lack of size, the 5-foot-9 guard earned a starting role with the Celtics and then a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The next season he averaged 28.9 points a game, just shy of the single-season franchise record held by the legendary Larry Bird. Thomas stole the hearts of Boston sports fans and led the Celtics to the playoffs.

But just before the start of the first round, tragedy struck: Thomas was told by a teammate that his sister had been killed in a car accident. Thomas describes that day to E:60’s Ryan Smith and his decision to play Game 1 of the playoffs just hours later. Through the next two rounds, Thomas led the Celtics on a magical run until an injury sidelined him during the conference finals.

Thomas had become the face of the Celtics, and he considered Boston home. But with one year left on his contract, Thomas was unexpectedly dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving. Unable to jell on the court with LeBron James and his new teammates, Thomas was traded again — this time to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that sparked his hoop dreams as a kid and with whom he hopes to keep writing his NBA success story.

Thomas also opens up about his life’s journey, beginning with his childhood love of the Lakers and being shipped off to a prep school in the middle of nowhere to his time with the Celtics and the pain of losing his sister. Thomas also reveals his thoughts on his trade to Cleveland, his former teammate James, why he thinks the Cavaliers dealt him so quickly and what he hopes the future holds for him in L.A.

‘Black Panther’ dominance: ‘A movie can’t get to $1 billion globally without tapping into some universal truths’

The superhero epic bests even ‘The Dark Knight’

12:47 PMAs of today, Marvel’s Black Panther has crossed the billion-dollar box office mark globally. The film is the 16th Walt Disney Studios film to reach this milestone — and it did so in less than a month — and it’s only the fifth Marvel film to achieve this accolade. Other films that have earned this amount include The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther continues to impress financially, as it also is now the No. 9 release of all time, and after this weekend it will be the No. 2 superhero release of all time, besting The Dark Knight, which earned $535 million domestically. Black Panther has already claimed the No. 1 February debut, among other achievements, and it’s one of only four films to surpass the $100M mark in its second weekend.

“This is the first time that a movie has opened in February and made $1 billion globally,” said Phil Contrino, the director of media and research for the National Association of Theatre Owners. “The notion that moviegoers will only come out in droves during the summer and the holiday season is now officially dead. Compelling content will play well at any point in the year.”

Overseas, Black Panther will shoot past the $500M mark this weekend, after its Friday opening in the last market for the film to open in, China, where it grabbed a first-day estimate of $22M. That the film has been able to excel, and break down long-held theories that films with largely black casts don’t sell in overseas markets, is remarkable.

“A movie can’t get to $1 billion globally without tapping into some universal truths. Black Panther’s emphasis on the importance of family and identity helped it transcend race, and that’s why it’s had no problem playing so well around the world,” Contrino said. “Audiences are sending a clear message that they want to see more diversity on the big screen. I really hope that five years from now we can look back at Black Panther as the moment that permanent change began.”

Serena displays stretches of power and precision

‘It’s incredible,’ she said of her return to competitive singles

11:19 AMThere was a loud roar as Serena Williams walked onto the main stadium court at the BNP Paribas Open, wearing a bulky black jacket and black tights. As her match against Zarina Diyas was about to begin, Williams shed her outerwear to reveal two arm sleeves, an early indicator that the visual gun show that usually intimidates opponents would not be on display.

For a moment, the best women’s player in the history of tennis displayed rare vulnerability.

For half a set, Williams appeared tight.

But in her first competitive singles match in more than a year, Williams eventually settled into a comfort zone on the way to a satisfying 7-5, 6-3 win over Diyas to advance to the second round of the tournament.

To say Williams is back would be a rush to judgment for the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who was playing her first competitive singles match since winning the 2017 Australian Open title last January.

But she’s a lot further along than anyone who saw her play Fed Cup doubles a month ago could have anticipated.

Williams was sluggish then, surviving conditioning that was not ready for prime time as she played alongside her sister Venus.

From that doubles match, you might have pegged Williams’ return to Grand Slam form sometime next year.

Based on the promise she showed on Thursday night, that timeline might have to be adjusted.

Thursday we gave you a few things to watch in Williams’ return. Here’s how she did:

Her lateral movement was surprisingly good.

Her stamina appeared to get better as the match progressed, and she won several long points.

Her inner drive was on display as she had to dig deep and fight fatigue on a few occasions. There were several rough stretches early in the first set where you might have thought that it would be easier for Williams to ease out of the match quietly and begin focus on her next tournament.

But she recovered from those moments to display stretches of power and precision that left you thinking that she might be back to competitive form later this year.

Her focus was solid as Williams, with the exception of a few displays of emotion, maintained her cool for much of the night.

“It was incredible,” Williams said during her post-match interview. “It’s been over a year, and a kid later.”

Next up for Williams: a Saturday match against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, the No. 29 player in the world.

‘The Boondocks’ returns — as a video game

‘Inappropriate negro humor is serious stuff’

10:39 PM

The characters of The Boondocks, legendary for breaking barriers and pushing boundaries, spent the past two decades carving out a decidedly young, urban and black space in the mostly white worlds of syndicated comic strips and late night television. Created by Aaron McGruder, the characters of Huey Freeman, Riley Freeman, Grandpa and the other residents of Woodcrest became almost instant icons, defining the attitude and aesthetic of a generation. After the show ended in 2014, fans wanted to know what was next.

And on Thursday, McGruder took to Facebook to announce the next iteration of the Boondocks brand: a video game. Fresh for ’18 … you suckas!

Cryptically teasing an app-based experience, McGruder only promises “a bizarre political satire that is largely about race and inappropriate for children.” Considering this is the same crew that scripted the most blasphemous version of Dr. King possible, the possibilities here are endless.

If McGruder, John Imah and DJ Pooh learned from the mistakes of Bandai and allow you to actually play as one or all of the title characters, each possible selection points to a dramatically different game.

Longtime fans of the strip will remember how much time Huey and Caesar spent absorbing the messages blaring out from the TV. Considering how much can be ripped from the headlines, a game where the boys jump through the TV to deliver their trademark anime-style beatdowns would be cathartic.

And of course, if McGruder is envisioning Trump as a properly vitiligoed Uncle Ruckus, a game based on President Ruckus could reach unknown levels of foolishness. Is Tom DuBois his veep? How would Uncle Ruckus handle North Korea? Is Ronald Reagan going to send him proclamations from White Heaven? Or maybe it’s even darker? Could it be a McCarthyist sendup in the style of the epic “Thank You for Not Snitching” episode?

If Riley Freeman’s letters to the president are anything like his letters to Santa, a State of Emergency-style brawler set in the nation’s capital would be amazing. Based on the updated cover photo featuring Grandpa’s pootie-tang-like belt, Sarah DuBois with a crossbow and Tom DuBois clutching a makeshift shield with the anarchy symbol on the front, clearly things are getting too real in Woodcrest.

The only one who knows how the game will shape up is McGruder, and we will all have to wait a little longer to see what jumps out of his mind this time.