The Mom, Student … and Breakout Rapper

When Vivian Bolden enrolled at Roosevelt University in 2015, her plan was to become a surgical dentist like her grandfather. He and her grandmother were huge influences on her and paid for her education. But when Bolden developed a passion for sustainability while learning about it in school, it took some talking to help her grandfather understand the change in career choice. “I had to really sit him down and do a PowerPoint on it because if it don’t make sense, he’s not spending money on it,” the 25-year-old says. But it worked: Bolden is on pace to get her degree in biology and sustainability this December.

Bolden’s grandfather had his own dentistry practice, and she was specifically interested in how businesses can reduce their carbon footprint. But five years in and with 16 credits to go, Bolden has shifted career goals again: Her brand-new single, “Shake Dat A$$,” featuring platinum-selling, Grammy Award–winning recording artist Chance the Rapper, is her most successful song to date in what has become a fast-budding rap career under the name Baha Bank$, with more than 50,000 likes on YouTube and a viral clip at 42,000 likes on Twitter in less than two months.

“[Rap] was never initially the plan,” Bolden says. “My grandpa still knows nothing about it.” That’s partly because she has only been rapping since January. The thought of pursuing a career in rap didn’t even exist for the mom of a 3-year-old until her freestyle in the #SoBrooklynChallenge went viral last summer. When she posted her version, which had a Chicago spin, on Instagram, she received an overwhelming response from friends telling her to consider pursuing the craft in earnest.

While Bolden’s rap career might have come out of nowhere, her talent didn’t. Growing up in Chicago, she was showered with artistic nourishment by her mom and grandparents: She participated in choir and musical theater, and also played keys and alto sax. You could even attribute her ability to spit rhymes to her family background. “My aunt used to teach spoken-word classes and my mom used to do poetry,” Bolden says. “Her pen name was Southern Comfort because my mom is from the South.”

While most of her content thus far “has a lot of sex appeal,” Bolden maintains she can do it all, from Chicago’s classic drill to alternative. “I love pop music. I grew up listening to Demi Levato and Hannah Montana and I still do,” she says. “I realized that I need to make diverse music because the culture is constantly changing.”

Industry connections didn’t hurt either. She grew up knowing prominent local videographer LVTR Kevin and got her first chance to model as a video vixen in his production of G Herbo’s 2017 hit “Everything (Remix),” which also featured Chance the Rapper. Similarly, the director who shot the “Shake Dat A$$” video, Armani Martin, has not only helmed music videos featuring Wale, Megan Thee Stallion and other heavy hitters in hip-hop but also a friend whom Bolden knew through an after-school program. But when asked whether working with Bolden was a case of doing a friend a favor, Martin insists it was much more. “She knows what she wants and she goes after it. Her edge is what makes her seem like she’s been rapping all of her life,” Martin says. Same with Chance: Baha tells me their collaboration was as random as him showing up to one of her sessions, liking a song and asking to get on it. “We went to high school together,” she mentions casually.

A big part of Bolden’s success has to do with her being right on time. Women are having a moment in hip-hop, from mainstream artists like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj to indie acts like Flo Milli and Tierra Whack. A study headed by Prince Charles Alexander, a Berklee College of Music professor and recording mixer–engineer in partnership with Hit Songs Deconstructed, found that there has been a trend of women charting more frequently. In 2017, women across the board had 17 percent of the No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100; in 2019 that number rose to 22 percent. Similarly, No. 1’s for all-female duet/groups rose from 14 percent in 2019 to 29 percent in 2020. Alexander says that while there has been an uptick in interest in female artists in general, the activity is centered on hip-hop or hip-hop-adjacent artists. Which could be a very good thing for rappers like Baha Bank$ when it comes to attracting investment from the industry. “Record companies, notorious for their desire to chase after a good thing, have been convinced by Cardi B’s huge success that investing in female artists is lucrative,” Alexander says.

As for what comes next, Bolden is excited to get her degree in December and says she still wants to develop sustainable property while pursing a career in rap. The only issue now is explaining that music video to her grandpa.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Bolden as a single mom. She is not single.

Adam Grant’s Philosophy of Giving

The youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, psychologist Adam Grant’s philosophy of giving and taking has influenced not just the readers of his multiple best-sellers but also millions on YouTube via his successful TED Talk. He stopped by The Carlos Watson Show to drop some knowledge. Watch the episode here — or read on for some excerpts from the conversation.

‘I have never missed a comma’

Carlos Watson: I want to ask about your mom. What kind of teacher was she?

Adam Grant: My mom taught Spanish and English for about 30 years. So I have never missed a comma in my entire life.

CW: I love that distinction. And did she have any impact on you becoming a teacher and professor yourself, or was that all kind of your own journey?

AG: She did actually. She tried to talk me out of it. She said, “Look, it’s exhausting to perform every day in front of an audience.” And so I think I figured out really quickly that I needed a job where I got to be in front of students some of the time, but I also got to think and write and go out into the world a little bit. And professor felt like almost the perfect version of that.

CW: How did you end up becoming a professor at Wharton, and how did you end up writing books and doing what you do?

AG: I think one of the defining moments was [when] I was a junior in college. I knew I wanted to study psychology because I was just fascinated by human behavior. I wanted to know how we can all improve the quality of our lives. But I didn’t quite know what to do with that interest, and I kind of wandered into an organizational psychology class. It was called Psych 8:30 a.m., because people walked in half-asleep, and the professor, Richard Hackman, was riveting. He was a guy who spent his whole career studying teams. And the way that he did it was, he said, “Look, I don’t really know what job I want, so I’m going to make my job to study other people’s jobs.”

So he was kind of fascinated by symphony orchestras and he went and studied how you could bring an orchestra together to play better music. He was interested in spies, and so he did a big study of the U.S. intelligence agencies and how to make their collaboration better. He thought he might want to be a pilot, and so he studied cockpit crews and how you can improve the collaboration there. And I just thought, “This is the solution to my problem. I have no idea what career I want. And so if my job is to try to fix other people’s jobs, maybe one day I’ll figure it out.”

But I think the other mistake that a lot of people make is they say, “Look, you got to practice what you preach.” And I’ve found myself increasingly wanting to flip that and say, “You know what, practice what you preach, fine. Better yet, how about you only preach things you’ve already practiced? And then you’re never going to be a hypocrite if you do it that way.” And so for me, what that has meant is to say, “Look, one of the things that I try to practice every day is figuring out what I’m incorrect about. So that then I can update my knowledge.” So if I’m going to preach that, I better be practicing it every day.

‘I definitely failed to be the giver’

CW: What piece of marriage or relationship advice would you give to young Adam or to one of your young students? What have you learned?

AG: I think the most important thing in any kind of relationship and especially in a marriage is to ask, “OK, what’s more important: to be right or to show the other person that you really love them?” And very often those two things, they’re never in conflict, but in the middle of a disagreement, it’s very easy to get stuck just kind of digging your heels in on your argument as opposed to saying, “Look, the single most important message I can signal to you when we’re disagreeing is how much I love you and that’s why I want to disagree with you, because I care so much about what you think and what you believe that I can’t help but passionately defend what my particular perspective is.”

And so I think just the idea of saying, “Look, it’s never more important to convince people you’re right than it is to convince them that you care about them.”

CW: And if I asked your kids how well does dad practice what he preaches, what would your kids tell me? Whether you agree or disagree with them, what would your kids tell me if I ask, at home, no one else is around, “Tell me the truth, guys, is dad practicing what he preaches?” What would the kids say?

AG: That’s a great question. I think we should ask them. I don’t know. I actually … You know what? Something happened recently that maybe will give you some color on this. So our daughter, our 9-year-old, walked into my office and there’s this little ceramic kind of balloon-dog mini sculpture. And she said, “Can I have this?” And I said, “Oh, it was a gift. I put it up here in my office so the person who gave it to me can see that it’s displayed there.” And she said, “But, Dad, you always talk about giving. You should be a giver.” Oh no, like Shakespeare would say, I was hoist with my own petard. She’s using my own work against me. And all of a sudden it clicked. And I said, “Wait a minute. You’re right. I do believe that you should be a giver. So why are you trying to take this from me?”

Without skipping a beat she said, her exact words were, “But, Dad, I’m just a kid. You should set the example.” So in that situation, I definitely failed to be the giver. I hope my kids would say that I’m always happy to share whatever I know and whatever connections I have with no strings attached. Do I always do the best job at dropping what I’m doing and sort of extracting myself from the task that I’m focused on until it’s finished? No, and that’s one of my development goals for this year.

Why Sex Is No Longer a Teen Commodity

Popular critiques of millennials, in the mid-2000s and beyond, ranged from “They’re too entitled” to “Technology and social media are making them superficial.” Fifteen years later, however, one complaint that millennials may side with their elders on is the value in hooking up. Or rather, the lack thereof.

See, if you started high school in the late ’90s or early aughts, sex was just a little … different. Because by the time millennials were juniors in high school, teen pregnancy rates had increased and this increase had become the norm. Back this up with college being framed by social dating apps — Tinder in 2012 — and the ensuing rush to randy earned them the possibly well-deserved nickname: the hookup generation.

Recent studies, however, seem to suggest that all of that random hooking up and sex? Old hat. Specifically, the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), which monitors health behaviors and experiences among students across the country, is finding that in 2019:

38 percent of high school students had sex compared to the half of all teens who had sex 30 years ago.

Out of all possible futures, millennials, and now Gen Z, steering away from sex seems the least likely. However, Dr. Fran Walfish, the author of The Self-Aware Parent who has appeared on CBS’ The Doctors, saw signs of this as far back as five years ago when the percentage of teens reporting sexual behavior experienced its biggest drop in the nearly 30 years that the CDC has been tracking the data.

If you look at the chart above, you’ll see that the trajectory, while generally trending downward, has a marked dip in 2015 that’s continued through to today. Walfish says the massive dip is a result of the “hookup generation” finally getting their fill.

“These young people did not learn how to develop any communication skills,” she explains. “They just leapt quickly into erotic kissing and intercourse, and those kids would come into my office moaning and complaining about an emotional emptiness and longing for more depth and connectivity.”

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, offered a different theory. Along with the association between mental health and libido, there is, as he describes it, a rise in the culture of risk avoidance — of “safetism.” Basically the mindset where there’s a much greater focus on being careful and protecting yourself. Something that, because of COVID, is unlikely to change soon.

“My sense of it right now is that it’s a very long-term shift,” Wilcox says. “We’ve seen in Japan, for instance, the dramatic decline in dating, sex, marriage and childbearing over there the last few decades, and the same dynamic could be playing out right now.”

And although economies across the globe have gradually begun to open, there’s no real proof that things will be back to normal anytime soon. For the economy, or for sex.

However, Amy Schalet, associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of the award-winning book Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, says the hookup generation was nothing compared to how it was years ago. And it’s very possible that the change should be seen as a good thing.

“We need to remember that our past is not always what we think it was. In the 1950s and 1960s, only a quarter of men and less than half of women were virgins at age 19. There are many advantages, I think, to teenagers not having sex when they are very young.”

Like? The downfall of teen mom television shows on MTV. For which America turns its desperate eyes to you, Generation Z. Don’t let us down.

Get Gabrielle Union’s Best Career Advice

She’s the girl next door that millennials grew up with, from her debut on Saved by the Bell and as a cheerleader on Bring It On. Now she stars alongside Jessica Alba as an LAPD badass on the new detective show L.A.’s Finest, all while making it work in the spotlight as a mom, a wife, an activist and entrepreneur. Below are a few of the best moments from her interview on The Carlos Watson Show.

On her best advice

Carlos Watson: Were you acting already by the time you showed up at UCLA or no?

Gabrielle Union: No. I got an internship in my senior year. Well, I started paying for school myself at 19. I was taking 20 units in my last two quarters, and I just wanted an easy four units. And somebody is like, “Just get an internship at the expo center.” So I was looking for what I thought would be the easiest internship and it was at a modeling agency. I was like, “Oh, models are idiots, right?” Of course, I became one.

I got an internship as office help, and when my internship ended, they were like, “Would you ever consider a career in modeling or acting?” And I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” And they’re like, “Nobody does.” And they sent me out without a book or résumé, and I booked the first few modeling gigs I was sent out on. And then a week, literally a week into my new career, they sent me on an audition with a made-up résumé, and I booked it. And I’ve, knock on wood, I’ve never stopped working.

Then, very quickly, I booked Saved by the Bell. All it takes is one person saying, “Oh yeah, I know she’s good.” Was I good? Not at all. I was on time, I was nice, I was quiet, I stayed out of the way, and I still stuck with that.

Watson: I think it was Chris Rock who told me that he made so much money by just answering the phone and showing up. He was like, “So many people are hard to work with even if they’re talented. That being so easy…”

Union: When people are like, “What’s the best advice you can give?” And I’m like, “Be on time.” And they’re like, “Be on time. OK. What else?” And I’m like, “Be on time.” And they’re like, “That’s it?” So people play themselves out [of] the pocket just because they believe that time is a suggestion, not like a hard, fast thing.

On the role that got away

Watson: Has there been a role that you really, really wanted that you didn’t get?

Union: Yeah. All of them. Yeah. I mean, I’ve not talked about it before but at the time there just wasn’t a lot of opportunities for Black women. Like grown Black women to play nuanced, complex, delicious characters. And so when Shonda Rhimes created the role of Olivia Pope, everyone and their mother auditioned for that. And everyone wanted it because it was the only thing like it. And for a whole generation, it was all we had to look forward to. And I was eliminated. …

I had to mourn the opportunity. Not even the role, but just the hope of something better. Because there was just nothing. And I just lucked out that I feel like within six months or so, maybe less, Mara Brock Akil and her husband, Salim Akil, presented me with the pilot for Being Mary Jane. And I was like another nuanced, complex, messy, delicious, sexy Black woman on TV. Holy shit. Yes. I want to do this.

Watson: When you look back on that experience now and you take it all in together, do you look back on it positively?

Union: I’m not a coulda, woulda, should have person. Obviously the right person got the job. But it was the experience. Black actresses are so disrespected at every step of the way, and what Shonda did was create this beautiful respectful process with the casting process. We’re never given that kind of consideration or respect. And she treated us all so well. And she handled us so beautifully, and she was so nurturing. So even though only one person got the job, none of us left there feeling bad. She set us up for success. And success for actors is just so oftentimes the journey. So if I was able to come in there and be treated so respectfully and so beautifully that I was able to give a great performance, that’s the win. The job is a cherry on top, but the journey and the experience of being able to audition and leave your heart in the room and feel good about it, no matter what happens, that’s rare and that was amazing.

On her best allies

Watson: Gabrielle, who have been your best non-Black allies? … And maybe I’m asking in part who could be an ally going forward and building this new world?

Union: It’s funny, somebody asked me this question the other day and I kind of forgot about the first non-Black real ally that put me on and it changed my whole life, which was Aaron Spelling. Aaron Spelling, RIP, put me on a show called 7th Heaven. And I wasn’t a series regular. It was one of my first gigs. But he paid me like I was a series regular. I had friends who had their own shows who weren’t making what I was making on this little CW Christian show that I was on every so often during Black History Month.

On what she’s learned about love

Watson: Tell me a little bit, if you don’t mind, about what you’ve learned about love.

Union: God, what have I learned? That you don’t have to be somebody’s emotional or spiritual mule to be worthy of love. You can be a badass chick or a ride-or-die without trauma. Trauma is not a requirement of real, enduring love. How much crap you endure should not be indicative of the love that you deserve. I wish I would have gotten that memo or a fax perhaps in the ’90s, but on the other side of it, I don’t even know how many hours, hundreds of hours, of therapy and public failures later. Yeah. That whole you-complete-me thing, it’s a Hollywood creation that’s not real. You should be pretty freaking complete by the time you come together, join together with another person. And love should feel like beginnings. You know what I mean? Ideally you should be growing and evolving at similar rates and speeds for romantic love, I should say. So that whatever the endurance is, [it’s] more of the watching and the nurturing of each other growing and evolving and not being a hindrance to that evolution.

That’s the only kind of endurance I’m going to cosign for at this point. But it should feel like an adventure every day. Because hopefully you’re learning and growing every day. Love shouldn’t be complacent, love should never be satisfied because you should always be growing and learning new things.

We Hear Dead People: Our Favorite Posthumous Hip-Hop Albums. Ever

Album releases after an artist’s death are nothing new. Selena’s flawless Dreaming of You in 1995 more than lived up to the four albums she released before being shot and killed at age 23. Ditto the killings of Tupac and Biggie in ’96 and ’97, respectively, which gave us the classics The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory and Life After Death. And that’s before counting N.W.A.’s Eazy-E, who died from HIV complications in ’95, and New York’s Big L, who was gunned down in ’99. They both gave us greatness right before giving up the ghost.

Amid another recent cluster of deaths, The Economist uncovered something curious. Albums by hip-hop artists Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, Mac Miller, Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD — all bona fide talents who died in the past two years — are not only doing well but are actually performing better in their first release week than those works released while the artists were alive. In fact, they’re all the biggest albums of the year.

“I don’t think any true fan of an artist’s work would feel anything other than some kind of bittersweet happiness if this artist’s work gains more exposure after death,” says George Howard, a streaming industry expert and professor of music business and management at Berklee College of Music. While it’s obviously unfortunate when artists achieve greater success after death than when they were alive, that success is still something to be celebrated, Howard says.

On that note, let’s take a look at the celebrations of their lives via the windows of their souls.

5) Lil Peep // Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 (2018)

When Lil Peep, otherwise known as Gustav Åhr, died in 2017 at the tender age of 21, everyone in hip-hop was shaken. His talent was undeniable, as evidenced in what would have been his sophomore album, and his struggles with depression and anxiety are reflected in the frequently intertwined themes of death and drug addiction in his songs. When it was revealed that Lil Peep died from an overdose of fentanyl and Xanax, it was tragic, but not surprising.

Defense of Ranking: While Lil Peep’s voice was beautiful and his songwriting beyond his years, I am a sucker for rap bars. Maybe it’s my fault for going in with the wrong intentions. Still a solid project, though.

4) XXXTentacion // Skins (2018)

XXXTentacion, born Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy, was on one of those trajectories that transcend both generations and peers. Although dogged by controversy and legal difficulties, he gained a cult following as an “emo rapper,” capturing the imaginations of the outcast and depressed with a new alternative rap style. X was murdered on June 18, 2018, just months after his sophomore album was released. Skins, also released in 2018, became both X’s first posthumous album and his second No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making him, at the time, only the second solo artist to have a posthumous No. 1 hit (the first was the Notorious B.I.G., with Life After Death, in 1997).

Defense of rankingSkins takes after its predecessors in delivering technically sound, proficient rapping, soulful R&B-influenced singing and edgy belting. There’s even a surprise Kanye West and Travis Barker feature. 

3) Pop Smoke // Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (2020)

Coming almost six months after his death, Pop Smoke’s debut project, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, is as bittersweet as they come. The Brooklyn native, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, was generating a noteworthy buzz shortly before several men broke into the Los Angeles home where he was staying and shot him to death, according to recent arrest reports, in February. His team got together to finish the album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — one of the biggest debuts this year. In fact, Pop Smoke is just the fourth hip-hop musician to chart a No. 1 album posthumously.

Defense of ranking: The album is fun, different and a fresh ride of a new sound that would have been great to witness unfolding completely.

2) Mac Miller // Circles (2020)

Everyone was in shock when Mac Miller died in September 2018 of a drug overdose. It felt like he had finally figured it out musically, having already achieved chart success and millions of records sold. When his family announced earlier this year that Circles had been recorded concurrently with Swimming, it was almost as if an angel came back to revisit us as a gift. It was the closure Miller’s fans needed.

Defense of ranking: Malcolm James McCormick is one of my all-time favorite artists. He was a gifted musician with a great ear. This album has a bit more singing than I would have liked, but it’s still great.

1) Juice WRLD // Legends Never Die (2020)

Jarad Anthony Higgins, known professionally as Juice Wrld, was already beloved by the industry during his short stint in music. His first offering, Goodbye & Good Riddance (2018), was a mega hit, with his top-performing song “Lucid Dreams” going No. 1 on the Billboard charts. So when he died in December 2019, at age 21, after a seizure from an accidental overdose of oxycodone and codeine, it crushed people everywhere. Legends Never Die is a celebration of his life and genius.

Defense of Ranking: It’s the curation for me. From the interviews smartly plugged in throughout to the production, this was the perfect send-off.

The Cry to Protect Black Women Is Growing Louder

  • Alongside #BlackLivesMatter and #AbolishThePolice, #ProtectBlackWomen is emerging as an impossible-to-ignore movement.
  • It’s not about women asking men to protect them physically. It’s about having equal space and visibility.

There is arguably no artist hotter and more recognizable in music right now than Megan Thee Stallion. With less than two years in the industry, the 25-year-old Houston native has five top 10 singles, has gone platinum three times and has collaborated with both Beyoncé and Cardi B. When it comes to young, talented Black women, Megan Thee Stallion is among the very best.  

Yet when she was shot on July 12 in Los Angeles in an incident allegedly involving another rapper, no one believed her. Instead, she was a punchline for the next couple of weeks, to the point where she felt compelled to document on Instagram her scar from the surgery to have the bullet removed.

That sparked a rally of support within the music and entertainment industry, built around a phrase that, while not new, is gaining unparalleled traction. You may have heard it following the rape and murder of Oluwatoyin Salau, a young Nigerian American activist, in June. Or when activists tried to draw national attention to their efforts to get justice for Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by police officers in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. Alongside #BlackLivesMatter and #AbolishThePolice, #ProtectBlackWomen is a fast-growing movement.

“There are more calls for the protection of Black women of late,” says Chanda Daniels, a digital communications expert in Washington, D.C., and co-founder of the Reclaim, a civic organization that creates spaces where women can feel included and heard. Until now, Daniels says, there has been a disparity in the level of action and outrage following violence against Black women and that of Black men. “There is finally a power shift — and Black women are being heard finally, and louder than ever before,” she says. 

This disparity was on display in Dave Chappelle’s 8:46 special, in which he covered the current racial climate and civilian casualties yet failed to mention women altogether. But what does it really mean when Black women call for protection? It’s obvious in cases like Megan Thee Stallion’s and Salau’s but less so in others.

Take a look at the workplace, for instance. Black women outpace African American men almost 2-to-1 in earning college or associate degrees. Yet Black women have a higher unemployment rate than Black men. They’re also more likely to work in low-paying service and retail jobs. The discrimination continues at the hospital, where Black women’s maternal mortality rate is 2.5 times higher than that of white women.

They are calling for Black men to join them in acknowledging and challenging violence they are experiencing.

Ariella Rotramel, Connecticut College

Ariella Rotramel, an associate professor in gender, sexuality, and intersectionality studies at Connecticut College, says the call to protect Black women isn’t about women wanting men to protect them in a literal, patriarchal sense. Instead, she says, it’s about emphasizing that political activism and conversations about the community need to include Black women — cisgender and transgender — and genderqueer people.

“They [Black women] are calling for Black men to join them in acknowledging and challenging violence they are experiencing,” explains Rotramel. “Otherwise, the energy of the community and allies tends to focus on Black men and ignore the issues Black women are facing.”

This support can come in different ways — including by voting for Black women who are increasingly emerging as some of the community’s boldest leaders, whether it’s the Black female mayors of Atlanta, Chicago and New Orleans or Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

Not everyone feels this is entirely new. Jameta N. Barlow, a community health psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association’s committee on women in psychology who has researched Black women and mental health, says, “Black men have traditionally and historically stood up, showed up and protected women.”

Take Malcolm X’s famous speech in Los Angeles in 1962. “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman,” he said.

That was almost 60 years ago, yet the message has made its way back to the forefront of public attention with greater simplicity: Protect Black women. Even Barlow agrees that what we’re witnessing today is different from years past. “Given the politics of COVID-19 and current national politics, emotions are heightened and folks are more engaged in ongoing issues related to Black women’s health,” she says.

Whether the plea is new, old or amplified, Megan Thee Stallion’s experience is a stark reminder that even one of the most famous Black women today doesn’t feel safe. The hashtag #ProtectBlackWomen is just the start.

Let Your Kids Take Control of Your Adventure

new tunes you gotta hear


Jay-Z and Pharrell perform in Virginia Beach in 2019. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Something in the Water)

  1. Entrepreneur. The unbeatable combination of Pharrell’s production and Jay-Z’s lyricism is evident again on this rare single. The video is just as important as the song; it takes us through the lives of Black entrepreneurs changing the narrative in their respective hoods.  
  2. Hawái. When Colombian reggaeton artist Maluma took to Instagram at the stroke of midnight last week to announce a surprise new album, Papi Juancho, it felt like Christmas had come early. It’s the 26-year-old Sony Music artist’s first album since last year and features some of the genre’s best talents. Where to start? The first single, Hawái.” 

your next obsessive hobby

  1. Bullet Journaling. This supervisual practice is an organizational system, DIY day planner and art project all in one. The Bullet Journal has long since taken over corners of Pinterest and Instagram (check out this Insta for inspiration) and can be as involved and artistic as you choose, letting you log ideas, to-do lists, random thoughts and whatever else you want in a way that’s far more effective than the random scraps of paper and indecipherable sticky notes you’re currently using.
  2. Cross-stitching. It’s decidedly grandma chic, but you’ll be surprised at how calming it can be (and how great it feels to finish one) — at least once you are skilled enough with the needle to stop poking yourself with it. (Don’t bleed on the fabric!) Once you find a stitch pattern you’re in love with — Carolyn Manning’s stitch-along patterns are a good place to start — it’s all about getting comfy, easing your mind and letting go. 
  3. Jewelry Making. It may sound impossibly hard and like something the everyday person shouldn’t attempt, but making jewelry is a breeze — and it’s fun to say, “Oh, this? I made it myself,” when someone compliments your bling. Kits are the best way to start — they vary depending on level of expertise and what you’d like to make — and this hobby turns collecting random beads, chains and other decorative items into a game. There are tons of instruction manuals and guides you can follow, but once you get the hang of it, you’re going to want to break out of the mold and get crazy. 
  4. Stargazing. The domino effect of COVID-19 has affected global economies, travel and the ability to go out for a night on the town. But there have also been some positive side effects. Less travel means fewer CO2 emissions, which often means clearer skies that are perfect for some weekend stargazing
  5. The Carlos Watson Show. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but OZY has launched a brand-new talk show hosted by co-founder and CEO Carlos Watson that airs every weekday on YouTube. And it’s not your ordinary talk show. Celebs, authors, politicians, comedians and individuals from all walks of life get deep, personal and keep it real. Make this your new hobby and watch the latest episode here.

podcast to peep

  1. The John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Launched in 2018, The JMP has turned into a must for anyone seeking leadership tips. Maxwell has made a name for himself through Equip — a Christian leadership organization that spans more than 185 countries — and the John Maxwell Co., a leadership consultancy that has trained more than 5 million people worldwide. You can get all that game from the comfort of your home, via his pod.
  2. The Story Pirates. This is a podcast for kids by kids. Comedians and musicians let them take complete control as they sing and act out the original stories the kids create. Sometimes it works, sometimes the sketches unravel, but either way it all ends up being good fun. The Story Pirates has been downloaded more than 20 million times and features celebrity guest appearances by Julie Andrews, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kristen Bell and more. 
  3. Science Vs. If 5G gossip, the war on plastic straws and the anti-vax debate pique your interest, this is the podcast for you. Science Vs sorts through the rumors, trends and conspiracies and uncovers the truth in about 20 minutes. It will leave you feeling like the smartest one in the room. Because you obviously are.

Clean, Lean, Mean Machines: 5 Super COVID-Safe Gyms

Outside of movie theaters and places of worship, one of the first spaces to open as states started rolling back stay-at-home orders back in mid-May were … gyms. While there has been a plethora of virtual classes offering fitness routines, yoga and guided exercises, there are some who are religiously committed to actually showing UP to the tabernacles of gains.

In fact, a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of LIFEAID Beverage Co. surveyed 2000 Americans who exercise at least twice a week and found that 4 in 10 were unfazed by COVID-19 and said they will be returning to the gym at the same rate or more once it opens back up.

Yet, while desire is one thing, the hazards that await are another. Gyms operate in close quarters and in environments where you have heavy breathing, sweat and shared equipment — not the mix you want during a pandemic.

Especially in the face of one study that found bacteria and flu-like viruses on 25 percent of the surfaces they tested at various training facilities. And while you can try wearing a mask during light workouts, even the World Health Organization suggests it makes breathing harder and recommends against it.

The solution? Very possibly: fitness boutiques that avoid shared equipment and insist on appointment scheduling.

“It’s clear that no business can 100 percent protect its clients from COVID,” says Lise Kuecker, founder and CEO of Studio Grow, a boutique fitness consulting firm. “But the boutique fitness industry has exceeded the standards of nearly every other retail industry to ensure we’re doing our part to keep America healthy.”

Which is why there are gyms tightroping this fine line with a grace and balance that deserves mention, even if the jury is still out on whether this even makes any sense.

On the outside chance that it does? Here are some of the safest gyms in America and beyond to get your beach bod back on.

Hype The Gym: On July 30 the Ministry of Home Affairs in India put out a notice allowing gymnasiums and yoga studios to reopen in select states. After going months with no business, places like Hype Gym, which has over 40 chains in the Delhi-NCR region, have taken to using sanitizers and oximeters, spacing out their equipment, requiring thermal screening of both staff and members, and reducing their capacity yield to make sure they can both accommodate members and stay open. The most extensive measure? Before exercising, people have to get their oxygen saturation checked. If below 95 percent, individuals should not be allowed to exercise, the gym says.

Tuscan StrengthIn Arizona, Tuscan Strength is going above and beyond to give their members confidence in their ability to keep working out as safely as possible. State government officials have not lifted the mandate that would allow them to open indoors, so they decided to take their operation outside — into the desert. Investing thousands of dollars in tents, fans and evaporative cooling equipment, they’ve managed to hide from the sun, keep social distancing and maintain business.

Ovox GymTuscan Strength is not the only gym that’s moving outside. Ovox Gym in Morganville, New Jersey, has also decided to test the method, weights, cardio machines and all, to comply with COVID-19 safety measures. They’ve even swapped out rubber mats for artificial grass and managed to have enough space to properly separate stations for social distancing. Face masks and constant sanitization are also required, along with spray bottles of disinfectant for everyone who’s working out and checking their temperature before they head outside or touch the equipment.

Jean-Robert’s Gym: Gyms in the high mountains of Aspen, Colorado, mean business as well. Jean-Robert’s Gym has safety measures in place that include a reduction of the max capacity, semi-private and private personal training sessions, a new high-tech air filtration system and providing gloves for all members, which are mandatory while working out.

“Gyms are supposed to be building consumer confidence,” says Jean-Robert about the measures his gym has adopted to ensure customer safety and how he feels about gyms that aren’t taking similar steps. “It’s not responsible.” Because it is a pandemic, he feels gyms have the responsibility to make members feel excited about working out. “They should feel like, ‘wow, I want to go back to the gym. I want to work out. I want to be healthy.'”

Hudson Valley Ambition: After months with gyms closed in the Kingston, New York, area, Ryan Naccarato decided to figure out a way not only to keep himself active, but his community as well. Thus Hudson Valley Ambition was born. The fitness group has unique offerings for those looking for instruction and community: an outdoor “boot-camp”–style workout that changes locations throughout Kingston, and virtual experiences for those who are still reluctant to come out of the house and individual one-on-one sessions you can book with a trainer.

Roxane Gay on Global Racism and Whether She’ll Hold Her Nose and Vote for Biden

Roxane Gay is not a prototypical influencer. She’s not on TikTok learning challenges nor does she spend time debating the best hour to post a selfie on Instagram. Even Twitter, where she’s creeping up to 1 million followers, is something she prefers to use less and less. “Nothing good ever happens on Twitter,” she says on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show, hosted by OZY’s co-founder and CEO.

Gay, rather, is a content creator in the traditional sense — an analog influencer whose words, through novels, short stories and essays, have permeated the culture. In her books Bad Feminist, Difficult Women and Hunger: A Memoir of My Body, Gay approaches challenging topics with nuance and thoughtfulness and articulates them in a way many wish they could. When Gay speaks, people listen.

Which is why, with eyes upon her for thoughtful takes on the racial unrest in America, she points out that in her extensive travels, this is not just an American problem. “There is no country in this world I’ve been to that has not been profoundly racist, which has been very painful, because I love travel and I love learning about other cultures,” Gay says. She describes a visit to Egypt and seeing the pyramids as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience. Also, the misogyny was rampant, and you can’t overlook that. Australia is a deeply racist and misogynistic country at times.”

[Trump] doesn’t even do the job. He sits around, drinks Diet Coke and watches CNN.

Roxane Gay

Gay, who recently married her partner, Debbie Millman, has some typically stinging words for President Donald Trump, but she also expresses disappointment with former President Barack Obama. “I wish he would say more against Donald Trump publicly and really push back,” she says in the interview taped prior to Obama’s stinging speech at the Democratic National Convention. “This idea that there is this code among presidents is well and good, but Donald Trump doesn’t do anything presidential. He doesn’t even do the job. He sits around, drinks Diet Coke and watches CNN.” 

Gay gives a tepid endorsement of the Democrats’ current nominee. “Joe Biden is who we have, so I think we have to do everything in our power to get Joe Biden elected,” she says. “And it makes me very frustrated to have to say that, especially given the sexual assault allegations against him, but anyone is better than Donald Trump.”

A contributing writer at the New York Times, Gay helped launch the groundswell that ended up with Opinion Editor James Bennet stepping down after the Times published an op-ed by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton about his prescription for riots following the death of George Floyd: “Send in the Troops.”

“When the paper of record publishes an editorial that suggests that American troops should keep Americans from lawfully protesting, it’s unlawful,” Gay says. 

Gay wasn’t always such a fearless speaker. She grew up as a shy child in a Haitian household in Omaha, Nebraska, and didn’t start coming into her own until high school at the elite Phillips Exeter Academy (Andrew Yang was a classmate). Her literary prowess started at age 4, when she would draw villages on paper napkins, then write a narrative about who the people were. Her parents bought her a typewriter, and Gay hasn’t quit writing since.

Gay says she is still growing and becoming a better writer and stronger thinker. She’s juggling multiple endeavors, from her podcast, Hear to Slay, to movies to various writing projects. Up next is a comic book, The Ends, which she describes as “Batman without the morosity.”

Why Generation X Has Lost Hope

  • More Gen Xers are distrustful about the future than any other generation in the U.S.
  • Unlike older generations that are close to or have entered retirement, or younger ones that still have most of their life ahead, Gen Xers are trapped in between, leaving them particularly anxious, say experts.

Everyone’s down. There isn’t a way to package our current reality that will make it more digestible. The coronavirus has claimed more than 750,000 lives worldwide. Experts predict the global economy will shrink by 4 percent (or $3.4 trillion) this year. Oh, and it’s also an election year.

But amid the crisis, there’s one generation that has lost most faith in the prospects of a recovery. It’s not the boomers who’re now in their late 50s or older and are particularly vulnerable amid the pandemic. It isn’t millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Nor is it Gen Z (those born after 1996). According to a study conducted by Salesforce Research, it’s Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980). 

At 33 percent, they are the most distrustful generation in America.

It makes sense, says Joe Grimm, professor at Michigan State University and author of the 2019 book 100 Questions and Answers About Gen X. “They learn early on to be weary,” he tells me. “They started their careers with lower wages, less access to housing markets, then this comes along and opportunities are starting to disappear for them again.” 

Unlike boomers who are close to retirement — or have retired — and millennials and Gen Zers who still have a giant chunk of their future ahead of them, Gen Xers are in the middle of the road and reaching an age when finding jobs only gets harder, say experts.

This coincides with data from Mindshare, a global media agency network, that had a neuroscience team conduct research on how people were subconsciously feeling about the pandemic. They found that people in the 45-54 age group are most likely to associate the future with emotions like dread and unhappiness. Arafel Buzan, co-lead at the Mindshare neuroscience team, says the memory of the last economic downfall is still fresh for Gen Xers, many of whom are still recovering from that crisis.

Not everyone agrees. Cort W. Rudolph, an associate professor of psychology at St. Louis University who has been studying Gen X behavioral patterns for two decades, says he finds that differences between generations are often exaggerated.

Either way, one thing’s clear. The Gen Xers in your life need a hug.