When I was a lost little black boy growing up surrounded by whites, I hated being me. I thought my life didn’t matter. l was wrong—but how else was I supposed to feel? What else are the lost black children of today supposed to feel when they hear that black men and boys are killed by white cops and it isn’t a crime? What are they going to think when they learn about how Michael Brown’s body was left lying in the street for four hours after an agent of the government unloaded a gun into him?
'The Cleveland Strangler': The Story of a Brutal Serial Killer and His Forgotten Victims
In part one of our documentary, host Wilbert L. Cooper heads back to his hometown to speak with members of the police force about serial killer Anthony Sowell’s case, and revisits the horrific evidence of Sowell’s heinous murders.
“Being a strong black man (or any man) has nothing to do with what you wear or who you fuck, but whether or not you have the will power to stay true to yourself. If that means wearing a dress, then so be it.”
OR YOU MIGHT END UP DRINKING AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF HENNESSY AND ALMOST DYING
Illustration by Meaghan Garvey
As the host of Noisey Raps, the new hip-hop show on VICE’s music site, I’ve been spending a ton of time with famous rappers who like to get loco and do things poor degenerates only dream of. Getting fucked up is a time-honored tradition for musicians of all genres, but rappers, as with everything else they do, take inebriation to absurd new levels. They even invent weird new drugs and give them cute nicknames like “hokey-pokey” and “pterodactyl.” You might think, I love the hokey-pokey. This must be harmless. Then, the next thing you know, you’re being arrested for wiggling your genitals at an old lady, while the famous rapper you just made “friends” with is riding away in his Maybach, sandwiched between two gorgeous models, laughing his ass off. The thing to remember is that these guys are professionals at getting wasted. They rage day in and day out, one dust-laced blunt after another, and then they get paid exorbitant sums of cash to write songs about it. Trying to keep up with them is stupid and dangerous. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way from members of the 1017 Brick Squad.
It was a chilly night in October, and I had been invited to shoot Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane backstage at their show at New York’s Irving Plaza. Unless you’re a geriatric or in jail, you should know that Waka and Gucci are two Atlanta MCs who make unrepentant Southern gangster rap known as trap music.
When we arrived, it looked like your typical rapper green-room scene. There were a whole lot of dudes, because—despite all their lyrics about sexual conquests—rappers love sausage fests. As per usual, a thick cloud of smoke was hovering in the air, and all you could hear was the clash of liquor bottles and the chatter of country drawls.
I’m usually disappointed when I meet rappers in person because they’re often short, meek versions of what you see in their videos. Waka and Gucci, however, look like a couple of linebackers. Their presence is super-imposing, and this was only the second on-camera work I’d done in my life. In hindsight, I should’ve taken some more time thinking about my appearance before the interview: I was wearing pop-bottle glasses and a Cosby-like Pendleton sweater. They immediately started clowning me.
The instructions my producer Andy Capper gave me were to “hang out and get some natural footage.” But Waka and Gucci took one look at me, and it became awkwardly obvious that they weren’t trying to hang with me at all. After a pretty terse greeting that resulted in Waka practically breaking my hand when he shook it, the rappers formed a smokers’ huddle on the other side of the room that I couldn’t breach. Precious time was being wasted. I had to do something quick to get in good with these guys or else I wouldn’t be asked to host anything ever again.
Like everyone backstage, Waka, Gucci, and a couple of their lackeys were passing fat blunts back and forth to one another. To break the ice, I thought it’d be a good idea to ask them what kind of weed they were burning. Gucci just looked down at me like I was a narc, handed over the blunt, and said, “You tell me.”
Now, I’ve been smoking blunts since I was 11 years old. And I grew up in the suburbs, so I’m no stranger to bongs, bowls, and weird white-people shit like vaporizers. But nothing prepared me for how high I was about to become after hitting Gucci’s burner. The closest thing I can compare it to is being pushed headfirst down a K-hole. The second after the smoke left my lungs, I couldn’t even form a complete sentence. Andy was whispering in my ear, trying to tell me what questions to ask because I was just standing there like a zombie with the microphone limp in my hand. And then everything just went black.
The George Zimmerman Trial Reminded Me of Who I Am in America
It’s easier to hide from the specter of Trayvon Martin than it is to face his dead body sprawled awkwardly on the concrete. I was trying to escape it desperately last Saturday night, when George Zimmerman was found not guilty. I was at a fashion brand’s swanky event in a nightclub in Manhattan surrounded by obligatory white kids who like rap and probably have trust funds, boozing myself into a stupor. The next morning, when outraged people took to the streets all over the country, I went to a screening of Sophia Coppola’s Bling Ring and caught up on some reading at a coffee shop. I tried to ignore the news. I didn’t want to bear to think about it because it all hit way too close to home.
Usually, instances of black folks dying doesn’t fuck me up that much. The music I listen to every day is full of references to black men shooting or getting shot at. Like Tupac said, “Niggas been dying for years…” Not a day goes by that I don’t catch a story of a young black man who has met a violent end. Sometimes it’s through gang or drug violence, other times it’s by the hand of the cops, still other times a senile neighbor shoots a 13-year-old kid for no reason. Black death is so constant and relentless all over the country that news of new tragedy has started to lose its resonance for me.
The suddenness, violence, and pointlessness of deaths like Trayvon’s is hard for me to imagine, much less understand. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening on a different planet. I didn’t grow up in the ghetto. I’ve spent much of my life in the suburbs. I’ve lived around rich white folks, I went to school with them, I slept with their daughters, I took drugs with them, and I came of age with them. When you’re a black person who’s been in the company white people as much as I’ve been, sometimes you find yourself saying, What’s the difference? Aren’t we all the same?
But any time I’ve ever gotten too impressed with the progress of the arc of the moral universe toward justice, I’ve been smacked back to reality. It always comes when I least expect it—getting pulled over for no reason or followed around by a counterman in a stank-ass bodega that didn’t even have the fucking wave cap I was looking for. In those moments, I remember, as much as I’d like to forget, that we are not the same. We are not treated equally in the eyes of the law and we don’t face the same obstacles.
Fashion Week has hit New York City again, and big, fancy designers are showing their latest collections for fall/winter 2014. So we went to a few shows to figure out what all the Tumblr goofballs, twinks, and trust-funders will be wearing in autumn. Keep checking back frequently throughout the week for our reviews of the shows at Milk Studios, Lincoln Center, and more.
The influences behind Robert Geller's collections are always super fascinating. The press releases for his shows are like rabbit holes that have you crawling through obscure Wikipedia pages and loading up your Amazon shopping cart with very rare goodies. This time around, however, the genesis for Robert’s fall 2014 looks lie with a rock star we’re all pretty familiar with: David Bowie. It’s not super surprising that Robert would find a muse in the Thin White Duke. David has long been a bastion of style (just check out the feature we did this month on Kansai Yamamoto, the designer behind many of David’s iconic looks). Not to mention, David’s a master at walking the thin line between being tough and elegant, just like Robert’s eponymous brand. Surprisingly, Robert opted to mine one of David’s lesser-known personae. Instead of aping low-hanging fruit like Ziggy Stardust, Robert looked to the big and boxy suits David wore in The Man Who Fell to Earth as a springboard for his collection. Robert’s models took to the runway in everything from neoprene overcoats and tall military caps to Chelsea boots and elongated tops. In the context of his previous work, it wasn’t revelatory. Everything from the warm hues of purple to the layered silhouettes was well within his wheelhouse and felt very familiar to me. Even so, it was refined to the point that his looks are becoming so pure and distinctive they’re bordering on the iconic.
—By Wilbert L. Cooper
The jungle-drum music and the “exotic” prints on the clothes made it apparent that Mara Hoffman was channeling the Dark Continent with her latest collection, which is weird because she’s never even been there before. Though I’m usually very suspicious of cultural reappropriation by old white people, I was at least pleased to see that Mara had the Rainbow Coalition do her casting. Models of all different races and complexions were clad in flowy dresses that were decorated in vibrantly colored sequins and patterns. There were definitely some great looks, and the styling of dark-skinned models in white was especially striking. But at the end of the day, this stuff is what a WASPy mom would wear to an Invisible Children fundraising event.