Transcript, Web links and Credits below.
Hey Everybody. It’s Thursday, April 18th and on today’s episode I’ve got nothing but good news for you! You all loved our good news episode SO much last week that I’ve pledged to do at least one episode per week of nothing but good news. I can’t promise you that it’ll be on the same day every week, but I will make it happen at least once a week, ok? Today I want to tell you about some beautiful work that went down in New York led by the rapper and civil rights leader Mysonne, I also want to introduce you to an amazing sister named Erika Kayne, and I have to squeeze in some thoughts on Beyoncé’s new 40 song album and Netflix special called Homecoming.
Listen, while everybody else talks non-stop about Trump and the Mueller Report, we’re going in a different direction.
This is Shaun King and you are listening to (THE BREAKDOWN)
We live in a problematic time. And much of the news that I break down here is problematic and disturbing, but some beautiful things are actually going on all around us that just don’t get the coverage they deserve. In fact, some of the most extraordinary music, art, culture, and movement work doesn’t happen when everything’s great—it happens when things are falling apart. That’s why when you study American history, and you find these wonderful artistic and leadership explosions, you often find them during the greatest periods of oppression.
Which leads me to my first story.
I don’t know if you know the rapper Mysonne, or his powerful story of what he has had to overcome, but he’s one of my favorite people in the world. In the late 90s, Mysonne was an up and coming rapper signed to Def Jam, and a lot of people were saying that he was about to blow up. I remember hearing about him. And his debut album was about to be released when he was arrested and convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison for an armed robbery that he didn’t commit. Just awful. He ended up serving 7 of those years.
And for the past 13 years he’s been a fierce lyricist, a battle rapper, and an independent artist, but my path crossed with his on something totally different. He’s now one of the most capable civil rights organizers in the country—standing up for human rights and civil rights not just in New York but nationwide.
And in the shadow of the murder of Nipsey Hussle, this past weekend Mysonne organized a beautiful march and demonstration in New York that he called “Kings Stop Killing Kings” designed to directly address the violence going on in our communities. And just like we saw in Los Angeles, where Bloods and Crips came together, what happened in the Bronx at the event organized by Mysonne was something I had never witnessed before.
It wasn’t just Bloods and Crips, but rival gangs from all over the Bronx and from all over New York came together. And I wanna play a clip of Mysonne. Let me play it first, then I’ll come back and tell you part of why I love it so much. I’ve also posted this on my Instagram.
>>> PLAY AUDIO CLIP OF MYSONNE
That clip is a prime example of what happens when men and women from the community get to lead. He spoke with a clarity and an authority and a boldness that resonated so deeply with everybody there. And you can’t manufacture that authenticity. It was hard earned. It’s what Nipsey had in South Central and it’s what Mysonne has now in the Bronx. Now here’s what I know—if a fight had broken out it would be national news. If any of those rival gang members had harmed each other it would’ve been breaking news in New York, but when they come together for a rare moment of peace, the media was damn near silent. And that’s why we started The North Star.
Which leads me to my second story. (Music break)
I can’t get enough of this one. The video of this is also on my Instagram page right now, and I’d love for you to see it. It’s of a young singer named Erika Kayne, and in a moment I’m going to play you a clip of her singing, but I have to set the scene for you.
This sister, Erika, appears to literally be doing two jobs at once at a restaurant. It appears that she is the entertainment for the evening, and she’s an amazing singer, but it also appears that she is running the cash register, because while she’s singing, and holding the mic in one hand, she literally takes people’s credit cards and swipes their payments, and processes them at the same time. I’m blown away by it—and it’s little moments like this that let you know that you have no idea the talent and skill and gifts of the people around you.
Let me play this clip for you.
>>> Clip of Erika Kane singing
So you heard her singing—but when you get the chance, go watch the video to get the full effect. While she’s doing that, she is literally checking people out at the cash register.
Which brings me to my third and final story.
Early yesterday morning Beyoncé released two things—a special Netflix documentary of her spectacular performance at Coachella last year and she also released a 40-song album from the performance. I had no idea she performed 40 songs.
I told my wife, and I mean this, I think that whole performance, from top to bottom, might be the single best live concert from any artist in the modern history of the world. And I say that not as a super fan, I like Beyoncé and her music, but I’m not a super fan—and I think from top to bottom, it’s the best live concert of all time. I mean her vocals, her choreography, the band, the stage, the lighting, the staging, her energy and stamina from beginning to end, the costumes and wardrobe—from top to bottom—name a better live concert. It’s just that damn good.
And if you haven’t seen it, please do, because it’s an homage to HBCU’s—for those of you who don’t know what that is, since we are now streamed in all 50 states and 171 countries, an HBCU is a Historically Black College or University—and her whole concert has an HBCU theme from the band, to the sound, to the attire. Having graduated from Morehouse College, an HBCU, I have to say that she nailed it. The project is called Homecoming—which is perfect—because the whole project is modeled after the energy of a Black college homecoming.
The whole performance is unapologetically Black. She doesn’t slide or sneak her culture into the show—the culture is the whole point. It’s a display of pride. It’s a flex of not just her strength, and it is that, but it’s a flex of the undeniable beauty of Black culture and style and swag.
As I said when I started today’s episode, I think this performance from Beyoncé, is, in so many ways, her own unique response to this moment, this problematic spike in white supremacy, where hate crimes are at an all-time high, where bigotry and brutality are at an all-time high—Beyoncé came out and did 40 songs in the biggest, blackest, baddest manner possible.
I love it. We don’t wanna get sued, but I do just wanna play a short clip of the band from the intro of the first track of the album as we close the episode. If you went to an HBCU or have been to a battle of the bands, this is going to take you way back.
Thank you all for making it all the way through this episode of The Breakdown! I hope you enjoyed this good news episode.
If you haven’t already subscribed to our podcast, we’ll be right back here every single weekday, breaking down important news stories and issues, and we’d love for you to subscribe on your favorite podcast apps like iTunes or Spotify. Please share this podcast with your friends and family. Our next goal is to get to 100,000 subscribers and we won’t get there without you! Have you left a review yet? On Apple Podcasts we now have over 3,000 5-star reviews, but we still want to hear from you so please leave your best review when you get time.
Thank you so much to the nearly 30,000 founding members of The North Star whose generosity even makes this podcast possible. Love y’all and appreciate you so much.
If you love this podcast and want to support our work—or want to see the show notes and transcript for each episode—we’d love it if you considered becoming a founding member of our community at TheNorthStar.com. There we not only have our podcasts, but hundreds of original articles and stories and commentaries from some of the leading scholars and thinkers in the world.
Lastly, a shout out to our Podcasting Director and Senior Producer, Willis, for his hard work on this and every episode.
Take care everybody.
Produced by Willis Polk II
Additional Instrumentation by: Christian Idris “Idrys” Shannon, Lance “Lance Fury” Powlis, Markeith Black & Smok Tageous
Additional Engineering by Amond “AJ” Jackson for Salem Psalms Library
Additional Vocals by Garnett “Natti” Bush
Scratches by Kenny “DJ FlipFlop” Vanderberg