If you think Kanye West was the first to change the American fashion game, meet one of the flyest Black fashion squads in history.
We’re off this week, but we wanted to share a little of the behind the scenes magic of our show. There’s a lot that goes into making an episode of The Nod…and there’s a lot that doesn’t go in. Enjoy these outtakes and come back next week for an all new episode!
Snoop Dogg has a TV show with Martha Stewart. A Black man once held the nuclear codes for President Trump. Sometimes in life we have to decide if a thing is good or bad for the Culture.
BL: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod. I am Brittany Luse.
EE: And I am Eric Eddings.
EE: So, a few weeks back, we wanted to celebrate the launch of this very show with a live taping of The Nod.
BL: Yes and it. was. The definition of lit. Of popping. Of hopping. Of jumping. Of skipping. Everything. It was like the most fun that could possibly be had on a Wednesday night.
EE: All the verbs.
BL: Exactly. But you don’t have to be salty if you missed it, you don’t have to be like that. because today we are going to share a portion of that live show with you–this game that we played with our panelists for the night: Aminatou Sow from Call Your Girlfriend and On She Goes podcasts. And the writer from the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham.
EE: Yes. And the two of them were perfect guests for the very first edition of a new segment we are going to debut right here right now. Enjoy…
Eric: We like to call this “Good for the Blacks”.
Eric: I love that music.
Brittany: It puts you in a mood.
Amina: It’s so good.
Eric: I want it to play when I come to the club, like actually when I step out.
Brittany: I’m not gonna roast you for not going to the club though.
Eric: Alright, so I think we’ve all been in the position at some point where we’re faced with like an awkward thing that is like somehow related to Black people. Like there’s that time that we found out that the guy who carries the nuclear football for Donald Trump was a Black man. It was a little strange, caught me off guard.
Amina: I am still shook.
Eric: Or the fact that the Madea Halloween movie made almost $100 million dollars. I don’t know how to feel about that. And like we’re often forced to quickly decide. Is this phenomenon actually a good thing for Black folks? You’re pressed at the water cooler. “How do you feel about Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart’s talk show”? And you’re like “I dunno”. Frankly, these are really time consuming decisions to make.
Brittany: So that is where we come in.
Brittany: With Good for the Blacks, Eric and I, and tonight, our esteemed guests.
Eric: That’s true.
Brittany: We break these phenomena down and we take an official vote to let you know definitively whether or not this thing is good or bad for Black people. We’re doing all the work for you. We are saving you hours of Twitter searches and think piece scrolling, and sleepless nights.
Eric: Yeah, you’re welcome. So today we are going to be talking about this season of The Bachelorette, which features Rachel Lindsay, and she is the first Black Bachelorette.
Brittany: Right. So, as she is the first Black Bachelorette, this season has been full of cringe worthy moments and also of very awkward racial conversations, but I will say, there has been some genuine romance. And what we’re gonna do tonight, is we’re going to have a nice little round table discussion and we’re going to basically decide, like was this worth it? So Vinson and Amina, if you look on this table back here everyone has a church fan. Because we’re about to take just a quick vote, because we keep it official around here. So basically, for the initial vote–this is how we’re gonna do it–for the initial vote, if you think it’s good, you’re going to have a brown thumbs-up emoji with Obama’s face. I know you guys can’t wait to see who’s on the back with the thumbs-down. And on the other side, the thumbs-down, this is Ben Carson.
Eric: Yes. We try to make it easy for you. So, I think we’ll just go down the line. Brittany, do you want to up down real quick the Bachelorette.
Brittany: Yeah. As of right now, and this could be controversial, I don’t know, I still think it’s good.
Eric: I’m a hard bad for the Blacks. I personally am, straight up.
Vinson: The entire phenomenon?
Amina: Okay, that’s insane. It’s amazing for Black people, especially for Black women. So, yes!
Vinson: I’m sorry man, I’m also going to also go with good. It’s good for the Blacks.
Eric: You know, that’s fine. Somebody’s gotta go out on that limb. And I’m okay with it being me in this particular moment.
Amina: Okay, Ben Carson.
Eric: That really hurt. Like, that’s worse than what Brittany says to me on a daily basis. Let’s dig into the pros and cons. My only real pro is that this is the most amount of Black people, and especially Black men, I’ve ever seen in like one hour of network television. It’s fascinating. But that actually is all I’ve got. So, Amina do you have a pro?
Amina: I mostly have pros. One, she’s a Black woman, so like yes, that’s always good. Two, like what other TV show do you have on like mainstream white TV where a Black woman just gets to do everything she wants. She’s out here traveling, she like’s buying these dummies watches. She’s out here sweating in a weave just–
Eric: A good weave.
Amina: Just like living your best life. But also, she’s said she grew up in majority white spaces, and I’m sure that when she was younger she was not the hot one in middle school or high school. And so, what a great scam to come back on TV and like kiss all of the boys who rejected you when you were younger. You know she’s smart, she’s beautiful. She’s better than most of the other Bachelorettes we’ve had and even though the producers set her up for all of these really dumb conversations about, you know, they let a racist on the show and they thought that we wouldn’t know. It’s like, you guys do better vetting than the entire Trump Administration. There’s no way a racist gets on here and they don’t know. But at the same time you know, she’s been able to have these conversations with Black men that I’ve never seen on TV. I’ve never seen two Black people on TV say “hi, I have actually never dated a Black women” and the Black women like doesn’t flip a table and instead says “I didn’t know that about you, that’s fine”. And then have a real conversation about that. so I think the Black Bachelorette is like net positive.
Brittany: Vinson, I want to know what are your Pros.
Vinson: Every aspect of the show is sort of like funny and kitschy and absurd. Like there was a part that I truly enjoyed where this guy’s ex-girlfriend shows up at a basketball game and it’s just like “okay everyone, you’re aware”. And I just thought that it’s kind of stupid and it’s like a little bit banal and that’s the true meaning of equality. When we can be just as absurd and stupid and occasionally crazy as anybody else. In some ways she’s–Rachel is more liberated and in some way more powerful than Obama, because he means something and has to do with politics. And the same people that watch the Bachelorette are like, “I’m sure there someone who hates Obama, has like burned him and effigy and is a Rachel fan. Right?
Eric: In noticed that.
Vinson: And there’s this weird way in which this kind of thing is able by the way that is kind of weirdly antiseptic and it doesn’t pretend to mean to much, that it can do more work than the like explicitly political.
Brittany: My pro is in this context unlike pretty much anywhere else in pretty much all media. Two things that this Black woman gets to do. Number one: she’s the prize, she’s the Disney princess. These dudes are sitting around playing ridiculous mind games with each other trying to impress her and get her attention. And, the other thing that she gets to do is, she is like making out with everybody. I’ve never really watched The Bachelorette before–
Amina: No, she’s like serious horn dog.
Brittany: And I was sitting there–Yeah, no, I don’t want to even want to talk about it. There’s this guy on there named Peter. Peter–Thank you, Peter is fine, exactly. Peter is fine. Peter is fine. Peter is so fine, and also, I’ve done so much deep Instagram stalking of Peter. All Peter’s friends are Black from back in Wisconsin. It’s so deep. It’s so deep. It’s so deep. But, like in the episode from this past week, there’s this date that she has in Switzerland, because that’s what you do on a third date, and she’s in the snow in the Swiss Alps snuggled up with Peter’s fine ass, and she is making out. She and Peter spent three hours in the hot tub on a date a couple of weeks ago. I was like, “Whoa, this is amazing.” But you have this thing called-Is it the fantasy suite? That’s what it’s called? And in the fantasy suite, it goes down.
Brittany: Right, and I love that this Black woman is going to have sex with all these dudes. You know what I mean? And all of them are like, “Man,” they’re like, “Hope she likes me after the fantasy suite.” And no one’s like, “Oh, this Black woman is a bed wench.” Do you know what I’m saying? She gets to totally–This is a real Black woman right here, and she’s going to have sex with four of you, and all you guys are going to be shaking in your boots hoping that she thought it was good, and that’s amazing. [applause] But the thing that I want to know, though, from you though, Eric, is–I’m very curious. Why, for you, is the representation just not enough?
Eric: I think this gets us into the cons.
Amina: The one con.
Eric: I could go deep. But for me, the representation–I actually agree with almost all of your pros. Rachel is awesome. She’s really fun to watch, she’s really relatable, she looks like the people I know, and it’s really exciting to see other people watch her be herself in this volume of people. But how they treat the people on this show, specifically the Black people on this show, really rubs me the wrong way in a way that other dating shows like, even For the Love of Ray J doesn’t actually bother so much.
Brittany: This man has a PhD in Love of Ray J. He knows. He knows.
Eric: Classic peak TV, actually. But seriously, though, the people on the show, they put all the Black people in this really awkward position to the point where you can see how cognizant that they are being watched, and how uncomfortable they are that they’re being watched. There was one bachelor, Kenny, and he was getting into it with Lee who’s the racist bachelor. We just got to be honest about it. And, he was calling him aggressive and they were trying to tell the guy about it, and it was this weird back and forth. Actually we have a clip.
Lee: I don’t know but tell me that’s not aggressive. Tell me that was not aggressive.
Will: I’m not gonna say the words man.
Lee: But why? If you’re gonna be honest.
Will: When you call him aggressive, there is a long standing history in this country of regarding Black men in America as aggressive to justify a lot of other things.
Lee: So, he’s the guy that gets mad and plays the race card and tries to get away with everything he does, because he can’t control himself.
Will: I don’t think, listen I don’t think he meant to play the race card. I think he truly was offended by it.
Will: By that choice of word.
Rachel: Being a–I’m going to get emotional. The pressures that I feel about being a Black woman and what that is, and how –I don’t want to talk about it. I get pressure from so many different ways being in this position and I don’t, I did not want to get into all of this tonight, and I already know what people are gonna say about me. And, judge me for the decisions that I’m making. I’m going to be the one that has to deal with that. And, nobody else. And, that’s a lot.
Eric: So, that is good TV, I’m sure people really enjoyed that, that’s a moment got probably shared around a lot, but I don’t know how healthy that is. To put these Black folks in these position where they constantly have to do this work of educating the racist White folks around them. That’s a lot for me personally to see them go through that and having to deal with that. And, sure maybe it benefits a few White people in Middle America who have never come across a Black person.
Brittany: Or, in New York.
Eric: Or, in New York let’s be real. But, it just seems like a lot. To me, I’m not sure that that’s worth it.
Vinson: That clip makes me think because as that was happening there was this weird piano, boom, boom while this is happening, and it made me think that a thing that we grew up with that doesn’t really happen anymore the very special episode. Where like Kelly is all of a sudden on speed and she’s a maniac. Right, I’m so excited? And, weirdly I think this goes to how we think people learn this kind of lesson. Because, weirdly the ways that we’ve been doing it, like whatever it is, my work with think pieces or whatever the ways that we’ve been trying to do this work, something’s not happening. So, maybe the very special episode has always been the way. I truly do believe there are people who do not understand that the word aggressive is a coded, can be a coded word. I do believe it. And, I just wonder sometimes, and maybe that’s a condescending thing to think, that the Bachelorette is the way that someone is gonna learn something that they didn’t learn in any other way, but I do wonder.
Amina: I think that for me, having her on a show like this, even though the show itself is very mediocre, but I’m like my God we deserve to be mediocre like everybody else. Because, I think that the experience of watching television as a person of color and I think especially as a Black person is that you are always on this high alert for how the person on the screen is gonna embarrass you and the repercussions that it’s going to have for you. And, my God, White people don’t watch TV like that. They just get to enjoy it. And, so I just want to watch dumb TV. And, enjoy that too. And, it’s the same reason I watch Love and Hip Hop, it’s the same reason I love for the Love of Ray J. He’s a mastermind.
Eric: He’s beautiful.
Amina: Are you kidding me?
Eric: Yeah, I do love the VH1 shows. It’s actually specifically the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise that feels off to me for some reason.
Amina: Do you like the other shows because there’s no intermingling in the other shows? They’re separate–
Eric: Separate but equal?
Amina: Yeah, they’re separate but equal. I mean let’s be real. The Black shows are separate but better.
Eric: Are better, yeah. Yeah. It might be, for the most part and actually one of my favorite shows is The Real Housewives of Potomac. The Real Housewives of Potomac is fascinating.
Amina: I can’t watch that show it really stresses me out.
Vinson: The paper bag tattoo.
Amina: That’s a show that I think is actually bad for Black people, Ben Carson. That show is–
Eric: That show is intense, but they have similar conversations, but what is fascinating to me about it is it’s happening within a lot of different class dynamics and even racial dynamics between different Black people. And, something about that feels more normal and a touch more comfortable if you will. Maybe it’s just because having that conversation, even having another difficult conversation with another Black person honestly is not as taxing as doing that same work with someone who is White. Because, it’s just like there is certain points that you just don’t have to concede. There’s a little bit of baseline, even with Ben Carson. We could probably get to some piece of common ground.
Vinson: Good luck with that.
Eric: Going out on hope.
Vinson: He’s gonna tell you a story about getting stuck up in Popeyes. That’s gonna be the end of that.
Amina: First of all, he called it the Popeyes Establishment, which is how I know he does not go there.
Vinson: As one does.
Brittany: Wait, but I want to hear what your cons are. What is not making you excited about the Bachelorette?
Vinson: If there is a con, I think it’s the way that the Black guys are situated. Because, at the beginning there was this weird jocking where the guys are making alliances, it’s like is this a pack of wolves, or are these–it’s like weird sexually, but–So, their situation and my sense that these guys have an upper hand. The thing happened to me where I was thinking about them like they’re gonna appeal to her on racial grounds.
Eric: Come on Rachel.
Vinson: Yeah, exactly.
Amina: Do it for the culture.
Vinson: Yeah. They’re gonna make an oblique reference to church fans or something and it’s gonna work on her, and this is–That, I felt that happen to me immediately. And, then after that I was like, oh that’s kind of fucked up.
Amina: Well, one of the problems that compounds it honestly is class. I think that a lot of times when people think very simplistically about race they’re just like, okay here are the things that divide us, but the thing on the show that has been really fascinating is this thing that you were saying with the men, is that Rachel clearly comes from a better off background. And, the truth is that a lot of the men do not. That dynamic also makes me really uncomfortable. They never talk about money on that show. They never talk about people of color and access to money. And, even the idea of a hometown date is crazy. If I had to take somebody to a hometown date, you’re only meeting my framily, you’re definitely not meeting my family. That’s crazy. Not everybody comes from this weird cookie cutter functional idea of what a family is. So, they just culturally pit you against each other in a way that is – It’s like the show has not caught up to where America is because even a lot of the white bachelors, they all have Black friends and Black family members. I did a deep dive on all of their social medias. And, it was like, they’re all down for the swirl. I was like this is not shocking, they will all know what to do when they put their hands in her hair and there’s a track. Nobody’s gonna flip out. And, so I think that’s what sad about the show to me, is that ABC is still stuck in 1950 and it just blows my mind to me that nobody’s making a TV show that can appeal to people on multi-cultural grounds. I also like don’t believe that somebody is watching the show and going, “I’ve learned something about Black people today.” I think people are fairly set in their ways, people are good or evil for different reasons. TV is not the educational tool that we think it is.
Eric: That feels like a strong con.
Brittany: That does feel like a strong con, because my only con was like, “I think they could’ve picked her some better men.” I was like, “There’s some guy who left you now.”
Amina: What kind of man goes on a TV show to meet somebody to marry. They’re all idiots.
Brittany: If there’s one Peter, there are more. But It is actually time for us to take our final vote. We want to get final vote. Starting with Vinson.
Vinson: My final vote remains, it is good, but I will say that actually I actually am very compelled by Amina’s thing about, maybe I am a little bit of a Pollyanna about TV. I believe in TV, but maybe I believe in TV too much. Especially network TV, which is in this weird thing where I don’t even get it. I’m one of these cord-cutter people. I watch this at my in-laws house. So I hadn’t thought about this sort of diminishing power of TV in this at all. Part of what maybe I thought was a pro, may not be it, as much of a pro.
Eric: Come to the dark side. All right.
Vinson: Always an optimist, but you know?
Amina: I remain very pro. Get it Rachel, get all the things.
Eric: So, one I am here for Rachel. I think it is significant who she is and how she is on TV. But I still, I don’t know Something still feels–I don’t give them that much credit for doing this now, and while this season has been really enjoyable, surprisingly enjoyable, it still kind of doesn’t do it for me. So, sadly my vote has not changed.
Brittany: You don’t look that sad. You don’t look that sad.
Eric: But I say bad for the Blacks.
Brittany: Y’all know how I feel. I’m here for Rachel. I think she is among the best for what America has to offer, and hopefully our society won’t devolve to this point, but it’s possible our children could be celebrating her in Black History Month in 20 years.
Eric: It could happen.
Brittany: You know what I’m saying? I’m riding the wave of the future. Good for the Blacks. So wait, what does that bring the final–
Eric: I think I’m outnumbered. I think that means that the Bachelorette is Good for the Blacks.
Eric: All right.
Brittany: If somebody asks you, you already know what the answer is, unless you’re not Black in which you should deflect to another Black person.
Eric: Yes, please. Don’t do it.
Brittany: If there are no Black people around, you need to take shelter.
BL: After the break, we are going to do a lighting round of…good for-for-for…the Blacks.
Brittany: So, we are going to do just one lightning round of Good For the Blacks. So I’m going to give one topic, really quick. there’s an album that came out recently that is basically Lipstick Alley on wax. I’m talking about 4:44. Jay-Z’s album, and he admits that he has been cheating on Beyonce since she was in her late teens when they met up until he–Some people say he turned 44, but basically up until Blue was born. He realized that you should treat your wife like a human being, and not cheat on her indiscriminately. But the beats are hot, shout out No I.D., shout out Guru. So, Vinson, what do you say? Good or Bad for the Blacks?
Vinson: It’s a fantastic No I.D. album with occasional thoughts from Jay-Z; however, the things that me the album popular are bad for the Blacks.
Vinson: So I, as a Black man want more credit than to think that I need to be 40-whatever years old to learn how to be a human being. There was the love part, which is stupid, and then there’s a part that’s his whole economic thing.
Jay Z: You want to know what’s more important than throwing away money in strip club? Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in america? That’s how they did it. Financial freedom my only hope. Fuck living rich and dying broke. I bought some art work for 1 million. 2 years later that shit worth 2 million. Few years later that shit worth 8 million. I can’t wait to give that shit to my children…
I don’t think that capitalism is the answer for Black people. So, bad for the Blacks.
Brittany: Amina, what say you?
Amina: I’m also squarely bad for the Blacks, because Black men, you got so many opportunities to grow up in a way that like Black women don’t. That was really hard, but I agree with you. For me mostly it is all about the economics of that. I think it’s like a smidge, anti-semitic, which is not cool. Just this, I don’t know, like Black people have an obsession with Jewish financial structures that make me very uncomfortable all of the time, and they just like throw out this anti-semitic sayings it’s cool. I don’t think that that’s true, but I also–Yeah, I’m like capitalism is not the way that we are going to get free, and credit is obviously amazing, but Jay-Z needs to–He’s not telling people why they don’t have access to credit, right? I’m going to take him up on his new wisdom. In order to be good to my credit, I will not be participating in any of his live shows.
Brittany: I know! I know.
Eric: I’m not going to lie. I’m kind of struggling with this one. The thing is, obviously, I sympathize with all your criticisms, and I don’t think he should get that much credit for realizing he was blowing up his life and fucking up his relationship. But I do think it’s important that he did this publicly in this way. Seeing that was fascinating, because I honestly didn’t–I thought he got dragged in Lemonade, and I thought that was going to be a little be the end of that. I thought he was going to shuffle off and keep trying to push Tidal and like we would go from there. I would say I didn’t expect this. I think it is at least good to see it and that it happened. So I would be a little more generous with Jay-Z. It’s just better than American Gangster and Kingdom Come, like–
Brittany: Ooh. Magna Carta.
Vinson: Wait. It’s better than American Gangster? It’s better than Magna Carta, which was–
Eric: Okay. American Gangster is argument to have,
Vinson: Ooooh yeah. Oh
Eric: It’s an argument to have.
Eric: I would say, squeaking by, good for the Blacks.
Brittany: I’m not going to lie, I struggled when I heard you guys’ takes Vinson and Amina, but I’m going to be honest with you guys the album slaps, and it sounds good and when Beyonce shows up on that track like every time I’m seeing her I’m thinking–I go back and forth because I’m like, “Wow, this man really played the shit out of you, and you are rich as fuck, and you are so sexy, and you are so good at what you do. You’ve such great business acumen.” And I’m like, “You should just leave him,” but when she’s on the song, when she’s like “Ah!” I just want to throw out my windows and clean. It feels like Church, and that’s a distraction, and sometimes I cry. I will say this. I remember when, I can’t remember the name of the album, might be Life is Good, the Nas album, where on the cover, he has–He used to be married to Kelis for those who have been living under a rock. Another man who blew his life up and didn’t survive. But um–He was married to Kelis. She divorced him, she filed for divorce when she was seven months pregnant. You don’t file for a divorce with somebody at that point, if they –He fucked up. When she left him, the only thing she left in their closet was her wedding dress. And so he’s on the cover of his next album, “I’m living good, I still have my wife’s old, my ex-wife’s wedding dress.” I thought that was so emotionally immature. My boyfriend at the time was like, “Yeah, sticking it to this bitch,” and I was like, “Okay, cool!” We broke up. He didn’t actually say that. He didn’t actually say that, but it was close. I was wondering, I’m like will ever publicly in hiphop any male rapper progress emotionally beyond this point, and I don’t think that Jay-Z–I don’t think anything he did was excusable. but what he did was beyond this bullshit that Nas put out five years, ago. I thought that was so toxic and so stupid. So actually, I think it’s good for the Blacks.
Eric: Oh man.
Brittany: And now we’re at a point where you got a tie. Split decision.
Eric: Split decision.I think we need to put it to the audience, right?
Brittany: Yeah. We do. We do.
Eric: Let’s start with Good for the Blacks, audience? 4:44.
Brittany: I can’t tell if that’s thin or not?
Brittany: How many of y’all think it’s Bad for the Blacks? Give me a boo.
Amina: Oh! Sizeable.
Brittany: I think that the good sounded a little bit more vigorous. So I think that actually the room has decided for the culture, 4:44 is Good for the Blacks.
Eric: All right.
Eric: Thank you.
BL: Thank you guys so much
EE: Alright. Thank you!
Amina: Congratulations you guys!
Vinson: Congratulations! You guys are good for the Blacks. The Nod is good for the Blacks!
BL: That was SUCH A FUN NIGHT.
EE: It really was. Vinson and Amina were great, and For those of you who are listening, you should definitely check out their work.
We will link to their stuff in our show notes.
BL: Yes, and don’t worry if you missed that live show–because there will definitely be more in the future! But if you want to be among the first people to know every time we have a live event, you should definitely make sure to subscribe to our newsletter which you can do by going to gimlet media dot com slash the nod. OR you can follow us on Twitter at The Nod Show.
EE: And Brittany.
EE: You know what else there will be more of?
EE: There will be more times when someone will come across something that they aren’t sure is good for the Blacks. And we are dedicated to help you in those moments of severe confusion and distress. SO if you are struggling to decide if something is good for the Blacks,
Email us at goodfortheBlacks at gimletmedia dot com.
Or you can tweet us at the nod show, just be sure to use the hashtag GOOD. FOR. THE. BLACKS.
EE: Be careful with that hashtag
EE: Could get dangerous
BL: But yes, we are here to help.
E: The Nod is produced by me, Eric Eddings, with Brittany Luse, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Special thank you to the Jerome L. Greene Space for hosting our show. And our DJ for the night, DJ GrandDru.
B: And–we may have mentioned this once or twice before–but as we are a new show, you know we are trying to spread our wings, we are trying to grow, we are trying to bring more people into the fold so we would appreciate it ever so much if–when you go onto Apple Podcasts–you would just rate and review the show. And, you know i can’t tell you what to do, I can’t control you, but I can suggest politely that you leave us a five star review.
Eric’s always had an affinity for Polo Ralph Lauren. But he discovers a group of boosters in Brooklyn that took their love for Polo to another level.
EE: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod. I’m Eric Eddings.
BL: And I’m Brittany Luse.
EE: So, I have been a huge polo fan for like a long time.
BL: That’s an understatement but yeah.
EE: It was actually kind of a problem for a while.
BL: [laughs] What do you mean by problem?
EE: So like for example in middle school, we had this big bus trip, you know, like you do the overnight trip?
EE: It’s like a big deal. We went from Memphis to D.C. And my mom gave me some money for like lunch and souvenirs. You know, it was supposed to last me throughout the whole time.
BL: What did you do with the money?
EE: See, what had happened was…
EE: We stopped at an outlet store on the way and they had a Polo shop, like a Polo outlet, yeah I went crazy in there. I spent every last dime of my money, but like I wanted to come back with as many different pieces as possible so it looked like I got really high value?
BL: Uh huh. OK.
EE: But I could only afford T-shirts.
[EE + BL laugh]
EE: So I literally bought like six or seven Polo T-shirts and blew all my money to the point where a teacher had to actually loan me money for the rest of the trip to be able to like eat and stuff.
BL: [laughs] I’m gonna give you a pass on this only because you were 13.
EE: Yeah, needless to say, Polo drove me to do some crazy things. And the reason why I was so into Polo, it actually started online. When I was that age, I would Google like to find like images and websites for like Polo inspiration, lospo if you will. You’re laughing with me right?
BL: If only you had Instagram? If only…
EE: Right? Oh my god. But in these searches like I started to like notice something. You know? The same people were actually popping up image after image. It was like candids, uh like folks would be in the club on the corner. It looked like the early 90s. It was a group of people literally in all Polo like Polo from the top down.
EE: Hat. Jacket. Shirt. Shirt over it. Scarf!
BL: You know about that life.
EE: Polo jeans. You know? Polo was like a really preppy brand. You know, it was made for like white folks who do like crew, and shit like that. But the way they wore it, it was different, it felt like hood.
It was a little oversized, everyone’s hat was turned to the back, not like crimped down like a dad hat. This was a big deal for me as a kid. Seeing this stuff up on my computer at home. They were like sooo fresh. In this way that I wasn’t. And I wanted that, you know? I wanted to look just like that.
BL: So who were these guys?
EE: Well, they were like an official group.
BL: They’re like a squad? Like a Polo squad.
EE: They had a name.
BL: They had a name?!
EE: Yes, the Lo Lifes.
And the other day, I was thinking about the Lo Lifes and I started to look into them, and the more I went down the rabbit hole, I realized they put Polo on the map for a lot of kids like me. And the story of how they did that, blew my mind.
I heard all about it from one of the Lo Lifes founders…
TH: This Thirstin Howl the 3rd, Polorican, Skillionaire, Lo Life General. MGV Brownsville all day.
BL: My man said Polorican! [laughs]
EE: And it’s accurate though! So the story of how Polo went from the streets of New York to my living room in Memphis–it starts with this guy. In 1988, Thirstin was a teenager, going by the name Vic-Lo.
He and his friends would trek from Brownsville, Brooklyn into Manhattan, and their crew was massive.
TH: Imagine, you know 40 dudes out hanging out partying, and they just link up with another 50, 60 dudes, and they start hanging together in one night.
Our main spot was Times Square when Times Square was considered “The Deuce,” when it was grimy and dirty and there was pimps and prostitutes and pushers and, you know, it was a, it was a whole different environment up there. It was pretty dangerous.
EE: Thirstin and his friends were from the Marcus Garvey projects in Brownsville. But they ended up linking up with another crew from Crown Heights to form like a super crew. You know, and, are you ready for this?
EE: So they would go into department stores and just like swarm the place, folks everywhere, grabbing everything that they could, I’m talking shirts, sweaters, pants, even scarfs, definitely hats. They just snatch everything and bolt out the door. Trying to avoid every single cop on the way.
EE: Listening to this shit was riveting.
BL: I mean, I see why, I see why.
EE: And so, all these kids from different parts of Brooklyn and Queens decided to join together and form a massive crew, and together they found a mutual love of looking really fresh, sticking up tourists, and shoplifting designer threads, you know?
EE: And of course the brand that brought them all together was…
BL: Polo, obviously.
EE: Yes, Polo was their favorite brand because it had super bright colors and prints. And they settled on a name, The Lo Lifes, because the other option woulda been like, the Po Life crew? And you know that’s like too close to home.
BL: That’s not aspirational.
EE: Exactly, so the Lo Lifes became a family, and like any family, there was a little sibling rivalry.
EE: Who was the freshest? Was it you?
TH: Oh, everybody in Lo Lifes gonna say it was them. Of course, I’m gonna say it was me. I was, I’m a fly ass mother fucker. Not only that, I was Puerto Rican. You know, everybody was Black in Lo Lifes at this time. But being Puerto Rican, all the Black girls love you. That’s all I can say.
BL: [laughs] I don’t have anything to say about that.
EE: OK, so the jury is still out on who was the freshest in the crew, but like Thirstin had the sauce you know? He became like one of the leaders of the Lo Lifes, especially on their boosting sprees. They would take whatever they could grab, and bring it back to Brooklyn. They’d keep some of the pieces for themselves, but the rest, they resold in the neighborhood for a much cheaper than retail price. All of this was exciting for them. Every new boost was an adventure.
TH: Just imagine, you’re going to hit a store you got a target. We all ride in the train together. We know where we’re going. People was so anxious to beat out the guy next to you when the train doors would open up, everybody would race to the store to get in. Just race you there and try to take more than you can take and run out with more than the next person, this was a constant everyday thing.
BL: God, you gotta be so fast to do that. I’m trying to think of what it takes a whole group of people walk into a department store and just like rush it.
EE: I don’t know, literally I don’t know. I woulda been the first one caught. Straight up.
BL: [laughs] That’s coordination though.
EE: Yes, so they were boosting, and it was illegal, but it helped them make bread, make ends meet, and like just feel a little better about, you know, life in the PJ’s.
TH: We all grew up poor with shit. Like if you would see me on the street, I was probably one of the freshest dudes you saw in your life, but when you came to my home, I didn’t even have furniture. My crib was fucked up, and you know what? I would bring a girl home to my house just like that. She would never complain about how my house looked bad or I didn’t have furniture and shit like that because, I was confident regardless. I knew who I was. All of us Lo Lifes were like that.
So all throughout the late 80s and early 90s, they kept boosting. And making serious money off it. And soon, folks outside of New York, wanted in.
TH: My boy Boostin Billy had ventured out to Philadelphia in the late 80s and he spread the culture through Philly crazy.
TH: I would travel to a different state and I would be Polo’d down and somebody in a different state would tell me “oh yeah you on that Lo Life stuff,” not even knowing who I am or anything.
EE: And what was that like to hear somebody tell you about your own shit? Like to bring that back to you…
TH: I mean, we was some egotistic maniacs at the time as well, so that shit was just stroking your ego. There was no humbleness, you know, with it at the time.
EE: So like now the boosting culture is starting to pop outside the city, and love for Polo itself is just spreading like wildfire. And it wasn’t just the boosting. See a lot of folks refer to the late 80s as the golden age of hip hop. And the Lo Lifes were in the thick of it
TH: We were everywhere the rappers were. If you looked at music videos from the 80s, 90s you seen a lot of rappers get with the culture of Polo as well and massive rappers were shouting us out in their songs.
You know it was a long list.
Zhigge, the rap group Zhigge was actually the first rap group out there that was spreading and showing the culture.
Zhigge: So I spin into Macy’s and get some Guess and Polo
Got to the show, stepped out the limo with ease…
Talib Kweli, Raekwon was repping it heavy.
Onyx always bigged us up.
Onyx: Sport mad Polo but only if its stolen, I got no morals, my mind is in the gutter…
Jay-Z bigged us up in his music.
Jay-Z: Decepticons, Lo Life niggas snatch the polo off your chest. East New York, Bushwick, fuck it the whole BK, Brownsville where the warriors…
Hip hop was always about being fresh, but these guys were the freshest. And all the rappers all took notice.
EE: And did you guys know them personally? Like was it just, you saw each other in the club and they liked what you were doing? And you liked what they were doing?
TH: I mean um, I was in prison just watching all this stuff on TV.
EE: After the break, Thirstin has an epiphany in his jail cell.
EE: Welcome back.
EE: So like, the thing about crime is eventually you’re going to get caught. Thirstin would find himself in and out of jail. And at the same time, it turned out there was a flipside to getting famous, more and more people knew about the Lo Lifes, and that was cool like, you see yourself in magazines and rap songs, But the cops didn’t care, and more and more Lo Lifes got locked up.
TH: You were representing on in Riker’s Island in the same form and manner and wearing all that Polo in jail, that solidified a lot of us and showed what we were. You know, and it really helped to establish the respect we had from prison to the street.
And actually, ending up in jail was one of the better scenarios. See, being a Lo Life meant you constantly had a target on your back.
TH: Just hanging on your own fucking block, is murder and mayhem everyday. People was stealing all the clothes. We bringing that shit home. Mother fuckers was coming to take it from us. You know, like the neighborhood was coming for it, and they knew we were doing this on a daily basis. It it it became dangerous. Like people died.
EE: Yeah so basically they would steal all this stuff, and they were looking real fresh, they’d have like hundreds of dollars of designer gear on and folks in the hood would like come up to them and be like “I want what you got. Run that.”
EE: Yeah, they were losing people all over the place. Members were getting picked off by cops, and by rival crews. And even Thirstin ran out of luck, he went to jail on violent crime charges. Things were looking pretty dire.
TH: I’m sitting in jail looking at life, and then I didn’t get life. So I’m like, “I’m not gonna get this shot again. I got another shot.” I gotta do something. I had to put that shit to the side, I had to stop. Or my life was gonna be over. I was gonna be in prison forever.
EE: And that’s when things changed for Thirstin. He linked up with some people in prison that told him even if he gave up boosting, it didn’t mean his life was over. They started pointing out to him… like, Hey man, there are other ways you can get thrills. It doesn’t have to be illegal. And Thirstin, he had always loved one thing–rapping. And when he heard that, he was like, oh well maybe that could be a legal way for me to make money. Plus…
TH: I can still get that same feeling off of writing a fucking song, you know? And then that’s when my career began.
Song (Olde Gold Cypher by Thirstin Howl the 3rd):
Give it up for tha…
Lo Life, from the olde gold cypher
The Polo throw with the night touch
From the era of the DMC leather
Saw in the silk Riviera
So Thirstin’s released from jail, and decides to leave boosting behind. And he’s having the time of his life as an artist. And it was then he realized, like if he could get his shit together, the rest of the Lo Lifes could do the same.
TH: Dudes always had it in them to be every way possible they wanted to be. You know, everybody was mostly forced to be gangsters and shit because of the environments we were lived in. You know? But everybody had senses at the same time and smarts and intelligence to know that this wasn’t gonna be the way forever.
He made it his mission to get the Lo Lifes to go legit. And that wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, Thirstin had to get a little blunt.
TH: Listen, mother fucker, ima tell you like this: You ain’t coming around me doing that bullshit. Like when I started doing rap shows and shit. You know I got 30 mother fuckers wanna come with me for me to see me perform. And I let everybody know, “Yo, don’t rob nobody when we go to these spots. Don’t fuck nothing up. Then if you go against what the fuck we saying, we gon’ get you.”
EE: It’s like the conversations we have every time we go out.
BL: I was gonna say, before every live show, you’re always telling me make sure I don’t rob anybody.
EE: Don’t rob anybody today.
BL: But I appreciate in this moment like Thirstin is setting an example, and his boundaries, but still being very authentically himself.
EE: Right? So Thirstin’s rap career is blowing up. And meanwhile, he’s trying to turn around the Lo Life’s image.
TH: I needed to do promotions. I needed to do different things, engineering, and you know, a lot of the Lo Life founders and stuff were pure gangsters. I couldn’t get none of these gangster mother fuckers to do nothing, like administrative work you know and things like that. Everybody was too focused on being a gangster.
EE: Being a gangster had been a big part of what made the Lo Lifes, Lo Lifes. But as Thirstin went around the globe touring, he saw how people dug the Lo Life culture, and he got an idea.
TH: I was meeting all these other Polo heads, and when I would see how they would embrace me, like, you know, I was fairly, a new, a new artist, not too many people knew about, but they knew about Vic Lo. They knew about me as a Lo Life for what I was on the streets and things like that.
So these people were gravitating to me but out of sincerity and things like that and wanting to help.
I felt that these dudes needed to be mixed up with the gangster dudes, like they all had something to learn from each other to kind of balance it out a little better, and that’s exactly what happened.
EE: And after that, it wasn’t even about the boosting. The Lo Lifes expanded to include all sorts of members. People who had never stole a day in their life. I’m talking official Lo Life chapters in places like Toronto. Toyko. New Zealand.
BL: New Zealand?
EE: Yes. Kiwis.
BL: Kiwis–just about to say.
BL: And they’re about that Lo Life?
EE: They were.
And they have have meetups, where a DJ will like, spin records while folks trade rare polo pieces. The boosting was in their rearview. And being a Lo Life became about something more.
TH: It means culture now. It’s, it, it evolved into a culture.
And right around when the Lo Lifes went legit… Polo went public. And the IPO was huge. Like over 700 million dollars huge. You know, who’s to say if the Lo Lifes were responsible for that…but you’ve gotta wonder….either way, they’re still obsessed with Polo, and they’re still repping the culture here in Brooklyn. Heavy. My producer James hit me up with some news the other day. The Lo Lifes were having a barbecue, here in Brooklyn where it all began.
BL: How did you even feel?
EE: It was like it was like the promise of Christmas morning. You know? So on this like super hot Saturday morning I went out to like Highland Park in Brooklyn. And like what I saw was wild.
DJ: Welcome to the 12th Annual Lo Lifes BBQ y’all. Salute Rack Lo. Lo Wife. Get your grub on. If you don’t have your orange bands stop being a cheap bastard, it’s only twenty dollars! Go get your grub on alright! Let’s go baby! Sending this one out to my man Killa B….
EE: Imagine the flyest Black and Brown folks you’ve ever seen. All in one spot. Like they were all there, just decked out from head to toe in Polo Ralph Lauren.
Sheena: Now, the culture isn’t about the boosting, but we can never forget that’s where it came from.
EE: That’s Sheena. She’s married to one of the original Lo Lifes–his name’s Rack-Lo. When I caught up with her, she had just put a couple burgers on the grill…and she explained how the picnic got started.
Sheena: Initially it was to just get a couple of our friends together because you know life is going so fast. Everybody is having kids. And you know we didn’t really have a place and time to get together. So we said once a year, you know we want to invite all our friends, feed them, bring everybody together and you know just do something special.
This is what the Lo Lifes do now. They cook out. They have meetups. Thirstin is still rapping, but he’s also running a Lo Life clothing line. And they told me they do a lot of charity work now too.Like back-to-school drives, giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving and raising money for scholarships. It’s like a hood rotary club. But at the end of the day, no one forgets that the Lo Lifes changed hip hop fashion forever.
Ramsus: It’s fun man it’s fun. It’s history, it’s all history, it’s all hip-hop.
And everyone I talked to brought it up. Like this one cat, Ramsus.
Ramsus: I used to read about half of these people here, in magazines, how they used to boost and go crazy for this Lo game and you know what I’m saying? To me it was different but now to be together and show love and spread bread and do all this, it’s all Lo Life forever.
EE: And that’s apart of what’s so amazing about this. Like the Lo lifes went on this crazy journey. Because of them,hip-hop is different. What we wear is different. Hell, if I’m being honest, I’m different.
But even though their lives have changed, so much, and the crew has gotten so big, the original Lo Lifes–they’re just tight as they were in the 80s. Here’s Thirstin again.
TH: Oh, Lo Lifes is my family. Those, they’re still my family regardless of success, and you know, people moving around, yo it never changed who my family was. My best friends are still my best friends from 30 years ago.
You know? That, it’s really a family. There’s really love and loyalty. You know like, that’s rare. Yeah, I, know you’ve heard the term, “There’s no honor amongst thieves.” I, I beg to differ.
Rack-Lo: Yeah yeah yeah, 2 Ls, much love to everybody that came out, Lo Life BBQ 2017, Representing that Love and Loyalty…
Song (‘Million Man Rush by Thirstin Howl the 3rd feat. Rack-Lo)
You a Lo Life
You not a Lo Life
You wasn’t with us when we was killin B. Altman’s and Macy’s
It was the Million Man Rush
(I was there)
The Million Man Rush
(I was there)
The Million Man Rush
(Big Boo was there)
[Continues under credits]
The Nod is produced by me, Eric Eddings, with Brittany Luse, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser. With editing help from Neil Drumming. Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson.
Our theme music is by Calid B. Other original music in the show by Calid B, Takstar, and Bobby Lord. Additional sound elements provided by Christopher Peifer. Special thank you to Thirstin Howl the 3rd for sharing his music with us as well.
BL: Because we are a new show, we would love if you could rate us on Apple Podcasts.
(‘Million Man Rush’ continues)
Walking through game rooms on 42nd and Broadway…
EE: Alright, have a great day, enjoy the gym [laughs]
TH: Oh I’m about to get brolic on y’all real quick, a good 500 motherfucking sets.
EE: Word word word.
Eric tries to convince Brittany that Beyoncé is hiding something, but Brittany needs more receipts.
Brittany Luse: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod. I’m Brittany Luse.
Eric Eddings: And I’m Eric Eddings. And today… we’re getting into a uh conspiracy.
EE: So, Brittany, what are some of your, like, go-to things to watch on YouTube?
BL: I watch a lot of the Black women lifestyle YouTube videos. Like women who just go to like H&M and buy socks and they show every single pair of socks they buy. I watch a lot of stuff like that.
EE: I’ve watched a surprising amount of those things [laughs]. But I’m curious: do you watch like YouTube conspiracy theory videos?
BL: I ha—no.
EE: There are tons of them and I find them fascinating. There’s a thin line of what separates conspiracy from truth.
BL: Now you’re s—now you sound like somebody who makes them.
EE: And there’s one person in general who I feel like if YouTube conspiracy theory videos and maybe even like Black YouTube conspiracy theory videos were…uh.
BL: I didn’t know white people made them [laughs]. I had no idea.
EE: You’d be surprised. Um, if they were if it was a sport—let’s say if it was basketball—he would be like LeBron James.
BL: He’s the guy.
EE: Yes. This is the guy.
EE: His name is Shawn Blazington. The way he weaves these stories together. It’s like this like beautiful mix of like what feels a little like crazy. Slightly offensive in some spots.
EE: Umm just wild leaps. And you know one of the key portions of a YouTube conspiracy theory video is like the PowerPoint slide show. Bomb ass PowerPoint slide shows.
BL: Every time?
EE: He picks the best things from Google Images and like lines them up together. He’s not going to just stop at the theory. He thinks about how he tells it to you. He thinks about his delivery. You might get some sound effects in there. So we’re going to watch one of Shawn Blazington’s videos today.
EE: The title of this of this short film umm is “Beyoncé Forced Solange to Give Birth to Blue Ivy: Illuminati Exposed.”
BL: See, before you even told me the title, I already knew the Illuminati was going to be involved.
EE: That is also a key feature of most Black YouTube conspiracy theory videos is the Illuminati.
BL: I mean honestly I’d love to see how this works because then I would love to force one of my sisters to give birth to my child so I could maintain my body.
EE: All right. So let’s kick this off.
Shawn Blazington: Greetings my brothers. Today we’re going to talk—
EE: Can I just say that I want to walk into this every meeting and be like “Greetings my brothers.”
SB: Today we’re going to talk about Beyoncé making Solange be the surrogate mother for Blue Ivy.
BL: Oh my God.
SB: You have to try to understand that Jay-Z and Beyoncé is simply a power couple. There is no romance involved. They’re not intimate with each other—
BL: Wait hold on for a second. So the picture that they have of—when he says like ‘oh Jay-Z and Beyoncé are a power couple.’
BL: It starts with this picture of Jay-Z and Beyoncé and she looks…
BL: She looks—I would never say this about my queen otherwise. But it’s the truth… just the moment she looks slightly cross-eyed?
EE: Yeah she does.
BL: Her head is kind of cocked to the side and he looks like somebody who currently needs to Get Out.
EE: [laughs] Jay-Z is in the sunken place.
BL: He looks like he’s in the sunken place. I’m already getting a sense of how talented Shawn Blazington he is at selecting the right visuals.
EE: Right? I told you—like it like it is a talent.
SB: They are not intimate with each other. They don’t kiss. They don’t make love. It’s strictly business. Jay-Z was the undisputed king of hip-hop. The only way Beyoncé could be the queen of hip hop is if she formed a union with Jay-Z in order to solidify her spot.
BL: Hold on. Beyoncé is not the queen of hip hop. First of all, number one: there is no queen of hip hop right now.
EE: Ooh. Bold claim. You wouldn’t even say Nicki?
BL: Umm I think that Nicki is on top right now but I wouldn’t necessarily call her the queen of hip-hop. The queen of hip-hop soul, obviously, Mary J. Blige.
EE: Yeah forever.
BL: Right. And I think that Beyoncé is the queen of all pop music. I think that she is our single greatest living entertainer at the moment. But I wouldn’t call her the queen of hip-hop. So I’m already kind of like mmm I don’t know about Shawn Blazington.
EE: Well give it time. We’re literally at 30 seconds.
BL: OK. OK.
SB: You never ever in your entire life saw a picture of Jay-Z tongue kissing Beyoncé, gripping her butt, feeling up on her breast or doing anything intimate—
BL: Wait hold on.
EE: Have you seen a picture of Beyoncé tongue-kissing Jay-Z?
BL: Why. Why do I need to see that? Why do I need to see them tongue kissing, why do I need to see Jay-Z, Jay-Z holding like touching on her butt? Just keep playing this.
SB: You’ve never seen them have a realistic married couple moment. If you can find a picture of Jay-Z tongue kissing Beyoncé or gripping her butt, send it to me and I will mail you back five hundred dollars. I know you won’t be able to produce any evidence of Beyoncé and Jay-Z being seriously intimate with each other. Not even in music videos, not on the red carpet, not anywhere. So let me get back to my point. In order for Jay-Z and Beyoncé to continue deceiving the world, they had to stage a pregnancy. Jay-Z met Beyoncé in 1999.
EE: Stop! So the pictures of Beyoncé right now—
BL: She has a bindi in the middle of her forehead. She has frosted lipstick and she has chopsticks in her bun. So it’s definitely 1999 in this photo. Sean Blazington does have the facts right.
SB: And they didn’t have a baby until 2012. People are still oblivious that Beyoncé faked her pregnancy even though she revealed herself on national TV wearing a fake prosthetic stomach.
EE: So a key plot point right here. What we’re looking at right now is like four sequential freeze frames from Beyoncé like sitting down in this interview that she did and she’s wearing this like this like maroon—
BL: Kind of yeah maroon—
EE: Plum dress if you will. And she’s visibly pregnant like you can see her belly very clearly in the first frame. And as she sits down her stomach starts to like move.
BL: Yeah it like deflates. I can’t really explain this. The first two frames she looks pregnant and then the last two, she looks like all of a sudden she’s wearing a fanny pack.
BL: Not what you would think someone someone’s pregnant belly would do. That’s a tough one though. Shawn Blazington has a point.
SB: I have a secret audio tape that I’m going to share with you later on in this presentation.
EE: Breaking news! Secret audio tape coming.
BL: Oh my god.
SB: But before I get to that I want to break down some serious dynamics for you guys. Beyoncé’s body is a major part of her career. And she did not want to ruin her career and that’s why she didn’t want to ruin her body by having a baby. Although Solange make better music than Beyoncé, her career—
EE: Whoa! Whoa! Bold claim!
BL: You know why I like that because I—he really, he decided to add in his own like his own fresh commentary about—
BL: He just said it so matter of factly. ‘Although Solange makes better music than Beyoncé.’
EE: And he just slipped it in there like this. He wanted you to know like this is not the key point of this moment but it’s true.
BL: Yeah. Wow bold critique.
EE: I mean “A Seat At The Table” though.
BL: I was going to say “A Seat At The Table” really spoke to him.
SB: Although Solange make better music than Beyoncé. Her career is nowhere near her sister. She was against having the baby but the Illuminati forced her to have the baby—
EE: This is mean. I’m not gonna lie—
BL: This is mean. Now he—OK. So it goes from this picture of Beyoncé posing in like a crop top sweater and some lingerie and like a body chain just looking bodacious as ever.
EE: She was looking great.
BL: To the photo of Solange broken out all in hives at her wedding. So for those of you who don’t know, Solange had an allergic reaction I think to some shellfish at her own wedding. And so there’s a photo of her that was circulated around the time of her wedding that showed her having a breaking out in hives on her face.
EE: And it looks real tragic.
BL: That is not fair.
EE: I mean—
BL: Who among us hasn’t had an encounter with a histamine and broken out like you know what I mean?
EE: Encounter with a histamine?
BL: Do you have seasonal allergies?
EE: I do. But wh—
BL: OK then you know what Solange has been through.
SB: You don’t have to believe me but no one has ever been able to explain exactly what happened in that elevator when Solange attacked Jay-Z. Everybody was able to see the surveillance tape in the elevator. But no one has been able to hear the audio tapes. But that’s where I come in because I have the secret tape right here. [click]
EE: Are you ready for this? We are about to hear. Never before played audio.
BL: Oh my god!
EE: From inside the Elevator.
BL: Oh my God.
EE: Before Solange like just like let Jay-Z have it.
SB: Ok I’m going to put this in the tape deck. [continues under: And once this is over I will continue with my presentation.]
EE: Right now there’s a picture of a cassette tape. I would like to think that if I was recording what happened in the elevator.
BL: What happened in an elevator in 20–. What is it 2014? 2015?
EE: That I might not use a Sony Walkman.
EE: To do that.
BL: [laughs] A little talk boy.
Solange: Beyoncé I’m telling you right now don’t say shit because this is between me and Jay.
Beyoncé: I know I ain’t gonna say nothing.
Jay: Ay yo ‘Longe what you tripping for. I told you I left Baby Blues at the babysitter.
Solange: I know who let the baby sitters dummy. But you didn’t tell me who is the baby–
EE: First off–
BL: Hold on. Before I even get to before we even get into the fact that Shawn Blazington is apparently a ventriloquist. The elevator noises like it sounds like a dumb waiter. It sounds like something that you put yourself into you get lowered into a mine. It does not sound like a modern elevator that would be in a museum!
EE: There’s nary a beep. There’s nary a ding. Oh man. All right. lets–let’s go back to–I’m literally I’m crying right now.
Solange: But you didn’t tell me who is the babysitter.
Jay: Honestly that’s none of your business. I think you need to stay in your lane. hey yo Bey, why don’t you talk to your sister?
Beyoncé: Mmmm. Mmmm.
EE: Yo that was a real expert level Beyoncé mmm.
BL: Beyoncé! Wow ok Shawn Blazington is good at Beyoncé’s voice.
Beyoncé: Mmmm. Mmmm.
Solange: Oh no you got me fucked up. I held that baby in my stomach for nine months.
Motherfucker you gonna tell me who the baby sitter is.
Jay: Aight, aight i let Bleek babysit the baby.
Jay: Memphis Bleek. I let Bleek–
Solange: Motherfucker you let that dirty motherfucker hold my baby. [slaps]
EE: It sounds like he’s banging like action figures together like he’s actually like acting it out.
BL: I love this.
[slaps and fighting]
Jay: Bey get your sister.
Beyoncé: Mmm, I want nothing to do with that. Mmm.
Jay: Oh really Bey you ain’t gonna say nothing? Yo this was a bad idea, we should have never let Solange be the mother.
EE: I love it’s in this moment–only in this moment after he gets beat up by Solange that he’s rethinking this decision.
Solange: And I should never agreed to do this because I hate having your big tired, bubble-lipped, ashy-lipped, having ass as the baby daddy.
Jay: I would slap the shit out too right now. But you’re my baby mama. So here you go, you dropped your shoe.
Solange: Fuck you.
Man: Thats enough y’all.
EE: But who said that’s enough you know that.
BL: OK so this is where I actually have to give Shawn Blazington some credit because he layered that audio, like he really cares, he cares about what he’s putting out. I mean granted I did just hear like some real deeply self-hating anti-black Jay-Z insults and then to counter that a threat of domestic violence. But the audio was layered which is more than what I was expecting from a production standpoint.
EE: It’s very true, very true, slightly problematic but A for effort.
Shawn Blazington: For all you people out there that think they are really a married couple and Beyoncé really had that baby. And you really think that Solange is not that baby’s mother. Just look at Blue Ivy. She looked more like Solange than she do Beyoncé.
EE: And so in the picture that he show–I’m not gonna lie. I mean it could be just because Solange and Beyoncé are sisters. but.
BL: I think that’s probably what it is.
EE: Like. There was a definite resemblance.
SB: I can go on and on about this for hours but you going to believe what you want to believe. And that’s cool. This your boy Shawn Blaze and i’m out.
EE: And that’s it. That’s the end of the video.
BL: I will say I was impressed with the quality of the video. But ultimately I am not totally convinced.
EE: You heard never before released audio of what happened in that elevator that’s not enough.
BL: The journalistic chops. [laughs] But no, that is unfortunately for me not going to be enough to swing my opinion either way. You know i think he had some holes in his argument if i’m just being frank.
BL: I think I’m going to have to put some of Sean Blazington’s claims and theories to the test.
EE: After the break, Brittany launches a counter investigation.
BL: Welcome back.
EE: Welcome Back.
BL: Ok so Eric presented me with a YouTube video.
BL: Made by a one Shawn Blazington. As truly riveting as some of his arguments were, I think that his claims deserve a strong fact check. I consider myself to be an expert on pretty much all things Beyoncé. But this story it’s bigger than all of us.
EE: It is.
BL: And I knew that i needed to pull out the big guns.
EE: I’m–I don’t know what the big guns are.
BL: Hi Celesse?
Celesse Rivera: Hi!
BL: Hi! Thank you so much for making time to talk to us today.
CR: Thank you so much for having me!
BL: No problem, no problem.
BL: OK so Eric so that is the voice of Beyoncé expert Cellese Rivera.
EE: Oh man I’ve never met a Beyoncé expert before.
BL: I am partially insulted by that but i will move on. So celesse first saw Beyoncé when she was 5 years old at some talent showcase in Las Vegas, and she has been a diehard fan ever since. She actually also runs an Instagram, like a Beyoncé fan Instagram account called @throwbackxyonce.
EE: That’s a good name.
BL: Yeah it features pictures of Beyoncé from when she was younger. Her Beyoncé expertise has actually gotten her further than you or I will ever go, which is The Tyra Banks Show.
CR: I got an email from Tyra Banks production people. They were like ‘we heard from Beyoncé’s people that you are one of her biggest fans and we’d like to invite you to the show. When I first read the email I was like ‘this is a scam, somebody is playing with me.’
BL: But it actually was not a scam at all. So like Celesse showed up to the taping, and she found out that she was actually going to go toe to toe with Beyoncé.
EE: Wait what? Like Beyoncé was on the The Tyra Show?
Tyra Banks: We’re back with record setting grammy winning super star actress, everything else too, Beyoncé!
CR: They’re like you are going to be playing a trivia game about Beyoncés life basically, her likes, dislikes, her biography but it’s against Beyoncé. And I’m like. Are you kidding? That’s not even fair. She knows everything about her!
TB: So our first contestants name is–
TB: Celesse, are you a Beyoncé huge fan?
CR: The biggest!
CR: So Tyra asked me what song did Beyoncé perform at her talent show when she was 7 years old. The answer was John Lennon’s imagine, but when i clicked my buzzer, Beyoncés light went off. So she got to answer the question before me, no hard feelings, I want a rematch.
EE: No hard feelings…[laughs] It’s cool Beyoncé you can answer questions about your life, i’m gonna chill.
BL: OK so obviously when it comes to Beyoncé, Celesse knows what is up. So I sent her Shawn Blazington’s video. And I asked her to do just some simple fact checking it for me:
CR: Some of the allegations are just like outrageous like a simple Google search could have clarified some of the things that he was talking about.
BL: Wait which parts?
CR: So the part about Solange being pregnant with Blue. Solange has been spotted in 2011 plenty of times. I mean she went to the Met Gala. She went to the Roc Nation party. She did a lot of events and if she was indeed pregnant with Blue Ivy. Where was the belly. You know?
BL: What if her–what if she just gets pregnant very small? Like don’t some people just get pregnant very very small?
CR: I mean Solange has worn crop tops in 2011. She has worn tight form fitting clothes. I mean no matter how small she was carrying and Blue Ivy is, a very tall, big child, she is a solid child. There is NO WAY. NO WAY.
BL: What about some of these other points that he brings up? He made a claim that I actually I found to be a little compelling where he was saying that there are no photos of Jay-Z and Beyoncé tongue kissing or of Jay-Z you know grabbing on her butt. What do you say about that, like you’re somebody you run a throwback Instagram account.
BL: I mean you’ve seen probably thousands of images of them together?
CR: And I’ve seen plenty of images of him doing all of that. I mean there’s a video of him surprising her in Philly and he grabs her and he grabs her butt. There’s a video of him kissing her all throughout the Formation Tour all through Mrs. Carter. There’s a picture of them on a yacht and it’s like a closeup of them kissing. On Tidal she released a video for her anniversary with Jay-Z showing them being intimate. Again it’s just a Google search. You know like that I heard that he say like if you send me a video or picture I’ll send you five hundred dollars and I’m like great. I’m about to make a good five hundred dollars because I’ll send you everything.
BL: Extra income is always good. I would actually consider that if I were you.
CR: Yes. So and then the part about her not carrying the child in the ‘Die for You’ video. She literally like has a break down and on her website it shows her full body. One month pregnant, two months pregnant, three month pregnant. She is naked in the same position for all of the pictures showing her growth in the ‘Die For You’ video. She there’s video of her and Jay-Z standing and she’s covering her breast and Jay-Z’s rubbing her stomach. It’s close up. You can tell there is no prosthetic baby bump there.
BL: Ok so that actually. I’m going to cut you off because that makes me think of one part peculiarly damning piece of evidence that Shawn Blazington brought up in his video.
CR: The infamous dress
CR: The pink dress.
CR: Oh well I’ll be honest. I can very well understand why people questioned everything about her pregnancy after watching that video. Cuz honestly when I first saw it I was like ‘uh oh.’ So I tried it with a pillow because I’m just one of those ridiculous fans that like goes so hard to prove that Beyoncé is right. But I will only speak if I know for a fact that I know what I’m talking about. And if you put I mean even if you take your shirt and you squeeze it far or dress or whatever you’re wearing and you squeeze it on the sides and like try pinning it to the back so that it’s form fitting on your stomach and then leans forward with it. Your dress your shirt or dress or whatever you’re wearing will fold. I did it and it folded everybody so focused on well the dress folded the dress folded OK take the dress off in the ‘Die For You’ video. She’s naked. There’s a pregnant belly. Explain that one. And that’s when everybody gets quiet.
BL: So I have another question. Beyoncé is like a favorite subject of a lot of these kinds of videos.
BL: Especially ones that pertain to the Illuminati. Like why do you think that is?
CR: Because she’s a Black woman who is successful. So instead of just giving her her props it has to be some magical reason why she got to where she got to. So what’s the easiest thing? oh she’s in the Illuminati. It’s like equivalent to saying ‘well you got this because you’re lucky.’ No because I worked hard.
Brittany: Well Celeste thank you so much. You’re fantastic. And I really appreciate your expertise in this instance like I mean you’ve, you’ve cleared a lot up for me.
Celesse: Aww, Thank you.
EE: So that was pretty difficult to hear. She recreated the dress situation. It’s hard to argue with that.
BL: That’s what i’m saying. Did you hear, did you hear Celesse’s dedication?
EE: That’s deep.
BL: That is deep. Beyoncé one. Shawn Blazington zero for now.
EE: For now. i’m willing to concede that. I mean–
BL: For now.
EE: it’s hard for me to discount Shawn Blazington because I’ve seen so many of these videos and maybe I feel the the journalistic integrity throughout some of the other pieces.
EE: Maybe maybe this is the maybe this is the one situation where it doesn’t hold up.
BL: I’m just going to let you know that I think that the next time that you want to bring me a conspiracy theory that you’re going to need to show me some more receipts.
BL: The Nod is produced by me, Brittany Luse, with Eric Eddings, Kate Parkinson-Morgan, and James T. Green. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. We are edited by Jorge Just and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Engineering from Matthew Boll and Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Other original music by Takstar.
EE: Hey y’all, so I’m a be real with you, we’re a new show! And we could, really, really use your help. We’d love it if you could go to Apple Podcasts, and leave us a rating or review, something in the realm of one, two, three, four, five stars. Think about it. We’d really like that.
Next week on The Nod… Next week, we’re off, so we’ll be back with a new show in two weeks.
Brittany is a producer and host at Gimlet. In her spare time, she co-hosted For Colored Nerds, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture. She hails from Farmington Hills, Michigan and is a very proud graduate of Howard University.
Eric is a producer and host at Gimlet. He also co-hosted For Colored Nerds, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture with @bmluse. Prior to working at Gimlet, he helped nonprofits and foundations develop digital strategies at Fenton.