Categories
Culture Gaming

A Brief History of ‘Star Wars’ Games from 1982 to Today

Respawn Entertainment, creators of the Titanfall series and Apex Legends, just became the most recent studio to announce a Star Wars game. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, due out in November 2019, is a single-player, third-person game that tells the story of a young Padawan escaping from Emperor Palpatine’s order for clone troopers to kill all the Jedis. It’s also the newest game in a very long tradition of Star Wars video game titles. In the franchise’s 42-year history, more than 60 games have been made that are set in that galaxy far, far away.

Looking through the long list, it’s easy to group the titles into a few different categories of ways that developers have tried to capture that special Lucasfilm magic, including the LucasArts studio, over the years. Additionally, looking at all the categories, and how the best reviewed games were made, we can tease out some of the broader strokes in what made them great.

The space battle simulators

It’s no surprise that one of the most popular video game genres to come out of a franchise named Star Wars is the space combat simulator. Not only have many games taken advantage of the space setting, but multiple series have encapsulated them. And they are some of the most popular Star Wars games of all time. Games in this genre include the hallowed PC game X-Wing from the early 1990s and Rebel Assault.

The quality of these titles varied immensely. And the genre proved to be fantastic for the early days of video games. It didn’t necessarily take high-end graphics to put players into the blackness of space and fire at far-off dots. Many of the games, from the franchise’s first arcade game to the highly celebrated TIE Fighter, took place almost completely in space, with the player taking control of a spaceship in outer space’s vacuum. But many of these games straddled the line between space combat and ship pilot simulator.

The action games

Most of the video games in the Star Wars franchise fall on some point of the action game spectrum, though some are awfully close to the space combat simulators. The very first Star Wars game was a 1982 Parker Brothers game for the Atari 2600 called Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. This had the player (clumsily) take control of a ship on the ice world of Hoth to try to stop the approaching AT-ATs from invading the Rebel hideout. Since it doesn’t technically happen in space, it becomes difficult to call it a space battle simulator.

The tradition of exploring other ways of telling Star Wars stories continued from there. Games let players be everyone from Luke Skywalker taking on a training droid with a lightsaber to Han Solo in Cloud City taking on a maintenance droid. Action games have become the bread and butter of Star Wars games and seem to be the driving influence for Respawn’s Fallen Order. But as Yoda might say, an action game does not a good Star Wars adventure make. Many action games within this franchise, like Star Wars: Bounty Hunter and Star Wars: Yoda Stories, were not at all up to snuff.

The shooters

Straight video game shooters are relatively new to the Star Wars scene, and they lie mostly in the hands of the Battlefront series. This specific blend of third-person action/shooter began with the Star Wars: Battlefront game released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC by erstwhile developer Pandemic Studios. And while most of the games in this series were well received, developing Star Wars games can have its pitfalls. EA suffered a pretty large scandal after it seemed to prioritize milking its players for microtransactions over rewarding them for progression. Though the games themselves were (and are) fairly well regarded, the most recent entry stands as a warning not to make games that overly emphasize taking money from players.

The RPGs

One of the issues that has conceivably dragged down many Star Wars games has been their adherence to the stories told in the movies. Over the past four decades, a large number of games tell some or all of the stories that exist in the films, with the player in multiple roles. What’s notable about RPGs like BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic is that it, along with other titles in the series, takes place completely outside of the movie plot. Not only that, but through the nature of being an RPG, allows the players to tell their own stories within a universe that they already know, understand and appreciate. These RPG games, mostly developed by BioWare, are considered to be among the best games inspired by Star Wars

Lessons learned ahead of ‘Fallen Order’

There have been many other games, in many other genres, but the ones listed above are the standouts in one of the video game industry’s most exploited franchises.

And there do seem to be many lessons that Respawn can reflect on while creating Fallen Order. Judging strictly from the correlation between review scores and reception, it comes as no surprise that the most well received games are those that take the franchise the most seriously. Looking at some of the most-praised titles, such as Knights of the Old Republic, you see games that treat the source material as reverently as a die-hard Star Wars fan would. On top of that, it’s clear that obvious cash-ins aren’t too welcomed by Star Wars stans. Having a sequel for a sequel’s sake, or a game specifically tied into the release of a movie, doesn’t seem to be the best course of action for a developer/publisher to create a game of lasting renown. Many of the best reviewed Star Wars games, like 1993’s X-Wing or 1992’s Super Star Wars, came many years after the movie they were based on.

Fans can hope that Fallen Order follows a few of these bread crumbs along the twisted and treacherous road of Star Wars video games. It already seems to have checked off a few of those boxes. Some of the most celebrated games tell new stories in the franchise’s universe, which Fallen Order promises to do. And though Fallen Order, with its late 2019 release date, will come hot on the heels of Star Wars: Episode IX, it smartly is not directly tied in with that movie. It instead tells a story in between Episode III  and Episode IV.

Respawn is a relatively young studio, formed in 2010, but it has already built a highly regarded name for itself. On top of that pedigree, it can also learn a great deal from the decades of Star Wars games that have come before Fallen Order. Those two factors give Star Wars fans a lot of reasons to be excited about Respawn’s upcoming game.

Categories
Leaders Style

Meet the Guy Behind Streetwear’s Most Promising Label

Rhuigi Villaseñor is one of the most stylish men in fashion with a brand that has emerged as one of the industry’s most promising streetwear companies. He was laughed at in grade school for having bad style.

Villaseñor has one of those quintessential rags-to-riches American dream stories. Originally from the Philippines (where he lived with his mother, father and sister), Villaseñor moved to Los Angeles at the age of 11. Already a fashion study, he quickly had to surmount a learning curve after landing on the streets of Hollywood.

He was ridiculed at school for lacing up a pair of Sketchers. So, to flex, Villaseñor showed up in a crisp pair of Air Jordans, and the tide instantly turned in his favor. After those laughs echoed through the hallways of Villaseñor’s California school (and quite possibly his soul), he began to play the game of style with a winner’s mentality.

Now, Rhude, Villaseñor’s L.A.-based streetwear label where he is the founder and design director, has captivated many style icons and people at the epicenter of fashion. A cult-like following began seven years ago when Rhude’s now-famous bandanna shirt found its way onto Kendrick Lamar at the 2012 BET Music Awards.

Chris McKay/Stringer
Kendrick Lamar performs onstage at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards

The company’s growth was steady in the years that followed Lamar’s blessing, running in tandem with the shifting sensibility where designer T-shirts hold the same importance as tailored suits, and hype-driven sneakers have become as covetable as a pair of Gucci loafers or Saint Laurent Chelsea boots. This shift in both perceived and actual value of “lesser” garments is due, in part, to Villaseñor’s presenting tees, shorts and track pants as high-fashion items worthy of a greater cost.

Fans of Rhude don’t mind paying that elevated cost, either. Actors, athletes, musicians and many others count Rhude as a favorite brand. NBA players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, P.J. Tucker, Ben Simmons and Kelly Oubre Jr. are often seen in Villaseñor’s designs. Actor Michael B. Jordan is also a fan, often seen in Rhude’s grail-worthy graphic tees. Racing driver Lewis Hamilton wears Rhude tees and shorts seemingly every time he isn’t winning Formula One championships. Moreover, musicians sport Rhude just as often as athletes: The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Adam Levine, Meek Mill, Migos and A$AP Rocky are all continued supporters.

In addition to his famous fans, Villaseñor has also been touted by fashion gatekeepers. He was recently named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and the Soho House 27 Under 27 roster. He personally boasts nearly 100,000 Instagram followers and his label has even more. Villaseñor is a fixture at the best parties, travels extravagantly and generally keeps high-profile company.

The Rhude brand’s ascension in fashion also hinges upon its ability to innovate. Villaseñor’s introduction of the Traxedo, elevated track pants that blur the line between traditional tuxedo pants and luxury athletic shorts, and his reimagining of iconic logos like Honda Racing and Marlboro have altered the perception of dated, decades-old fashion tropes.

In 2017, Villaseñor dove into another thriving industry: designing tour merch. Rhude produced an entire collection for the Atlanta-based rapper Future for his WZRD tour and supporting documentary. The brand has also partnered on a sneaker collaboration with Puma. A joint release with Vans is in the works too.

Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off White and the men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton, recently said that Villaseñor is the future of fashion. Given the popularity of Rhude and its growth, Abloh isn’t speaking out of turn. Villaseñor and Rhude are in exceptionally high demand.

Though he was once mocked for his style, the only one laughing now is Villaseñor. All the way to the bank.

Categories
Sports Strength

How UpUpDownDown Is Revolutionizing WWE Programming

In the past decade, gaming has become the fastest-growing category in media. It’s also emerged as a burgeoning market in terms of audience—global esports revenues are projected to reach $1.1 billion by the end of 2019. Mediums such as Twitch and YouTube are generating massive viewership numbers, and through those channels the world of gaming and esports is growing.

World Wrestling Entertainment would not seem like the ideal gaming space, but it has found a niche market with WWE Superstar Xavier Woods (who has also wrestled under the name Austin Creed) and his gaming channel, UpUpDownDown. Known as an avid gamer, Woods started UUDD with the WWE in 2015.

Woods uses his Austin Creed alias for the gaming channel. Though he goes by a different name in the squared circle, his wrestling personality isn’t too different from his gaming personality. Woods is a member of the trio the New Day, a rollicking group that features WWE champion Kofi Kingston and Big E.

The group has become a favorite of WWE fans with their high jinks. Whether they’re tossing pancakes into the crowd, competing in rap battles or singing, the New Day has found a way to connect with WWE fans in a unique way. The ability to generate new ideas every week on television has spilled over to Woods’s YouTube channel.

The show posts new episodes nearly daily and features various forms of video content. A popular franchise on the channel is Superstar Savepoint. For that series, Woods has a WWE Superstar join him and play one of their favorite games while he takes on the role of interviewer, asking questions ranging from how they grew up playing video games to what road life is like for a WWE Superstar. Guests have included Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and Stephanie McMahon.

The channel has been a success for Woods and the WWE. Woods made the Guinness Book of World Records for the most subscribed to celebrity video gaming channel. UUDD has 1.87 million subscribers on YouTube, 568,000 followers on Instagram and 157,000 followers on Twitter. Woods has proved there’s a massive crossover audience for what he’s doing.

The success of the channel—and the demand for more programming from it—has spawned several other formatted shows under the UUDD umbrella. Wrestlers compete against one another in tournaments for bragging rights. They also battle in games like Mortal Kombat over a UUDD championship that is defended 24/7. Think of the old WWF Hardcore Championship in the early 2000s that was defended everywhere. WWE champion and stablemate Kofi Kingston also has a show where he reviews sneakers.

The show has connected across different demographics. Gamers who have no interest in wrestling can connect with Woods’sebullience for gaming, even if they don’t care about the title he’s playing. Also, Woods’s presence has broken the stereotype of the YouTube gamer as white and unathletic. Woods is able to connect gaming with wrestling in a unique way that could connect a viewer who might not have any interest in wrestling. That viewer might be interested in gaming, esports or just some riffing about the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

The show shines a different light on wrestlers. WWE Superstars show what they’re like when the mask of their gimmick or on-air personality is off. Some examples include how A.J. Styles became a gaming historian due to his parents’ incredible vintage game collection and how former Superstars Edge and Christian physically fought over a game of NHL 95.

The world of wrestling can feel imaginary at times. Superstars with planet-sized egos and personalities reign supreme. The more outlandish the personality, the more interesting the character. A chance to hear those wrestlers in a more stripped-down setting without all of the pyrotechnics and stadiums filled with screaming fans is an interesting concept that hasn’t really been explored in the way that Woods’s channel does.

The WWE has had a successful run in programming with the WWE Network. The network had 1.58 million subscribers as of the first quarter of 2019. A show like UUDD penetrates a different market with a different audience. Besides the fact that the host of the show is a WWE Superstar and a high percentage of the guests are WWE personnel, it’s like any other YouTube show that follows the basic format of a host interviewing a guest.

That opens up an opportunity for the WWE to reach an audience that might not consume wrestling either by choice or by proxy. Sports like basketball have found ways of reaching casual consumers through developing the off-court brands of players. It only makes sense for the WWE to continue down this path with other shows considering how successful UUDD has been for Woods. 

Recently, ONE37pm covered rising stars Orange Cassidy and Kofi Kingston.

Categories
Culture Music

#TheUnknownHustle: Nipsey Hussle

The outpouring of sorrow that continues to follow Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom’s senseless murder is an important reminder: Even though death comes all the time, nothing can prepare anyone for the messiness of grief. Gunned down in front of his strip mall, his demise is particularly hard to process given how untimely and tragic it is.

March 31 marks the death of a man who was not only a rap legend but also an activist, entrepreneur and community leader who dedicated his life to cultivating the spiritual and economic wealth of his L.A. neighborhood, Crenshaw. As hundreds gathered in front of his store, The Marathon Clothing, for a vigil—a sea of novena candles, graffiti tributes and makeshift altars—the city of Los Angeles mourned deeply. Thousands more attended his memorial service at the Staples Center, reminding us once again that Hussle wouldn’t just be missed. He’d be celebrated for the hero he is. 

Getty Images / David McNew
Getty Images / David McNew

Most knew Hussle for his music. Forceful and vivid, his Grammy-nominated album, Victory Lap, does important work, retracing gangland narratives into empowering tales. When Hussle raps about his dogged journey from gang life to entrepreneurial prosperity, he isn’t just flexing his success. Hussle never wanted praise. He always had a larger plan, and part of it was to inspire his listeners to pursue their own dreams against all odds. But Hussle’s ambitions extend further than the sum of his mixtapes and inspiring stories. Observing the stark, shocking transitions of historically black and Latino neighborhoods like Inglewood and Echo Park from afar, Hussle wasn’t about to let South Central L.A. suffer a similar fate.

Improving his community’s accessibility to resources absent in most South Central neighborhoods was always a hallmark of Hussle’s vision. Injecting much of his wealth back into Crenshaw, he founded several businesses dedicated to fostering black entrepreneurship and creating educational opportunities like Vector90, described as “a ’hood version of WeWork…with an emphasis in STEM for young people of color.” According to Complex, his other ventures, estimated to support more than 40,000 jobs, included a Fatburger partnership, Steve’s Barber Shop, Elite Human Hair and the World on Wheels skating rink. 

The corner of Crenshaw and Slauson, now renamed Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom Square in his honor, is complicated because it represents opposite spectrums of South Central, its future and present: a glimmering solution to decades of poverty and longstanding cycles of street brutality. Some have tried to use his death as rhetorical octane against gang violence, but this essentializing crusade completely misreads his death.

What Hussle aimed to do was teach others how to publicly claim their identity—to feel pride in their roots and use them in legitimate arenas of business. In a bid to lessen the black-white wealth gap, Hussle invested in local businesses, helping to keep the flow of cash in local currents. Keeping this wealth within the black ecosystem was tantamount to his strategy, and it is why his investments were rarely targeted towards business outside of his hometown.

Hussle wasn’t interested in crafting a persona and perceived authenticity to sell records or promote his new businesses. At this core, he was just Ermias, another boy from the neighborhood, wanting to lift his community up. Let us remember Hussle for everything—his music, his hustle, his energy—but perhaps let us remember him most for his endless compassion and sense of duty to others.

Categories
Style What To Buy

5 Dope Things to Make You Feel Cool This Week

Welcome to ONE37pm and Team Gary Vee’s roundup of the coolest things that exist for purchase on the internet this week. We’re breaking down the latest and greatest drops, examining the farthest dusty holes of the web and excavating our press email–laden inboxes to highlight only the best.

This week, our editors and members of Team Gary Vee have uncovered some surprising delights for summer, like the perfect unlined shorts and a watch made of weapons. Enjoy.

Triwa Humanium Metal Watches
Triwa

The Triwa Humanium metal watches are made of melted weapons that have been used in serious crime. The minimalistic and sleek approach to each watch makes them mesmerizing and the deeper meaning behind each piece reminds us of how grateful we are to live in a place where we don’t have to worry about war in the near future.—May, Team Gary Vee

Buy Now, $299
https://www.triwa.com/us/page/triwa-x-humanium-metal/
Allbirds Wool Runners
Allbirds

I came to a point where I was super unhappy with my Nike shoes. They were overpriced and not that comfortable, so I went on a hunt to find comfortable shoes. I found Allbirds, which are made of sustainable material (wool) and extremely comfortable! I’ve been wearing them for a few months now, and it feels like I’m walking on clouds. The environmental aspect is a huge plus, as well.—Brian, Team Gary Vee

Buy Now, $95
https://www.allbirds.com/products/mens-wool-runners
Rhone 6″ Fletcher Trunk
Rhone

Rhone has been working on these shorts for a while, and if you’re a Rhone fan, you understand the brand’s attention to detail and performance-based fabrics. I’m into the navy and the blue-patterned options.—Madison, Style Editor

Buy Now, $88
https://www.rhone.com/products/6-fletcher-trunk?variant=20760641372263
Theragun G3PRO Percussive Therapy Device
Amazon

Full disclosure: I do not own a Theragun G3PRO Percussive Therapy Device. I’ve never even tried one. I have no idea if it works, but each day I spend sitting at a desk for eight hours brings me closer to dropping $600 so I can pummel my back muscles into pudding. I’ve Googled this thing so many times it’s just about the only ad I see on Instagram now and the people in those videos really seem to like them, which fills me with a jealous rage. —Ryan, Editor

Buy Now, $599
https://www.amazon.com/G3PRO-Percussive-Professional-Stimulator-Performance/dp/B07MJ2MCT3/ref=sr_1_1_sspa
SMITCO Exfoliating Gloves
Amazon

I was very confused when these appeared in my shower, only to find out that my significant other cares about exfoliation as much as I do. And let me tell you, these mitts are a godsend. Slip them over your paws and soap up like usual to reveal baby-soft skin. Just don’t go overboard with the body buffing.—Madison, Style Editor

Buy Now, $13
https://www.amazon.com/SmitCo-LLC-Exfoliating-Gloves-Exfoliation/dp/B00G0U2BUG/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=exfoliating+glove&qid=1562010882&s=gateway&sr=8-4
Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Beyoncé’s Netflix Documentary ‘Homecoming’ Reminds the World of the Importance of HBCUs

Oprah Winfrey. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jerry Rice. Spike Lee. Samuel L. Jackson. These influential people have all attended historically black colleges and universities and have gone on to become superstars in their respective fields. As a spring 2013 graduate of Norfolk State University—an HBCU in Virginia—I felt energized watching Beyoncé bring HBCU culture to the mainstream through her concert film, Homecoming, which documents her legendary 2018 Coachella performance.

Revisiting that jaw-dropping performance gave me a deeper appreciation of the spellbinding lifestyle that is a cornerstone for so many black creatives. At a time when people’s acceptance into Ivy League schools is paraded online, Beyoncé became the face and voice of the proud HBCU attendees who need to remind America that this culture must be protected at all costs. Homecoming also opened the door for the next generation of gatekeepers and cultural tastemakers.

For many, Homecoming is an introduction to the traditions, energy and details of HBCU life. Wanting to relive her childhood memories of attending the Battle of the Band competitions that took place at Prairie View A&M University near her hometown of Houston, Texas, Beyoncé recruited a large ensemble of musicians and dancers from marching bands at Southern HBCUs.

The Battle of the Bands events that occur primarily in the Deep South are not your typical marching-band face-offs. They have a unique energy, and spectators get to fall in love all over again with the music they grew up listening to. Each band gives the people a show worth their money with performances full of personality, swagger and soul. While the competitions are often judged by experts, many feel that the real judges are the fans in the stands.

Looking for a break from studies? Need something to look forward to on a weekday? Then the student activity building is the place to be on Thursdays and Fridays. During my years at NSU, the Student Government Association hired a DJ to create a party atmosphere. It was the perfect opportunity to dance away stress and for the fraternities and sororities to showcase their signature dance moves known as “strolls.” But the icing on the cake of an HBCU campus experience is homecoming, which is the cultural moment Beyoncé pays the most attention to.

Homecoming typically kicks off on a Friday. When I was at NSU, the first sign of homecoming was when the student activity hour was flooded with not only students but also alums dressed to impress while scoping the energy of the campus. Food trucks would show up, and carnival companies would set up inflatable obstacle courses for the local children who came to enjoy the scene with their parents. Special dance competitions were held, and party promoters got the word out about events happening that evening. Unauthorized beverages circulated, #squadgoals photos were snapped and everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather as the DJ created a nostalgic vibe through his music selections.

From football games to huge tailgating parties hosted by the Greek organizations, an HBCU homecoming is a celebration people look forward to, with alumni coming back year after year.

Above all else, Beyoncé’s Homecoming brings this kind of experience in front of a global audience via Netflix. Beychella was a once-in-a-lifetime event that many of the people involved with the show will cherish forever. Just ask Alex Blake and Jamal Josef, two of the show’s performers.

Prior to joining Beyoncé at Coachella, they both accomplished some major feats in their young lives. Blake was part of a traveling production called DrumLine Live, a show that features an ensemble of 40 to 45 musicians dressed in HBCU marching band uniforms to put on a “halftime show” in the HBCU tradition, with music ranging from swing, gospel and jazz to funk, R&B and hip-hop. Meanwhile, Josef has worked on many great projects such as LeBron: The Musical, Saturday Night Live and season one of NBC’s World of Dance.

“The people are the ones who make the experience. I’ve been performing since I was a kid and I’ve done it at big competitions”. The Brooklyn bred drum major went on and said, “I even actually did Coachella the year before.” 

Josef, a graduate of Voorhees College, brought some of his Greek flair to the performance, adding some of the moves and steps he perfected as an Alpha Phi Alpha brother. Wanting to be in tune with the kind of stepping associated with the “Divine Nine”—a nickname for the national black Greek organizations—he collaborated with fraternity brother Joe Brown to create a routine of dance moves for Beyoncé to perform. 

Jamal Josef

Greek organizations aren’t allowed to wear letters while doing stuff like Coachella or being in movies such as Stomp the Yard. We tried to keep the step moves authentic without taking too much from the actual Greek traditions.

What Beyoncé reveals about the black experience and HBCU culture made me feel proud to be an alumnus of an HBCU institution. It reminded me of the superb job my school did educating me and teaching me life lessons that will help me reach success at every stage of my career. Her exhibition of determination, resilience and strength are among the reasons she is considered an icon of this generation. But her revealing how the world needs to protect HBCUs is a living testament of the prize we won. That ultimate prize is knowing in your mind that you are the walking embodiment of greatness because you are surrounded by it.

I’m thankful for the experience of attending an HBCU and witnessing so many extraordinary creatives grind it out to get to the top. Beyoncé herself is proof that my theory of foreseeing success in life is an accurate one, and the theory is that there’s “beauty in the struggle.” If you trust your process and trust your journey, then you will reap the benefits one day.

Beyoncé and her talented musicians demonstrated this to everyone, while reminding the future of black creators that they must continue to live out what actress Danai Gurira says in a sound bite featured in the documentary:

“The youth need to see greatness reflected in our eyes. Go forth! Let them know it’s real.”

Let us march on until victory is won.




Categories
Sports Strength

What Is WWE’s Programming Strategy for Its Women’s Division?

With barely detectable social media promotion and almost no advertisement whatsoever, an all-women’s wrestling episode suddenly appeared on the WWE Network under the banner of their “Worlds Collide” special event designation on April 24. Despite featuring unique and fresh matchups from WWE’s main roster undercard and their NXT and NXT UK brands, it would have been easy for this masterful showcase to get lost in the shuffle. WWE’s women’s division is by far the strongest it’s ever been in the history of the company, but a more casual fan might not know it considering the limited amount of talent regularly featured on the main roster programs, RAW and Smackdown Live. This begs the question: what, if anything, does WWE have planned for the women’s division in the future?

What seems obvious is that by and large, WWE has followed through on its promise of elevating the women’s division from its degraded status as softcore porn in the late ’90s and early ’00s into a legitimate sort of sub-brand with a bevy of lovable personalities and international prestige. With the immense star power of Ronda Rousey catalyzing further investment into the women’s division and the relative success of this year’s Wrestlemania main event, the question simply isn’t whether or not women’s wrestling will be taken seriously anymore.

With that in mind, the “Worlds Collide” episode provides an interesting case study for what’s happening in the company. In this single hour-long episode, performers representing a handful of nations (including China, Japan, Australia, and the UK) were given a relatively small platform to shine in front of a bizarrely unenthusiastic audience. The show also featured women of various sizes and the company’s only out LGBTQ performer—meaning that even if the crowd wasn’t into the excellent show, this single episode is statistically more diverse than most programs on mainstream television.

Much has been said about the WWE “testing the waters” with new programming, especially with regards to women. But why wasn’t more work put into showing off these athletes? Why were announcements about this episode almost undetectable on other programs or on social media? Why do women who aren’t white, thin, and usually blonde mostly only appear in the undercard?

Anecdotally, I’ve frequently noticed that friends who are not into wrestling at all are surprised to learn that women’s wrestling exists—most people aren’t even aware that the company has moved on from the bra-and-panties matches of yore. If WWE wanted to, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to court new media in the realms of women’s fashion, culture, and style magazines by touting their immensely empowering lineup of talent. But the company’s vision of crossover success seems quite limited, if not totally myopic. 

While more hardcore fans have bemoaned the ways that Stephanie McMahon has publicized almost every recent success as a “historic” moment from within the wrestling industry, perhaps WWE would do better to look outside their own world for bigger collaborations—with young designers, influential fashion outlets, emerging artists, edgy makeup brands, social media influencers and LGBTQ content creators. It’s quite obvious at this point that diversity sells and those female protagonists are both profitable and well-received by American audiences and critics alike, so it seems like a glaring missed opportunity for the WWE to continually limit the success of their women through their small-minded vision of what success even is. Similarly, their reluctance to feature intergender wrestling—despite this being a feature of notable indie shows and several much smaller-scale competing programs like Lucha Underground—seems increasingly short-sighted, even amidst rumored threats from sponsors who allegedly find the matter distasteful.

Could the low-profile of this recent women-only episode be yet another example of internal sabotaging or the glass cliff? Perhaps. But what seems patently evident is that WWE needs to pull the trigger on some kind women-only weekly show before the goodwill they created with their progressive push of women’s wrestling turns sour. They’ve certainly got the talent to do it. And although rumors suggest that the corporate higher-ups are more wary of women’s only programming with Rousey’s status in the company uncertain, it seems foolish of them to abandon a potentially invigorating market out of an abundance of caution.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

How Stan Lee and Marvel Impacted and Helped Shape the Culture of Hip-Hop

The lasting impact that Stan Lee, one of the creative geniuses behind Marvel Comics, has had on the world of entertainment truly is immeasurable. He created or co-created some of the most revered and iconic characters in pop culture history who have long surpassed the original expectations that Lee and his partners Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko could have ever imagined. Let’s rattle off just a few of them: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. He was also partly responsible for the reemergence of Captain America, “resurrecting” him in the 1960s following the character’s popularity during World War II.

The stories Lee helped craft not only spawned a fervent, extremely dedicated fan base but also spoke to the social issues of the time they were published; the X-Men as an allegory for marginalized peoples across the world and Black Panther becoming the first African American superhero in mainstream comics are just a few examples of Lee’s progressive mindset.

What you may not know about Lee and Marvel Comics is the enormous impact they’ve had on hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it. It shouldn’t be too surprising given that Lee’s stories and many hip-hop artists share the same attitude toward certain societal problems, particularly the struggles of the downtrodden. They may go about it in different manners—Lee through his storytelling, and hip-hop through its bars and lyrics—but the message is often the same. The X-Men fought prejudice and bigotry, and artists like Public Enemy followed suit, albeit by different means.

From the Wu-Tang Clan to MF Doom and beyond, hip-hop and comics found an intersection that few predicted and even fewer saw coming. Rappers found ways to inject the characters and mysticism of comics into their songs—some because they identified with the plot lines and stories, and others, well, simply because it sounded cool. Hip-hop and comics both served as an escape from and as a reflection of the issues of the day, and it is for perhaps this reason that they found such common ground.

Once Upon a Time in New York City

Marvel Comics and hip-hop share one quality above almost all else: They were birthed in New York City. The city serves as not just the birthplace but also the foundation for many of the stories across both mediums. Marvel, although founded as a different company, began publishing superhero comics in 1961 and—rather than use mostly fictional settings like its competitor DC Comics—set the majority of its stories in the Big Apple. Much like Marvel, hip-hop traces its birth to the NYC borough of the Bronx, evolving from a New York export into a worldwide phenomenon.

Much like the rappers who originated from NYC’s five boroughs, the superheroes of Marvel came from all across the city: Spider-Man and Nas from Queens, Captain America and the Notorious B.I.G. from Brooklyn, and Luke Cage and Cam’ron from Harlem.

There is no doubt that New York City, Marvel Comics and the culture of hip-hop will forever be interlinked. Even though both comics and hip-hop have long surpassed the city’s limits, we’ll always be able to trace their ancestry to the five boroughs.

Wu-Tang’s Strong Connection to Marvel

Staten Island’s finest, the Wu-Tang Clan, is a rap collective that has long associated itself with Marvel and comics culture. Each member of Wu-Tang incorporated the characters and monikers into their acts and it helped them flourish.

Ask any comics or hip-hop fan and you’d be hard-pressed to find one who hasn’t heard these lyrics:

“Terrorize the jam like troops in Pakistan/Swinging through your town like your neighborhood Spider-Man”

Inspectah Deck proclaims his affinity for the wall crawler and his catchphrase with this line in Wu-Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck” off their classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album. It is a line that is aggressive yet also strangely familiar, much like a superhero in the midst of a battle with his or her archenemy.

Ghostface Killah, one of the more prominent members of Wu, assumed the identity of “Tony Starks,” an homage to Iron Man. Not only does he use the moniker, but his debut album is also titled Ironman. The album includes the song “Slept on Tony,” which essentially serves as a tribute to the superhero, detailing the character’s origins of being kidnapped and constructing his first suit of armor and infusing that with traditional hip-hop braggadocio.

Ghostface even appears in deleted scenes for the 2008 film Iron Man, the movie that launched a multibillion-dollar film franchise: the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

MF Doom Brings the Chaos

Daniel Dumile, better known as MF Doom, took the idea of adopting a comic book character as a hip-hop moniker and truly ran with it.

After falling out of favor with the recording industry in the early 1990s, Dumile was living destitute on the streets of New York City and Atlanta, but he began appearing at open mic events across the Big Apple, eventually using a mask that closely resembled the mask of Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom. Much like the character, who was badly scarred in an accident and swore revenge, Dumile put on the mask and promised to make a career comeback. The mask would become his trademark, continually evolving and eventually taking on characteristics of Russell Crowe’s Gladiator mask as well.

His album Mm.. Food is chock-full of samples from early Marvel TV shows, including Spider-Man and The New Fantastic Four. Using the samples, MF Doom is not only paying homage to the comics but also using the journey of the character Doctor Doom as a reflection of his life.

The New Fantastic Four (1978)

One look at his feature-less face / One look was enough to ensure his safety / As years passed, he became even more bitter and angry / Burning with vengeance against the world

Both Marvel and hip-hop are flourishing in tandem well into 2019, with Avengers: Endgame causing astronomical hype and hip-hop music routinely topping the charts. It’s nice to see their history and successes intertwined at this moment in time. Stan Lee’s work will forever be linked with hip-hop, and at the end of the day, we are all the better for it.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

Nas and Ghostface Killah Told Us the One Word to Describe Wu-Tang Clan’s Legacy

The Beacon Theatre in New York City was the place to be on April 25 to witness nine of the greatest emcees to ever touch the mic reunite to show off their four-part docuseries, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, at the Tribeca Film Festival. ONE37pm’s Omari White attended the red carpet premiere and mingled with some of the Wu-Tang Clan members and other hip-hop stars to chop it up about the rap collective’s legacy.

Directed by Sacha Jenkins (who ONE37pm interviewed earlier this year), the docuseries highlights the legendary group’s struggle and grind to reach the top of hip-hop’s Mount Everest through intimate interviews marking the 25th anniversary of their Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album.

Nas
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Nas, one of the greatest rappers ever, is known for classics such as “If I Ruled the World,” “One Mic” and “Made You Look.”

What’s one word to describe the Wu-Tang Clan’s legacy and why?


Nas: Timeless. That’s just what it is. They are timeless.

Ghostface Killah
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Ghostface Killah’s raw style shines on Wu-Tang Clan classics but also on solo projects such as Ironman, Supreme Clientele and The Big Doe Rehab.

What’s one word to describe the Wu-Tang Clan’s legacy and why?

Ghostface Killah: It would have to be struggle. I chose it because it perfectly described what we did as a group. We struggled to get to this point and we still struggling to try to hold onto our bond with one another as we grow. Normally, groups don’t stay together for this long. People don’t understand that you have nine members in here. 25 years to try to keep this together and we just try to avoid being an episode of Unsung. Every time I watch it and they focus on groups, you noticed they break up because the managers tear into the groups. It’s been 25 years and we are still trying to hold on and it’s a fight. When you deal with nine different mentalities and they challenge how I think and what we should do, energies and perspectives tend to clash. So it’s a struggle but I appreciate going through it with these guys.

Raekwon
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images
Raekwon helped popularize Cristal with his solo debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, from 1995.

If you had to describe yourself as a DC or Marvel character, who would it be and why?

Raekwon: It would have to be Batman. I’m on these dudes man. You can’t get away. I feel that I run the city. It’s funny you asked that because I look at it like that. I got some newjackers that’s coming out that’s going to be on my new website. Make sure you look out for them on RaekwonDaChef.com. You going to get your Batman suit. (laughs)

What Wu-Tang song do you feel perfectly describes your career?

Raekwon: It would definitely have to be “C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me).” That one was written from the heart. That one meant everything to me. I was believing where I was going, which was greatness. So it had to be that record.

Dave East
Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage
Harlem-bred rapper Dave East was inspired by Method Man from Wu-Tang Clan.

What Wu-Tang song do you feel perfectly describes your career?

Dave East: Oh, it has to be “Bring The Pain” by Method Man. I came to bring it. I have no plans of slowing up. I’m planning to keep pushing the culture so I’m heard to bring the pain.

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men premieres May 10 on Showtime. Tune in to witness the greats give their epic testimonies on their beautiful struggle to become hip-hop’s greatest group of all time.

Categories
Culture Movies/TV

This Teacher’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Warning Note to Students Goes Viral

It is no surprise that the hype around Avengers: Endgame, the decade-long culmination of Disney and Marvel Studios’ multibillion-dollar franchise, is reaching epic proportions—and box office numbers too. Having already outpaced Star Wars’ opening day record in less than 24 hours, the international juggernaut has already attracted an unprecedented number of moviegoers and is projected to rake in up to $800 million dollars globally by the end of the week.

Fans have been trying to avoid spoilers at all cost and rightfully so. We can all agree that spoilers are objectively awful. After 11 years of investing our emotional wells into the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man debuted in 2008, the last thing we want is to be the victim of a loudmouth.

The first rule of spoilers is that you don’t talk about spoilers to the superfans. At least that’s what this one uber-passionate teacher threatened.  In a viral Twitter post, @kamiilious shared her teacher’s hilarious plea to his students, asking them to not discuss anything about Endgame near his classroom “UNTIL THIS SIGN COMES DOWN.” You know how much I love Marvel Comics.” In an act of unimaginable patience, he is waiting until next Wednesday to watch the film.

All we can say is “Good luck, teach!”  

Related: 7 Wild ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Predictions and Theories

Related: You Need to See These Marvel Memes ASAP

Related: ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Lego Toys May Have Spoiled These 3 Things