Culture Movies/TV

‘The Many Saints of Newark’ Is a Welcome Addition to ‘The Sopranos’ Legacy

Those looking for a Tony Soprano origin story might be a tad bit disappointed in The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel film to the legendary HBO series The Sopranos. However, what they get in return is something more; whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to the viewer.

Set many years before Tony Soprano takes his first on-screen bite of gabagool, The Many Saints of Newark provides a glimpse, albeit tiny, into the legendary and monstrous mob boss’s early days.

Per Warner Brothers:

“Young Anthony Soprano is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark‘s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities—and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.”

The Many Saints of Newark is a welcome return to familiar territory for fans of the show. Besides Tony Soprano—played by the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael—plenty of characters from The Sopranos reappear here, including Tony’s mother Livia (Vera Farmiga), his uncle Junior (Corey Stolz), as well as his loyal fellow mobsters, Silvio Dante (John Magaro), and Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen).

It introduces characters such as Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and Tony’s father, Johnny Boy (Jon Bernthal), who are only mentioned on the show as they are long since deceased by the time The Sopranos takes place.

While Tony and the other characters from the show are present, they appear merely in a supporting role, with Nivola’s Dickie taking center stage as the protagonist of this story.

It is a smart move by series creator David Chase, as the focus is on expanding this universe and not keeping it constrained to what has already happened.

By helping clear up the mystery that surrounds Dickie Moltisanti, it also contributes to the growth and character development of his son Christopher, a supporting character of The Sopranos. Christopher is burdened by the legend of Dickie, and it is here that we get to see it explored.

This also helps the movie strengthen the foundations and themes of The Sopranos, which is considered one of, if not the greatest TV show of all time.

Warner Brothers/HBO

Many of the themes of The Sopranos are present throughout the film as well.

What does it mean to live up to the idea of one’s father? Do we carry the same sins as them? Or are we free to live as who we choose to be?

Given that Tony’s father was in prison for much of his formative years, Dickie takes the mantle of Tony’s mentor instead and, given that Dickie knows no other life, does not do much to steer Tony away from this “thing of ours.” Tony wants to go to college, play football (although I never thought he had the makings of a varsity athlete), and try to avoid the criminal lifestyle.

And although we know where things lead for him, it’s obvious that, at least at first, he does not want to follow in Dickie and his father’s footsteps.

This idea of legacy feeds into one of the other core tenets of the show and fuels the central conflict: Pride, and more specifically, how that sin contributes to one’s downfall.

Many characters on the show and in the film are embodiments of pride and toxic masculinity, most notably Uncle Junior, who, without spoiling anything, bears a growing resentment towards Dickie for a perceived and trivial slight. No man in this world of mobsters can be seen as weak, and if they make that mistake, it can ruin them.

Warner Brothers/HBO

The Many Saints of Newark uses a city in turmoil as the landscape for the story it tells. It begins in 1966, right as Newark is embroiled in one of the worst race riots in the country’s history, caused by the unjust arrest and beating of John William Smith, a black cab driver, by the Newark police department.

Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.) begins the film as Dickie’s runner and employee of sorts but gradually grows to become his enemy as Harold yearns to start a criminal empire of his own. As a black man, Harold’s partnership with Dickie does not sit well with the mafia, who still harbor racist attitudes towards Newark’s black population. 

It is here where the film falls short, though. Harold longs to become the king of the Newark criminal underworld as the mob is pushed out, but it’s never explored more than that. His character serves as little more than a foil for Dickie and his personal life, and by the time the movie ends, you find yourself wondering why this plotline exists in the first place.

The film’s runtime clocks in at around two hours, but it is in this case where it could have used an extra 20 or so minutes to dive a little further into the motivations of Harold and his crew.

Warner Brothers/HBO

It is the performances of The Many Saints of Newark that carry the film. Vera Farmiga, Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., and Michael Gandolfini are all fantastic in their roles, with Farmiga perhaps being the best of all of them.

From her voice to her mannerisms and attitude and almost hatred for her children, she nails everything about who Livia Soprano was.

Gandolfini had the most challenging task, who, much like his on-screen character, had to live up to the legacy his father left behind. He is more than up to it, though. Tony is angry; he is rebellious but intelligent and a leader, something that Michael can embody just like his father did.

He won’t be visiting Dr. Melfi for many years, so Tony is forced to struggle with his issues and deal with a world that tells him that his mental health is not a priority.

Warner Brothers/HBO

Fans of The Sopranos, myself among them, will certainly enjoy The Many Saints of Newark. There are easter eggs throughout including, of course, a backroom meeting at Satriale’s but they don’t weigh down the story with simple fan service. They are simply the cherry on top of a story that exists all on its own.

By the time the show’s theme song hits (which gave me goosebumps), you might think “does this movie need to exist?” Maybe not, but you definitely won’t be mad that it does.

Culture Movies/TV

Everything You Need to Know About Robert Pattinson’s ‘The Batman’

With Matt Reeves’ interpretation of the famous Batman character only six months away, The Batman will include a version of the character we have never seen on the big screen before. Here I will give you a few things you will want to know not only before the movie, which releases March 4th, 2022, but the first official trailer, which releases in just under four weeks at DC Fan Dome on October 16th. 

The most important thing to note is the tone of this movie. The film’s director, Matt Reeves, constantly talks about the state of mind that Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) will have through this film and the torment that the villain, The Riddler (played by Paul Dano), will put him through. Not only will this movie dive into the psychological aspects of what makes Bruce Wayne Batman, but it will also tackle the identity crisis Bruce goes through while having to be two completely different people. 

hoping that since Reeves is taking inspiration from the Batman: The Long Halloween comic, this movie will primarily take a detective route. It promises to show a closer relationship with Jim Gordon (played by Jeffrey Wright), which is mainly the reason for the more grounded villain choice. Early screeners are calling this movie “dark, scary, and like a horror movie.” The film is also being said to be super graphic, but Batman still doesn’t kill.

Early Screeners Breakdown

Though The Long Halloween is one of the comics that inspired this movie, the primary source material is Batman: Year One

This comic dives deep into the corruption within Gotham and how Batman faces an uphill battle against politicians and high-level citizens. We have never had a Batman on the big screen who faces such grounded issues while keeping the detective tones and being brutal without killing, so this iteration is going to be one like never before.

​​“I felt that we’ve seen lots of origin stories. It seems things go further and further into fantasy, and I thought, well, one place we haven’t been is grounding it in the way that Year One does, to come right into a young Batman, not being an origin tale, but referring to his origins and shaking him to his core,” Reeves said at DC Fan Dome.

Another super exciting thing about this movie is that these characters won’t just be here for one movie. From insiders, we know that they are planning a Batman 2 and 3, and Warner Brothers have already greenlit two spin-off shows within this world of Gotham, showing the fans that they have a lot of faith in this project they are committing to it for the long run. 

The first spin-off show is a GCPD show. Commissioner Jim Gordon leads the Gotham City Police Department, and in these movies and shows, he is played by Jeffrey Wright. From what we can see in the first teaser trailer the Batman and Jim Gordon have a very close relationship which hints even more towards the fact that this universe will be super grounded. Commissioner Gordon also has a daughter named Barbara, aka Batgirl, who will be getting her own movie on HBO Max, and Leslie Grace will play the hero.

“Gotham is a character in a way we haven’t seen before,” Pattinson said. 

The second show that was just recently reported to be greenlit is a show following the Penguin. Colin Farrell plays the Penguin, but he only has 4-6 scenes in The Batman, according to the actor. This information has led many fans to speculate that he will be the main villain in the 2nd or 3rd movie, and his character will be fleshed out in his show. All of these spin-off shows will be going directly to HBOMax.

A Look at the Spinoffs

Though I mentioned this slightly before, the cast for this movie is also absolutely insane. Robert Pattinson is making his return to Hollywood in the leading role of Batman. The cast also includes Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jeffrey Wright is playing Commissioner Jim Gordon, Colin Farrell as Penguin, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth, and the list goes on.

The Batman 2022 is set up for greatness, and the first official trailer will be coming out October 16th at DC Fan Dome, along with a teaser trailer for Black Adam, The Flash, and a sizzle reel for Shazam 2 and Aquaman 2

Culture Music

Certified Lover Boy Makes Its Way To TikTok

We’ve got another round of viral TikTok challenges coming in your direction because as you all know, TikTok never ever ever stops. There’s been plenty of action in the entertainment and music world over the past few weeks, and now the trends are finally starting to catch on. Some are obvious, while others you probably didn’t see coming at all. You know we love fun surprises, and we also love TikTok challenges this time of the year because we’re forced to tap into our creative sides since outside is…dark early and cold. We’ve still got a few more weeks before that starts happening, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to sharpen on our skills. Let’s see what’s poppin.

1. “Way 2 Sexy” – Drake

Think back to the night Certified Lover Boy was released. You said you weren’t going to like this song. You also said it wouldn’t get stuck in your head. You were wrong, and you were in denial about just how catchy this track is. This isn’t the only CLB song that’s doing well on both the Billboard Hot 100 and TikTok, but it is arguably the most impactful. Whether you want to create a dance routine or lip synch the lyrics, you’ll come out of this challenge ten times sexier. 

2. “You Are Enough” – Sleeping At Last

Let’s take a minute to rewind back to 2014, the era of feel good songs and believing “every little thing was gonna be alright.” This was a fun time in the music industry (think early Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, etc), and Sleeping At Last’s single “You Are Enough” was a positive affirmation that we are indeed enough. Life is about appreciating the small things and cherishing the moments with your loved ones. In this challenge, TikTok users are embracing this song as a way to share their love for people in their lives.

3. “Girls Want Girls”- Drake

We told you guys earlier that Champagne Papi wasn’t letting his grip off the music industry with Certified Lover Boy, and his “Girls Want Girls’ ‘collaboration with Lil Baby has created yet another challenge on the app. This track has emerged as part of a trend in which users focus on the lyrics, “I don’t know.” No pun intended, but we don’t exactly know what to do during that exact part of the song as it appears to be freestyled. It seems like it’s up to the individual creator, so we’ll let you make the call on that one.

4. “Vacation Bible School”- Ayesha Erotica

According to YouTube, this song first appeared on the internet sometime towards the end of 2018. Three years later it’s making a comeback, and now the song is being used across a variety of content genres on TikTok. There are no rules to this challenge, you create the rules.

That’s it for this week. Be sure to tune in next week for another update in what’s going on in the world of TikTok.

Culture News

Everything You Need to Know From Apple’s 2021 September Event

Content was center stage during Apple’s 2021 September Event. Drone shot after drone shot, camera improvement after camera improvement, it’s pretty clear Apple wants to keep their audience engaged during every second of the presentation. While there were a lot of medium and minor updates announced during today’s event, there are still some exciting updates that I’m pumped about. But, if you want a slightly more in-depth recap of the event with more focus on the specs, check out this Twitter thread below.

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ will continue to expand its award-winning programming as it looks to launch more original content. 

Apple original series, films, and documentaries have now been honored with more than 130 wins and over 500 nominations in less than two years. This year, Apple TV+ racked up 35 Primetime Emmy nominations, including 20 for the hit series Ted Lasso, a record for the first season of a comedy series. That’s great news for Jason Sudeikis since it’s rumored that he will make about $1 Million per episode for season 3.

iPad/iPad Mini

iPad: $329

iPad Mini: $499

Apple’s iPad business has grown by 40% over the past year and the tech giant has taken notice. Both iPads come refreshed with better processors and fancier 12MP Ultrawide cameras with Center Stage. Center Stage “uses machine learning to adjust the front-facing Ultra-Wide camera during FaceTime (and other video conferencing apps) video calls.” Allowing you to walk around freely while your camera tracks your motion, keeping you in the center of the frame. With this most recent update, the iPad Air is now the only iPad that lacks these features.

The iPad Mini is where we see the most significant redesign this year with its stunning 8.3-inch retina display and thin bezels. Built with a USB-C port, the mini looks like it might become your new daily carry. The only caveat is that the mini has a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz while the current iPad pro can refresh up to 120 Hz (very crucial for gamers and designers), but other than the mini is looking pretty good.


Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7: $399

Keeping its same shape and slightly bigger screen, the Apple Watch Series 7 will continue to focus more on an individual’s health—more specifically, their safety. Oddly enough, most of the new features they showcased are only applicable for individuals who enjoy bike riding. WatchOS 8 will detect when people begin riding, remind you to start your workout, and automatically pause and resume if you stop temporarily. Additionally, watchOS 8 has fall detection for cycling that will sense the unique motion and impact of falls while riding a bike.

Besides software, the look and feel of the Apple Watch have been modified. The screen now curves and flows over the edges right up to the metal body, something Apple was very keen on pointing out. I’m interested to see how this looks in person as I am not sure how to feel about it yet.


Apple Fitness+

Armed with a dense library of content, Apple TV+ aims to fill your workout needs with foundational and seasonal workouts. Whether you have 5 or 45 minutes of time, break out in a sweat with over 1200 workouts led by the Fitness+ Trainer Team. Train by yourself or join a group workout with your friends, but don’t expect any competition!

iPhone 13/iPhone 13 Mini

iPhone 13 Mini: $699

iPhone 13: $799

The iPhone 13/iPhone 13 Mini looks a lot like the iPhone 12 lineup but has two worthy upgrades worth mentioning. The display is much brighter, and the infamous notch has decreased by 20%, leaving you with more room at the top of the screen.

The new dual 12 MP camera layout and camera features might make you think twice about buying a new DSLR. Paired with the latest cinematic mode (available on all iPhone 13 models), users will be able to “rack focus” while recording, the first for any smartphone.

iPhone 13 Pro/iPhone 13 Pro Max

iPhone 13 Pro: $999

iPhone 13 Pro Max: $1099

Sitting at the top of the food chain, we have the iPhone 13 Pro series.

The new pro model delivers a better experience for gaming and creating with the help of ProMotion. ProMotion allows users to refresh their screen from as low as 10 Hz to as high as 120 Hz & is designed to respond dynamically to match your content (a real game-changer).

Additionally, the pro series comes with new telephoto, wide and ultra-wide lenses with the capability of taking macro photography. You can expect to capture shallower depths of field and better light in poorly lit environments, leading to better photos and videos.

Who should be excited?

Not iPhone 12 users. If you have the iPhone 12, there is no need for an upgrade. Looking and acting strikingly similar to the models in the past, this lineup of Apple products was a cute showing to keep the Apple audience engaged.

However, I am expecting to see this generation of content creators and consumers to jump all in. My best guess is that we will start to see the label “shot on iPhone” in more professional content in the future.

Culture Music

The 25 Most Memorable Performances at the MTV Video Music Awards

The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards will take place this Sunday, September 12, 2021, at 8:00 PM EDT, and to celebrate the occasion we thought it would be fun to revisit some of the most memorable performances in the history of the show. We’re not gonna lie, this article right here was a tough call with a lot of anxiety-driven questions. How many do we include? Is this list too 90s and 2000s heavy? What about the 1980s? Who did we leave off? Beyonce has six performances and every single one of them are all-timers, so should we bump the list up to 30 or perhaps 50?

Ultimately we wanted to give you a nostalgic blast from the past, and there are a lot of great performances that we feel haven’t always gotten the proper attention and recognition. Unfortunately we couldn’t include every single one, but here’s 25 to brighten your day.

25. Diddy, Usher, Ginuwine, Busta & Pharrell- 2002 VMAs

It’s hard to call the early 2000s the “peak” of Bad Boy’s success because they dominated during the 1990s and transitioned into the Dirty Money era as we hit the 2010s, but 2000 to 2002 was definitely a key moment. Diddy opened up the performance with his 2002 hit “Bad Boys For Life,” eventually bringing out Usher who busted out some of his classic moves for their 2001 single “I Need A Girl.” Ginuwine, Busta, and Pharrell then came out, bringing down the house as usual and turning the VMAs into a party.

24. TLC Crazy Sexy Cool Medley- 1995 VMAs

TLC is a one of the greatest groups of all time, and they showed that at the 1995 VMAs. Two singers, both of whom were very different from another in terms of singing style, and a dynamic rapper, that blended together beautifully. Showcasing hits from their 1994 album Crazy Sexy Cool, TLC put on a show from start to finish.

23. NSYNC Medley 2000

Sure we could do the reunion from 2013 which was great, but why that when NSYNC actually had VMA performances from their historic time together? The first performance on a major award show is always memorable, and the group performed their hit songs “This I Promise You,” “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and “It’s Gonna Be Me.” Blast from the past right?

The late, great, Whitney Houston made her mark on the VMAs in 1986 with a medley of her classics “How Will I Know” and “Greatest Love of All.” There weren’t very many artists that could captivate an audience like MTV with a slow ballad, but Whitney being the GOAT she was had the crowd glued to her every moment. Unless we’re wrong, the 1986 VMAs were the only time Whitney graced the stage to perform. She would continue to make appearances through the years, but only to present and hang out in the audience.

23. Green Day 2005 VMAs

September is the month of Green Day, so you know we had to include their “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” performance from 2005. If you are anything like us, you definitely had your “air guitar” out for this song and pretty much all the others on American Idiot, so we may have to bring it back one for time for this throwback.

This performance is special because it is TLC’s last VMA performance to date, and of course, the last with Left Eye. In case you forgot, TLC had a serious case for owning the entire year of 1999 with their massive hits “No Scrubs” and “Unpretty,” and the group took to the stage to perform the former. T-Boz and Chilli would return to the VMAs three years later for a special tribute to Left Eye four months after her passing.

21. Blink 182- 2000 VMAs

Did you put away your air guitar? If so, go on ahead and bring it back out because there isn’t a single soul that didn’t like this song (and if you didn’t then we need to have a word.) Hopefully one day when things are a bit safer than they are now, we can go back to having large crowds on stage for extra hype.

20. Missy Elliot- 2001 VMAs

So Missy Elliot’s 2019 Vanguard performance doesn’t qualify as a “throwback,” yet but her 2001 VMA performance definitely does. Missy brought out Ludacris, Nelly Furtado, and Trina for a special remix of “Get Your Freak On” and “One Minute Man,” while paying tribute to her fallen friend Aaliyah at the end.

19. Ludacris- 2002 VMAs

Move *car noise* get out the way. One of the most energetic/hype songs of all time deserved a performance spot at the VMAs, and Luda brought the intensity with his 2002 hit Move (Get Out The Way). The entire performance took place outside of Radio City Music Hall in front of a huge crowd. Wish we could have been there.

18. Beyoncé- 2003 VMAs

Get ready because Beyoncé is about to have quite a few entries on this list. The 2003 VMAs was the first time Beyoncé had ever performed at the show (Destiny’s Child included), and all eyes were on Queen Bey for her first performance. Beyoncé started the routine hanging upside down from the top of Radio City Music Hall, and performed smash hits “Baby Boy” and “Crazy In Love” from her debut album Dangerously In Love bringing out Jay-Z for the latter. What a start.

17. Prince- 1991 VMAs

Prince Rogers Nelson had MTV in an uproar with this one, but it’s completely their fault because expecting Prince to “behave” (especially during that time period) was a bit of a generous ask. There is a specific moment in this performance that had corporate VMA up in arms. You’ll have to watch to find out.

16. Usher- 2004 VMAs

2004 was the year of Usher Raymond. These are the undisputed facts. Nothing was stopping Confessions’ success on the charts, and Usher had spent the majority of the year making his award show rounds. Naturally the VMAs were on that list, and Usher (or Urrsher as Ludacris calls him) delivered yet another excellent performance. Major throwback for sure.

This is another rare gem from Ms. Jackson. Of course when it comes to Janet’s VMA appearances, many people automatically think of her 1993 performance (which we’ll get into a little later), or even her 2009 tribute to her brother Michael Jackson. This one, however, is up there with being some of Janet’s best ever. 

14. Beyoncé- Ring The Alarm 2006 VMAs

Beyoncé numero dos. You had to be there. The B’Day era was not to be played with, and Bey was on a mission with her sophomore effort to show that she was gonna be here for a long time. Can we just take a minute to appreciate that dance break though? Sheesh.

13. Mariah Carey 1991 VMAs

Mariah. Carey. If you want to watch a vocal masterpiece, then ladies and gentlemen…her (if you know you know).

12. Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule- 2001 VMAs

This is where the anxiety kicks in because now we are slowly getting down to our last few entries. Early 2000s JLO was a true experience. Jenny From The Block was the first entertainer to have a number one album and movie at the same time, and simply put—JLO was everywhere. You couldn’t escape the “I’m Real” remix. Couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing it, and you definitely couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing the video. JLO and Ja Rule joined forces to perform their smash hit in 2001.

11. Eminem- 2000 VMAs

Em’s going to always bring the creativity. How many different “Slim Shady’s” did Eminem have in this performance? It had to have been hundreds. Whatever the amount, Em started off outside Radio City Music Hall with his Slim Shady Look-a-likes for his 2000 hit “The Real Slim Shady,” then brought it indoors to perform his song “The Way I Am.”

10. Jay-Z and Kanye- 2011 VMAs

Classic Jay and Ye. Few things will ever top the magic of Watch The Throne, and boy does this bring back all the memories. It would have been nice if they could have added in “No Church In The Wild” too, but we digress.

9. Alicia Keys- 2001 VMAs

Who could ever forget this? Re-watch this performance and tell us it doesn’t give you goosebumps. Alicia stunned on the piano, brought out the choir, and had the crowd on their feet by the end of the performance. Nothing but pure talent.

8. Janet Jackson 1993 VMAs

This performance is iconic for many reasons: the hysteria of the Janet era, the fact that she performed in jeans and a crop top, and her willingness to bend the rules right until they were about to snap. Of note —Janet’s live renditions of her songs are just as good if not better than the studio versions, and the choreography was sick.

7. Michael Jackson- 1995 VMAs

This list wasn’t a ranking so there is no order. However, many still consider Michael Jackson’s 1995 VMA performance as one of, if not the most memorable in MTV history due to his role in really building music videos as a storytelling art form, and the fact that he had never performed on the show before (not even during the Thriller era). Michael made up for all those years of not showing up by performing a medley of his greatest hits leading up to that point.

6. Nirvana- Lithium

The network executives at MTV literally had to be sweating bullets during the 1990s. These artists pushed them to the edge with everything they had, but that’s part of what made the 90’s era so great. When you think of that specific time period in the world of MTV, Nirvana almost immediately comes to mind, and they delivered a classic at the 92 VMAs. Long live Kurt Cobain.

5. Madonna- 1984 VMAs

Speaking of people who probably made MTV’s heart race a little bit, Madonna had MTV scrambling for their life with her performance of “Like A Virgin.” The song itself was bit risque for the 1980s in terms of its outwardly bold nature, and Madonna took to the VMA stage where she rolled around in a wedding dress, and pushed the boundaries as far as she possibly could.

4. Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot- 2003 VMAs

Since we’re on the topic of Madonna, the Material Girl gave us one of the most iconic moments/performances in MTV history nearly 20 years after that 1984 showing where she took the stage with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Missy Elliot. In addition to the historic kiss she gave both Britney and Christina, it was the first time that Britney and Christina had ever appeared on stage together for a performance.

3. Britney Spears- 2001 VMAs

Britney shut it down, set it off, and all of the above. This was a performance. And the snake. The snake guys. The VMAs had never seen anything quite like that before, and we’re not sure if we will ever see anything like that again.

2. Puff Daddy, Sting, Faith Evans, 112- 1997 VMAs

Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy) performed a poignant tribute to his friend the late Biggie Small along with Sting, Fatih Evans and 112. Of course as you all know, Sting started his career as the lead singer of The Police, and their single “Every Breath You Take” (which was one of their biggest hits) was sampled by Diddy for “I’ll Be Missing You.”

Diddy started the performance bringing out Sting, with Faith Evans and 112 coming out mid-way through to combine both versions of the song. There wasn’t a single dry eye in the audience that night, and this remains one of the most powerful VMA performances that we’ve seen.

1. Beyoncé- 2011 VMAs

2011 is teetering on the edge when it comes to the “throwback” category, but we had to include this one (especially since we did Jay and Ye earlier). The legend that is Blue Ivy Carter made her unofficial television debut when mom Beyoncé revealed to the world at the end of the performance that she was pregnant. Beyoncé had already walked the red carpet showing off her bump, but since a lot of people don’t watch the red carpet show in its entirety (and social media wasn’t as prominent then), it was still a complete surprise to many. The second best part of this performance by far was Kanye hyping Jay-Z as Bey walked off the stage. 

We’ll that’s it for today. We could probably go all day with these throwbacks, but we hope you enjoyed this list. Be sure to watch the VMAs on Sunday, and while you are here, make you check out The landmark Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap box set if you haven’t already. The set includes 120 tracks, 9 cds, a 300 page book with 10 essays, extensive track-by-track liner notes, and never-before-published images. You can find out more about the box set here, and learn more about many of your favorite Hip-Hop artists and songs. Perfect for any music fan.

Culture Music

How Beyoncé’s B’Day Changed The Game

Tomorrow marks Beyoncé’s 40th birthday, and subsequently the 15th anniversary of her beloved album B’Day. Released September 1st, 2006, three days before her 25th birthday, the album remains a fan favorite and was a pivotal chapter in paving the way for a career that will eventually earn her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a feat she will see in her 40s). B’Day was also Beyoncé’s first venture into the realm of comprehensive visual projects (something we would see much more of in the years to come) and was accompanied by hit singles and groundbreaking performances. Today we revisit the history of B’Day, and how it set the stage for her following projects.

It all started in the spring of 2006, where Beyoncé was supposed to be taking a break. The then 24-year-old was coming off a busy 2005 where she’d spent the majority of the year touring with bandmates/best friends Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in what would be Destiny’s Child’s last world tour, while also spending the remaining few months of 2005 and early 2006 filming her role as Deena Jones for her upcoming movie Dreamgirls. Beyoncé’s schedule had been quite hectic during the course of the previous couple of years with not much downtime, so it was decided that there would be an extended break before working on the follow-up to her 2003 debut Dangerously In Love.

Except she didn’t listen.

Inspired by her experiences filming Dreamgirls, Beyoncé was itching to get back into the studio, recording the album behind her father’s (who was her manager at that time) back. During the course of two weeks, Beyonce alongside world-renowned producers such as The Neptunes, Sean Garrett, and Swizz Beats knocked out B’Day primarily at Sony Music Studios in New York City. The album expanded upon Dangerously In Love’ theme of funk-inspired songs with live instrumentation, along with elements of R&B, Pop, and Soul. The album wrapped, and the first single “Déjà Vu” featuring Jay-Z was released in June 2006. Around the same time, Beyoncé held auditions for an all-female band which she named The Suga Mamas. The 2006 BET Awards just happened to be three days away, and it was there that Beyonce performed the single for the first time.

After a legendary performance at BET (which many still regard as being one of her best), Beyoncé began embarking on the pre-promotional tour for the album. I say pre-promotional because long-time Beyonce fans know that back then Beyoncé would go on two tours to fully support her records. The first one would be a promotional campaign in which she would visit different parts of the world to perform singles from the album, give interviews, etc. The second one would be an official world tour which in this case was The Beyoncé Experience World Tour, her first extended tour as a solo artist.

“Ring The Alarm,” the second single, wasn’t officially released until September, but Beyoncé began promotion as early as late July/early August performing the song at the 2006 VMAs on August 31st, 2006. B’Day hit stores on September 4th, with Beyoncé performing a special show in Tokyo to celebrate. The following day the newly turned 25-year-old was back in the States making appearances on TRL and 106 & Park. The campaign continued in the following months coinciding with the upcoming release of Dreamgirls. In October 2006, Beyoncé dropped the single and music video for “Irreplaceable,” one of her most successful songs to date, and performed the track at the 2006 American Music Awards as well as various different shows.

In early December, Beyoncé released “Listen” as the first single from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, and the song would go on to become the defining ballad of the B’Day era in a way similar to the Dangerously In Love title track from her debut. Between Dreamgirls and the album, Beyoncé’s schedule was going to be jam-packed in the months leading up to the start of her tour, but she had her eyes set on an extensive project that would catapult her to yet another level.

Enter the B’Day Anthology Video Album —Beyoncé’s first dive into the world visual realm. Admitting that she was having a hard time figuring out which songs to shoot music videos for next, Beyoncé decided to solve that problem by filming videos for all of the remaining songs on the album. The Anthology Video Album was entirely self-funded (her record label wouldn’t give her the budget to make that many music videos), and due to the tight nature of her schedule, would have to be filmed in….two weeks.

During that two-week period, Beyoncé shot a total of nine (yes nine) music videos, working with various directors including Jake Nava, Melina Matsoukas, Anthony Mandler, and more. Though the video album wasn’t released until April, the videos had to be filmed in late January/early February in order for the mission to be accomplished. In addition to the nine videos they knocked out, Beyoncé also included the music videos for “Déjà Vu,” “Ring The Alarm,” “Irreplaceable,” and “Listen.” The Anthology went on to be certified double platinum in late 2007.

After the video album was done, Beyoncé made an appearance at the 2007 Grammys where she was introduced by Prince (whom she had previously done a duet with at the 2004 Grammys ) to perform “Listen.” Two weeks later she performed a Dreamgirls medley at the Oscars with co-stars Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose. She would then go on to perform a mini-concert at the 2007 Houston Rodeo and kicked off The Beyoncé Experience tour the following month.

The tour itself had five legs and spanned almost seven months as Beyoncé traveled the globe to put on a show for her many different fans around the world. Later that summer, Beyoncé reunited with Kelly and Michelle at the 2007 BET awards joining together to perform the tracks “Get Me Bodied,” and Kelly’s lead single “Like This” featuring Eve from her album Ms. Kelly. The performance also included an appearance from Solange with all four dancing together at the end.

Getty Images

The Beyoncé Experience World Tour wrapped in 2007, and shortly after she began working on her third album I Am…Sasha Fierce

In the years since we’ve seen Beyoncé expand the concepts that she first experimented with during the B’Day era. Her surprise 2013 self-titled album was a complete visual effort that was even bigger and better due to Beyoncé’s growth as an artist and the rise of the internet/social media. 2016’s Lemonade is classified as a short film, and her performance at Coachella in 2018 is an example of how she began taking the production of her shows to the next level with The Beyonce Experience.

B’Day was fearless. It was bold. And it will forever have a place in history.

Happy Birthday, Bey.

Culture News

This Week In TikTok: Taking It Back To 2007

What in the world is going on in the land of TikTok this week? We’re not sure if we’ll ever be able to predict the direction trends and challenges will go, but we can give you an update on what is happening in the present time. When we first started doing these roundups in January, the majority of what we were seeing on the platform were dance and transformation challenges. In the seven month since, TikTok has evolved immensely and the trends for this week are a reflection of just how interactive and creative the app can be. As we start to turn the corner into the fall and winter seasons, these challenges are slowly transitioning from outdoors to indoors. Here is some of the action taking place on the app in case you want to participate.

1. “Like I Can”- Sam Smith

Taking it all the way back to 2014, TikTokers are bringing back Smith’s single “Like I Can” from his album In The Lonely Hour.  Sam Smith is an artist full of depth, and creates songs that can bring back the memories and last a lifetime. The only requirement of this challenge is to share moments with your loved ones. So you could show off family photos, do a duet with relatives, or just simply record yourself singing along. It’s up to you!

2. “Life Is Strife”- Jreg

Life can indeed be strife. For this challenge, creators are making unique videos using on-screen text to highlight something disturbing. You have the power of imagination with this one, and it really depends on what you personally find to be “disturbing.” One TikTok user made a video in clown makeup (some people actually find clowns to be disturbing), while another made a video listing all of their mother’s nagging traits (if you guys listen to your mom the first time around she wouldn’t have to “nag,” but we digress). Again this can be freestyle so it’s up to you.

3. “Like A Boy” – Ciara

Boy this is a throwback! You had to have been around in 2007 to know just how huge this song was (it’s one of Ciara’s biggest hits and one of her most successful music videos), but if you weren’t, then this TikTok challenge is the next best thing. Apparently there are two trends associated with this song: Creators imagining what things would be like if they “acted like a boy,” and text message arguments with a partner that end in a fake image as the punchline. Most are going with the former as a tribute to the video where Ciara reenacts relationship scenarios as a man. Pretty cool if you ask us.

Culture Movies/TV

HBO Max Launches “So She Did” Initiative on Women’s Equality Day

Today is Women’s Equality Day, and to celebrate, HBO Max is launching their So She Did campaign platform created by W+K New York, and is teaming up with nine female-identifying talent to release a film that celebrates the women who are always told they are “too much,” and the ones that stay true to themselves while breaking all of the rules. 


Below is a list of the nine talents that will be participating in the film.

So She Did Talent:  

  • Jordan Alexander (Gossip Girl)
  • Laura Donnelly (The Nevers)
  • Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
  • Myha’la Herrold (Industry)
  • Martha Plimpton (Genera+ion)
  • Lisa Ling (CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling)
  • Hannah Einbinder (Hacks
  • Zion Moreno (Gossip Girl)
  • Eyricka Lanvin (Legendary)

In addition to the release of the film, HBO Max will be giving back by donating to four nonprofits Girls Write Now, Poderistas, Women of Color Unite, and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, as they will work hard to ensure donations service a multitude of female experiences and backgrounds, as the intention of this platform is to prioritize diversity and inclusion first and not service “women” as a monolith.

Dana Lichtenstein, Vice President of Brand Marketing at HBO Max and HBO is excited for viewers to finally see the film.

“Our programming has always been at the forefront in celebrating diverse and authentic stories for our audiences that we believe encourage conversation and push culture forward. In the spirit of honoring Women’s Equality Day today and every day, we came up with “So She Did,” an initiative that, at its core, is about rule-breaking. A platform that is less about what women have in common and more about what happens when we dare to celebrate our unique differences.”

The HBO Max So She Did initiative is all about celebrating rule-breaking women of all different backgrounds. It is about the attitudes of women, exactly what they want to do, and the contradiction of what is expected of them, on-screen and in real life. In addition to the on-camera talent, HBO Max is also commemorating pioneers behind the camera with the “So She Did” trays across its Homepage, Series and Movies Page, Documentaries Page, Comedy Page, and the HBO Hub.

This curated selection will showcase notable behind-the-scenes talent such as Lovecraft Country (Misha Green), Summer Camp Island (Julia Pott), and Steven Universe (Rebecca Sugar).

The comedies page will feature titles such as Going the Distance (Nanette Burstein) and Insecure (Issa Rae) and the documentaries page will spotlight I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (Liz Garbus) and Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple).


In addition, the HBO Hub will be home to My Brother Luca Catalina Serna), Frida (Julie Taymor), and Senseless (Penelope Spheeris).

Stay tuned for more from HBO Max as they have plenty in the works. 

Culture Music

A Look at the Fundamentals of “Breaking” With Red Bull

Orlando. The home of Disney World. A place where people dream big and those dreams come true. For some, those dreams are a professional dancing career, and for Red Bull’s 32 BC One Finalists, their biggest wishes came true this past weekend as they competed for an opportunity to have a spot in the Red Bull BC One World Finals taking place this November in Gdansk, Poland. Since we’ve already covered the history of breaking as an art form and the backstory of the B-Girls, we decided to take a closer look at the fundamentals of breaking.

Red Bull

Now we could have just talked to all the legends about what it really takes to be a successful breaker, but since it was the Finals, I figured I would take it a step further by actually trying myself since I am a complete novice (actually lower). This past Friday I met up with Red Bull BC One All Star B-Boy Victor and B-Girl Kate” for a breaking jam session where they tried their best to teach me everything they know. I wasn’t “successful” by any means and you guys will never see that video footage, but they did give some important tips that are super helpful to learning the technical elements of breaking.

Disclaimer: If you are a beginner, we recommend you start off taking a class or connecting with local breakers in your area to ensure you are doing these moves properly and safely.

Red Bull
B-girl Shortbread

B-Boy Victor and B-Girl Kate’s Tips For Success:
  • First things first, you have to get the footwork nailed down. Everything boils down to the basic footwork steps, because it lays the groundwork for all breaking moves. Victor and Kate taught me a crossover step that they described as the modern day Running Man. From there they showed me a series of arm moves that I could mix and match which leads me to their next point.
  • Arms can be what differentiates breaking movements and styles, but it can’t look too technical. Victor and Kate started off counting the arm movements it help me out, but very quickly stressed that the moves should be freestyled as opposed to a “routine”. In general, dance is about your individual personality and what you are feeling. Victor and Kate did taught me the exact same combination, but it looked like two different routines due to their differing styles and personalities.
Red Bull
B-Girl Powerflow
  • Next up, you need to have a little swag. The origins of breaking center back to New York, and breaking is ultimately a street dance art form. Swag comes in the form of movements, expressions, and even your personal fashion. Swag can be what gives you those “ooh and aah” moments from the crowd, which can of course give you extra style points from the judges.

  • By now you’ve probably watched numerous videos of the breakers at their cyphers, so you’ve more than likely seen them hit the ground for various floor moves including kicks, spins, flips, and headstands. Those moves require muscular endurance and core work, which can be achieved through many different ways. Some dancers get their strength from a gymnastics background, light weight training, or even Capoeira like B-Boy legend Neguin.
  • Pick a focal point while doing spins to avoid getting dizzy. Breakers are highly trained and have been doing this for years. Beginners, however, will have to train themselves over time to not get dizzy while doing routines. You can avoid this by picking a specific area to lock in on while spinning. Obviously this takes time to master, but with practice you’ll become a pro at it.
  • Last but not least, you can’t overthink it. Once again this is freestyle breaking, so your moves shouldn’t be over planned. At a certain point I definitely began thinking too much, which Victor and Kate noticed. They pointed out that I’ve done some variations of these moves at one point or another in my life which is true. Some of these steps have been incorporated into classic dances such as the electric side, and as mentioned earlier, Victor and Kate had me start the routine doing the running man to get the footwork down. Don’t over think, just go with the flow!
Red Bull
B-Boy Keebz

So now that you have the basics down, you can start to get in on the breaking action as well. And speaking of getting in on the breaking action, the 2021 Red Bull BC One Matchups are officially set. It was a showdown this past weekend with 16 B-Girls and 16-Boys vying for that coveted Poland spot, but there could only be one winner for each. B-Boy Maurice and B-Girl Isis both took home the trophy. 

2024 Summer Games hopeful b-boy Morris crushed the top 16 b-boy bracket, in addition to eight wildcard invites, ultimately being crowned the Red Bull BC One B-Boy National Champion. Born and raised in Sacramento, CA, Morris Isby has competed around the globe for over two decades. Whether competing solo or alongside crew members, b-boy Morris has maintained his status as a champion competitor, boasting over 120 competitive wins under his belt to date. When he’s not competing or performing, Morris is dedicated to ushering in the next generation of breakers through volunteering and mentorship. He is currently training to compete in the 2024 Paris summer games.

Beating the top 16 b-girls in the country, in addition to eight wildcard competitors, b-girl Isis reigned supreme at the U.S. Red Bull BC One National B-Girl Final. Born in Ecuador, now based in Kissimmee, Florida, Isis Alexandra Granda has danced her whole life. Upon discovering breaking while training ballet and contemporary styles, Isis fell in love with the style of dance and has been breaking for eight years. She currently represents The Last Freestylers Crew.

You can re-watch the B-Girl National Final below.

And you can find the B-Boy National Final here as well.

In the meantime we’ll be keeping you posted on updates between now and the World Finals in November. 

Culture Music

Hip-Hop Legend Nas Announces Partnership With Escobar Cigars

The Hip-Hop industry was gifted with the emergence of a lyrical genius during the 1990s; a man who goes by the name of Nasir Jones, aka, “Nas”. Nas was one of many hip-hop legends whose careers began in the 90s, but the Queensbridge native was truly one of a kind. He began his career by dropping one of the greatest albums of all time, Illmatic, and hasn’t slowed down since.

Getty Images

Nas is already recognized as a hip-hop legend for his countless albums and hit singles, some of which are highlighted by his first full-length album, the aforementioned Illmatic. His albums It was Written and Stillmatic each hit #1 on the R&B charts during 1996 and 2001.

It Was Written featured the likes of Lauryn Hill, Mobb Deep, Dr. Dre, and Foxy Brown, which epitomizes the rapper’s knack for collaboration with other elite artists. Major crossover singles including “Nas Is Coming” and “If I Ruled the World” helped that album go double platinum during the mid-1990s.

In addition to being one of the greatest artists of all time, Nas is also widely renowned for his business acumen. The legendary rapper is now adding to his list of entrepreneurial accomplishments.

Today, premium Nicaraguan cigar maker Escobar Cigars is announcing an exciting new partnership with Nas, who will serve as the brand’s co-owner and equity partner. ​​

Nas is thrilled to combine his passion for cigars by partnering with Escobar and helping to take them to the next level with its redesigned website and updated product packaging, making it the ultimate cigar smoking experience. As Nas states in his song, Nas Is Good on his newly released fourteenth album Kings Disease II, “It’s Escobar season.” 

If you are wondering how to get in on the action of trying out Escobar, you can check out their natural & Maduro sampler boxes priced at $67.25. 

We got the opportunity to ask Nas about this deal and what it means to him, and here’s what he had to say:

“When the team at Escobar Cigars initially approached me, I was immediately drawn to the brand by the exceptional quality of their product, from the craftsmanship to the enjoyable smoking experience. Of course, the name instantly stood out to me as well since Escobar is an alias I’ve been going by throughout my career. It was full circle to hear that the name was inspired partially by my persona and entrepreneurial spirit, so a match was made in heaven. Working with the team has been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to innovating the cigar space and adding my personal touch to the brand.”

Be on the lookout for the latest updates from Nas and Escobar.