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It’s 2021: Can summer blockbusters survive streaming?

Godzilla Vs. Kong released this week in theaters and on HBO Max. I wasn’t a big fan of the previous film, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” But I thought that “Kong: Skull Island” was fantastic. This film is more like Skull Island, making it a much more enjoyable experience. Still, everything is pointing me to one question: Can summer blockbusters survive streaming?


Some background on the current Kong/Godzilla Franchise

One of the biggest critiques of these monster films is that the human characters get way more screen time than they should without the proper character development that would make them interesting enough for us to even care about them.

Skull Island was able to avoid that problem with better writing for these characters along with a stellar cast including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and Samuel L. Jackson. And the current summer blockbuster streaming on HBO Max, Godzilla Vs. Kong, has some great actors as well.


Brian Tyree Henry’s character is the standout. But it largely ignores the people and gives us exactly what we want. And that’s two titans fighting on the big screen.

The theater vs. your couch. How can summer blockbusters survive streaming?

I enjoyed every minute of these action scenes. Each fight was its own setpiece taking advantage of the different locales and bending them to work in favor of the fighting styles of each monster.

It’s truly a visual spectacle especially the quality of CGI work on display here in rendering these creatures to look as real as they could be. But one thing kept lingering in my mind. This film would be best experienced in a proper theatre.

Of course, you can go to a movie theater and see this. The film made over $80 Million in the Chinese box office and topped off at $9.6 million on its opening day in the West, making it the most successful film so far in the pandemic era. So people are going to stream these summer blockbusters and see films again. But still not at the capacity they once were. 

What would this film have looked like if not for the pandemic?

This would have easily been a $200 million dollar opening-weekend film if circumstances were different because of its blockbuster nature.

Even watching this in a theatre now wouldn’t compare. This is the type of event-film that warrants a packed screening where the crowd is as much a part of the experience as the film itself. Most studios acknowledge this. But because of the current situation, risks are being taken to show these films at home. 

Take the Marvel Cinematic Universe for example. Most of us have become accustomed to seeing the Marvel logo run across our television screens due to WandaVision and now Falcon and the Winter Soldier.


That logo alone was once solely associated with a theatre experience and Marvel knows this. That’s why the announcement of Black Widdow being released in theatres and Disney Plus on the same day this summer took as long as it did.

It will be interesting to see how that film will perform. The reason WandaVision worked so well and had the numbers that it did for Disney Plus is because of the weird and extraordinary nature of the show. It’s essentially made for TV.

Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more of a run-of-the-mill Marvel property that’s based solely on action spectacle with drama infused much like the Captain America trilogy. Black Widow is going to be much more like that than WandaVision so will audiences watch or even enjoy it for the first time at home?

Summer blockbusters need to prove they can survive streaming and return people to theaters

And there are many more franchises like this that have to face that same question and are choosing to play the fence by opening in theatres and on streaming. Godzilla Vs. Kong seems to be a sign so far that people are willing to venture out and see films again. 

The film distribution process has always been a gamble but the last year and a half has increased the chances of failure for studios. So these next few months are going to be pivotal for what the future of the theatre experience will be.

Streaming has more or less solidified itself as a major player in how we view entertainment but it seems that the movie theatre isn’t dead just yet.

Stay tuned on the Hub for more movie reviews and discussion. And also tap in here for more.

In review, Ray Fisher makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a 4 hour cut of the 2017 film directed by Joss Whedon. Ahead is not only a review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but a recount of why is this film so important to learn from.

Background of Zack Snyder’s Justice League reviewed

Years ago the DC film universe was largely being steered by Zack Snyder. The person who is responsible for Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman. And so, Justice League was the next step in his vision for a cinematic DC story spanning over various movies. 

Unfortunately, Snyder left the project because his daughter passed away from committing suicide. Thus, the studio then had to make a decision and brought on Joss Whedon. The guy who famously directed the first two Avengers films.

Whedon did way more than just edit the film that Snyder made. Instead, he opted to do intensive re-shoots. And this resulted in an entirely different film being released.

You see, Zack Snyder has a huge fanbase that loves his style of filmmaking. Still, they felt robbed of seeing his vision for the film. Considering that Snyder had already shot 4 hours of footage that was not used, this is understandable.

Thus the internet sensation that was #releasethesnydercut. The demand was so high for it, it allowed Snyder to get a new budget from Warner Brothers to actually finish his cut of the film. 

It is wonderful that Snyder was able to release the film that he wanted. This cut is far superior to the studio version. Not to mention, it sets an example for creatives everywhere to not give up on your vision for anything.

Talking about Justice

This was certainly justice for Zack Snyder. But, talking about justice, let’s bring Ray Fisher into the picture.

Fisher played Victor Stone, aka Cyborg. His character infamously had very little to do in the 2017 cut. This was odd because if you know anything about DC comics, Cyborg is integral to the Justice League story. Plus, he was been featured in so many ways that he is not new to fans.

His role was cut significantly because of an executive decision from Warner Bro’s “to shorten time.” But, guess who was one of the major players for that decision? Yes, Whedon himself!


They will always do what they think is best economically, but what about the art form? Honestly, Whedon should have known better. Was he too lazy? Who knows.

Black superheroes in Hollywood

Synder’s cut made it evident that a collective group in power attempted to silence Fisher — a Black man — both publicly and creatively. He had outspoken about how important it was for people to see his Black character. At this time, Black Panther’s premiere was only a few months away.

And, we know now how much that did for Black superheroes on screen. 

Not to mention that now Hollywood understands the power and money that comes with Black heroes. So, there is absolutely no excuse to sideline them anymore.

The other most notable example being John Boyega’s role in the Star Wars trilogy. This trend in Hollywood is essentially a microcosm of the Black experience in America. Showing us what it feels like to be belittled, replaced, and told to stay in the lane we’ve created for you.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League review

So, I applaud Fisher because he was one of the first and largest champions of releasing the Snyder Cut. And, Snyder deserves credit too for centering the story on a Black man in his film instead of Batman or Wonder Woman.

In essence of Cyborg’s character is given a second chance. His father saves his life with robotics. And, ironically, this too gives Ray Fisher that same chance. 

Superhero roles or big-budget films in general often propel a person’s career to the next level. And if we were able to see Fisher’s full talent on display back in 2017, imagine the opportunities he’d have today. 

I finished the Snyder cut wanting to see more of him. His performance was phenomenal. You can tell that this was more than just a role to him.  

It’s one thing for a studio to release a bad film. It’s another thing when that is purposely done at the expense of a Black actor in the form of racism. If you haven’t seen the film or had no interest in it before, please watch it, because at its heart it is a character-driven film centered around Cyborg.

Fisher’s work and the message he wanted to get across about the human experience deserve to be seen the way it was intended. Not to mention that Fisher should be commended, not only for standing up for himself but for standing up for all of us despite the adversity he faced.

To me, that is the true mark of a hero. Allowing him to transcend anything he did as Cyborg.

Thank you for watching my Zack Snyder’s Justice League review.

To learn more about Black filmmakers doing things right in Hollywood, tap in below

Black Progress Matters sets a new standard for an inclusive corporate America

Corporate America has long been criticized for its lack of inclusivity and racial bias. Black people have slowly but surely been able to find positions in some of the top corporations in the world.

Still, they are almost invisible at the top of the totem pole. Black Progress Matters (BPM) is an organization that seeks to change that.

We sat down with BPM’s CEO, Dean Haynesworth, to talk about Black leadership in the corporate world. And how BPM can help effectuate change in this space.

Black Progress Matters

Kulture Hub: What is the mission of Black Progress Matters?

Dean Haynesworth:  If you look at the top of any organization, there’s a huge chasm right now in the fortune 1000 space in corporate America. Thus, our mission is to change the face of leadership in corporate America.

We can do this by helping fill executive positions for top minority candidates – to change the color of Corporate America. That’s our primary goal.

We want people of color to walk in the doors of a corporation and feel like there’s an opportunity for them to succeed.


Dean Haynesworth, CEO Black Progress Matters

Black leadership

KH: You touched on this a little bit before but how important is it for minorities to not just work at these companies, but actually hold power at the highest level?

DH: Of the utmost importance – it is mission-critical. There are staffing companies that may be minority-owned or even have a focus on placing minority candidates.

However, our focus is very particular – it is to put people of color at executive levels. And this is not to disparage what others are doing, but our focus is much more than just getting candidates in the door.

If we can have Black leadership on the board and have a proper place at the table, that will only make the entire engagement possible for all the positions straight down from the top.

And that’s the way we see it.

Panther Data Solutions

KH: Racial bias and discrimination in the workplace is an age-old problem that continues today. Talk about Panther Data Solutions and how their Racial Bias tool aims to be a solution to this problem.

DH: Panther Data Solutions came out of our Black Progress Matters Minority-Owned Business Incubator program to help young minority startup companies make their way throughout the entire business process, whether it’s legal support, documentation, logistics, marketing, branding, etc. 

We help you take your company from an idea to a fully functioning business – which is how Panther Data Solutions started.

KH: Racial bias and discrimination in the workplace is an age-old problem that continues today. Talk about Panther Data Solutions and how their Racial Bias tool aims to be a solution to this problem. (cont’d)

DH: At Panther Data Solutions, I have worked with my partners to develop a variety of data management and compliance tech solutions, and the most remarkable offering that has emerged from this initiative is our Racial Bias Alert.

Our Racial Bias Alert utilizes advanced Supervisor technology to identify communications in over 135 different languages worldwide that indicate racial bias or discrimination.

Racial Bias Alert utilizes trend analysis and proximity detection in conjunction with an organization’s own highly-developed criteria to identify both obvious and subtle indicators of bias. The Racial Bias Alert tool also monitors phrases indicative of affinity bias – the kind that contributes to systemic racism.

While most organizations today have racial bias response protocols and remediation strategies, our Racial Bias Alert is the first solution to provide an immediate deterrent to racial bias in an organization.

Beyond the obvious legal damages, the potential for racial bias to damage an organization’s reputation is high. By identifying specific types of communications that represent a risk, our Racial Bias Alert tool provides an early warning for immediate corrective and preventative measures.

We have a Credit Union in Ohio, which is one of our first adopters. And they’re deploying this technology and using it to find out the efficacy of their diversity programs.

Many of the leadership positions within the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, have limited measurement tools to gauge how effective their programs are within their organization. Doing a simple headcount of people of color is no longer the way to assess diversity.

Black Progress Matters CEO Dean Haynesworth continues…

DH: If you can use the data sitting in your company, you see how effective these programs are, then we can start to effectuate immediate change.

This technology is a cloud-based solution that essentially monitors all the electronic communications in an organization. And it identifies racial bias, undertones, or messaging in communication.

It is a tool for an organization’s team of executive leaders, diversity and inclusion leaders, HR leaders, and immediate managers.

The organization itself develops the criteria, and through this monitoring, they can take the appropriate steps based on their corporate initiatives or employee handbook. However, they would want to move forward to rectify that situation. And use it as a teaching point and not a punitive tool.


Dean Haynesworth, CEO Black Progress Matters

And, we hope that by understanding why and what they’re potentially putting out into the universe is wrong, at work, spills over to their regular life as well.

Black representation in corporate America

KH: Many times Black people in corporate America think they’re undertaking this journey alone. How can the representation aspect of Black Progress Matters help Black professionals connect with each other and find opportunities?

DH: The representation portion of our business helps startup companies understand that there are programs and opportunities in place within corporate America.

You can look at any of the top 500 corporations in America, and they all have diverse supplier programs. The start-ups we work with and represent, that are just bringing their products to market, aren’t readily aware or have had any exposure to these types of initiatives.

So, we aim to help them expedite their sales and procurement processes and to help them navigate that journey in corporate America. This way, they can become part of these corporation’s diversity supplier initiatives through a much quicker pathway to success.

Opportunities for youth of color

KH: The internship program seems like a great way to expose some to the corporate world. And for others, a great way to take that next step. How important is it for the youth to be involved in this process of finding and creating opportunities in the corporate world? 

DH: That is by far one of our key initiatives and something near and dear to my heart – because our first intern is my daughter, who is graduating with honors this coming May from Arizona State University.

Seeing her excitement the minute that this opportunity was created and throwing her hat in the ring to be our first intern not only made me proud, but it made me aware of how impactful this is.

If young people are exposed to these opportunities primarily through an internship program, they have this built-in organic step ahead of their competition for jobs.

Dean Haynesworth, CEO Black Progress Matters

The job market is highly competitive out there. To help identify opportunities for young minorities within corporate America speaks to what we’re doing, and that’s executive minority staffing.

So we have both ends of the spectrum covered with helping folks that are tenured and have a fantastic resume land executive leadership positions and board seats. Then we’re also helping young minority interns start their careers.

KH: : The internship program seems like a great way to expose some to the corporate world. And for others, a great way to take that next step. How important is it for the youth to be involved in this process of finding and creating opportunities in the corporate world?

DH: That is by far one of our key initiatives and something near and dear to my heart – because our first intern is my daughter, who is graduating with honors this coming May from Arizona State University.

Seeing her excitement the minute that this opportunity was created and throwing her hat in the ring to be our first intern not only made me proud, but it made me aware of how impactful this is.

If young people are exposed to these opportunities primarily through an internship program, they have this built-in organic step ahead of their competition for jobs.

The job market is highly competitive out there. To help identify opportunities for young minorities within corporate America speaks to what we’re doing, and that’s executive minority staffing.

So we have both ends of the spectrum covered with helping folks that are tenured and have a fantastic resume land executive leadership positions and board seats. Then we’re also helping young minority interns start their careers.

The future of Black Progress Matters

KH: How do you see BPM’s progress and influence so far and what do you see as the future for BPM?

DH: The sky’s the limit for us and opportunities in corporate America, and the first thing we tell people when they call to set up a demo, “We appreciate you reaching out. But if your organization isn’t willing to take the BPM pledge, then we do not want to associate with them.”

In reflection…

Black Progress Matters is truly at the forefront of changing the way the corporate world runs.

Opportunities are being created for minorities every day through their initiatives creating a more inclusive work-space where minorities finally hold power in some of America’s most successful and influential companies.

Check out their initiative here.

Brooklyn artist Rocko Ballin harnesses a unique sound in drill

The Brooklyn drill scene currently sits at the intersection of change. Ever since the death of Bobby Shmurda in 2014 and the Pop Smoke in 2020, the nature of hip-hop sound is struggling to pinpoint what’s the next road. And, a year later, Rocko Ballin is perhaps the most interesting rapper driving Brooklyn’s scene forward.

Brooklyn has been long-held as one of the epicenters of hip-hop. The place gave birth to some of the greatest legends of the genre; from Jay-Z to the Notorious B.I.G.

And then, it found a revival in relevance through Shmurda that dissipated with his six-year prison sentence for weapon possession.

rocko ballin
Rocko Ballin singing for the “Time Up” Music Video directed by @NothingStrnge

A few years later, newcomer Pop Smoke arrived on the scene. He ignited the Brooklyn drill fire once more. And this brought more global attention to a sub-section of Hip-hop that was rapidly changing. Yet, his murder at the age of 20 brought once again, a hole into the scene just as it was taking off.

And, after the dust has settled Rocko Ballin, the 19-year-old East-New York rapper brings a distinct sound, fighting to recapture the magic that Pop Smoke elicited on the world.

While many are successful in their own right with this formula, Rocko Ballin understands that it’s important to stand out.

“Everybody wants to do the same things. Like you want to stand out. You want to hear this? Look at him. Do you want to hear this? Then look at him. There’s no in-between for me and that’s the point. Be good at what you do.”

Rocko Ballin

Rocko Ballin: A new lane

It is worth mentioning that Rocko Ballin is very good at what he does. He is finding a unique musical style in the drill scene to separate himself from his peers.

And, instead of growling rhymes over Brooklyn’s now trademark cinematic thunder-clap beats, Ballin chooses to serenade these beasts of production with melodic croons.

One would assume that this approach would contrast with the current Brooklyn sound. But, Ballin floats deliveries of words where he’s hopping over consonants. Plus, the extending vowels in his lyrics weave into the hard-hitting production crafted by frequent collaborator A Lau.

Just like a well-thought-out side plot in a summer blockbuster.

His confidence shines through in his lyrics. In his song “Time Up” Ballin dispels critics and haters by rapping, “And he got his own sound with him, so how can they hate on whatever he got?”

“I started young. Like in middle school. I would make one song, put it out, then drop another song like a year later or a couple of months later. It was really on some fun shit in middle school. Like High-school, since “Ten Toes” and up, that’s when I started taking music seriously.”

Rocko Ballin, 2021

Ballin began rapping at a young age and started with the same tools as many of today’s up-and-coming artists, through YouTube beats and his homies.

Rap is digital

His influences growing up mirror the trajectory of Brooklyn’s sound, taking pieces from Chicago’s drill scene and the South’s cultural dominance in rap over the last decade.

“I was into a lot of Herb (G-Herbo), Lil Bibby, Lil Durk, NBA Youngboy. I listened to em all.”

Rocko Ballin, 2021

At 19 he grew up during the height of Chicago’s drill scene. The city is known for creating the genre which has since expanded out to NYC and overseas in the UK with their grime movement.

And NBA Youngboy’s influence is remarkable because he’s only 21. Yet he had has been rapping since the age of 14, building a loyal fanbase online. And that only not only speaks to the digital age of rap today but of how Ballin is the continuation of this modern trend.

Beyond the music, what impresses one about Ballin the most is his loyalty to the people and the city that raised him. That philosophy extends to his brotherhood with his crew, East New York Sound (ENYS).

“That’s the sound. That’s us. We started that. It’s deeper than music. It’s not making music and punching it out. It deeper than whatever they think or whatever they are going to think.” 

Rocko Ballin, 2021

Loyalty over everything

Loyalty to the city and its sound is paramount to Ballin’s team. Cultivating Brooklyn’s sound and stamping it as their own to the world. It’s a pride in the area’s drill scene that ENYS wears on their sleeves and inspires their unity that hopes to extend across the city.

“I feel like New York right now is getting more attention. Every year someone is popping from Atlanta or from somewhere else. I feel like that’s starting to happen for me but I see this getting bigger for everybody.”

Rocko Ballin, 2021

All this is getting bigger for Rocko. He recently finalized his first project “Lucky Last Born,” marking his formal introduction to the music world. The timing was everything for him as he sat on a wealth of material, waiting for the perfect moment to drop his first body of work.

“I had a lot ready to go. I’d go to the studio every day and not drop cause the time wasn’t right.”

Rocko Ballin, 2021

Perhaps now it is.

The best doc of the year so far is Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell

Our newest review is Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, another great documentary from Netflix.

The new documentary of The Notorious B.I.G. Yet this one, contrary to other projects based on the rap superstar, released a side of the legendary hip-hop artist that no one has ever seen.

Netflix has made great documentaries lately. Michael Jordan’s Last Dance didn’t cease to impress and gather much acclaim.

Yet, when it comes to Biggie, the documentary goes beyond expectations. Unlike many other documentaries, TV episodes, or films, Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell delivers a first-person look into the life of the legendary artist.

Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell review

So, his story isn’t really new to the general public. A lot of us know the basics of who he was and where he came from. Yet, Netflix’s documentary works, and does a great job, of exposing more.

There are a lot of elements of his work ethic displayed in the documentary. First, they successfully debated his favorite rappers and their flow; Biggie’s favorite being Big Daddy Kane.

Second, they recounted what songs should be sampled, and how intricate should the rhyme patterns be to tell this story.

When you are considered the best at something you make it look easy. Biggie made it look easy and this documentary really peels back just how much work it took for him to be as great as he was.

Check out Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell on Netflix today

In review, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell is well-worth your time. Especially if you are a hip-hop fan or are interested in the history of the genre in any capacity.

It seems like other music genres care for better when it comes to their history and the greats of their genre that created in their field.

Hip-hop rarely gets that same luxury so when something like this gets released. But here, it’s clear that it was a body of love from everyone who worked on it, it’s exciting for the culture. 

Check out the video below for the full review of the documentary and check out the film now on Netflix.

Here’s what you need to know when budgeting for your first gold chain

So you want to get your first gold chain and you need some help deciding if it’s worth your budget. There are a few things you need to keep in mind when making this decision.

First, don’t feel bad about wanting a chain. It’s a great investment! One that sits at the intersection of style and flair that can display your money handsomely.

But be careful in how you choose one so your first big style investment isn’t ruined.

chain budget
Gucci Mane’s Bart Simpson chain, 2009.

The use of the gold chain

Ask yourself how do you want to wear your gold chain. Is it a chain that you can wear every day? Do you want a chain for parties and clubs? Are you a family person and want a gold chain for family pictures?

These types of questions are important because you can’t have one gold chain for every type of event. You can’t rock a decked-out Cuban link to church or a 4PF gold chain to your university morning classes.

chain budget
Jeezy and Jay-Z with Cuban links.

Gold chains are a situational accessory so know exactly how and where you want to wear your new chain before you start looking.

Now that you know how you want to use your gold chain, try to match your links with the use of the chain. The Cuban link works well for the club or parties.

A Tennis link can work the same way for parties but it’s also great for simple gatherings.

A$AP Rocky Redefines Rapper Jewelry With an Edwardian Necklace | Vogue
A$AP Rocky (Neilson Barnard – Vogue)

The Figaro link is common for everyday use, family chains, or something great to gift to your significant other. Take your time and research the different links and see what looks pairs the best with your lifestyle and event choice and go from there.

Length & width

The length and the width of your gold chain are some of the most important factors to pay attention to. This goes right along with the use and type of links that you want. You never want your chain too long.

The majority of people aim for a chain about eighteen inches to twenty-four inches long, which would center the chain around the chest area of the body.

Young Thug attends Lil Baby's Ice Ball
Young Thug Young Thug attends Lil Baby’s Ice Ball, (Prince Williams/Wireimage)

And you don’t want the gold chain to thick either depending on the type of style that you are going for. The Cuban you’re looking at about 18in length and 3mm-19mm width. Figaro at 18in, 1-5mm width.

And Tennis at 18in, 3mm-5mm width. After getting your use, style, and measurements down, it’s time to move on to pricing.

Checking the budget of your gold chain

Make sure to do some research on the pricing of your desired gold chain. The longer and wider the chain is the more material that it will take to make it.

Pricing varies on the carats of gold and whether it is solid or gold-plated as well as the length and the width of the chain. All of these factors come into play when calculating the budget of your chain.

Also, shop around. Look at brand stores in the mall, local stores in your community, and even online retailers. Don’t get your eyes stuck on one piece. Look around and take the time to find the best gold chain for you.

This is your first one so treat it with care like the investment that it is.

Enjoy your gold chain

Don’t forget to enjoy your new gold chain. Yes, it’s an investment and a symbol of your wealth but its value is in more than just what it’s made of and how many links you have. Chains are meant to be worn for everybody to see. That’s part of the charm and appeal of this jewelry.

Pin on Gossip-Grind
T-Pain rocking a big chain (via @panpan2211)

The real value is in how you look with it on so place it on your neck and go out into the world. You deserve it for investing in your first gold chain.

Perspective in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland: A comprehensive review

Fresh off Nomadland‘s success at the Golden Globes, we have a review going deep into why this journey is worth your time. The film has received high praise and has nabbed director Chloé Zhao a Best Director win at the Golden Globes, making her the first Asian woman to receive the honor.

The film is based on the novel Nomadland by Jessica Bruder. It follows Fern (played by Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand), a modern-day nomad in the American midwest traveling in a van searching for what matters in her life. 

Nomadland review

The film pushes the boundaries of what intimate and engaging indie films can be. Many of the characters in the film are non-actors portraying themselves.

The most notable of them is Bob Wells, who acts in the film as a leader full of wisdom to the nomad community and an emotional rock for many taking up this journey.

In reality, Wells acts in much of the same way, running a YouTube channel called CheapRVliving. His videos teach people about the nomad lifestyle with tutorials. Not to mention, there are interviews with nomads showcasing how they live happily on the road.

Chloé Zhao continues to impress

This is Zhao’s third film, coming off the heels of her excellent sophomore film The Rider.

Nomadland precursors Zhao’s major studio debut with Marvel entertainment’s The Eternals, slated to release later this year.

The Eternals will no doubt be a creative and stylistic departure from the films Zhao has released so far.

The Eternals will take her filmmaking out of the midwest of the United States for the first time, opting instead to tell the story of eternal space-gods sprawling throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s storied fictional history.

It will be interesting to see how her directing style adapts to this new terrain. But if the heart of her previous films like Nomadland shines through in this one, audiences are in for a treat.

Learn more about what makes Nomadland so special in this comprehensive review below

Trae Tha Truth & Mysonne redefine being social justice warriors

Trae Tha Truth and Mysonne are fresh off the release of their collab album If You’re Scared Stay Inside.

The album arrives at a pivotal point in America. After a year of protests and marches for Black lives, the pair deliver an album that speaks to this moment.

Inspired and recorded during their time on the ground in Kentucky during the Breonna Taylor fallout, If You’re Scared Stay Inside packs 14 tracks of raw emotion and OG wisdom.

The album features artists from hip-hop’s upper-echelon lending their bars such as Black Thought, Jim Jones, and Big K.R.I.T on the single Prayer For Me.

Kulture Hub got to sit down with Trae and Mysonne to discuss the creation of the album, the value of authenticity, and how the power to change the world is in the hands of the youth.

If You’re Scared Stay Inside‘s inception

Kulture Hub: What brought you guys together for this album?

Mysonne: Fate pretty much did it. Like you said, we’ve been doing a lot of on the ground and community work. And when the George Floyd situation happened, I was in Kentucky actually doing a memorial day service for Breonna Taylor along with the rest of the Until Freedom team.

And Trae, who was close to the homie George Floyd, came and went to Minneapolis in the wake of what had happened to him and we ended up meeting there.

You know, we always knew each other and had a lot of respect for each other. But I think at that moment as well, we really just grew our bond.

And from then on we went from Minneapolis back to Kentucky to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor and while there we just decided that we needed to document this moment and what we were dealing with.

The emotions, how we were feeling from the front lines, and what better way than us both being artists who love music who have a purpose to fight for our people then make an album out of it.

With us both coming from the streets and still wanting to fight for our people. We wanted people to understand that merge. Understand what we represented. So this project was something to reflect that.

Mysonne for Kulture Hub

Artists’ role in the fight for justice

KH: George Floyd was a rapper himself during his time in Houston. It’s sad but crazy to think that someone from this culture is a symbol of peace. Everyone knows his name around the world and he’s a piece of hip-hop.

There’s a lot of rappers on the frontlines of this fight for Black lives. How important is it for Hip-hop to be at the forefront of this fight for change and equality?

Trae Tha Truth: I don’t think it should necessarily have to be a hip-hop thing or entertainers. I think it should be the people who genuinely care. And no matter who you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what background you got, whether it’s music or just a nine to five.

We need people who care and try to get the message across because a lot of people put pressure on entertainers saying or he should do this or these people should do it and I’ll never feel that’s fair to put a bracket on that.

Yes, it’s a blessing that we are entertainers but aside from that, we’re just regular street n*****. If we didn’t rap we’d still be the same people that would be fighting for the same process.

Trae Tha Truth for Kulture Hub

The youth leads the fight forward

KH: Over the past year, young people have really stood up to fight for what they believe in. Do you guys see that continuing to push us forward?

Mysonne: Well for me, I’m definitely proud to see these young people stepping up. I think there’s an awakening and the young people are at the forefront. And they’re leading the charge.

I think these young people are a lot more fearless. They don’t want to do politics. they don’t want to peacefully coexist with things that they don’t agree with. They’re a lot more vocal and a lot more active. And I think what we do is provide that wisdom of what we’ve been through.

So you temper the wisdom with the energy and that’s when you get real change. We’re at the forefront of change. There’s no way that we can go back.

Mysonne for Kulture Hub

We dealt with too many things in the last year that has completely changed the mindset of the world. Not just people in our communities.

There is an understanding that things have to change and any entity or structure that wants to keep it the same is going to fall because you can’t govern people in a manner in which they don’t want to be governed and you can’t control.

It’s just like anything, when you get tired of something, when it gets to the end it just overflows. And we’ve got to the end where it’s overflowing so at some point maybe I won’t see it in my lifetime, but at some point, it’s going to get there.

We’re just doing our parts to contribute. Coretta Scott King said, “Every generation is responsible for fighting for his own freedom”. We’re doing our part. The next generation has to do their part and continue on until we get the freedom that we are looking for.

Authenticity in If You’re Scared Stay Inside

KH: One of the themes of this album is authenticity. Telling people to be who they are. How important was that for you guys to put that type of message out, especially as OG’s for younger people to listen to?

Mysonne: It doesn’t matter what, what you think, who you are, what your beliefs are, as long as you’re authentic. I think people can sense authenticity all the time. It’s like for me, it’s people from different walks of life.

Like I say all the time, different religions, you got Muslims, you got Christians, you got so many people who believe different things. But when they authentically believe that it resonates with me, at least, you know, I think people can attach this.

So even when people who believe in the most negative things in the world, it resonates with people that want to, you know, agree with the same beliefs they have, because they see that as authentic.

So for me, it’s always important to be authentic when I could deal with anything that’s authentic, even if I disagree. But if I believe this is who you are, then we can find a common ground just based on authenticity. You know, you can find respect and authenticity and can’t find it when it’s not authentic.

When it’s coming from a place that’s not real, that’s fake, you know? So I pride myself on, regardless of what it is, I can sleep good at night because I know I’m authentic. So whether someone agrees with what I agree with. Someone doesn’t believe what I believe. I don’t have an issue with it because I believe it strongly, you know, and I’m a stand on it forever.

That’s one of the main things, you know, I think that’s one of the things that [me] and Trae have connected at. You know one of the main principles of our brotherhood is authenticity.

We don’t always agree on everything. Trae calls me sometimes like bro, bro, yo listen, and he might disagree, but he knows that I believe what I believe. And I know the same thing about him. So, you know, that’s, that’s what I say. Relationships are not about you always agreeing with somebody.

I don’t agree with anybody all the time. If you agree with somebody all the time, then that’s something that’s a little crazy cause we all individuals. But when you come from a place of authenticity, then respect is always good.

Trae Tha Truth: Just to go a step further, being authentic definitely is a major factor because it can carry weight a long way.

For example, with me being from the streets of Houston, Texas, people would only expect me to deal with street n***** from Houston. But I tell people, man, I deal with anybody according to them. As long as they are authentic and transparent about who they are, what they are.

If you’re a square and you ain’t never had a fight in your life and you let it be known, that’s not you. I can respect that. Whatever you decide to be, just be true to yourself. That’s what gains respect. Cause what happens is when you try and be something that you’re not, you put yourself in situations you don’t want to be in and we’ll look at you sideways.

All the while, you could have just been you and we would have accepted that. So being authentic is a major factor in every aspect for me.

Where do Trae Tha Truth and Mysonne get their inspiration from?

KH: What inspired you guys to work in your communities and be the change you want to see?

Trae Tha Truth: I think people just need help man. People need help and people need hope.

I never really realized this until the last few years, people also need leadership. And it’s only a selected few that can get out there and be the leaders that the people need.

Trae Tha Truth

So every single one of these things comes into play. I feel it’s my responsibility because I live in the city, the community, the hood. And if I’m gonna do that, then why shouldn’t I be able to go out and assist so that I can try and help elevate them?

Mysonne: Same for me man. If you’re a product of your community, you come from your community, then it’s just natural. It’s a natural evolution when you are able to do something to give back to the place that you come from.

Everybody doesn’t feel that way but I think there are a few of us who understand it’s just our jobs. I wake up every day trying to figure out what can I do to make my surroundings better, man?

If I come from a community and I’m actually able to transcend and evolve and do a little better, and I have resources and opportunities to give back to that community to fight or speak on behalf of that community of injustice and things that I know that I’ve experienced while in that community, why not, you know, what else would I rather do than that? It gotta be in you, it ain’t on you.

Trae Tha Truth: For real. And I argue with people all the time cause they love to compare me to other rappers and I’m like stop doing this. If they want to help let them do it. If it’s in them then let them be them. You can’t force it because if you force them to do something then you won’t get the results.

A collaborative effort

KH: What was it like working together making this album?

Trae Tha Truth: You got to realize we’re just naturally brothers so it all falls into play. The only interesting part is the process of working. We have a couple of hours here, then we gotta leave to go do this. We gotta try to take a quick nap cause we gotta be up at this time.

Mysonne: Yeah. Trae has a crazy work ethic. I thought my work ethic was crazy. We were in different houses in Kentucky so the engineer and everything was staying with him. Trae called me and texted me at three, four in the morning like “hey, here’s two more beats.”

Have those done then by nine o’clock in the morning, I got to come and have the verses before we go to the rally. And then we come back from the rally and we sit in and do another two verses. So the process was crazy. We both had the same level of passion and love for the arts. So it’s crazy when you connect with somebody like that in so many different ways.

KH: What was it like being on the ground in Kentucky during that time?

Trae: It was just a different type of situation in general. You know, lots of different emotions, frustrations, a bunch of good moments too. I think in general because we real close with her [Breonna Taylor] family the people grew on us and we grew on the people. So it was just life.

KH: What’s next for you guys individually and do you see yourselves coming together to do another album?

Trae Tha Truth: You gotta realize when a relationship is genuine and like family, music is the last thing we have to worry about. It’s natural and it’ll fall into play when it’s supposed to. So that’s the easy part.

I got my solo and then my Trae and friends album. So we’re just doing our thing. As far as the project it was needed for when it was needed and where it was done and other parts it came at the right time.

Mysonne: Pretty much, you know we both love this thing and we both work all the time. This project was just needed at this time and we felt like it was necessary to put it out.

We’re definitely going to be doing music because we love it. we might just be somewhere and decide to do a whole album again. You never know. But Trae has a solo album. I have a solo that I’m about to release. I just released a video just to heat it up and keep things going.

But right now we’re really focused on working with our people. Breonna Taylor still ain’t get justice and this is the one-year anniversary of her murder coming up next week and we still gotta fight for that. We’re gonna be on the front line for our people and that’s the first objective.

But we want to focus on this album too because it’s definitely necessary and it’s a modern state and reflection of this time. A lot of people need to hear it because it gives you a feel and a vibe that I think hasn’t been in music for a while and that’s important.

Tap in to If You’re Scared Stay Inside below

For more from Trae Tha Truth and Mysonne, check out their album If You’re Scared Stay Inside available on all streaming platforms.

And be on the lookout for their solo material in the future.

Janette Beckman is the hip-hop style photographer changing the game

Janette Beckman is an extraordinary hip-hop style photographer. Her work spans decades and across continents, and thus she is an icon in the music industry.

Beckman is a legendary hip-hop style photographer who first captured hip-hop through her lens in its infancy. We take a look at who she is and some of her most iconic photographs of hip-hop royalty.

hip-hop style photographer
Janette Beckman at BEAT Positive opening reception, NYC, November 21st, 2019 (Theo Wargo)

Janette Beckman: From England to NYC

Beckman hails from London and first spent much of her professional time there covering the punk scene with her photography.

She worked for a variety of publications such as Sounds Magazine, The Face, and Melody Maker. Then, in 1982, she moved to New York City.

janette beckman
Sex Pistols, 1977, Hyde Park (Janette Beckman)

Upon arriving in NYC, Beckman sought out work to flex her photography muscles.

She presented her portfolio to a variety of record companies and publications for a chance to photograph popular artists and shoot album covers.

Almost every company turned her down due to her past working on capturing London’s punk music scene.

The punk scene was gritty and grimey in its presentation and feel and much of her shots captured that. This style clashed with the glossed-up and airbrushed aesthetic of most music photography of the time.

Moving on from her rejections, Beckman discovered NYC’s growing hip-hop scene. And she was intrigued by how much it mirrored London’s own Punk scene.

Beckman took her talents to Def Jam where she met Lyor Cohen. And it was here that she received one of her most iconic photography assignments, photographing Queens rap legend, LL Cool J.

Rock the bells as a hip-hop style photographer

janette beckman
LL Cool J, 1985, NYC (Janette Beckman)

In music photography, you never know what shots will become iconic until they stand the test of time themselves.

Beckman’s shot of LL Cool J in 1985 is still one of her most iconic photographs. It captured the 80’s hip-hop essence perfectly.

It’s all iconic, from the Kangaroo hat to the boombox on his shoulder and also the chains that capture the gritty New York street persona of the genre at the time.

It’s defined, charismatic, and full of personality that only hip-hop artists like LL Cool J could pull off on camera.

This photo paved the way for defining what a hip-hop photoshoot could be. And it is also used as the basis for capturing hip-hop artists today. Personal and engaging with the audience to get a real glimpse into what the artists is about and what they stand for.

A hip-hop style photographer who has it all

In a 2020 interview for Def Jam chronicling her work, Beckman described her process in shooting her subjects as a hip-hop style photographer.

One thing she’s careful of is telling her subjects how to present themselves in front of the lens. She realized that people are much more natural on camera if they can be themselves.

Thus, in a genre where individuality is key, even among groups, letting hip-hop artists be themselves and place themselves in shots only adds to the photograph. Take the iconic shot of Slick Rick for example.

janette beckman
Slick Rick, 1989, NYC (Janette Beckman)

This shot of Slick Rick captured by Beckman was entirely staged by Slick Rick.

Rick walked over to the staging area and dropped his bag in front of him then proceeded to grab his crotch and posed for the camera. Beckman only had to capture the image.

This approach to photography is at the core of hip-hop. Experimentation, collaboration, and also just having fun are the pillars of this genre, and artists in mass were comfortable with Beckman chronicling their rise.

As a hip-hop style photographer, you have to let your subject rock, and then be ready to capture something special at any given second.

Janette Beckman’s staying power

One of the most impressive things about Beckman is how long she has been positioned as a mainstay in hip-hop culture.

She’s photographed legendary acts from various decades such as A Tribe Called Quest, Andre 3000, Dr. Dre, and more recent artists like Joey Bada$$ and Lil Tecca.

hip-hop style photographer
A Tribe Called Quest, 1990, NYC (Janette Beckman)

It’s clear that her stamp and influence on how hip-hop is captured and presented as a culture is important and relevant still after all these years.

There also seems to be no sign of her stopping. As long as there are artists who create, Beckman will be there to capture them every step of the way.

For more on Beckman, check out her official website here.

How an Atlanta portrait photography studio redefines Black beauty

CreativeSoul Photography is a portrait photography studio based in Atlanta, dedicated to capturing Black beauty in its essence. The studio was founded by married couple Regis and Kahran Bethencourt.

Representation through images is the most accessible way to engulf ourselves in aspects of culture. And, when it comes to how Black people are portrayed, a tradition of systemic racism has bled into the fabrics of Black images.

However, this centuries-old tradition is slowly being broken thanks to the efforts of Black creatives like those at CreativeSoul Photography. This Atlanta portrait photography studio is redefining Black beauty standards.

Who is behind CreativeSoul Photography?

Regis and Kahran are the husband-and-wife duo that run CreativeSoul Photography — a portrait photography studio in Atlanta.

They met at an online graphics designer’s forum and went on photography dates where they would take pictures of each other.

Regis eventually went on to study photography and Kahran began to learn right by his side. The rest is history.

This co-education blossomed into the Atlanta portrait photography studio that they own today. It has resulted in over 10 years of work capturing the beautiful and natural essence of Black people.

Redefining hair standards for kids

For many Black kids around the world, their natural hair is frowned upon and seen as a negative physical trait.

But, this socialization extends far beyond childhood. Many adult Black men and women are also discriminated against in the workplace for wearing natural hairstyles.

The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair) Act passed in California in 2020.

The act prohibited discrimination based on hairstyle and texture for the first time in the country. It marked a landmark victory for people just trying to wear what they were given at birth.

Still, the duo at CreativeSoul Photography experienced the effect of this discrimination in their own work.

Kids looking to break into fashion would send photos of themselves to the studio with their natural hair, but then they would show up to the studio looking entirely different.

They would straighten their hair, thinking that they needed to have their hair that way in order to make it in the industry.

Regis and Kahran wanted to change that assumption.

Thus, the duo started to do photo shoots all around the world to capture Black kids with their natural hair.

This way, they not only created representation, but also incentivized acceptance from the kids and society as a whole of their hair.

CreativeSoul Photography’s mission is of empowerment and the pursuit of self-love.

When Black kids see themselves as beautiful, they act like it. CreativeSoul’s work is inspiring and giving confidence to a new generation because of this.

Afro is the future

Much of CreativeSoul Photography’s latest work gives off the afro-futuristic aesthetic that has become popular in the mainstream.

In a post-Black Panther world, society is slowly catching up to seeing Black people in a positive and even royal light.

This Atlanta portrait photography studio centers its subjects behind dark-lit canvasses with the only light being the one that shines down on the main character of the photograph.

The kids in their recent photography book Glory, are shot not just with the proper touch and care that they deserve. They showcase them like royalty with luxurious garments, jewelry, and gold, while keeping their natural hair intact.

Any kid, or adult even, would look at this collection of photographs and be awestruck at the imagery. And then be encouraged to love themselves even more.

Love in the eye of the beholder for this Atlanta portrait photography studio

Regis and Kahran have built a portrait photography studio in Atlanta that defies the norms of society. They shout loudly through their art that Black is beautiful.

They are truly leading the change in creating a culture of self-love and acceptance.

Using photography as a medium to incentivize both kids and adults to embrace their culture.

Proving that society does not dictate who you have to be. The duo’s love extends farther beyond themselves. It’s clear that they truly love us all.

For more on CreativeSoul, check out their website here.