The Ultimate Guide to Black Men’s Hair

After a life of stressing my hairline and waves, I found liberation and power in its unapologetic Blackness

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Photos courtesy of the author

You never forget that first pang of rejection. It’s a feeling akin to taking a medicine ball to the chest, a slap of rubbing alcohol on a freshly cut neckline. You know the vibes. And if you’d regularly rode the yellow bus to my elementary school back in ’92, you would’ve had a front-row seat for my earliest humbling.

Her name was Cassie. Like me, she made a daily commute from a not-so-great school district in Queens, New York, to one with enough textbooks for every student. Our ride was 45 minutes each way — just enough time for some deep dialogues about cartoons or crayons or whatever the hell second graders talk about. One morning, another passenger popped over an adjacent green seat and teased about whether we “liked” each other. …

The iconic whiskey carrier has long been a staple in homes of Black folks everywhere

Crown Royal is beloved by drinkers for what’s in the bottle, as well as its packaging—a soft, velvet bag that has become iconic for the countless ways Black folks choose to repurpose it.

If you’ve ever seen one of these purple bags with gold drawstrings and embroidery, there’s a high chance that it's contained any of the following: loose change, a business card from a local restaurant, sunglasses, a flash drive from 2008, a few nugs of bud, keys, incense sticks, a half-eaten pack of Starburst. Oh, or maybe even a bottle of Crown Royal.

The possibilities are infinite, and they go beyond receptacle purposes—folks have been converting these into quilts, robes, and dusters. Hell, I’m about to order this face mask made from a Crown Royal bag off Etsy, even if its to-be-determined breathability damn near suffocates me. …

The coronavirus pandemic has left the U.S. economy in shambles. And while President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to provide relief to U.S. citizens, some are worried he won’t go far enough.

In “Forget the First 100 Days — Biden Should Cancel All Student Debt on Day One,” Michael Arceneaux writes about Biden’s plan to forgive some federal student loan debt, urging him to wipe slates completely clean—and calling out haters for what they are.

Read his piece in full here:

Is the U.S. any safer for Black Americans?

Many rejoiced earlier this month when the decisive projection came in and the Associated Press declared Joe Biden winner of the 2020 presidential election. It was glorious (and so were the memes). While some are still riding high on the optimism of a forthcoming regime change, for others, the question lingers: How will the aftermath of Trump’s presidency play out—particularly with regard to Black Americans?

Donald Trump wasn’t the sole problem. There were millions of people who voted him into power—and even more who came out in support of a second term. Many within that base are bitter and angry and believe their leader has been conned out of an election, despite any evidence proving that to be true. The country seems even more divided than it was four years ago. …

The meeting of two longtime rivals for Verzuz made history—while some ignored (or egged on) the potential hazards

When the festivities were coming to a close, and the two trap titans joined forces for a closing performance of their 2005 collaboration, “So Icy,” fans could finally exhale.

The first episode of Verzuz’s second season raised eyebrows and turned heads from the moment it was announced. Gucci Mane and Jeezy—a pair of bitter rap enemies whose static dates back 15 years—would be in the same room, battling discographies for 20 rounds. Anything could happen. But sadly, some wanted to see the worst.

It was an affair that was laden with disrespect. Gucci Mane bypassed some of his bigger hits like “Freaky Gurl” and “Lemonade” to play venomous Jeezy diss tracks like “Truth.” Between songs, they traded barbs about fashion and real estate. No one expected things to be all “kumbaya”—their history of ill will was too deep, tension that leapt from music to a real-life gunplay. Fortunately, by the night’s conclusion, they squashed their beef, ending one of the more intense rivalries hip-hop has seen. …

After more than a decade of living up to his moniker, Hit-Boy has shown out as the most important hip-hop producer of 2020. But he’s trekked a long career road—and had to learn how to rely on self to arrive in his current position. In an interview with William E. Ketchum III for LEVEL, the 33-year-old prodigy opens up about the secret sauce of his beats, mistakes he’s made along the way, and his soured relationship with Kanye West. Read it here:

Much of 2020 has been dictated by the coronavirus pandemic, and as Covid-19 cases continue to surge throughout America, day-to-day decisions have become increasingly precarious. This is especially true with the holiday season approaching. In “The Life-or-Death Dilemma of Thanksgiving 2020,” LEVEL columnist Michael Arceneaux writes about his own personal struggle with quarantine loneliness and weighing the risks associated with family time this year. Read it here:

Now that President Donald Trump’s days in the Oval Office are numbered, many will begin looking back on his legacy as leader of the free world. And, according to writer David Dennis, Jr., that memory is likely to morph and change over the years, until it transforms into something respectable, perhaps even honorable.

In his LEVEL essay, History Will Look Kindly on Trump, No Matter What,” Dennis runs down America’s track record of lionizing despicable White men—and explains why Trump’s legacy will likely follow that tradition. Read it here:

Despite Biden and Harris’ win, the sheer numbers supporting Trump reinforces some ugly truths about this nation

After four years of fuckery, the presidential election shouldn’t have been this close. Donald Trump has flailed and failed his way through his tenure as president, from spearheading inhumane immigration practices to royally botching a pandemic to covering up all types of sketchy shit (from his tax payments to alleged collusion with Russia). Yet while he was trumped by Joe Biden’s popular vote numbers (a record-setting 74 million-plus), Trump managed to surpass Barack Obama’s previous record of more than 69 million popular votes. That’s right, 70 million people voted for this dude nationwide.

As much as it’s shocking, it really isn’t. Especially if you’ve paying attention to the inner workings of the U.S. at any point during these past 300 years. Our countrymen are who we thought they were: sheep; racists; capitalists with few morals and even less compassion; Bible thumpers with selective virtues; those so stuck on supremacy that they’d rather watch the nation burn than cede even an ounce of their own power and privilege. …


John Kennedy

Senior Editor, LEVEL

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