Culture over Commerce | Crooked Media
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May 07, 2024
Pod Save The People
Culture over Commerce

In This Episode

Kendrick and Drake battle it out in a war of words, a rich white community in Baton Rouge forms its own city, and widespread misconduct outed within the NYC marshall.


Teens come up with trigonometry proof for Pythagorean Theorem, a problem that stumped math world for centuries

New wealthy, white city in Louisiana just became one of state’s largest towns

Many City Marshals Have Been Disciplined for Misconduct, Chief Investigator Testifies

The Results Are In: Kendrick Lamar Won the Great Rap War


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DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, this is DeRay and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode it’s me, Kaya, and Myles talking about the news that you don’t know or some issues with regard to race, justice and equity that went underreported in the past week. Here we go. 




Myles E. Johnson: Family, family, family far and wide. This is the smooth sound of Myles E. Johnson, you are listening to Pod Save the People. My name is Myles E. Johnson. You can find me on TikTok, Instagram, X, at @pharaohrapture. Am I using any of those right now? No, but you can find me on them. 


Kaya Henderson: [laugh] My name is Kaya Henderson and you can find me on Twitter at @HendersonKaya.


DeRay Mckesson: And this is DeRay at @deray on Twitter. 


Myles E. Johnson: So I want to jump right into some news. I’m going to I’m not going to front with you all. This news scares me because when I hear math, trauma from from from my toes up into my to my heart, trauma just, just comes. And um, this story about these um Black girls who did a math problem that was supposed to be impossible to do, but they did it. Um. I’m going to be real with you. I watched the 60 minutes uh clip, probably sixty 11 times, and I still didn’t quite understand what they did. But I know that it was great, that it was spectacular and that it was um Black girls finding a finding a possibility in the impossible. How did y’all feel? Did y’all see the clip?


Kaya Henderson: I loved this story because it was I mean, you know, that they basically re- redefined the Pythagorean theorem, which might sound familiar to you from your high school math classes. Um. But for 2000 years, there was only one way to do it. And based on a challenge that the school put up for $500, these two young ladies worked really hard and figured out something new. And um, it makes me so excited. I mean, you know, as a little Black girl, underneath all of this, um I’m sure there were a zillion people who never thought that um a young Black student could or a set of young Black students, um have the capacity to do this. And in fact, their school has gotten a lot of racist comments and emails and blowback. Um. But I think we all know that there is infinite possibility in our community and these and we prove it over and over and over again in fashion, in music, in science, in inventions, and in math. Y’all math, math, math. Um. And what I most loved about it, um there was somebody who said, oh, these girls are unicorns. And the little girl said, well, if I’m a unicorn, then my school is full of a whole bunch of beautiful Black unicorns. And that is something that I say all the time. I’m not a unicorn. I come from a herd of unicorns. You just ain’t never seen nothing like us before. And so shout out to Ne’Kiya and Calcea for doing the damn thing. They’re now in college. They did this in high school. They’re now in college. Um. And I’m super excited for what these young mathematicians are going to continue to do to shatter people’s expectations about what young, smart Black kids can do. 


DeRay Mckesson: So they originally did this a couple years ago when they were in high school, and they are in college now. 60 minutes has been covering has sort of been following it, and they did a great set of interviews with their parents, with the teacher, and I love it. And these girls are g’s and not only did they solve it in high school because of the contest, but they have continued working on more proofs in college because they are in college now, and they think that they have found five more proofs of something that they were told was impossible. And I just love it. And when you hear their parents talk about it, their parents are like, you know, we don’t know we definitely don’t know this kind of math, but they’re like, they just had buckets of papers where they were like working through it, like 20, 30 sheets where they just and they kept throwing them away and starting over and throwing them away and starting over and just and they worked it till they got it. And I just love that. It’s such a good reminder as a former math teacher, that practice matters. And that, you know, I think about all the people who’ve never had access to a whole host of things. I think about in and Kaya you know this from schooling, I think about all the parents who were in my high school who fought for their kids, the white parents who like demanded that their kids were in the highest math classes. And I saw all these amazing, brilliant Black kids who were trapped in the lowest classes, whose parents would have never come up to the school and demand it, like my father would have never told a teacher to do something. Or told the guy like that wasn’t he like, you listen to the teacher. But I saw it for the first time in high school. Parents like force schools to do right by their kids because they were like, you know, you going to do this. Um. And I think about how many kids we’ve left behind because the system just has not done right by them. So I love this story. 


Myles E. Johnson: One of the things that really always got me with math, um and I am one of those people, I don’t think math is I don’t think anything is for everybody, I really don’t. And how brilliant I am in certain realms, and how not so brilliant I am in other realms just confirms that for me. [laugh] And math was one of those was one of those places. But I remember one of the things that would bother me when I was in school around math was that there was such a this is the answer. This is the this is how you get there. This is there’s really there was no wiggle room, at least in my experience of how math was taught to me. So what’s also really almost like magical about this story is that math, which is something that is so like uh static and this is how you get here and there’s no and there’s not too many shortcuts or other ways or other ways to think about it like that, that math has become like liquid with this story and that even um something as static and solid and concrete as math has become um like liquid in the, in the, in the minds of these Black girls. That that was really cool to me. 


Kaya Henderson: Last week, participated in a webinar with a bunch of academics around shifting math mindsets. Right. And the point of this is the fact that we have told people that they can’t do math or not everybody is math minded and whatnot. And the simple power of shifting these narratives for helping people understand that math is not static. Math is actually very fluid. For helping people understand that practice is like practice actually makes you better at math. That struggle is part of the the thing. And then making math relevant, like when kids are solving problems that are worthy of their time and attention that um have impacts for themselves, their families, their communities, like kids, are actually great at math. And when kids get a really good math foundation. And so one of the things that we’ve got to do in this country is renegotiate our um our relationship with math. There is a set of people who want us to continue to believe that math is only the purview of a small group of really smart, usually white, usually men, um people. And the truth of the matter is, young ladies like Ne’Kiya and Calcea, have every right to math as these, you know, old, stale, pale male people. Um. And so I’m here for it all. I’m here for helping educators understand how they can break the current math mindsets and help people embrace math in new ways. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, speak, like I, I bet you’ve been watching that story before you start your math classes. Like watching that like having that be a part of it. I bet that will even change how Black kids attack math. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: To um, one number to the other uh, 69 god, Drake. Kendrick Lamar. [laughter] One thing I do know is four plus four– 


DeRay Mckesson: Come on transition. 


Myles E. Johnson: [?] ate. [laughter] I know Kendrick ate that, that is math that I know how to do. Um. So I got my start, my first one of the first places that ever asked me to write was OkayPlayer. My mom reminded me that there was this website called um that I used to lie and be able to write for when I was 15 and I was too young to really work, but I will write for that. So I say all this to say is um, I love hip hop culture. I would consider myself a student of of of of hip hop. Um. This has been one of the most exhilarating days in hip hop in a extremely long time. If you have been absolutely living next to SpongeBob SquarePants under the sea and you don’t already know this story. Kendrick Lamar and Drake have been beefing. And when I tell you, Kendrick, they have not been letting each other breath. There hasn’t been a solid 24 hours since Euphoria dropped that there hasn’t been a song response from Drake. And then once Drake drops something, I believe that it was 15 minutes after Drake um dropped the the The Family Matters. Kendrick Lamar dropped Meet the Grahams, which is this, like very haunting, almost scary horror rap um takedown of Drake as letters to Drake’s family members, starting with his son. Um. Then when you think it’s all over. Kendrick Lamar comes back and does a victory lap in the form, on the form of Not Like Us, and really buckles down on some really nasty claims that Drake was messing with minors. And there’s this like line in it that says, um a minor in that kind of it’s just I don’t know, it’s one of those things where I don’t even know if you could come back like it’s one it’s specifically in the age of the internet. Now that that is out there, now that that is a song now that people were in the streets Crip walking to it and and and and drinking and and talking about it and and laughing about it. It’s like that is like forever a part of your legacy now even as as gross and and and and as um, sad as that is. But any who child. How did y’all feel about this this this rap beef? Again, I think that this is exciting because I do think that Drake and his ghostwriters are extremely talented. And I think that Kendrick Lama is also really talented. [?]


Kaya Henderson: Drake and his ghostwriters. 


Myles E. Johnson: So I feel like he’s–


Kaya Henderson: And his ghostwriters. 


Myles E. Johnson: I feel like you’re seeing–


Kaya Henderson: Shout out to the ghost writers. 


Myles E. Johnson: You gotta shout them out. I see dead people. Um. Like I saw, I think that the, I think that the tension and the and seeing two peop– two um rappers who are on top of their game go back and forth has been really exciting and like, let’s be honest, like hip hop rap music right now has not necessarily been centered around skill, has not been centered around storytelling, has not been um centered around the competitive nature of I deserve to lead this cultural community into its next era, which is what the King of Rap is, right? Is that person who’s leading this cultural community into its next era and being able to deserve that. There hasn’t been that competitive nature in it, and it’s just seem to be back. And it’s been exciting and like every my favorite YouTubers have been going live every 15 minutes because of that. Um. And let me excuse myself. So, uh Kendrick Lamar dropped Meet the Grahams one hour after Drake dropped Family Matters. So again, did not give him even a full 24 to be able to breathe. Um. Where were y’all at when this dropped? How do y’all feel? Do you have favorite lines? Will you be writing the eulogy? 


DeRay Mckesson: So, I was um, disappointed in Drake’s reply. I thought this last thing was going to be a little better than it is. But, you know, it’s been interesting. People have been like. You know, we’re focusing too much on this. This is I will tell you, this was the only thing on my timeline yesterday. It was, I ain’t seeing nothing else but Drake and Kendrick. And what’s interesting about it is that it led to a host of conversations about um, about grooming, about the grooming that happens in the entertainment industry, about massage noir, about friendship, about a whole host of things. Like it was a really expansive conversation that happened. And even today, you know, people are like saying the obvious, right? That like, there’s really no reason why a 35 year old should be friends with a 15 year old. Like friends. You’re like, this is a weird thing. You know that whole conversation about Millie Bobby Brown, Millie, Millie Bobby Brown, that’s her name right? Um. And and what, Drake’s text to her and I even that you know I was telling one, me and my friends are talking about it. And I’ll never forget being in the same room as Sasha and Malia. And I almost went up and said something, and I’m like, DeRay you’re a grown man? There’s not a world where I will go up to an 11 year old and be like, can I get a picture? Like that just no matter who you are, that doesn’t make sense. I’m an adult. And I remember being like, oh, that’s Sasha and Malia. And I’m like, leave them alone, they kids. Everybody leave them alone. They are children. And I think that this uh, you know, Kendrick ate him up. There’s nothing I can say. But ate him for breakfast, lunch, dinner, I almost am like, Kendrick, don’t put out another record because this it’s to you, he already down. Just let him stay down. It’s too much. Um. But Kendrick did that. And, you know, I will also say that this is like, you know when you just don’t like somebody, and you don’t even got to pretend. You ain’t got to make something up. Kendrick is like, I don’t like him and that’s it. You’re like, you know what? I get it. 


Kaya Henderson: Not I don’t like him.


DeRay Mckesson: Also a lot of people didn’t like Drake, I realized. 


Kaya Henderson: Not I don’t like him. 


DeRay Mckesson: Oh and–


Kaya Henderson: I hate him, I hate you. 


DeRay Mckesson: I mean, it’s–


Kaya Henderson: I hate the way you say bloop. I hate the bloops you bloop. I hate the like [laugh] look this is not I don’t like you. This is a whole different level. A completely–


Myles E. Johnson: Right. 


Kaya Henderson: –different level of disregard and disrespect. Sorry. Go ahead. 


DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll say is no the last thing I forgot sorry, Metro Boomin’s contest spawned genius because some of those raps. Metro Boomin, a famous producer, he put out a beat and asked people to rap over it, criticizing Drake. Some of the stuff people, all I heard something from Paris. Like people were on it. 


Kaya Henderson: So this is the Auntie version of the [laugh] of the thing. And full disclosure, like I heard Euphoria when it dropped and I might’ve listened to it ten different times. I thought it like it is brilliant. And every single time you listen to it, you get some new nugget, some different understanding of a metaphor. Like, it is absolutely brilliant and I was like, this is what happens when you let a Pulitzer Prize winner get at you, right? And like, I was like, okay, we are to me. I, you know, I was around when hip hop started and this is the essence of hip hop, right? Beefing diss tracks like this is. And I was like, oh my God, we’re finally past the mumble rap phase. We are back to like, real hip hop. This is quintessential hip hop. And then um, and then I listened to, Not Like Us. Oh, wait, can I also just say, let me pause parenthetically to say that part of the reason why Euphoria had me in a chokehold is because it starts off with a little Teddy Pendergrass, which is my favorite. 


Myles E. Johnson: Oh! 


Kaya Henderson: My most favorite, honey. Oh, come on, see, this is what I’m talking about anyway. Then–


Myles E. Johnson: You’re my greatest–


Kaya Henderson: I listened to, come on. Then I listened to um, then I listened to Not Like Us. And I was like, oh my God. Like, this is bananas. This is so crazy. Meet the Grahams. I don’t know, somewhere in Auntiedom over the weekend, running around, doing errands, doing other things. I missed the whole second part of this thing. So now I got to go back and pull it all together. But I say all of that to say, um energizing. Exciting. Like even for the olds like us, like, this is, this is hip hop, baby. This is hip hop. And um I will say I agree with you, DeRay. Rick Ross said he was like, you know, listen, I mean, you and me got beef, Drake. I’m not your friend. But clearly you don’t have no friends. So I’m gonna tell you what your friends should tell you if you had some. Don’t respond to this. Just leave it alone. Just go away. Whatever. Whatever. [laugh] And, apparently that’s not what happened. Now, I will also say, did you hear this thing about Rick Ross’s plane had to land, and he said that Drake uh attacked him with a fighter jet. Y’all. Come on, let’s just stop acting foolish around here. But [laugh] but [laugh] where’d Drake get a fighter jet from? Tell me that? And and really, Rick Ross. 


Myles E. Johnson: Child. 


Kaya Henderson: You think you that important? Okay. Anyway, um but I love this. I love, love, love this. I’m excited to go back and listen to part two piece them all together and think about this some more. So. Yeah. Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: It’s, it’s it’s so good. And then the other thing too is, you know, me, I’m always thinking about, like, anytime things are, like, conflicting, I always think about, like, the idea of people and like what they represent and to I think I don’t I forgot, if it was just you or DeRay or maybe both of you all said how um you didn’t know so many people didn’t like Drake. And I think that’s true. But I also think so many people specifically, when I think about the listeners, I think so many people, uh have been upset around the, the commerce side of rap being above the cultural talent side of rap, you know what I mean? And I think that Kendrick is, like, symbolic for a lot of stuff. I always think when things like this happen, somebody’s symbolic for something. That’s just how my brain works. But it is hard not to see that Kendrick Lamar isn’t also symbolic for a type of rap that isn’t dictated by the internet, that isn’t dictated by [?]. 


Kaya Henderson: Yes. 


Myles E. Johnson: Isn’t dictated by, um that you can’t act your way into. You know, I’m 33, so I remember Drake in Degrassi. Great guy. [laughter] You know what I mean? 


Kaya Henderson: Not a rapper. 


Myles E. Johnson: Really innocent, so it’s so it’s really weird to see somebody this, this suburban kid who’s a child actor like, act his way into this, this, this status and and for nobody to, you know, even on Euphoria, he reverses Richard Pryor in the Wizard of um excuse me, the Wiz when he says, you know, everything they say about me is true. That’s that’s Richard Pryor saying that in reverse. So really saying that. No, this is a fake. This is somebody who’s pretending to be something that he’s not, and we’re talking about it. So it feels like that kind of um, that kind of like kind of cultural battle is happening too, not just around Drake and Kendrick Lamar, but around art versus commerce. And I think that’s why so many people are um, energized by this as well, because I think so many people are tired of just everything being so much about commerce. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Stay tuned. There’s more to come. 




DeRay Mckesson: [music break] Mine is about the you know the government only works because there are layers and layers of people and processes that allow it to work at scale, and I’m always interested in how that happens. My first fascination of it was in school systems, and I saw like, you know, if the woman who processes your leave is out, you probably are screwed. Or if there’s a new person who does this one thing, you’re in a bind. And what I’m talking about today is in New York City that uh, there are 28 marshals who help collect debts owed in New York City. And there are a 11 of them who New York City’s watchdog agency has actually filed charges against. And this is a level of corruption that completely disrupts people’s lives. And I was fascinated by it. And to think that 11 out of 28 people have charges against them. And as somebody who used to work inside the government, I can only imagine what they have not uncovered. So let me explain what happened. The marshals and I didn’t even know these people existed. The marshals are the people who enforce court ordered evictions and money judgments. They do not make any money. They don’t have a salary. I mean, they do actually make money interesting, but they don’t have a salary. And they’re appointed by the mayor to five year terms, and they’re allowed to keep 5% of whatever they collect, but they must turn over to the city, 4.5% of the gross amount collected. Some of the marshals, even though they don’t make a salary, they because of the what they can collect, they make over a million annually. Now, what got them in a bind is that some of the marshals were levying leads on things outside of their jurisdiction, and those people sued. And that is seemingly what tipped this off. Legal aid has also been complaining that they have not been giving people two weeks notice before they do the evictions. And I was reading about this and I’m like, you know, I didn’t even know this existed. But I will tell you that this whole setup just feels like a gateway to corruption. It makes sense to me that you would have people who can levy leans and all that stuff because, you know, somebody has to enforce it. That makes sense. But you have created a financial incentive for them to do it. And and that feels like not the goal of public service. And I can only imagine then, you know, the people that sued them were like, already had a lot of money, so they were getting levies on them. But they were a big business, uh who was deemed a predatory lender. But they were like a big company. I think about all the people that these marshals have probably screwed over who don’t have the means to sue, who don’t have the resources to push back, um whose lives have been forever changed because this small group of people with an extraordinary amount of power and no oversight have wreaked havoc. So I wanted to bring it here because I learned in this. 


Myles E. Johnson: Well, A, thank you for bringing this in because it’s always seemed like something really shady. And um like like wildy criminal is happening underneath all types of like, public service. And I think that again, often that can be overwhelming. And these stories are really important. I think the main broad thing that I always um return to when I hear stories like this is how certain things, in my opinion, should not be financially incentivized. Like I think that– 


Kaya Henderson: Yup. 


Myles E. Johnson: That is like the big that’s the that’s the big, the motivation motivational factor. I think about how many people I know who um, have had their lives changed because of, eviction, because of these different um, because of different things. And when I look at articles like this, it shows that the financial incentives are also making it so that these type of uh horrible and to and to me just at least socially criminal behaviors persist, where um, because you have that financial incentive to um do them. And that’s the big thing that always strums my heart is just that we should be doing public service because the public deserves to be served, not because it’s a means to get rich or to be able to um get money. 


Kaya Henderson: I think that’s right. The incentives are all wrong. I would also say oversight is all wrong, because the Department of Investigation’s knew that these people were not doing the right thing. The article notes that there were 550 complaints about city marshals and since 2019, and they’ve initiated 30 investigations. How are you, you that those numbers don’t even sound right to me. If you got 550 complaints against a set of 28 people, it’s only 28 of them. Then you know that something is rampantly wrong. And so you shirk your oversight of building responsibility. If you’re only looking into 30 of them, or you’re not hiring an outside organization to do the deep investigation. And so, you know, I think that, good for these people for suing, even if they are bad people. A broken clock is right twice a day, um as my grandmother would say. And you know, it also, I think, um is important to remember that without a free press, we don’t know about things like this. And I think that the press is increasingly compromised and, and disincentivized and punished from writing stories like this. But keep going journalists keep on doing this, um so that we know what’s happening with our these are our tax dollars. These are our tax dollars that these people are keeping. And uh, clearly this is an an area of the government that’s in need of deep reform. My news this week comes to us from, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where in fact, um secession is happening, not succession like the show. Secession, which is the breaking away, um of a municipality from another municipality. Here is the story. Baton Rouge, Louisiana public schools. It starts with schools. Which I always say are a microcosm of society. The school district is largely Black. Um.And most of the folks in North Baton Rouge are Black and low income. Um. The school district is becoming more and more colorful each year. Um. In the southern part of the city, there is a small community called Saint George, which is largely white and affluent. And since 2015, Saint George has been trying to secede or break away um from East Baton Rouge. First, they wanted to create their own school district because they feel like the people running the school district are wasting their tax dollars and failing their kids because they are not providing them with a high quality education. Um. And they pursued a few different legal strategies to try to incorporate their own school district. They all failed. Um. And so they took a page from um what’s happening in a number of cities and counties around the country where largely white, affluent populations are um voting to incorporate their own cities, to break away from Baton Rouge and create the incorporated city of Saint George. And as I said, this started in 2015, failed a couple of times in 2018, they re-upped and went at it in a different direction this city wide incorporation. And last week they won at the Louisiana Supreme Court. And so Saint George will be able to pull completely away from um, from Baton Rouge. It will have its own school system. It will have its own city services. And um, this is a strategy that’s not just happening in Louisiana. It’s happening all around the country. Shelby County schools pulled away from Memphis. In Birmingham, you only need um a few hundred kids to create your own school district. And so all of the wealthy white communities have pulled out of Birmingham public schools, leaving it to be almost completely Black and completely low income. And for those people who don’t understand the implications beyond race, there is a financial implication, right? School districts are funded on the city’s tax base. And so um, the estimation of Saint George moving out of Baton Rouge, they believe it to be a $48 million loss of taxes to the city, but it’s also a loss of funds, funding for the school district. And so, um when I think about the dystopian future, this puts us on a pathway to, you know, gated communities, gated cities, walls around cities, because people don’t want to be with other people’s children and the children who are most likely to suffer, um are poor Black children. There is a community in Atlanta that has pulled out because it didn’t want it’s white children to be with negro children. And that is the that’s the town that they that these Saint George people are basing their example on. And so this is economic racism. This is academic racism. And this is just plain, old I don’t want my children with those colorful children racism. And I think we’re going to continue to see more of, wealthy white communities pulling out every policy stop that they possibly can, um to move far away from us, to continue to create rules that kill and destroy, not just individually, like we saw with the Chips program last week in Florida, but that destroy us collectively. Um. And I brought this to the park because I wanted people to



Myles E. Johnson: Thank you so much, um Kaya, for bringing this to the pod. I know that DeRay probably had something way more hopefully profound to say than than I do right now, but this, that definitely reminds me of white flight, of course. And also, and I feel like I’ve maybe said this a couple of times on this pod in the last two weeks, but I think that sometimes we um because of what’s happening in Israel, what’s happening in in in Palestine and like what’s going on that sometimes we can always, um externalize the uh, the genocides that are happening over there. This, to me, is also one of those ways that you exterminate futures. This is also one of those ways that you wield your white power in order to um annihilate Black possibility by knowing that there’s certain types of funding, certain types of you just know money, incentive, attention that you’ll get when you have a mixed school, a mixed class school as well as a mixed race school, and you are intentionally taking that white power away so these Black children won’t get the crumbs of it. You know what I mean? There’s so many things that happened to me. I went to school in Georgia. There are so many things that I was able to participate in simply because there’s there’s so many things that I got to participate in, not because I was just this special Black kid, but because there was some um, white kids who went to my school and because we had a mixed class or mixed mixed class. And I’m saying classes in, um financial income type of school. So there were certain possibilities that were available to me that I got to benefit from that. If um, those white kids or those white families decided to do this, I, we, I just they wouldn’t even be tangible to me. So I do see this as a type of like legalized violence. I see this as a type of, like wielding of a certain type of white supremacist violence that I think that, um maybe feels harsh to name it like that, but I don’t really see any other way to think about it, you know? Um. Because we all know what’s going to happen to lower income Black kids who don’t have access to um, programs or the financial backing that they should have. We all know what’s going to happen to those uh, to those kids. So it’s hard for me to imagine it any other type of way. 


DeRay Mckesson: The only thing I’ll say is, A, I didn’t know that the secession efforts in Louisiana date back hundreds of years that they it seems like they are able to do it now, but they’ve been trying to do this for a long time. They’ve been trying to secede from the country. They’ve been trying to break apart the state. And that the history of voter suppression in Louisiana is long, that they um, had a reading requirement that they called the understanding clause of the concept their state constitution. That said, if you don’t understand the Constitution, you can’t vote. As you can imagine, they deemed it that the Black people didn’t understand the Constitution, so they disenfranchized hordes of people. They have a felony disenfranchisement laws. So if you are convicted of a felony in the past, they make you jump through hoops with paperwork to regain the vote. They’re being sued by civil rights groups for it, but they make you personally hunt down information that the Department of Corrections already gives the state, just to prove that you really want to vote. And they do these bureaucratic hoops. But the last thing I’ll say about Louisiana is you probably remember that they were found in violation of the Voting Rights Act, because they had gerrymandered the map so much that the people in Baton Rouge were disenfranchized at the state level with elections, namely, like the state Supreme Court, they had to redo the map. They redid the map. The governor just signed the map. And then the Louisiana State Supreme Court with two Trump people, has now said that the map is deemed unconstitutional. Now, this has already been an issue with Alabama. The court ruled it that they had to fix the map. It is likely that the Supreme Court will intervene, and they will also have to fix the map again. But what the Republicans are playing in Louisiana is a time game that, you know, the Supreme Court’s going to go on break at some point soon. So the Supreme Court might just not weigh in till after November. And this racist map might be the map that people have to vote in in the next election, knowing that’s disenfranchizing people. And that is really the long game that they’re playing. We say it every week, but they could not win if they did not cheat. [music break]


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere, more Pod Save the People is coming. 




Myles E. Johnson: And not to beat a dead horse or, I don’t know, beat a dead Drake. But let’s kind of move back to um some news that that dropped while we’re actually taping. So um, I don’t know if y’all saw this exchange. So Morgan Jerkins, who is a um, who is a friend of mine. Brilliant writer. Um. For the last year, year and a half, I believe she’s been at Princeton, um as a professor in Princeton. She’s just a brilliant woman. She had this exchange with DJ Vlad. If you um, don’t know who DJ Vlad is, he is a white um interviewer who does white interview series on on hip hop culture. So um, a lot of people have been interviewed interviewed by DJ Vlad. Really if any Black comedian, um rapper, bodyguard with salacious gossip, like anything that is that’s in that world, they probably have touched in some way DJ Vlad. So so the original exchange goes basically DJ Vlad critiquing Kendrick Lamar’s Not Like Us song and saying it could have used a better mix. Morgan Jerkins says, um responds to that and says, you are white. This is a Black folk affair. Basically saying, let’s not center your opinions or your ideas in this um Black discussion. Um. DJ Vlad then goes to tag Princeton and basically tell Morgan that, hey, is this how you do business? Is this, is this what a Princeton professor should say? That white people can’t comment on hip hop stuff and essentially tries to get her fired and says that on Monday she’s going to go and get get her fired. He just um tweeted after just a litany of tweets, um over the weekend saying he was going to get her fired. He then says, since it’s Monday, let me clear the air and state that I never had any intention of filing a complaint to Princeton for former Professor Morgan Jerkins saying that white people aren’t allowed to comment on Kendrick Lamar’s music. She trolled me, and I trolled back. At the end of the day, it creating an interesting discussion about race relations in America. I’ll be discussing it further in my feature interviews. Morgan, um Jerkins, uh replies back, a lie. He tagged my employer multiple times with the intention to professionally harm me. I didn’t troll, I center Black people in the discussion on hip hop and told him to stand down because it’s not his space. He’s backtracking because he miscalculated. By the way, stop contacting my family. Um. Also, what you might not know is that Morgan Jerkins is also related to uh Rodney Jerkins. So that Jerkin’s name is is real. You know, she has she has real good Brandy stories. 


Kaya Henderson: She got bonefides. 


Myles E. Johnson: We have we have lots of–


Kaya Henderson: Bonefides. 


Myles E. Johnson: Yeah, we have [?], we have we had to have um gotten meals and coffee. When I first got here, she got some good Brandy music stories that I felt that were juicy. So if you don’t understand why DJ Vlad might try to actually contact her family, it’s because her family is in a part of music history as well. So, did you see this? And then again, I wanted to tie this back in with it feels like this Kendrick Lamar versus Drake thing is this commerce versus art thing. And I feel like DJ Vlad maybe miscalculated a little bit because it seems like people who are so [?] up by Kendrick Lamar being like, yeah, you’re not one of us. And then DJ Vlad saying something, and be like, yo, you’re not one of us either. I feel like a lot more people felt energized to call out and or to um, to to to to to fight back these kind of, like, culture vultures that have been in the culture and being like, yo, like it’s not just Drake who we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about everybody who is um taking pieces of hip hop and using it to profit. We’re we’re tired of it all. And it feels like DJ Vlad might have miscalculated, um what he was able to do as far as a white man, as far as a troll, as far as a internet personality, I think he really miscalculated who he was talking to. And, um who was viewing and how the the public would respond. Because, let’s be real, um usually you can do that to Black women on the internet and nothing happened, or nobody come to save, nobody come to save her. But I think, A,  Morgan has a lot of um cultural privilege. Princeton, Jerkins family member. But then also, I think that uh, this era, and this moment right now, people are tired of seeing stuff like that, and that was just horrible optics. But um, what what do you what do y’all think? 


DeRay Mckesson: I do think there are a lot of really interesting conversations that were spawned because of the back and forth and that, frankly, are still going on this morning. I love that Morgan didn’t let him off the hook. You know, because, Vlad, I did an interview on DJ Vlad about the protests a long time ago. I had no clue who he was. It was just like another, you know, I’m like, I’ll talk about the protests on any venue I can. And da da da. I had never heard of him before. And the more I learned, I’m like, oh, his niche is like the old rappers who aren’t being interviewed anywhere else. And, and like he just just creates a lot of news from, from these sort of things. And um but he definitely try to get her fired and his like try to rebrand this morning was like it was the most Karen thing of all to not be like, well, let me just disagree with you, Morgan, but immediately be like Princeton let this woman you’re like, come on. 


Kaya Henderson: I didn’t know who DJ Vlad was. So thank you to the Auntie crew for, hipping us to the culture. Um. Well, not the culture to the people in and around and exploiting the culture. But I, first of all, I just I read Morgan’s whole entire thread, and she keeps it classy, but she not let him off the hook is the nice way of saying it. Like she’s like, first of all, do you do you know who I am? Like and I didn’t say you can’t comment like this is what I am saying. And so I thought her her takedown was just lovely. But more than that, the like the different people who have come to her aid or who have come to defend her, there’s a professor at the University of Maryland who wrote hey vulture vlad, I’m a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Please also call my job to complain about me on Monday, because I think your colonizer like engagement with hip hop has earned Black folks the right to ask you to stay out of these discussions. Peace. Shout out Rion Amilcar Scott. Um. I do think that one of the questions around hip hop is who does it belong to? Right? And I think, you know, I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been in Peru and seen people, you know, rapping and popping and deejaying and whatnot and Japan and blah blah. And I love hip hop’s universalism and reach and whatnot. And I think that, um this is just my personal opinion. You could agree or not agree, but Black people started hip hop and so hip hop belongs to us. We invite you to participate. But don’t get it twisted like hip hop is ours. This is my problem with, you know, the people who think that Eminem is the greatest rapper of all time. Say what now? I’m not saying. I’m not saying a white person could not be the greatest rapper of all time. I’m just saying we have not hit that cultural moment yet. And so I think um, I think this is about race in lots of places. I mean, whatchamajiggit.  Kendrick calls Drake a colonizer, right? He he you you you know, when you need credibility, you go to Atlanta and 21 Savage and Lil Baby and blah, blah. Like you are, like, all of this is about race. And so of course it would play out in, you know, in Twitter back and forths and whatnot. Um. But this whole I mean, that’s what makes this Kendrick stuff so amazing. Like, there is a whole history lesson for people who were not listening, um or who who don’t know black history. I mean, I don’t know. Sorry. Okay, I’m back to the analysis. I can’t get away from it. Like there’s so much here. 


Myles E. Johnson: I think Kendrick did such a masterful job at the narrative he wanted to push that it put Drake in defense. 


Kaya Henderson: Uh huh. 


Myles E. Johnson: So Drake couldn’t really come back and diss Kendrick Lamar for five or seven minutes. He had to clean up these accusations, which might be really good as far as you know, Gwyneth Paltrow inviting you to dinner or, you know, you being able to get like–


Kaya Henderson: Damage control. 


Myles E. Johnson: Get invited to certain, you know, damage control for your for the bigger commercial um machine that is Drake. But it doesn’t do a lot when it comes to hip hop reputation that you’re over here being like, I didn’t do that. I didn’t say that, I wouldn’t do that, da da da. You kind of have to, like, just not to ignore it so uh Kendrick Lamar put him in a very interesting place. Because when you’re big in commerce, you have to protect the product. And if the–


Kaya Henderson: Yeah. 


Myles E. Johnson: –product is, is something in a post me too world that’s saying to be predatory, you have to clean that up. So Kendrick put Drake in a really interesting position. I think the other thing, too, that I’ve seen people talking about is how, I don’t know, as a student of hip hop, but also student of um disco, I see a lot of people kind of talking about how um, don’t be distracted by this beef because of, you know, of course, what’s happening in Columbia in the encampment and then um, and and and what’s happening um just in Palestine and genocide. I, I really resent when people make it seem as though people can’t do two things at one time. And I also think moments of really huge tension also call for really huge relief. And I think that is what birthed hip hop is the is that is that drug era, was those ghettos, was um, was the crack era. And I think that’s also what birthed disco was a lot of um was was just the same thing. I don’t know if disco would have been as necessary if, like, we weren’t talking about the Vietnam War and like and and and a lot of the other in the um civil rights movements that were happening. So I think that a lot of times we see in culture that moments of huge tension also need huge relief. So I think that it’s possible to say free Palestine and lock up Drake at the same time. I think that we have um, complicated enough minds that we can say enough. So I always resent when people make it seem as though we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, and I know that we can. I’ve seen it. And I think often moments like this also galvanize people to do the political stuff, too. It gives people escape. You kind of need something to refresh your mind, or to energize your spirit a little bit to in order to do whatever work you’re called to do. Um. When it comes to what we’re facing politically. But I also think we’re, we’re we’re in a place where everybody has to say something. So I think sometimes the contrarian thing is the only thing people have available. 


Kaya Henderson: I think that’s right. I also I was, I was in a museum last week. Um. And it was a, like an archeological museum in Mexico, and it was looking at pre-Columbian civilizations and all of this stuff. And um, one of my girlfriends said to me, it’s really interesting that there are all of these wars and politics and stuff in the pre-Columbian society, but the only thing that persists is the art. What we have left is the art. And I think it is critically important in moments like these to not just be caught up in the politics and what have you, but art is an expression of our politics. Art is an expression of our culture. Art is the thing that will persist. And so we have to, the artists are our our scribes. They are our messengers. They are the people who leave the the history for us to tell. So it is, you know, a lie to say that the art is not important. The art is critical because the art is the thing that persists. 


DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Well that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Don’t forget to follow us at @CrookedMedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. And if you enjoyed this episode of Pod Save the People, consider dropping us a review on your favorite podcast app and we’ll see you next week. Pod Save the People is a production of Crooked Media, it’s produced by AJ Moultrié and mixed by Vasilis Fotopoulos, executive produced by me and special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles E. Johnson. [music break]