I haven’t stepped away from the keyboard in 13 years. That changes now.

Mixed race man working from home on his computer, smiling
Mixed race man working from home on his computer, smiling

I wrote my first article, for The Smoking Section, in early 2008. I was a senior in college. On average, I’ve written 2,000–3,000 published words a week since then. That’s 13 straight years of pitching, deadlines, late nights, and early mornings. I’ve been on the verge of burnout more times than I can count.

Maybe it’s because I’m a Recession Baby, never quite secure in the journalism industry and when the next check is coming or disappearing. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome that made me feel like I always have to prove myself. Maybe I don’t even know. …


A White man’s bad day is never victimless. A White man’s bad day is terror.

Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, speaks at a press conference on March 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, speaks at a press conference on March 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Last Wednesday, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s department in Cherokee County, Georgia, stood in front of reporters to explain why Robert Aaron Long had killed eight people — six of them Asian women. “He was pretty much fed up,” Baker said, “and kind of at [the] end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

Really. Bad. Day.

Given the fact that Baker himself once released racist anti-Asian merch, his implicit sympathizing with a mass murderer wasn’t even off-brand. Still, you don’t have to be that blatant of…


365 days ago, a group of actors learned that money and fame didn’t mean as much as they’d thought

A year ago, we were scared. The world had shut down, and nobody really knew how dangerous Covid-19 was going to prove to be. We were wiping down groceries, thinking that being anywhere near anyone else was a death sentence. Jobs were vaporizing; entire industries seemed to be shutting down. And we had a president we knew was constitutionally incapable of saving anyone’s life.

On this morning a year ago, Gal Gadot saw this dire state of the world and decided to do something. …


The Gary, Indiana, rapper’s story exemplifies the rise of a time that changed everything

I try not to put too much stock in award shows. Part of that is because of who decides the winners; part is because many of these shows depend on Black artists for ratings but don’t reward them for their work. The last Black woman to win a Grammy for Best Album was Lauryn Hill—more than 20 years ago. Last century.

That said, I found myself invested in this year’s Best Rap category for the Grammys, in large part because Freddie Gibbs’ album Alfredo was one of the nominees. …


The hooks on ‘Scary Hours 2’ are the same old hitmaking algorithm, but the verses show that 6 God might just be maturing

Drake attends an event in 2019.
Drake attends an event in 2019.

Almost a year ago, I wrote an article about Drake. In it, I talked about how I’d identified so much with his music when I was 22 — but then, as we both grew into our midthirties over the next decade, he basically kept making music for 22-year-olds. The article, predictably, got held up by Drake fans as some sort of scathing takedown of his music and artistry. But that’s how the internet works. I also got a lot of “he just doesn’t make music for you, old man*” from twentysomethings — which was exactly my point.

Fast forward to…


We’ve been told that the worst that happens to the state is just part of America’s natural order. It’s time that changes.

I used to be deathly afraid of tornadoes when I was a kid. And in Mississippi, tornadoes were abundant. I’d spend hours of my summer days glued to the Weather Channel any time gray clouds would form. If a storm was on the horizon, I’d watch the meteorologists explain the paths of the storm. To me, it seemed like they would say things along the lines of “this storm is going to cause major damage to New Orleans and pass on through to Birmingham.” If they ever mentioned my home, I knew that meant there was total devastation coming.

I’ve…


What’s it going to take for us to see the red flags for what they are?

Everything should have changed for Clifford “T.I.” Harris in November 2019. That’s when the rapper went on the Ladies Like Us podcast and talked about traumatizing his daughter, Deyjah. “Not only have we had The Conversation,” he said when asked about sex education in his household, “[but] we have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen.” The tradition, he said, began the day after her 16th birthday.

After mentioning how he pressured his daughter into waiving her medical privacy during these trips (“I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there…


Black voters took control of the state in the recent Senate elections. Now the backlash has arrived.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called “Trump’s War on Black Voters Is Far From Over.” Donald Trump had just lost the presidential election largely due to Black folks organizing in Georgia, and we were weeks away from Democrats regaining Senate control, thanks again to those same Black voters organizing to get Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff elected. In that article, I said that “anytime Black people utilize their voices to make seismic electoral shifts, a backlash ensues, whether that’s through changing laws or extrajudicial violence.” …


Women like Vanessa Bryant and Lauren London are deserving of respect, regardless of their connections to beloved men

Over the weekend, Vanessa Bryant logged onto Instagram to once again address a grievance on behalf of her family. This time it was about an ill-considered punchline from Meek Mill on a recent song: “If I ever lack, I’m goin’ out with my chopper, it be another Kobe.”

Bryant’s response was short and to the point. “I find this line to be extremely insensitive and disrespectful. Period,” she wrote. “I am not familiar with any of your music, but I believe you can do better than this. If you are a fan, fine, there’s a better way to show your…


The Nike sneaker-buying experience has been brutal for years. When will fans get too fed up to keep supporting the brand?

The demise of Blockbuster Video lives in my head rent-free. It’s the perfect parable about America’s brand of capitalism and what happens when people are given a choice that frees them from greed. Sort of.

Blockbuster thrived in the late ’80s and early ’90s because it scaled explosively, opening new stores and buying out competitors; in many places, it was the only way people could watch new movies that were just out of theaters. It leveraged its near-monopoly in predatory ways, charging people exorbitant late fees for movie rentals and even damaging people’s credit scores for not being able to…

David Dennis, Jr.

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us

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