“State of the Culture” is the show you turn on to hear unfiltered, unapologetic, gritty opinions in regards to topics within hip hop culture — whether you agree with what’s being said or not. Joe Budden, Remy Ma, Jinx, and Eboni K. Williams aren’t here to hold your hand in their debates and sugarcoat their words. They’re here to say what everyone else is afraid of saying, and do so with no hesitation. From talking about music, politics, sports and everything in between; the hosts never hold back. Welcome to “State of the Culture.”
This week’s “State Of The Culture” leaned heavily into the new music releases. We had some polarizing opinions about Kehlani’s new album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, which inspired debate about the homogeneity of R&B today. The panel also spoke on Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott’s Verzuz battle. SOTC also grappled with the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery and what it shows about the value of black lives in this country. They also gave their flowers to the black excellence of Michelle Obama for her “Becoming” documentary on Netflix.
Peep the nine best gems from this week’s “State Of The Culture” below.
1. Rest in peace Andre Harrell
Since this week’s episode of SOTC was filmed just 12 hours before the passing of Andre Harrell became public, the panel wasn’t able to speak on it. However, it should be known that Harrell was a fixture in the creation of the show, and the cast is heartbroken over the news. Next week, the show will honor the music mogul in a way that speaks to the fullness of his legacy. Until then, our hearts go out to Harrell’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.
2. Kehlani’s new album makes waves, but not everyone was feeling it
Kehlani made the gutsy move to drop her highly anticipated album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic. Thankfully, the craziness of the times didn’t stop her shine. Jinx considers the album a success, saying the features and lyrical content was solid. Eboni wholeheartedly disagrees. “This entire sound is a little generic to me,” she says. Remy says she simply feels Kehlani, like many artists, is tasked with the challenge of trying to appeal to the times.
3. Drake had a role in changing the landscape of R&B
Piggybacking on Eboni’s opinion that R&B has shifted toward a distinct sound (breathy vocals lacking soul), Joe chimes in that Drake, of all people, may have had something to do with that. “When I say Drake started that sound, I do mean it,” he says. “This is a spin off from that. [Jhene Aiko] can be added to that if you want.” Eboni says the problem is that there’s no distinction in the sounds of artists these days.
4. Young Thug and Chris Brown’s Slime & B mixtape
Also included in the batch of recent new music is Young Thug and Chris Brown’s Slime & B mixtape, which Joe says reflects some “airy” vocals effects that seem to be trending in music these days. Remy Ma is an admitted Chris Brown stan who says she “loves when he drops bars on us,” and believes he’s a diverse artist. Jinx agrees, likening Brown to a “swiss army knife” and saying Thug is just as versatile. Jinx then asks Remy and Joe what they think makes a good collaboration, and they both agree it ultimately comes down to chemistry. “Drake and Future are a prime example,” says Joe.
5. Issa Rae stole the show in D Smoke and SiR’s “Lights On” visual
Eboni loved the addition of Issa Rae as the female lead in “Lights On,” saying it was a slam dunk casting. “Issa is the leader of the black cultural renaissance,” she claims. “It’s a very cool cultural moment.” Joe is still hung up on Issa’s character in “Insecure” not bossing up by taking that parking spot. Go figure!
6. Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott’s Verzuz battle
Prior to witnessing the epic, internet-breaking Verzuz battle between R&B queens Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, SOTC took some time to make predictions about who would take the W. Joe firmly believed it would go to Badu because he feels her catalogue of hits is more expansive. Remy rides for Scott and hoped that she would recreate her microphone skit that went viral last year. Jinx agrees with Joe that Badu is in the leads with hits, but also admires her dedication to live performance. “Well before COVID[-19], she’s been experimenting with the internet and live streaming to get music to the fans,” he says. “When it comes to showmanship, she might have some tricks up her sleeves.” Eboni bets on Badu, as well, predicting she’d hear songs that would take her back down memory lane. She does, however, like Scott better as an artist.
7. Khia vs. Trina isn’t happening, but we entertained the idea
Khia recently challenged Trina to a Verzuz battle, which gave the internet a hearty chuckle. While Trina has openly declined the invitation, the SOTC cast placed their bets anyway for sport. Eboni’s knee jerk reaction is to bet on Trina. “Trina was more visible,” she says. “She was a part of something bigger. Khia was very in the club, late night.” While she roots for Trina, she wasn’t a fan of the Miami native putting Khia down. “Be grateful, but don’t shit on someone else’s talent.” Joe notes that Khia has been dissing Trina for the last decade.
8. The Ahmaud Arbery case is a reminder that — to many — black lives still don’t matter
Last week, the public called for charges to be brought against the two white men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed while jogging in a predominantly white neighborhood. The killing was captured on video, which Jinx says he’s still unable to watch because “we’ve seen enough” tragedies like this play out on camera. “Black lives are being extinguished in silence, and their killers are at the crib streaming Netflix,” he adds. Eboni points out the eerie similarities to the Trayvon Martin case. From a legal standpoint, she let us know that the district attorney and all relevant political parties have seen the video a long time ago, but it didn’t become urgent until the public got a hold of it. Remy takes issue with the long list of black people becoming hashtags. “The reason I go so hard with black men in particular is because I have brothers and a son that this could be,” the MC says. Our hearts and prayers go out to both Arbery and Sean Reed, who was also killed by law enforcement.
9. Michelle Obama collects the bag from “Becoming”
Netflix just dropped Michelle Obama’s long-awaited Netflix special, which Eboni notes is a visual version of her book. Aside from the aspiring content, she notes that Obama is an expert businesswoman for making major coins in different mediums. “She got a $60 million book advance and sold over $10 million,” Eb notes. “Then, she went on a 34-city stadium tour, got a bag from that, and made even more money from Netflix cutting up footage from that tour...it’s a wonderful display of black excellence.” For Jinx, it made him miss the Obamas even more. “It brought me back to what we used to have,” he says.