Opinion: VIBE Editors React To #CharlestonShooting

VIBE offers their emotional reactions to the Charleston shooting

On Wednesday (June 17), 21-year-old shooting suspect, Dylann Roof, opened fire during a Bible study session at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Six females and three males were killed, including South Carolina Senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

As the nation tries to make sense of the heinous hate crime, VIBE reflects on last night's events and weighs in on the current state of America.


When you're covered in black skin, there are a list of things you can't do in America without putting your life in danger. Now, added to that list is going to the house of the Lord.

Buying Skittles and wearing a hoodie has proven to be detrimental. Celebrating your bachelor party the night before your wedding day will merit you 50 shots, while holding your wallet will earn you 44 bullets. Blasting what some deem to be loud, ghetto rap music while at a Florida gas station will get you killed and running away from police means you are to be shot in the back. Let's not forget having your hands raised as you surrender is now grounds to be murdered and have your body lay on display in the sweltering August sun for hours. So yes, black people in America are well-versed on what we should not do.

But the shooting in Charleston is different. Worshipers have long sought out refuge in the four walls of their church home, whether it be for Sunday service, bible study or simply to fellowship among fellow believers, and for someone, unprovoked, to open fire as attendees bowed their heads, closed their eyes and prayed is an unexplainable evil, a robust cowardice, and has ignited a very palpable fear once again in the black community.

Are we now being told worship will also get us killed?

I am a writer. I've been a writer for many moons, and seldom am I at a loss for words, yet the shooting in Charleston has rendered me speechless. All I can do now is pray, but as the recent events showcase, I must do so from the safety of my own home.
—Shenequa Golding, Editor

Hearing the news about the about Charleston shooting struck a particular nerve with me this morning. The details about about the victims in the prayer group sent a chill through my spine as I instantly thought about my own mother, who attends her prayer group five days a week at 6am. She's mostly there to pray for me, my well-being and for me to have a successful career. As I realized the victims very well could have been members of my family, I could feel the heaviness creeping to my eyes. I couldn't tell if I was feeling the burdens of sadness because I became conscious that similar heinous acts of violence could very well happen at my mother's church or if the death of nine innocent churchgoers was plaguing my soul. This is life in America now.

—Mikey Fresh, Music Editor

SEE ALSO: What Needs to Happen After Eric Garner

I hate that the first thing that came to mind when I heard about the Charleston, SC shooting was, "Another one?" Another mass killing? Another white gunman dismissed as an isolated incident or a mental illness discrepancy? Another set of black lives erased from Earthly existence? Another day we have to prove our lives are worth even a morsel of a damn?

Every day living in America feels like a game of Russian Roulette. There's honestly no safe place to go where people of every color, religion or cultural background can feel safe going about their day to day lives. It's disturbing to know that the one institution constructed as a place of peace and a safe haven for Charleston's black community was reduced to a floating target for a trigger happy (alleged) white supremacist. What kind of hatred is brewing so feverishly inside the heart of 21-year-old Dylann Roof—the confirmed suspect in last night's shooting—that he NEEDED to go kill off innocent people during their time of prayer and worship?

As a person of color, how can you not feel helpless in this country at times like these? The same country that personally saw to it that we stayed at the bottom of the bottom, and continues to do so in subtle, underhanded ways and with one-sided public policies. We're not wanted here, and it's a waiting game until the next moment presents itself for American purists to let us know exactly how much they want us gone.

Which city will be the next to be rocked with a hate crime? Who will earn the next roadside memorial, hashtag and placement on an inner city mural? Which state will slap its residents of color in the face by saying that, legally, there's not enough evidence for justice and no realistic way to protect black lives? The worst feeling in the world is not knowing any of the answers.
—Stacy-Ann Ellis, Assistant Editor

I'm still struggling to make sense of America. Especially when news of a neighborhood watch captain is acquitted in fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager, who just bought Skittles and Arizona iced tea. When a 43-year-old man is wrestled to the ground in a chokehold by a police officer and elicits his final words, "I can't breathe." When a cop shoots an 18-year-old man and lets his body lay out on the Ferguson street for hours. When nine people in South Carolina are shot during bible study by a 21-year-old who opens fire at a church...

I'm not the type to wear my emotions on my timeline but I can't suppress the heaviness on my heart and mind, wondering how many headlines depicting people of color dying from police brutality, gun violence and hate crimes need to be published before a real change comes. If this is the so-called Land of the Free, why doesn't it feel like it?
—Adelle Platon, Associate Editor

As I stood in my living room, watching the underwhelming media coverage on TV this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how 2015 has already been a year filled with disappointment, sadness and deep, long sighs.

Will hateful racism ever die its overdue death? When will the excuse of “mental illness” cease to exist as the cause of one’s actions rooted in anger? Why is a rhetorical question being posed every time one person of one race causes physical and fatal harm on that of another? What ever happened with that pool party incident? Why are we so focused on Rachel Dolezal’s wanna-be blackness more so than the Haitian deportation in the Dominican Republic?

As a Black woman, I can only pray for the remaining six months of this year… and for my future children.
—Eboseta Christine, Social Managing Editor

SEE ALSO: Everything You Should Know About The Charleston, South Carolina Shooting

A lot has changed in the last 50 years, and yet nothing has changed at all. By the looks of our social climate, we are merely living in a remix of the 1960s. Though tweaked with considerable new elements such as the Internet and the presence of a black president, the undertones of racism and hatred make for the same song and frankly, I’ve grown weary of singing it.

Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair were just four little girls who went to church on September 15, 1963. Likely coerced by their God-fearing elders to sit still and pay attention in the house of the Lord, those four little girls saw their final day at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham after Ku Klux Klan member Robert Chambliss bombed the church with dynamite, leaving them dead. Targeted as predominantly black church and hub for civil rights protesters, the 16th Street was punished for being a vehicle of faith and peace. The fact that this story is even remotely familiar to what transpired at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church yesterday – in 2015 – is equally saddening and mind-blowing.

This is evidence that the wool has been pulled over our eyes. In this sociopolitical remix, the lyrics are muffled, murmured and interpolated to trick us into thinking that times have changed. We’ve been hoodwinked into faux freedom. We’ve been deceived into imaginary equality. But if we slow down the track and listen with a more meticulous ear, we realize that this is just like that other song – the one where we are slaughtered, imprisoned and degraded. We’re just bopping our heads to a new beat.

And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to change CDs.
—Iyana Robertson, News Editor

Rage. The kind you have where you don't yell out and go all crazy, but the quiet storm rage is what I have right now. It's been brewing long before Trayvon's unfortunate death and following circumstances. What I personally went through in Charleston, South Carolina, dealing with the affairs of my ailing grandfather in that town would make anyone lose it. A lot of the issues I dealt with was being a black male questioning the movements, decisions and authority of those in power that preyed on the weakened condition of elderly people of color. Yet I also noticed the dire situations of the black community in the downtown area of Charleston. The youth, looking lost and unstructured and aimlessly wandering...just hurt. Then seeing the hate by some that looked and lived differently was also a huge problem. Was it all white directed? It wasn't totally, but those in position to make things harder than they needed to be were white and seemed to revel in making things tough. I understood then that things were racially motivated as the white families going through similar processes as mine weren't dealing with the same obstacles and were given special treatment.

Mindstate. Racism is taught. The battle rapper Hitman Holla of St. Louis said something profound on Instagram about this. If the young man that did this heinous crime is indeed the one, and did this out of racism or black hate, he's only 21. He doesn't even know why he hates black people. He can't! But I have a bigger issue. I don't even think he's only motivated by black hate. I think there is a planned angle to stop the momentum that State Senator/Pastor Clementa Pinckney had going with challenging police law and the push for cops to wear body cameras in South Carolina.

The 41 year-old Democratic Senator was connected to Al Sharpton during the national news story of Walter Scott being shot down by the hands of South Carolina authorities. Pinckney was highly educated, spiritually focused and married with two kids. Was this mass shooting to cover up a hit on this man? I question that motive. I really do. So many thoughts and emotions are traveling through me right now. The main one is sorrow for all the lives lost in this tragedy. My heart and prayers go to the victims and their families.

Now that this subhuman has been caught, I hope justice is served. Will things ever change? Will this moment of rage be the turning point for modern civil rights like the bombing of that Birmingham, Alabama church that killed four little black girls in 1963? How much more can a race of people take? I hope we don't have to answer that last question anytime soon.
—Datwon Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

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Solitary Alignment: 5 Self-Affirming Reads For Single Ladies On Valentine’s Day

Ahh, the Feast of Saint Valentine—the Hallmark holiday that strikes us with its arrow each year, for better or for worse, depending on your bae status. While the romantic holiday is adored and celebrated by many, if you’re still reeling over, say, your ex’s refusal to commit, chances are Feb. 14 is more of a heartache for you than anything.

But as a wise woman once said, “If they liked it then they should’ve put a ring on it.” So whether V-Day has you scared of lonely or sulking over a lost love, as another wise woman once said, they “would be SUPER lucky to even set eyes on you this Valentine’s Day. That’s it. That’s the gift.” Shout out to The Slumflower.

Sure, having a bae on Valentine’s Day is cool, but so is reminding yourself why you’re just fine without one (cue Webbie’s “Independent”). In fact, single folks have better relationships overall, according to the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. You know how the old adage goes: love yourself before loving someone else.

For this Valentine’s Day, VIBE Vixen rounds up a nourishing list of books for our sisters doin’ it for themselves. Consider this your reminder of how badass you are—because you are! Oh, oh, oh. *Beyoncé voice*

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Young M.A. onstage during the BET Hip Hop Awards 2018 at Fillmore Miami Beach on October 6, 2018 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images for BET)
(Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images for BET)

Young M.A., Boogie And Summer Walker Make January's #MusicMonday List

Last year was vibrant and diverse with the number of memorable songs and albums that were released, and now, music fans are looking forward to seeing what 2019 has to offer. With this new series, #MusicMonday, the VIBE staff will be sharing our favorite songs released from the previous month. Below, see our standout songs released during January 2019.


Young M.A., “Bake Freestyle”

Outside of R&B singers like Jacquees, it’s no longer the trend for artists to take on a well-known beat and make it their own anymore. But Brooklyn’s Young M.A. bodied the instrumental for Jay-Z’s “Dynasty (Intro)” in 2017, and she’s outdone herself with “Bake Freestyle,” her shot at The Neptunes’ iconic beat for the Clipse hit “Grindin’.”

Young M.A. weaves in, out and around of the table-pounding percussion with an acrobatic flow that differs from others who have tackled the beat in years past. Young M.A. is flexing talk of money, baddies, and guns as always, but the quotables are at one of the highest clips we’ve ever heard from her. “White car brown seats, look like a Henny Colada / Made the Audi matte black, license plate say Wakanda / My b*tch said she mad at me, I just bought her designer / And some 30-inch Brazilian, now she thinks she's Chewbacca.” The video is even better, showing a cocky, smirking Young M.A. walking around a fly crib with text and small animations acting as adlibs. “Was looking for a reason to even keep rapping, and finally I found one,” she says near the beginning of the song before pushing her foot on the pedal. That’s good news for rap fans. — William E. Ketchum III

Summer Walker, "Riot"

What initially started out as an Instagram post of Summer Walker crooning over an electric guitar has turned into the addictive lead track from her latest EP, CLEAR. While the song's name is the definition of anarchy, Walker's careful delivery of each word places her delicate yet piercing approach to singing on full display. The criminally short song not only leaves the listener yearning for more, but also the Atlanta native's need to satisfy her passion. "You said you want love, babe/ You said you can give it to me just how I, I yearn it/ And you think of roses and daisies/ And I think of passion and fire like Hades." It's the 2019 version of Melanie Fiona's fevered "Give It To Me Right" with lyrics that demand a love that's delivered on an orgasmic platter every single time the two bodies meet. — Camille Augustin

Boogie, “Skydive II”

Anthony “Boogie” Dixon—not to be confused with his sing-songy East Coast namesake, A Boogie wit da Hoodie—is easily one of the most promising penmen hip-hop has right now. From The Reach to Thirst 48, Pt. II right on up to his Shady Records debut, Everythings For Sale, the Compton torchbearer has been consistent in pairing potent, on-the-sleeve reflections with soulful melodies that seep deep into the skin. (He already told us that he’s got a soft spot for R&B.)

“Skydive II,” arguably one of the album’s most entrancing songs, is as much of a poster child for this musical marriage as any. For one, he taps 6lack to be a Frank Ocean plug-in of sorts (in the best way possible). The Atlanta singer’s trippy rap-sung intonations, akin to Mr. Breaux’s on Blonde’s “Nikes,” complement Boogie’s rugged tones. Alongside his decent crooning over airy background vocals, Boogie’s gentle pacing and bittersweet poetry about the fallout of a relationship puts him at eye-level with his listeners. “Mother of my skies, why you always gotta intervene?/Father of my Time, don’t you got some more to give to me? Anything?” Ever the thoughtful emcee, he’s unafraid to let the proverbial tears fall where they may. — Stacy-Ann Ellis

Lil Duval and Ty Dolla $ign, "Pull Up"

While his first hit single “Smile (Living My Best Life)” went further than expected by hitting the Billboard Hot 100, Lil Duval’s music career doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing down. While I’m not a fan of his by any means, I do have to say, his feel-good track is guaranteed to put me in a great mood. The infectious beat and the incredibly well-placed vocals of featured artist Ty Dolla $ign makes the intoxication of the nearly-four-minute song undeniable. It’s too early and (too brick outside) for a summer anthem, but had this dropped months from now, this could have been a front-runner. — J'Na Jefferson

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A Timeline Of J. Cole And Kanye West's Challenging Relationship

It's hard to label J. Cole and Kanye West's situation a beef. Traditionally, feuds in rap have always played towards one subject coming after the other, lyrically and later, physically. But Cole's observations of Kanye are kin to someone realizing their favorite auntie is lame and misguided. As a youth, you may have been inspired by her carefree disposition, only to realize her trips out of town were just to Virginia Beach and her fondest concert memories only include Summer Jam sets from 2004.

Kanye isn't that lame, but several of his anti-groupthink moves have only pushed him further into a shadow of the man we thought we knew. It's a challenging thought to someone like Cole, who like many, has been widely inspired by the super producer. It's a thought not lost on Cole with the release of "Middle Child." Cleverly released in the middle of the week, the Dreamville titan is confident in lyrical nature while sharing his perspective on an artist he once admired.

"Middle Child" is something of a declarative statement for Cole. As an older millennial, the rapper exists within a unique position on hip-hop's timeline. No longer a rookie but not enough stripes to be considered a veteran, Cole enjoys the space of being at the center of the genre's rich history.

But "Middle Child" isn't without a few rewind moments, including the potential digs at West.

"If I smoke a rapper, it’s gon' be legit/It won’t be for clout, it won’t be for fame/It won’t be ‘cause my sh*t ain’t sellin’ the same/It won’t be to sell you my latest lil' sneakers/It won’t be ‘cause some ni**a slid in my lane."

While it may seem like Cole has inserted himself into Drake's battle with West, Cole's observations of the super producer go back to the days when Twitter had a favorite button.

The stars would rightfully align with him signing with 'Ye's "big brother," Jay-Z under the Roc Nation umbrella. From there, Cole and Kanye's paths would cross musically but that didn't stop Cole from being a voice of the people several times about West's involuted career.

Enjoy a somewhat brief history of Cole and West's challenging relationship.


Cole's Debut Mixtape The Come Up Features Freestyles Over Kanye-Produced Beats

In May 2007, Cole's introduction to the game came with help from his favorite producers. More than half of the mixtape was produced by the then 22-year-old with the others being his favorites from future collaborators like Salaam Remi and West. Four tracks (“School Daze,” “College Boy,” “The Come Up,” and “Homecoming") are beats produced by West.

Cole Features More Kanye-Produced Beats On The Warm Up

In June 2009, Cole's breakout tape The Warm Up birthed classic tracks like "Grown Simba" and "Lights Please" but it also continued his admiration for West with three interpolations: "Last Call" gives an ode to the Late Registration track of the same name, "Dollar And A Dream II" borrows a bar from "Can't Tell Me Nothing" while "Get By" and "Knock Knock" are West's productions for Talib Kweli and Monica, respectively.

Cole Signs To Jay-Z's Roc Nation

In addition to signing with Jay in the spring of 2009, Cole is featured on The Blueprint 3's prophecy track, "A Star is Born" produced by Kanye West. As the story goes, Cole attempted to hand Jay his CD by waiting outside of his studio. It took two years and a listen of "Lights Please" to convince Jay to sign Cole. With the help of  Mark Pitts, now President of Urban Music at RCA Records, Cole's life changed for the better.

"I get a get a call from Mark Pitts and he’s like, 'Yo ni**a, Jay just hit me. He said he got something big for you.' I was like, 'Oh sh*t, what you mean?' He said, 'He got this Kanye track… something about a star is born…some sh*t about a star.' I thought, from his explanation, because you can tell he wasn’t too clear on it, I thought Jay just had a joint for me," he recalled to Complex in 2009. "I thought it would be mine, and I was on some sh*t like, 'Ahhh, I don’t like being told ‘get on this’ or whatever. But I’m like, 'Damn!'"

Cole Has The Breakout Verse On G.O.O.D Friday's Cut, "Looking For Trouble"

The concept of G.O.O.D. Fridays in Nov. 2010 is something I can't wait to share with my future spawn. The brilliant tactic to release master collaborations every Friday to coincide with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy included many heavyweights like Yasiin Bey, Lupe Fiasco and Cam'ron, but it was rookies like Big Sean, Teyana Taylor, CyHi The Prynce and Cole that would shine the brightest.

Cole, in particular, would own his verse on "Looking For Trouble," a posse cut with Pusha T, CyHi The Prynce, and Big Sean. The song was such a fave Cole included it as a bonus track on Friday Night Lights, his follow up to The Warm Up.

J. Cole Reacts To Kanye West Comparisons

While promoting his debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, from 2010 to 2011, Cole would go on to big up Kanye. Speaking with Karmaloop in 2010, the rapper reacted to the comparisons.

“If it feels like that, then that’s great. I would love to be as successful as he has been, putting out hits and making hits consistently that still represent him. All his hits, you would never look at him like, ‘Aw, why you make that?’ It all felt like Kanye West, which is dope.”

He also expressed how he wanted to work on a joint project with West.

“I’m such a Kanye West fan,” Cole told Vulture. “I would love to work with him on a major scale. Not just a song here or a song there I would love to do something extraordinary with him, but I feel like I gotta step my game up and kind of earn my spot before I can worry about that.”

A year before, Cole would continue to pay homage with his verse on Young Chris' "Still The Hottest."

Uhh, what if somebody from the ville that was ill Got a deal on the hottest rap label around But he wasn’t talkin bout coke and birds It was more like spoken word Can’t you see I’m putting it down

Cole's Debut Single "Work Out" Includes A Sample Of 'Ye's "The New Workout Plan" J. Cole - Work Out from the ghettonerd co. on Vimeo.

Keeping it in the family, the Roc lineage continued on Cole World with Cole sampling West's "The New Workout Plan" for "Work Out," his official debut single in June 2011. The track hit platinum status and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard charts in 2012.

Cole Switches Release Date For Born Sinner To Compete With Yeezus 

Speaking on MTV's now-defunct RapFix Live, Cole explained his decision to move his release date for Born Sinner to directly compete with Yeezus in May 2013.

"This is art, and I can't compete against the Kanye West celebrity and the status that he's earned just from being a genius," Cole said. "But I can put my name in the hat and tell you that I think my album is great and you be the judge and you decide."

In addition to outselling West, "Forbidden Fruit" also included the first of many digs to the producer.

When I say that I’m the greatest I ain’t talking about later I'mma drop the album same day as Kanye Just to show the Boyz the man now like Wanyá And I don’t mean no disrespect, I praise legends But this what’s next

Kanye And Cole Work On Unreleased Music Together 

From 2015 to 2016, Genius points out the two finally began working side by side on music...for other artists. The two shared co-producer credits on Pusha T’s King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude track “M.P.A.” Pigeons And Planes reported the two also worked on Yasiin Bey's final album in 2016 including a track titled "Assalamualaikum." Sadly, we haven't heard much about the album or track since.

Cole Releases "False Prophets" With Thoughts On Kanye And Wale

Before the release of 4 Your Eyez Only in 2016, Cole released the mini-documentary Eyez with two tracks, "False Prophets (Be Like This)" and "Everybody Dies" in Dec. 2016. The former would go on to highlight two important people in his life — Wale and Kanye West.

While Wale and Cole have remained friends (Wale released a response titled "Groundhound Day"), West remained quiet.

Kanye Tells Charlamagne Cole Is Always Dissing Him

Charlamagne made the claim during an April 2018 episode of  "The Breakfast Club" citing "False Prophets" as a reference to possible jabs. "He said he feels like J. Cole is always dissing him in records," Charlamagne said. He also pointed to specific lyrics on Cole's 2014 song "No Role Modelz," in which he rapped: "Now all I’m left with is ho*s from reality shows / Hand her a script, the b***h probably couldn’t read along." Charlamagne said Yeezy thinks it was a reference to his wife Kim Kardashian.

"Who else out here is in love with people from reality shows like me," Kanye allegedly questioned, according to the show host. As previously reported, despite feeling subliminally attacked by J. Cole, Charlamagne asserts that Kanye isn't taking it too hard.

"[Kanye] didn’t say it in a malice way at all, he was laughing about it."

Kanye Screenshots And Tweets Personal Conversation With Cole

Days before Kanye boasted that "slavery was a choice" in May of 2018, he released a stream of consciousness on Twitter that also included a phone conversation with J. Cole. “I’m posting this but not as a diss to J. Cole. I love J. Cole,” Kanye tweeted.

Cole Felt Used By Kanye West After His Phone Call Was Leaked On Twitter

After finding out their conversation didn't stay private, as Kanye screenshot the call and uploaded it on Twitter, Cole expressed to Angie Martinez his disappointment in Kanye. "He called me, but I would've never posted that or tell him to post that," he said.

"That made me feel a certain type of way. I told him that. He apologized, for the record. I told him that it felt like you just used my name in that very quick conversation for social media and to keep your thing going or whatever you were doing. It felt like it wasn't sincere because of that."

Cole's Video For "Work Out" Is Wiped From YouTube

Weirdly, the popular video for "Work Out" is removed from J. Cole's VEVO page over a copyright issue, possibly in November of last year. A raw unedited version of an alternate video is now the only visual on the platform. The alternate video features Cole in a club setting and was uploaded in 2011.

Cole Releases "Middle Child," Comments On Kanye's Feud With Drake

Reuniting with Elite nine years after creating "Who Dat," Cole revises his spirited lyrical banter while addressing his views on Kanye's feud with friend and collaborator Drake.

But I'd never beef with a ni**a for nothin' If I smoke a rapper, it's gon' be legit It won't be for clout, it won't be for fame It won't be 'cause my sh*t ain't sellin' the same It won't be to sell you my latest lil' sneakers It won't be 'cause some n***a slid in my lane

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