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What Is The Future Of Reproductive Rights Under Trump's Administration?

"Now more than ever, since president-elect Donald Trump’s recent triumph, reproductive rights are in jeopardy."

Back in 2012, when documentary filmmaker and photographer Maisie Crow stumbled across the Jezebel article, “New Mississippi Law May Force State’s Only Abortion Clinic to Close,” she was stunned.

“I had no clue that there were states at the time with one abortion clinic,” she says of Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss. “I was so shocked on how uneducated I was, and that was before there was a lot of coverage about what was happening. But as soon as I read it, I was like sh*t, I gotta go down there and tell this story.”

According to the article, at the time, the Senate had passed House Bill 1390, which states that every doctor in the state that provides an abortion must be a certified OB-GYN with admission privileges to local hospitals. However, when this provision was passed, the clinic already had employed three doctors, all of which are board certified OB-GYNs.

The clinic had a transfer agreement with a local hospital in case emergencies were to happen. Ultimately, it seemed like state officials such as Republican Governor Phil Bryant and the Senate Public Health Committee Chairman Dean Kirby were just out to target the only abortion clinic left in the state. According to The Atlantic, in 2013, before a court case to terminate abortions in Mississippi, Bryant said it was, "the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on: to say that we're going to try to end abortion in Mississippi."

In the midst of the clinic’s lonely fight for reproductive rights in a state where acquiring an abortion and sex education is like finding a needle in a haystack, Crow spent four years filming in Jackson to shed light on the issue. On a gloomy June day in Downtown Los Angeles at the LA Athletic Club, Crow and Shannon Brewer, the clinic’s director, are in town to promote Jackson, a feature length documentary exploring all the issues that encircle getting an abortion at Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The film, which made its debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcases how religion, politics, poverty and societal norms all intersect in this fight. The documentary comes after Crow’s 2013 doc, The Last Clinic, which deals with the same issue in less depth than Jackson.

Jackson conveys both sides of the spectrum. You’ll see women who seek abortions, and women who are totally against them. Its chilling opening is laced with evangelical Christian protesters terrorizing patients and clinic staff outside its pink walls. It’s like witnessing a fight against religious persecution, but only in reverse. The religious (and most likely Republican) are out to hunt Mississippi’s seemingly most vulnerable prey: poor women of color, who for whatever personal reasons are attempting to end their pregnancies the safest way possible. It also doesn’t help that Mississippi is the poorest state in the country with a poverty level of 22.0% (the highest), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And on top of that, the state has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country. The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that the state had the fourth highest rate in teen pregnancy in 2015.

Amid the battle, there is a misleading middleman: Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Crow excels at showcasing what these centers do. CPCs are basically faux health clinics run by anti-abortion leaders, and are notorious for giving women inaccurate, biased information on the procedure. According to the Planned Parenthood site, some crisis pregnancy centers, “may tell you that you are not pregnant even if you are. This may fool you into continuing your pregnancy without knowing it. If your decision is delayed, it could make abortion more risky. It could also keep you from getting early prenatal care.” Additionally, they can even show you films to frighten you, or may discourage you from acquiring any form of birth control in the first place.

At press time, an abortion at Jackson Women’s Health Organization can cost anywhere between $600-800, and that’s subject to change. For most women, these prices are unaffordable. The National Abortion Federation provides those without all the funds some assistance. But even that sometimes isn’t enough.

“It’s sad because even when you get help from these funders, a lot of women still can’t come up with the remaining balance. That’s how bad it is sometimes,” Brewer says. “So if you can’t come up with $150-$200, how can you take care of a baby?”

“Go through labor and have a baby first, then tell me what I can do with my body.”

While the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade made abortion legal under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the Hyde Amendment passed in 1976 has made it nearly impossible for many poor women of color to pay for it. The amendment was passed by freshman Illinois congressman, Henry Hyde, and banned federal funding to help pay for the procedure. Essentially, Medicaid does not cover it, which in turn makes getting an abortion for women who are recipients of Medicaid harder.

But now more than ever, since president-elect Donald Trump’s recent triumph, reproductive rights are in jeopardy. Throughout the Republican campaign, vice president-elect Mike Pence has been extremely vocal about his anti-abortion tirade, and plans to defund Planned Parenthood.

During a vice presidential debate with Democratic Virginia senator Tim Kaine, Pence affirmed that, "For me, my faith informs my life. It all, for me, begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value, of every human life." In his home state of Indiana, he signed a radical anti-abortion law and defunded Planned Parenthood. And as far as Roe v. Wade goes, Pence had this to say: "We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs."

The defunding of Planned Parenthood not only means that seeking an abortion may become challenging, but also it will prevent women from acquiring adequate health care in general. "The bottom line is that you're talking about essential health care that 2.5 million people rely on across this country. A large majority of our patients are women with low incomes who often struggle to access affordable health care,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an email. “Defunding Planned Parenthood means taking away preventive services, like cancer screenings and birth control, that millions rely on. No matter how the legislation would be written—targeting some of the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood or targeting all of them—the impact would be devastating. Public health officials and community health centers themselves have made it crystal clear that no one else could absorb the patients who would be left out in the cold if politicians in Washington take away Planned Parenthood care. These politicians should not play politics with women's lives.”

This statement holds true, as some parts of the country have already been hit hard with the absence of resources Planned Parenthood offers. Take Wisconsin and Texas, for instance, where researchers have discovered that fewer women have access to cancer screenings since the closure of Planned Parenthood centers. The rate of women receiving breast exams has decreased by six percent due to the 100-mile increase when commuting to the nearest health center; couple that with a nine percent decrease in the rate women acquire Pap tests, a screening procedure for cervical cancer.

Unfortunately, Texas even runs the risks of further defunding. On Dec. 20, 2016, The Texas Tribune reported that the state has 30 days until officials deny Medicaid usage at Planned Parenthood health centers. Initially, in October of 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott pledged to terminate the organization’s $3.1 million in Medicaid funding because of the release of several videos, which allegedly show Planned Parenthood officials illegally trading fetal tissue.

In November of that same year, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Texas officials to protect itself from a letter they received regarding the removal of the Texas Medicaid program. The letter stated that the organization had 30 days to request an “informed resolution meeting.”

“If you can’t come up with $150-$200, how can you take care of a baby?”

Still, nothing happened until now because at the time, Texas officials did not proceed with the suit. But whether or not the defunding takes place is still up for question, considering that federal officials have informed Texas that kicking out Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program could potentially clash with the federal law. The Obama Administration recently established a rule which does not allow states to block federal funding to health care providers/institutions for performing abortions. Part of the regulations include prohibiting states from denying federal grants for Family Planning at Planned Parenthood.

Yet since Pence’s appointment, Planned Parenthood supporters haven’t kept mum or been passive. At press time, 82,000 donations have been made to the organization under “Mike Pence,” according to New York Magazine. The Guardian reports that in the six weeks since the election, they have reportedly received 300,000 donations, making it 40 times more than its usual rate.

The future of abortion rights is still uncertain, but there are shadows that mirror the future in a post-Trump world. Thirty-year-old Jaime Lee Morales died on July 9, 2016 from complications of receiving an abortion at Liberty Women’s Health Care in Queens, New York. The clinic’s owner Dr. Robert Rho reportedly cut her uterine artery, pierced her uterine wall and tore her cervix. All things of which, ultimately led her to bleed to death.

Now, Dr. Rho is facing a manslaughter charge after Morales’ death. It’s uncommon for something of this nature to happen since abortion is a legal procedure. Yet if Roe v. Wade gets overturned, that could mean an increase in these cases because abortion would lose its legality. More deaths and an influx in lawsuits—it’s like jumping inside a time capsule that transports you backwards in society instead of forward.

“Many of the politicians governing us are out of touch with what people want,” says Kierra Johnson, Executive Director at URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity). “The reality is that most Americans believe that everyone should have access to health care, including reproductive health and rights—including abortion, regardless of how people view it personally.”

Like Johnson, many other advocates who are pro-abortion echo these sentiments. “We know that seven out of 10 Americans support legal abortions,” notes Kaylie Hanson Long, National Communications Director for NARAL-Pro Choice America. “The more time politicians spent trying to defund Planned Parenthood and taking away reproductive health resources, the worse off they are going to be with public opinion flowing.”

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It’s been six months since our sit-down interview in Los Angeles and Shannon is keeping a tight-lip on any questions related to the status of reproductive rights. When asked about Planned Parenthood, she politely dismisses, but when I ask her over the phone if she could tell Donald Trump one thing, she answers: “Go through labor and have a baby first, then tell me what I can do with my body.”

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Phil Emerson

E-40 The Ageless: Forty Water Memories of a Bay Area Rap Giant

In 1995 he was rhyming “Floyd Terrace” with “esopha-garus,” rapidly scrunching and expanding rhymes with torrents of slang, often hilarious and strikingly original. The audacity of E-40 has been his ability to be himself, a one-of-a-kind whose business savvy moved him far beyond rap, famously sitting courtside at huge events, funding films, owning restaurants and real estate, condos and cars, even dabbling in the tequila (naturally called, E Cuarenta). At over thirty releases, let us also not forget he’s one of the most prolific artists— in any genre— of the last three decades.

These days he’s community minded, glowingly giving back and accepting his role as local neighborhood champ. “You don’t always have to broadcast what you do on the internet or push it in the limelight or put it on the news. But I definitely do that sometimes because I want to influence other people in my position to do the same thing.”

All of this doesn’t detract from the fact that he’s never slowed musically, releasing double albums, side projects, and even trilogies in staggering artistic spurts. 2012 saw five total projects – three solo albums and two collabs with another enormous figure, Oakland’s own Too Short. His response as to how he’s able to remain in creative overdrive after all these years: “It’s all gravity.”

Practice Makes Paper, his latest release, is brimming with guests who not only add to the album’s interest factor, but also reflect E-40’s continual and far-reaching relevance. Swaths of guests include Method Man and Scarface, but also Chris Brown and G-Eazy, Schoolboy Q, Rick Ross, and others. Whether as E-Pheezy, Charlie Hustle, or 40 Belafonte, he’s one of the most uniquely consistent personalities in music, finding his style early on and never deviating. Musical landscapes change, and we grow older, but E-40 stays the same— there’s a comfort in that.

Here we talk about the early schemes of a young Earl Stevens, his relationships with other Bay giants, his time with Tupac, and other seminal, and at times peerless, moments in the career of the great Earl Stevens.

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VIBE: You started Sick Wid It Records in 1986. Tell us about the beginning. E-40: My brother, D-Shot, and I had a clothing store around the time we had just finished college. D-Shot did 22 months in Preston CYA, a California Youth Authority and after he was released, we decided we needed to slow down and stay out of trouble. So we bought a clothing store in the late 1980s and called it New Fat Clothing. We would just buy our stuff from New York or LA’s garment district and distribute them here in the Bay. At the time it was like a dice roll.

Tell us what you remember about the making of your first solo album, Federal. I was cold turkey out of the soil, you feel me? I was new and was leaving my old life behind to work on this life and use the money we’d to put into studio time. Whether it was $40 or $400, I used that money to invest back into myself. I’d walk down to Vallejo Check Cashing then walk straight to the studio and be like, “I need four hours for next Tuesday, here’s my deposit.” So while I’m at the store cashiering or stocking or whatever, I’d write lyrics and jot everything all down while listening to beats. Once I got to the studio, I’d finish like four or five songs easily and all of those those tracks over time became Federal.

What do you remember about the actual studio process and technology of the time? I remember doing it all on half-inch reels. Then a couple years later, we would mix everything onto two-inch reels. But those fucking two-inch reels held at most three songs! And each reel was something ridiculous like $350 each. It’s trippy because these days you can pay like a couple hundred bucks and have thousands of your songs stored somewhere. That’s how it was, at least where we were at in the Bay.

On the topic of the Bay, talk about your friendship with another local legend, Too Short. How did you two meet? It came about naturally. We had mutual friends and I knew him and his folks B.R. You know what that means?

B.R.? It means ‘Before Rap’ [laughs]. We had mutual friends but we never kicked it. I used to go to every Too Short show I could too. I don’t look up to too many, but I looked up to him. I grew up on all his stuff and was a real fan. We were on the same label for many years, he signed with Jive Records in ‘88 and I signed a distribution deal with them around ’94. We eventually did a record in 1996 called “Rappers Ball” and shot a legendary video with tycoons like Ice-T, Mack 10, Tupac and hella others. The grind didn’t stop from there though, we went on to do hella songs.

Another Bay standout is Boots Riley (from the Coup) who is now an acclaimed film director. There’s that famous picture of you, Boots, and Tupac together. Talk about Boots. Boots to me has always been one of those dudes that stood for what’s right. I would literally see Boots at every show that was going on in Cali. We did a song called “Santa Rita Weekends” and I felt it was legendary and we just stayed in contact ever since. He had a song where he said, ‘I got a mirror in my pocket to practice lookin’ hard,’ which I always loved. That picture you mentioned was when we were doing a video and Pac just popped in. We weren’t even expecting him but he was in the Bay for a court date.

How was Tupac that day? He hung out all day. He was in the soil. All my in-laws, all my cousins, everyone, he showed genuine love to. We was deep in apartment complexes, Lucky Supermarket, and the local check-cashing place, and everyone was just taking pictures with him. I remember everyone becoming Pac’s security that day [laughs], nobody even think about popping a balloon, you feel me? People was trippin’ because Pac was in V-Town!

Talk about your relationship with him. How did you two meet? He shouted me and the Click out on the track “Representin’ 93” from his album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. and I heard it. It was at a Juneteenth event in Davis and I saw Richie Rich, this rapper from Oakland. Rich was like, ‘Yo Pac wanted me to give you his number, he wants to holler at you.’ I said, ‘For real? He wants to fuck with us?’ Rich had already known Pac for years. So I hit him up and from there, there was no turning back.

What was the studio environment like when you two met up? Every time in the studio we had a pervin’ session, you know, getting warped, smoking big turtle, smoking that big broccoli. Every time there was a new deal, we’d be in the studio celebrating, getting twisted, making songs. It was like a family reunion.

On topic of songs, I’d like to talk about a couple classics of yours. “Captain Save A Hoe,” for instance was a hit with a very memorable music video. It was just comedy. Making the music video was tons of fun too. First of all, there’s a difference in having a female that you’re locked in with and she’s faithful, that’s beautiful. But sometimes dudes have females with more miles on her than Jet Blue [laughs] Every Tom, Dick, or Harry has had relations with your girl and you’re trying to make her a housewife? That’s “Captain Save A Ho.”

Another recent song of yours, “Choices,” became a huge anthem. How’d that come about? I don’t always talk in third person but I sometimes rap in third person and I was just talking to myself when I made that song. That’s like my inner dialogue, you know? I’m just talking to myself about making choices and I caught a flow that opened up the direction of the track. Asking myself a question, then answering it. Yup!

You ended up altering the lyrics for the Golden State Warriors’ run a couple years back. Sports fans, especially here in the Bay, see you at games all the time. How do you see the Dubs doing next season? I think they’ll be right back on top of the league. Of course the league has tightened up with good players but Dubs have a lot of experience and know-how from winning so much during these five or six years. I really hated to see KD [Kevin Durant] go but it was the right move. I think the legacy will continue.

We touched on your history but I’d like to highlight your community efforts. What’s your message when it comes to giving back? The thing is, you have to give back from the heart. You have to do it right and not just for show. For instance, when I gave out backpacks to some school kids, it was on the news and all that, which is fine, it’s all gravity. But I wasn’t just handing out backpacks, I purposely chose Jansport because they have lifetime guarantees, you feel me? So that if something happens, these kids can still help themselves and get another backpack.

Speaking of kids, what’s your take on current rap you hear? Do younger artists hit you up for advice? A lot of the music is out of hand and probably wouldn’t have lasted in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s all gravity because I do like a lot of the newer stuff too. Some stuff people might not even think I’m into it. But for all you young artists: anytime anyone needs anything, needs any advice, I’m here for y’all.

Let’s end this at the beginning; full circle. What music were you into when you were younger? Do you remember when hip-hop entered the picture? I was into soul music and R&B. The Bar-Kays, Cameo, Earth Wind & Fire. For all the young bloods out there, that’s where hip-hop started! And the first time I heard rap? It was 1979 at Franklin Junior High and I heard “Rapper’s Delight.” And that was it for me. Damn brother, that was forty years ago!

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Paul Elliot

Matt Muse Raps His Heart Out On 'Love & Nappyness'

Matt Muse used to hate love songs. Last fall, the Chicago rapper asked his Instagram followers what they’d like to see on his next project, and they answered resoundingly with demand for more songs like “Shea Butter Baby,” a hip-house love song that was a highlight of 2018’s Nappy Talk. “I think love songs are mad corny, so I was like ‘Hell naw,’” he laughs over the phone. “But then I’m thinking, ‘They told you their answer. What is a way I can satisfy this desire?’” Muse then faced the challenge of delving into love songs without repeating himself or regurgitating cliches.

Love & Nappyness, Matt Muse’s new project, explores love from all angles: romantic, but also platonic, familial, even spiritual. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but Muse succeeds through sharp writing and soulful production. It’s the best work yet by a rising artist in Chicago’s fertile hip-hop scene.

The rapper born Dexter Matthews found inspiration for the album in his church’s annual Agape Festival. “The festival was everybody feasting together in the basement of our church celebrating love,” he says. Included in the program were Greek and Biblical terms for various kinds of love that provided a framework as Muse wrote his verses and eventually became subtitles for each track. “Love doesn’t just exist in this vacuum of intimate relationships. It actually exists in all these other ways too,” he says.

The South Side rapper was careful to avoid the corniness he sees inherent to the love songs churned out by pop songwriters for “anybody who can look good and sing well.” “The way I automatically combat that corniness is the nappyness,” Muse explains. “It’s real, it’s me, it’s genuine. Everything I talk about in every one of these songs is one million percent real to me.” The EP’s title is less an Al Green reference than a celebration of freedom from external expectations, symbolized by his natural hair.

On the project’s first track, “St. Matthew (Agape),” Muse raps directly to God. “Now me at 26, 10 years from you / But searching for a verse to keep the congregation moved / Guess we ain’t that far removed but I’m still stuck & still confused.” I’d recommend that!Though he grew up intending to be a preacher, he stopped believing entirely after processing the deaths of loved ones in his teens. His distance from divinity is the heart of the song, where he laments earthly racism and disloyalty while admitting his own mistakes. It’s a credit to Muse’s pen that he balances the heavy subject matter with moments of levity, like when he imagines that God will “probably reply ‘Same phone, who dis?’” Muse stresses that his lack of religious beliefs didn’t divide him from his churchgoing family. “I still be pulling up to the church sometimes, people don’t treat me any different.”

Muse continues his family’s musical tradition, as he explains on “Family, Still (Storge).” He raps that his “mom’s in twenty-something choirs,” while his father, stage name Big Ed, has produced house music and rapped all his life. (One of his songwriting credits, Barbara Tucker’s “I Get Lifted,” was recently sampled by a house tribute from a fellow Chicagoan: Kanye West’s “Fade.”) Muse’s music career was kickstarted by an eighth-grade graduation gift from his dad, a drum machine. His younger brother raps and produces as well under the name Syl Messi, a fitting name because “his room still be dirty but his beats be kicking.”

The song concludes with Muse harmonizing to Mon’Aerie singing a yearning melody: “Rest your head and your heart / I’ll keep the family near.” The Chicago singer’s warm vocals add extra flavor all over the EP. “If I’m the heart and brains,” Muse says, “she’s the body.”

Though he initially planned against featuring any guest rappers, Muse tapped Pivot Gang member Joseph Chilliams for a verse on “Myself (Philautia II).” The song shares a subtitle with “Ain’t No,” which is a dexterous boast like vintage Lupe Fiasco, but “Myself” is about self-love in a physical sense. “Love how you treat me baby,” Muse sings on the hook. “But first let me treat myself.” As the sugary sweet beat dissolves to drums, Chilliams raps “Looking in the mirror, I just gotta thank the lord / In love with myself just like Regina George.” Chilliams is familiar with showing his feelings, his humor and his Mean Girls knowledge, dating back to past projects like The Plastics and Henry Church. “Listening to Joseph Chilliams’ music was a huge inspiration for me to even be comfortable being as vulnerable as I am on this song,” Muse says. “To me, he embodies self-love in the way he raps.”

Muse addresses romantic love on “Love Wrong (Eros),” a sequel of sorts to “Shea Butter Baby.” If the fan-favorite track depicted puppy love, “Love Wrong” documents the same relationship later, as the two navigate disagreement and miscommunication. “Both songs are about the same real person. ‘Love Wrong’ is a more in-depth analysis of what her and I have experienced since being involved with each other,” Muse says. “The realities of it, like ‘Oh we gotta learn each other, this sh*t doesn’t just work overnight,’” he continues. The song ends on a hopeful note, as he chants “We gon get it right” like a mantra to get through the tough times. Muse is still seeing the woman who inspired both songs, after all.

Perseverance through discord and death is the common thread through Love & Nappyness, the same grit in the face of adversity that drives hometown heroes like Kanye and Common. Muse is releasing his latest work independently, and he passed up opportunities to play festivals in order to book the release show, his first time headlining. For him, the payoff has been worth it. “The whole theme of my year,” he says, “has been betting on myself.”

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YouTube/VEVO

6 Pop Culture Tributes In Normani's Jam-Packed "Motivation" Video

Since its release this morning at midnight (Aug. 16), Normani has been the name on everybody's lips. The former Fifth Harmony member dropped a video for her latest single, "Motivation," which shows off the 23-year-old's incredible dance moves and also pleasantly pays homage to some of our favorite visuals and pop-culture moments from the 2000s.

"Motivation" was produced by ILYA, and Normani revealed that Ariana Grande was one of the song's co-writers. The video was directed by Daniel Russell and Dave Meyers, who is as iconic (and throwback) as it gets. Take a look at a few moments the video pays homage to below.

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106 & Park (0:00- 0:29)

BET's music countdown show is the basis for the visual. A teenage girl is shown running into her living room, and she is eager to see if one of her favorite music videos will be shown. To her delight, Terrence J and Rocsi announce that Normani's video will be playing.

Beyonce, "Crazy In Love" (0:30-0:42 and 2:43-3:08)

A given considering Normani's vocal appreciation of the Queen Bey. To start the video within the video, 'Mani is seen strutting down the street a la 'Crazy In Love' with denim bottoms and a white tank, serving us life on a silver platter.

She also served us sexy choreography in the rain, a likely homage to Bey's iconic video. The bedazzled outfit screamed 2000s, but there was no denying there was Bey influence for the scene.

Ciara, "1, 2 Step" And/Or Ashanti, "Happy" (0:45- throughout)

Normani storms into this scene with energy, which prompts everyone else to get in formation and dance with her, reminiscent of when Ciara showed us how to 1,2 Step. Much like in the homage, everyone rallies behind CiCi to have some fun.

This could also be an homage to Ashanti's "Happy." Videos in the 2000s were clearly all about dancing in front of houses, and with the synchronization of both groups of dancers, we could also lean towards Ashanti being a definite inspiration.

Jennifer Lopez Feat. Ja Rule, "I'm Real (Remix)" (1:42-2:13)

The 2000s were all about the basketball court too, and "Motivation" screams "I'm Real." The OG video features J. Lo and Ja playfully canoodling on the court, which is also what we see during Normani's take on the hit.

Britney Spears, "...Baby One More Time" (1:54- 2:05)

You can't deny that this particular scene has Brit Brit written all over it. The Louisiana native, who is a former dancer and gymnast, pulled out all the stops in her debut music video. Normani (a fellow Louisiana girl as well as a dancer and gymnast) pays homage in a very loaded way.

via GIPHY
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