PUMA Launches #Reform To Drive Social Change

Skylar Diggins-Smith, Meek Mill, And Tommie Smith Agree That #Reform Starts With The Youth

PUMA’s global platform #Reform was launched by three of entertainment and sports’ biggest names.

Upon entering the vast Atlanta History Center, guests encounter the inseparable marriage between race, politics, and sports. Exhibitions like “Turning Point: The American Civil War,” “Native Lands: Indians And Georgia,” and “Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story” put into perspective influential moments not only in the Georgia city’s history, but the entire United States. Although these informative attractions magnetize consumers’ eyes, it’s a glass casing memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s influence that stops visitors in their tracks.

Preserved newspaper covers from The Atlanta Constitution to the Atlanta Daily Word captured those Earth-shattering moments of the storied activist’s passing. “Dr. King Shot, Dies In Memphis, Curfew On, 4,000 Guards Called” reads one headline. Another daily printed a story on the moment former President Ronald Reagan enacted Martin Luther King Day in 1983.

As history has shown, that activism spirit enclosed within the center’s MLK section is too powerful to be contained behind plexiglass. Just a few steps behind the building’s main entrance was the meeting ground for a group of people who plan to add fuel to a social justice trend between athletic brands and household monikers. McElreath Hall housed the introduction to PUMA’s global platform #Reform (Oct. 6), ushered by three of entertainment and sports’ biggest names.

Moderated by Adam Petrick, PUMA’s Global Director of Brand and Marketing, the event was supported by WNBA All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith, rapper Meek Mill, and the legendary activist/former pro-athlete Dr. Tommie Smith. Each person revealed their platform under the #Reform banner, which seeks to enact and preserve equality and social change. For Diggins-Smith, her lane will center on gender equality. For Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, his focus remains on criminal justice reform. And for Dr. Smith, universal equality prevails on his agenda since the day he raised his fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico (Oct. 16).

“After walking off the victory stand and hearing the boos, I felt it was very necessary to identify strength with the reform to continue,” Smith said to a room of journalists. “That’s why if you saw me coming off the victory stand, you would see a newness walking across the track. That purified the idea that you can’t mess with this, simple and clear.”

According to PUMA’s CEO Bjorn Gulden, Dr. Smith has been a constant waterfall of inspiration for the brand for over 50 years, the same amount of time that has passed since he and fellow track star John Carlos did the black power salute. His activism outside of sports continues to this day, something that Gulden believes is an integral part of the everlasting quest for fairness.

“As a company, we need to translate the tools to speak up for the issues that we can impact,” Gulden said. “We cannot change the world alone, but I think we can inspire people who have the chance to influence.”

During the #Reform presentation, Petrick revealed a few statistics of what consumers would like to see between brands like PUMA and its support of athletes or entertainers’ social views. Sixty-five percent of supporters agree that companies should stand for justice and provide resources for those amplifying that notion. “Sports culture goes beyond the 22 seconds on the track or 48 minutes on the court,” Petrick said.

That statement resonates with Diggins-Smith. Two years ago, players within the WNBA adorned shirts that read Black Lives Matter, a proclamation that soon inspired other athletes to dismiss the “shut up and dribble” vitriol. Players were initially met with fines for dismissing the league’s uniform regulations, but former WNBA president Lisa Borders rescinded the penalties to “show them even more support” in expressing their views.

“When you’ve been given this platform it’s about the voices that you represent. It’s about what you do with it and some people don’t do anything with their platform,” Diggins-Smith says to VIBE. “It’s important to speak out about things that you care about, and the WNBA — be it the president or the front office — just having the players be able to speak for themselves, it’s important that we get support to speak about whatever we feel like is important to us because these social issues impact everybody differently.”

The Dallas Wings team player is also working to level out the compensation gender gap in pro-basketball. “We have power in our voices to start these conversations that may be uncomfortable, that everybody may not like,” she said. Through the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Diggins-Smith hopes the WNBA’s personnel will be granted the same marketing tools like their male counterparts to grow the brand beyond measure. Through marketing strategies or creative social media ideas, Diggins-Smith hopes “to see more women in these suite seat level positions, and in positions of power and decision-making. In the workplace as well.”

 

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#BlackLivesMatter #Dallas5 #_____________________

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That fairness and balance also translate to Mill’s pursuits. Since he’s found a renewed sense of purpose after being released from state prison earlier this year, the Philadelphia native wants the country’s laws and statutes to be handed down the same way for white or black defendants. While music serves as his first love and passion, he shared that he’s “falling in love” with helping to make a change in men and women’s lives who’ve been falsely incarcerated. The “Traumatized” artist said he believes in equality, but it’s hard to fathom for someone coming from a community that’s not seen as favorable in the eyes of the law.

“If you have a drug problem on probation in Montgomery County they send you to get help,” he said. “In the city amongst blacks and Hispanics, if you have a drug problem they send you to jail. It’s two different things and I’ve seen both sides of that.”

Giving a nod to Mill and Diggins, Dr. Smith said it’s young people like the aforementioned that should continue to pass the torch to the next generation of social reformers. “We are moving forward and I don’t think we are going to finish until something is done,” Smith said. “The race is being run, but it’s not finished.”

READ MORE: Legendary Olympian Tommie Smith Defends Colin Kaepernick’s Protest

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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A look back at the collaborator's up and down relationship.
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Remember The Time: 10 Times Drake And Kanye West Were Stronger Together

Kanye West and Drake aren’t exactly in the best place at the moment. West’s Dec. 13 Twitter rant detailed their issues, in which he accuses Drake of “sneak dissing” and threatening him.

“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner] talking about how’s the family.” he wrote among many other tweets and allegations against the Scorpion MC.

While this is a bump in the road, the two haven’t always been enemies. Despite the shenanigans surrounding them, Kanye West and Drake have had a very fruitful relationship. All drama aside, the duo have created many memorable moments in hip-hop and pop culture. They’ve written and recorded some incredible songs and shared countless stages during concerts and tours.

To abstain from dwelling on the negativity, VIBE has collected a list of moments taking you through the high points in the rappers’ relationship. Check it out below.

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Drake's Freestyles Over Many Beats By 'Ye

Before he was one of the most sought-after rappers in the world, Drizzy has looked up to Kanye West and sampled his work. For “Say What’s Real,” a single off his mixtape So Far Gone, the “In My Feelings” MC sampled Yeezy’s “Say You Will” off of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The admiration continued throughout the years, resulting in more freestyles over songs like “Swagga Like Us” and “Barry Bonds.” Both tracks feature beats created by the Chi-town native. 

‘Thank Me Later’ Proves Their Shared Power 

After meeting in 2009, the duo came together to bring Drake's Thank Me Later album to the next level. They collaborated on two tracks- the futuristic love songs “Show Me A Good Time,” and “Find Your Love.” With West holding down production, deep-pocketed 808’s and table-top scratch sounds were highlighted. The accolades for the latter song resulted in the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts as they created their own lane.

Drake Calls Kanye “The Most Influential Person”

In a 2009 interview, the then-industry rookie had some nice words for West. Speaking specifically about the 41-year-old’s 808’s and Heartbreak album, the Toronto rapper described ‘Ye as "the most influential person” who was important to young emcees in the game.

"Before I ever got the chance to meet him, Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes," Drake said. He knows how to utilize great sounds and great music. So before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West. I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."

Their Collaborations On Wax 

The pair has been making music together for nearly 10 years, with some standout tracks including “Forever,” the remix to “All Of The Lights,” and “Pop Style.” On their 2017 song “Glow” off of Drake’s playlist More Life, both rappers discuss their growing, limitless success. West was rumored to initially appear on Drizzy’s smash-hit “Nice For What.” He reportedly had a verse on the critically-acclaimed track until the beef between Drake and his G.O.O.D. Music cohort Pusha T became lethal.

The Joint Mixtape That Never Happened

Drake and Kanye are no strangers when it comes to making joint albums with other artists. Drake worked with Future on the platinum-selling album What A Time To Be Alive, while Kanye released Watch The Throne with JAY-Z to critical acclaim. However, it has been hinted for the longest time that the two were working on a full-length album of their own.

Kanye confirmed the plan to release an album with Drake to Vogue in 2016, shortly after hinting at a joint project during OVO Fest. The Take Care rapper co-signed the announcement, saying "What my brother was asking before was, are you ready if we make an album?"

Drake Writing For Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’

Drake wrote a song for Kanye’s 2016 effort, The Life of Pablo. The Canadian hip-hop star helped pen the Isaac Hayes and Nelly-sampled “30 Hours.” Drizzy was also reportedly on the original, unreleased version of Pablo’s “Wolves,” which featured Icelandic artist Bjork (the album version features Vic Mensa and Sia).

The Duo Become Friendly, Competitive Neighbors

By the time of their initial meeting in 2009, Kanye already clocked in nearly a decade of music industry knowledge, and Drake was making the transition from teen TV star to full-time rapper. But who would have thought the duo would have eventually become actual neighbors?

Drake eventually moved to Calabasas, Calif.- a neighborhood in Los Angeles many celebrities call home- around the same time West began publicly dating his now-wife, Kim Kardashian. In the 2016 bop “Summer Sixteen,” Drizzy jokes, “Now I got a house in LA, now I got a bigger pool than Ye / And look man, Ye’s pool is nice, mine's just bigger's what I’m saying.”

 

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There goes the neighborhood

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Kanye Supports OVO Fest

Drake created a hip-hop festival called OVO Fest in 2010. Not only does it feature notable acts in urban music, but it also gave a platform to upcoming artists from Canada who might not have gotten a platform back home. Kanye West was one of the first supports of the music event, performing at three of the festivals.

He also admitted that Drake inspired him and JAY-Z to record Watch The Throne during 2013’s OVO Fest, stating, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if this ni**a wasn't putting pressure on us like that, so I just wanna pay my respects.”

Kanye Apologizes To Drake Over G.O.O.D. Music Album Rollouts

Earlier this fall, Kanye West apologized to Drake in a series of tweets for planning the rollout of albums by artists under his G.O.O.D music roster around the proposed release of Scorpion.

In one of the tweets, Kanye wrote “Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place. We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.” In another tweet, ‘Ye revealed that he never listened to the diss tracks between him and Pusha, and didn’t have conversations regarding Drake’s child with him.

Let me start by apologizing for stepping on your release date in the first place … We were building a bond and working on music together including squashing the issues with Cudi at our office.

— ye (@kanyewest) September 5, 2018

They Shared Laughs Over Meek Mill Memes

Drake and Meek Mill were in an infamous feud back in 2015. After performing his diss track aimed at Meek- "Back to Back”- at the 2015 OVO Fest, Drizzy, Kanye, and Will Smith enjoyed a laugh over the countless memes mocking the Philly MC.

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Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

What a year 2018 has been for music lovers.

Listeners enjoyed a buffet of diverse melodies, savoring in the choice of curating the tunes they craved as opposed to consuming more than they can digest. Rumored albums from veterans like Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V and The Carters' first joint project battled its way to the top of our personal charts alongside music's innovators like Noname, The Internet, Buddy, and Janelle Monae.

Within that aforementioned list of artists, a new generation of lyricists and vocalists found their footing with fans and critics alike. The rising crop of talent released projects that should motivate each of them to carve out space for forthcoming awards. While we took into account the albums released from Dec. 1, 2017 to Nov. 20, 2018, that moved us emotionally, we also checked off a list of requirements like replay value, overall production, critical reception, and cultural impact.

Here are the 30 albums (in alphabetical order, not ranked), that instilled pride in our culture, made us take a look within, and encouraged us to appreciate music all over again.

READ MORE: 25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

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