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Journalist Brandon Pope Talks Teaming with WBEZ Chicago for ‘Making’ Podcast Exploring Black Cultural Icons

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Black History Month 2023 has wrapped, but the celebration of our icons should continue every day. The documentary podcast, Making, contributes to the rolling education of the social advancement of Black icons. Produced by WBEZ Chicago and hosted by award-winning journalist Brandon Pope, Making highlights icons like Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, Maya Angelou, and more, chronicling their journeys and providing context to the creation and work of these cultural giants.

Speaking with The Source, Brandon Pope details what has made Making as one of the most unique podcasts available, discoveries about Black icons during his recording, and his transition from television to an audio podcast format. All 10 episodes of season 4 of Making are available here for your platform of choice.

The SOURCE: How did you get your start, and what really attracted you to being a participant in this podcast?

Brandon Pope: You know, I wasn’t like one of those kids that had a dream of being a TV reporter or a journalist or anything. I wanted to be a power ranger. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be one of those things [laughs]. I had this great radio and TV class in high school. We made music videos and did morning announcements. I did some documentaries and stuff like that. And I just realized, okay, this media thing is cool. And once I applied to college, they were like, yeah, we call that journalism. So I’m like, all right, cool. I’ll do some journalism then. From there, man, it’s just been kinda learning the ropes and soaking up all the information I can. I have great mentors. My first market was South Bend, Indiana as a multimedia journalist, one man band that was shooting, writing, editing, doing sports for Notre Dame athletics. Then coming to Chicago and doing lifestyle tv and then getting this opportunity with WBEZ, Chicago Public Media, and NPR and hosting an incredible podcast succeeding an amazing public radio legend in Jen White and having her blessing. I’ve been doing some podcasting for a while. The team approached me and said, this would be a really cool thing to have your voice be a part of. And I hope that we’re doing a good job of that with these amazing black figures.

What experience did you have to let you know that this was going to be a good merger of the minds and have the creative freedom to tell these Black stories?

It was just knowing who I was working with. WBEZ has a great reputation, not just here in the city of Chicago, but throughout the country. And I had definitely listened to Making before I was a big fan of Making Obama and Making Oprah. I was listening to every episode and I loved the style of narrative storytelling that they did. So I was already familiar with the brand. I was already familiar with the people. I knew that they had a passion for good quality human storytelling. And so it was a perfect match in that regard.

How did you prepare yourself for being able to move over to that world, a more narrative-based history storytelling as opposed to entertainment?

I think a lot of it is just kind of tapping into what I do on TV but figuring out how I can bring that to the audio world. My TV career has been a lot of narrative storytelling and telling uplifting stories about our people, Black people. But the way you do it on TV is a lot more based on the visuals. Whereas with audio, you have to find a way to draw people in, right? And you draw people in through conversation. I’m a person who’s passionate about having a good conversation. Unfortunately, the TV industry is based off a lot of short timing. You don’t have a long time to have a real meaty conversation. But with the podcast, with this format, we’re able to really expand and unpack things.

Within this Making series, you talked about how you came into hearing Making Oprah or Making Obama. Through your tenure, you have tackled history from as recent as the past 10 years to up to 40 years. Who do you think created your favorite episode?

I’m a sports guy, right? So I’d say, personally, the Kobe Bryant episode may have been the one I was most excited about. I’m the happiest with how we approached it cause it was also the most challenging. Kobe Bryant himself, we know him as a sports icon, right? But there’s also another story to tell. He went through quite a few controversies and we needed to make sure that we had to make a decision, are we just going to tell gleaming histories and ignore anything that was controversial or any of the other stuff? Or are we gonna tell a full picture and really approach this from a journalistic perspective? And so Kobe was our chance to really do that. What we did with Kobe Bryant, yes, we talked about the sports icon himself. We talked to his head coach in high school, Gregg Downer. We talked to a columnist who had covered Kobe Bryant. So we got that perspective for sure. But there’s another conversation that we had about the sexual assault trial and about that controversy there.

So we had a separate conversation about how we deal with legacies. Complicated legacies and these legends that don’t have the most gleaming history out there might evoke different feelings depending on who you’re talking to. And I think, in that sense, that’s where our podcast became really bigger than just the idea of talking to people. It became let’s explore ideas about society. Let’s explore ideas about culture. Let’s explore ideas about the way we deal with complicated figures. And so Kobe Bryant was our chance to do that and dig into that. I think we did a great job of that.

Was there a time examining someone that you had a perspective change, for better or worse?

I think there are some people who are a big deal. You appreciate their contribution to history, but you don’t exactly. You’ve never had a chance to really sit down and process what their impact was. And I think for me, Jesse Owens was the best example of that. I’m an Ohio guy. I know the Jesse Owens story well. He went to Ohio State, and was killing these boys at track meets in Michigan. You know, I mean, it’s a great story. But I had never been able to really get told a full history of him and some of the stuff he went through, like going to the Nazi Olympics, right? Looking Hitler in the eye, right? At a time when, you know, the US is even questioning whether they should be a part of the Olympics at this time in Germany. Telling that story and then hearing from his family members, and professionals, these people who have dedicated their lives to understanding this person deeper than just their athletic accomplishments, but who they are, what their philosophies were, and what they meant to the world. Jesse Owen Owens was that opportunity where I got to learn something. I learned a lot, and I’m able to walk around now with a greater appreciation for what he’s done, not just for sports, but for American society. Um, and that’s probably my favorite part about doing this podcast. I’m a co-learner. The audience is learning things, but I’m learning stuff too. Diane Sawyer, famously said, stay curious. And I’m a guy. I’m all about that. I’m always curious. I’m always trying to learn more. And so I love that I’m able to unpack these legends and discover new things I had never heard before.

What have you learned about yourself, both as a professional, but also just as someone who appreciates the work and the efforts of these icons and has contributed to our culture?

What I learned about myself through this is that I need to trust myself more and trust my own voice more. I think that it’s easy when you are used to one style of thing and you’re jumping into something else to feel a little bit of trepidation. I’m really happy that I’ve had a great support team who’s explained new terms to me and helped me through some stuff. And they’ve helped me trust my voice, find my voice because they, want to hear more of my voice, and I’m empowered to be a part of it.

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Dame Dash Reads Children’s Book At Va. Elementary School

Dame Dash Launches his Streaming Service

Dame Dash’s new children’s book was well received by a group of elementary school kids in Virginia who were lucky enough to witness the former Roc-A-Fella read the book that the couple’s son inspired.

On Friday (Feb. 24), Dash and fiancée Raquel M. Horn popped up at Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, where the couple read Dusko Goes To Space, released by Damon Dash Studios in May 2022.

Richmond CBS affiliate WTVR said that Dash and Horn spoke to the kindergarten, first, and second graders, giving them more encouragement and confidence to read using topics that they’re already familiar with and enjoy.

“If a kid loves video games when teaching uses video games,” Dash explained. “For a kid who loves space, we will teach him in space. He loves music, he loves acting, whatever it is, you know, we’re gonna teach them in their language.”

Dusko Goes To Space follows a little boy as he turns a cardboard box into a spaceship and heads on an educational adventure with his French bulldog, Governor. The main character is named after Damon Dash and Raquel M. Horn’s two-year-old son.

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Gillibrand, Schumer, Bowman, and A Host Of Hip Hop Legends Announce $5M For Universal Hip Hop Museum

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Ahead of the 50th anniversary of hip hop, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16) joined together at the construction site of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx to announce $5 million in federal funding to help preserve and celebrate hip hop music’s history and influence over American culture. The Universal Hip Hop Museum will become a tourist hub honoring the music genre’s influence over art, music, fashion, film, marketing and entertainment, and celebrating the pioneers who built the culture, such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Red Alert, Run DMC, and KRS-One. The funds attained by Sen. Gillibrand, Sen. Schumer, and Rep. Bowman will go toward the construction of the facility, as well as K-12 educational programming.

The lawmakers were also joined by New York State Senator José M. Serrano, New York Senator Jamaal Bailey, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, former Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., former Peekskill Mayor and hip hop artist Andre Rainey, KRS-One, G. Simone, Roxanne Shanté, Grandmaster Flash, Eric B., and Grand Wizzard Theodore.

“The Bronx has historically been a creative incubator, nurturing so many genres of music ranging from doo-wop to salsa, but few genres have left a greater mark than hip hop music,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “It is amazing to see that what started as a party in the basement of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue became a global phenomenon that spawned artists and entrepreneurs like Jay-Z, Queen Latifah, Pitbull, and 50 Cent. With the 50th anniversary of hip hop right around the corner, I am proud to have secured funds to help the Universal Hip Hop Museum celebrate everything that is beautiful about hip hop culture.”

“Since its birth in the Bronx 50 years ago, Hip Hop culture has transcended language, race, age, in addition to geographic and socioeconomic barriers. It is a uniquely American art form that has become a global cultural movement. That’s why I’m so proud to deliver $5,000,000 to the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which will serve as the ‘Official Record of Hip Hop’,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. “This museum will allow visitors from all around the world to come together in the Bronx and immerse themselves in Hip Hop culture of the past and present, as well as provide an important space for educational programs to empower our youth.”

“Hip Hop is a global movement that transcends beyond our borders. As a proud supporter of the creation of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, I am excited that there will be a cultural and artistic representation of Hip Hop’s profound impact on the world right here in this community,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman Ed.D (NY-16)“The $5 million in federal funding secured for the Universal Hip Hop Museum demonstrates a commitment to recognizing the historic contribution Hip Hop has made in this country. For people who were disconnected from their continent, from their language, from their culture, and from their ancestry, Hip Hop represents the rebirth of a civilization. The pioneers of Hip Hop created a vessel that grew to impact nearly every facet of American culture and this funding is only the start of prioritizing and honoring those in our country who have paved the way for many generations to come.”

“The Universal Hip-Hop Museum will serve as an important space for the preservation and celebration of Hip-Hop culture,” said New York State Senator José M. Serrano“Born in the Bronx 50 years ago, the cultural phenomenon known as Hip-Hop has changed the world and influenced music globally. My sincere thanks to Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer, and our Congressional delegation for their support of this important cultural venue” 

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Seven People Shot Dead In Another California Mass Shooting

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As the country still reels from the mass shooting in SoCal’s Monterey Park tragedy, where 11 people were killed and at least ten others were wounded by a single shooter, another mass shooting has occurred in the Golden State; this time in the Northern CA’s coastal city of Half Moon Bay, where seven people were fatally shot. It has also been reported that all of the victims in the shooting were Chinese American farm workers.

The suspect, 67-year-old Zhao Chunli, was arrested after driving to a police station.

California has been the epicenter for the country’s latest mass shootings, that have now climbed to 39 in the first 24 days of 2023. California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that he was at a hospital meeting with victims of the earlier mass shooting when he was pulled away to be briefed about the second attack.

Four of the shooting victims of the shooting attack were discovered at a mushroom farm while the other three were later found at a nearby trucking business. An eighth victim is being treated in hospital and is in a critical condition.

This kind of shooting is horrific. It’s a tragedy we hear about far too often, but today it’s hit home here in San Mateo County,” the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office said in a statement. San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine told the Associated Press that the shootings were committed by a “disgruntled worker”.

“We are sickened by today’s tragedy in Half Moon Bay,” Mr Pine said in a statement. “There are simply too many guns in this country and there has to be a change.”

Just hours after the attack, seven were injured and one person was killed in a shooting in Oakland, about 40 miles northeast of Half Moon Bay.

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Jay-z and Yo Gotti’s Team Roc Prison Reform Program Drops Lawsuit Against MS State Prison

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According to recent reports, Team Roc’s attorneys have dropped their lawsuit against the Mississippi State Penitentiary, but they vow to revisit their concerns if the conditions go downhill again.

The Parchman Farm has undergone several renovations since Team Roc filed the lawsuit, but the correctional facility is still open even after several fatal stabbings and unsanitary living conditions at the apex of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBC has reported that the Parchman Farm received new stainless steel showers, toilets, and sinks after the previous restrooms crumbled and littered with rat feces. MSP also boasts new sports facilities, including basketball, flag football, boxing, and upgraded heating and air conditioning ventilation systems.

The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, which means that the lawsuit can be refiled at any time. Team Roc recently visited the MSP with a film crew, and the footage is scheduled to be returned to the Justice Department for further review.

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French Montana Taps DJ Drama For New Gangsta Grillz ‘CB6’ Project

French Montana Taps DJ Drama For New Gangsta Grillz 'CB6' Project

If there is one word associated with French Montana, it’s consistency. The Coke Boys founder returns with another installment of the Coke Boys mixtape series. Only in this instance, he ups the ante by recruiting the legendary DJ Drama and a slew of heavy hitters.

If Drama is on the project, the Gangsta Grillz adlibs come highly anticipated. In addition to the Gangsta Grillz, Coke Boys 6: Money Heist Edition has guest appearances from Kodak Black, Jeremih, Max B, A$AP Rocky, Vory, King Combs, and more.

“WAVE GODS. From st barts back to the block free max b ! COKE BOYS 6 gangsta grillz edition @djdrama THIS FRIDAY,” wrote French Montana in his Instagram caption.

DJ Drama echoed French’s energy with an Instagram post to promote the project.

New Year… Same Hustle!! Droppin 1/6!! @frenchmontana “Coke Boys 6… Money Heist Edition” Gangsta Grill!! I Gave Yall A Chance To Catch Up…What Happened #FreeBiggavelli,” said Drama in his Instagram caption.

The Gangsta Grillz dropped another post to promote the album upon its release saying, “I’M MOVING LIKE SOMEBODY PISSED ME OFF.”

CB6 contains 29 tracks that’ll be sure to showcase a tsunami wave when French Montana and DJ Drama collaborate on a project.

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NBA Youngboy Names Young Thug and French Montana In His Top 5 Rappers List

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NBA Youngboy has stepped into the lane of talk radio with his new, Never Broke Again Radio show on Amazon. During last week’s episode, The “Kacey Talk” rapper listed his top 5 favorite rappers.

“My top five rappers I’ll say, Yeat, I’ll say [Young] Thug, I’ll say French Montana…Glizzy, I will say Shy Glizzy, yeah, the last one Soulja Slim,” said NBA Youngboy.

The Louisiana rapper has collaborated with three of the five rappers on his list. Back in 2020, Youngboy and French linked up for “So Real” from his CB5mixtape. Shy Glizzy appeared on YB’s 3800 Degreez mixtape on the track “Hard.” He worked with Yeat recently on the “I Don’t Text Back” from Youngboy’s Hey Ma’ I Got A Family album. He has yet to collaborate with Young Thug or his fellow New Orleans native Soulja Slim. From YB’s track record, it is only a matter of time before the latter collab comes to fruition.

As you can see, NBA Youngboy has no problem giving credit to his fellow rap peers. His new Amazon radio show launched earlier this month shows off his versatility.

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Fat Joe Says Tems’ ‘Free Mind’ is His Song of The Year

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Fat Joe was extremely adamant about his musical taste on his recent Instagram post. As Joe prepared to go Live on IG, he played Tems’ 2020 song “Free Mind” in the background.

“I played this because to me, this is the song of the year,” said Fat Joe. ““Song of the year to me. I don’t know about you.”

Although the song was release a few years back, it became a TikTok sensation and received heavy radio play in 2022. In addition, Tems’ hit collaborations of the past few years helped to amplify the track’s notoriety.

She was featured on Future and Drake’s “WAIT FOR U,” Wizkid’s for “Essence” and Drake’s “Fountains.” She also wrote Rihanna’s single, “Lift Me Up,” for the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack as well as a cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” “WAIT FOR U” topped the Hot 100 charts, “Essence” peaked at No. 9.

Following Tems’ breakout into mainstream success over the past few year, we can all agree with Fat Joe and anticipate more in the new year.

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The XXXTentacion Foundation Intervene In Jackson, Mississippi’s Water And Medical Crisis

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XXXtencation has been trending lately, as his trial is set to begin in January. A lot has been said about the rapper but what many people do not know is that X had goals and dreams that he didn’t get to see come to fruition.. One of those was the foundation he created to assist those in need. His mother is continuing his dream through various initiatives. 

In August 2022, the national media started to shine a light on Jackson, Mississippi’s water crisis. The city had sustained heavy rain, which resulted in massive flooding. Years of neglect, combined with racism and a pump malfunction, became a recipe for disaster. 

More than 170,000 residents, including infants and children, were left without water. Locals were unable to drink, shower, or even flush toilets. Seniors and lower-income residents with medical needs are forced to choose between buying crucial medications or purchasing water. A boiling water advisory was put in place to help salvage the issue. Still, according to Rukia Lumumba,  Chair of the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition and sister of Jackson’s mayor, the situation is far from resolved. 

“The water crisis has left over 150k residents under a boiling advisory. This will last at least a year or more. So we still need more water and water  filters,” said Lumumba.

The water crisis has created a medical emergency amongst affected individuals in Jackson.

 “Not having access to clean drinkable water is detrimental to the health of anyone, especially infants, kids, and the elderly who have preexisting conditions,” stated Dr. Tom Ellison, MD.  

Ellison is the Founder and Director of Project Help, a national medical-based non-profit disaster relief organization of over 4500 doctors who volunteer during natural disasters.  Project Help has assisted residents in Jackson since August when they got a call from the XXXTentacion Foundation in late October. Since that time the foundation has provided enough water to last residents til March of 2023.

Cleopatra Bernard is a Music, Film and TV Executive Producer. Bernard is also a philanthropist, and the mother of late Rapper, XXXTentacion. The executive and her team decided to step in and help the residents of Jackson through the XXXTentacion foundation. 

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Spread Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way: The Notorious B.I.G Honored With Art Installation at Brooklyn Bridge

Spread Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way: The Notorious B.I.G Honored With Art Installation at Brooklyn Bridge

A nine-foot-tall sculpture pays homage to Kings County hip hop’s royalty; The Notorious B.I.G has been erected in Brooklyn. 

The artist, Sherwin Banfield, tells Artnet News: “I’m a traditionally trained figurative sculptor and wanted to take something classic then remix or sample it with something new and fresh.” The sculpture was cast in the Brooklyn foundry owned by Bill Makky, the same foundry responsible for bronzing the much-recognized Wall Street Bull. Using resin, a sealant used to protect surfaces from water damage, corrosion, or staining; the sculpture is decorated with Biggie’s first studio album. It features a crowned head of the Brooklyn native and hip-hop legend, who was gunned down in 1997. He was just 24 years old when he was killed.

This towering sculpture, titled Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings, is the latest art project funded by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and the Dumbo Improvement District, two organizations dedicated to enhancing the cultural life of local spaces. “Giving space to new kinds of monuments and works is what a public art fund is all about,” said Alexandria Sica, President of the Dumbo Improvement District. “This is a spectacular piece that will greet countless New Yorkers.”

Earlier in the year, there was an open call for proposals from local artists who wanted to showcase an art piece that would live at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. With the 5oth anniversary of hip-hop just around the corner, Banfield’s piece, titled “Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings,” stood out to panelists who helped select an exhibit. “We were really, really careful once we received all these wonderful proposals to make sure that we were choosing projects that really spoke to what was unique about downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo — pieces that really activated our neighborhood with really forward thinking and provocative work and I think this piece really fits into that way of thinking,” said Regina Myer, president of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

“Sky’s the Limit in the County of Kings” will remain on display through the spring of 2023.

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