As winter forces many of us to ditch nights out with friends in favour of nights in on the sofa, Belcalis Alamanzar’s iconic words ring out across the digital ether: “A ho never gets cold!”. In a clip that went viral in 2014, the rapper better known as Cardi B parades up and down a hotel corridor, clad in a plunging, barely-there bralette and tight-fitting skirt. For women who wear little and care about it even less, Megan Thee Stallion has made a name for herself in the same vein. Together, Meg and Cardi would go on to birth a movement with their hit 2020 single, WAP, an ode to female sexuality and “wet ass pussy” which brought a slice of the club to the worlds’ living rooms at the peak of lockdown.
In three minutes and seven seconds of poetic dirty talk, the pair walk us through the spiciest of bedroom sessions, except – contrary to patriarchal norms – they are firmly in the driver’s seat. From fellatio to make-up sex, Cardi and Megan leave their targets weak. With the video quickly becoming a talking point around the world, their sexual desire (and that of women in general) became the subject of fierce debate. While many praised their cheeky candour, others were unimpressed, with Fox News’s Candace Owens going as far as to call Cardi a “cancer cell” who was destroying culture.
For the director and producer Poppy Begum, the idea to make a documentary about WAP fever was fuelled by those extreme and polarised reactions. “I wasn’t expecting the morality police to have their knickers in such a twist over the song,” says Begum. She began thinking about the double standard that exists between male and female rappers. “The moment a woman [makes a song like this], the scrutiny and speculation goes through the roof. It gets so boring after a while.”
Meg and Cardi’s loud, empowering exclamations made an impact, but they’re not the first. Women – and female rappers in particular – have always talked about sex. Together, they are following in the footsteps of artists including Lil Kim, Trina, Missy Elliott and Khia (who was responsible for the iconic 00s anthem My Neck, My Back). And yet, such frank discussion still brings out a combination of wonder and disgust in many people.
Queens of Rap, Begum unpicks people’s opinions, and attempts to put herself in Cardi’s shoes by visiting her old stomping ground in the Bronx, likening the singer’s roots in a tight-knit Dominican community to her own upbringing amid the Bengali community of London’s Brick Lane. Swinging from club to club as a stripper, Almanzar was first known in the streets for her raucous laugh, bold flirtation and slightly misaligned front teeth, which she has since had corrected (see: Got a Bag and Fixed My Teeth).
On the same streets, Begum felt that little had changed since Cardi was first coming up. Despite the online prominence of stars such as Doja Cat, she remarks, “In the offline world, the amount of people I came across that had old school, conservative views … [talking about Cardi and Megan] didn’t always go down well.” The circularity of the debate frustrated her, essentially boiling down to “the same classroom debates I had with my friends in school”.
Begum interviews one particular woman on the street, who recoils at the thought of the WAP lyrics (“She’s a mother”, she says, referring to Cardi). Of course, Beyoncé, who joined Megan on the remix of her hit Savage
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, the former editor in chief of the women’s news and culture website Jezebel and one of the film’s contributors, says that the music industry hasn’t yet come to terms with women as active participants. Linking Cardi and Megan to early blues artists such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, who made what she refers to as “f*cking and s*cking songs from the 1930s”, Shepherd is keen to emphasise that music about sex is nothing new. However, the industry continues to have a blind spot, and change has not historically come from within. “It took the democratising force of the internet to get us to a place where we could have more than one mainstream woman rapper at one time,” she adds.
The no-nonsense attitude to sex – and potentially using one’s body for material gain – as described in WAP also overlaps with conversations on sex work. In the documentary, the presenter Zeze Millz explains that WAP is, to her mind, “soft porn”. To some, to be found attractive and to sell that image back to women as a captive audience, is to be complicit in your own fetishisation. But the journalist Jacqueline Springer makes the important point that for women who want to make it at any cost, it is better to benefit off your own fetishisation than to hand the power to someone else. Controlling their own image – to “reclaim and defame”, in the words of Shepherd – may well be an attempt to make the most of this catch-22 situation.
In some ways, though, the artists remain powerless. For Shepherd, the liberation of making this kind of music may be uncapped, culturally and artistically. The capitalistic aspect of selling music, however, means that “until the industry is dismantled from its very long history of exploiting Black artists”, absolute empowerment isn’t possible.
Queens of Rap paints a colourful history of female sexuality in music, though there is much more still to discuss (beauty standards, for example, and colourism in relation to sexuality could be a whole separate documentary – just look at the incessant trolling Lizzo received after collaborating with Cardi). It highlights that WAP was more than a trend, however, and that a new wave of female rappers will take up the mantle before long. And, as debates and discussions rumble on, there might be room for a follow-up yet.
Queens of Rap is on Channel 4 at 10pm tonight.
Exclusive 2022: Now that’s how you do it! Kate shows up for Queen as Duchess dazzles in new pictures
Kate and Prince William headed to the Foundling Museum on Wednesday morning. There, they learned more about the care sector and met representatives from across the system.
The Duchess appeared in high spirits as she returned to public duties, and dazzled wearing an elegant outfit including dark trousers, a high-neck jumper and a vibrant blue coat.
Prince William also looked smart wearing a dark-coloured jumper and trousers on top of a baby blue buttoned-up shirt.
Kate headed to this museum in London as its patron, a role she has been covering since 2019.
Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family
Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family
It tells the history of the Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 as a home for children who could not be cared for by their mothers.
This visit confirms the Duchess’ commitment to deepening the understanding the British society has of the early years and how experiences completed during the first five years of life can impact adult development.
This area has been of interest to Kate since she joined the Royal Family in April 2011.
The Duchess has spent years working behind the scenes to develop her knowledge on early childhood and enter into a collaboration with relevant organisations.
Kate Middleton news pictures Duchess of Cambridge royal visit today latest Royal Family
Prince Harry ‘running out of toys to throw out of pram’
Her work on the issue became apparent in 2018, when she launched a steering group including experts to look at how cross-sector collaboration could bring about lasting change.
In early 2020, she launched a nationwide survey interrogating Britons on their views and understanding of the importance of the early years.
Findings from this questionnaire and the following research were unveiled in November that year, during the Royal Foundation’s first virtual forum on early childhood.
Months later, in June 2021, the Duchess officially launched the Royal Foundation Cente for the Early Childhood, with the aim to drive awareness of and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years in order to transform society for generations to come.
It wasn’t supposed to go down like that “Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis on their ‘cozy’ moment in ‘…………..'”
It wasn’t supposed to go down in the kitchen.
That was the one room in the Chatsworth home doubling as the Williams family Florida residence in “King Richard” that was off-limits to the filmmakers because the appliances and cabinet hardware hadn’t been switched out to reflect the movie’s mid-’90s period.
So naturally, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, the actors playing Richard Williams and Oracene Price, parents of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, went straight to the kitchen when it came time to rehearse a crucial scene in the film. Where else would they go? Think about your own home and where people gravitate during parties, where family and friends hold late-night conversations and where loaded confrontations like the one in “King Richard” transpire.
“It is always the kitchen!” Smith says, punctuating the pronouncement, as he often does, with a booming clap of laughter.
“King Richard” takes its title from Williams, the demanding and loving father and tennis coach, the man who wrote a 78-page plan that detailed how his two daughters would become tennis champions. He came up with this blueprint before Venus and Serena were even born, meaning that he needed more than a little help from his wife to realize it.
As Ellis puts it: “He had to convince her to use her body for 18 months to create the vessels for this dream. And she was, ‘OK. Bet.’ They were both crazy. They were co-conspirators in crazy.”
Adds Smith: “There has to be a little bit of crazy, because you have to believe something that there’s no evidence for, and then you have to devote your life to something that is not only invisible, but highly unlikely and potentially impossible. But you believe it wholeheartedly because you can’t achieve it if you don’t believe it wholeheartedly. So, yeah, there’s a sliding scale of naiveté to full insanity, and somewhere in there is the sweet spot for dream manifestation.”
But there’s crazy, and then there’s a selfish lack of awareness as to how other people feel. And, in the movie, that led to a confrontation between the parents over Williams’ refusal to consider letting Venus turn pro at age 14. It’s a conversation that takes place 90 minutes into the movie, providing Price with the opportunity to finally call out her husband’s ego and stubbornness in the ways he controlled his family’s life, not to mention his penchant for walking away from failed businesses and children he had with other women.
The scene was shot after production had been halted in March 2020 by a pandemic lockdown, a break that offered Smith and Ellis time to, as Smith puts it, “marinate in their characters.”
“When it came to this Ali-Frazier moment,” Ellis says, comparing the encounter to the famous heavyweight boxing matches between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, “we felt we had lived enough with these characters to say how we felt without really even needing a script.”
Smith, who played Ali in the 2001 Michael Mann movie, was asked if he felt like Ali or Frazier in the kitchen scene.
“Well, it depends which fight,” he replies, laughing. (Frazier won their initial bout; Ali prevailed in the two rematches.)
Our conversations — the first with the two actors together around the November AFI Fest and then subsequent talks individually in the new year — would often circle back to this defining scene, during which Price tells her husband in no uncertain terms about the sacrifices she made to help their daughters achieve their tennis dreams. (The couple married in 1980 and divorced in 2002.)
“I carried them inside me and on my back,” Ellis, as Price, says at the beginning of this five-minute confrontation. “And I carried you too, working two shifts so I could put food on your table. I’ve been here dreaming and believing. Just like you. You just don’t want to see me.”
Since they weren’t supposed to shoot in the kitchen, director Reinaldo Marcus Green grabbed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter from the craft services table, along with a carton of orange juice the home’s owners had left in the fridge. Ellis now had some props to use. “The whole thing was one happy accident,” Green says by phone.
Among its many notable accomplishments, “King Richard” makes a convincing case for Price’s crucial role in the development of the Williams sisters’ careers, both as a parent and as a coach. Smith remembers an early meeting at Serena Williams’ home when everyone was still sizing each other up and deciding if they’d make the movie. Price sat quietly for most of the afternoon, then after some coaxing, offered her thoughts.
“She’s so quiet,” Smith says. “She doesn’t feel a necessity to prove or defend herself. So when she speaks, it’s a powerful thing.”
“The thing I thought about that day,” Ellis says of the kitchen scene, “was what would Miss Oracene Price want the world to know about her experience? People see her in the stands, but they don’t know her. Nobody knows that she was their coach … but she was. So I just wanted to speak as well as I could for her and feel OK about it when I was done.”
Like Price, Ellis is a soft-spoken woman, modest and deeply caring. She didn’t talk with Price before playing her but did meet her during a press day before “King Richard” was released.
“She said, ‘Great job,'” Ellis recalls, laughing. “Just two words. But that was enough for me.”
Smith has been receiving praise too since “King Richard” simultaneously opened in theaters and premiered on HBO Max on Nov. 19. Though the film’s theatrical box office total has been disappointing (the movie’s worldwide gross is under $30 million), Smith says he has never experienced a more enthusiastic reaction to a film.
“I had resigned myself in my life that, as an artist, I would never make a film better than ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,'” Smith says, referring to the 2006 drama that co-starred his son Jaden and earned him an Oscar nomination. “That was the high-water mark. I figured I had reached my artistic pinnacle.”
“And then we made ‘King Richard,’ and the amount of people — family, friends, foes, celebrities, politicians, athletes — who have been inspired to make it a point to get in touch with me to tell me that they enjoyed it has been overwhelming.”
What resonated with all these people? Smith, who has never encountered a subject he couldn’t bullet-point, says there are two things: The film’s story of a family triumph, specifically a Black family’s triumph, has been a needed source of uplift during a pandemic that has gone on nearly two years. And people have also commented on the “girl dad” relationships in the movie, what Smith calls a “delicious and uncommon thing to see depicted in cinema.”
“That was one of the things about Richard that I wanted to be able to capture,” Smith says, “that, as wild as he was and as much as he could rage, it was always in defense and protection of his daughters. And they knew it. They knew he would die for them and would kill for them. For all his faults, Richard Williams is one of the greatest girl dads that America has ever seen. To this day, those girls love that man. And that’s as much his legacy as all those tennis titles.”
Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather: Joe Rogan commentary added to pathetic UFC star punch
It’s been over four years since the greatest crossover in combat sport history, and fans are still enjoying the memes that came from it.
Back in August 2017, UFC star Conor McGregor and undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather shared the ring for 10 rounds at the T-Mobile Arena, with ‘Money’ Mayweather going on to secure a TKO victory.
In the lead up to the bout, fans were unsure of how McGregor would adapt to a boxing ring as opposed to an Octagon, and to this day the jokes are still pretty funny.
Mayweather won via a 10th-round TKO, however, many fans think the American was coasting for the first rounds and only began putting pressure on in the final stages where he secured the win.
McGregor did himself justice, landing decent shots on ‘Money’ and surviving until the latter stages, however, not without a couple clinches, back-of-the-head shots and just general boxing awkwardness.
The ‘Notorious’ McGregor swiftly got the meme treatment from social media, as fans speculated how the bout would’ve sounded had Joe Rogan been in the commentary booth.
Take a look at the clip below…
If Joe Rogan would’ve commentated Mcgregor vs Mayweather pic.twitter.com/AfCoS0uO5B
— Λ𝔫𝔱𝔬🦉🦭 (@ImAntoMMA) January 8, 2021
McGregor barely touches the nose of Mayweather but Rogan can be heard hyping up the Irishman and claiming ‘he hurt him bad.’
Over the years, it is clear that Rogan has divided opinion. Some appreciate the enthusiasm he brings to the UFC, whilst others believe that Rogan has a tendency to over-exaggerate during his assessment of fights.
McGregor has also, through no fault of his own, garnered a reputation as a favourite amongst UFC boss Dana White and commentators Joe Rogan, Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier, leading to fans thinking he gets special treatment.
The Irishman was planned to participate in a wheelchair boxing match for charity at the start of the year, but the event was postponed due to ‘time constraints.’
Whether we see the Forbes highest-paid athlete of the year return to a boxing ring will remain unknown, but perhaps for his sake he should stick to the Octagon.
McGregor has been rumoured to face current UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira once he’s fully healed from his broken leg sustained in his defeat to Dustin Poirier last year.