Self Help: Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” as intervention

Kung Fu Kenny, the five-foot-five giant and hip-hop’s resident Vitruvian Man awoke from his sleep to deliver us his fourth studio album back in April—”DAMN.,” a proper follow-up to put detractors of 2015’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” back in their cocoons.

“DAMN.” is a 14-track, 55-minute cathartic therapy session with Kendrick Lamar wrestling with himself and traversing his religiosity with all the convictions of Chance The Rapper and the skeptical inquisition of a 2004 Jadakiss. He paints an all-encompassing self-portrait, a Compton-crafted version of Jan van Eyck’s 1433 “Portrait of A Man,” with great detail as rich colors project from darkness. It’s Kendrick’s self-administered 12-step intervention on wax, with the beloved rapper, who plays Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center on July 21, looking eye-to-eye with each rendition of himself.


The session begins on ‘BLOOD.,’ with a question Kendrick intends to answer throughout the album—”Is it wickedness or weakness?”—followed by a spaced-out fictitious parable where Kendrick tries to help a blind woman, who ends up shooting him. It seems like something Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter, or anyone who has a penchant for making anything “great again” would do, as Lady Justice seems to punish black people trying to Do The Right Thing in spite of their personal circumstances. Maybe Kendrick was walking past Tommy Bahama during an end-of-season sale when this blind woman shot him. Wherever he was walking, he was better suited to get in his Curtis Mayfield bag and Keep On Pushing to conserve his life but he did not and “DAMN.” begins at his ending, with our protagonist lacking clarity, and being harmed for trying to help.The rest of “DAMN.” is Kendrick moving through these emotions—was it wickedness or weakness that moved her to kill Kendrick?


Much like Pac, we get multiple sides of Kendrick through a trio of California love songs, escaping the emotional trappings of despair to find refuge in his greatest musings while pledging his devotion to music and the woman he loves on ‘LOYALTY.’ We’re blessed with Rihanna flaunting her rap skills, sparking off a call-and-response duet. Kendrick acknowledges that he’s flawed, but he is at peace with it, focusing on what he desires in spite of his shortcomings “I’m a savage, I’m an asshole, I’m a king. . . . I done been down so long lost hope/ I done came down so hard I slowed/ I don’t sleep forever, all a real nigga want.” He continues with this motif on ‘PRIDE.,’ where he accepts that he’ll never be perfect. The world is a hellish place and will never be ideal, but Kendrick envisions his utopia characterized by absolving himself of his vices, working on music, divesting from the prison-industrial complex, reallocating those funds to improve schools, and having the biggest religious gathering for everyone to understand and seek salvation in the highest deity whether it be God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, or any other name.

‘LUST.’ is a cautionary tale of the dangers of wasting too much time and what happens when the mind is idle. Kendrick runs through a slew of unproductive and sometimes damaging actions that seem to be the makings of an ideal “lazy day” glorified in popular culture. At times Kendrick succumbs to his superficial desires, begging for sex “as blood rush my favorite vein . . . let me put the head in” in a chorus that might recall to some the unsubtle sexual imagery of Next’s ‘Too Close.’

Then he talks about the consequences of his lustful and inessential desires, waking up and regretting hasty decisions as reality checks back in. This reality check segues into ‘LOVE.,’ where Kendrick appraises his relationship, reminiscing over past experiences with his and mulls over the particulars of the ideal relationship characterized by unwavering trust and dedication no matter the circumstance—accompanied by a light and pleasant feature from frequent TDE collaborator Zacari, who is building his following through a series of one-off singles on Soundcloud.


With ‘HUMBLE.,’ Kendrick deviates from the seriousness of the album, abandoning humility for three minutes. Can you blame Cornrow Kenny for having some fun with it? What’s life without a little bit of satirical gusto? He juxtaposes struggle meals as a child with the type of lifestyle his lyrics have afforded him in present day and hints again at possibly bowing out of the limelight for a minute. “If I quit this season, I’ll still be the greatest” he says, eliciting the same look from rappers trying to take his spot that he has on his own face on the album’s cover.

Upon its release as the album’s lead single, Kendrick came under fire for the lines “I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop/ Show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks/ Still I take you down right on your momma couch in Polo sock.” Kendrick takes an issue with the phenomenon of ass shots, and taking extreme measures to “look perfect.” The criticism he got was legit: It is seen as a policing of the decisions women make for themselves compounded by the visuals in the music video that seem to contradict the message he wanted to convey. Though it did induce a much needed discourse on the politics of the male gaze and Euro-centric beauty standards, that is a conversation better suited for black women to champion as they have a breadth of knowledge on the topic as well as lived experience. But “DAMN.” can withstand rhetorical failings such as this: it is an album about Kendrick’s imperfections.

He gets to flexing on the second verse though, taking shots at rappers who think they can keep up with him, reverting back to a simple rap style, incorporating the use of anaphora again by capping a succession of bars with “aye”; it’s a style that is dominating rap music these days, so Kendrick is stunting on his competition here. And there is that chorus, sure to rock arenas and stadiums in the near future: “Bitch, be humble, sit down.”


Getting back to much of the album’s theme, ‘XXX.’ considers violence and retaliation. In the opening lines, Kendrick highlights the injustices perpetuated against black people throughout American history and the ingenuity and resilience black people exhibit in spite of being dealt a bad hand. And then he receives a sudden call from his friend, who asks Kdot for guidance and to keep him in his prayers as his son has been murdered. Kendrick knows damn well that if someone were to harm anyone close to him, he’d get to wrecking shit. “I’ll chip a nigga then throw the blower in his lap/ Walk myself to the court like, ‘bitch I did that,'” he raps, noting how unity and love go out of the window when your loved one is harmed.

He hangs up on his mans and notes that he has to speak to the kids about gun violence, a nod to the double bind role models find themselves in where they have to hide behind the human guile of propriety and for black role models, respectability. Kdot ponders the social engineering of black people characterized by a series of restrictive laws and scarce resources compounded by flooding the hood with guns and drugs. The result of these conditions looks like people doing what they need to do to survive, not acting like “thugs” as 45, Barack Obama, and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would say. Kendrick realizes that he and all the other people politicians call “thugs” are just mirroring America’s founding values, ya bish.


Cousin Carl leaves a voicemail reciting Deuteronomy 28:28 at the beginning of ‘FEAR.,’ telling Kendrick that he’s in a rut because people of color are cursed. The bridge serves as the inner voice ruminating about constant grief. In the first verse, Kendrick replays childhood memories of his mother’s threats in his mind, the phrase “I beat yo ass” etched in his conscious as a teen; his actions are guided by the consequence of getting his ass whipped. He then thinks about how he’s going to die, be it through irrational decisions, police violence, or gang violence. If ridding himself of anxiety was as simple as sparking up a loud pack he would, but life isn’t that simple.

As an adult, Kendrick tries to stick to modesty, fearing that God may test his faith and take it all away like He did Job in the old testament. Kendrick likens the fear of a teen of his mother’s wrath to his fear of God as an adult. Kendrick’s biggest risk these days is losing his fortune, doing a cost-benefit analysis of hiring a financial advisor who may be sheisty. He reads the canonical Gospel of Rihanna, namely the verses where her accountant lost millions of dollars, prompting the psalm entitled ‘Bitch Better Have My Money.’


Kendrick has his revelatory moment with ‘GOD.’ He realizes that all the pain, the suffering, the rhymes, the hate coming from his peers, the family issues, the relationships he’s cultivated, the success he’s enjoyed, the dark thoughts are all a part of God’s plan for his life. With this realization, Kendrick seeks to live unapologetically as he continues to pursue his purpose.


The inner voice at the beginning of the 9th Wonder-produced ‘DUCKWORTH.,’ tells Kendrick that he has to get out of his own way sometimes and that he has come control of his mindset. “It was always me versus the world, until I found it’s me versus me.” He then tells the backstories of Anthony Tiffith, the founder of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), and Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Duckworth.

Tiffith lived a life of crime in his youth in Los Angeles as Kenneth Duckworth and Paula Oliver moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. The young family barely made ends meet as Kenneth worked at a chicken shack. Years before TDE, Anthony and Kenneth had a chance encounter while Anthony was surviving off capers, adapting to his social environment. Anthony planned to rob the chicken joint Kenny worked at. Here, Kendrick thinks about fate, karma, and the power of choice. What if that robbery had harmed or taken Kendrick’s father’s life? What if Anthony was caught and charged for the robbery? Who would Kendrick Lamar Duckworth be had Kenneth Duckworth and Paula Oliver stayed in Chicago? What would his fate had been? Had Anthony murdered Kenny Duckworth, TDE probably wouldn’t exist. He may not have been able to meet who we know now as Kendrick Lamar.

And so, “DAMN.,” ends at the beginning: With Kendrick, mindful of the influences of those who have gotten him to this point, still wondering after all of this time, still asking the question—”WHY.?”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Feminist Street Artists Transform Parkdale Alleyway into Public Gallery

July 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm


Twenty artists attempt to capture the diversity of being a woman in freshly painted murals—but the project is not without criticism

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A roster of all woman-identifying artists have turned a derelict Parkdale alleyway into an outdoor art gallery of murals representing intersectional feminism.

With support from the City of Toronto Transportation Services Division’s StreetARToronto (StART) program, the 2,000-square-foot, gloomy laneway that runs north behind 1468 to 1486 Queen Street West has become a vibrant crossing for west-end dwellers.

Longtime Parkdale resident and project organizer Bareket Kezwer worked with StART to get permission from each building owner in the laneway to transform the space.

“I organized this event, Women Paint, to connect with my fellow female artists by creating an opportunity for us to tell our stories and amplify the female voice in public space,” says Kezwer. “I want to raise awareness and foster dialogue about intersectionality and equity.”

On social media, dialogue surrounding the term “intersectionality,” gentrification, and the involvement of Toronto Police ignited debate even before painting began.

Critics of the project argue that the meaning of intersectionality is not understood by the organizers. Concerns have been raised on Twitter and on the Women Paint Facebook page questioning how much involvement, support and leadership has come from Indigenous, racialized, disabled, low-income, and street-involved communities in Parkdale. 

Organizers say the 20 artists aimed to capture a diverse spectrum of what it means to be a woman. And while there are many shared experiences, each artist has their own unique narrative. 

While support for street art and its role in adding beauty and character to neighbourhoods across Toronto is generally seen as positive, some observers of the project remain fiercely critical of how the language pits street art against graffiti art and vandalism. 

“I don’t see street art and graffiti as existing in a binary way,” says Kezwer. She says the definition of street art and graffiti is a constantly moving target that is being redefined as the practice continues to develop.

Public spaces, like subways and alleyways, have historically been areas that perpetuate gender discrimination and violence. Women Paint allows discussions about the feminist movement to continue outside of academic spaces and political activism, where murals quite literally intersect with one another to display untarnished, overlapping identities that shape the female experience.

For a conversation to be productive, Kezwer stresses that it has to exist in many places and be accessible from many different entry points. “Some people are professors and some people work in City Hall … and some people like to ride bikes through alleys.”

Kezwer found her crew of artists by putting out a call through area organizations, including the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, and Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue, as well as through her own circles of contacts, CBC reports.

Meet five of the artists involved in Women Paint. They explain why they participated and what intersectional feminism means to them.

The Artists

Bareket Kezwer: Artist and Project Organizer

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Why it was important to participate:

I’ve been working in the street painting scene for a number of years and I’ve noticed at similar events that there’s not a huge female presence. As a Parkdale resident, I thought it would be a really great thing to bring women from different places together. I wanted to do something in my neighbourhood because I think it’s important to start working where you live. I live just a couple blocks away and once I committed to the idea of bringing women together to paint, I began to organize this.”

What intersectional feminism means to them:

“Feminism means something different to every woman depending on a number of different factors that shape their identity. Being a woman today is recognizing that it isn’t one thing, it doesn’t look one way. Nobody experiences it in the same way as anybody else and, for me, being a woman is about listening to the experiences of other women and trying to create opportunities for other women to share their stories and to create an environment to support one another.”

Tennille Dowers: Artist

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Why it was important to participate:

“Being part of something that means something greater than me and that a lot of people before me have been working towards is really important. [These murals] are not being beautified to usher in new folks. This collective piece is also important because we are using materials and an artistic style associated with resistance and, often, masculinity.”

What intersectional feminism means to them:

I think it means being part of the voice representing other voices that look like me, sound like me, or share experiences similar to me. It means actively listening, acknowledging, and sharing among women while recognizing our differences and similarities as beneficial.”

Daniela Rocha: Artist


Why it was important to participate:

In Toronto, I’ve only been an artist for a year. I studied anthropology and international development. So after I finished school, I was working, and it wasn’t until last year that I wanted to go back to my art. I used to draw murals in Colombia. I knew I could always incorporate anthropology into my art.”

What intersectional feminism means to them:

“It’s about engaging other feminine voices. I don’t read books about feminism, but you need several voices from different females, from different cultures, and from different socio economic backgrounds in order to understand what things affect different women. I see feminism very differently from a white female that comes from a higher class. We have different struggles. It’s important that we understand that so we can understand different perspectives and help each other grow. Projects like this give a voice to women like me.”

Caitlin Taguibao: Artist

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Why it was important to participate:

“When I think about the feminist movement, there have been certain spaces I’ve never felt were accessible to me. I am a first-generation Canadian. My mom’s side is Chinese, but raised in Guyana, and my dad’s side is from the Philippines. It’s hard for them to feel represented in these movements because they don’t know terms like ‘feminism’ in the first place. I really like community initiatives that engage the public, which is what led me to paint murals. I think street art can engage a community more whereas graffiti represents the image of a forgotten space.”

What intersectional feminism means to them:

“It means understanding how people can be marginalized in other ways further than just being a woman. Things like class, education, and skin colour play a role in how we see the world. Intersectional feminism [through murals] allows us to display our diversity, represent ourselves, and reclaim control and autonomy over our bodies and spirits through visual culture.”

Monica Wickeler: Artist


Why it was important to participate:

“I think this is important for female street artists in Toronto who don’t have a platform to be able to share their skills. Typically, street art is a male dominated world so this is really empowering for everybody.”

What intersectional feminism means to them:

“Personally, I feel like I can subscribe to this branch of feminism, being a boyish girl, working in a visual arts field that is driven by men. Being a lesbian and being a woman, it was important to me to portray in my mural a fierce woman who is rockin’ her motorbike.”

Some of the Murals

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Editorial: Elvis Presley and cultural appropriation

On this day 63 years ago, Elvis Presley’s first single debuted – “That’s All Right,” written by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, who never received the royalties he deserved.

What’s interesting about this anniversary is that our society is currently embroiled in a heated discussion about cultural appropriation.

Simply put, cultural appropriation is when people from one culture (typically white and European cultures) adopt or use elements from another culture in their works. In recent years, this is sparking outrage among some.

For example, in March, a group of black artists demanded that a painting of black lynching victim Emmitt Till be burned – not just taken down – because the artist is white.

And in May, two white women in Portland, Oregon were forced to shut down their burrito shop after being accused of cultural appropriation – of stealing the recipes from cooks in Mexico, after they took a trip there and felt inspired.

And up in Canada, three editors have lost their jobs after defending a white author’s right to create characters from minority backgrounds.

Here’s what’s wrong with this approach to cultural appropriation. First, it’s not like the theft of property. It is qualitatively different.

“In the case of culture, however, what is called appropriation is not theft but messy interaction,” writes New York Times contributor Kenan Malik. “Writers and artists necessarily engage with the experiences of others. Nobody owns a culture, but everyone inhabits one, and in inhabiting a culture, one finds the tools for reaching out to other cultures.”

Those who decry cultural appropriation may have good intentions, but the results are destructive.

“Critics of cultural appropriation insist that they are opposed not to cultural engagement, but to racism,” he explains. “They want to protect marginalized cultures and ensure that such cultures speak for themselves, not simply be seen through the eyes of more privileged groups. Certainly, cultural engagement does not take place on a level playing field. Racism and inequality shape the ways in which people imagine others. Yet it is difficult to see how creating gated cultures helps promote social justice.”

He, too, brings up Elvis Presley – a young white man playing music from black cultures.

“A white boy playing the same tunes was cool,” Malik noted. “Elvis was feted, (Chuck) Berry and other black pioneers largely ignored. Racism defined who became the cultural icon. But imagine that Elvis had been prevented from appropriating so-called black music. Would that have challenged racism, or eradicated Jim Crow laws? Clearly not. It took a social struggle – the civil rights movement – to bring about change. That struggle was built not on cultural separation, but on the demand for equal rights and universal values.”

When culture is shared, both sides benefit.

Of course, Sun Records should have paid Crudup the royalties he deserved. But the tragedy of Crudup’s story wasn’t that Elvis Presley never recorded his music (Elvis went on to record two more of his tunes) but that copyright law and practices in that era robbed many original artists.

Think how much poorer we all would be without Crudup – and Elvis.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The New York State Fair Needs More Black Vendors

Op/Ed By Kofi Quaye –

kofi_quayeOn Aug. 23, the New York State Fair will be declared open, amid the usual fanfare.

The governor, or his representative if he is unable to attend, will be there to make it a grand occasion, deliver a speech, and wish fairgoers a good time.

Publicity-seeking politicians will also not miss an opportunity to go to the fair to be noticed by the crowds, kiss babies, and ask people to go out and vote for them to win whatever office it is they may seek.

It will be another successful fair season, measured, as usual, by the difference between last year’s, and this year’s attendance numbers.

And the fair is expected to do precisely what it’s become famous for: provide a 12-day showcase of New York state’s agriculture, entertainment, education, and technology.

State fair aficionados who include the fair as a top priority in their annual calendars of must-do social activities will show up in large numbers, to enjoy the sights and sounds of the fair.

They will go to the fairgrounds, rain or shine (often rain, given the fair’s history of rain soaked days), and others will travel to Syracuse from as far away as Canada and other parts of the country, drawn in by what the fair offers, which is supposedly the best of New York state, packaged and presented as entertainment.

These fairgoers will include many black people from cities across Central New York, as well as throughout the state, and the country.

They will converge at the fair with friends and family, to buy stuff, to eat, attend concerts; have big fun with games and rides, and end the visit with a sense of gratification, knowing it’s been time and money well spent.

It would not be unusual to see people make multiple trips to the fair.

It would also not be presumptuous on my part to say that black people love the state fair, and can’t wait for it to get here.

The state fair is certainly one of the biggest annual events in Central New York, and it is usually one where ethnic consciousness rarely comes into play.

The fair also presents the perfect opportunity for people who may want to make extra money over a short period of time to work different kinds of jobs for long hours, and still get paid reasonably decent wages.

Ironically, those jobs that bring in the most money seem to be the ones which place workers in spots where they can receive the most tips.

And, these are jobs which don’t require a college degree, or any special skills.

For instance, I know people who’ve worked at the fair whose only task was to take care of the restrooms.

They brought home hundreds of dollars in tips alone, every day, from generous fair goers who showed their appreciation.

I also know someone, a black female who used to return to Syracuse each year all the way from Florida, just to work at the fair.

She was a former Syracuse resident, and said she made enough in tips to cover all the expenses she incurred on food, transportation and accommodation, with a lot more left to take care of other bills for a couple of months.

Last year, she looked forward to coming back, to work and enjoy the fair, to make some money, and to visit with her family.

Not anymore.

Her application was denied.

This year, she didn’t apply, and has so far not been given any reasonable explanation.

I know others in the black community who’ve also tried to get black businesses and organizations to participate in the fair over the years as vendors, but who have not made the kind of progress they had in mind.

However, one effort, in particular, has successfully focused on creating a greater black presence at the fair.

Specifically, I would like to cite Vanessa Johnson for the role she’s played in making sure that the African-American community is represented.

She, and others like Irving “Bongo’ Hanslip of Jerk Hut Restaurant, Kwesi Owusu of Timbuktu Imports, and many more, have made significant contributions to maintaining a section called the Pan African Village at the fair, which puts on performances by African drumming and dance groups.

These individuals have succeeded in making the village one of the fair’s biggest attractions, by offering West Indian cuisine, African-American art, fashions, and music.

Mike Atkins, a well-known community leader, has also been involved in coordinating a number of initiatives that have been designed to benefit minority businesses at the fair.

Last year, data suggested that over a million people attended the event, and, this year the number is projected to surpass the previous one.

But, although the fair has grown exponentially in terms of the activities which take place during the event and the businesses that participate in the fair, there has not been any noticeable increase in the number of black businesses serving the public as vendors.

That’s where the big money is, yet, unfortunately, black vendors seem to be missing the action.

Fair management appears to have made an effort to employ black people, not only for grounds work, but in high-profile positions over the years. And, community-based organizations, like Time of Jubilee, have been known to give out free fair tickets to community residents each year, with support from the fair. The fair has also paid for advertisement in black media over the years.

And so, the question remains: why aren’t there more black businesses and organizations vending at the state fair?

All I can say is; we’ll see if it changes this year.

Click here to comment on this column on our Facebook page.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class revealed

Who would have thought the most hotly anticipated reveal for Mercedes-Benz this year would be a ute? But it sure is – and here it is, the all-new 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

The first ever Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which is also the first ever pick-up from the three-pointed star brand, has been unveiled at an event in South Africa, with the Nissan Navara-based model clearly cutting a different figure to its donor vehicle.

The styling, according to Mercedes-Benz, has “SUV design typical of the brand”, with a twin-louvre grille aligning the ute with the other offerings from the brand. The German marque reckons the “X-Class unites the typical characteristics of a ute – robustness, functionality, resilience and off-road capabilities” – while also carrying the “classical strengths of a real Mercedes – design, comfort, driving dynamics and safety”.

You can make what you will of the styling of the new X-Class, but it’s fair to say it’s a bit more, er, work-oriented than the Concept X-Class pair of show cars suggested it might be.

But as Mercedes-Benz said it would, the new model has a few different stylised options to choose from, with the entry-level Pure model boasting black bumpers and a work-focused detail, the mid-range Progressive for those with “higher requirements in terms of quality feel and comfort” including colour-coded bumpers, and a top-spec version known as Power that is the lifestyle-oriented offering, which has a chrome under-body guard.

Nine exterior colour choices will be available, and there’ll be 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels depending on the grade. We can foresee a lot of these wheels popping up on Gumtree as buyers look to up-spec their tough trucks with 22-inch rims or 33-inch mud tyres.

In the cabin

The Pure model will have black fabric seats with the option of fake leather, while the Progressive variant has a different black fabric or the option of Artico man-made leather with Dinamica microfibre, as seen in the Benz passenger car range.

Above: The Mercedes-Benz X-Class Power model interior

The Power version has black Artico/Dinamica as standard with contrasting stitching, but buyers can option black (real) leather with grey stitching or nut brown leather with black stitching.

There’s even fake leather on the dash top and doors in the top model, and – for the first time in the ute segment – buyers can choose between macchiato beige fabric or black fabric head-lining. There are other utes with different head-liners available – the Ford Ranger, for one – but not as an option.

Above: The Mercedes-Benz X-Class Progressive model interior

Of course the X-Class gets the Mercedes-Benz media system, with the floating centre screen in two sizes. The top version scores the Comand Online media unit with an 8.4-inch screen (the largest display in the segment) controlled by the multifunction touchpad between the front seats, with integrated satellite navigation and a 360-degree camera. Lower grades will make do with the brand’s old-school Audio 20 media system as standard.

All X-Class models get the brand’s 5.4-inch colour multimedia display between the instrument dials (borrowed from the C-Class).

Above: The Mercedes-Benz X-Class Pure model interior

There’s a three-spoke steering wheel as standard, which is leather-lined in the Progressive and Power models, and so is the gear-shift knob and handbrake.

The seats have been designed by Mercedes-Benz, too, and there will be the availability of electric adjustment and electric lumbar adjustment in the Power version. The back seat has been redesigned compared with the Navara, too, with claimed better support for adults, and the addition of ISOFIX anchor points.

Powertrains and chassis

As for drivetrains, there are four engines confirmed:

  • X220d – a 2.3-litre four-cylinder single-turbo diesel with 120kW of power and 403Nm of torque. This engine is sourced from the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Available in rear-drive or selectable four-wheel-drive, with a six-speed manual transmission only.
  • X250d – a 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel with 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. This engine is sourced from the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Available in rear-drive or selectable four-wheel-drive, with the choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
  • X350d – a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel with a class-leading 190kW of power and Amarok-equalling 550Nm of torque. Comes as standard with permanent 4Matic all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic with paddle-shifters and engine stop-start, not to mention Dynamic Select drive modes (comfort, eco, sport, manual and off-road). This drivetrain is from Mercedes-Benz and won’t be offered until mid-2018.
  • X200 – 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 122kW of power and 238Nm of torque, only in left-hand drive, and only rear-wheel-drive.

Because it’s built on the ladder-frame underpinnings of the Nissan Navara, it’s no surprise the X-Class has a retuned coil-spring suspension at the front and the rear. In Europe, the brand will offer two different ride heights – the comfort version with 202mm of ground clearance, and a more hardcore version with 222mm of clearance. The latter is what we’ll get as standard.

As for off-road credentials, the X-Class has 600mm of wading depth capability, a 30.1-degree approach angle and 25.9deg departure angle, a 22deg ramp-over angle, as well as a 49-degree maximum tilt angle.

Depending on the specification, the X-Class payload is rated from 918kg (top-spec) through to 1092kg (entry-spec), that that’s apparently “enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area”, and there’s a light to allow you to see when you’re loading before or after hours, and an integrated 12-volt outlet in the tub, too.

The tray dimensions are 1587 millimetres long, 1560mm wide (at 1215mm between the wheel-arches, making it wide enough to cope with an Australian pallet!) and 470mm deep, while the overall body dimensions of the X-Class are close to those of competitors, with a length of 5340mm, a width of 1920mm and a height of 1819mm (1838mm with the sports bar).

The X-Class’s Gross Combination Mass (GCM) is 6200 kilograms, with a kerb weight of up to 2332kg. It has an 80-litre fuel tank.

The maximum tow rating for the X-Class is 3.2 tonnes for 4×2 models and 3.5 tonnes for the 4×4 versions, and in a clear reference to who will likely be shopping for one of these, it means the Merc ute will “pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht”. Or a heavy box trailer, we presume…

Mercedes-Benz has widened the track of the X-Class, apparently to provide “the ideal prerequisites for optimum driving stability and higher cornering speeds”. The width at the front is 1632mm, while at the rear it’s 1625mm, which is notably broader than the Navara upon which it is based (1570mm front and rear). It has the same 3150mm wheelbase.

There are four-wheel disc brakes as standard (320mm up front and 308mm at the rear) and every all-wheel drive version of the X-Class has hill-descent control. A standard-fit rear differential lock will add further peace of mind to those who head off-road regularly.

Mercedes-Benz claims “this tough performance ute delivers the drivability and handling to match many demands – both with regard to vehicle dynamics and ride comfort”. 


The X-Class will get the aforementioned child-seat anchor points that are absent from some other utes in the segment, while it will also better its only German rival in the marketplace by including rear airbag coverage.

Indeed, the X-Class will have seven airbags – dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee coverage – and there’ll be plenty of other safety kit, including the standard fitment of a rear-view camera (and that 360-degree system in the top-spec version, which is set to be optional in the entry- and mid-spec models).

There are three active safety items fitted as standard: active brake assist, lane keeping assist, and collision prevention assist. Further, there are items such as trailer stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, LED headlights (standard on high-spec, optional below) that are said to be the brightest in the segment.

Benz reckons this standard safety kit means the “X-Class perfectly fulfils the requirements placed on a modern family and lifestyle vehicle”.


There’s the option of a sliding glass section in the rear windshield, while the company claims it will offer an extensive range of accessories, including side steps, a sports bar, the choice of soft tonneau, hard lid or roller covers for the tray, and a custom canopy “which makes the ute look like a SUV” as it ”continues the X-Class’s lines perfectly, merging with the vehicle body to create a distinctive silhouette”.

A tub-liner, cargo partition system and tie-down rails for load security will also be available, and in some markets there’ll be the option for a rear-bumper-free 180-degree opening tailgate. As standard, the tailgate will open the requisite 90 degrees.


The all-new Mercedes-Benz X-Class won’t be built in Thailand like the vast majority of its mainstream rivals (only the Amarok is made elsewhere, in Argentina) – instead, the X-Class will head down the Navara line in Barcelona, Spain, late in 2017. The first examples of the X-Class will arrive in Australia early in 2018.

As for the pricing? Well, we’ll have to wait and see what Mercedes-Benz does in that regard. We’d expect to see the Pure model to be competitively priced in the $45k-$55k range, the mid-spec Progressive to play where current high-end utes play (in the mid-$50k to mid-$60k bracket), and the Power version could reach new levels for dual-cab pick-ups in the Aussie market.

But as we’ve learned from Mercedes-Benz, it will equip its models well in light of strong competition – it has done so in the luxury car market, and it will need to do so in the hard-fought ute market, too.

The Latin American market will see its X-Class variants built in Argentina from 2019.

Click the Pictures tab above for more images of the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

MORE: X-Class news
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Soul of a Nation exhibition paints a bold picture of Black Power

Barkley L. Hendricks, 1969, Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People—Bobby Seale)

Barkley L. Hendricks, 1969, Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People—Bobby Seale)

Soul Of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is a rich collection of African-American art spanning two decades of unrest. It starts in 1963 as crowds flocked to Martin Luther King’s march on Washington.

With traditional avenues to exhibit blocked by stony indifference, African American artists struck out in new directions as they surfed a wave of revolutionary change.

Neighbourhood buildings in black districts became adopted canvases. This was creative labour on the move, against a backdrop of the most explosive period in the postwar US as Civil Rights somersaulted to Black Power.

What emerged was not a unifying voice, school or identifiable black art but a diverse response to challenging questions.

Were artists responsible to the “black community” or simply to themselves? Should they orient their art towards black audiences and shun established white galleries?

Spiral, a group of fifteen black artists, met over the two years from 1963 in the New York studio of Romare Bearden. He proposed that, at a time of collective action on the streets, Spiral should likewise work collaboratively.

Bearden’s photo collages are a highlight of the exhibition.

For example, Pittsburgh Memory (1964) depicts two “working-class everymen” composed from strips cut from printed images of other faces, in black and white with gold leaf hints.

Bearden wouldn’t brook modesty or apology in locating his collage paintings within the canon of Western art.

He said he was “painting the life of my people as I know it—as passionately and dispassionately as Brughel painted the life of the Flemish people of his day”.

Other artists bypassed the studio and gallery setting for the streets. Harlem-based abstract artists Smokehouse Associates, sought out neighbourhood walls as platforms for expression. It was also a way of transforming a community’s appearance.

Likewise, the mural movement’s Wall of Respect in Chicago’s Southside favoured outdoor space. Pioneered by a group of artists under the acronym Obasa, their murals were homage to black heroes in literature, sport, music and intellectual life.

The exhibition would have benefited from a fuller exploration of the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of Black Power movement. But its founder Amiri Baraka is referenced.

A subversive map of the “United States of Attica” produced in the wake of the Attica prison rebellion by one of Baraka’s students, Faith Ringgold, is another draw.

Panther Emory Douglas said, “The ghetto is the gallery for the revolutionary artist.” He brilliantly depicted cops as brutal pigs in human form.

The appalling assassination of fallen Panther Fred Hampton is one of the more sombre exhibits. Fred Hampton’s Door, a work by Dana C. Chandler Jr, is a bullet- strewn wooden door on a base furiously specked with red dots. The top of one door panel is marked “US Government Approved”.

Soul Of A Nation is a weighty exhibition. From paint to sculpture, photography, collage and assemblage. It’s all here with politics aplenty.

But it’s ironic that it took the Ford Foundation’s sponsorship to facilitate an exhibition of African-American art from an era of revolt. That dependency needs to be addressed when the fire arrives next time.

Soul of a Nation is at Tate Modern in central London until 22 October. Tickets £16.50/£14.50. Go to

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

How to Prepare for Watching ‘Black Panther’

Last week Marvel Studios released a new batch of promotional images from the film Black Panther, and “Black Twitter” (once again) took hold of the reins of that particular arm of social media, giving their enthusiastic nod of approval and making clear that the film is as close as possible to being a surefire box-office hit. It’s the studio’s cash cow to redeem or fumble.  At nearly the same time, and somewhat coincidentally, writer Alicia Acquaye penned an essay on Afro Futurism for the OkayAfrica/OkayPlayer site that explains how the film is informed by and embodies the tenets of Afro Futurism. Giving a succinct but informative overview of the movement for the uninitiated, Acquaye situates Black Panther in a Black arts tradition that attempts to grapple with history, the multiplicity of Black identity, and imagining a future in which Black folks survive the present.

Courtesy Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios

Courtesy Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios


First articulated and penned by writer Mark Dery, Afrofuturism is the expression of blackness, black struggles and black ideas, through the imagining of new, hopeful and advanced futures or worlds. It is a way of understanding the past and present, by crafting futures that we can control. With the use of magical realism, afrocentricity, African traditions and aesthetics, intertwined with technology, sci-fi and social awareness, Afrofuturism narrates a parallel or distant reality that is empowering and effervescent.

Mark Dery’s essay “Black to the Future” explores the many facets of Afrofuturism and its cultural and social significance for black people. He wondered why there were so few black sci fi writers: at the time this essay was published (1994), he could only shout out Samuel L. DelanyOctavia ButlerCharles Saunders and Steve Barnes. Twenty-three years later, there’s a wider pool of black sci fi authors to pull from, including N.K.JemisinNalo HopkinsonGeoffrey Thorne, Nnendi Okorafor and Tananarive Due….

Courtesy Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios

Courtesy Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios

Afrofuturism reclaims black identity by positioning our stories, desires and potentials at the center of sci-fi and fantasy—genres that aren’t usually marketed towards or inclusive of us—and morphing us into untouchable, ethereal, whimsical beings that transcend the systemic obstacles set in place by white supremacy. Not only are we reinterpreting a genre, we’re reinterpreting ourselves.

The rest of the essay (including how the film Get Out fits under the Afro Futurism umbrella) can be found here.
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All images courtesy Marvel Studios.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America, July 26 through September 3

Shirah Dedman, Phoebe Dedman, and Luz Myles visiting Shreveport, Louisiana, where in 1912 their relative Thomas Miles, Sr., was lynched. 2017. (Photo: Rog Walker and Bee Walker for Equal Justice Initiative)

Exhibition features groundbreaking research on racial terror and its effect on the nation today

Bryon Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama

The Brooklyn Museum is proud to join forces with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), headed by acclaimed public interest lawyer and MacArthur Foundation “Genius” recipient Bryan Stevenson, and Google to present a timely exhibition: The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America. On view from July 26 through September 3, the exhibition presents EJI’s groundbreaking research on the history of racial violence in the United States and its continuing impact on our nation to this day.

The exhibition will include video stories featuring descendants of lynching victims, a short documentary, photographs, an interactive map presenting EJI’s research, and informational videos featuring Bryan Stevenson. The content on display in the museum can also be viewed on, an interactive platform that EJI recently launched with support from Google that digitizes their research on the more than four thousand racial terror lynchings of African-Americans between 1877 and 1950. This work underscores the profound effects of the racial terror committed against Black people and Black communities, which continue to shape our nation today.

Shirah Dedman, Phoebe Dedman, and Luz Myles visiting Shreveport, Louisiana, where in 1912 their relative Thomas Miles, Sr., was lynched. 2017. (Photo: Rog Walker and Bee Walker for Equal Justice Initiative)

To deepen the conversation, a team of Brooklyn Museum curators selected more than a dozen artworks from its collections by African-American artists whose practices respond to racism in the United States in several forms. Artists include Sanford Biggers, Mark Bradford, Elizabeth Catlett, Melvin Edwards, Theaster Gates, Rashid Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Jacob Lawrence, Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker.

The exhibition also presents materials from the Museum Library and Archives on the institution’s support for efforts against lynching. They include a 1935 pledge by Museum Director Philip N. Youtz supporting the NAACP’s anti-lynching art exhibition as well as documents from a benefit art auction and exhibition for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that the museum hosted in 1963. More recently, the museum presented Bryan Stevenson in a conversation with death row exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton in 2016 as part of the ongoing program, “States of Denial: The Illegal Incarceration of Women, Children and People of Culture”, organized by Elizabeth A. Sackler and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The museum has also held numerous exhibitions on related topics including Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the SixtiesAgitprop! and Sanford Biggers, among others, including We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85, currently on view.

The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America will include a special public program featuring Bryan Stevenson, artists Glenn Ligon and Sanford Biggers, Elizabeth Alexander, poet and Director of Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation on Tuesday, July 25 at 7 pm. Admission is $25.

By highlighting the historical impact of systemic racism in our country, the exhibition is conceived to raise awareness for EJI’s forthcoming Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Opening in 2018, the memorial will be the country’s first-ever national monument to commemorate the more than four thousand black men, women and children who were lynched and murdered between 1877 and 1950. EJI also plans to open an accompanying racial justice museum that will trace a direct line between slavery and mass incarceration.

To approach this topic respectfully, the exhibition focuses on personal stories. It does not contain explicit photos. In order to appropriately acknowledge the subject of racial violence with the utmost care and sensitivity, the museum will provide a space outside the gallery for visitors to explore reading material and to reflect.

“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape. This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and equal justice,” said EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson. “We all must engage this history more honestly.”

Bryan Stevenson continues, “Art has always been a powerful tool in getting a society to think more honestly about human rights and human dignity. Our great artists have often found critically important ways to speak truthfully about history and the human condition. It’s energizing to take on a difficult topic like racial terrorism surrounded by the bold insights of brilliant African-American artists”.

Anne Pasternak, the Brooklyn Museum’s Shelby White and Leon Levy, Executive Director, states, “When Bryan Stevenson and Google approached us in late May to co-produce this exhibition, we didn’t hesitate. Throughout its nearly two-hundred-year history, the Brooklyn Museum has never shied away from difficult but important conversations— the very conversations our audiences are having every day— including racial exclusion and inequality. We are proud to work with the Equal Justice Initiative in their fight to confront America’s painful past in order to educate and heal, and to contribute to a more empathetic and just society”.

The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror has been assembled and organized by a team of Brooklyn Museum curators, librarian and archivist, educators, designers in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and Google.

About Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 130 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new antipoverty and antidiscrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation. Mr. Stevenson is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

Mr. Stevenson’s work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system has won him numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens, the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights, among others.

He is the recent author of the critically acclaimed New York Times best-seller Just Mercy, which was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014, and has been awarded several honors including a 2015 NAACP Image Award.

About the Equal Justice Initiative

Founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, EJI is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in state jails and prisons. The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and the Equal Justice Initiative with support from Google.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Marinaresco confirmed for Champions Cup at Greyville

Marinaresco will attempt to become only the second horse this century to win two Champions Cups (following Futura in 2014 and 2015) at Greyville on Saturday week.

Candice Bass-Robinson confirmed the four-year-old a runner at the weekend despite his 17 out of 17 draw, saying: “The draw doesn’t really matter so much with him and [together with Captain America] he is the best horse in the race. He has only had three runs in Durban this season and he might as well take his chance.”

El Picha in 2000 is the only horse to win both the Durban July and the Champions Cup in the same season in the last 17 years but Marinaresco is 22-10 favourite with race sponsor World Sports betting which has Captain America on 9-2. It also bets 11-2 Bela-Bela, 8-1 It’s My Turn, 10-1 Black Arthur, 12-1 and upwards others.

However Majorca winner Nightingale (12-1) will miss the race to run in the Grade 2 Gold Bracelet on the same card. She is the highest rated in that 2 000m race but has to give weight all round.

Mrs Robinson will run both 16-1 chance My World and Helderberg Blue (18-1) in Sunday week’s eLan Gold Cup. Riding arrangements have still to be finalised.

Mike de Kock’s SABC Gold Vase third Kinaan has been installed 5-1 favourite with WSB, ahead of the promoted winner of that race Hermosa Mundo who is on 11-2 while the relegated Captain Splendid is a 6-1 chance, the same price as stable companion and Durban July fourth Krambambuli.

Marinaesco, picture Liesl King

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MasterwebNews 16/7/17: “Red DEATH” – Poem by Victor Igiri

MasterwebNews 16/7/17: “Red DEATH” – Poem by Victor Igiri


Masterweb Reports: Victor Igiri makes public his Ikorodu Killings poem ] – “Red DEATH” is a poem written by author to speak against the recent incessant killings in Ikorodu, outskirt of Lagos, by the dreaded fraternity group known as Badoo who seem to have become more deadly than Boko Haram of northern Nigeria. “…like death in its silent call. They break into the Dark, dark- eyed and……” Read full poem below.
(By Victor Igiri)
 …like death in its silent call
They break into the Dark, dark- eyed and
jazzed up with the black art;
…sees one, two, three and four, five, six,
pealed and exposed as chicks before the Hawks:
a nuclear dynasty dead-alive in this charcoal night,
and what goes on thereafter:
voodoo steals the air in powdered fragrance,
Silence begotten;
heads get smashed like kernels,
LIVES, si-LencedD!
and from the rains of cracked flesh They fetch
from their honey well bathing white
scarfs Red hot with Virginia juices.
…and such is the finis of a generation whose
        swift silence is now meal for Carnal creatures.
…and like smoke they fade before the next tick-tock.

Black morning comes alive with mammoth wailers
with tears full enough to pass for the red sea
and on a thousand eyes are flames of fury
red hot
and should the devils ever unclad;
the sword will sure walk them to meet their Hellish head
BUT this ink bleeds sore for it knows,
sure, that the insect that preys on the leaf
eats from the inside
And O!
How long, Heaven, will DESPERADOES
turn the once sweet land into hell?
How long, beautiful heaven will eyes deadly weary
cast off sleep in awe of night hunters night after night?
How often shall history be written
against ancient IKORODU for cruelty?
Guide us from darkness and make them
chase after selves.
Under your wings, keep safe the impeccant
And more I ask thee, Father;
Restore our pride and make our land
peaceful again where day was fun
and night was bliss. 
*Photo Caption – As seen. 
  RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment