Not everyone can win — someone has to lose. That’s just how the world works. This is especially true for the people who competed this summer, whether in the world of sports, pop culture or politics.
Winner: Rap and hip-hop music
I have repeatedly written (see , and ) about rap music because, to be quite honest, rap is dope. And, if you’re like me and absorb as much rap as you possibly can, then this summer was incredible for all fans of rap and hip-hop.
The following artists released albums over the past few months: SZA, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, JAY Z, Calvin Harris, 21 Savage, Vince Staples, French Montana, Tyler The Creator, Tyga, Meek Mill, RiFF RAFF, Kodak Black, A$AP Ferg, Lil Uzi Vert and XXXTENTACION. That is a lot of music packed into a summer, and there were plenty of other artists that I failed to mention (because I don’t have time to write an encyclopedia of 2017 rap albums, although I totally should now that I think about it).
Of the projects released, JAY Z’s, DJ Khaled’s, Vince Staples’ and Tyler The Creator’s stood out to me the most.
On “4:44,” JAY Z kept it short, offering classic bars over 10 tracks spanning over 36 minutes. Although the album was shorter than his past releases, it still has substance to analyze. JAY Z went from hardcore-rapper-and-drug-dealer Jay (a of JAY Z, really) to humble-and-apologetically-introspective-father-that-maybe-still-sells-drugs-on-the-low Mr. Carter, which is still very entertaining. But, if Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” screamed “I’m a strong woman and Jay f----- up,” then “4:44” offers nothing but a whimpered, “Shit, you’re right.”
DJ Khaled’s 23-track “Grateful” was also a classic, but not in the same sense as JAY Z. Instead, he delivered an album showing his typical style by collaborating with various stars while intermittently dropping bursts of praise and encouragement. As he continues his quest of becoming a prophet of eternal positivity and encouragement, it’s really only a matter of time before he establishes a religion of his own. (If it involves , count me out.)
Vince Staples’ “Big Fish Theory” was great, if only for the appearance of the album itself. The cover art is of a goldfish, which honestly makes this the best album ever. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule somewhere, and if it isn’t then I hereby support its institution.
Tyler The Creator’s fourth studio album, “Flower Boy,” is unlike any of his previous works. While Tyler’s original cadence still resonates throughout the album, it’s not the harsh, loud, punk stylings that “Wolf,” “Goblin” and “Cherry Bomb” had. “Flower Boy” is different: featuring a bevy of beautiful R&B artists, Tyler goes for his most ambitious and concise album yet, expressing captivating levels of sincere intimacy. Before, his past albums made me feel like tearing shit apart as my body was engulfed in flames. Now, “Flower Boy” makes me feel like pondering the meaningful moments of life’s many relationships as I simultaneously wander aimlessly through a delightful field of daisies.
Yes, it’s that dope.
Loser: Mayweather-McGregor Hype Tour
The promo tour was disastrous — there’s no denying this. With boxing legend Floyd Mayweather and current UFC star Conor McGregor agreeing to face off in a boxing match for the ages, many expected chaos, especially from two individuals with such controversial histories. So, Mayweather using a and McGregor using wasn’t that big of a surprise, despite it still be entirely reprehensible. If there was a way for both of them to lose the showdown on August 26, I would’ve welcomed it. Instead, Mayweather defeated McGregor by TKO in the tenth round, and the fighters went home with (roughly) $100 million and $30 million, respectively.
Winner: UNC Men’s Basketball
Following a national championship run, forward Justin Jackson and center Tony Bradley felt their time at UNC came to an end and entered the NBA draft with hopes of pursuing professional careers like many Tar Heels before them. This pursuit paid off on June 22, as Jackson was selected 15th overall by the Sacramento Kings and Bradley was selected 28th overall by the Utah Jazz.
Their departures left room for Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson, who successfully fought to gain clearance to play this season. He joins a young UNC squad — led by senior leaders Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson — that’s determined to make it to the title game for a third year in a row.
Loser: Phelps vs. Shark
Annually since 1988, Discovery Channel has aired weeklong programming focusing on a shark-centric theme. Wanting to discover (ha, punny) new ways to bring in viewers, they thought of something flashy: a race between Olympian Michael Phelps and a great white shark.
“Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” was going to be a sight to behold, right?
Wrong. So, so wrong.
Instead of getting Phelps literally swimming right beside a big-ass shark, we got a lame simulation. Spare me the technicalities of a real-world version of this race: “Oh, we can’t put Phelps in a pool with a shark, that’s too dangerous! He might get hurt!” So be it. If he dies, he dies in the pool with honor. Besides, he’s an Olympian that’s powerful in the water, so he’s practically Poseidon’s son — some big-toothed fish shouldn’t bother him. Not at all. (Spoiler: the shark won, because it’s a f------ shark.)
Winner: Freedom of Speech
As more Americans speak out against racist messages spread by hateful neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups (specifically those active in Charlottesville), calls for the removal of Confederate statues are growing louder and louder by the day. At UNC, that means Silent Sam’s days are numbered. August 22 saw hundreds of Chapel Hill residents — most being students, myself included — crowded around the statue, protesting its place on university grounds.
As I stood there, I swelled with pride as I saw my fellow students passionately work toward positive change. Chanting persisted for hours, with shouts of “tear it down,” “f--- white supremacy,” and “this is what democracy looks like” heightening the crowd’s passion and excitement. Yes, this is what democracy looks like: people exercising their right to voice their desire for change. I also noticed a Silent Sam supporter get cussed out. Ah, freedom of speech. Such a wonderful thing.
Is it unfair and selfish to list myself as a winner? Hell yes it is, but this is my new column, and I do as
my editors I please. Readers are probably thinking, “Wow, OK, whatever.”
There! That’s exactly what I’m going for! This year, I’ll share plenty of random thoughts on all things pop culture, sports and UNC. Get used to my bearded mug and bad takes — there’s only more to come.