Stray Kids Inspire Their Generation To Pick Up The Mic

Stray Kids are fighting with their fans to determine who adores the other most. The fans started it, erupting into an impromptu chant inside Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles: “We love you! We love you!,” they shout, repeatedly. The sound is deafening, catching the boy band off guard. The eight members retaliate with their own impassioned chorus. “We love Stay,” they respond, referencing their legions of international devotees. Both sides scream until, ultimately, Stray Kids admit defeat; they stand awkwardly onstage, apparently unsure how to receive the unrivaled adulation. Bang Chan, the Korean group’s steadfast leader, looks around the venue in awe, while sensible vocalist Seungmin makes a heart with his hands and points to the crowd, resolved to have the last word.

This is not the first time Stray Kids has lost the battle of who-loves-who. It’s happened in cities across the United States, from New York to Dallas, amidst their District 9: Unlock world tour. It’s canon, chiseled into the group’s short but colorful history, alongside such viral moments as “Seungmin in the building” and “I’m not gonna leave you behind.” Displays of affection between idols and fans are nothing new but, with Stray Kids, they’re never forced.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Bang Chan tells the crowd mid-show, intensity building with every word. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, or whoever you choose to be. It doesn’t matter where you’re from — everyone is welcome in our special district.”

Two weeks prior to this performance, Stray Kids — Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N — are gazing from a conference room in a Times Square skyscraper. The sky is gray, but that doesn’t deter Hyunjin from posing for a series of selfies against the floor-to-ceiling window. As the lithe dancer works his angles, his bandmates are scattered throughout the room. Han props his phone against the room’s A/V controls to watch an anime; Bang Chan hunches over his own phone, thumbing the screen intently; Lee Know rests his eyes; and Australia-born Felix gossips about last night’s Grammy Awards. Like any teen, he’s obsessed with Billie Eilish, and her historic Grammys sweep is hard for him to fathom. “Can you believe it?” he says, eyes wide and sparkling. “She’s only 18. It’s amazing.”

Members clockwise from top left: Lee Know, Felix, I.N, Seungmin, Bang Chan, Hyunjin, Changbin, and Han / Rebecca Lader for MTV News

But at 19, the deep-voiced rapper, whose delicate features betray his cherry-red hair, has similarly found success at a young age. Within a year of their 2018 debut, Stray Kids received 11 rookie awards and released five EPs. In fact, while Eilish and her brother Finneas were crafting homemade beats in a Highland Park bedroom, JYP Entertainment’s tenacious boy wonders were honing their own unique sound in a small studio in Seoul, South Korea. Members Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han comprise the group’s primary production trio, 3RACHA, and they’ve been making music together since their trainee days in 2017. Introspective early tracks like “Start Line” and “Runner’s High” laid the foundation for Stray Kids’ sonic identity: With the disruptive power of punk, they deliver astute, poignant lyrics about the bristly experience of growing up and its side effects.

“The things we worry about and the things Stay worry about — we share a lot of the same struggles,” Han tells MTV News. “Even though our ambitions are different, we work hard just the same. It becomes our inspiration musically.” As the creative force behind two of the group’s more vulnerable cuts, “19” and “Sunshine,” the 19-year-old rapper reveals his innermost thoughts and anxieties to the fans. But that honesty can be frightening.

3RACHA: Changbin, Bang Chan, and Han / Rebecca Lader for MTV News

“It’s nerve-racking for us,” Bang Chan says. “Sometimes we think, ‘If we talk about this, will people understand? Will they relate?’ We’re always thinking about how we can reach people through our lyrics because we want our music to help.”

That empathy has been woven throughout their music from the beginning. Stray Kids’ first singles, the pre-debut track “Hellevator” and the darkly riotous “District 9,” are full of angst and aggression, soundtracks for those who balk at societal pressures and follow their own rules. “My Pace” is an empowering anthem teeming with energy and affirmations. (“Don’t compare yourself with others,” Bang Chan sings on the hook. “It’s OK to run slower.”) Songs like “Voices” and “Side Effects” offer an intimate glimpse into the tumultuous mind of a young person still figuring out their place in the world, while “Miroh” and “Victory Song” are bursting with big sounds and youthful bravado.

“Young people today may feel a bit trapped, like you’re constantly being told what to do and you feel like you can’t speak for yourself,” Bang Chan says. “So we want people our age to feel comfortable speaking out and talking about what they think.”

By encouraging their fans to examine their own growing pains, to feel everything, they ensure that their message is never didactic. “All strayed steps come together to make a new road,” they say at their concert. And with their latest release, “Levanter,” off their sixth EP Clé: Levanter, Stray Kids come to the understanding that the journey is more meaningful than the destination, and the path ahead is ultimately theirs to define. So they double knot their shoelaces and dash full-speed ahead. “We might not know what the actual goal is, but as long as we’re running hard and we’re running as a group, whatever comes is going to be good anyway,” Bang Chan says. “We just wish that a lot of people out there could listen to our music and get a lot of energy and hope from it.”

Like 25-year-old Selina, who connects to their lyrics because she’s “still on that journey of figuring out what I want to do and who I want to be,” she says, clutching her Stray Kids light stick (a compass, now featuring Bang Chan’s name written on the handle) outside of Microsoft Theater. Her friend Joseline, 18, likes that the members “have other priorities and interests outside of being a K-pop idol” that they reveal through daily Instagram posts, livestreams on the V Live app, TikToks, and weekly YouTube videos and vlogs. “He’s not just Han from Stray Kids, he’s Han Jisung — rapper, producer, and person,” she adds.

I.N, Felix, and Seungmin / Rebecca Lader for MTV News

For Kambree, 17, the group has a “positive vibe” that makes her feel happy and accepted. “They make us feel like family, no matter who you are or what you look like,” she adds. Her best friend Lexxie, 17, says Stray Kids “make me feel like I’m not alone with my issues.” And So Yun, 30, finds their mix of “hard-hitting EDM” and “super angsty” lyrics reminiscent of the emo bands she listened to in high school. “It’s the same rebellious spirit that I felt as a teen when you want to be your own person and figure out your own voice.”

Their music has given Louis, 30, a newfound perspective. “I like the [‘Levanter’] lyric, ‘I want to be myself, I don’t care’ — that line resonates with me because we live in a society where people try to mold you, but at the same time, I just want to myself and at this point, I really don’t care!”

Best friends Ella and Jazlynn, both 19, met online through their mutual love of Stray Kids, and they’ve customized their light sticks with glitters and holographic stickers of their favorite members’ names. “Half of the group is technically my age, so I can look at them and see how successful they are, and it gives me inspiration to work harder,” Jazlynn says, an I.N banner at her side. And while they do feel comforted by the authenticity in the group’s songs, as Ella explains, it’s who they are off-stage that many fans connect with most. “When you see Felix do the Renegade, it’s like, ‘I do that too!'”

Their ability to ignite the stage with powerful performances while staying true to themselves behind the scenes — as both K-pop’s reigning meme kings and young men navigating adulthood — is what makes Stray Kids so relatable to a generation that experiences much of their lives online. “This generation is comfortable being alone,” Changbin says. “We have our phones. We don’t always need to be talking to each other to be together. Sometimes a text is fine.”

And they’re pretty normal, too. Bang Chan and Changbin watch videos from Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival to help clear their minds in the studio; the tracks “Road Not Taken” and “Stop” are the direct results of such self-care. Han’s idea of a perfect day would be to “not come out of my room for 24 hours.” If he could spend all day watching YouTube videos, he would. In fact, he says “Sunshine” was inspired by a scene in the Korean drama Boys Over Flowers, where the main characters travel to an idyllic private island. Though Han’s larger-than-life presence dominates the stage, he identifies as an introvert and admits he hopes to “overcome” his shyness. “On my ideal perfect day, I’d try new experiences and meet new people comfortably,” he says. “You can do it!” Bang Chan adds, encouragingly.

Youngest member I.N makes time to go shopping, though he prefers to “chill” on his days off. And when Felix isn’t playing video games or destroying kitchens with Seungmin, he frequents Seoul’s finest dog cafes. “We have so many dog lovers in our group,” he says, smiling. “I’ve been looking at a lot of dogs, and I feel like they help you feel better. I really want a dog with the team.” Jisung points at Seungmin, whose nickname is “puppy,” and Bang Chan adds, “We already have one.” Seungmin scrunches his nose and says, “No way!” (But Han insists he’s a “really bad boy.”)

Meanwhile, Hyunjin, who’s known by fans for his theatrics and commanding stage presence is extremely open with his emotions. He frequents V Live, where he offers personal advice to viewers of his video series Hyunjin’s Counseling Center. But the 19-year-old admits that opening up to Stay has helped him, too. “I don’t always have a lot of confidence,” he says. “When I want to be comforted or when I’m feeling kind of sad, Stay are really good at consoling me. I want to be able to repay that comfort in full.”

“The connection between Stay and Stray Kids would be family,” Felix adds. Han jokes that they’re the “annoying and mischievous” little brothers. But it’s that sense of connection, among the group as well as with their fans, that has cemented Stray Kids as the vital voices of their generation.

Lee Know and Hyunjin / Rebecca Lader for MTV News

“The struggles we’re going through — anxiety, stress, school, love — they tell us to take our time and see where our path leads,” Selina says. “It’s OK to stray from it. Just stay true to yourself. I always associate that with them. The idea of ‘You Make Stray Kids Stay’ is to find out what it is that grounds you and just keep going.”

And Stray Kids don’t plan to slow down any time soon. Having wrapped their Clé series at the end of last year with Levanter, 2020 offers an exciting fresh page for new musical experimentations, starting with the three original unit songs the group produced for the tour. “Wow” is a sexy R&B track from dancers Lee Know, Hyunjin, and Felix. It’s also their first explicit love song. “We wanted to try a sexy song because it’s a special stage,” Hyunjin says, explaining that the dancers worked on their own lyrics in addition to helping with the slinky choreography. “We wanted to include moves that we haven’t tried before,” Lee Know adds, noting that they wanted something sexy and powerful. “So it was a new experience.”

“My Universe,” featuring vocalists Seungmin and I.N with an assist from Changbin, is a bright pop ballad. “I always wanted to try something like that,” I.N says, eyes smiling. Seungmin tells Changbin from across the table, “Thanks for helping.” And 3RACHA’s “We Go” oozes confidence over a scorching trap beat. “We made ‘We Go’ last time we were here [in the United States],” Bang Chan says. “We made around three to four songs in one day… The performance is really fun as well. And those two [he points to Han and Changbin] got to have the chance to use Autotune live.”

Rebecca Lader / MTV News

They also released their first English singles in January, a process that rapper Changbin, known for his furious flow, calls “difficult.” (“It was fun,” Hyunjin argues beside him.) “I was listening to Changbin’s rap [in ‘Double Knot’] like, ‘Why is this so fast? What am I going to write?'” Bang Chan says. “I tried to write it as easy as possible so that he could speak it well. I’m really glad that they could record it really well for me.”

In March, they’ll debut in Japan. And there’s another mixtape project in the works, kicked off by the digital release of “Gone Days,” a relaxed, Autotune-laced anthem for the “OK Boomer” generation. A play on the Korean word kkondae, it describes someone who pushes outdated ideas and expectations onto another based only on their age and status — and signals the arrival of a bold new direction. “I think [young people] now just need to be more comfortable with themselves,” Bang Chan says of his inspiration for the track. “By being yourself, you never know what’s going to happen.”

“I always believe that one person can change the world,” he adds. “So if you have a thought or an idea, just let it out. Because who knows? You can make the world a much better place.”

All The Easter Eggs Hidden Throughout Taylor Swift’s Macho Video For ‘The Man’

For many of us, the day began the same way it typically does: juggling a hot cup of coffee on the train ride into work while being surrounded by chronic manspreaders. Taylor Swift‘s morning, however, started off differently, thanks to her music video for “The Man,” which directly calls out toxic masculinity in the entertainment industry as well as in our day-to-day lives. The best part? She directed it herself.

Of course, no Taylor Swift music video would be complete without her signature Easter eggs, and don’t worry, the “Lover” singer didn’t disappoint. Minutes before releasing the video, she confirmed to her Swifties via a YouTube Q&A that there would be “lots and lots” of clues hidden throughout. “More than any kid’s yard on Easter morning,” she said.

Now that the video’s officially out, we can also confirm that Swift indeed went all in on the Easter eggs. Between the references to her ongoing battle for ownership of her masters to some interesting celebrity cameos, Swifties are eating well. And if you possibly missed any of the video’s many Easter eggs, MTV News has broken them all down for you below.

    YouTube/Taylor Swift
  1. Wood-Paneled Office

    While the opening frame might look like a Wall Street CEO’s office, it’s actually much more than that. On the right side of the wood-paneled room, you’ll notice two bottles of scotch sitting on a shelf. Swift specifically described a similar setting while talking to Rolling Stone about the $300 million dollar deal that gave music manager Scooter Braun ownership over the master recordings of her first six albums. “They’re standing in a wood-panel bar doing a tacky photo shoot, raising a glass to themselves,” Swift told the mag about a photo of Braun and the CEO of her former label Scott Borchetta celebrating the deal. “They pulled one over on me and got this done so sneakily that I didn’t even see it coming. And I couldn’t say anything about it.”

  2. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  3. Action Movie Poster

    The inside of the subway car is chock-full of Easter eggs, but let’s begin with that hyper-masculine action movie poster. With the tagline “Mother Nature doesn’t stand a chance,” the poster is likely in reference to the many government leaders who insist that climate change is not a real threat. Spoiler alert: It is.

  4. “Miss Americana” Sweatshirt

    It’s hard to miss the young woman on the subway wearing a sweatshirt with the title of another Swift song, “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince.” The not-so-subtle reference to the Lover track has fans on Twitter wondering if it’ll be her next single. Of course, it’s all just speculation, but the date July 20 is on the action movie poster. Based on the clues, Swifties seem pretty convinced it could be a summer single.

  5. “Greedy” Graffiti & Scotch Poster

    We already mentioned the significance of scotch (and who drinks it). But the poster’s tagline “capitalize on the feeling” seems to call out the music moguls for profiting off of 10 years of her hard work, evocative lyrics, and personal experiences. She also included some “greedy” graffiti, just in case her message was somehow overlooked.

  6. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  7. Newspaper

    Though Swift seems to be very happy in her current relationship with boyfriend Joe Alwyn, the pop star’s career has been plagued by incessant criticism about her dating life. Critics called her a “serial dater,” but the same scrutiny wasn’t placed on her male counterparts. The newspaper in the subway scene — which contains the headline, “What man won the year in celebrity dating?” — exposes that exact double standard.

  8. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  9. 13th Street Station

    When “The Man” hops off the subway and takes the liberty of urinating on the station walls, we see that he’s gotten off at 13th Street. Simply put, 13 is Swift’s lucky number, and it’s shown up again and again at her concerts, in her music videos, and even on her birth certificate. (P.S. Don’t pretend like you don’t celebrate December 13 every single year).

  10. “No Scooters” and “Missing” Signs

    Swift really doubled down on the references to Braun; perhaps the most obvious nod is in the sign that effectively reads “No Scooters Allowed” via a clever graphic of an actual scooter. There’s also a sign about her “missing” master recordings that reads, “MISSING: IF FOUND RETURN TO TAYLOR SWIFT.” As a side note, you really shouldn’t ride a scooter inside a subway station. It’s just not safe.

  11. Swift’s Album Titles and “Karma” Graffiti

    Apart from the signs on the wall, there’s also a ton of graffiti spelling out the titles of Swift’s previous albums. Noticeably missing, however, is Swift’s self-titled LP which came out in 2006. Along with the album titles, the word “Karma” is spelled out not once, but twice, possibly referencing Swift re-recording her previous albums (but maybe not her self-titled one). This could potentially lower the value of the masters that are currently in Braun’s possession.

  12. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  13. “Mr. Americana” Poster

    Although the video sheds light on the serious double standards that women are held to, the pop star isn’t afraid to have fun with it. Look no further than the parody of her very own Netflix documentary poster for Miss Americana. Now called Mr. Americana, the doc’s director has been changed to Larry Wilson (instead of Lana Wilson) and celebrates a whole different star entirely. Everyone, meet Tyler Swift!

  14. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  15. The Hallway

    When Swift announced the music video earlier this week, it was paired with an image of a long white hallway that many fans on Twitter thought looked an awful lot like the one in Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s house. But even if that theory doesn’t hold, the hallway is still important. It’s here that “The Man” gets praised with high-fives (19, to be exact) after having a one-night stand. For women, that same journey is called a walk of shame.

  16. 19 Hands

    We know what you’re thinking: What’s the meaning behind the 19 hands in the hallway? Well, on this day in 1922, the Supreme Court upheld the 19th amendment, which defends women’s voting rights.

  17. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  18. The Tennis Tantrum

    The video includes a pretty extensive tennis scene, which was meant to show the sexism that exists not just in music, but in sports, too. In 2018, Serena Williams reacted negatively to an umpire who claimed she had cheated. The difference? If a man, such as the one in Swift’s music video, bursts into an angry tirade on the tennis court, he likely wouldn’t get punished. Williams, on the other hand, continued to get hit with code violations and criticisms for months after.

  19. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  20. Taylor’s Dad

    Who was the umpire during the tennis match, anyway? Yep, it was Taylor’s dad, Scott Swift!

  21. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  22. TikTok Star Loren Gray

    It’s 2020, and everyone is aware of what’s cool on TikTok — even Taylor Swift. She recruited social media star Loren Gray to appear in the video, and for good reason. Gray refers to her fans as “Angels,” and when she rolled her eyes from the sidelines of the tennis match, all the TikTok Swifties quickly caught on that it was a nod to a lyric in “Cruel Summer.” (“Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes.”) Very clever.

  23. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  24. Stella x Taylor Swift Water Bottle

    We know the tennis tantrum was distracting and all, but if you were able to somehow pay attention to anything else, you may have noticed one of the pastel water bottles that Swift collaborated on with designer Stella McCartney. Yeah, she’s kind of a big deal.

  25. YouTube/Taylor Swift
  26. Dwayne Johnson

    When Swift appears at the end to talk to “The Man” (who, by the way, is also Taylor Swift, but in a really incredible disguise) about his performance in the video, we hear his speaking voice for the first time. And if you thought he sounded a whole lot like Dwayne Johnson, your instincts were correct. Turns out “The Man” is actually “The Rock.”

The Candyman Trailer Is Here, ‘Say My Name’ Remix And All

The legend of Candyman is back in full effect. Candyman, set to hit theaters in June, has had its first trailer released and it’ll make you want to stay away from all of the mirrors that you come across on a daily basis. You never know if you’ll see a hooked hand reaching for your throat on the other side.

Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of Watchmen and AquamanCandyman has been dubbed a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original film about a killer ghost that loves bees and hooks. That movie spawned two sequels in 1995 (Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh) and 1999 (Candyman: Day of the Dead) that expanded the lore. Now, it’s due for a fresh coat of paint for the new decade. The plotline is pretty simple. There’s an evil legend that literally doesn’t bother you unless you say its name five times in a mirror.

That’s it. Just go about and live your life. But no, in the world of Candyman, humans like to tempt the supernatural. So, in the first trailer, different sets of people stand in front of mirrors and basically send the hooked villain a “U up?” text, inviting it for some grisly gourmet at their expenses. Yahya, who seems to be spiraling in and out of reality as a man who returns to his spooky neighborhood and sees visions of himself dishing out hooked mayhem, looks to be at the center of this horrifying story.

Destiny’s Child‘s “Say My Name” is slowed down to a crawl to sound at its creepiest for the trailer, enabling each of these brutal clips to raise the hair on your neck. Its a signature move of producer, and co-writer, Jordan Peele who employed a similar technique for the trailer for 2019’s Us that featured a plodding rendition of “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz.

Candyman will be out on June 12. As we wait for the film, it’s important for everyone to avoid repeating “Candyman” in front of a mirror five times. Yes, it’s just a movie. But please don’t do it anyway.

Take a look at the first Candyman trailer up above.

Doja Cat Brought Pink, Shiny, Glittery Goodness To ’70s-Inspired Performance

Doja and the Two Cats. Doja, Wind, and Cats. Doja and the PussyCats.

Don’t mind me, I’m busy brainstorming new names for Doja Cat and her two supporting singers who collectively made their performance of “Say So” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon into a grainy, very-weirdly colored show from the era of the disco ball. Glittery, shiny, and pink-y, it’s groovier than you could even begin to imagine.

Doja Cat and the Kittens. Wait. That’s the one. They kicked off the performance with bouncing afros and swimming hands, feeling the vibe as flashing lights and disco balls completed this retro atmosphere. Halfway through, the Kittens helped Doja Cat out of her jacket and down onto the stage off of a platform for a dominating rap verse with more retro moves to make a Gen X-er whoop for joy. It ends with the trio making its way back to its glowing platform that doubles as a throne, eager to shut the stage down again. In an alternate universe, Doja Cat and the Kittens are a disco group that is as big as Earth, Wind, & Fire.

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“Say So” appears on Doja Cat’s sophomore album, Hot Pink, that dropped last November. The LP also features her equally fun singles “Rules” and “Bottom Bitch.”

Become immersed in the grooviest era of all time in Doja Cat’s “Say So” performance up above.

Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ Video Is A Shimmering, Disco-Era Thirst Trap

On “Say So,” a standout track from her 2019 sophomore album Hot Pink, Doja Cat sings, “He ain’t never seen it in a dress like this / He ain’t never even been impressed like this.” The same can be said about me, you, and literally anyone else in the world who watches her shimmering new video. Exhibit A:

The “Say So” video transports us to sunny ’70s L.A. (eat your heart out, Quentin Tarantino!), where Doja Cat holds court in a cozy Hollywood Hills abode filled with vinyl and boasting gorgeous views of the city. Not that you’ll notice any of those things, because all eyes are on Doja herself. As she thirsts over a repairman fixing her record player, she struts around in an array of slinky dresses: one that’s backless and crocheted, another that’s silver and blinged-out, and one encrusted with butterflies. All the while, she sings that deliciously groovy hook: “Day to night to morning / Keep with me in the moment / I’d let you had I known it / Why don’t you say so?” In a poolside dance scene, she even busts out the same moves used in all those TikTok dance challenges that have made the song a viral hit.

After the sun goes down, she and her maintenance man meet again — this time, in a disco club where Doja enters with a tiger on a leash. Together with her Travolta-channeling crush, she busts through more synchronized dancing, and as the music fades out, the party only turns up. Get lost in Doja’s ’70s fever dream below, and keep your eyes peeled for a fabulous cameo from Instagram-famous dancer Donté Colley.

Doja Cat’s “Say So” video comes just hours after she performed the song on The Tonight Show. In keeping with the throwback theme, she transformed the stage into a hot pink disco club, so yes, it’s a must-see. Check out the performance here, and peep her recently announced spring tour dates.

Every Day Is ‘Kill Mode’ For Rapper Trinidad James

There’s the old, well-worn adage that you’re the author of your own story. While you might roll your eyes when you hear it now, Trinidad James doesn’t find this way of thinking to be boring or cliché. In fact, he’s thoroughly invested when he thinks about his page-turning, eight-year rap career so far. “This chapter is titled ‘Kill Mode,’” he tells MTV News over the phone. “I’m going through one of the real battles that all real creatives go through.”

This skirmish is part of the war that artists go through to retain relevance. The 32-year-old rapper has been one something of an unspoken figurehead in Atlanta rap for years following his 2012 breakout hit, “All Gold Everything.” Clad in gold chains, gold teeth, and what looked like retro royal high fashion, he delivered an instantly catchy tune that quickly became a viral sensation — 32 million views and counting — and secured him a deal with Def Jam worth a reported $2 million that same year. It was the gift that kept on giving. He apparently made $150,000 when Bruno Mars reached out to use its iconic line “don’t believe me, just watch” on a little song he’d worked on with Mark Ronson.

Uptown Funk” became iconic in its own right. But “All Gold Everything” holds the distinction for being one of rap’s first viral hits of the 2010s. So began James’s battles.

“All Gold Everything” and its high-powered remix featuring T.I., 2 Chainz, and Young Jeezy, were both featured on his debut project Don’t Be S.A.F.E., which peaked at No. 103 on the Billboard 200. His follow-up project, 2013’s 10pc. Mild, didn’t chart. The headlines asked hard questions: Did James have another “All Gold Everything” in him? Soon after, he revealed that he was dropped from Def Jam in 2014.

Eight years after “All Gold Everything,” it appears the rapper’s soon-to-be-released new project is going to address the idea of enduring success on his own terms. He’s released seven projects since splitting with Def Jam, keeping up on a consistent clip as he feeds his fanbase. But now, he’s ready to take the fight right to the front lines.

“For this new project, you’ll see what it’s like when a true artist, a true creative, goes against all of the narratives that are in the air and chooses the one that matters the most at the end of the day, which is my own,” he says.

James’s latest has been in the works for years, pre-dating both his Father Figga and Daddy Issues mixtapes. “I worked with an incredible producer named Young Fyre,” he says. “When we first started four years ago, we were just making incredible songs, like 19 for 19. We just clicked. After two years of putting work in, it got to the point where I thought that we had enough songs to put together for a project. Then, it all came down to timing — for my narrative.”

An additional two years is a long time to hold something, but it looks like those songs are finally on the way to fans. In January, he released the project’s first single: the James Brown-inspired “Jame$ Woo Woo,” aiming to be every bit as disruptive to the cultural direction as “All Gold Everything” was in 2012. Its sharp barks and staccato lyricism make it sound incomplete but authentic and genuine as if he’s freestyling each word as he goes on. It’s not spit out of a melody machine. And that’s precisely why it works.

It’s easy to hear the influence of Brown on “Jame$ Woo Woo,” but James didn’t just pick the legendary soul entertainer to emulate for his sound. “The more and more that I continue to work and stay in the industry, I’ve learned that I was cheating myself because I was labeling myself as just a rapper,” he says. “I realized that the people that I loved most in music are true entertainers, and Brown is one of those that I resonate so well with because he wasn’t the most classically trained guy. He was all about feelings.”

James does his very best Brown impersonation in the song’s wild video that features him in soulful cosplay, leading a couple of tap-dancing ladies in an intricate routine. “We came up with that routine and choreography in a little bit over a day and a half,” he says. “We started on the idea last year with two other women as the tap dancers but schedules got conflicted. Tap dancing is a dying art, and we were determined to include that in the visual so we switched things up, along with the shooting location, to make it happen.”

Aside from “Jame$ Woo Woo,” there aren’t too many details out yet as to what the project will detail. There won’t be any large features from friends he came up with in the early 2010s, like Young Thug. “It’ll have some local guys from Atlanta because I’m not really big on features when they come with too much stress,” he says. “I owe it to my peers and myself to show them that I don’t need them to be successful.”

As James prepares to release his long-awaited project, he’s all about making sure that this new chapter of his career is much better, and separated, from his last. He’s currently one of the hosts of Sole Collector’s Full Size Run talk show about sneakers and he also made a quick jewelry-store cameo in the Safdie Brothers’s high-stress gambling drama Uncut Gems, where he played himself.

“I’m not living off of clout from eight years ago,” he says between sword jabs. “I’m living off of the real shit that I’m doing each year after that. Especially in the last three years because I’ve been making sure that my business is in my own hands.”

Taylor Swift Protests Toxic Masculinity In ‘The Man’

Taylor Swift becomes the world’s most annoying dude ever in “The Man,” the latest video from Lover that follows what it’s like to annoy everyone around you while being oblivious to the fact that it’s happening. It attacks the idea of toxic masculinity at every turn. Whether it’s taking up unnecessary amounts of space on a crowded subway, completely disregarding the surrounding health of others by then smoking on said subway, or demanding credit for being a good dad for doing the least, Swift brings some much-needed spotlight to problems that dudes bring on the regular. And she does it not just from the director’s seat, but, also as a guy herself.

It’s not revealed until the end of the video that Swift is actually the guy that it follows around, caked under makeup and prosthetics to become an unlikeable, bearded bully. Before that Swift connection, the guy is completely unbearable. Maybe it’s the pencil-thin beard or the naturally smug smirk that stretches across his face like he’s Batman’s archnemesis. He’s revealed to be a business top dog at the beginning, strolling through his office and yelling at employees while crumpling paper and tossing it in the air. Winking at the camera, he’s the ultimate badass. Everyone wants to be like him.

Outside of the office though, he’s even more unbearable. He pees glittering urine on subway walls and treats women like objects on an expensive yacht. Walking through a hallway of different hands, he’s high-fiving all of the bros around the world who think that his lifestyle is the stuff of dreams. 58 years later in the video, he marries a woman who’s much younger than him and smashes cake against her face, annoying her and making her second guess this new marriage.

At the end of the video, it is revealed that the director is Swift and this unbearable guy, with Dwayne Johnson‘s booming voice in a surprise voiceover, asks her how this take was. Swift wants him to be “sexier, and a little more likable this time,” for the next one. As they set up to get going again, it ends with the process to transform Swift into this dude being revealed.

Swift dropped Lover last August. In January, she released the Miss Americana documentary on Netflix and it featured a new song, “Only The Young.”

Check out Swift’s testosterone-filled video for “The Man” up above.

Mabel Makes Her ’90s Aaliyah Dreams Come True In ‘Boyfriend’ Video

Last year, U.K. pop star Mabel released her hit debut album, High Expectations. That title, it turns out, is also an apt (and totally relatable) descriptor for her quest to find a new man.

On Wednesday (February 26), the 24-year-old dropped “Boyfriend,” an upbeat anthem about not needing a man on anything but her own terms. As she explained on Instagram, she wrote the song “to remind u all that wanting someone in your life doesn’t mean u can’t still be dat bitchh.” To that effect, “Boyfriend” finds Mabel listing off her requirements for a man. Specifically, she’s looking for someone who: can take that heat, is not too sweet, is tough while he’s running that street, can turn her on, and is a ride-or-die. “Where you at, where you at?” she asks with the kind of brash confidence that suggests she’s in absolutely no rush, thankyouverymuch.

In the accompanying video, the “Mad Love” singer and her girls take over a futuristic factory where they attempt to design the perfect S.O. It’s packed with cool choreo and even cooler looks (think lots of leather and snakeskin) and, as Mabel described, it succeeded in “making all my ’90s Aaliyah dreams come true.” Check it out above.

Mabel’s “Boyfriend” comes on the heels of her appearance at last week’s BRIT Awards, where she performed her smash hit “Don’t Call Me Up” and won the prize for Best Female Solo Artist. Clearly, 2020 is already off to a stellar start — boyfriend or not.

Harry Styles Wants To Spend Halloween With You

It’s time to get your poofy ballgowns and dusty tuxedos out from that box in the basement, folks, because Harry Styles just announced a “fancy dress party” that’s set to take place on Halloween weekend in 2020.

In case you missed it, Styles appeared on the Today show this morning (February 26) to perform some of his most popular hits, including “Watermelon Sugar,” “Adore You,” and “Kiwi.” And though it wasn’t surprising at all that Styles crushed his performance, what was surprising was that, suddenly, we all had Halloween plans.

“We’re going to be playing the Halloween weekend at Madison Square Garden October 30 and 31,” Harry revealed. “We’re calling it ‘Harryween.'” The “Lights Up” crooner then went on to explain that the two-night event will actually have a fancy dress code, and he, too, will be dressing up for the occasion. But what will the certified fashion icon wear? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Aside from all the Halloweekend talk, Styles also gushed over his recent friendship with the one and only Lizzo. “I just think she’s amazing,” Styles said of the “Truth Hurts” singer. “I think she’s such a great artist. I think that as a fan, what you want artists to be is themselves, and I think she’s someone who’s just herself, and she makes amazing music, and it’s really feel-good, and I think that’s what a lot of people need right now. I think she’s great.”

In recent months, Lizzo and Styles have been covering each other’s songs during live performances. Just last week, for example, the singer-rapper-flautist performed Styles’s “Adore You” at BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. And back in December, Styles hit up the Live Lounge with a cover Lizzo’s “Juice,” which they later performed together at a pre-Super Bowl concert.

Considering Lizzo and Styles’s admiration for one another, we can’t help but wonder if she’ll make a surprise appearance during one (or both) of Styles’s Halloween concerts. What we do know is that he won’t be hitting up MSG alone. In an Instagram post he shared this morning, Styles revealed that he’ll be joined at both shows by special guest Orville Peck. These shows are in addition to the other concerts he has planned on his 2020 tour, which kicks off in April in the UK.

If you weren’t able to snag tickets to his tour and you want to spend Harryween with the legend himself, worry not. Styles shared when and how his die-hard fans can purchase tickets. American Express and Verified Fan Presales for Harryween will begin on Monday, March 2. And for everyone else, tickets will go on sale on Friday, March 6.

Mark your calendars, Harries! This Halloween will be one for the books.

SZA And Justin Timberlake Are Passionate About Platinum In ‘The Other Side’

Step out onto the dance floor! SZA and Justin Timberlake have dropped a ridiculously platinum new video for their new feel-good collab, “The Other Side,” straight from the forthcoming Trolls World Tour film. I hope you like futuristic one-colored landscapes! You’ll be seeing a lot of them.

“The Other Side” is a shimmering, disco-ed out fountain of happiness. It wants you to keep your head to the sky so you can smile at the sun once the clouds break, all the while, its glamorous funk shakes your shoulders and taps your platform shoes on the floor. The charismatic, upbeat duet kicks off with SZA’s realization that while someone’s life may look better through fifteen filters and carefully curated snapshots, it’s important to stick the course because yours will get just as awesome. All you have to do is stay positive and realize how valuable you are. Because, as SZA sings best, “But the grass ain’t always greener on the other side.”

In the accompanying video, SZA and Timberlake have some fun in a magnificent platinum land, spinning around on mechanisms while everything around them shines bright enough to the point that they should be wearing sunglasses. SZA switches her hairstyles and gets her groove on to match JT’s similar leg jittering madness. With camera tricks galore and some equally hyped-up backup dancers, this other side of reality looks like the place to be. But that’s at odds with what the song means. Enjoy your surroundings now and they’ll be more enjoyable than this silver space in no time.

Trolls World Tour, the sequel to Trolls that came out in 2016,  is set to hit theaters on April 17. Timberlake has returned as the soundtrack’s executive producer, especially after his song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls won the Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media and earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Song.” In addition to SZA, the Trolls World Tour soundtrack is set to include Anderson .Paak, Kelly Clarkson, and more.

Check out SZA and Justin Timberlake’s epic “The Other Side” video up above.