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Protestors Gather Outside VMAs to Call Attention to Newark’s Water Crisis

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  • Activists staged a protest across from the VMAs on Monday to call attention to Newark’s lead-contaminated water crisis.
  • Protesters called the city out for hosting an award show while residents were still without clean water, and some asked for celebrities to use their voice to bring awareness to the issue.
  • Newark has been dealing with the water crisis for three years and on Monday announced plans to replace and repair pipes with the help of a $120 million loan.

Protests Staged Across from VMAs

While the biggest names in the music industry hit the stage in Newark’s Prudential Center for the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday, protestors gathered across the street to call attention to the ongoing water crisis in the New Jersey city.

The demonstration was organized by the Newark Water Coalition. Reports estimate that somewhere between 100 and 200 were in attendance, including both Newark locals and visitors who came to the city for the award show.

Newark has been facing a water crisis for several years now. The city tried to aid 38,000 residents who could be affected by high levels of lead in tap water back in October by giving them filters. A report from early August, however, showed that those filters may not be properly working, prompting the city to have to hand out bottled water. 

Protestors carried signs with messages like “VMAs, are you drinking this water?” and “this is environmental racism.” Many also chanted: “we don’t want no MTV, we want our water clean.”

According to the Newark Department of Public Safety, five people were arrested for attempting to cross police barricades. Other than this, the protests were peaceful and continued without incident.

Newark and Celebrities Called Out

Footage from NJ.com showed one leader of the demonstration calling the city out for hosting the VMA’s while its residents were struggling. 

“People are dying out here,” he said. “And you’ve got the nerve, you’ve got the nerve to have the VMAs in Newark. You’ve got the nerve to have these celebrities come here and not give a damn about the citizens of Newark.” 

Efforts were made to encourage celebrities to acknowledge the Newark water crisis while they were in town. The Newark Water Coalition tweeted at Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X asking them to use their voices to call attention to it. 

Actress Piper Perabo sent out a tweet with a similar sentiment, suggesting stars bring the topic up both on stage and in interviews with the press.

The story did not make its way to the VMAs stage and big stars remained largely quiet on the matter. Reverend Al Sharpton attended the ceremony and did acknowledge the choice to have the show in a city facing a crisis of this nature. 

“It brings a limelight to a city where not everybody has to say, oh, I didn’t know there was lead in that city,” Sharpton said speaking to CBS New York. “So there’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, but that’s no comfort to those that’s living in the middle of that dark cloud.” 

Others online thought Newark demonstrated poor priorities by giving a venue to the VMA’s.

Some also thought the stars should have felt heavier responsibility to shine a light on the water crisis.

Developments in Newark’s Water Crisis

The protests came as potential strides were made in handling the city’s water crisis. On Monday, the Essex County Improvement Authority announced plans to give a $120 million loan that would be used to replace and repair lead pipes, which would be completed in under three years.

The plan would speed the repair process up greatly. A previous plan would have cost Newark $75 million and taken close to a decade to complete. Residents are still skeptical of the plan, as they have been promised solutions in the past that fell through. Votes by the city and county will take place Tuesday. Another vote is reportedly taking place in September.

See what others are saying: (NJ.com) (CBS New York) (TIME)

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Childish Gambino Sued for Alleged Copyright Infringement

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  • Florida rapper Kidd Wes filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York Thursday against Grammy award-winning artist Childish Gambino.
  • Kidd Wes claims Childish Gambino’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his 2016 song “Made in America,” arguing that the two songs have “nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content.”
  • Kidd Wes’ lawyers said his client is seeking damages from profits for record sales, endorsements, and other income sources. 

Childish Gambino Faces Lawsuit

Grammy award-winning rapper Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, is being sued for alleged copyright infringement by Florida rapper Kidd Wes.

Kidd Wes, whose real name is Emelike Nwosuocha, claims Glover’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his song “Made in America,” which came out in 2016.

According to Pitchfork, he filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court on Thursday arguing that “the substantial similarities between both songs include, but are not limited to, nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content contained in the chorus—or ‘hook’—sections that are the centerpieces of both songs.”

Pitchfork reported that defendants in the suit include Glover, the song’s co-writer Young Thug, producer Lüdwig Goransson, Kobalt Music, RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Young Stoner Life Publishing LLC, 300 Entertainment, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Roc Nation, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music.

“This Is America” and its accompanying music video were praised for providing stark social commentary on America’s history with racism, inequality, and gun violence. In 2019, it won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, making it the first rap song to take home the prize in either of those top categories. The song has been streamed over 465 million times on Spotify and the music video has been viewed on YouTube over 773 million times.

Lawyers Argue Similarities Are “Beyond Coincidental”

The music video for “Made in America” has just over 415,000 views on YouTube. Nwosuocha has 12,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. While Nwosuocha may have a smaller platform than Glover, his lawyers claim it is no mistake that the two songs sound alike. 

“The similarities between the two pieces of music are beyond coincidental, and amounts to infringement as alleged in the complaint filed by our client, Emelike Nwosuocha, professionally known as Kidd Wes,” attorneys Imran H. Ansari and La’Shawn N. Thomas told Pitchfork. “Mr. Nwosuocha is confident in his claims, and simply seeks the credit and compensation he deserves for the unauthorized use of his music.” 

Nwosuocha is reportedly seeking damages from profit in roughly 43 instances, including record sales, ringtones, endorsements, and record masters.

Glover has not responded publicly to the lawsuit. This is not the first time he has been accused of plagiarism over the song “This Is America.” Previously, he was accused of taking inspiration from New York rapper Jase Harley’s song “American Pharaoh.” At the time, Harley said he did not want to take legal action. Glover’s manager also denied Glover stole from Harley’s work.

See what others are saying: (Pitchfork) (A.V. Club) (The Guardian)

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MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

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  • YouTuber MrBeast, who is known for his massive giveaways, was accused of fostering a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article by The New York Times. 
  • One former employee claimed he quit after a week because MrBeast had unreasonable demands and “nothing ever worked for him.”
  • Another, named Matt Turner, said he was berated almost every day and was often called a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities.” 
  • Turner previously posted several videos about his experience working for MrBeast. In one, he praised the YouTuber and thanked him for a fun experience, but in another, he painted a negative and hostile picture of MrBeast.

MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

YouTuber MrBeast was accused of creating a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article from The New York Times. 

Jimmy Donaldson, who goes by MrBeast online, is known for his massive giveaways and “stunt philanthropy” videos. He has gained a substantial following and as The Times, noted, is a huge influence for many young creators. 

However, former employees said that behind the scenes, Donaldson is a very different person. According to The Times, his corporate entities “have been rife with favoritism and bullying.”

Matt Turner, who was an editor for Donaldson between 2018 and 2019, said that he was berated “almost every day” and that Donaldson often called him by a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities,” which would leave him in tears. 

According to the report, Donaldson initially largely hired friends to work for him, but as his empire grew, so did his number of staffers. Turner told The Times that while those friends got to be in videos, he struggled to be acknowledged. 

“I was not to be credited for anything I did,” Turner said. “I’d ask for credit, he’d credit someone else.”

Another former staffer, Nate Anderson, said he worked for Donaldson for a week in 2018 before quitting because of what he described as unreasonable demands.

“Nothing ever worked for him,” he told The Times. “He always wanted it a certain way.”

When Anderson uploaded a video describing his experience, he was met with hateful messages and even death threats from Donaldson’s fans. Turner said the same happened to him when he posted videos and wrote about his experience on social media. 

The Times spoke to, 20-year-old Akash Rathod, a fan who found Donaldson’s silence regarding these complaints and the subsequent death threats from his followers troubling. 

“There needs to be more from Mr. Beast on the issues his fans are causing,” Rathod said. “It’s not enough just to make positive videos.”

Donaldson did not give a comment to The Times for their piece. A representative for him declined to talk about the workplace allegations and only acknowledged a part of the piece that briefly mentioned Donaldson’s past use of slurs and offensive jokes.

“When Jimmy was a teenager and was first starting out, he carelessly used, on more than one occasion, a gay slur,” the representative said. 

They added that he now “knows there is no excuse for homophobic rhetoric” and “has grown up and matured into someone that doesn’t speak like that.”

Former Employee’s Previous Remarks

Rogue Rocket reached out to Donaldson for comment. In response, MrBeast sent a clip that Turner previously posted where he discussed his work experience in a much brighter light. In that video, which has since been deleted but exists in reuploads, Turner referred to the gig as a “dream job” and recommended others work for Donaldson. 

“If you have the opportunity to get this job that I had, totally take it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It was basically just like a friendship. And going to work was a blast each and every day.” 

Turner then said his decision to part ways from the role was mutual, as the company knew he would not be in the job for the long haul. Turner said he was going to college, wanted to backpack across Asia, and was considering moving to Los Angeles eventually, so they decided to part ways. 

He also claimed that even after he was no longer working there, Donaldson, who had been paying for his rent while he worked for him, continued to pay for him to stay in his apartment and encouraged him to stay as long as he needed. Turner said he even continued to receive paychecks after he left the job for an unspecified period of time. 

“And that is basically funding my trip to backpack across Asia,” he explained. “He’s saying, ‘You don’t have to work for me, but I’ll still pay you. And because of that, I hope that lets you live in L.A., go to college, backpack Asia, whatever you want to do after this, I want to set you up for that.’” 

“If you’re watching this MrBeast, I fucking love you bro,” he continued. 

However, these are not the only remarks Turner has made about his experience working for Donaldson prior to the release of The New York Times report. He previously posted several tweets, which were later taken down, describing a hostile environment where he was “bullied” and “having mental breakdowns day after day.”

He also posted another video, which was deleted but has been partially reuploaded by other channels, where he said that he only posted positive remarks about Donaldson to “clout chase” because he was afraid of what would happen if he spoke ill of the YouTuber. He then painted a much more confrontational picture of Donaldson, telling a story where Donaldson allegedly wiped an entire project and cursed at him after being unhappy with an edit.

Taylor Laurenz, who wrote the article about Donaldson in The New York Times, told Insider that this story is reflective of a larger issue within creator culture. 

“For a large portion of Gen Z that doesn’t want to be creators themselves, working for a creator seems like an absolute dream job,” she said. “But we see time and time again that these creators have basically little to no management experiences and, behind the scenes, can create a really hostile, stressful environment.”

“Working for a 22-year-old YouTube star isn’t going to be the most professional work environment,” she added. “But if you are posturing yourself as a business leader or the next Elon Musk, you should think about the type of work culture you’re creating and what you are rewarding.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Insider) (Dexerto)

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Will Smith To Make Docuseries About Getting Fit After Saying He’s “In The Worst Shape” of His Life

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  • Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will star in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life,” which will premiere in 2022 and follow the actor on a fitness and weight loss journey.
  • The news comes just a few days after Smith shared that he was in “the worst shape” of his life in an Instagram post that resonated with several people as many across the country struggle with pandemic weight gain.
  • “This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote in his announcement post on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better… Hope it works!”

Will Smith to Star in YouTube Originals Docu-series

Just days after sharing that he is in the “worst shape” of his life, actor Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will be starring in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life.”

His initial Instagram post revealing his weight gain resonated with many who praised him for being honest about his body changing during the pandemic. 

“You’re a real one for this,” YouTuber Casey Neistat wrote. 

“Fucking love it. That’s confidence,” Smith’s Suicide Squad co-star Joel Kinnaman added.

According to the show’s official description, “Best Shape of My Life” will follow “the story of Will Smith, looking up one day to find himself in middle age, rebuilding his body into the best shape of his life and getting his groove back along the way.” In it, he will challenge his physical abilities with the help of pro-athletes, scientists, other experts, and YouTube creators. 

The docuseries will air in six parts in 2022. It marks his second project with YouTube Originals, following his 2018 bungee-jumping stunt that raised money for charity to celebrate his 50th birthday. “Best Shape of My Life” is being produced by Westbrook Media, a company the Fresh Prince star launched with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Series Will Address Pandemic Weight Gain

“This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better”

“Imma get in the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE,” he continued. “Hope it works!”

Pandemic weight gain has been a common issue for people all over the world. According to Healthline, 61% of Americans said they gained weight as the world shuttered because of COVID-19.

See what others are saying: (Huff Post) (Entertainment Weekly) (Billboard)

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