I was actually listening to Jazmine Sullivan's album, which influenced me to ask younger folks if it's still a Thing to ask. Which it is. I was surprised that it's still a question to be asked. I've been writing this column for well over year--and writing in general since 1998. I barely have any nerves left.


Dear Level

It’s none of your damn business

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium/Getty Images

Many years ago, I went out on a second or third date with a nice enough guy. I don’t remember his name or what he looked like. But I clearly remember why there was no fourth date.

We got to that part of the conversation where you go back and forth about… whatever. It starts with simple biographical details: college majors, first jobs, recent vacations. Then you get to the juicy stuff. Why did your last relationship end? What’s nonnegotiable in a date for you? Once the booze starts hitting, the questions tend to get more intense. Favorite place to…


Photos: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix, FOX/Getty Images, CBS All Access

Some of the genre’s best and brightest come together to talk about why they made the transition from rap magazines to TV and movies—and how

It’s easy enough to pinpoint the birth of hip-hop: August 11, 1973, when Kool Herc threw that pivotal back-to-school party for his sister at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx. Doing the same for dedicated hip-hop journalism, though, proves tougher. What we do know is that college student David Mays started The Source as a one-pager at Harvard University in 1988. By 1993, Time Inc. had launched Vibe; XXL would follow in 1997. …


Dear Level

It’s only one of the biggest moments of your life. No pressure!

Illustration: Olivia Fields

I didn’t enter 2020 anticipating marriage. And yet here we are. Over the holidays, in a tiny period of respite between election shenanigans and a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol, I tied the knot with my betrothed. (Yes, something good happened during 2020!) Now I go around saying “Ize married now!” and wiggling my ring finger approximately six feet away from the face of anyone who will entertain me.

You might be right behind me. But if you’re ready to tie the knot, take the plunge, jump the broom, or any other euphemism for getting married, you’ve first gotta…


John David Washington and Zendaya reflect on the do’s and absolute don’ts of arguing with your lover, both on- and off-screen

Photo: Netflix

The Covid-19 lockdown might have ended some Hollywood productions, but it gave rise to others — and we have Zendaya to thank for one of the first. While so many of us were baking bread and watching comfort-food television, the actress hit up Sam Levinson, the creator of her Emmy-winning series Euphoria. “I knew I wasn’t leaving the house,” she says. “I also knew I had to work.”

The result, Malcolm & Marie, co-starring John David Washington and shot at the famed Caterpillar House in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, over the course of two weeks last summer, isn’t just one of Netflix’s…


DEAR LEVEL

Change is coming!

Illustration: Olivia Fields

Let’s get this out of the way: New Year’s resolutions suck. They’re usually a setup for failure — it takes more than a new calendar for a complete lifestyle change-up. (Save for the 8% of you motivated ones out there, who are probably overachievers anyway.)

For as long as I can remember, my resolutions have been the same: eat better and work out. I’m the one you see in the gym on January 1, going hard on the treadmill, protein shake in hand. Just don’t count on spotting me within 100 feet of any workout equipment once February hits. …


Dear Level

Whether you’re long-term or still in the honeymoon phase, you might need some tips on how to get in your bag like Santa

Illustration: Olivia Fields

The holiday season has always been a stressful time for gift giving within a relationship. You’re not only celebrating the season; you’re also letting your partner know exactly where y’all stand. Sometimes you’ll get it right — sometimes you won’t.

Once, years ago, I was expecting a present from my partner that said “We’ve been dating for a few years now, and I once nursed you through a bout of food poisoning.” Instead, I got… a book. It was a great book, and it was one that I’d previously shown interest in. But still: a book. There’s not much you…


LEVEL Best Man 2020

Black health care workers watch the pandemic continue to take a disproportionate toll on people who look just like them

The title, “The Medical Maestros on the Covid-19 Frontlines” alongside several profile photos of Black doctors and nurses.

In March, when Dr. Kameno Bell saw a patient come out of an ambulance and into his emergency room, he did a double take because the man looked so much like him. Black man, same build, about the same age as Dr. Bell — and all he could manage to say was that he couldn’t breathe. An emergency room doctor solves mysteries every single shift, so Bell looked the man over, noted no immediate signs of injury, and got ready to figure it out.

Before he could wash his hands, the man was dead.

“Listen,” Bell says now. “I work…


Dear Level

Considering staying with an unfaithful partner? It’s time for some reflection.

Illustration: Olivia Fields

So, you know how I always put all my business out there for Dear Level? In nearly a year of writing this column, I’ve shared insight about my sex life, thoughts on sexting, office love affairs, penis size, rules of courtship, and about everything else you can imagine. This time around, though, I’m not going to be so candid. Because we’re gonna discuss infidelity.

I’ve got experience here: I’ve cheated and I’ve been cheated on. …


Dear Level

You may not be on board with every makeover. Here’s how to be supportive anyway.

Illustration: Olivia Fields

In 1993, I decided I wanted to stop chemically treating my hair and just let my natural curls do their own thing. It wasn’t a popular concept at the time; a woman’s beauty and femininity were still tightly connected to how she styled her hair. But for countless reasons, both political and professional, I wanted no parts of artificially straightened hair anymore.

My boyfriend, a college senior, was not supportive. His idea of glamorous was Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Toni Braxton. And my plan — a half-inch Afro — was not what they were rocking.

I told him why…

Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King is an author, freelance writer and editor.

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