The creator of the notorious Game of Thrones petition calling on HBO to remake the show’s eighth and final season only learned of its success (more than 1.2 million have signed) on Thursday, days after it went viral.
HBO’s high fantasy series Game of Thrones has for years been a juggernaut, giving the network some of its highest ratings ever. But the show’s final episodes have drawn the ire of fans and some critics who say the writing has been sloppy and plot points were unearned.
After offhandedly making the petition more than a week ago as a way to vent, Dylan (he declined to give his full name to Forbes), a 30-year-old analyst for a health system in Fort Worth, Texas, hadn’t given it a second thought. That is, until a coworker approached him after work.
“Hey, is this you?” the coworker said.
And that’s how he learned his Change.org petition had blown up. After learning of his newfound internet fame, he provided an online update, where he told the world that no one from HBO has approached him. He doesn’t reasonably expect HBO to remake anything, he said, but he wants to send a message: he’s disappointed.
In an email exchange with Forbes, here is what Dylan had to say about the petition. Warning: This contains spoilers.
What exactly prompted you to start the petition? You said it was a few days after Episode 4. What in particular were you disappointed by, both in that episode and the next one?
Really it was a combination of Episode 3 and 4’s failures that brought me to the point of writing the petition. There were many, many qualms I had with the episodes, but I’ll mention a couple. The Battle of Winterfell was a strategic disgrace. I mentioned in my long update that the show suffered from “everyone is stupid” syndrome. I’m sure there is a better term for it, but when the plot is intense and dramatic simply because every character involved is an idiot, that is not great writing. You had some of the wisest, most experienced individuals in Westeros all in one room, and THAT was the defense strategy? As for Episode 4 I had many lamentations, but the specific one that made me facepalm the hardest was how Rhaegal died. Easily one of the cheapest deaths of the whole series. I could probably go on for a long time about it, but that’ll do for now.
Have you started other Change.org petitions before?
I have not. I understand that they are normally for more social and humanitarian issues, but maybe this whole thing has drawn more people to the site that can browse these other petitions.
What do you make of the overwhelming response this petition has gotten? And some of the backlash about “entitled fans” and whatnot.
Well in my long update I talked about how I started it and how surprised I was by the response when I checked back in after a week. I was mostly just chuckling at it, taking it lightly, then I learned my parents had contacted news institutions and reporters and I was taken aback. This petition isn’t about me. Any passionate nerd could have written it. Heck I clearly put like the minimum effort into the original post! I have seen a few things calling out the petition and its signers as a whole, but nothing yet that calls me out directly. I guess if we’re entitled, we’re entitled together. I hoped to clear some things up in my update post, but I may have taken too long to put some clarifying words out there.
Did your parents reach out to reporters after you found out the petition had been doing well? Are they fans of the show as well? (Author’s note: I asked this question in a follow up email).
Yeah I had called them on my way home from work after I found out myself, just to say, “Hey check this out, neat huh?” They were notably more excited than I was about the “internet fame” and started reaching out to reporters on their own. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about it, but they were excited for me. Yes, I got my parents into the show maybe around season 5 or so…can’t remember when, but I introduced everyone in my immediate family to the show.
Has your life changed at all since the petition blew up?
Well since I only learned of its success [Thursday] after work, the only life impact I have experienced so far is a lack of sleep for one night. I think I was too pumped to sleep well last night! I would imagine that after the finale the petition will garner more attention, but we’ll see.
What do you hope to get out of the petition now? I know you said you don’t expect HBO to actually remake Season 8 and that no one from HBO has been in contact with you.
That’s the question isn’t it? Sometimes acknowledgement of the outcry is enough, and decisions are made behind the scenes to adjust for such backlash. I am also one of the somewhat disgruntled Star Wars fans as well – relatively unhappy with the writing of the new trilogy – so seeing D&D (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) lose their Star Wars contracts might be interesting. I have seen people call for that. I just don’t know why they should be rewarded with another beloved story after what we saw from the end of Thrones, but who knows? If we get a Star Warstrilogy from them that’s as good as the first few seasons of Thrones, I might be eating my words.
Do you still think Game of Thrones is one of the greatest TV shows of all time?
Absolutely. It is a universal cultural phenomenon. I heard someone once say something along the lines of, “This show shouldn’t even exist. It’s this crazy, convoluted fantasy epic with dragons and zombies and castles and political drama. We should be happy it was brought to us.” That’s some huge paraphrasing, but I do agree with the sentiment. In my long update, I say that D&D deserve praise for their adaptation of the books during the first several seasons of the show. Obviously the praise stops short towards the end of the rushed series.
-Rachel Sandler; Forbes Staff
Hip-Hop’s Next Billionaires: Richest Rappers 2019
Back in 2007, Jay-Z made a bold statement in song about both his lyrical prowess and his future financial fortunes: “I’m already the G.O.A.T.–next stop is the billie.”
Sure enough, Forbes declared him hip-hop’s first billionaire earlier this month. The news caught the attention of observers around the world—not only due to the breadth of Jay-Z’s financial achievement, but because of what it means for others looking to follow in his footsteps.
“Jay-Z’s entire life is the real blueprint,” says hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy, longtime host of the show Yo! MTV Raps. “He’s one of the best examples in our lifetime of one who’s truly achieved the American dream and billionaire status.”
Naturally, Jay-Z tops this year’s ranking of hip-hop’s richest stars. Who will be the next billionaire from the rap world? The answer is almost certainly one of the names below.
The 32-year-old Canadian is the youngest on this list by a decade, but he’s quickly gaining ground on hip-hop’s elder statesmen. Drake’s fortune grew 50% over the past year, boosted by holdings ranging from real estate to his Virginia Black whiskey, as well as a lucrative tour and new residency at the XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.
“Every year, we just want to get more prepared and better at touring and better at things that make money,” he told Forbes in 2013 (his average gross has since surged from $500,000 to more than $2 million per stop). “That’s pretty much my objective every year, other than making good music.”
4. Kanye West
A onetime protégé of Jay-Z, the superproducer has been making headlines recently for his Sunday Service, an invitation-only get-together mostly in Southern California that is reportedly frequented by the likes of Courtney Love and Tyler, the Creator. He took the show on the road in April for a Coachella service on Easter Sunday featuring appearances by Chance the Rapper, DMX and a gospel choir—while hawking socks and “holy spirit” sweatshirts. But selling church clothes alone won’t be enough to push West into ten-figure territory.
Despite declaring himself $53 million in debt and beseeching Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion to fund future creations in 2016, West makes his debut on this list thanks to a another patron: Adidas, which lured West and his Yeezy shoe line from Nike several years ago. Our accounting of West’s wealth is almost entirely predicated on a conservative estimate of that brand’s value. As it continues to scale up, he could one day join his sister-in-law, Kylie Jenner, as a billionaire.
“I started my business career at age 12, delivering newspapers,” Diddy explained two years ago in our centennial issue, where we named him one of the world’s greatest living business minds. “Since then, I’ve always understood that if I give the customers my best and service them differently, whether music, clothing or vodka, I’ll get a return on my hard work.”
The artist formerly known as Puff Daddy dips to No. 3 on this list as industry trends weigh on some of his holdings, including cable network Revolt and clothing line Sean John (though Diddy has sold much of his stake in the latter, he retains a sizeable piece). But Ciroc, the main driver of his fortune, is growing again after case volumes fell from all-time highs in recent years—making the impresario perhaps the most likely candidate to join Jay-Z in the billion-dollar club.
2. Dr. Dre
It’s been five years since Dr. Dre proclaimed himself a billionaire, but Forbes still doesn’t agree with the assessment made in the wake of Apple’s $3 billion 2014 purchase of his Beats By Dr. Dre headphone line. The superproducer owned an estimated 20%-25% of the company at the time; of the $2.6 billion Apple paid upfront in cash, another $295 million was earmarked to cover debt payments, leaving Dre with a little over $500 million.
Even with the vesting of his final slug of Apple stock last summer, Dre hasn’t quite made it into billionaire territory. He has spent heavily over the years on property (he paid $40 million for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s Los Angeles estate) and charitable donations (along with Beats cofounder Jimmy Iovine, he gave $70 million to start a school at USC). And with his formal involvement at Apple seemingly wrapping up, Dre will likely need to get back on the festival circuit—or start a new company—if he’s to make good on his 2014 declaration.
Though he’s hip-hop’s first billionaire, Jay-Z’s lead on the rest of the pack is even larger if his entire family fortune is taken into consideration: He and wife Beyoncé are now worth a combined $1.4 billion. So much for the notion that music is a dying business.
“To convince artists that you can’t be an artist and make money … was the greatest trick in music that people ever pulled off,” Jay-Z told Forbes in 2010. “I think the people that were making the millions said that.”
In order to compile our ranking of the richest rappers, we use the same procedures employed in the calculation of our annual billionaires list: poring over financial documents, valuing major assets, and consulting with analysts, managers, attorneys and other industry insiders.
Cover photographs: Getty Images (Dr. Dre: AP Images)
-Zack O’Malley Greenburg; Forbes Staff
The Creative In The Numbers Game
Desmond Blackmore has solidified his presence in Ghana’s afrobeats scene and is one of the few musicians to turn into a successful entertainment mogul.
It’s almost impossible to attend a party or wedding in Ghana and not be treated to one of Desmond Blackmore’s ubiquitous chart-toppers.
With hits like Personal Person, Vera and Seihor a must-have on any Ghanaian DJ’s playlist, the 32-year-old rapper known by the moniker ‘D-Black’, has managed to solidify his presence as a leading emcee in Ghana’s afrobeats scene in less than a decade.
And it isn’t just about churning out party anthems and catchy lyrics. Blackmore is also a sharp businessman, who has been building his larger-than-life stage persona into a brand that now extends to a night club, live events, apparel, content production, media and advertising.
His story is the stuff of movies. His father, a businessman who made his wealth importing agriculture machinery, had 10 children with five different women. By the time Blackmore was a teenager, his father had lost most of his wealth through bad investments.
Blackmore, along with his mother, a civil servant, and his little sister, moved to North Kaneshie, in Accra, in search of a livelihood. With a life devoid of any comfort, Blackmore had to depend on his wit and creativity to make a living and pay his own way through school.
Cue the summer of 2007. Opportunity came knocking and Blackmore decided to take it. Aphrodisiac, a night club and advertising company Blackmore was working for as an errand boy, had shut down operations and as he was leaving the office, he received a call from Coca-Cola, looking for advertising services.
The previous owner of the business advised him to take the deal if he felt he could deliver. He decided to take the chance. He registered his own company within a week and secured his first big contract with the mammoth brand.
“I have always been entrepreneurial at heart. I like numbers and I am a creative as well, so putting those two together was natural to me,” says Blackmore.
That deal paved the way for the then 20-year-old entrepreneur and exposed him to corporate Ghana. With the proceeds from the deal, he bought his first car and invested the rest into his music.
Blackmore’s is a story of dogged determination. He has gone from being homeless to becoming one of the most successful entertainers in Ghana. Case in point, in 2014, when Guinness Ghana Breweries Ltd (GGBL), a subsidiary of Diageo Plc. U.K., were looking for their official brand ambassador in Ghana, Blackmore was the only name on the list.
“D-Black is one of the few brands in Ghana’s music scene that embodies the Cîroc Vodka brand. The brand is championed by global megastars like P Diddy so we needed someone who matched the ethos of the lifestyle, flamboyance and entrepreneurship that the brand evokes and D-Black was the perfect celebrity partner to further enhance the luxury profile of Ciroc in Ghana,” says Nathaniel Ansong Manu, Head of the Luxury Brands portfolio at GGBL.
With a degree in fine arts and music from the University of Ghana as well as a brief stint studying economics at the University of Cape Coast, Blackmore had found the right combination of knowledge and talent to make his dreams of becoming a solo artist a reality.
With his cash injection from his first deal, he set out to be Ghana’s next big hip-hop artist. He decided early on in his career that he wanted his music to have international appeal and as a result, opted to rap in English, a move that was risky at a time where most of the chart toppers were singing in the local dialect.
“I met someone called Kweku T after university, who was rapping in English too. So we started recording together and we didn’t have enough money to shoot a video or anything, so we decided two pockets are better than one. We put together money and created a mixtape project and we shot three videos,” says Blackmore.
That partnership paid off. Blackmore received nominations from the prestigious Ghana Music Awards, as well as international acclaim from awards in South Africa. After a year and a half, the pair decided to go their separate ways with their individual projects. Then in 2010, he released his first solo album and embarked on a nationwide tour in Ghana.
“I won the hip-hop song of the year at the Ghana Music Awards for the first time in history as well as nominated for the BET Awards for Best African Artist. I went to Los Angeles but I didn’t win and came to New York, bought my own studio equipment, went back to Ghana, opened my own studio, then I dropped the biggest song in the country right after called Vera and the rest is history.”
Blackmore has broken boundaries in his young career as a music artist. He is one of the few musicians to transition smoothly from a successful rapper into an entertainment mogul.
He owns a record label Black Avenue Music to find fresh talent in Ghana. In 2015, he started Live Wire events, an event management company delivering corporate events, celebrity soccer matches, large concerts as well as festivals for the Ministry of Tourism in Ghana.
His early years working for Aphrodisiac gave him the experience he needed to also open his own lounge and night club, Onyx, in Ghana’s plush residential hub of Cantonments.
He also started a media and advertising company, Volcano. But Blackmore did not stop there. Spotting an opportunity in the content world, Blackmore also launched Black Avenue TV that produces movies and TV shows for some of Ghana’s biggest TV networks.
“All my companies are in the entertainment space because I wanted to provide brands with a 360-degree solution. If you want to do concerts, we have experience doing big stadium concerts or niche events, if you need a club or a lounge, you can use mine and when you need to advertise, we have a solution for that as well.”
However the hustle is not just all about making money.
“I started a record label to help those who still had not found a way to break through. It was a way of giving back to other people. So I was thinking if I spent $500 of my own money to help someone come up, it was a blessing.
“If I make my money back, great, and if I don’t, it was still a blessing. Sometimes, just providing studio time, paying for a music video to be shot by an artist who cannot afford it, will go a long way to help an artist and that is how I saw it. I have never made profit from any artist I have signed yet, it is always just about me helping them out.”
And that has been Blackmore’s greatest achievement so far, paving the way for people just like him to achieve their dreams through music.
‘If You Are An Artist, You Need To Be Out There As A Healer’
An artist and theater owner who interrogated his own cultural story.
When culture meets art at the revived Dance Umbrella Africa Festival, a rapturous applause offers the stamp of approval to the cast of Ubizo, The Calling who take their bows through the exaggerated plumes of smoke at the South African State Theatre.
Under the theme, Figure-ring – the state of dance in Africa, the annual festival which shut down a year ago, has been rebranded to incorporate a continental approach.
With over 54 shows performed, over 100 artists were given a platform to showcase their work from March 31 to April 7.
A diverse program celebrating narratives from beyond South African borders, the new home of the annual gathering encompasses a variation of dance genres, ranging from the local dance popular in townships, Isipantsula, to diverse classical contemporary performances.
READ MORE | ‘There Will Always Be A Need For Live Art’
A tribute to Africa performed by the Inkaba Theatre Productions, Ubizo, The Calling enticed the audience with a riveting set.
A man dressed in a white and blue cassock wails on his back, as he stretches his arms to the ceiling, his rhythmic movements emphasized by the sounds of wind created by a plastic pipe.
He is pleading to his ancestors for a son.
The show was directed and performed by Sibusiso Mbokazi, the artist from Durban who came to Johannesburg to pursue a career in theater. Unable to explain to his father that the arts are a recognizable career, Mbokazi was left to fend for himself in his first year of studies in Johannesburg.
“I survived with a two-liter coke and a loaf of bread for a week. It was that hard, but my mother saw the passion and love. Today, every time I go back to KwaZulu-Natal, every high school wants my attention because they have that understanding that I worked hard,” he says.
Today, he owns a theater company with the focus of raising awareness of the arts in his hometown and communities across the country.
With Inkaba Theatre Productions, learners are given a platform to showcase their talent at a much younger age than he was at the beginning of his career.
A performance alongside South African entertainment personality Somizi Mhlongo changed his parents’ perception of the arts.
“We need to invite our parents; we need to be open with them too,” he says.
Mbokazi’s work is deeply embedded in spirituality which speaks to his personal and artistic life. He says art shouldn’t only be created for money but for passion.
“One thing you lose when you create your craft for money is the focus of your creativity. You will lose the audacity of your work. You will lose the understanding of who you are in your craft work. If you are an artist, you need to be out there as a healer…
“We create work with a storyline and a motive but the audience may read it differently.”
Performed for the first time in 2013, Ubizo, The Calling, amalgamates Christianity and African spirituality in order to interrogate misconceptions around rituals.
“When you are called by your ancestors, it becomes a calling. I realized that people think being called by your ancestors is stigmatized. If you trace it back, you will be told that religion and ancestry has not been separated,” he says.
He feels African artists need to go back and interrogate their own cultural stories in a way that will celebrate the authenticity of the continent.
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It starts with remembering, he says.
“We are running out of an understanding who we are because we do not have [a place] where we are teaching and giving the understanding of our own culture. To embody and remember them, is something we need to start teaching,” he says.
Mbokazi argues that a lack of self-love is what stands in the way of the future of most black artists.
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