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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 11/26/21

Guests: Libby Casey, Lil Baby, Fran Lebowitz


Literary icon Fran Lebowitz discusses talking politics and the insurrection. COVID`s economic impact is examined. Lil Baby discusses police reform and Black Lives Matter.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. Happy holidays.

We have a big show for you tonight, including a special report on COVID`s economic impact as we look ahead, with so many eying the end of this pandemic, and my exclusive interview with a music sensation talking about some of the issues that have been back in the news recently, including civil rights, police reform, and his meeting with Vice President Harris.

Also, tonight, literary icon Fran Lebowitz on THE BEAT talking politics and the insurrection. We always love to hear from Fran. And that`s coming up this hour.

We begin now, though, with COVID, and how to stay safe going towards these holidays, what to expect as we turn the year, and how the pandemic may ultimately end, according to experts.

Vaccines are widely available now for children, booster shots approved for all adults. These are new developments that can really curb COVID in this ninth inning, but experts warning about a winter surge and how that correlates with higher risk in areas that have lagging vaccination rates.

Dr. Fauci says everyone`s got to do their part.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: This is what you -- happen when you get to a winter season, when the weather gets cold and people go indoor. It`s not rocket science.

It`s highly predictable. And that`s the reason why we got to get people vaccinated who are not vaccinated, boost the people who are already vaccinated.


MELBER: America`s doctor saying, you don`t need to be a doctor, let alone a rocket scientist, to understand that there are other associated risks with the gatherings, especially when people are more indoors in the cold weather.

And COVID will also become what it has been all last year, as a flash point, as long as this pandemic is in our politics in the news. It`s also having an interesting impact on a president who has, according to the experts, handled so many parts of this process better than his predecessor. Yet Joe Biden`s approval on COVID now is around 47 percent. That is a change. Look at how much higher it was in June.

The Delta variant, supply chain issues, and many other problems have Americans feeling down about this stuff, even as some parts of the data suggest it`s getting better.

We now are joined by Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder of The Advancing Health Equity and MSNBC medical contributor, and Libby Casey from "The Washington Post."

Welcome to both of you.

I will save the polling for Libby.

But, Doctor, when you look at the good news mixed with the frustration and the precautions that some people have to take, especially in low-vaccine areas, with the indoor gatherings, what is most important to keep in mind this season?

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, thank you so much for having me on, Ari.

People have to understand that we are at the beginning of another surge, so we have to use all of those layers of mitigation that we know actually work quite well. People need to get vaccinated. If you`re fully vaccinated, and you`re eligible to be boosted, get boosted.

Rapid testing is another underutilized strategy that should be used, especially around the holidays, when people want to get together with loved ones. Traveling itself is not dangerous. It really is what happens at the end, when you when you arrive there and you`re socializing.

And so these are the things that people have to think about, But it`s possible to socialize safely, especially in a surge, but making sure that you`re using all the tools in your toolbox to stay safe.

MELBER: Libby, what do you think about the gap there, that we know people previously thought more of Biden`s COVID handling? Is that a policy assessment of how he`s doing or a reality assessment of the fact that it`s -- we`re going into another COVID Thanksgiving -- we`re coming in out of another COVID Thanksgiving, going into another COVID Christmas season, and people don`t like it?

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Ari, the president is the person people blame when they`re frustrated and upset. It`s easy to vent in a poll at the person in charge.

But the administration really wants to focus on what can be done next, right? And one of those big things is boosters. And with this ability now for Americans to get that booster shot, which some health experts are saying might end up being like the third shot really in this course of shots that we need to be the healthiest, that it could sort of help with sort of the durability in our ability to get through this winter.

Also, as more families are able to finally get their 5-year-olds vaccinated and older, that can also potentially be sort of an elevator, a mood booster this season, something that takes away some of the fear and frustration.

We`re looking at a ways out to get the youngest people vaccinated. Dr. Fauci and other experts are saying that may be the spring of 2022. But all of these developments can move things forward.

Now, what the Biden administration sees is this difficult winter ahead, but the more that Americans can get fully protected through boosters, the better off people will be.


There`s this sort of false debate going on about boosters or trying to get the unvaccinated vaccinated. But what experts say is that you can do both at once. Frankly, you have to be doing both at once, because we are seeing an uptick in hospitalizations in people whose vaccines are waning.


And, Libby, take a listen to Dr. Fauci talking about how the politics have so turned on the science.


FAUCI: Because I`m representing science, I get attacked, merely because I`m telling people they need to get vaccinated, merely because I`m telling people they need to wear a mask.

We need to take all of this ideological, political nonsense out of the picture and realizing that the writing`s on the wall.


MELBER: Libby?

CASEY: Well, you look at what`s happening in Florida, right?

Governor DeSantis has made it his mission, his cause celebre really, to go against everything that Dr. Fauci and that the Biden administration are trying to do to help protect Americans from the pandemic. Ironically, about 61 percent of people in Florida are actually vaccinated. And that`s a little bit higher than the national average, according to the CDC.

But DeSantis has made this his cause to -- freedom and independence and trying to push against things. A reminder, he`s up for reelection. He`s seen as a major contender for the next presidential race representing the Republicans.

And so this politicization is something that Dr. Fauci can`t control. The Biden administration can`t control it. All they can try to do is sort of thread the needle through this very difficult situation.

I mean, Ari, a year ago -- and I`d love to hear Dr. Blackstock talk about this -- a year ago, to compare where we are now, to think that there are vaccines, and not just that, but that I could take my 5-year-old to finally get vaccinated last week, I mean, it brought tears to my eyes, because it was like we were finally moving forward as a family here.

But just the fact of progress gets lost when we start getting in these fights over the politics of it, which health experts, including people I talk to who work at hospitals, are just so frustrated about, to the point of just sort of being numb to it now.

MELBER: Doctor?


No, I agree. I mean, I think it is just so incredibly frustrating and disappointing to see how both science and public health measures have been politicized. So, we know that all these strategies, they work together very, very well and very effectively. But because of the politicization of the pandemic since the very beginning, a piece of cloth, a mask is seen as a sort of a cultural war.

And so what we`re seeing is a significant percentage of the population, we need them to get vaccinated, and they`re refusing to get vaccinated. So, although we are having progress -- like, we have 5-to-11-year-olds -- I got my 7-year-old vaccinated recently, and that was very emotional.

But, at the same time, we do have a long way to go. And the question is, how are we going to get there? How are we going to get this other 42 percent of the U.S. population vaccinated? We will be able to get younger children in a few months, but what about the adults that are currently eligible to be vaccinated and are still holding out?

And I think that`s where the vaccine mandates come in. We have the OSHA vaccine mandate being held up in the appeals court. But I and several other health care professionals, we penned a letter to businesses really recommending that they voluntarily agree on to this OSHA mandate.

I mean, the only way that we`re going to get through this is if we can get between 80 to 90 percent of the population vaccinated. And I think mandates are the way to go.


And then you go to, what does that projected ending look like? Doctor, you`re a very busy professional, like Libby. I don`t know. Did you ever use to watch "Seinfeld"?

BLACKSTOCK: Yes, back in the day, yes.


MELBER: Back in the day.

Well, Seinfeld you saw always say that sitcoms have to resolve themselves in every half-hour episode. And he explained that that`s because people go to the sitcom to have it happen and end. And he said, if I wanted a long, boring story with seemingly no end, I have my life.

And I think that`s how people have begun to feel about COVID, that something that was first very scary and completely unpredictable -- then it was grinding on. Then there were these steps, as you just mentioned, the vaccine progress and others, where people -- I`m not talking about maybe super uninformed people or some of the fringe extreme politics, but people who just pay some attention -- said, oh, OK, great, so it`s going to end.

And then you still have -- here we are going into another holiday season, Christmas, New Year`s in pandemic, and people want to know how it`s going to end. To use the Seinfeld concept, they don`t want it to be a long story that grinds on forever.

And so I`m going to play a little bit of what Fauci says about this and then your view as well of, how do you answer that question that hangs over all of this?


Take a listen here, everyone, to Dr. Fauci.


FAUCI: This will end, Bill. We are not going to be going through this indefinitely.

How quickly we get to the end depends on us. If we can get most of the people who are eligible to be boosted boostered, we can go a long way to making 2022 much more of a normal year than what we seen in 2021.


MELBER: People feel like they have heard that before.

So, on this, since it is the holiday season here, I`m going to ask it this way, which is, on the scale of Fauci, this could really end next year, to Seinfeld, you may have the endless, boring story with no end, where are you right now?

BLACKSTOCK: I think it`s good to be -- and I know this is an unpopular opinion and people don`t want to hear this -- I think we`re going to be in this for another few years.

The reason why I say that is because I think it`s going to be a while before we can get that other 42 percent of the population vaccinated. We have a lot of holdouts because of the politicization.

I also think the other thing that we have to think about is that we still have 1,000 people dying a day from COVID. And so while we have made a lot of progress, there`s still a lot of work to be done.

MELBER: Right. And just...

BLACKSTOCK: And I like to say -- go ahead.

MELBER: But just to underscore, when he`s -- Fauci saying maybe end of `22.

When you say years, you`re talking about, say, 2023. Your medical view is, we would still be in the throes of some of these problems, these precautions, and certain spikes around the country?

BLACKSTOCK: Yes, I do think so.

I mean, I think, though, there are going to be definitely regional outbreaks, because there are areas that have very, very low vaccination rates. I think there are going to be areas with the high vaccination rates that are going to be doing quite well and going back to normal.

But when you look at the U.S. as a whole, I think it`ll be a while before everything gets back to normal, because we have a very highly contagious variant, the Delta variant, that`s still out there. We had 100,000 cases just yesterday of COVID.

And so thinking about how long it`s going to take, yes, we may be wearing masks until the end of next year or maybe early 2023. But I think the question is, like, how much acceptable level -- how much is the acceptable level of death? How much are we going to take?

And I urge the Biden administration to take as many precautions as they can. So, push that OSHA vaccine mandate through. We only have seven states that are -- that have indoor mask mandates.

I mean, we really need to be following those public health measures that work well.


BLACKSTOCK: I think, if we can do that, we could save lives, and the end of this will be nearer in sight.

MELBER: Well, what you just said, in your medical opinion, is a huge bummer.

But around here, Doctor, we don`t blame the messenger. We welcome the messenger. And then we can all think about the message and the facts and what, if anything, people want to do about it.

So, happy holidays, with the doctor telling you buckle up for a whole lot longer, unless people are really vigilant.

I want to thank Dr. Blackstock and our reporter here on the block, Libby Casey.

Thanks to both of you.

BLACKSTOCK: Thanks, Ari.

CASEY: You know, Ari, I would just say, one thing the Biden administration can do is define, what do they think the end looks like?

Because a lot of us are trying to figure out, what does that mean in my daily life? What does it mean for my community or my children or my elderly parents? And so maybe part of the conversation we`re going to be having in this new year coming up is, what does an end really look like?

And does it go out with a bang, or does it go out with sort of a Seinfeld whimper? We will see.

MELBER: There you go. Definitely not a show about nothing.


MELBER: Thanks to both of you.

Let me tell everyone what`s coming up. Fran Lebowitz on THE BEAT talking politics and a lot more. We always love to hear from her. Our special report on the future of pandemic economics. And, later, we get into police reform and Vice President Harris with a special guest.

Stay with us.



MELBER: The January 6 probe has been heating up, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon indicted for refusing to cooperate in any way with the House investigation, other aides grappling with subpoenas.

The insurrection has, of course, been a huge part of the political divide this year. It`s one of the topics we tackle in our discussion with the great writer and humorous Fran Lebowitz.


MELBER: You have famously said there are things that you just don`t trust or aren`t that interested in for the way they`re presented in American culture.

So, we have some older -- older stuff. Here`s a -- back in the day, you were talking about the news and its limitations. Take a look.


QUESTION: Why don`t you like television news, since everybody seems to?

FRAN LEBOWITZ, WRITER AND SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: It`s not just TV? I don`t like newspapers either. It`s I don`t like news. It`s not TV news that I don`t like.

It never tells you anything important.

QUESTION: It doesn`t?

LEBOWITZ: No. I figure, if something really important happened, my mother would call.


LEBOWITZ: And news is never about the things people want to know about.


MELBER: News is never about the things people really want to know about.

Still true?


And, really, it wasn`t that true then, although it was true I thought that. But...

MELBER: You thought that then, and now you think that younger you was incorrect?

LEBOWITZ: I was incorrect, although, of course, I mean, I`m looking at me. If you look at it yourself from like 100 years ago, all you can think is, is that me?

I don`t know what year. That was probably the late `70s. So there are eras where...

MELBER: Seventy-eight.

LEBOWITZ: So, OK. That`s the late `70s.

MELBER: No, I`m confirming for you.


MELBER: I`m doing that news thing. It`s annoying.



LEBOWITZ: There are eras where the news is more important than others.

Or -- I mean, unfortunately, lately, in the last several years, the news has been unduly important, OK? So I would prefer -- and I`m sure I`m not alone in this -- to not have to be on the news 24 hours a day.

I mean, since the last presidential election, I pay less attention to the news than I was compelled to pay for five years, so that if -- I know there are people who are just on the news all the time and interest in the news all the time.

But when the news is horrible by the minute, and also threatening by the minute, I would guess that the periods that people pay most attention to the news are the worst periods in history.

So I would prefer to pay a little less attention.

MELBER: I`m going to agree with you, like I did before, but it`s not a correction. It`s just building.


One of the most watched news days ever was January 6.

LEBOWITZ: I`m sure.

MELBER: Which was a horrific day, a shanda, right, for the nation.

LEBOWITZ: Horrible.

And I -- at first, I was in my living room reading. And a friend called me and said -- I have a friend who has the television on 24 hours a day -- called me and said: "Are you watching this? They`re going into the Capitol."

I didn`t know she was talking about. I said: "So, what are you -- so what? What are you talking about?"

I said: "I think people are allowed in the Capitol. I visited the Capitol when I was a kid. What do you mean they`re going in the Capitol?"

I mean, it was one of the most shocking things I have ever seen in my life. And of all -- I mean, there was no aspect to it that wasn`t shocking.

But, to me, to see the Confederate Flag in the Capitol was stomach-turning. It was just -- it was horrible, horrible.

And, of course, now, as you`re aware, of course, the Republicans, it`s like, this didn`t happen, or this was something else. This was a New Year`s Eve party, or this was -- these were actually lefties.

And, yes, it was horrible. And fact that they refuse to investigate it -- it`s always been interesting to me that shameful and shameless mean almost the same thing. So, these people are shameful and shameless. They just don`t care.

Mitch McConnell probably knew when he made that speech about how the president was responsible for this, and, two minutes later, the president was not responsible, he knew that people were going to put those side by side. He didn`t care.

MELBER: Didn`t care.

LEBOWITZ: They don`t care. They don`t -- they`re -- they care about nothing, except retaining the power that they have at the moment.

They don`t care about anything else. Even like this trying to keep people from voting, they`re basically saying, we`re trying to keep certain people from voting, because, if we don`t keep these people from, we could never win.

And even Trump said that. Well, the Republicans can never win if everyone`s allowed to vote.

I don`t know what to say about it that anyone else hasn`t said about it. I mean, that was one of the most shocking things I have ever seen, OK? And I have seen numerous shocking things. I`m not -- I`m not the young girl you saw in that clip.


LEBOWITZ: So -- and I don`t think I would ever not have that picture in my mind.

That guy who put his feet on Nancy Pelosi`s desk, this is an image like -- well, you`re not old enough, but the second I saw that, something came into my mind, which is that, when I was a teenager, there were all these protests at Columbia University, and SDS, which was Students for Democratic Action or whatever it was called.

MELBER: Society.

LEBOWITZ: Society.

They had a big strike at Columbia, and they broke into the president`s office. And there was a guy who had a picture of himself taken, let himself, but with his feet on the desk of the president smoking a cigar.

Now, he was older than me. So I was a teenager. And even as a young teenager, I looked at that picture, and I thought, you`re a jerk. I mean, just as -- you`re a clown. That`s like the stupidest thing.

And when I saw that guy with his feet on the desk of Nancy Pelosi, I thought the same thing. You`re a clown. This guy was well into his 50s, it looked like to me. And when he said, this is my desk, I thought, first of all, you don`t have a desk. Not only is this not your desk. I`m guessing you`re not a desk guy.

I`m guessing the last time you had a desk, you were in detention in junior high school.

It was incredibly angering. And I think that`s what he did that.

And he has the same attitude as a teenager. It`s a teenage thing. A lot of this stuff is adolescent, except that they`re not kids, and they have guns. And they are allowed to vote. And so they`re very dangerous, in a way that teenagers generally are not very dangerous.

MELBER: And do you see that in the current moment as overrepresented by largely male and often a white male movement that is terrified of losing its station, its historical position?

LEBOWITZ: Yes, of course, that`s what it is. It`s fear.

I mean, these people in general are the most fearful people I have ever even heard of in my life. This thing with guns, every time you see them on the news or whatever or read in the paper, they`re always saying: I am entitled to defend myself. I`m entitled to defend my family.

And I think: Who`s after you? I mean, I lived alone in New York City as a 21-year-old girl in an apartment that not -- forget had a doorman, didn`t even have an intercom system, OK? New York was incredibly dangerous then.

It never occurred to me to get a gun. I wasn`t that scared. I wasn`t scared enough to get a gun. I would never even thought of a gun.

MELBER: You were scared enough to pay more to live in the Village?

LEBOWITZ: Yes, but not scared enough to have a gun. A gun is -- to me, truthfully, a gun is a stupid thing. It`s just -- it`s a sign of stupidity. It`s a stupid thing.


MELBER: Writers do have a way with words.


Now, that was some of the serious stuff. We also had fun discussing Lebowitz`s friendship and work with Scorsese.

Here are a few of those highlights.


MELBER: New York.

LEBOWITZ: I mean, that`s too broad a question, I`m sorry. New York what? New York.

MELBER: New York City?

LEBOWITZ: Yes, yes, New York. Yes, that`s my answer.

MELBER: Martin Scorsese.



LEBOWITZ: All the things that brought me here today were all the things I was punished for my entire childhood.

Frances asks too many questions. Frances speaks out of turn.

MELBER: What did a driving a cab teach you?

LEBOWITZ: That I hate to work.

It is true that books, to me, I have a deep reverence for.

MELBER: Your next book will come out if?

LEBOWITZ: If I write it.


LEBOWITZ: I hope I didn`t give the impression that I have a lot of unpublished work. I don`t.



LEBOWITZ: The truth is very rarely positive.

MELBER: You seem constitutionally negative.

LEBOWITZ: They would say, we have the results of your COVID test. You`re negative. And I would say, I know that.


LEBOWITZ: Being judgmental, to me, just means I have standards.


MELBER: That`s just some of my extensive conversation with Fran.

It`s part of our "Summit Series" on THE BEAT, where we talk with leaders at the summits of their fields. I encourage you to go check out entire conversation on YouTube. You can look it up on YouTube. Just search for "Melber Fran."

And you can also find some of our other online exclusives that we try to share with you. We have in-depth interviews, culture and a lot of other stuff.

So, you can go to @AriMelber to find me and check it out.

Again, thanks to Fran for that special conversation.

Coming up. I want to share with you our look ahead at how COVID is affecting the job market, the economy and specifically, as people gather for the holidays, the younger generation. What do students and people in their 20s and 30s do with how their lives have been upended by this pandemic?

That`s a special report I want to share with you on Generation P when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: Turning to our special report this evening, the economic and cultural impact of COVID on this younger generation and how American society will face this for years to come.

It`s also worth taking stock of how this has affected what might come to be known as the pandemic generation.

Now, this is not a competition. Everyone knows certain groups did not pay the most with their lives if they were under -- as I said earlier, under about 60.

But, as a demographic fact, this crisis is hitting young people in their particularly formative years, upending not only, of course, their social lives, as those media reports emphasized, but a key period for learning and developing and deciding on life and career goals that may shape decades ahead in their lives.

And while older Americans are more likely to be in long-term relationships or family units, many people under 25 are likely to have braved a lot of this more alone, while being told to avoid people, which right out the gate raises a particular challenge for these young people`s outlook and health and mental health.


JORDYN BLACKBURN, YOUNG PERSON: The stress kind of just kept piling on.

DYLLAN BLACKBURN, YOUNG PERSON: I was kind of upset and depressed in the middle of quarantine.

MARLA FREZZA, FORMER BARTENDER: What I`m experienced to do no longer pertains to the world that we`re living in right now.

TRACI NEAL, FORMER PRE-KINDERGARTEN AIDE: The opportunities are not there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isolation, depression, anxiety, mental health crises, courtesy of a college experience stripped almost entirely of campus life, tradition and structure, on top of a pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do know three people that have taken their life the past few months just because of this situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s crippling, so I`m going through this quarantine alone.


MELBER: For America to rebound, this pandemic generation needs to rebound after not only the upheaval of a once-in-a-century-type challenge, but also, it turns out, after some larger systemic problems that were already hitting young people in America more than past generations.



SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Ninety-five percent of baby boomers did better than their parents. It`s now just a coin toss for millennials. We have a real crises in our country.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): A ticking time bomb for our economy.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): At a time when the middle class is disappearing.

DAVE RAMSEY, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, THE LAMPO GROUP, INC. : Thirty-three percent, one in three, 25-to-29-year-olds live with their parents or grandparents.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Fewer millennials are entering the middle class than previous generations.


MELBER: This is not about whether these younger people work hard. This is about what work is available. So, generation pandemic already had this uphill battle before the pandemic, which also hit these young people harder.

Younger people are more likely to work at in person jobs, which, of course, have been hit. At one point, up to a quarter of them were unemployed. That is a rate of job loss that at its peak was worse than older workers, people under 25 twice as likely to be without work because of COVID than every other adult group.

The majority of young Americans report regular feelings of anxiety about all of this financial stuff, younger people more vulnerable to housing instability. And over one out of 10 adults have lost homes, one out of five falling behind on rent or mortgage payments.

This is a tough picture. Facing a virus that mostly kills the elderly, it is still logical that many policies put them first.

This virus was a stress test of our government, our politics, our society, our collaboration, our collective empathy. We needed a majority to prize empathy and safety for a virus that primarily killed seniors, which means, if you weren`t a senior, you had to do things empathetically for other people.

But now as we turn towards renewal in the years ahead, we also need empathy for a situation that, as you have seen tonight, is measurably harder in some ways on young people, who had less than in the bank to handle this, who may take longer to rebound it from mid-career people with homes and savings.

And yet, we need young people to continue this grand experiment. In fact, it goes even broader than that. Many are taught to respect our elders because of their experience and their earned station in life, which is good counsel.

But we should also remember to listen to younger people, if for no other reason than that they are the ones with the ability to see anew, because experience is good, but it also brings us limits in what we are able to see.

And that`s got to be true for building this world ahead of us, with so many things changing.

It`s a point that`s actually been made throughout our history by some of our younger presidents, who reflected on some of their even younger supporters. And it might be easy to forget now, but, back then, when he was a first-term senator, Barack Obama trailed his rival by a lot when he made his first bid to run for president.

At the time, it was well-documented many older voters initially thought Obama could not win, or it wasn`t his time yet. And then that began to shift with who? With young voters. They immediately saw something that many of the rest of us didn`t. And then they did more. They prodded their parents and others to join them.

How do we know? Well, that was polling, there were stories, there was reporting. But it was a big enough deal that it is something the newly elected President Barack Obama reflected on publicly when he trotted out on inauguration night, on that big night, to what was then called the Youth Ball to share how he knew that and what it meant for the future.

So, on this journey tonight, thinking about this set of generations and the youth, he gets the last word.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before.


OBAMA: Where they imagine bigotry, they imagine togetherness.

Where there`s disease, they imagine a public health system. I can`t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said: I was kind of skeptical. But then my daughter, she -- she wouldn`t budge. She just told me I needed to vote for Obama.


OBAMA: And so a new generation inspired previous generations. And that`s how change happens in America.



MELBER: Coming up next, we are joined by a global music sensation. His name is Lil Baby. His music is popular among all generations around the world, but he`s also dug into police reform, Black Lives Matter and recently met with none other than Vice President Harris. That`s next.


And our conversations with artists, musicians and cultural icons and leaders at the summits of their fields. That`s a series we have told you about.

And we have highlights of several you will recognize, from Gates to Sharon Stone, later tonight.


MELBER: As Americans take stock of this year in the holiday season, 2021 was a lot like 2020, debates over policing, civil rights and racism.

And the hip-hop artists Lil Baby has released a BLM anthem that -- we have checked the numbers -- is one of the most streamed, most-listened-to Black Lives Matter songs of this era.

It went double platinum over the summer. And I sat down with him. This is his first national TV news interview, basically ever, to discuss these issues. And we discussed many topics, including what inspired him to write that political song.


LIL BABY, RAPPER: At the time, when everything going on, everybody like, Baby, don`t say nothing.

I`m a rapper. You know whey mean? Like, it would be accepted more when you rap it than just typing it, like...

MELBER: You speak through your art.

LIL BABY: Yes, I speak through my art.

So, it was like -- even like, people like you ain`t -- I`m like, no, I ain`t posting nothing. Like, it don`t work like that, like, because I really feel some type of way about the whole situation. So I`m not going to be, like, a George Floyd advocate only. You feel me?

Well, OK, this happened to George Floyd, so I`m going to go this way. It`s like deeper than that with me. You feel me? Like, I know people personally who got killed by the police.


Posting, that don`t really do nothing for the situation.

George Floyd`s niece is like my man Stack`s god-daughter. So, in a time of, like, uproar about that situation, I took it upon myself to just speak on the whole thing.

MELBER: Can I just read a couple of the lines from you?

LIL BABY: Definitely.

MELBER: You say: "Every video I see on my conscience, I got power. Now I got to say something. Corrupt police been the problem where I`m from, but I`d be lying if I said it was all of them."

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: Why was it important to you to also speak to the nuance, the gray?

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: Because you know, everybody knows a lot of these things, sometimes, they become just completely one-sided or black or white.

LIL BABY: Right. Right.

MELBER: But you`re going out of your way to say, this police brutality is wrong. And then you say it`s not all of them.

LIL BABY: Right.

Because even I had been through the system. Well, it ain`t all of them. Something -- you could have a group of six of them that stop you, and two of them just tripping. Like, four of them might be cool. The other two might be tripping. They might be like a brotherhood or whatever. They got to go with them. But it don`t -- really don`t be all of them.

Man, it`s like anything. Everybody ain`t going to be bad with anything. Everybody ain`t -- some people -- some of them are -- some people -- it`s just like life, period. Some people got good hearts and some people, police, them ain`t the ones that -- but then I just, like, some people are being, like, I`m, like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) police, period.

And I ain`t on that, because it`s -- they`re there for a reason. You know what I`m saying?

MELBER: And so you said, with the Floyd family, you went to the White House.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: You talked to Vice President Harris.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: How did that go?

LIL BABY: It went perfect, actually.

And I just was going just to go, honestly. I didn`t even go to talk to nobody. but it was like a chance that I wasn`t going to turn down. I turn down a lot of stuff, like...

MELBER: I bet.

LIL BABY: Hey, you want to do this show? I`m like, no, no.


LIL BABY: You want to go to the White House? I`m like, yes, I`m going.

MELBER: Yes, you`re going to go to that.

LIL BABY: Like, definitely.

MELBER: You are very humble about it.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: Right? You are not flexing on it.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: What did you think of Vice President Harris? She is the first woman of color to ever be at that level in the White House.

LIL BABY: Yes. She is an amazing woman. You know, like, even then, you would be thinking of president and everything from, like, being young, because, like, you see it on TV. And it`s like a myth. It`s like on news.

But just, like, me being a big rapper, everybody is regular people. So, it`s like I am sitting down with a regular person, and she is talking like a regular person. Everybody is regular people. You know what I mean? We had, like, a regular conversation.

It was a lady in the White House. I was sitting at the table. And then she asked them, like, Lil Baby? I`m like, yes. They was like yes.

Then she was, how you get here? She was like, how you get here? She was like, I done reach out to you like six, seven times, and like so you could come to the White House.

MELBER: Oh, wow.

LIL BABY: Like, seven times. And you was like, you ain`t trying to be no politician.

MELBER: Is there anything you have learned on this recent journey these last four years that you wish you knew when you started?

LIL BABY: Everything. I come from what they call the trap.


LIL BABY: And it`s really a trap. That`s why they call it a trap.

Like, you be trapped. You don`t know a lot of stuff. You know what goes on inside the trap; 24 years, I been outside the trap. And now I am in the world. So, it`s like, if I knew any of this a long time ago, I could go a whole lot of routes. Like, it`s everything.


MELBER: You can find the entire exclusive interview on YouTube. Just search "Melber and Lil Baby" and see the rest of that conversation. We showed you some of it, but there`s more as we spent time in his studio.

Now coming up, what do Bill Gates, Sharon Stone and the singer J. Balvin have in common?

Well, they`re all part of our special series here on THE BEAT. I want to show you some of what Sharon Stone and others told me right after this.



MELBER: Now on THE BEAT, we turn to something that we think is pretty special, sharing some of the extra conversations we have had with leaders at the top of their fields in culture, technology and business, people like Bill Gates and Anne Wojcicki, reflecting on so many of the issues that they tackle in their own business and world, like the rise of misinformation, issues with vaccines, health care inequities.

Take a look.


BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Both myself and Dr. Fauci have featured in conspiracy theories.

Like, one says that Dr. Fauci is trying to make money off of these vaccines and various negative things about me. There, you`re encouraging people not to trust the advice on masks or taking the vaccine, and that could be damaging.

It`s a new phenomena. I don`t know, will it hurt the vaccine uptake? It`s a completely unexpected phenomena. And, sadly, a lot of it`s based on false information.

ANNE WOJCICKI, CEO, 23ANDME: Health care in many ways is the original fake news.

I think that this country really needs to invest in scientific education. People are still confused about vaccines and autism, when it`s been -- it`s been refuted so many times, how safe those vaccines are and that they are not associated with autism.

When I look at those numbers about vaccine hesitancy today, to me, that is illustrative of a lack of scientific knowledge and a lack of trust of the health care system.

GATES: Well, it`s pretty stunning that the infection rate and death rate in minorities has been over twice as high.

Sadly, I`m not stunned with the idea that the inner-city schools were the least prepared with Internet connections and training in order to do online education.


And so the gap between the suburban schools and the inner-city schools, which was already very large and a terrible inequity, it`s been more dramatic in this last year than ever. And so we have got to reinvest in those schools.

J. BALVIN, MUSICIAN: I had COVID, and it almost killed me.

And I have, like, kind of post-traumatic disorder with -- stress disorder with the COVID because it really hit me so hard. and I`m always like, I don`t want to get this again.

I`m really concerned about my countries, too, because we don`t have the whole access. And it`s so sad for me to see young people that were the healthiest, and they die from COVID, you know? And they were way healthier than me.



MELBER: We just heard from people who have large platforms or followings, including J. Balvin, trying to take that influence to spread some of these important messages about humanity and facts.

I have also discussed related issues with some other music icons that I bet people like Jon Bon Jovi and Sheryl Crow, who talked about their approach to both art and social values.


SHERYL CROW, MUSICIAN: My first record was banned at Walmart because we wrote about -- or I wrote about guns.

The people at Walmart to the -- to my record level proposed that, if I changed the lyric to a different discount center, that they would carry it.

I just knew that there was no way I was going to wake up in the morning and face myself and feel OK about having done the deed. And I have had the opportunity and, to be honest, the good fortune to have had several of these experiences throughout my career.

And I can only say I`m still here and I`m still writing.

MELBER: I just want to read from "American Reckoning" and hear from you about what you`re telling us.

You say: "(EXPLETIVE DELETED) damn those eight long minutes, lying face -- down in cuffs on the ground. Bystanders pleaded for mercy, as one cop shoved a kid in the crowd. When did a judge and a jury become a badge and a knee?"

Tell us that song.

JON BON JOVI, MUSICIAN: When you`re a witness to history and you`re talking about something that happened in the day and age in which you`re living, you better get it right.

But it is America`s reckoning. This time, the Black Lives Matter movement has really taken a whole around the globe. You saw the reaction in the streets worldwide.


MELBER: Someone that I got to sit down with that is known to just about everyone in America is the actress Sharon Stone.

We discussed many things, including her views on winning awards, while facing down misogyny in Hollywood and across America and the world.

It`s a theme we have heard from many of the people we talk to in the arts, basically trying to deal with the world as it is and also change it. Take Clive Davis, one of the most legendary music executives out there and how he worked with a young P. Diddy to try to actually change the very industry they were both in, and drive rap into the mainstream culture.


CLIVE DAVIS, MUSIC PRODUCER: He was, I think, 21 at the time. He was an executive that had worked at Uptown Records. I mean, he was not famous.

And he said: "You have got to admit that, not me personally, but you have got to help me get top 40 to admit hip-hop."

Most people never thought that rap would dominate top 40 or even be prominent in mainstream pop top 40. And -- but I bought into that vision.

We did cross over.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: And the winner is Sharon Stone for "Casino."


SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: And no one is more surprised than me.

It`s -- OK, it`s a miracle.




STONE: Oh, it`s so touching to see that.

It meant everything to me. I mean, I -- that`s so touching.

I`m not the person people pick. I`m like the very -- I`m like the dark of darkest horses. And I kind of didn`t know what was going on. And Tom Hanks grabbed me by the arms. And he went: "You deserve this. And they want a good show. Don`t cry."

And I went: "Oh."

MELBER: He said, "Don`t cry"?



STONE: And -- because they want a good show. Like, you deserve this. Like, go get it.


MELBER: "You deserve this," a powerful moment there shared by Sharon Stone.

Now, I want to make sure you understand here, as I have mentioned, all of these are part of our interview series, which is that Mavericks program I told you about, and something new that we launched during pandemic, the Summit Series.

So, we really think this is a chance to use this TV show, this community that we have with you, THE BEAT viewers, to also go deeper, because many of these interviews, as you can see, are taped when I sit down with people, and we have these longer conversations. We air some of it.


The rest is online for anyone to see any time for free. You don`t even need a cable news subscription.

And with that in mind, take a look at some more highlights.


J. BALVIN: I know music is the way I can connect on a different way with the people.

BON JOVI: Do not succumb to fads and fashions. Unless you`re true to who you are, it`s not going to resonate.

CROW: It`s the moments where I stood up and spoke my truth that I will forever be proud of.

RUSS, MUSICIAN: Doubt can`t exist in a creative mind.

MELBER: Do you see yourself as a motivational speaker?

RUSS: No. I just speak and I`m motivational.


STONE: I have a little rap here for you.

MELBER: You have a rap?

STONE: I could have been zooming.


STONE: But I wanted to be in the room in.

MELBER: In a word or a sentence, your microwave dinners that we have heard about.

GATES: Very dry.


LEBOWITZ: Being judgmental, to me, just means I have standards.

WOJCICKI: The world changes because of people.

Massive societal change is 100 percent possible, but it`s -- it comes because of you.


MELBER: Those are just some highlights from these in-depth conversations with leaders in their fields and cultural icons.

You can watch all of them now. You can go to MSNBC`s YouTube channel and watch the playlist, "Conversations With Ari."

The link will also be pinned there at the top of our Twitter page. So, we want you to be able to find all of this if you`re interested.

Thanks for joining us on this special edition of THE BEAT.

Happy holidays. And I will see you back here on Monday.