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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/12/21

Guests: Lil Baby, Julia Ioffe


The U.S. sends 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to aid in the withdrawal. COVID surges in places where Republican leaders are actively opposing safety measures. New reporting emerges from inside the Matt Gaetz open sex trafficking probe. Rudy Giuliani looks for ways to make money. Lil Baby discusses his music and his meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

Later tonight, we have a report on the news out of Afghanistan, as the U.S. sends 3,000 troops there.

But we begin with the crisis at home, as COVID surges in places where Republican leaders are actively opposing safety measures. Take Mississippi, where hospitals are close to failure.

We were going to play something there. We don`t have it.

But let me tell you part of what we`re learning. We`re seeing lines outside hospitals. We`re seeing scenes where people basically are doing triage because things are overflowing.

So, this is 2021, but the scenes reminiscent of early 2020, when there was no warning at the time for the scale of this pandemic. So, what I was going to tell you about, Mississippi hospitals, overflowing wards into the parking lots.

Republican governors have been outwardly continuing their stand in many places again safety measures. Another grim sign that echoes early 2020. Well, take a look at a headline, 911 so overwhelmed COVID-related calls for help in ambulances in some places that county officials are formerly urging people to avoid calling 911 at all, which is a scary thing to think about when you need 911 for emergencies.

Now, that`s a county in Florida, where, as we have been reporting, Governor DeSantis is facing record hospitalizations, doubling down on his defiance and finding, well, some defiance in return. Schools say they will follow safety measures, regardless of his attempted ban, or, over in Texas, Greg Abbott, suing Dallas County schools to try to stop them from using masks.

Now, there are many ways to track this ongoing horror. Some of this surge is unavoidable because COVID is evolving. But some of it, experts say, is now avoidable, because it`s not 2020, because we do know more, because we have vaccines and safety measures.

The expert view is that, if the vaccination and safety measures are rigorously implemented, well, then some of this could be avoidable.

Now, we can debate this all. We can discuss it as a society. We are supposed to live in a democracy that can have what they call civil discourse. But it`s only useful if it`s civil, if it`s somewhat respectful and reasonably informed.

But I want to show you how a Tennessee doctor was treated after telling people in his community at a gathering, at a kind of a town hall how masks do work, a moment that so captures where we are right now that President Biden was asked about it today.


CROWD: Will not comply! Will not comply! Will not comply! Will not comply! No more masks!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are! We know who you are!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are. We know who you are. You can leave freely, but we will find you. And we know who you are. We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed in public again! You will never be allowed!



MELBER: "We know who you are and we will find you." That`s where we are at.

I`m joined by Katty Kay, Washington editor with Ozy Media, and Julia Ioffe, Washington correspondent for Puck.

Katty, as I mentioned, this got so big that the president was asked about it. He spoke out against that kind of activity and in favor of the precautions. But what do you see happening here at a time when we have the tools available in the states that are doing worse, like Florida, to curb this?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that scene that we saw there from Tennessee is the kind of ultimate and the worst extension of this whole idea that we shouldn`t believe science, that we shouldn`t believe, indeed, experts.

It`s a kind of a notion that sprung out of populism that has been evolving over the last couple of years. But I guess I didn`t really think we would get to this point, where a doctor who is just standing up and explaining to people literally the mechanics, the scientific mechanics of how a mask can prevent the transmission of a virus from one person to another -- it`s a covering that you put over your nose and mouth and, therefore, the droplets are contained in the mask.

And that`s really all that the doctor was doing and advocating for the use of masks to stop the transmission. We know that masks stop transmission even amongst children by about something like 70 to 73 percent. That`s a huge tool that we have. It`s a very cheap, effective weapon that we have that we can use. And that`s what the doctor was doing.

And it springs from this idea that we don`t trust experts, we don`t trust scientists. And it`s going to cost people lives if those people who are heckling that poor doctor, after a year-and-a-half of the health care workers being under siege trying to battle this -- I mean, no wonder that they`re up in arms about this and they`re so depressed at what they`re seeing in hospitals.

It`s going to cost us more lives if people don`t listen to doctors like that.


MELBER: Yes, I think that`s well-put.

Julia, we`re a long way from thank you for your service or the cheering that was going on last April, when now we have...


MELBER: ... hey, I`m going to find you, I know who you are to the doctor.

And with the talk of responsibility and liberty, I just want to show something here from Texas where they`re talking about, basically, they have to turn away other people because of the triage of being overwhelmed by COVID. And that includes pregnant patients.

Take a look.


DR. JOSEPH CHANG, PARKLAND HOSPITAL: I can`t hire nurses fast enough. Right now in this hospital, I`m 500 nurses down from where we need to be.

QUESTION: Five hundred?

CHANGE: Five-zero-zero. That`s not an exaggeration. That`s an exact number.

I had to make the decision two weeks ago to transfer pregnant patients away from Parkland Hospital. To have to make that decision was gut-wrenching, gut-wrenching.


MELBER: Julia?

IOFFE: I mean, gut-wrenching is the right word for it.

And it`s not just that pregnant women are being turned away. It`s that pregnant women are showing up an ICUs being very sick with COVID. Children are showing up severely ill with COVID in ICUs, and there`s no room for them anymore. They have to be transferred hundreds of miles away, if there`s even a bed there.

Social media and private chats are filled with horror stories from doctors. I am friends with doctors. I have doctors in the family. There`s these stories flying around like a teenager, a child having an appendix -- having appendicitis not being able to get the appendix out because there`s no room, that the hospital is only doing COVID all the time, and having to have part of his bowel resected, meaning his -- this child`s quality of life will forever be damaged because of this.

We`re talking about cancer patients not being able to get cancer care, knee replacements, things that will spiral out of control and have deleterious health effects down the line for years, even decades, if they`re not treated now, because people are not getting vaccinated.

And what broke my heart about that video of these men leaning into this doctor`s car and saying, we know who you are, we will find you, is that they`re going after the very people who are going to work tirelessly, putting themselves in danger, to try to save their lives when they inevitably get COVID and end up in the ICU.

So -- and you`re seeing that frustration among doctors. There have been pieces written about it. There`s been private frustration shared. I talked to a friend today who is an E.R. doctor in Philadelphia. She said that her case -- COVID cases have doubled overnight. And she said, if doctors have an empathy tank, it`s on empty right now.

And she said it`s kind of hard to find the purpose in what they`re doing anymore, to even want to do their jobs, because they`re so frustrated with these people who have avoided the thing that could have kept them out of the ICU, only to end up there, and need all this care.

MELBER: Yes, and, Julia, I mean, been building on that point, the empathy tank there may be running out, because everyone`s human, you can only go so for so long.

And the anger tank and the frustration out in the country is huge. And people feel things for different reasons. The political rage and displacement on the far right may be quite different from people who are just tired of what a tough stretch it`s been. It`s above my pay grade to know what those people yelling at the doctor are so angry about. But I would guess, if they hadn`t met him before that night, and they started out at a nine, they`re angry about a lot of things.

When you look at the demagogues and the lack of any responsible leadership across the spectrum, we know, from data, that there are people who are more likely to listen to Republicans than Democrats. So we know that, if we have all leaders agree on some basic stuff, like facts or democracy or nonviolence, don`t menace and attack people, don`t murder people, I mean, I`m talking about the bare minimum here, things go better.

But we don`t have that in a lot of the Republican Party right now. It`s a kind of a January 6 riot-adjacent party, its leaders defending or lying about that. And DeSantis, as an example here, as a mini-Trump, I will just read you something Gene Robinson was writing for your response, that he argues too many Republicans are taking COVID`s side, literally, in the pandemic.

"Cynical and irresponsible politicians creating an environment killing Americans who shouldn`t have to die." He writes Republican "DeSantis transparently positioning himself as a contender for 2024, and, if Floridians die along the way, so be it."


Gene is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, serious writer. That`s pretty harsh coming from him. Do you think that`s fair? Do you think that`s too far?

IOFFE: I think that`s very fair.

I think you have both Abbott and DeSantis positioning themselves for 2024. I mean, in DeSantis` case, you saw the ad where he says, oh -- where his wife says, oh, it`s so great, my husband`s a great dad, just like Trump. He has the same hand motions as Trump.

It`s just so obvious how he`s positioning himself. But let me tell you a quick story. I was about -- about a month ago, I was talking to a pretty senior Hill aide on the Republican side, vaccinated. Everybody in his shop was vaccinated. And I said, what is the deal? Why are you guys doing this? It`s your own constituents that you`re killing.

And he said, they just want to make Biden look bad. They want the crisis to happen on Biden`s watch, so that he doesn`t get the credit for the vaccine that they felt Trump should get the credit for. That`s it.

I mean, my jaw hit the floor and I had to really work to get it back up.


Well, there`s a saying on the Internet, big if true, when a story breaks and people aren`t quite sure yet, wait, is this the whole story? Is it true?

You`re a reporter. You`re relaying to us the accurate information you got. So I would say, disgusting if true, and something we have to be sober about as we go through the crisis.

So I want to thank Julia.

Katty stays, because there`s the other big story.

So thank you, Julia.

And that is the breaking news overseas tonight here, the Pentagon saying it`ll send 3,000 troops right back to Afghanistan, but for this limited emergency mission just to try to evacuate out U.S. Embassy staff from that nation`s capital.

Now, earlier, the embassy urging all American citizens to get out of this country immediately, as the security situation deteriorates even worse than many were bracing for. The Taliban, well, here`s the chart. It is not good.

The Taliban, America`s long-term enemy there and an enemy of so many people in Afghanistan, controls two-thirds of the country now. Officials say the central government, such as it is, would fall potentially soon, potentially within a month. Biden setting this deadline of August 31 for U.S. troops to leave the country.

Now, most are already gone. And many have said that, as a foreign policy matter, the long-term choice here was clear and was necessary. That said, this is a high cost.

And, Katty Kay, who is the kind of journalists who can cover more than one story, is who we invited to keep on here, given the international complexities.

What do you see here? And does the emergency situation mean that U.S. policy is off-base, or is it more complicated?

KAY: Look, I mean, clearly, the situation -- and we heard this from the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, has deteriorated sufficiently in the last 24 to 48 hours that the U.S. is taking this action. The U.K., by the way, also taking similar actions, sending troops, fewer number, but sending troops as well to Kabul in order to try and ensure that it can get its embassy personnel out safely.

It was a -- it was a couple of pretty painful press briefings from first the State Department and then the Pentagon trying to explain what they are doing and what this means in terms of U.S. policy, because although President Biden now seems still committed to the U.S. withdrawal, doesn`t seem to be having doubts about it, the White House does seem to have been caught by surprise at the speed with which the Taliban has basically steamrolled across Afghanistan, with 11 major cities now falling to the Taliban, and U.S. military officials thinking that it`s possible that Kabul, the capital, falls within the next couple of months.

But this is devastating for the Afghan people. There`s panic tonight, Ari, in Kabul from what I`m hearing from people in Kabul, who feel that they are being abandoned, from the thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and NATO forces, and now are in the direct crossfire of the Taliban were they to take over Kabul, the Taliban saying, look, people that worked for the government in Afghanistan, we think they deserve to die because they haven`t given up the Western model of life.

This is not a reformed, new, softer, touchy-feely Taliban, from what we`re hearing from Taliban leaders. They`re as tough as they ever were. They will retaliate against people who worked for the U.S. government. And it looks like the U.S. is abandoning them. They have got the troops going in. They need to not just process the visas. They have got to get them out fast if they`re going to survive.

MELBER: Understood, and important context.

Katty Kay, thank you very much.

I want to tell everyone that, coming up, as Joe Biden is winning this big spending fight, investing in American families, the new MAGA right-wing attack is on Americans who don`t have children. We will get into that. It`s important.


Also, there`s new reporting from inside that Matt Gaetz open sex trafficking probe. We have that later.

And Rudy Giuliani has had his law license suspended. Accountability is costing a lot of money. And now he`s got a new way he`s raising money online. We will show you exactly what that entails.

And a very special guest later tonight who just met with Vice President Harris.

Stay with us.


MELBER: FOX`s Tucker Carlson and a Republican candidate, J.D. Vance, are pushing a new attack on so-called liberal elites.

It`s a bit hard to follow, but, basically, they say that people without children are hurting America.


J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: That we`re effectively run in this country via the Democrats, via our corporate oligarchs by a bunch of childless cat ladies.

You look at Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, AOC, the entire future of the Democrats is controlled by people without children. And how does it make any sense that we have turned our country over to people who don`t really have a direct stake in it?

Maybe, if we want a healthy ruling class in this country, we should invest more, we should vote more, we should support more people who actually have kids.


MELBER: Support for people who actually have kids.

Now, the logic is weird, but this is important and relates to some larger stuff, so we`re going to get into it.

The claim here is that there would be, in his view, just many childless adults that wield influence or power in American life or government.


Now, this is deeply hypocritical for someone in the Republican Party right now, and we will get to that.

But, first, let me just give you the full context. Tucker Carlson is someone who deliberately trolls a lot. We have a high bar for when we just take his trolling comments. But what we`re doing tonight is going in a little deeper, because, if you don`t see his show often, you may not know how this works, when he`s not just saying one thing to try to get the Biden administration to slap him down or to go viral.

There`s also these sort of faux candidate interviews that aren`t journalistic interviews. And they turn into a kind of right-wing echo chamber, chummy, college bull session.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Do you think that this would be a happier country if it were run by happier people?


VANCE: I definitely do. It makes total sense, right? People who go home at night and see the face of a smiling kid, whatever their profession, I think they`re happier, I think they`re healthier, and they`re going to be better prepared to actually lead this country.

We have so many people proposing we mask our children again, look, the people who are proposing it, they don`t have to go home to a child at the end of the day.


VANCE: If they did, I don`t think they`d be proposing all these ridiculous restrictions again.

CARLSON: Yes, they`re imposing their psychodramas and their neuroses on the rest of us. And we should say, no thanks. We`re going to be happy.

They hate when you say that.


MELBER: Now, there`s no way to fact-check if that candidate believes all this, but we should note that J.D. Vance was once on a different page.

He wrote his memoir, "Hillbilly Elegy," and he was criticizing and was opposed to Trump. Then he went on to delete a lot of anti-Trump statements that he made publicly. This was just a few years ago. He`s an adult. Then he went full MAGA, as he`s now trying to get the Senate nomination in the Republican Party in Ohio.

Now, his comments about families were not just the Tucker thing. This wasn`t just a one-off. It was growing out of something that he said on the campaign trail. He`s pushing this as he wants to become a senator. He said: "Let`s give the votes to all the children in this county, but let`s give control over those votes to the parents of the children."

Now, let me be clear. This is really happening. We have covered a lot of different ways there are attacks on democracy in America, whether that`s Trump`s staging or trying to stage with experts called a coup. We looked at January 6. We have looked at voter suppression. This is also happening right now.

Someone running for office is saying, let`s reapportion who gets to vote. He`s literally proposing that people don`t have equal voting power.

And Tucker Carlson, by the way, not the only FOX host to get into these ideas and air them unchecked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Let`s give votes to all children in the country but let`s give control over those votes to the parents of children."

He`s saying childless leaders are making decisions that are short-term in mind, not focused on the long-term future health of this country, because they don`t have a stake in the game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know about that solution. That seems that not feasible.

But I will say I agree with the premise of it. He is very family-centric. He is going, I want to look at American political policy, look at policy, and go look at it through the lens of family, look at it through the lens of America`s workers. And that frightens the left.


MELBER: We track candidates` words on a very basic premise, that they will do what they say. So you can leave aside the insanity of trying to give some people more votes, like one person gets two votes, another person gets one because of their kids.

Vance`s claim here is that conservatives want invest in families because they care more about kids, that parents care more about kids in general, not just their own kids, and that, thus, if there are liberals who don`t have kids, then they don`t.

OK, I just want to deal in the facts on this, because this kind of stuff doesn`t go away. It tends to take on a life of its own.

And so the facts you need to know if you`re looking at family-oriented policies, which may be how some people want to vote, whether they have kids or not, is that the Republican Party does not actually support policies today that invest in or help families spend time together.

For example, Republicans opposed Biden`s Rescue Plan that included that child care tax credit, which was so supportive of people with families. In fact, guess what? You have to have a child to get the child care tax credit. It gave money to 90 percent of American households with children and lifted more than four million kids out of poverty.

Or think about a vote from this week, not a single Senate Republican voting for vote Biden`s budget, which includes money for paid family leave, child care education, universal pre-K. Vance himself calling the universal proposal an attempt to cement preferences of our ruling class elites.

So, Vance`s comments are radical, but they`re actually in line with a lot of other Republicans in Congress.

Now, what does this really mean for your life, whether you`re in a family or not, whether you`re a parent or not?


Well, we have a special guest to break it down, veteran of three presidential campaigns Chai Komanduri, when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: And now we turn to our special deep dive political conversations, which are always a special day here on THE BEAT. We call it "Chai Day" with political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns, including Obama, and who we`re indebted to for some of the ideas we just ran through.

How are you doing, Chai?

CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I`m doing good. How are you, Ari?

MELBER: I`m good.

It`s hard to fact-check stupid, because you could go anywhere with it. But let`s start in the mainstream policy here, which is the anti-family Republican Party now has candidates and a supporter in Tucker Carlson claiming they`re the family party when it comes to investing in the policies I just showed.

KOMANDURI: Yes, but I would say, Ari, that there is a real strategic purpose to what Tucker and J.D. Vance are doing here.

What they`re doing here is they`re creating an adult white male fantasy world. Now, the fantasy world isn`t a medieval kingdom. It`s not a space empire. It`s the world of "Leave It to Beaver." It`s the world of lily- white neighborhoods, where the women, the mothers stayed home all day, and father came home and always knew best.

That`s the world that they are sort of craft crafting and creating. That is not the reality of American children. One in six American children today live in poverty. Now, that number will be cut in half by the Biden child tax credit. It is specifically designed to help real working families and real -- and children who live in America today.

However, what Biden -- what Tucker and J.D. Vance are doing is simply presenting us with 1950s cosplay, and they`re doing it mainly because you can`t defeat the child tax credit on its merit. So they`re ginning a culture war instead, as a way of derailing it.

MELBER: Right, which, as you would argue, speaks to the popularity of some of these things.

I mean, let`s take paid family leave. That`s a way for parents right after a birth to spend more time with their family. How do they argue being against that?

KOMANDURI: Well, they simply argue that the problem that it is designed to solve simply does not exist, that American families are very good, they`re well-to-do, they live in these nice neighborhoods, and the only problem is that the liberals, the childless left, are trying to take it away from you.

The childless left, of course, according to J.D. Vance, simply consists of only three people, AOC, Kamala Harris, and Mayor Pete, two women of color and one gay man. So there`s kind of a hide-the-ball quality to what J.D. Vance is doing with that.

But it doesn`t include, obviously, Biden, Pelosi and Schumer, the actual Democrats who do have children, who are parents, and who do run the Democratic Party.

What they`re really doing is a type of deflection. And it`s one that`s very appealing, I think, to the MAGA base. Michael Bender, in his recent book about Trump, really laid out a case that the average Trump voter is much closer to Alex Jones than he is to Ward Cleaver. The Trump base is full of lonely, isolated men with their head full of conspiracy theories and their closets full of guns.

However, this vision -- and it`s a very romantic vision that J.D. and Tucker are presenting -- allows that man to see himself as a defender of the American family. However, we know, in reality, the real defender of the American family are the advocates of the child tax credit, paid family leave, and the other proposals that Democrats are putting forward.

MELBER: Yes, I think you lay it out well.

And it`s not a surprise, I think, that race and other types of discriminatory thinking are lurking right behind the speech patterns, if you will. What J.D. Vance believes is hard to track because, as mentioned, he went from a -- trying to be a thoughtful Trump critic who would get laudatory reviews in "New York Times" book review sections to what he is now, trying to be a MAGA candidate.


Whether or not those book reviews, Chai, were written by people with kids, I cannot say, because I don`t know and I don`t care.

Good to see you, sir.


KOMANDURI: Good to see you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We have a lot more to come, including an exclusive interview with someone who literally wrote the BLM anthem of 20. You see him there meeting with Kamala Harris, Lil Baby. We`re going to discuss all of it.

But, first, there`s actually damning new evidence emerging in that sex crime probe into Matt Gaetz. That`s next.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You got all the experts say, well, will look out for the Delta variant or the Lambda variant. I got the Florida variant. I got the freedom variant.


MELBER: I bet you do. The freedom variant is not a thing.

Meanwhile, what Matt Gaetz has is an open sex crime probe. And there`s new evidence coming in. Gaetz has been famously under investigation in a case that deals with sex trafficking and sex with a minor.

As we always report, he denies all allegations and the probe remains open. ABC, though, now reporting that Gaetz`s convicted ally, Joel Greenberg, is giving the feds thousands of photos, videos and documents, a sign that this probe is definitely not over, although we don`t prejudge where it`s headed.


As for the evidence, well, it includes alleged text messages that would set Gaetz up with women, Greenberg discussing payment options and asking a woman if she would take drugs, according to this ABC report, Greenberg saying he would set up a get-together with himself Gaetz, the woman and one of her friends.

Now, according to ABC News, the evidence that the feds are reviewing includes a text that said: "I have a friend flying in and we`re trying to make plans for tonight. What are your plans for later? And how much of an allowance will you be requiring? Smiley emoticon."

That`s the type of stuff the feds are looking at.

Now, we wanted to give you that update because it`s been quite an investigation.

We`re going to fit in a break, but, when we come back, we have something that actually goes to the theme of accountability we have been covering.

Rudy Giuliani had his law license suspended. He`s running out of money. He`s being sued. So what`s he doing to raise money? We`re going to show you that and the context.

And then, later tonight, something that we care a lot about on this program. We`re going to get into police reform, the BLM movement, and Vice President Harris with a special guest.



MELBER: Turning to news in Trump`s embattled legal defense, there was no louder advocate for his election lies than Giuliani, who is facing accountability on several fronts, law license suspended, he`s under criminal investigation, and he`s defending costly suits in civil court, with his former client, Trump, refusing to fund any of his defenses.

And now Giuliani is trying to fund-raise however he can, which includes selling his time by offering personalized videos online. Now, people buy videos on different sites from prominent people.

Like, a personalized happy birthday from boxer Floyd Mayweather runs over $1,000.

Giuliani`s price? It`s $275. And it looks like he`s already taking the work.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Happy birthday, Molly. I understand your birthday is coming up. You are a big fan of and dedicated to make America great again. And it`s going to need make America great again, again.

I wish you would follow my podcast. It`s


MELBER: Rudy`s out there wishing people happy birthday, promoting his podcast.

The videos have late-night comics going in.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Now Rudy`s charging $275 per video. But if you just wait a while, he will eventually butt-dial you for free.

I mean, this guy, this guy, who was a personal lawyer to the president of the United States, and now he`s basically panhandling in the same place you can get a happy bat mitzvah message from Jamie Farr.


MELBER: And, by the way, happy bat mitzvah.

Sometimes, the comics have it right. They get the last word on that.

Now, I want to tell you about one other thing, which is, the protests that came out of the murder of George Floyd have upended culture and policy here in America.

So, when we come back, we turn to an important conversation about all of that, including art that`s growing out of this pivotal time and why Barack Obama and Kamala Harris have both noticed a promising young artist from Atlanta.

Lil Baby`s debut on THE BEAT is next.



MELBER: America is facing two challenges two summers in a row here, a surging pandemic that takes our lives and changes them and American policing that won`t change even amidst a pandemic and amidst mounting scrutiny, excessive force continuing even when many were quarantining last year and continuing this year.

It sparked protests that led to state reforms, the George Floyd Act passing the House, and rising prominence for a new generation of leaders, like Patrisse Cullors and Tamika Mallory, who have been everywhere, from marches to the news for that special appearance at this year`s Grammys, where she used that cultural stage to demand reform.


TAMIKA MALLORY, MARCH TO JUSTICE: This is not a trend. This is our plight. Until freedom. Until freedom.


MELBER: And she was speaking within an activist performance that highlighted the real story, the real-life story of Rayshard Brooks, a young Atlanta man killed by police who found him asleep in his car.

Now, that performance was set to James Baldwin`s words at the beginning and with singing by Atlanta artist Lil Baby, who wrote what has really become the anthem of the BLM movement, "The Bigger Picture," confronting police violence that stretches back much farther.

Lil Baby released that song, and you can see the video there, in last June. It spent 20 weeks on the billboard charts as the protest song that people listened to most this past summer. And this very week, it just went double platinum.

And, by the way, this song, if you really listen to it, was not the most aggressive offering. Some rappers have certainly triumphed with bellicose songs like "F Donald Trump" and, famously, "F the Police."

But this 26-year-old has a somewhat different style, condemning brutality, while also noting that other officers can be honest, and really rejecting stereotypes as he raps -- quote -- "All whites are not racist. Don`t judge just by looking at faces."


LIL BABY, RAPPER: Every colored ain`t dumb and all whites not racist. I be judging by the mind and heart. I ain`t really into faces.

But I`m telling my youngins to vote. I did what I did because I didn`t have no choice or no hope.


MELBER: That kind of nuance and humanity and a catchy flow are earning Lil Baby some major fans, including Barack Obama himself, who put a different Baby track on his favorite new song list, while Vice President Harris, as I mentioned, recently met with Lil Baby when he visited the White House with members of George Floyd`s family.

Quite a rise for a man who got out of prison just four years ago for relatively minor charges. And if you`re watching this right now, and unlike Obama and Harris, you haven`t heard Lil Baby`s music yet. I can tell you your kids probably have. His songs have streamed over 11 billion times worldwide.

"Rolling Stone" reports he`s the most popular rapper in the world right now, while the rap outlet Complex has dubbed him 2020`s best rapper alive. Not bad.

We are talking about one of the most influential artists in America in his prime right now from culture to politics, and yet he has not done a national TV news interview until now.

Exclusively airing for the first time, here is my conversation with Lil Baby at his music studio in Atlanta.



MELBER: Let`s start with, tell me where we are here in Atlanta.

LIL BABY: We`re at a studio. You know what I`m saying?


LIL BABY: Yes, my studio in Atlanta. It`s actually in the heart of Atlanta.

MELBER: Why is it important to you to still be here?

LIL BABY: My kids. Like, that`s, like, what draw me to Atlanta a lot.

I had seen him a little bit, you hear me, not as much as I want to, whatever. It`s going to be kind of hard because I am, like, family- oriented. My grandma want to eat every month. You know what I`m saying? She want to eat every week.

You hear me? But...

MELBER: I bet she, like a lot of people, can appreciate that President Obama put you on his new playlist.

LIL BABY: Right. Exactly.

MELBER: What does that mean?

LIL BABY: See, now, that type of stuff, what I mean like by -- that`s the whole difference.

First is thinking you maybe never could be in the same sentence as Obama to, like, my grandson is on Obama`s playlist.

My grandma made life every humble. They don`t really like -- I don`t know. They ain`t really like into the lifestyle. The first year, she didn`t even want to go nowhere. Now she is just, like, traveling. She don`t want to be in the life, like cameras, and people, an entourage.


LIL BABY: They ain`t into that type of stuff.


LIL BABY: She will still probably get on the jet. You know what I`m saying? Nice hotel. Go to the show backstage and go on somewhere where nobody -- she would rather -- and it`s kind of better that way than running with me and getting sweaty and...


MELBER: You are teaching me something today, which is, it might be better to be Lil Baby`s grandmother than to be Lil Baby some days.

LIL BABY: Right, in the back. It`s always better backstage, yes.

MELBER: Yes. I like that.

Can we talk about "The Bigger Picture"?

LIL BABY: Definitely.

MELBER: Tell me about that, like, when you sat down and said, I`m going to say something about this. You live it, but...

LIL BABY: At the time, 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. You feel me?

MELBER: I feel you.

You are saying that, on the Internet, people are asking you to speak out on this incident, this horrific incident in Minnesota.

LIL BABY: Right. Right.

MELBER: And you are saying you know people who have been killed by police and you didn`t even post about it then, because that`s now how you relate to this.

LIL BABY: 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, because I ain`t just, like, make a George Floyd song. You know what I`m saying?

I mentioned what kind of happened in the song a little bit, but it was like a whole thing. It wasn`t just like that incident, because it`s, like, way bigger than the incident. And I`m saying, that incident is not bigger than each other incident, but it`s like a whole thing.

So, that was my chance to just, like, speak on the whole thing.

MELBER: How many people would you say you know personally who have been hurt or shot by police?

LIL BABY: I don`t know. Since, like, middle school, one of my close buds, like, he got shot in the back by the police one time. And from then on, you would just, like, hear it a lot.


This song, as you say, it comes out of your entire life experience of people you knew. It`s not recently...

LIL BABY: Right, not just...

MELBER: Go ahead.

LIL BABY: I seen it happen, boom, and I went in and made a song. It ain`t really -- it wasn`t that. Now I seen this happen, and I seen the uproar. And now it`s no easier for me to make a song, easy, because I already been living like this.

MELBER: It`s wild, you educating us about that, because the song resonated really deeply across 2020.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: It`s now -- I will tell you my view. It`s now part of this living history.

LIL BABY: Right.

MELBER: It`s one of the songs, like Marvin Gaye or Bob Dylan, that people are going to be playing years from now trying to understand what we just went through and where are we going.

LIL BABY: Right.

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? Somebody break in your house, you are calling the police. It`s not just a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the police situation. You know what I`m saying?


LIL BABY: But it`s like we`re talking about the -- now we`re talking about, like, the corrupt side. And that`s not all of them.

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. You know what I mean?

Like, but I came for a different reason this time. I`m on like on the backstage, like I was saying. I would rather go on the backstage with the cameras was on wasn`t on me. I slipped and got on camera one time, but nobody never knew I was there. I went for a backhand spin, you feel me, vs. going...

MELBER: But you know what we`re calling that now?


MELBER: We`re call that Lil Baby grandma vibes.



MELBER: Where you just go at the back of the White House.

LIL BABY: You feel me? Go in the back. You feel me? You don`t got to be like, even though I`m somebody and I could be -- have a full press around what I got going on.

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: Lil Baby, thank you for sitting down with me. I really appreciate it.

LIL BABY: Appreciate you, man. Thanks for having me.


MELBER: That`s our conversation. Our thanks to Lil Baby for showing us all around his studio.

This is where we were, walking through. He showed us where he makes some of that music we just discussed, some of the plaques and the art on the walls from fans, painting of his kids.

And we talked a lot. And there`s more than just those highlights that we debuted tonight.

So, I want you to know that, later tonight, once THE BEAT is over, you can find the entire full exclusive interview on YouTube. Just search "Melber and Lil Baby" on YouTube later this evening or tomorrow when you have a chance if you want to see the whole thing.

We`re also going to continue the conversation we have had about protest music. I mentioned BLM. If you haven`t heard "The Bigger Picture," check it out. You can always tell us what you think your favorite protest song is @AriMelber on social media.

Now, that does it for me tonight.

I want to tell you about a heck of a lineup, though, on MSNBC. Dr. Fauci is up next on "THE REIDOUT," NIH Director Dr. Collins is on "ALL IN," and Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW."

You can see the lineup there. Keep the TV on. Watch them all. Looks like a good set of interviews. I`m definitely going to be listening to what everyone has to say.

As always, thanks for joining me on THE BEAT.


Hi, Joy.


Thanks for the promo. Really appreciate it. And I see you didn`t pick my favorite anthem, but I like the one that won in the interview that you just did. We love a good protest anthem.


REID: So, cool segment. Cool segment.


REID: But mine -- I was still right, though, yes.

MELBER: You were.


REID: I just needed to hear it. I just needed to hear it.

Thank you, my friend. Have a good evening. Have a good one.

MELBER: I will see you.

REID: Take care.