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Perhaps you first heard the name Esperanza Spalding in 2011, when an award that many were calling an easy win for Justin Bieber instead went to an eclectic young bass player, singer and composer.

Late Thursday evening, Kendrick Lamar crept back into our lives like a thief in the night. With his new album untitled unmastered., Lamar and his label Top Dawg Entertainment offer us a look at the steps it took to get to his fully formed magnum opus — 2015's To Pimp A Butterfly — and show us that they can stop the world when they feel like it.

From M'Lynn Eatenton in Steel Magnolias to Mary Todd in Lincoln, Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field doesn't shy away from taking on emotionally charged and challenging roles.

All of these characters become a part of her in a sense. "They stay in me and they have always changed me in some way," Field tells NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro.

Now, playing a woman in her late 60s with some borderline personality issues for her latest film, Hello, My Name Is Doris, part of Doris is already in Field.

Novelist Pat Conroy, who announced last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, has died, according to a statement from his publisher. Conroy was 70.

He announced his diagnosis on Facebook almost three weeks ago, saying "I intend to fight it hard."

Today's statement from Todd Doughty, executive director of publicity at Doubleday included comments from Conroy's wife and his longtime editor:

NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with Frannie Kelley of NPR Music's podcast Microphone Check about Kendrick Lamar's untitled unmastered. You can hear their conversation at the audio link.


Hip-hop fans received a surprise Thursday night: an unexpectedly released project from Kendrick Lamar called untitled unmastered.

First, it's not really black. It's not even a color or a pigment. "Vantablack" is a "material," according to Surrey NanoSystems, the British company that created it.

Jack White stopped by the season finale of The Muppets this week, injecting some of his raw blues rock into the show.

Havana will meet the Rolling Stones later this month.

The band has announced they'll play a free open-air concert in the Cuban capital on March 25.

That will make them "the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution," the Associated Press reports.

Host Chris Rock made sure Sunday's Oscars were about as black as they could be, given that no black people had been nominated in any high-profile categories.

Of course, Rock brought the pain, as he always does, in a razor-sharp monologue skewering sensibilities on all sides of the #OscarsSoWhite debate. And his comedy bits throughout the show kept up a steady drumbeat, reminding audiences in the hall and at home just who had been left behind.

Editor's note: This post, an interview with director Joshua Oppenheimer about his film The Look of Silence, was originally published on Feb. 27, 2016. The documentary airs tonight, June 27, on PBS.

Humans have an easier time remembering the first and last of things than we do the middles. The ends bulge out in our minds, becoming signifiers of the whole. So for someone raised in the United States, when you're asked to recall the men we've sent to the moon, your mind probably goes first to the originals: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. You'll perhaps associate their names with the swelling up of pride the nation felt at seeing those boots hit the lunar turf for the first time.

If you're tired of overwhelming whiteness at the Academy Awards, you're in good company. Famous people and normals alike have expressed indignation over the fact that for the second year in a row, zero people of color were nominated for any acting award.

Courtesy of Peregrine Church

 

Next time you’re walking on a sidewalk in Seattle and it’s raining, look down. You just might see a message reveal itself.

At least that’s the intention of a 21-year-old magician who has created unusual sidewalk art. His stenciled messages are only visible when it’s wet outside.

Read the story and see a map of the artwork on Quirksee.org >>>

You can also read an update to that story by clicking here.

In Pakistan, there aren't a whole lot of stand-up comics.

"When it comes to satire, I think as a culture, we kind of struggle with it," says Pakistani stand-up pioneer Saad Haroon.

His humor shines a light into some delicate areas.

"I wrote this song called 'Burqa Woman,' which is a parody of 'Pretty Woman,' " Harron says.

He gives the audience a taste of his act:

Burqa woman, in your black sheet

Burqa woman, with your sexy feet

Burqa woman, my love for you, it grows

Every time I see your nose

Harper Lee, the author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer was 89.

Monroeville city officials confirmed reports of Lee's death to Alabama Public Radio. Her publisher, HarperCollins, also confirmed the news to NPR.

Her famous novel about a young girl's experience of racial tensions in a small Southern town has sold tens of millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages.

What does it mean to actually see black people and honor them with the grand art of portraiture?

That’s what artist Kehinde Wiley has been exploring for more than a decade and he’s created a lot of buzz.

Wiley paints huge and colorful portraits of African Americans that mimic the great masterpieces of 18th century Europe.

A retrospective of his work, featuring nearly 60 pieces, is currently up at the Seattle Art Museum through May 8.

When the iconic gold Oscar statues are handed out at the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28, they'll look a little bit different.

The statues will more closely resemble the early awards.

It seemed like there was something for everybody at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Mark Ronson's high-spirited "Uptown Funk," featuring Bruno Mars, won Record of the Year. The songwriting award, Song of the Year, went to Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge's "Thinking Out Loud," while Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for 1989.

The nominations for the 58th annual Grammy Awards, though, were pitched as something of a showdown between pop and hip-hop. In certain ways, neither won outright — but both genres' reigning queen and king emerged as winners.

In the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, a renegade, played by Charlize Theron, races away from a dictator through a hellish desert.

It's essentially a two-hour post-apocalyptic car chase.

The film isn't your typical Oscar bait, yet it has 10 nominations. One of those is for editor Margaret Sixel. Her job began with hundreds of hours of footage.

The Goats and Soda team is playing a game, and one of us pulls out a bright red card with this line: "Angelina Jolie will now be a special envoy for ____."

Each team member shuffles through a handful of white cards and picks an answer to fill in the blank. This is what we get:

"Explaining that Chad is a country, not a person"

"China!"

"Antimalarial-induced hallucinations"

"George Clooney's wife"

Now comes the fun part. Which card do you choose?

A group of 10- and 11-year-olds giggle as professional cellist Frederic Rosselet flexes his wrist as if he's made of rubber. "Really flexible in your wrist," he tells the students. "It's your arm basically that does the work."

The cello students at Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, Calif., drag their bows across their cello's strings, following Rosselet's wrist-shaking lead.

Screeeech. It needs work.

"Guys, wanna try that again? 'Forte' means?"

"Loud!" the students reply.

Just ahead of Valentine's Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: "Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!"

Hollywood producer Ross Putman says he's read thousands of scripts during his time working in the film industry in Los Angeles, and over the years, he began to find one pattern particularly problematic: the way female characters are introduced.

Here's a sampling: leggy, attractive, blonde, beautiful, hot, gorgeous, pretty, sexy.

Attention, Harry Potter fans.

This is not a drill.

A new Harry Potter book will be published this summer.

The book, called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, picks up the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione where the epilogue left off, according to author J.K. Rowling's website, Pottermore. The book is the script of a play by the same name opening this summer in London.

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