March 9, 2024: Matthew E. Harper is finally ready to reveal everything about his life, public and personal, in an exclusive tell-all interview with The Daily Buzz. You may know Matthew as Neo Soul singer song-writer DeWayne, from smash hits “Sweet Sugar", "Lady" - and of course you remember the groundbreaking, sizzling hot video for “The Way It Feels“.
From his religious upbringing to him dropping out of college, from his musical breakout to his several accolades defying all odds, from his troubles with the law, relationships and family struggles, to his social activism...and of course we're going to cover those infamous pictures taken from his 50th birthday party just a month ago, where he's shown being intimately close with another man.
He declined to answer any questions from the media about what happened, and he hasn't rejected (or confirmed) the unforeseen rumours of something more than just a bromance. Not anymore: he's given us exclusive access to his life.
At last, DeWayne tells all, and like in his “The Way It Feels” video, he finally bares all.
I trust this email finds you well. (That's how you open formal emails right?) This is Matthew E. Harper, but you might know me under another name: DeWayne. Before I continue I need your total, absolute discretion. It's important that you keep this email and conversation between us.
I'd like to discuss something with you. A story, perhaps? It’s for an interview, exclusive to The Daily Buzz. A lot has happened in the last few weeks. I turned 50, which was great, and I posted some pictures online of my family. You know what pictures I’m talking about. The one where I’m “intimately close to another dude”, as the media reported it (I believe that was the New York Times?). The media has reported on so many angles, getting a lot wrong. I have a story on my soul, and I want to hand it to you. Could we get together to talk about it? I'd rather do this face to face. Let me know when and where, but most importantly, if you're down for this. This would be my fourth opus. It is yours.
Let me know.
PS. You probably receive so many similar correspondences from imposters impersonating celebrities and other notorious people. I can assure you that I'm the real deal, but if you're looking for verification then here, take this number: +1-206-913-7412.
It's my personal number. Give me a call. Let's talk about it. Reach out and see that it's me.
We have lots to discuss.
With love, always.
“Uh, excuse me? Can I have a round of shots for us, and a cerveza?", he screams at me. Yet another unclear, unfinished bar order. I know that voice. I know exactly where it’s coming from. As a bartender you get to learn these things, they become a part of you, call it second nature. Yet, the way he mentioned “cerveza” unnerved me so much that I could only reply with a raised eyebrow in his direction.
"How many shots?"
"Oh, well - me, Dao,” (he then names other executives whose names I didn’t care about), “so six, make it six please - and don't forget the cerveza."
"What beer would you like sir?"
"Oh, well, a Heineken will be just fine", Ben said with a beaming smile.
I rolled my eyes as I turned my back on Ben and the rest of his crew. I know exactly who they are. I don't really know what they do or even how much they get paid to do it, but I definitely know who they work for: The Daily Buzz.
Ben, the cerveza guy, comes to this bar pretty frequently. I wouldn't say every night, but frequently enough for my comrade to know their favourite drinks and who always goes for the same drink: Ida always goes for something fruity, while Ned usually goes for mojitos, right before switching to brown liquor if there are shots involved.
The only thing that annoyed me was when Ben calls beers "cervezas": yes, I know that cerveza means beer in Spanish, and yes I know he said that because I’m Latino. It just grinds my gears that when Ben says "cerveza" he's only referring to Heineken, Pilsner and Nastro Azzurro - not Negra Modelo, not Dos Equis, not even Corona. 'Someone who owns such a big media company that tackles things like race and culture should know better,' I used to think. Then again, I only learned last month that Ben doesn't actually own The Daily Buzz: he's the Editor-in-Chief, and he has been for a couple decades now. That's quite a feat, considering how far The Daily Buzz has come and their contributions to modern culture. That is, despite calls for Ben to step down and let someone else be the editor-in-chief, perhaps someone who doesn't fit the white straight male archetype that so many media companies follow. Some have even compared his rule to a stubborn dictatorship, but besides his several failed attempts at making ordering cervezas a thing, there's not much stubbornness about Ben Digby. I say that like I know him. See, bartenders like us are your best friends: not only can we make a mean drink just the way you like it, but we can also listen, be there for you, be you friends, your guidance, your consultants. We can care. We can listen. Now, do we always listen? No. We can, but we don't always do. We choose to when we feel like it. I guess it makes us feel like gods. This is one of those moments where I listen.
I cook up the drinks for them: Ben gets his Heineken, and the others get their drinks too. They all have a good chat on the first drink about work, how long it was, how fun this was and that was. By the second drink they're having a ball, sharing mildly crazy stories. Ze is the most hyperactive of the group, he's always been. Now a couple of people start looking at their phones - these are the ones who leave early. They either don't want to stay for the third drink because they know it'll lead to a fourth and a fifth and a seventh and the next bar and its drinks. Scott and Dao then leave. By the third drink they start sharing stories, plans: this is the point where executives do humble brags of how much they've worked over the weekend, even though no one asked them to, or how much employees would like to do extra, how they'd like to go the extra mile, and how beneficial they'd be to the company if only they were in a position a few grades higher. The alternative is just talking about mildly interesting ideas, exciting if you're on your first drink, mildly interesting if you're a bartender eavesdropping on suits talking. Ze is the only one without a suit, he's dressed like what you'd expect filmmakers to dress like: a sweatshirt, blue jeans, comfortable footwear, and a white baseball cap.
Now is the time when one person usually leaves because (a) they have an early morning (or so they claim), (b) they're not feeling that great but they chose to go out anyway, or (c) another excuse that doesn't make them look bad for leaving on the third drink, which is an achievement that not everyone gets. Melissa leaves.
Now, this is where the fun begins: the fourth drink. After the fourth drink you can expect the unexpected, or if you're a a bartender then you're just watching replays and remakes of comedies over and over again, just with different cast members and minor variations. This is drunken satire.
They all took shots to begin with - I don’t really count them as drinks, they’re just an interlude to the next song, they’re just an intermediary to the next drink. Trust me, most people subconsciously see it as that, as a step in a rite they have to carefully perform, and the shot is key to the rite. Notice how most people order a shot with another drink, be it a beer, a cocktail, rarely some wine (although I’ve seen that on occasion - while I don’t judge, I certainly don’t recommend it), but often something hard on the rocks.
Ze gets a mojito with extra mint because he believes the extra mint will give it an extra kick; I don’t tell him otherwise. Daniel gets a semi-serious drink, a whiskey and coke, which he then switches to a rum and coke instead because he fancies some diversity in his drink; I don’t question him on how diversity affects his drinking habit when he’s on his fourth drink. Ben goes for a gin and tonic, a typical, stereotypical boss move. It screams, “I’m serious, but I can still have fun”. That’s when the banter begins.
“You know what, guys? It’s only us guys so I can say “guys””, said Ze, “I want us to do something crazy.”
“What do you mean” replied Daniel.
“Come on you guys, we need to give The Daily Buzz a shakeup”
Ben almost chokes on his third sip of gin and tonic (I gave him a quarter more gin, just for fun). “Dude, shush, just call it “the company” like everyone else does.”
“Yeah, but, you get what I’m saying, right?”
“Kinda,” says Ben in his cup, as he takes his fourth sip, which looks more like a gulp from where I’m standing. I’m right at the bar with them, occasionally whipping out a cloth to clean out drink spills off the counter, which is totally an excuse bartenders use to tune in the conversation. We know that patrons clean up anyway if they want to sit there, they don’t really need us to do it for them, but I digress. From the strategically placed mirrors around the counter, I could see what they were doing, I could see what they were not saying with their words but only with their facial expressions, hand gestures, closeness to or distance from each other, and I wasn’t too distant either so I could totally hear what they were talking about.
Suddenly they all get closer to each other, in a circle, on Ze’s command. Ze seems to be the ringleader, despite being paid by the slightly quieter, more docile Ben. Daniel is the intriguing one of them all: you can see his cogs turning in his brain, yet that doesn’t always equate to him making a decision, or jumping to a rushed action, or acting out of sheer impulse. Or maybe he does and nobody ever sees it. Or maybe he only does it to himself.
“OK, look, I’ve seen the stats, okay? We need views! We need clicks! We need those impressions baby-
“Views and impressions are the same Ze” interjects Daniel, who I’ve just learnt to love, listen to and appreciate his words. Ben scoffs
Ben jerked his hand while sipping his shot, the glass falling down and cracking on the floor, while leaving that sticky icky green liquid on the floor, quickly spreading as Ben steps on it by mistake. That feeling of something odd under his shoe will haunt him for the rest of the night.
“What the fuck dude?!”
“Sorry, sorry, I am so sorry - my watch just vibrated - see, I love these smartwatches, but they still take me by surprise when I’m not expecting them, I thought I’d turned the vibration off for the rest of the night - man, I can see from the icon it’s an email - you know what - I’m not even going to open it-“
“Is that work?”
“Yes! Well, it’s in my work inbox so it must be work-related, probably someone from IT, I’m still waiting on them to fix the graphics on my laptop, hopefully they’ll replace it for a new one”
“Are you sure you didn’t break it on purpose?”
“Yes, I’m sure”
I leave the bar, get a mop and clean the floor, get Jose to get a sign from the back, I know I could’ve done it myself, but I didn’t want to leave the conversation - what if there’s going to be some breaking news or some scoop or some exclusive stuff and I’m going to be one of the very first ones to get to know? That would be awesome! I mean, yes I know I wouldn’t be able to share it online due to privacy and security and all that jazz, but still, just imagine how exciting that would be! The floor is now clean, I’ve just cleaned the floor as Ze finally calls it a night. They don’t expect it. Ze’s phone has been vibrating in his pocket, I could see him taking his phone out every 10-15 minutes, while the backlight on his phone would regularly turn on when in his pocket. I didn’t think much of it then, but it could be that he has somewhere secret together, or maybe a hookup, or maybe he just ordered a pizza and he’s been chatting with the delivery guy just to make sure that the time they deliver the pizza coincides with Ze getting home - if there’s one thing even I know about Ze is that he’s one calculating heifer.
It’s just Ben and Daniel now. There isn’t tension between the two, but the atmosphere is just…different. It’s not the same. See, when you have an extrovert in your crew, in your group, and they suddenly leave you for 5 minutes, say to go to the restroom or just for a smoke break, the remaining group can somehow carry over the conversation until the extrovert’s return. However, when the extrovert leaves and you’re only left in a group of introverts, no matter how much alcohol they’ve been taking, you’ll be a witness of an awkward fest. I’m kinda worried that the same thing is going to happen right here, right now with these two.
I butt in, to break the ice, and some tips: “hey guys, another round?”
Daniel looks at Ben as if to ask if he’s okay with another drink, if it’s not too irresponsible to go for yet another round of alcohol, as if they haven’t already had enough; Ben looks at Daniel as if to gauge a response from him, as if he’s hoping that for once this responsibility gets lifted off his shoulders and gets executed by somebody else, somebody capable, somebody who’s stern, firm, who knows what they want, somebody who knows what is the right thing to do, at the right time, in the right place. Then a sense of “fuck it” came over me, so I offered them two shots, on the house - “choose which shot you want - careful, this is the only shot on the house for you guys tonight, so choose carefully”. They both look relieved that they don’t have to make that decision, besides just choosing what to drink now.
“So, how are things going then?” asked Daniel, with a furtive look, while looking really serious.
“Mhm, things are great…what things are you referring to?”
“Dude, we’re not in a bromance!” replied Ben with a nervous laugh, just something to fill in the palpable space of awkwardness separating the two of them.
“Not us two…I mean us, The Daily Buzz, who we work for, what we work for…is everything alright?”
“You sound like you’ve heard something…what rumours have you heard?”
“Well, I guess you could call them rumours, since I’ve not been told by one of the executives…but let’s be honest, they wouldn’t tell us if we were sinking..would they?”
Ben was silent. He looked at him in the eyes without saying a single word.
“OK, let’s be real, and please forgive me if I’m stepping outside of my boundaries, but for this? Oh for this I have to, I need to, this is where I work, where my friends work, this is where my family is, and I need to know whether my family are okay or not. So, tell me, do you believe in your heart of hearts that if we were sinking the execs would tell us right away?”
“Daniel, I understand your frustration, I mean, I think I know where you’re coming from. I work where you work, I’m high up in the org chart and yes, I do hear some of the whispers from time to time, it gets to me sometimes but we have to keep on right?”
“That’s not the answer to my question…”
“Ok, you want an answer? Yes, I believe they’ll tell us.”
“Would I what?”
“Would you, the chief of all things editorial, tell us if we were sinking?”
“Yes…I mean, yes, I believe so.”
“When what:?” Ben is getting visibly nervous right now. His palm is getting sweatier and sweatier, I can see from here because I can visibly see the imprints on the half empty glass.
“When would you tell us?”
“Well, when we’re sinking.”
“That’s it.” Said Daniel, loudly, pointing his index on Ben’s step, clearly overstepping a few boundaries there, but it’s The Daily Buzz anyway, so I guess it’s okay. Daniel quickly snapped out of it, got his finger out of Ben’s chest, and quickly apologised with a “sorry dude”.
“No worries man-“
“No, you know what, fuck it - that’s it, that’s exactly what I’m saying” rebutted Dan,
“Listen, Dan - can I call you Dan?”
“…Sure” said Dan with a straight face. If Ben can call him Dan, then so can I.
“I’ve never been great at breakups, or breaking bad news, and while I do it when needs be, I can’t see The Daily Buzz falling down. It’s not falling down, of that I’m sure.”
“You’re sure of that, that’s gut feeling-“
“And The Daily Buzz has often been about gut feelings Dan, from its very inception. When I got hired, trust me, it was through gut feeling, and that’s not my imposter syndrome speaking - no, I can tell you heart to heart that I was hired from a gut feeling - I don’t resent that, I don’t resent it at all, I’m just glad I’m in this position, I feel blessed to be here.”
“We’re stagnant, Ben. I mean, hey, sure, cool story bro, but we’re stagnant.”
“Stagnant is the word The New York Times used. You’ve been reading The New York Times?”
“Ok then I can list a few synonyms for stagnant…”
“Go ahead. Just be careful what words you’re associating The Daily Buzz with. I know dead is a common synonym for stagnant. I’d be careful if I were you when calling The Daily Buzz dead. But sure, go ahead.”
Gringo right here has a point. I mean, shit, I wouldn’t call my place of employment dead, not even if I hated it that much. Besides, I don’t have that many other words for stagnant.
“Ok, you have a point. I’ll give it to you. But please understand where I’m coming from. Have you read the news? Do you read the press? I guess the only ones that haven’t spoken about it are - guess what - ourselves.”
“That’s not true.”
“Oh, have we written something about it?”
“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean, we do have plenty of allies who haven’t written about us.”
“Being an ally doesn’t mean being silent when someone’s fucking up, or when someone’s in trouble.”
“Ok, Dan, it’s late, we’re not fucking up, and we’re not in trouble. The Verge haven’t written about us, Mashable haven’t, Mic haven’t written about us-“
“Let me tell you who wrote what:
And yes, The New York Times wrote what they call a “dossier” looking into our tumble from grace, and while I don’t know how many pageviews that post has had so far, last time I checked it had thousands of comments - New York Times only open comments to an article once a month. That was our turn.
I mean, damn, it’s only a matter of time until TechCrunch writes a disparaging article about us, not because they hate us, but because a writer has spotted a trend and probably went against all TechCrunch odds
People read those sites, they share those posts with their friends and families, they discuss them together, some of them are our readers too, readers who then come to our site to then check if those fears are unfounded or whether there really is a reason to unbookmark us, like [publication] suggested.”
“Ok, so, what do you suggest?”
Oh I can tell Dan isn’t ready for that question. He looks like he has a few ideas, so far he sounds like he knows where he’s taking this conversation, but it finally seems like Ben is ready to take the reins.
What the fuck Dan, you had your chance and your response is “disrupt”? What are you, a Silicon Valley startup?
“We need to fuck up the game, once again, for good. We need to come back harder and harder…”
“You have to be more specific than that Dan, that’s very generic.”
“Okay, tell me the titles of our most disruptive articles. Tell me the ones you can remember, off the top of your head.”
“Okay, the dress article back in, what, 2014? 2015? That almost broke our servers, so I still remember it. The Obama elections, that was great-“
“That was mediocre, but sure go on.”
“…Okay, well, listen, we cover a lot of stuff, from entertainment to politics and lifestyle and art and - we cover absolutely anything.“
“Okay, let me answer the question for you: the most recent ones that smashed our targets in a pulp were the Aretha interview right before she died, the exclusive on Luther’s personal life, details that everyone thought were lost, details that only transpired after his mother’s passing; the raw, up-and-close interview with Janet, despite her being a really private person, or so all the other interviewers thought; Miley’s interview right after she came out of rehab, and the piece on the Uber Wars. Can you see a pattern there?”
“…They’re different people, different circumstances, some are alive and some aren’t, and one piece is on a war on taxis!”
“No, Ben - most of these pieces are on entertainment, they’re on what brings people together, what makes them smile, what makes them cry. Luther gave us love songs, yet he was fighting demons of his own that he couldn’t quite call out due to being a minority within a minority; Aretha gave us songs that stand the test of time, and that post on our site will do the same; that article about Janet resonated so well with our LGBTQ readers that they named it one of the best queer stories they’ve ever read, and these folks have read tons of articles on and off our site. Miley’s interview was relatable, it was candid, it was an insight into a girl who found herself despite all her past troubles. The Uber Wars story is an outlier, but you see where I’m going - big names, huge names, we go out there and pull the facades from them, we pull the curtains, we sit them down and strip them of everything that makes them celebrities. They then become one of us, they then became under stable, relatable, human. We translate these big people for the people. We haven’t done that in years. Now we cover stuff that other sites cover because it needs to be covered. Now we cover people seemingly at random, almost with no connection to reality - and let me just say, that Donald Trump interview was trash, but hey, freedom of speech I guess. We need something big, someone big, we need…do you understand me now? Do you feel what I’m saying? We’ve lost that strong hand that pulls the cover, and now we’re under that cover, now we’re no longer relatable.”
Ben takes a gulp of his big drink every time he feels the truth dropping on him like a ton of bricks on a Brooklyn construction site. I mean, I’m feeling it too, and I don’t even work with these folks, so I can only imagine how he must be feeling right now, having his employee talk to him like that. You need that though, you know, that reality check to keep you in check.
“Yeah, I feel you.”
Ben saying “I feel you” feels so weird. Not as weird as him saying cerveza, but it’s in the top 5 list of weird things ever said by Ben.
“Ben, the best comments I get aren’t the ones directed to me. They’re not the ones directed to the site. They’re the “oh, this is so us”, and “this is so relatable”, and even better - comments from people tagging other people telling them “doesn’t this remind you of Gerry?” and the friend coming back saying “oh yes, that is so him!”. That shows that they feel we’re catering to them, that we’re not just writing on any random site and throwing news at the crowd, no, we have the crowd coming to us because they feel like they can relate to us, because we can relate to them, because we’re just like them. That’s what I miss. The connection. I would’ve said relatedness but it doesn’t feel like a real word…”
“I know it is Ben, it just doesn’t feel like one. Like us. We’re a big site. We just don’t feel like one right now. Just some food for thought”, he says, as he downs the last few gulps of his drink.
Ben looks at his glass, almost empty but for a few sips. He looks right in the middle of the glass as if it contained the answer that could bring them back on their feet.
“So, what do you think?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what to think…”
He’s still looking in the middle of his glass. I don’t know whether he wants another drink or he wants to call a cab home. Oh, he’s finally looking back at him, this is no longer a monologue.
“…But you’re right. You’re absolutely right. We’re losing it. I don’t think we’ve totally lost it, I think we’re still in time to straightening the boat up before it sinks. And I’m glad there are people like you working for The Daily Buzz, who are candid and honest enough to tell me I’m fucking up.”
He’s smiling. That’s a sad smile. That reminds me of when he came here some time ago when Liena broke up with him. I don’t think he’s over it quite yet, because that’s the look, that’s the same look.
“No, buddy, this is not a direct reflection on you…I mean, despite your position, you know…because some people may feel like you’re the first one to smell shit coming, before anyone else, you know…at least for when editorial is concerned.”
Is that shade?
“…Is that what people have been saying? That I’ve been smelling shit all along and haven’t told anyone?”
“Well, if you have been, then you’ve never addressed it to any of us.”
“You’re being evasive.”
“No, I just don’t want to deviate from the point at hand, being that we need to step our game up a few notches.”
Cue the friendly man hug.
He pays the tab and tips me generously. One of the many reasons why I love The Daily Buzz people is that they tip generously. Even thought their “chief of writing” insists on calling European beer “cerveza”. It would be easier to make “fetch” happen than “cerveza”, if you ask me,but that’s just my humble opinion I guess.
He gets an Uber, I see him quickly scroll down his screen and quickly back up, he’s quickly dismissing all the notifications he had amassed throughout the night. It’s been a long night for the both of them, and I’m pretty sure it’s been a pretty long day for Ben. Dan looks like he’ll probably go home and smoke some of that medicinal.
“Sure you’ll be fine? It’s cold out there.”
“Thanks dad, I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”
“Ok, bring it in.”
They then leave. Dan seems to be a bit more sober than Ben, who seems to struggle with the concept of walking straight.
I hope it all works out for them, man, I’d be devastated if The Daily Buzz were to die.