The World’s 10 Greatest Solemn-Ass Negroes, Ranked

Harry Lennix in Man of Steel (Warner Bros. screenshot)

10. Ice Cube

I forgot who it was who first told me that Ice Cube never smiles in movies. I think it was a Delta because that’s a very Delta observation to make. But yeah, Ice Cube never smiles in movies.


9. Nas

I imagine Queensbridge project life is hard, but I had no idea it was so hard that niggas from there don’t smile until they’re 37.


8. Octavia Spencer

Plays solemn so well in movies that you imagine the director telling her, “Just act like you’ve been on hold with T-Mobile for 32 minutes” before every scene.


7. Clarence Thomas

Not only does he never smile, but this nigga doesn’t even speak. He’s one of the most high-profile black men in America, and no one has heard him actually say a word since 2004. (Although, to be fair, a smiling-ass Clarence Thomas is a scary fucking thought. Like, why is he smiling? Did he just rule that it’s illegal for black people to eat frittatas after midnight? WHY IS CLARENCE THOMAS SMILING???)


6. Russell Westbrook

Hoops, daps teammates up, and rocks chestless sweatshirts like a kid just told him the Easter Bunny shot Santa.


5. Kimberly Elise

Plays solemn and sad so well in movies that you imagine the director telling her, “Just act like you’ve been told your dog just died because he ate your niece—who is also dead now—and his stomach exploded” before every scene.


4. Stephen A. Smith

Never seen anyone with a brow perpetually wrinkled like Stephen A’s. It’s like “Stephen A” is Swahili for “furrowed.”


3. Mary J. Blige

There’s no hateration or holleration in the dancerie. Only sadness. (And broccoli.)


2. Tyronn Lue

Looks and carries himself like the curmudgeonly best friend of a black sitcom dad.


1. Harry Lennix

The only reason the academy hasn’t created an Oscar for the “most convincing depiction of a vaguely important and serious lightskint man on-screen” is that Harry Lennix would win every year.


Share This Story

About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.