November 22, 2012
By MESFIN FEKADU
Nicki Minaj, the rapper who has had much success on the pop charts with songs like “Starships” and “Super Bass,” says the rerelease of her sophomore album will be nostalgic for her early fans.
“The feel of the rerelease is kind of like my first sound, like the mixtapes,” she said of “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded — The Re-Up,” out Tuesday.
The rerelease comes seven months after “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. That album features pop, dance, R&B, reggae and rap sounds. It's a far stretch from when Minaj kicked off her career as a sexed-up street rapper, signed by Lil Wayne in 2009 after she released three buzzed-about mixtapes. Her official debut, “Pink Friday,” is near double platinum and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
But the 29-year-old says she’s “back to basics” on her eight-track “Re-Up,” which features Lil Wayne, Tyga and some of Minaj’s proteges.
“It sounds probably more hood in some ways, for a lack of a better word,” she said.
Her pop fans won’t be disappointed, though: There’s also the Dr. Luke-produced, dance-flavored “Va Va Voom.”
In a recent telephone interview, Minaj talked about her new music, artists she is mentoring and working (kind of) with and Mariah Carey on “American Idol.”
The Associated Press: What’s the energy like on the rerelease?
Minaj: I studied a lot of the production side of this particular rerelease. It was just important that the beats sounded a certain way. ... I was really able to step up the writing on it as well.
AP: This album features some of your signed artists, Parker and Thomas Brinx. How’s it feel to pay it forward?
Minaj: It’s exciting because I think that I’m finally in a position to open doors for other people and it’s a great feeling because I feel like they're so, so talented. Parker, he’s actually from London and he’s a writer, producer, singer ... and I'm going to be putting out music with him at the top of the year. ... Brinx was someone that I knew for a long time. I was rapping with him before I even got a deal and his skills have always been so exceptional. ... So I always felt like if I got an opportunity I would bring him along and now I have that opportunity.
AP: You let cameras follow you for a three-part reality special on E! What was that like?
Minaj: It’s been fun because I think that my fans are getting a real kick out of it. I’m happy I did it. ... I don't really have an opinion on it. It was just a decision for me to show more of myself and I never really know how people are going to react to it, so I’ve started stepping back and away, and getting away from just overthinking it.
AP: Were you hesitant about doing it?
Minaj: Of course I was hesitant. I’m a very private person. I definitely thought about it a lot and then I went for it.
AP: What are your favorite albums of the year?
Minaj: I really have been enjoying all of the hip-hop albums that came out because I feel like hip-hop artists have been taking their careers into their own hands and I just want to give a salute to everyone because it’s not easy. ... The music has been sort of changing and adding new sounds to the game and introducing new people to the game, so I would just give a big nod to hip-hop for 2012.
AP: Is working as a judge on “American Idol” what you thought it would be like?
Minaj: No. ... They’re very long days and that’s the biggest thing I didn’t really expect. ... I’m used to being able to handle my business at any time, and when it’s ‘American Idol,’ sometimes we’re in one place for eight hours judging people and I can’t go to my BlackBerry every five minutes like I'm used to. So that kind of slows my business down and that is something that I never could have foreseen. But, as a whole, I love the experience that I’m getting.
AP: How are you and Mariah Carey, another new judge on “Idol,” getting along?
November 22, 2012
By MESFIN FEKADU
In order to capture his best version of Jimi Hendrix for an upcoming biopic, Andre 3000 said he had to think of him as a regular dude and not a rock star.
“I didn’t look at him as an icon because when you’re in it, you don’t know you’re an icon. You don’t know you’re an icon until other people say you’re an icon,” the 37-year-old said in a recent interview.
“So I had to take it as a person, you know what I mean? And I just tried to say, ‘Well, what would Jimi want people to know that they can't get off of YouTube?’ And that's how I approached it,” he said.
Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970. He was ranked No. 1 on Rolling Stone magazine's greatest guitarists of all-time list. His band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, is known for iconic albums such as “Electric Ladyland” and “Are You Experienced.”
“All Is by My Side,” which focuses on the early days of Hendrix’s career, will be released next year. Andre 3000 is excited to see the film, which he’s finished shooting in Ireland. He believes the public “will be pleased.”
Andre 3000, one-half of OutKast with Big Boi, has been out of the music scene in recent years, although he’s been featured on songs by Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Ke$ha and Young Jeezy.
OutKast’s 2006 platinum-selling album, “Idlewild,” which accompanied a film of the same name starring the duo, was their last album. Their 11-time platinum “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” won the 2004 Grammy Award for album of the year.
Big Boi, who released a solo album two years ago to welcoming reviews, will release a new solo disc, “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors,” next month.
But Andre 3000 isn’t in a rush to record an album.
“Some days I feel like I'll do it, some days I don’t. Some days I feel like I don’t need to, some days I feel like I want to do it before I die. So, I don’t know where to fall. I am just hoping one day I get that inspiration,” he said at an event for Gillette’s eMO’gency Styler Tour, which supports men’s health and prostate cancer programs. The tour kicked off in New York, with stops scheduled in Chicago and Houston.
“It’s a feeling for me. Like, I can’t just throw out an album to be rapping,” he said. “And I don’t even know if it will be rap. I don’t even know what it will be.”
However, he could find the inspiration and complete an album in just a few days: “It could be a rush situation. Like if I feel that feeling and I record an album in three days and I’m like, ‘This is what I want to say right now’ — that can happen, too.”
He also says he’s constantly writing songs.
“I write all the time. ... I actually stopped typing it in my phone because like a cloud is basically reading every thought that I have and I don’t like that,” he said. “So I went back to my paper and started writing.”
He’s not sure fans want a new OutKast album for the right reasons.
“Man, we’ve had a great ride. ... Like when we got into it when we were high school kids and we just wanted to do something fun and push it, and if it’s not that then why do it?” he said.
“I’m not the type that prescribes to nostalgia, and most people say they want an OutKast album because they used to love it. Y’all don’t even know if y’all still love it. You just know you used to love it. But you may not like it now, who knows?”
November 15, 2012
Sentinel Wire Services
Terrence J (Jenkins) was once a homeless college graduate going-for-broke when he auditioned and was hired to host BET’s “106 & Park,” but recently he completed another item on his ‘wish list’ with his move to “E! News.”
Jenkins’ will be co-hosting with “E! News” veteran Giuliana Rancic.
“I actually wrote down how and what I wanted to accomplish,” said Terrence J about his career. “I was homeless at 23 when I auditioned for ‘106 & Park.’ I never got what I wanted but… it’s full of accomplishments. Every day is a step towards (what I want)…”
Terrence J is also an actor whose credits are already impressive with co-starring roles in the Steve Harvey film ‘Think Like a Man’, in ‘Burlesque’ and the T.D. Jakes movie ‘Sparkle’.
The North Carolina native says that the “E! News” assignment is the pinnacle of his successes thus far. He credits his academic achievements in preparing him for the worldwide exposure he received via his co-hosting gig at BET on “106 & Park.”
“That family connection, that means so much to me, it fuels me,” he said. “I try to stay humble and not get into trouble. You build…every time you get experiences, you get better.”
The actor/television co-host said he intends to be the best co-host on “E! News” he can be while also having fun.
Episodes will include interviews with comedian/actor Kevin Hart and Chris Brown on his new foundation Symphonic Love.
November 22, 2012
By Kam Williams
Soledad O’Brien is the anchor for CNN morning show, “Starting Point” and a special correspondent for CNN/U.S. Since joining the network in 2003, O’Brien has reported breaking news from around the globe and has produced award-winning, record-breaking and critically acclaimed documentaries on the most important stories facing the world today. In 2010, she wrote a critically acclaimed memoir, “The Next Big Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities,” which chronicles her biggest reporting moments and how her upbringing and background have influenced these experiences.
O’Brien’s documentaries include the “Black in America” and “Latino in America” series; “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America,” a look at the crisis in public education where American kids are not learning the skills necessary to compete; “The Women Who Would be Queen,” a portrayal of the future king and queen’s friendship-turned-romance and very modern royal marriage; “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” a report on religious freedom protections; “Pictures Don’t Lie,” the story of the secret life of Civil Rights photographer Ernest Withers as a paid FBI informant; “Rescued,” a look at Haiti’s remarkable children before, during and after the devastating earthquake; and “Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” chronicling the struggle of two gay men to have a child.
A graduate of Harvard University, Soledad lives with her husband and four children in Manhattan. Here, she talks about her upcoming “Black in America” special “Who Is Black in America?” which is set to premiere on CNN Sunday, December 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. (Check local listings)
LAWT: Congratulations on your excellent election year coverage on CNN. But did you ever worry about being pigeonholed as partisan during the presidential campaign? How do you maintain your image as impartial when you have Republicans taking potshots at you? For instance, Romney advisor John Sununu suggested that you put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead, and Fox News President Roger Ailes condescendingly referred to you as “That girl that’s named after a prison.”
SO: It’s going to get crazy at times during any election year. That’s just what happens. The goal for me is to be focused and really well read so I’m prepared to ask the tough questions of both sides. You’re always going to have those people who love you and those who hate you, but after four kids and a quarter-century in this business, I have a very thick skin. [Chuckles] The only thing that bothers me is if I feel I haven’t done a tough interview. The people who come on regularly know they’re going to be challenged, and that they can challenge me. They also understand that I’m not a pushover and that I don’t crumble because I come armed with the facts.
LAWT: Let’s talk about your upcoming special. Where did you come up with the idea for “Who Is Black in America?”
SO: We were thinking about universal themes for “Black in America” that really touch people, that really matter to people, and one of the themes that we kept coming up with was ‘colorism,’ discrimination based on skin tone. It was fascinating to hear the conversations that were happening between people who were light-skinned, people who were dark-skinned, and people somewhere in between. Just the hurt, the pain and anger on all sides was very interesting. So, we thought we would explore that because it seemed like a very interesting story to tell, especially since we were seeing a big change, generationally. The conversations I was having with men and women of my age group were very different from the conversations younger men and women were having with people of their age group. It’s fascinating to hear the take of those that we feature in the doc around 17, 18 and 19, as they kind of grapple with their identity and with where America is today.
LAWT: I think I heard CNN’s Roland Martin mention in promo for your show that he had someone in his family pass for white.
SO: Yep, and that’s not an unusual story. That’s another question people would like to explore. What makes you black? How can you consider yourself black while someone with the identical genetic makeup considers themselves white or tries to pass for white? Those are the sorts of big questions we wanted to grapple with.
LAWT: I suspect that the influx of immigrants from South America, India, Africa, Mexico and so many other countries, along with mixed marriage, is changing the definition of what is black?
SO: I think that’s true. I also think that there’s a real interesting conversation going on generationally. One of the young women we profile, who is biracial, very much has a hard time identifying as black. And yet, she has a sister who would say the exact opposite. [Chuckles] So, this isn’t a documentary where we come up with the right answer at the end. It really is much more a conversation about colorism because, ultimately, what is at the heart of all this is this sense that there’s some better skin color to be, and that people are discriminated against. So, it’s not just that people are grappling with identity but that there’s a lot of pain and shame and embarrassment and hurt and anger on account of colorism. And we wanted to understand what that was.
LAWT: Tell me a little about Nayo Jones, one of the young women you profile on the special.
SO: She’s biracial. Her father is white and mother’s black. She lives with her dad and very much identifies with her white side. She’s a super-talented, smart young singer and poet. She goes through life with people trying to figure out what she is, and asking, “What are you?” which really makes her mad.
LAWT: What about Perry DiVirgilio?
SO: In a way, he’s the center of all the stories. He’s a biracial guy. His dad is white, his mom is black, and he runs the poetry workshop in Philadelphia on understanding who you are where all of these people’s lives intersect. They’re sort of the right age for it because they’re the coming-of-age age. When you’re a slam poet, part of the agenda is to connect to your material. And your success is a measure of your honesty and your authenticity. I think a lot of those slam poets don’t want to tackle the hard stuff, and Perry really pushes them and challenges about what their identity means to them by asking, “What is making you angry?” “What are you afraid of?” and “What are you ashamed of?” So, he’s sort of the centerpiece of our documentary not just for his own story but because he connects to all the young people as the poet/mentor who tries to get them to be honest. What you realize is that most people aren’t that honest, and this is one of the rare times when you capture people on camera speaking about how they feel about race and identity.
LAWT: How do you see this coming-of-age generation as different?
SO: I think those in our documentary share a sense of optimism, and I’m curious to see where it goes. Overall, it was very interesting to see all these different people trying to tackle the problem of colorism, because in some ways it’s such a deep psychological problem. Perry, our poet, thinks so. He believes that young people being able to articulate their poetry so unbelievably is really about understanding who they are. The exercises that he does in his poetry workshop are just fascinating.
LAWT: Do you think you might have different generational reactions to the special?
SO: I’m sure. Some of the younger people exhibit a certain flexibility. They’re like, “Why can’t I be biracial? Why can’t I be both?” I never felt that was an option for us. Maybe it was, but I never felt like I had an option for both. My identity was very strong. I never believed people who said things like, “You’re not really black,” or suggested my identity might be anything but black. Today, I think there is this sense of flexibility among younger people. Whether or that remains as they get older remains to be seen. The ultimate question we examine is, “Who decides?” Is it you? Is it society? I think it’s a really interesting documentary. Again, we didn’t set out to solve the problem. I just don’t think people talk about the roots of colorism, and this fifth “Black in America” special was a great opportunity to do so.
Photo by Bryan D. Kane
November 15, 2012
By Chelsea Battle
SENTINEL: Why did you choose to direct Intimate Apparel?
Sheldon Epps (SE): It’s a play that I saw many years ago, and really liked what I saw. I always thought about it as a possible play to do. The idea of people literally and figuratively reaching out and touching each other — the idea of people having simple physical affection — is really important. I guess, I was also thinking about the idea of how we’re so into electronic communication. We’re constantly texting each other or tweeting each other, emailing — and we’ve sort of lost the idea of being in literal connection with each other, which I think is kind of a shame. You used to sit down and write letters to your friends and your family, and people just don’t do that anymore. I can’t remember the last time I got a hand written letter! So it’s just a reminder of that time, the way we made contact with someone in a non-digital way. That’s the way our society used to be; that’s what we used to all want.
SENTINEL: What specifically about this time period really fascinates you? Why 1905?
(SE): The fact that New York City specifically became very segregated: the Blacks uptown, the Jews downtown, and the Whites were sort of midtown. But the working class people of 1905 all lived together, and I think that’s really interesting that somehow, after literally being right next door to each other, something changed in America and we started separating — and frankly probably became a lesser country — because we lost that inter weaving that kept all the races together because everybody was poor together. I was also very interested because people who often times were not educated certainly didn’t have a lot of money, but they certainly had a sense of value about what they did, and pride in their work. And this is a woman [main character Esther] who does not want to be taken care of; she wants to make it on her own. That woman is an early womens’ libber because she says, “I don’t want a man to take care of me; I want to make my own way.” The opportunity to make your own destiny was started by women in this play.
SENTINEL: Is there a reason that the main character is a seamstress? Is this notion of a seamstress a metaphor for something else?
(SE): Yes, there is definitely a reason. The character even says, “I would rather make my money sewing, doing this art form, than to be a maid or a washer woman.” One of the things Lynn addresses in the play is that there is an art form to making something. One of the characters says to Esther, “You have gifted fingers. Not everybody can thread a needle.”
SENTIEL: Does the fabric itself symbolize something?
(SE): The play is all over the place. There are some Black characters, some White, there is a Jewish character, and a character from Panama. One of the main characters in the play brings a specific piece of fabric from Asia. That’s a whole different civilization, and it really becomes an important aspect of the play. The idea of different cultures coming together through the art of sewing and creating is really important to the play. The very touch and feel of the fabric is what draws two people together who really can’t be together because of the restrictions of culture, race, religion, and the period they live in. Yet they are in love with each other because they have such a mutual appreciation for this fabric.
SENTINEL: What are some of the recurring themes in the play? How does it relate to today?
(SE): I think that everyone has had a time in their life when they didn’t feel all that attractive. Or maybe they had something going on inside of them that made them feel not valuable. That was true in the era of this play, 1905, and it was true 5 minutes ago. We’ve all had times where we don’t feel worthy of love or of being interesting to a partner. What’s interesting in the play is that you kind of expect this from a character who is Black and not wealthy. She’s a workingwoman who is illiterate, so she feels badly about herself. But it’s also true of this 5th avenue wealthy woman that she makes corsets for, who feels exactly the same way. So that feeling of not feeling worthy is something that’s still with us. In the end, the main character gets beyond that and she says, “I’m going to give up a lot (I won’t tell you what; you have to see for yourself!) because I respect myself. I won’t allow you to abuse that good woman.” You see the growth of this character, and she goes back to work and doing what she does best.
SENTINEL: What did you look for when casting the characters?
(SE): I like actors who are brave, who have a lot of what I like to call theatrical muscle. I wanted to cast people who were really good looking because I wanted it to be about people who are really good looking. All of the characters are good looking, but don’t feel that they are. Also, everyone likes to look at good-looking people!