January 17, 2013

By MESFIN FEKADU Associated Press


When record executive Mark Pitts heard “Sure Thing,” a song Miguel wrote for possible inclusion on an album by Usher, Pitts felt there was something special about the young songwriter. Then he heard “Quickie,” another song from Miguel, and Pitts knew he had to meet the man behind these infectious R&B jams.

“He came and performed and just had no fear. I loved him,” said Pitts, president of urban music at RCA Records. “He was like Elvis. He was all over the place at the time, but it was just different. With a little tweaking, this could be special.”

Instead of giving the songs to Usher, Pitts gave Miguel a recording contract. The 25-year-old kept the songs for his 2010 debut album, “All I Want Is You,” and the tracks became R&B hits. “Sure Thing” was 2011’s top R&B song.

Now the singer who almost fell behind the scenes is nominated for the coveted song of the year Grammy with “Adorn,” his third No. 1 hit on the R&B charts. The song is Miguel’s crossover single to pop territory and is from his sophomore album, “Kaleidoscope Dream.”

“Interestingly I’ve only more recently realized how big of a deal it is,” he said of the top category nomination, which pits him against No. 1 pop smashes from Carly Rae Jepsen and Kelly Clarkson. “I think it’s nothing short of a blessing. I’m like, ‘Wow. Of the year? Of the year? Really?’”

And that’s just one of his five nominations.

“Kaleidoscope Dream” is up for best urban contemporary album, a new category where Miguel will compete with Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE” and “Fortune” by Chris Brown. “Adorn” is also up for best R&B song and best R&B performance, while “Lotus Flower Bomb,” his collaboration with rapper Wale, is nominated for best rap song.

Like his debut, L.A.-based Miguel tackles various sounds on his latest album. He describes his music as “dangerous” and “quietly killing.” He combines R&B vocals with smooth beats at times and electro-flavored ones at others. “Adorn” is a mellow R&B outtake, as is his latest single, “Do You ...” But he also meshes funk, electric and rock sounds on his album, and he’s drawn comparisons to Prince, thanks to his futuristic vibe; shiny, fitted fashion ensembles; trendy hairstyle; and electrifying stage presence.

But Miguel’s debut didn’t splash like his latest album: He didn’t earn any Grammy nominations, though he had produced multiple R&B hits and toured with Mary J. Blige and Usher. Miguel says he was more confident when he recorded his recent album.

“I trusted myself so much more this time. I just felt a lot sturdier and kind of went with my gut on a lot of things,” he said of “Kaleidoscope Dream,” which made several critics’ best records of 2012 lists. “I had a good idea, but I don't know if I knew how to convey the idea the best way and the most honest way, and it took that first album for me to learn the ropes.”

Miguel’s growth also comes from songwriting: He co-wrote three songs on Usher’s “Raymond v. Raymond,” co-wrote the Blige and Musiq Soulchild duet “Ifuleave” and Jaheim’s “Finding My Way Back.” He’s also expanding his audience: He recently wrapped up a tour with R&B crooner Trey Songz, and is the opening act for Alicia Keys’ “Set the World on Fire Tour,” which kicks off March 7 in Seattle. Keys also co-wrote a song on Miguel’s latest album.

Miguel, who is black and Mexican, said he’s been influenced by a number of acts, including James Brown, Freddie Mercury, Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. His sound is part of the progressive movement in R&B that includes acts like The Weeknd and Ocean, who earned six nominations at this year’s Grammys.

“I think they’re all helping each other at this point,” said Pitts, who’s worked with Notorious B.I.G., Diddy, TLC and Nas. “What Frank Ocean is doing — musically and what he stands for, him coming out, all of that — is bringing attention to the sound. ... So is Miguel ... and now the Grammys.”

Miguel said the progressive R&B movement is made up of soul-influenced “freethinkers” who are “hungry to be ourselves.”

“(We) acknowledge the fact that we’re influenced by soul music or were raised on soul music, but ... we’re hungry to transcend the expectations or the idea that soul music is one thing, (that) R&B is one thing,” he said. “R&B is an actual genre and I miss that the only expectation is to be soulful — the sound of it and the delivery is completely up to the artist.”

The 55th annual Grammy Awards will air live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 17, 2013

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. Associated Press


Rapper A$AP Rocky meshes his laid-back lyrical persona with a melodic sound, delivering an impressive piece of work with just a few flaws on his debut album, “Long.Live.A$AP.”

Much of the 12-track set is an easy listen with solid production from Jim Jonsin, Hit-Boy, T-Minus and Clams Casino. The 24-year-old, who hails from Harlem, N.Y., raps with abstract rhymes and metaphors that are easy to grasp on songs like “Goldie” and “Phoenix.” He shows an abundant amount of bravado on “LVL,” declaring his emergence as hip-hop’s next big star. And he holds his own on the catchy hit, “(Expletive) Problems,” which features Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz. The only thing missing from “Long.Live.A$AP” is a theme or story line to help us learn more about A$AP Rocky and what he stands for as an artist.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 17, 2013

Associated Press


Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. has become the first out-of-state resident honored by a Utah human rights group.

The 76-year-old Gossett received the Drum Major Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Utah Human Rights Commission during a luncheon last Friday in West Valley City.

Then-Gov. Michael Leavitt signed an executive order creating the commission in 1999 in an effort to promote principles of human rights.

Gossett stressed the importance of education and being sensitive to other cultures during an address to a crowd of about 200.

Gossett has appeared in dozens of films. He won an Oscar for best supporting actor in 1983 for his portrayal of the no-nonsense Navy flight school sergeant who whips Richard Gere into shape in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 17, 2013


Take the lead, especially in romantic matters. Throw modesty out the window. Be in shameless pursuit. You know that your need is great this week. Seek to satisfy it. Your lover might be surprised, but you can make the surprise a pleasant one. Soul Affirmation: I hunt for love in all the right places.



Heads or tails! Go or stay! What to do? This week you’ll find yourself pulled in two exactly opposite directions. There is no way to satisfy both pulls. Let your friends decide. Take whatever suggestion comes first. Soul Affirmation: I let my friendships guide my way.



Don’t waste time thinking about the past. Sure they were wrong, but what does it matter now. Enjoy the present. Find something good to do for the rest of the week. Avoid conflict. Nothing is so important that it needs to be resolved this week. Soul Affirmation: This week I forgive myself for everything that has happened.



Stop thinking about work. Sure there are pressing matters, but they’ll wait. Tap into the fun side of your personality. Get deep into that side and stay there. Don’t keep pulling back to think about things that need to be fixed. Soul Affirmation: I give my mind a big vacation this week.



Let the pleasure principal win the battle with your sense of duty. Give yourself up to the sunshine, the fresh air, the outdoors. Stop talking and get moving. Your own motion will clear your mind of things that have been hanging on.  Soul Affirmation: I celebrate freedom of mind this week.



There are so many good things to do that the challenge will be in deciding what to do and what to not do. Great place to be. Count your blessings -all of them and flip a coin. What a time to be alive. Call someone. Let them decide what you should enjoy first. Soul Affirmation: I know that my life is full of good things. I enjoy!



Give yourself a chance to know yourself better. Let others reflect the beauty that is you and that will give you added knowledge of yourself this week. Ask for opinions and listen closely, making something good out of whatever is said. Soul Affirmation: I spend the week celebrating me.



You’ll meet someone that you could come to adore. Make sure you’ve laid the groundwork because they might not be ready for all the adoration that you are ready to give. Make sure that you don’t adore a bird in the bush while neglecting a bird in hand. Soul Affirmation: I enjoy the act of adoring.



Being an artist doesn’t always mean painting a picture. This week apply your artistry to anything that you do. Look at life as an empty canvas upon which you have the skill to paint almost any wonderful thing that you want. Soul Affirmation: My life itself is my greatest creation.



This week is better than last week for career goals. Think deeply about what you really want for a career. Clarity is easy to come by. Charm is an extremely effective tool for you this week. The smile is needed more than at any recent time.  Soul Affirmation: I keep my smile shining, especially at home.



Believe that it is true when a friend or family member praises you this week. There is something good happening with you that you cannot see. Expect good news about a publishing, educational or legal venture. Romance is in the air, revel in it.  Soul Affirmation: All the good things said about me this week are absolutely true.



This week let your nurturing spirit shines through. Your tremendous adaptability will make it possible for you to show kindness even where it is not deserved. Know that you kindness is appreciated. All week long you’ll find yourself in helpful conversations with friends or family members. Heed what is said.  Soul Affirmation: Everyone deserves kindness this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 17, 2013

By Sandra Varner


Contributing Writer


He was cast as David Palmer, president of the most powerful country in the world on the smash TV hit, 24; and, his commanding baritone voice can be heard daily in nationally televised commercials for All State Insurance.

On inauguration weekend, Bay Area (San Mateo) native Dennis Haysbert (Wreck-It-Ralph, Breach, Jarhead) costars alongside a band of celebrated colleagues in the new crime drama, LUV, touted as rapper/actor/advocate Common’s first dramatic lead.

LUV is a timeless classic with a contemporary, masculine gloss.


An 11-year-old boy gets a crash course in what it means to be a man when he spends a day with the uncle he idolizes in LUV, a poignant and gritty coming-of-age story featuring standout performances by Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton and newcomer Michael Rainey Jr.

With his mother in rehab and his father out of the picture, young Woody Watson (Rainey Jr.) lives with his grandmother (Lonette McKee) in suburban Baltimore and longs for his family to be reunited. His charismatic Uncle Vincent (Common) has recently returned home after eight years in prison, determined to straighten out his life by opening a high-end crab shack that will establish him as a solid citizen with a legitimate future.

One day, instead of dropping Woody off at school, Vincent decides to give the boy a tutorial on how a man gets things done. After a trip to a tailor to get Woody a custom-fitted suit, the pair heads to the bank to sign off on the loan Vincent needs to fulfill his dreams. But when his meeting with a bank officer puts the brakes on his plans, Vincent has no one to turn to for help but his former associates, including Baltimore crime boss Mr. Fish (Haysbert) and his brother Arthur (Glover).

A day that begins with a parking- lot driving lesson and Woody’s first oyster takes a desperate turn when Fish insists Vincent run one more drug deal to demonstrate his loyalty. Soon Vincent finds himself pulled back into the violent world he is trying to escape—and Woody has to decide whether to follow his hero…or become his own man.  Running time is 94 minutes.

LUV is directed by Sheldon Candis from a script by Candis and Justin Wilson.

Additional cast includes Meagan Good (TV’s Deception, Stomp the Yard, “Californication”), and Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire”).

My conversation with Dennis Haysbert:

Sandra Varner/Talk2SV: LUV is an intriguing story with a fresh approach.  Yes, we’ve seen the perils of poor decisions, miss-steps and predictable outcomes of drugs and the like.  It all takes place in a 24-hour-period; certainly you have experience in storytelling.  Share your analysis of this film. 

Haysbert: Yes, as well miss-steps with relatives. Well from my perspective, Mr. Fish, my character’s perspective, he always treated Vincent (Common) like a son, at the very least, a younger brother that he brought up in the business.  When my business gets popped, Vincent took the rap and went to jail for it.  He’s released early, which leads me to wonder what he has done or said to get out so early. So I think he’s betrayed me. Thus, I send him out on a fool’s errand and I wait to see the results of that.

Talk2SV: You talk about what your character’s feelings are about betrayal yet so much of the story centers on trust; the trust that obviously Mr. Fish and Vincent once had until your perception of his betrayal blew up in Vincent’s face as well as in your character’s.

Haysbert: Yes, exactly. Mr. Fish is trying to figure out just how much damage has been done and Vincent’s not talking. Then he comes to me for a loan to start his own business, all the while saying how innocent he is; there is a lot of mistrust.  You can go back to The Godfather (movies) for that same example.  Actually, while doing this scene, I was reminded of a line in The Godfather that Michael Corleone says, “This is not personal, it’s business …,” so as soon as it becomes personal, then there’s a problem.

Talk2SV: That’s a great parallel; I think that this film is full of parallels. There are several resonant themes throughout; we’ve talked about two of them. But I also enjoy the platform of strong male personalities --in conflicted and restricted settings-- having to work out their problems. What was the tenor of the set when everyone came together, particularly at the dinner table scene when all of the problems hit the fan?

Haysbert: That was a lot like a chess match to me. Just seeing what these parties were working with. I think my character showed a lot of finesse and skill in getting out of the predicament he was in. It’s still not clear whether or not I sent Vincent to his doom, even though he’s being shot at in an attempt to kill him.

Talk2SV: What backstory did you give your character?

Haysbert: Well that’s supposed to be a secret until opening day (laughter). But I’ll tell you in broad strokes. I consider my character to be a Fortune 500 executive with street knowledge.  I mean, you see a lot of black men in businesses now as executives, but when you think about Baltimore (the setting of the story) and some of your impoverished areas in the country, my character didn’t have a formal education, but he was a basketball player so he must have gone to college and was able to use that aspect of education to do what he does, to be his own boss, to run the streets and so forth. One has to have a kind of flare for the streets and you have to want that kind of life.

Talk2SV: As an established and successful talent, what inspired you to work with first-time filmmaker Sheldon Candis?

Haysbert:  You know, as far as I’m concerned with movies, everything starts with a script.  If the script flows, it makes sense and has a clear march towards a clear conclusion; I am in hook, line and sinker. Sheldon’s personality is such that it was very welcoming. If he wasn’t the kind of person that he is I probably would have thought more about taking on a role like this. You have to have somebody that is confident in what they’re doing in order to do a movie of this magnitude – and – to do it for as little money as they had. I was very impressed with that.

Talk2SV: Given the quality of your voice and your entire packaging, we’ve heard you in animated films and seen you on stage.  Are you using your voice talent in particular in other areas?  

Haysbert: Currently, I am narrating documentaries. I just completed three documentaries that are due in the coming months.

Talk2SV: What do you want your career footnote to reflect?

Haysbert: I want to continually perform strong leading roles that challenge me;  that thoroughly entertains the audience and provides the opportunity to learn something.

Talk2SV: In summary, LUV posits a familiar tale in the hands of this cast of wonderful black male actors, lending to the film’s authenticity.

Haysbert: Thank you. I was ecstatic to be involved with these gentlemen and let me close by also saying Michael Rainey was incredible.  He’s a fine young actor and I think he’s got a bright, bright future.

Read my interview with LUV’s director Sheldon Candis at www.Talk2SV.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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