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January 10, 2013

By MESFIN FEKADU Associated Press

 

When a teenage Nas opted out of street hustling to chase his musical dream, those around him found it amusing.

"When I chose to get in rap, my friends chose to do other things and not all great things. They chose to be in the streets and kind of laughed at me in a way about taking rap so seriously," said the rapper, who hails from the New York City borough of Queens. "I'm glad I stuck with it because I believed in it from day one."

No one laughs about Nas now. Considered one of music's most celebrated lyricists, he's a top contender at next month's Grammy Awards with four nominations. The 39-year-old rap veteran reached new heights last year with the release of his album "Life Is Good," which made several critics' end-of-the-year lists. It is nominated for best rap album, competing with records by Drake, Rick Ross, The Roots, Lupe Fiasco and 2 Chainz.

"The album was just such a piece that really told you about my life, about my divorce without doing too much, without telling too much," said Nas, whose split with singer Kelis was finalized in 2010.

Nas also gets personal on his album about another woman: his daughter. The song "Daughters," about the struggles of parenting a girl, is up for best rap song and best rap performance; his jam with the late Amy Winehouse, "Cherry Wine," is nominated for best rap/sung collaboration.

He talked about his career, the nominations, his recent tour partner Lauryn Hill and more in a recent interview.

AP: "Daughters" isn't a typical contemporary rap song. How's it feel to see that one garner attention at the Grammys?

Nas: I'm really proud of that song. Just writing it, I'm like, "I'm going through something in my life with me and my family," and I don't think about who's going to hear it at that point because it's that personal. ...The fact that it made the final cut of the album; the fact that it became a single was great enough for me. Like, wow. And then to be acknowledged by the Grammys is mind-blowing.

AP: What does your daughter think of the song?

Nas: I don't know. She never really told me. It was just a thing. She's used to me making music and she's used to me doing things, doing songs that are personal. Never (songs) about her that are so personal, but I think part of her just knows that this was something that was weighing heavy on my heart and I think she gave me a pass for that. I don't think she was always too happy about it. It's different. It's not like she's a fan of it. She's my daughter, so it's a different relationship; a little touchy.

AP: You've been releasing albums since 1991. How are you finding new things to write about?

Nas: Rule No. 1 is you can't be fake. If you're fake, you become a gimmick and you're selling a gimmick; a little gimmick is cool, this is entertainment. But when you base your stuff on mostly real stuff, you never run out of it because every day is a different adventure.

AP: You recently toured with Lauryn Hill. What was that like?

Nas: She's almost like someone from a different era. ...She possesses this aura of someone like Roberta Flack, Nina Simone — it's almost like you're with them, on tour with that person. And sometimes it's even more advanced for the audience; the audience is used to dealing with microwave music, so to have someone like Ms. Lauryn Hill onstage, they might not understand, they haven't seen artists like that before, and I feel like I'm with someone that's like, beyond me.

 

AP: Will you record music together again?

Nas: I don't know. I would love to. It's really about sitting down and really cracking into it. She's a real serious artist.

AP: Which albums are the standouts of 2012?

Nas: No disrespect to nobody else in rap music, but Kendrick Lamar. I'm really happy about his record. I needed that. His record reaches you. It gives you hope. ...Also, Meek Mill. His energy is amazing.

AP: What's it like when you return to your hometown of Queens?

Nas: You get lost out there sometimes. You out there in Hollywood, Sunset (Blvd), Rodeo (Drive), Miami, South Beach, London — when I'm in Queens I realize I can always come back to where it all started, where I was raised at and the place that gave me the first, most exciting times of my life.

AP: Are you working on new music now?

Nas: Yes. It has started. I must tell you. I can't stop now. I'm in a great zone.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 10, 2013

By Rych McCain

Special to the NNPA

 

The Nominees for upcoming 2013 NAACP Image Awards were recently announced at the Paley Center for The Media Arts in Beverly Hills. The nominations were read by Anthony Anderson (Guys with Kids), Niecy Nash (The Soul Man), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Garcelle Beauvais (Flight), Tyler James Williams (Go On) and Zendaya (Shake It Up). The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature, and film, plus, honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Winners will be announced during the two-hour star- studded event, which will air live on Friday, February 1 (8 ET live/PT tape-delayed) on NBC.

The nominees in the TV categories were led by ABC and CBS with 20 and 12 nominations respectively. HBO and Lifetime had 10 noms and NBC had 9. In the recording category, RCA leads with 11 nominations, followed by Atlantic with 10 nominations. The Weinstein Company leads with 4 nominations, along with Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures, with 4 in the motion picture category. “We are proud to celebrate the artists and activists who use their craft to share positive images of our culture.” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “The artistic community is an important ally for social justice, and the NAACP Image Awards provides an excellent venue to recognize those who make a difference through art and activism.”

“We are happy that once again the Image Awards will be aired on NBC,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “For 44 years, the Image Awards have recognized the best that communities of color have to offer, both in the arts and in civil rights. The NAACP is proud to honor all of these achievements.”

Founded in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. The organization’s half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities and monitor equal opportunity in the public and private sectors. The 44TH NAACP Image Awards are sponsored by: FedEx, AARP, UAW/Chrysler, Wells Fargo, Ford Motor Company, Anheuser Busch, Hyundai Motors, AT&T, Southwest Airlines and Walgreens. For a complete list of nominees go to www. rychmccainhollyhoodnotes.blogspot.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 03, 2013

By Brandon I. Brooks

Managing Editor

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Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx gives one his most powerful performances on the big screen with his portrayal of Django in Django Unchained. 

Foxx plays a slave turned bounty hunter, who gets the rare opportunity to seek revenge against white slavers and bad men, while searching for his captured slave-wife, Broomhilda, played by the beautiful actress Kerry Washington.  

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx (Django), Leonardo DiCaprio (Calvin Candie), Samuel L. Jackson (Stephen), Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz), and Washington. 

Opening second at the box office, Django Unchained has received mixed reviews since its release.  The most notable and harshest critique of the film comes from veteran movie director and writer Spike Lee, who has called for a boycott of the film.  

Lee commented on the film via twitter saying, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them."  Lee made these comments even though he has yet to view the film.

 

Watch the Video: Jaime Foxx interviewed by Brandon I. Brooks for LA Sentinel TV (LASTV)

 

Kam Williams, Sentinel and Watts Times movie critic, is on the other end of the spectrum giving the Django Unchained four out of five stars.  Williams writes, “Slavery is reimagined as a messy splatterfest where massa gets exactly what he deserves and then some!”

Django Unchained has sparked a debate in the Black community and left many mixed feelings and it has brought to life discussions on the topic of Black slavery which is a taboo subject in American history and its educational system.

There is no mystery that Black slavery is under-analyzed by Hollywood and mainstream media.  The most memorable glimpse and realistic portrayal of Black slavery on film would be the classic mini-series Roots, starring LeVar Burton.  The Roots mini-series brought the horror of slavery into the living rooms of millions.

For the first time in recent history, the subject of Black slavery takes center stage as the backdrop of a major Hollywood picture.  Unfortunately, Tarantino’s film and Foxx’s portrayal of Django could not have come at a more critical point in American history because gun-control is once again a hot button debate in Washington.  

Because of the intense buzz surrounding Django Unchained, the Sentinel and Watts Times had to reach out to Foxx and get his take on the project.  We caught up with the superstar actor for an exclusive one-on-one interview at his home in Westlake, California.

Sitting down in his living room, Foxx shared that he first-heard about the film on the internet AND that Will Smith had the role.  Foxx said that he was upset that he didn’t get a chance to read for the part. However, soon after hearing of the movie, Foxx had a management shift and got the opportunity to read the script. 

After reading the script, Foxx said he didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to the word “Nigga”, which is used obsessively in the film.

“Me being from Texas, I didn’t knee-jerk like someone from New York would or someone from L.A. would because when you live in Texas or you live in the south, there is a racial component that we live with,” said Foxx. 

“I love the south, but there were several moments when I was called the “N” word so I didn’t knee-jerk to that.”

Foxx chose to lock-in on the love story between Django and Broomhilda.  He shared that the heroicness at the very end of the movie, where Django actually lives, sold him on the film. 

“The slave actually picks up arms, becomes this bounty hunter, and wins in the end,” said Foxx. 

“And the other aspect, me being from Texas it was cowboys, I was riding horses.  Back when I was a kid, watching Bonanza was the thing and watching these iconic White cowboys, we never got a chance to play on a big scale.  So when I got a chance to meet with Tarantino, I shared a lot of private things that happened to me when I was a kid.” 

It’s rumored that Hollywood heavy weights such as Will Smith, Idris Elba, Terrence Howard, Anthony Mackie and Lorenz Tate were up for the role.  When Foxx met with Tarantino to discuss his opportunity to play the role, he said he knew whoever got the part would be brilliant. 

“All of these guys could have done it and that’s a testament to the amount of Black talent we have in Hollywood today,” said Foxx. 

Foxx felt he was meant for the part because he could not only play the part but the “articulation of the work afterwards.” 

 “I would hate to be in the theater watching the film and I am not in the film.”  

When asked how Black people should react to some of the atrocities captured during filming Django, Foxx said, “You are not supposed to feel good when those words are being said.   You are not supposed to feel good when a slave is being eaten by dogs; you are not supposed to feel good when a Black woman is being whipped. What I will say is this… is when you are talking about the Holocaust, every two or three years there is a movie about their history.  When you talk about slavery, it’s so taboo, it hurts so bad even to mention it, that we don’t even want to touch it.” 

“I felt like this, for what this movie can do especially for now and 10 to 20 years from now what it will do, it will open up our eyes differently.

If it’s successful that means a movie about our history at the end, you win and that can set us up for a long time to go back and talk about certain things.”

Foxx went on to say there is educational value in the film.  Most of the film took place on plantations in Greenville, Louisiana.  When Foxx met fans while filming in New Orleans and shared with them he was going to Greenville to film on actual plantations they would respond, “Where is that?”  

   Foxx had to tackle the subject with his own children as he took his two daughters (18 and four) to the set.   “My four year-old just ran, jumped and played and had a good time which is probably what a lot of young slave kids did at the time,” said Foxx.  

“They didn’t know how bad their situation was.  But my 18 year-old was stunned.  7,000 names of babies that were killed on the plantation because when a Black woman would have a baby, the slave master would say, ‘so how are you going to pick cotton?’ So he killed the baby. 

So the atrocities that you see in Django Unchained, it’s not even close to how it really was. But I think it’s necessary for us to see that.  It’s necessary for Django, at where I thought was the most difficult part of the script, was when the dogs eat the Mandingo and tear him apart but Django has to play this slaver character and be someone else (undercover).  But to see him deal with that and his partner from Germany dealing with, ‘this happens?’ And to have Django say, ‘this happens every day’.” 

The “N” word was tough to deal with on-set.  In rehearsal, Washington and Foxx asked for the word to be used.  DiCaprio who plays the slave-owner at Candyland, stopped while filming because saying the word was affecting him emotionally.  “You should feel affected by it,” said Foxx.  “You are not human if you don’t.”

 Jackson pulled DiCaprio aside and said, “Aye Mutha*****, this is just another Tuesday for us.”  Jackson and Foxx expressed to DiCaprio that if he did not go there, to be that evil person, that they did not have a movie.

“When you are doing a movie like this you go beyond Django,” said Foxx who suffered from a lack of sleep during the nine-month filming process. He and Washington became close because they had to experience the journey on and off camera. 

Music played an integral part on and off camera helping the cast push through the most difficult scenes.  Foxx helped produce a song with rap star Rick Ross titled 100 Black Coffins for the soundtrack. Foxx came up with the hook for the song while filming on set.    

When the character Broomhilda received lashes, Foxx said that he calmed the cast and crew with a hymn by gospel singer Fred Hammond that sang, “No weapons, formed against me, shall prosper, it won’t work.” It’s important to note that Washington asked to receive real lashes while filming.  They of course used a modified whip but she did however receive real whips. 

Foxx shared that he witnessed an extra onset, raise their hands to testify and then hug a nearby child.  The entire set from the grips to the lighting crew all experienced something personal during the dramatic lashing scene.  Even director Quentin Tarantino got teary-eyed while filming through the lens.  Foxx shared that he felt the “ancestors stepped-in” and allowed this to happen.

“It was a huge journey. It was tough and there was always those moments where you feel like you don’t really want to mess this up.  This was like a gymnastics routine at its highest difficulty with all the spins and all the twists. If you land it great, if you don’t, then you are in hell.”

When asked if Django is a superhero, Foxx responded by saying, “I think so.” 

He says that they will more than likely do another Django (Django Unchained Part 2) where Broomhilda will get involved with the Underground Railroad and write books in Philadelphia.  Django will move up north, where he is hiding out. All through the south there are wanted posters for Django.  But no one knows what he looks like because at that time there were no photos or pictures of Django.

“Whenever I do anything, as a Black artist, if Black folk aren’t behind it or happy about it, I feel in a certain way I failed,” said Foxx. 

“Now at the same time, I have to be challenging to my Black audience because I am moving as an artist.  But I always come back to that.  I know Black people.  I know where they sit.  I know what makes them cringe. I know what makes them cry. I know what makes them yell.”

The Los Angeles Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times would like to send a special THANK YOU to Alex Avant for coordinating the interview.  We would also like to thank Jamie Foxx, Hollywood’s Number 1 Black Actor for making himself accessible to the Sentinel/Watts Times and the Black Press of America.   

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 10, 2013

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

 

Anthony Michael Hobbs, a child actor and second grade student at Baltimore’s Our Lady of Victory catholic school, will portray a young Frederick Douglass in the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) special The Abolitionist to premiere Jan. 8. Actor/director Richard Brooks (Law & Order, The Crow) will play the adult Frederick Douglass.

 

The three-hour documentary airs in three parts on Jan. 8, 15 and 23 as part of PBS’ American Experience Series. Frederick Douglass is one of five abolitionists highlighted who pushed to end slavery. The other four abolitionists included William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke.

 

The actor and model who will turn eight in April expressed his desire to act at the age of four, according to Kerri Hobbs, his mother and manager. Confused about how actress Lauren Keyana “Keke” Palmer could be one character on True Jackson, VP he watched on the Nickelodeon Channel and another character in the Tyler Perry movie Madea’s Family Reunion, he was told by his mother that the girl “learned to make pretend to make a story.” Anthony then announced he wanted to do that, too, she said.

 

Having honed his reading skills with books two age levels ahead of him, he was able to read scripts at the age of five, and soon learned to memorize them in just a few minutes–often with assistance from his actress-mother, he quickly racked up a list of performance credits.

 

He is an otherwise normal grade-schooler, except that when he is absent for an audition, he has a lot to share at show-and-tell, when he returns to class.

 

A client of several acting/modeling/voice-over agencies such as Wilhelmina Philadelphia and Prestige Management in New York, he most recently appeared in a new United Way public service announcement that started airing in December and was in a Norwegian Cruise-Line commercial that started airing in October. An extended version of the commercial is airing during the cruise-line voyages.

 

Hobbs also stars in the PBS Sprout Network mini-segment on the Sunnyside Up Show, to start airing March. On top of that, the talented young actor stars in a PSA spot for the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) that started airing in October, 2012.

 

Hobbs also stars in the DreamWorks documentary How to Train Your Dragon: Dragons and Dinosaurs. The DreamWorks documentary is also available on DVD.

 

Hobbs can also be seen in the national classroom program called KinderRhyme. KinderRhyme is a program of Success for All Foundation (SFAF), which appears in over 2600 preschool, elementary, middle and high school programs.

 

Hobbs is the winner of eight Global Stars Network acting awards., Hobbs can also be seen on two other PBS Sprout Network segments, Claritin Kids Allergy Medicine and Good Night Show.

 

As a voice over actor Anthony’s voice can be heard on an instructional video for advertising firm TBWA World Wide, the largest advertising holding company in the world.

 

Other acting projects include the film Waiting for Godot; an industrial commercial for the U.S. National Park Service; a Baltimore County recycling commercial; a Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger commercial, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Healthy Kids 2011 print campaign.

 

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 03, 2013

Associated Press

 

Bobby Womack has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member told the BBC in a recent interview the diagnosis comes after he began having difficulty remembering his songs and the names of people he's worked with.

A spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a message left by the Associated Press.

The soul singer has cut a wide path through the music business as a performer and songwriter in his 50-year career and recently launched another act with “The Bravest Man in the Universe,” the Damon Albarn-produced comeback album that recently made several best-of lists.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease characterized by memory loss. It’s the latest health problem for the 68-year-old singer, who’s also been fighting cancer and other maladies. 

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture