Showing posts with label life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label life. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2023

56 Years After the Crash: Remembering Otis Redding and the Power of Soul Music

Photo Credit:  Michael Ochs Archive

Sunday the music world will commemorate the 56th anniversary of Otis Redding's tragic passing. Though gone, his legacy as the "King of Soul" remains as powerful and impactful as ever.

Born in Dawson, Georgia, in 1941, Redding's rise to fame was meteoric. Discovered in 1960, he soon signed with Stax Records, becoming one of the leading figures in soul music. His powerful, raw voice and soulful songs, infused with gospel and blues influences, captured the essence of the soul experience. He quickly became a star, collaborating with renowned musicians like Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Isaac Hayes, and Sam & Dave. His electrifying stage presence and undeniable talent cemented his status as a true performer.

Redding's musical accomplishments were remarkable. He amassed a treasure trove of accolades, including two Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award. Rolling Stone further solidified his legacy by placing him among the "200 Best Singers of All Time" in January 2023.

Tragically, on December 10th, 1967, at just 26 years old, Redding's life was cut short in a plane crash. The Bar-Kays, his backing band, also lost four members – guitarists Jimmy King and Phalon Jones, organist Ronnie Caldwell, and drummer Carl Cunningham. They were all exceptional musicians in their own right, integral to Redding's sound and success.

Despite the tragedy, Redding's music continues to inspire and move countless artists and audiences across generations. His soulful anthems like "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and "Respect" continue to uplift and energize, reminding us of the transformative power of music.

The Otis Redding Foundation, established by his wife Zelma in 2007, honors his memory and supports young people with a passion for music and the arts. The Foundation offers various programs and initiatives, including the Otis Music Camp and the upcoming Otis Redding Center for the Arts, ensuring that Redding's spirit continues to empower young minds and nurture the next generation of musical talent, ensuring that his music continues to resonate for years to come.

In a recent statement, the Foundation expressed gratitude for the continued support of Redding's music and announced the nearing completion of the new Otis Redding Center for the Arts, set to open in Fall 2024 in Macon, Georgia. This multi-purpose space will provide students aged 5-18 with unique opportunities to explore their artistic talents and hone their skills under the guidance of experienced mentors and renowned musicians.

Zelma Redding, echoing her husband's dream of educating children through music, wrote on the Foundation's website, "(This) emphasis on creativity and inspiration is something I think he would have been proud of and it is the kind of program we will continue to champion through our foundation."

Redding's legacy continues to shine brightly through the Foundation's dedication to empowering and enlightening young people. Fifty-six years after his passing, his spirit remains vibrant, reminding us of the transformative power of music and the enduring impact of a true musical legend.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Jamie Foxx Reflects on Health Journey: 'I Saw the Tunnel,' Accepts Vanguard Award

Jamie Foxx, the 55-year-old Oscar-winning actor, took center stage at the Critics Choice Association's Celebration of Cinema and Television on Monday night, marking a poignant comeback following a recent health scare.
The crowd gave the artist a standing ovation as he accepted the Vanguard Award for his outstanding career and compelling role in "The Burial," presented by co-star Jurnee Smollett. This appearance, part of an event spotlighting Black, Latino, and AAPI achievements, signaled Foxx's return since his hospitalization in April.

Addressing health rumors, Foxx humorously remarked, "It's crazy I couldn't do that six months ago. I couldn't actually walk." Candidly sharing his challenges and emphasizing their profound impact, he joked, "I saw the tunnel, I didn’t see the light!" Expressing gratitude for his recovery, Foxx, who faced a medical emergency during "Back in Action" filming in Atlanta, has maintained a low profile since April.

In a heartfelt 12-minute speech, Foxx expressed gratitude, cracked jokes about his health scare and confirmed his recovery in a Chicago facility. Underlining a newfound respect for life and art, he urged fellow artists not to give up on their craft.

Acknowledging unwavering support from his sister and daughter, Foxx thanked them for keeping health battle details private, emphasizing the importance of a supportive circle.

The Hollywood A-lister, renowned for roles in "Ray," "Ali," and "Dreamgirls," has yet to disclose specific health details. Nevertheless, Foxx's return underscored his resilience and determination to embrace life and continue his artistic journey.

In a touching conclusion, he expressed, "Lord, have mercy, Jesus," thanking unforeseen events that led him back to the stage for the Vanguard Award.
Despite recent legal challenges, including a 2015 sexual assault lawsuit, Foxx's return signals a complex chapter in his career. Navigating triumphs and tribulations, Foxx remains a multifaceted talent with an Academy Award and a successful music career.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Heartfelt Notes: Ashanti's Pregnancy Rumors Hit a High Note at Nelly's Ball

In a melody of rekindled love, R&B sensations Ashanti and Nelly are reportedly expecting their first child, as revealed by an exclusive report from US Weekly. The unnamed source confirms the joyous news, marking a significant milestone for the 43-year-old Ashanti and adding another chapter to Nelly's journey into fatherhood, having two children from his previous marriage to Channetta Valentine.
The revelation follows a weekend of speculation fueled by Ashanti's presence at Nelly's Black and White Ball in St. Louis. The "Only U" singer, sharing the stage with Nelly, placed her hand on her stomach, echoed moments later by Nelly himself. Laughter ensued, captured in a fan video shared by TMZ, setting the stage for the pregnancy whispers.

Ashanti and Nelly's romantic saga, spanning from 2003 to 2013, experienced a revival in April this year, igniting rumors of a rekindled flame when the pair was spotted hand in hand at a Las Vegas boxing match.
The latest chapter in their love story unfolded publicly on Instagram, a platform that has become a stage for celebrity revelations. Nelly, orchestrating a heartfelt symphony, celebrated Ashanti's birthday in October with a slideshow of beaming photos. Accompanying the visual ensemble was a caption honoring Ashanti's beauty and lauding her as one of the hardest-working women he knows.

A month later, during Nelly's own celebration, Ashanti presented a lavish royal blue '64 Chevy Impala, a gift resonating with profound sentiment. As fans speculated about the next chapter, a playful comment suggesting family planning prompted a witty response from Nelly: "I'm on it," adding an intriguing layer to the unfolding narrative.

The Black and White Ball, a gala orchestrated by Nelly in St. Louis, became a backdrop for heightened pregnancy speculation. A shared moment of humor on stage, where both artists playfully touched their stomachs, not only drew laughter from the audience but fueled curiosity about the couple's intentions. Whether a lighthearted jest or a subtle announcement, the incident intensified the intrigue surrounding their evolving relationship.

As the duo navigates this new chapter, their fans eagerly await the sweet serenade of parenthood, hoping for more harmonious notes in the evolving symphony of Ashanti and Nelly's love story.

Beyoncé's 'Renaissance' Reigns Supreme with $21 Million Box Office Triumph

Beyoncé's directorial debut, "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé," dominated the box office this weekend, raking in an impressive $21 million in North American ticket sales, as reported by AMC Theatres. In a post-Thanksgiving, early December market known for sluggishness, "Renaissance" defied expectations, marking the first time a film has surpassed $20 million on this weekend in two decades.

The global debut of Queen Bey's concert movie reached $27.4 million, including $6.4 million from 2,621 overseas cinemas. Despite falling slightly below offshore projections, the film maintains a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from both audiences and critics.

In the realm of IMAX, "Renaissance" secured the second-largest global opening weekend for a musical act film, generating $5.1 million globally, with $500,000 from 125 overseas screens. France led the international releases with $1.4 million, followed by the UK at $1.2 million and Australia at $400,000. Upcoming releases include Brazil, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and more.

Beyoncé, the 32-time Grammy winner, wrote, directed, and produced "Renaissance," providing an intimate look into the tour for her Grammy-winning album. The film debuted in 2,539 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, along with 94 international territories.

While "Renaissance" did not reach the monumental debut of Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour" in October, industry analysts consider it a solid start for a concert film. The "Renaissance" tour, spanning 39 cities and 56 shows, grossed over $500 million and attracted more than 2.7 million concertgoers.

Beyoncé's strategic release in a traditionally slow box office period paid off, as the film faced unique competition, providing an excellent opportunity for success. Despite the inevitable comparisons to Taylor Swift's film, both artists, supportive of each other, opted for AMC Theatres over traditional studios for distribution, each earning at least 50% of ticket sales.
Critics and audiences lauded "Renaissance," achieving a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and an A+ CinemaScore. With a slightly older audience estimated around 900,000, this concert film's success, coupled with Taylor Swift's earlier triumph, marks an unprecedented year for the genre.

Industry analyst Paul Dergarabedian noted, "To have two concert films topping the chart in a single year is pretty unprecedented," emphasizing that while the films share a genre, they are distinct in circumstances and approach.

In a weekend where the box office saw a total expected gross of only $85 million, "Renaissance" stood out as a testament to Beyoncé's enduring popularity and cinematic prowess.

In the midst of this success, Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" claimed second place with an estimated $14.5 million, and "Godzilla Minus One" secured third place with $11 million, marking the biggest opening for a foreign film in the U.S. this year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

SZA Reigns Supreme: Four Wins Propel Her to Soul Train Awards Glory

Janelle Monáe accepts the Spirit of Soul Award presented by L'Oréal onstage at Soul Train Awards 2023 on November 19, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for BET)
In a dazzling celebration of Black culture, the 2023 Soul Train Awards unfolded on Sunday night, hosted with flair by the multifaceted Keke Palmer. The star-studded event showcased a night of triumphs, unforgettable performances and historic moments.


The immensely talented SZA dominated the night, securing four coveted awards, including Best R&B/Soul Female Artist and Album of the Year. Usher, not to be outdone, clinched three statuettes, including Best R&B/Soul Male Artist and Certified Soul Award. Victoria Monét's brilliance shone through as she claimed awards for Best Dance Performance and Video of the Year.

Unforgettable Performances

Janelle Monae, honored with the Spirit of Life Award, mesmerized the audience with vibrant renditions from her Grammy-nominated album. Muni Long, collaborating with Grammy winners Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox, delivered a nuanced performance of her latest single. The Soul Cypher featured R&B luminaries freestyling over Usher’s 2001 hit "U Got It Bad."

Host Keke Palmer & Historic Moment

Keke Palmer, as the host, infused the event with energy, setting the stage for BET’s "house party of the year." A notable highlight was the all-female-of-color writing team — a historic first in Soul Train's illustrious history.

Closing Moments

The zenith of the evening was the Legend Award presentation to T-Pain, marked by rapper and activist David Banner. Reflecting on his journey, T-Pain urged new artists to embrace authenticity and closed the night with a high-energy medley of his hits.

Encore Presentation

The 2023 Soul Train Awards, an epitome of cultural celebration, will be broadcast again on November 27 and November 29 on BET.

Complete List of Winners:

Best New Artist: Coco Jones
Certified Soul Award: Usher
Best R&B/Soul Female Artist: SZA
Best R&B/Soul Male Artist: Usher
Best Gospel/Inspirational Award: "All Things" - Kirk Franklin
Song of the Year: "Snooze" - SZA
Album of the Year: "SOS" - SZA
The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter’s Award: "Snooze" - SZA
Best Dance Performance: "On My Mama" - Victoria Monét
Best Collaboration: "Good Good" - Usher, Summer Walker, 21 Savage
Best Group: Maverick City Music
Video of the Year: "On My Mama" - Victoria Monét
Spirit of Soul Award: Janelle Monáe
Legend Award: T-Pain

Monday, November 27, 2023

Iconic 'Mr. Big Stuff' Singer Jean Knight Passes at 80

Jean Knight, the iconic voice behind the 1971 chart-topping hit "Mr. Big Stuff," passed away at the age of 80 in Tampa, Florida. The news was confirmed by her family in a statement shared via New Orleans broadcaster LBJ on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Sunday.

In their heartfelt statement, the family expressed the collective sorrow of New Orleans and the music world at the loss of one of their "most treasured musical daughters." Knight, a native of New Orleans, played a vital role in the city's musical legacy.
Her musical journey began with "Doggin' Me Around" on JetStream Records and reached its zenith with the groundbreaking "Mr. Big Stuff" on Stax Records. The song not only showcased her phenomenal talent but also highlighted her dynamic connection with legendary New Orleans producer Wardell Quezerque.
"Mr. Big Stuff," famous for its infectious refrain, "Who do you think you are?," wasn't just a chart-topping anthem; it was a product of soulful, syncopated melodies echoing through the Crescent City. Knight's powerhouse performances at the Essence Music Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival were legendary, reflecting her sassiness and joyous spirit.
Beyond the stage, Knight's love extended to cooking delicious Creole dishes, celebrating Mardi Gras, and serving on the Louisiana Music Commission. Her resilience and determination led to the formation of her label, Comstar, granting her creative freedom while staying true to her musical traditions.

Over the years "Mr. Big Stuff" has been sampled by numerous artist, including John Legend, TLC, Heavy D & the Boyz, Everclear and Eazy E. It was also used in various advertising campaign, most notably one extolling the virtues of Oreo cookied.

In the 1990s, the resurgence of "Mr. Big Stuff" attested not only to the timeless quality of her music but also to the enduring love of her fans. Over one million additional copies were sold, solidifying the song as a staple in the hearts of fans worldwide.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Concrete Homage: Eazy-E's Legacy Lives on in Compton Street Rename

Compton, California, paid homage to late rap legend and native son, Eazy-E, on Wednesday by renaming the 100 block of Auto Drive South as Eazy Street. The heartfelt tribute commemorates the artist's profound impact on hip-hop and the city.

Born Eric Wright, Eazy-E soared to fame as a pivotal member of the groundbreaking hip-hop group N.W.A., standing alongside influential artists such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince.

Beyond his contributions to N.W.A., Eazy-E found success as the founder and owner of Ruthless Records and as a solo artist. Tragically, he succumbed to AIDS-induced pneumonia in 1995 at the age of 30.
The decision to rename the street received unanimous support from key figures, including Compton Mayor Emma Shariff, L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, state Sen. Steve Bradford, D-Gardena and Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Gardena.

Alonzo Williams, president of the Compton Entertainment Chamber of Commerce, played a pivotal role in championing the street renaming. Inspired by former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley's past efforts, Williams seized the opportunity this year, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, to honor Eazy-E's lasting influence successfully.

"Compton has a lot of history, but nobody knows about it. I figured the most recent history is hip-hop history," Williams explained. "Being this is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, I thought it'd be a great idea to approach the City Council, talk about possibly doing this, and they loved the idea."
The renaming ceremony featured a performance by Eazy-E's son, Eric Darnell Wright, known as "Lil Eazy-E," alongside DJ Yella of N.W.A. Compton native DJ Joe Cooley, from Rodney-O and Joe Cooley, also graced the stage.

Lil Eazy-E, who lost his father at the age of 10, expressed gratitude for the recognition, stating, "The street renaming serves as a symbol of recognition and commemoration, ensuring that our father, Eric Wright, has a legacy that will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come."

He added, "It is a wonderful way for the city of Compton to honor his influence and the cultural significance that he brought to the community. I am truly grateful and honored to see my dad’s legacy continue to be remembered in my hometown, Compton, on Eazy Street."

Wright's daughters, Erica and Ebie, actively participated in the ceremony. Erica established the Eric Wright Family Foundation, dedicated to community service, while Ebie, known for her appearances on MTV's "Sweet Sixteen" and "Exiled," emphasized her father's global impact on hip-hop and social change.
In attendance was original N.W.A. member DJ Yella, though the absence of surviving members Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren was noted. Lil Eazy-E, in an interview with TMZ, expressed understanding, citing DJ Yella's past support during Eazy-E's funeral.

Looking ahead, Lil Eazy-E revealed plans for a biographical film about his father, a testament to Eazy-E's enduring influence on both Compton and the music industry.

For now, the newly minted Eazy Street, branching off Alameda Street into the Gateway Towne Center shopping plaza, stands as a symbolic testament to Eazy-E's enduring legacy.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Snooze Button for Snoop: A New Dawn as the Doggfather Puts Down the Blunt

Photo Credit: Instagram/snoopdogg
It's been a rough day for fans of the sticky-icky.

In a twist that would make Willie Nelson's pigtails curl, Snoop Dogg, the iconic hip-hop maestro and marijuana connoisseur, declared on Thursday that he's bidding farewell to the art of smoking.

The announcement, made via the rapper's Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) accounts, left fans and skeptics alike wondering if the Doggfather himself is truly parting ways with the herb that has been synonymous with his persona for decades.

The unexpected revelation comes on the heels of Snoop Dogg's previous statements earlier this year, where he expressed his intention to cut down on smoking after embracing the role of grandfatherhood. The 50-year-old, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, confessed to the Daily Mail in March that becoming a grandfather prompted a profound shift in his perspective.

"Being a grandfather has changed me in multiple ways," he revealed. "The main way is being concerned with how I live, how I move, the kind of people I'm associated with because I want to see my grandkids grow old. The only way I can do that is to take precautionary steps as far as how I move, who I hang out with, where I go out, my intake, what am I intaking. Am I doing extra-curricular or am I just doing what I'm supposed to be doing?"

This surprising pivot from the marijuana advocate, whose name has practically become synonymous with weed, raises eyebrows and sparks curiosity about what led to this change of heart.

Snoop Dogg's relationship with marijuana has been as iconic as his music career. The rapper has unabashedly celebrated his affinity for cannabis, even famously lighting up a joint while strutting down the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards in 2021. 

His devotion to the green extends beyond recreational use; in 2015, he launched his own line of marijuana products, Leafs by Snoop. Additionally, in 2019, an Israeli start-up promoting home-grown marijuana enlisted the rapper as a brand ambassador.

As fans grapple with this unexpected twist in the Doggfather's journey, one can't help but wonder if this decision is a temporary pause or a definitive farewell to a lifestyle that has defined Snoop Dogg as much as his music has. Only time will tell if the hip-hop legend's next chapter will be written in smoke or fresh mountain air.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Usher Names Himself Alongside Icons on 'R&B Mount Rushmore'

In an recent interview with E! News, Usher made a bold and definitive statement, placing himself among the pantheon of R&B greats on what he calls the "R&B Mount Rushmore." He didn't hesitate to share the names of those who, in his view, belong on this musical monument.

With a self-assured tone, Usher declared, "I get to put myself up there." He continued, "Marvin Gaye is going up there, Michael [Jackson] is going to be up there, Prince is going to be up there, and I'd put a few incredible female vocalists like Whitney Houston up there. It doesn't necessarily have to just be men."

This revelation from Usher coincides with his preparation for the Super Bowl Halftime Show, slated to take place at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in February 2024. The announcement of his Super Bowl performance has generated considerable excitement, with fans and fellow artists eagerly anticipating what he has in store. Usher revealed that he's drawing inspiration from iconic acts like Michael Jackson, Prince, and Maroon 5, making his upcoming performance a hot topic in the music world.

Behind the Scenes: Usher's Super Bowl Journey

Usher's dedication to delivering an unforgettable Super Bowl performance is palpable. Juggling the responsibilities of his "My Way" residency in Las Vegas, he's fully committed to the extensive preparations for the 2024 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

In a candid interview with CNN, Usher shared his thoughts on returning to the live stage after the challenges posed by the pandemic. For Usher, the stage represents his comfort zone, a place where he can seamlessly connect with his audience and let his creative energy flow.

"It's all about having everyone together in one room, celebrating this music, and returning to a sense of normalcy," Usher explained. He underscored the profound significance of the live experience, emphasizing that it's his driving force and a source of deep passion.

While physical fitness is vital for maintaining the rigorous demands of his residency, Usher shared that his Super Bowl preparation is primarily a mental exercise. He's carefully crafting a message of unity and celebration for the performance.

"My performance will be a celebration of various aspects. I'll celebrate the places I've been, the inspirations that have guided me, the music that has touched souls, the dance that has brought joy, and the legacy of all the entertainers who have played their part in uniting the world," Usher revealed.

A Unique Tradition: Usher's Decision to Perform for Free

In an industry where artists often perform for exposure rather than payment during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Usher has chosen to follow this unique tradition. The NFL, notorious for not compensating its halftime show performers, continues this practice, providing artists with an unparalleled platform to reach millions of viewers.

Usher, having been named the 2024 halftime show performer, revealed that he wasn't the NFL's first choice, with stars like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Lizzo reportedly turning down the opportunity. While he won't receive a performance fee, Usher recognizes the potential for vast exposure and the chance to connect with his dedicated fan base, making this a strategic move in his thriving career.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Watch: Diddy Unveils Trailer for 'Off The Grid' Film: An R&B Love Story Linked to Latest Album

Diddy has unveiled the official trailer for his forthcoming film, "Off the Grid," inspired by and soundtracked by his latest album, which offers a glimpse into a whirlwind R&B love story, with the central theme of escaping the complexities of life in favor of romantic seclusion, devoid of modern-day distractions.

In the lead role, rising talent Eva Apio, an Ugandan actress and supermodel, makes her acting debut in this significant project. Her selection came after a three-month casting process.

"Working with Eva was an incredible experience; her talent and energy brought my vision to life," said Diddy of the decision to cast Apio, in a statement announcing the trailer which is closely related to his album, "The Love Album: Off the Grid," and provides a visual and emotional extension of the project.

"Off the Grid" marks a pivotal moment in Diddy's career, representing his debut as a director and screenwriter. The film also marks his eighth acting role in a movie.

In 2021, Diddy founded Love Records, an all-R&B label dedicated to creating timeless R&B music in collaboration with the next generation of artists, producers, and songwriters. The label's first artist, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jozzy, released her album "Songs for Women, Free Game for Nxxxas" in February 2023, setting a high standard for the label.

"The Love Album: Off the Grid," was released in September 2023, receiving critical acclaim. The album features prominent artists such as Justin Bieber, Abel Tesfaye (formerly known as The Weeknd), Mary J. Blige, Summer Walker, H.E.R., Jazmine Sullivan, and more. "The Love Album" secured a place in the top 10 of Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, debuting at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 and reaching No. 2 on the Top R&B Albums chart.

The official release date for "Off the Grid" is yet to be announced. Watch the trailer below:

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

'Shaft' Icon Richard Roundtree, Who Showcased Musical Talents, Passes at 81 After Cancer Battle

Richard Roundtree, the legendary actor celebrated for his groundbreaking portrayal of private detective John Shaft in the iconic 1971 film "Shaft," passed away Tuesday at the age of 81 following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

The confirmation of Roundtree's passing was provided by his manager, Patrick McMinn, who had been managing his career since 1987. McMinn, in a statement, reflected on Roundtree's profound impact on the film industry. He stated, "Richard's work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film. The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated."

Roundtree's remarkable journey began with a modeling career, but at the age of 28, he secured the role of John Shaft in the iconic "Shaft" film. The action-packed movie, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, achieved tremendous success, grossing $12 million against a meager budget of $500,000 and helping rescue the studio from financial woes. It set the stage for an era of prolific Blaxploitation filmmaking and underlined the historical oversight of Black talent by Hollywood.

However, Roundtree's influence extended far beyond the silver screen. In 1972, he ventured into the world of music with the release of his debut album, "The Man from Shaft." This musical project marked a distinct departure from his tough-guy image as a private investigator and showcased his versatility as an artist.

"The Man from Shaft" was a unique creation, with Roundtree's singing debut produced by the accomplished musician Gene McDaniels. McDaniels, known as a singer, songwriter, and producer, played a pivotal role in shaping the album's sound. Roundtree's vocals were complemented by a talented ensemble of musicians, including jazz luminaries such as Hubert Laws, Pepper Adams, Jerry Dodgion, Sonny Fortune and Billy Harper. This collaboration resulted in a musical fusion that combined elements of jazz and funk, creating a distinctive and memorable sound.

The lead track of the album, "Gets Hard Sometimes," exemplified the fusion of genres, incorporating a funky groove that bore the hallmark of McDaniels's musical style. While "The Man from Shaft" did not achieve widespread commercial success, it represented a significant and memorable project in Roundtree's artistic journey, highlighting his willingness to explore different creative avenues beyond acting.

Roundtree's groundbreaking role in "Shaft" led to two rapid sequels, "Shaft's Big Score" and "Shaft in Africa," as well as a short-lived 1973 "Shaft" television series on CBS, which he viewed as a less favorable chapter in his illustrious career.

As the years went by, Roundtree's career continued to flourish, extending beyond his initial stardom. He featured in films such as "Earthquake," "Man Friday" alongside Peter O'Toole and Larry Cohen's monster comedy "Q — The Winged Serpent." In addition to his film work, he made notable guest appearances on television, including roles in "Roots," "Magnum P.I." and "The Love Boat."

In 2000, Roundtree revisited the world of "Shaft" in John Singleton's revival of the franchise, co-starring with Samuel L. Jackson, who played a character related to Roundtree's original private eye. This collaboration continued in 2019 with Tim Story's comedic take on the series.

Born on July 9, 1942, in Rochester, New York, Roundtree briefly attended Southern Illinois University before embarking on his modeling career. In the late '60s, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company, which initiated his involvement in New York stage productions.

Roundtree's remarkable career spanned over five decades, and his portrayal of Shaft, his contributions to genre filmmaking, and his captivating screen presence added vibrancy to films like "Se7en," "Brick" and "Speed Racer." His recent work included a role in "Moving On," a comedy featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was later released in theaters.

He was married twice, first to Mary Jane Grant from 1963 to 1973, and later to Karen M. Cierna from 1980 to 1998. He is survived by his four daughters, Nicole, Tayler, Morgan and Kelli Roundtree, as well as his son, James.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Puma Taps A$AP Rocky for F1 Creative Leadership

A$AP Rocky named PUMA x F1 Creative Director. Photo Credit: Ryo Sato
Move over Kanye, there's a new hip-hop shoe-fluencer in town.

Global sports brand Puma and A$AP Rocky have unveiled an exciting long-term creative partnership. Their collaboration centers on the world of motorsports, with A$AP Rocky taking on the role of Creative Director for the Puma x F1 category, emphasizing the fusion of sport and streetwear.

"Working with brands as iconic as Puma, and as innovative as F1, has been truly inspiring," noted A$AP Rocky in a release announcing the alliance. "When the world sees what we're doing, I believe a shift will happen with how brands approach taking risks and working with diverse creatives."

Born Rakim Athelaston Mayers, A$AP Rocky has transcended the realm of music to become a fashion icon and cultural influencer. He embarked on his musical journey as a member of the hip-hop collective A$AP Mob, a pivotal chapter in shaping his artistic identity and earning him his moniker.

A$AP Rocky's meteoric rise began in 2011 with the release of his single "Peso," which quickly garnered widespread attention and radio airplay. In 2013, his debut studio album, "Long. Live. A$AP," skyrocketed to number one on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved double platinum certification.

The collaboration kicks off with an innovative "in the lab" incubator approach, enabling A$AP Rocky to creatively explore the potential of the category. During the initial phase, he will contribute to visual and video content for the brand, providing a window into the intersection of car culture and streetwear fashion.

Later this year, Puma, in partnership with A$AP Rocky, will unveil an exclusive Puma x F1 collection. This limited-edition offering will serve as a preview of the forthcoming capsule collections scheduled for 2024, focused on high-visibility F1 races.

Come 2024, A$AP Rocky's creative vision will take center stage during multiple Grand Prix races, commencing with the Miami event. His involvement will extend to designing and curating collections, organizing race-day activations and overseeing marketing efforts.

By 2025, A$AP Rocky will engage in shaping the entire range of Puma x F1 products, encompassing racewear, fanwear and high-fashion pieces. His ongoing contributions to product design and marketing strategies aim to challenge the traditional boundaries separating sports, culture and fashion.

Maria Valdes, Puma's Chief Product Officer, expressed her enthusiasm for the partnership: "We couldn't be more excited to collaborate with A$AP Rocky. He's incredibly talented, deeply thoughtful and invested in our brand. He will showcase his vision with elevated F1 race capsules on a global scale, attracting new audiences and undoubtedly shaking up the track. In the future, he will influence the broader Puma x F1 range, continuing to drive progress at the intersection of sports and culture."

Thursday, October 19, 2023

"Legendary DJ and Producer DJ Mark The 45 King Passes at 62

45 King Boiler Room DJ set (Screengrab: YouTube)
DJ Mark The 45 King, an icon in the world of hip-hop renowned for his groundbreaking work as a producer and DJ, has passed away at the age of 62. His death was confirmed by DJ Premier, who described him as an "ICON."

While the specific cause of his passing remains undisclosed, the news comes shortly after DJ Mark The 45 King celebrated his 62nd birthday on October 16, marking a somber moment in the realm of music.

Known as Mark Howard James in private life, DJ Mark The 45 King hailed from the Bronx, New York, and commenced his illustrious DJ career in the mid-1980s. He adopted the moniker "45 King" due to his unique ability to craft beats from old 45 RPM records, setting the stage for his distinctive approach to music production.

His career trajectory saw a meteoric rise with the release of the breakbeat track "The 900 Number" in 1987, a composition that has inspired countless artists through its samples. Inextricably tied to the Flavor Unit, a renowned collective of artists, DJ Mark The 45 King lent his production talents to a lineup that included luminaries like Queen Latifah, Chill Rob G, Lakim Shabazz and Apache.

One of his most significant career milestones came in 1989 when he made pivotal contributions to Queen Latifah's album "All Hail the Queen." His production on this record is lauded by critics as some of his most exceptional work.

In 1996, DJ Kool, a go-go artist from Washington, D.C., catapulted to success with the hit song "Let Me Clear My Throat," which was set to the backdrop of DJ Mark The 45 King's "900 Number" beat. DJ Kool graciously acknowledged the 45 King as the originator of the song's iconic sound.

The pinnacle of his career arrived in 1998 when he produced "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" for Jay-Z, featuring the memorable chorus from the original cast album of the Broadway musical "Annie." Jay-Z himself hailed DJ Mark The 45 King as a trailblazer in hip-hop during an interview, recognizing his pivotal contributions to the genre.

DJ Premier, a close collaborator and friend of DJ Mark The 45 King, shared his thoughts on the iconic producer's passing, stating, "R.I.P. DJ Mark The 45 King who passed this morning. An ICON. His 62nd Birthday was Monday. I never heard of Gang Starr until I heard DJ Red Alert play their 2nd single Produced by Mark on 98.7 Kiss in NYC while shopping my demos looking to get a record deal."

DJ Premier added, "Mark is responsible for so many classics and was a member of the Iconic Crew FLAVOR UNIT, including Queen Latifah, Latee, Chill Rob G., Lakim Shabazz, Double J, Lord Alibaski, DJ Cee Justice, Apache, Naughty By Nature, Freddie Foxxx, Markey Fresh, Rowdy Rahz, Storm P, Shakim, and many more members. His sound was unlike any other, from his heavy drums to his distinct horns on every production."

Further acknowledging DJ Mark The 45 King's impact, DJ Premier noted, "He got a huge Warner Bros. deal and remixed the Classic Madonna single 'Keep It Together' and the raw remix of Eric B. & Rakim 'I Know You Got Soul.' The '900 Number' is a Super Classic, Queen Latifah's 'Wrath Of My Madness,' 'Ladies First' with Monie Love, Chill Rob G's 'Court Is In Session,' Latee's 'Cuts Got Flavor,' the Historical Jay-Z hit 'Hard Knock Life,' and Eminem's 'Stan,' to name a few of his catalog that will forever ring bells."

Throughout his distinguished career, DJ Mark The 45 King provided beats for a multitude of celebrated artists, including Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, Madonna and Eminem.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Simone Biles Makes History as the Most Decorated Gymnast with 6th World All-Around Title

Courtesy Photo USA Gymnastics
Simone Biles added yet another chapter to her legendary career by clinching the individual all-around title at the world championships for the sixth time on Friday. This remarkable feat not only solidifies her status as the most decorated gymnast in history but also exemplifies her enduring excellence in the sport.

A decade after her initial triumph in the same Belgian city at the tender age of 16, Biles demonstrated her unmatched prowess once again. Her performance garnered an impressive 58.399 points across the balance beam, floor, vault, and uneven bars, outshining Rebeca Andrade, the Brazilian defending champion, by a substantial 1.633 points.This victory marked Biles' 27th world championship medal, with an astounding 21 of them being gold. Her latest achievement followed a mere two days after she led the U.S. women's team to an unprecedented seventh consecutive victory in the team event.

Simone Biles' triumphant return to competition comes less than a year before the Paris Olympics. Despite formidable competition from Andrade and Jones, she continues to stand head and shoulders above the rest, a full decade after her reign began.Biles has maintained her dominance since returning to the sport after a two-year hiatus prompted by struggles with a mental block known as "the twisties," which affected her performance in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics. Although she withdrew from the individual all-around competition in Tokyo to prioritize her mental well-being, her return has showcased her unwavering commitment to excellence.

Her impressive comeback commenced with a remarkable display at the U.S. Classic in early August, followed by her eighth national title a few weeks later. This week marks her first appearance at the world championships since 2019.

Biles' journey continues, with upcoming competitions including the women's vault and uneven bars finals on Saturday and the balance beam and floor exercise finals on Sunday.

Friday's triumph further solidified Biles' standing, with a record-breaking total of 34 medals at the Olympics and world championships combined, making her the most decorated gymnast in history. At 26 years old, she has become the oldest U.S. woman ever to secure a world championships medal. Furthermore, her remarkable undefeated streak in all-around competitions has spanned since 2013.

Monday, September 18, 2023

R&B Star Irish Grinstead of 702 Dies at 43

Irish Grinstead
Irish Grinstead, a prominent member of the '90s R&B girl group 702, known for hits like "Where My Girls At?," has tragically passed away at the age of 43. Her representative, Cory Taylor, confirmed the news to USA TODAY on Sunday. The cause of her untimely death remains undisclosed.

In a heartfelt statement shared on Instagram, LeMisha Grinstead, Irish's sister and fellow bandmate, expressed profound grief and the family's request for privacy during this difficult time.

LeMisha wrote, "It is with great sadness that I have to let you know that my beautiful sister and friend, Irish Grinstead, has passed away this evening. She has had a long battle, and she is finally at peace. That girl was as bright as the stars! She was not only beautiful on the outside but also within. Sharing the stage with her was a joy I will cherish for the rest of my life! We, the family, ask for prayers and respect for our privacy as we grieve an outstanding loss to our family. Love always, Misha."

Irish Grinstead faced health challenges in the months leading up to her passing. In December 2022, 702 disclosed on Instagram that Irish was taking a "medical leave of absence due to serious medical issues." The specific nature of her medical condition was not disclosed in the post.

"It is our hope that she will experience a healthy and swift recovery in the upcoming months," the group conveyed at the time. "During this incredibly challenging period, we kindly ask for your understanding of our need for privacy and your continued prayers as Meelah and Misha continue to navigate and represent 702 for scheduled performances in 2023."

Irish Grinstead achieved fame as an integral part of 702, a group named after the Las Vegas area code, their hometown. The group's debut in 1996 saw the release of the gold-certified album "No Doubt," featuring the chart-topping single "Steelo," a collaboration with Missy Elliott.

702's most iconic hit, "Where My Girls At?," claimed the No. 4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1999. As news of Irish Grinstead's passing spread, tributes from fans flooded social media, featuring music video clips showcasing her signature dance moves alongside her sister and fellow band member, Kameelah Williams.

While "Star" marked the group's last album, released two decades ago, they continued to captivate audiences with live performances, including several scheduled for the remainder of this year.

Irish Grinstead's twin sister, Orish Grinstead, sadly passed away in 2008.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Simone Biles Makes History: Clinches Eighth National All-Around Title at US Gymnastics Championships

Simone Biles, widely regarded as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, secured her eighth national all-around title with a commanding performance on Sunday at the US Gymnastics Championships.

Biles, 26, also became the oldest woman to claim the championship, outscoring Shilese Jones by a significant 3.9 points. Jones, the 2022 US and world championships all-around silver medalist, finished as the runner-up.

With her eighth victory, Biles surpasses Alfred Jochim's previous record of seven all-around gold medals, which had stood for 90 years since 1933.

"I think it feels really special," Biles shared with NBC, the broadcaster of the championships. "I’ve been doing it for so long, I feel like I don’t think about numbers, I think about my performance. And I think, overall, I hit eight for eight (routines)… I guess it’s a lucky number this year."After an extended hiatus from major competitions, Biles displayed exceptional poise and skill in her routines, emerging as the dominant force throughout the championships. Her performance on Friday and Sunday was nothing short of impressive, culminating in a remarkable floor exercise routine that garnered a score of 15.400.

As she concluded her floor routine to an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd, Biles was embraced by her teammates and coaches. Teammate Jordan Chiles also took the opportunity to acknowledge Biles' extraordinary achievement, waving her arms to the crowd to sustain the applause.

Amidst the celebration, Biles remained coy about her participation in the upcoming Olympics. "I like to keep (my goals) personal just so that I know what I am aiming for," she explained to NBC. "I’m trying to move a little bit differently this year than I have in the past. So I think it’s working so far, so I’m gonna keep it a little bit secretive."

Biles' triumphant return follows a two-year hiatus after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where she withdrew from several events due to the mental block known as the "twisties." Remarkably, she executed elements in her routines that no other female gymnast has successfully landed in competition.The victory propels Biles, who has earned 27 U.S. titles and 35 national championship medals overall since her senior debut in 2013, into the World Championships/Pan American Games Selection Camp, scheduled for September 18-21 in Katy, Texas, where rosters for the 2023 FIG Artistic World Championships and 2023 Pan American Games will be finalized.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Hip-Hop's Golden Anniversary to Take the Spotlight at 2023 Pepsi National Battle of the Bands

The 2023 Pepsi National Battle of the Bands is gearing up for a remarkable commemoration of hip-hop culture's 50th anniversary. The event is slated to occur on August 26 at Houston's NRG Stadium, featuring an impressive lineup of some of the genre's most renowned artists.

Today, organizers revealed in a release that hip-hop icons Doug E. Fresh, Slim Thug, Choppa, Lil Keke, Z-Ro, DJ Mr. Rogers, and a surprise guest artist are set to take the stage at the annual event, which marks the beginning of the fall marching band season.

These accomplished musicians will collaborate with premier Historically Black Colleges and Universities' marching bands in a performance designed to highlight the synergy between hip-hop and marching band cultures.

"The 50th anniversary of hip-hop holds significant cultural importance," said Derek Webber, Executive Producer and Creator of the National Battle of the Bands. "We are excited to bring together the energy of HBCU bands with the pioneers of hip-hop, creating a dynamic fusion that pays tribute to the genre's legacy while propelling it into the future."

This collaborative endeavor aligns with NBOTB's commitment to amalgamate diverse musical genres, catering to a broad audience while maintaining the event's authenticity. The performances will serve as a platform to elevate the visibility of both NBOTB and participating HBCU bands, with an emphasis on promoting scholarships and recognizing the pivotal role of these institutions in nurturing emerging musical talents.

For further details, including ticket information and event updates, click here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

'Black Godfather' of Music Industry, Clarence Avant, Dies at 92

Photo Courtesy Avant Family

Clarence Avant, widely known as the “Godfather of Black Music” for his influential role in launching the careers of Quincy Jones, Bill Withers, and other music industry luminaries, as well as his guidance to legendary athletes like Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron, passed away at the age of 92 at his Los Angeles residence on Sunday. His family confirmed the news through a statement that did not disclose the cause of his death.

In a heartfelt announcement, his children, Nicole and Alexander, along with son-in-law Ted Sarandos, shared, “It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant. Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come. The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss. Clarence passed away gently at home in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 13, 2023.”

Avant's legacy encompasses a vast array of accomplishments. Starting as a nightclub manager, he managed prominent figures like Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith in the 1960s. He later founded two record labels that introduced the world to talents such as Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Avant was instrumental in brokering the sale of Stax Records in the late 1960s and later became chairman of the board at Motown Records, followed by becoming the first African-American board member at PolyGram. 

He also played a pivotal role in establishing one of the earliest fully black-owned radio stations. Additionally, he was an advocate for black culture, providing consultancy services to MGM and ABC during the 1970s. Avant's influence extended to political circles as well, as he advised Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama.

The story of Avant's life and impact was highlighted in the 2019 Netflix documentary "The Black Godfather." His remarkable journey will be further commemorated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October.

Tragedy had previously struck the Avant family in 2021 when his wife of over 30 years, Jacqueline "Jackie" Avant, a Los Angeles philanthropist, was shot and killed in a home invasion. The incident occurred in their Trousdale Estates residence, where at least one intruder targeted her. Clarence, who was 90 years old at the time, was present but unharmed during the incident.