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Is The Weeknd finally accepting his fame? We take a look at his career

Fresh off of his Super Bowl halftime performance, The Weeknd is hotter than ever before. The Weeknd’s career is laced with mystery and intrigue, and though he has been a superstar for quite some time, it feels like finally now something has changed.

The Super Bowl stage is one of the biggest gigs in music and if you told anyone 10 years ago that The Weeknd would headline it one day, they’d be surprised.

The Weeknd has grown from mystery act to global superstar, and much of that transition is the result of an acceptance of fame and giving more of himself to the world. We take a look at the humble beginnings of The Weeknd’s career and his rise to pop/R&B’s leading man.

Humble beginnings for The Weeknd

The Weeknd grew up in Scarborough, Canada, and moved around to different high schools, his last being the Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute in Scarborough.

He didn’t graduate, however, instead opting to drop out in 2007, and leaving home to live with a group of friends in a one-bedroom apartment paid for each month with welfare checks.

His stage name was born out of this period as a cool nickname. The spelling changed to “The Weeknd” as opposed to “The Weekend” in order to avoid copyright issues with the Canadian band of the same name.

The Weeknd’s After Hours album goes into detail about this early period of his life that largely inspired much of the music of the beginning of his career.

A difficult (and to many unknown) adolescence

The Weeknd and his friends would get high on a variety of drugs ranging from xanax, cocaine, mushrooms, and MDMA. This led to their eventual eviction from the apartment.

The Weeknd was homeless, hopping from house to house, telling women that he loved them so that he could stay and have a bed to sleep on at night.

In an interview with The Guardian, The Weeknd mentions that he also spent nights in jail in his later teen years and used that experience as a wake-up call to focus on the life ahead of him. That renewed focus led to his big break just a few short years later.

The Weeknd started to make music as a means of therapy for himself and would meet his main producer, Jeremy Rose, in 2010.

Rose had crafted the blueprint for a darker take on R&B and linked up with the Weeknd to begin work on some of his early tapes like Thursday and House of Balloons. The duo put songs out online that eventually got the attention of one of music’s most dominating megastars at the time.


Drake is known for his ability to weave together his own hits and drop incredible albums, but one quality he rarely gets credit for is his ability to find new and exciting talent. The Weeknd in fact was one of his first major discoveries.

Drake found some of the songs that The Weeknd posted online and liked them so much, he posted them on his October’s Very Own blog in 2010.

This move brought The Weeknd from his small online fanbase to the forefront of music with hip hop’s leading hitmaker of the time sending his stamp of approval.

The two met in 2011 during The Weekend’s promotion of his House of Balloons mixtape. Drake asked The Weeknd if he would appear on the track Crew Love from his second album, Take Care.

This led to the biggest look for the young artist and put Toronto as a hub for music talent on the map, proving the city had more to offer than just Drake.

The relationship between the two became rocky at best over time as The Weeknd was beginning to feel that Drake was taking much of his music and sound from him following Drake’s attempt to sign him to his OVO record label. The Weeknd opted instead to sign to Republic Records in 2012.

That animosity since has passed as the two reunited in 2017 for multiple performances together. And most recently, Drake defended the Weeknd’s Grammy snubs saying that the awards show “may no longer matter.”

The Weeknd’s career is shrouded in mystery

The Weeknd appeared in a Rolling Stone interview in 2015, promoting his Beauty Behind the Madness album release. He detailed some of the challenges of his then-newfound fame, and why the mystery of him was important.

It was a shocking interview for the time simply because back then he didn’t talk much to the media.

In the Rolling Stone interview, when talking about his mysterious character he said:

“We live in an era when everything is so excessive, I think it’s refreshing for everybody to be like, ‘Who the f**k is this guy?’ I think that’s why my career is going to be so long: Because I haven’t given people everything.”

The Weeknd

He also claimed that the reason he avoided interviews was because of his insecurity about not finishing school and speaking to someone educated.

Regardless, the mystery angle of his career seemed to be opening up at this point. The band-aid would fully peel itself away in 2016 with the release of his album Starboy.

Becoming comfortable with superstardom

The release of The Weeknd’s Starboy album marked a true opening for the artist. The signature locks that he rocks on his head were gone in favor of a shortened cut revealing more of his face.

The album itself was a change from his usual grim R&B offerings, opting instead for his first stab at a true pop sound that he would, later on, refine throughout his career.

With this new pop sound, The Weeknd drew comparisons to Michael Jackson from fans and critics alike.

Michael Jackson is his favorite artist of all time and a generational icon, and maybe it is a stretch of comparison at this point, but the freedom in his movement and expression during this period mirrored the free-flowing ways of Jackson’s career.

The Weeknd also won a Kid’s Choice Award from singing about cocaine and bragged about it. You can’t get more mainstream and marketable than that.

The Weeknd is here

With the release of his After Hours album in 2020, The Weeknd is now five albums deep into his career and one of the biggest stars on the planet. He’s more vocal now, conducting a variety of interviews, and his plays on the media illustrate a keen understanding of the power of his fame.

Take for example his plastic surgery stunt. The Weeknd posted on social media a new look of his face causing a social media storm of confusion and coverage speculating about his plastic surgery.

It was revealed to the public by him that it was all a hoax. The face was made from makeup used to look like he had gotten plastic surgery. That manipulation of the media is genius though. The Weeknd knows that all the attention is on him and he has brought power to his own image.

Though one could argue that he always has had power over his image. The world isn’t merely opening up to The Weeknd, rather he is opening up more to us.

His Super Bowl appearance is a culmination of a decade of hard work and dedication from one of music’s brightest stars. He once said that his mystery would lead him to have a long career.

The Weeknd was playing the long game, holding us all by the strings for this moment. Ten years in the game and this is just the beginning for him.

Blacktag reveals the importance of paying Black creators in new short film

Black art is Black money. Or, at the very least it should be. In its new short film, “Black Art Is Black Money,” global platform Blacktag is making sure the world knows Black creators deserve to be paid.

In an age where Blackness is becoming more and more mainstream, the dollars behind it still continue to evade those who embody it the most. This is the story of America.

Blackness has always been commodified for the world to indulge in. And Blacktag has a statement raging against this trend with its first original film “Black Art is Black Money.”

What is Blacktag?

Blacktag is a global interactive platform that is modernizing the way that Black content is created and consumed.

Its goal is to serve Black audiences across the globe while also creating an ecosystem to connect brands with Black creators who understand how to reach Black audiences authentically. In turn, this supports Black creators.

And in short, the company is tipping the power scale right back to Black creatives.

Black Art Is Black Money

The video is directed by Blacktag cofounders, Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko Sow. It focuses on the variety of ways that Black artists have historically been robbed of their value for their work, creativity, and also even their ancestral history.

The short film stars the likes of dance sensation Jalaiah Harmon, Sage Elsesser, and also Parker Kit Hill.

It’s a round table conversation that covers everything Black people have created for the culture.

From rock and roll to online culture and even America’s short attention span to being “woke” supporting social justice causes, while Black people live the reality of those politics every single day.

Pay Black creators

The conversation is much more than pointing out what Black people have contributed to society. The group stakes the claim that Black artists must take control of their art.

And furthermore, realize that they hold all the power in creating the culture, entitling them to be recognized, rewarded, and praised.

But they shouldn’t wait for anyone to give them their flowers. Check the video out here for why it is essential that companies are paying Black creators. And stay tuned for all else Blacktag has in store.

The Lucas Brothers tell us what it takes to write a powerful screenplay

In many senses, February 2021 is the perfect time for the movie Judas and the Black Messiah to drop. And our interview with the Lucas brothers showcases a poignant but crucial conversation surrounding Black freedom in the U.S.

Film is a vessel for bringing important historical tales to life. Where substance from books can fly over our heads, films smack us right in the face.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ new film does just that. Judas and The Black Messiah, releasing on February 12, chronicles the life and death of Chicago Black Panther Chairman, Fred Hampton, and William O’Neal, the FBI informant that aided in Hampton’s demise.

We interviewed The Lucas brothers, the Black screenplay writers duo from Newark. They told us why they had to tell this story and why it resonates today.

An interview with the Lucas brothers

KH: When you look at the current political landscape of the nation, you see that many of the policies and practices of Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party have moved into the mainstream lexicon of progressive platforms. That’s what makes this film’s story feel so current. Why was now the time to tell Fred Hampton’s story to the world?

Kenny Lucas: A story like this would have always been relevant. No matter if it was the seventies, eighties, nineties, or now. But I think what’s happening now, going all the way back to Martin and, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement. It rings even more relevant than it might’ve been before these events transpired.

Keith Lucas: Right. You know we started to develop this story right around the time of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. So it’s unfortunate that almost every decade, there’s been a moment of brutality towards African Americans.

And the Hampton story is one of those stories that, again, it’s unfortunate, but it is almost timeless when you think about the Black experience in America and just how vicious the system has been toward us.

And it just so happens that our movie is coming out at a time where it’s at an all-time high where people are trying to actually confront the issues of racism in this country.

In review, it was essential for the Lucas brothers to tell the story in the way they did

KH: One interesting aspect of the film is the decision to tell the story also from the perspective of William O’Neil. I think telling it from his perspective as well, shows the duality of the concept of Black freedom in America.

On one hand, Hampton is fighting for political and economic freedom for all, while O’Neil is really just fighting for his individual freedom. Can you guys talk about the decision to tell the story this way and how the writing contrasts the figures?

Kenny: You’re one of the first to nail it. Like actually nail part of what was the philosophy behind going into his perspective. It is about freedom. It’s exactly about freedom and I’ll take it one step further.

When I was studying philosophy, my thesis was an interpretation of John Stuart Mill’s conception of liberty. Whether or not he committed himself to the negative conception of liberty which is more about individual liberty, meaning you don’t want any constraints on your person.

And then there’s a positive conception of liberty, which is more collective. Liberty where you try to augment everyone’s education so that you can be free in that regard. So Fred sort of represents the more positive conception of freedom and Will represents that negative form of freedom.

What we’re trying to make a statement about it, in America, it seems to be more of an emphasis on that sort of individualized conception of freedom, to the point where you’re willing to tear down minority groups just to make sure that a group of people maintain their power and their freedom.

And our argument is that we believe Fred’s conception of freedom is more conducive to general growth and happiness. And maybe we can do away with some of the anxiety that we feel as a result of how we’ve constructed our society.

I think a big part of it is an obsession with material and an obsession with profit. And an obsession with this individualized negative conception of freedom, right?

Kenny Lucas

Keith: The entire ethos of America is premised on materialism and individualism. And this system, in order to protect itself, has to crush groups who may have a different viewpoint on what freedom means. So part of the reason for telling the story through Will’s perspective is that we feel in order to tell a more balanced story, you need to deconstruct both concepts of freedom. So I think you nailed it on the head.

The nuances in creating Black characters and telling real stories

KH: One thing that also fascinated me was that O’Neal’s perspective was never demonized in the film. You guys seemed to portray him as someone who was a product of his environment. By that I mean he’s someone trapped within the loop of the American criminal justice system. So his story could’ve been anyone’s.

Keith: Yeah, of course in time you look at Will and say he’s a snitch. He’s the most duplicitous or evil character that you can come up with. But when this was happening in real-time he was the person who was caught up in a system that didn’t value his life just like they didn’t value Fred’s life.

So I guess we wanted people not so much to sympathize with him. We weren’t looking for sympathy. But we were certainly looking for a more nuanced portrayal of him so that people can ask themselves tough questions. Like what would you have done if you were in that situation?

Everyone likes to believe that they would be Fred Hampton. But I can count on my hand the number of people that I’ve met who are like Fred Hampton. There aren’t too many people who are willing to die for their beliefs and who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the community.

I know more people who are very individualistic, very materialistic. And I’m of the belief that a lot of people would have probably done what Will did as opposed to what Fred did.

Keith Lucas

Kenny: And I think it’s important also… how do you convey in a narrative sense, the pernicious nature of COINTELPRO and the state using the criminal justice system to manipulate an individual in order to assassinate another one?

Like how can you effectively portray that visually in a narrative sense and make it compelling? And I think that was another strong reason why we went through Will’s perspective.

The Lucas brothers tell us in this interview about the Black Panther party and telling Black history accurately

KH: The common narrative around the Black Panther party is centered around how violent of an organization they were. And that is a true mischaracterization of them. How important was it for you guys to put out the true image and character of this organization in the film?

Kenny: I think it was paramount. I feel like a big motivation for everyone involved in the project was to provide a more balanced perception of the Black Panthers, because I think it’s pretty much a fact that the national media apparatus worked in concert with the intelligence community to portray the Panthers as terrorists.

And this was done through local media, national press, through the newspaper, through film, you name it. Even if you go back to Forrest Gump and their brief interaction with the Panthers: it’s a Black guy yelling in a beret. It’s always been this caricature of what it meant to be a Panther.

And for us, it was the number one goal to present a more factually-accurate perception of the Panthers based on testimony. And based on the eyewitness reports and conversations with actual Panthers.

Kenny Lucas

Keith: That’s why it was important to show the relationship between Fred and Mother Akua or Debra at the time. Because there was a lot of love that the Panthers wanted to spread. I think with Fred, his whole belief system was created on unity and love. And that gets lost.

Kenny: And I think with the white power structure, what they wanted to do was conflate Black Second Amendment rights with criminality and terrorism. So if we decide to openly defend ourselves against white supremacy, now we’re the villains. It was just a sleight of hand.

It’s like, if you’re not subscribing to King’s peaceful, non-violent ideology, then you’re a criminal. And I think that the state effectively brainwashed a large subsection of the American population to believe that in defending themselves they were terrorists.

The importance of displaying gruesome truths on screen

KH: Anyone who knows Fred Hampton’s story knows how this film will end. There has been an ongoing conversation in the Black community surrounding the display of our pain and trauma on screen.

Were you guys hesitant at all in including Hampton’s death in the film or do you believe America needs to understand what was done to this brilliant man?

Keith: In reading about the story and working on the script and being on set, it’s always traumatic. It’s triggering. It was an emotionally gut-wrenching thing to do. But we felt that in order to accurately tell his story we had to show it.

We didn’t show the actual murder but we showed most of it and we felt like America needs to understand how brutal they were. And maybe they already understand it but we felt like at least with the movie, you see this brilliant guy organizing across the city, trying to bring people together only to be taken out like an animal.

They took him out like he wasn’t a human being. We felt like in order to tell the most powerful version of the story, we needed to put that in there because it’s just a shock to the system.

Keith Lucas

Kenny: When you really think about it, it was a crime against humanity. It was so vicious and I think Americans, especially white Americans, need to reflect more deeply on how they treated African-American’s who exercised their constitutional rights. And I think one of the ways to get them to reflect is to see it visually.

Keith: Think about what happened after the George Floyd video. It was so jarring, shocking, triggering and traumatic. And black people were aware of these images as young kids. We learned about slavery and we see the images of slaves whipped across their back. It wasn’t like these images are so impressed on our minds, and that’s why we fight hard for our freedom.

And for white folks, if they can just sort of look away and pretend like it’s not a part of the American way, we want to make sure they don’t look away so that everyone sees it and experiences it. Hopefully, that will leave for people to fight for more change.

The significance of historical research

KH: When creating the story for this film, how much historical research did you guys do to get this right, and how important was that process?

Kenny: To get a better understanding of the “Ghetto Informant Program.” That’s what they called it. But yeah we went through as much material as possible to try and convey the most accurate depiction of COINTELPRO and the use of black informants to take down “messianic figures.”

We really wanted to understand the mechanisms. And we didn’t want to make this like a souped-up crime procedure where you see them build gadgets. We wanted to focus on the relationships. The human element. The informant’s, the CI’s, the police officers, and the target.

We really wanted to try to mimic what was happening then. That’s why it was important for us to portray Hampton not as the civil rights leader that he has become in his death, a martyr.

But as the person that terrified the FBI and the Chicago police because they felt he was a terrorist due to his rhetoric. I think it was important for us to capture that aspect of Fred’s life.

Kenny Lucas

Finally in this interview, the Lucas brothers explain the importance of getting Black history right

KH: History is a sea of stories just like this one that needs to be told. Especially when it comes to Black historical figures. Are there any other figures you guys would love to see on screen?

Keith: I would like to see something about Amiri Baraka. He’s a Newark poet and an activist who helped start the Black Arts Movement.

Kenny: He also ran for mayor a couple of times. He’s a very interesting figure.

Keith: Very interesting guy. Angela Davis. I think there needs to be a movie about some of the women from the Civil Rights Movement. They’ve been very underserved.

Angela Davis would be a perfect person to chronicle on the big screen because she’s had such a fascinating life and she’s still here. Like people can hear from her now, you know. So it should be an Angela Davis renaissance.

Catch Judas and the Black Messiah on February 12

We thank the Lucas brothers for their time and part in this important interview. Furthermore, we appreciate their part in telling a story about a Black leader killed by nefarious government powers.

Remember, the victors tell history And the victors will wash out the substance of the truth in order to keep their oppressive powers in place.

In this interview, the Lucas brothers explore a story not just intimately related to Black freedom movements in the U.S., but one that is particularly apropos to today’s climate.

If you have one takeaway from this interview with the Lucas brothers, remember that Black people’s freedom is all of our problems. And finally, catch Judas and the Black Messiah on HBO Max February 12.

For more on Judas and the Black Messiah:

10 Black visionaries who dominated film award shows in 2020

Black filmmaking was in pristine form in 2020. Artists released some of their best work, and many are just getting started.

Of course, these films were made to support the culture and tradition of Black art in film, but the awards followed that dedication and hard work.

Here is a list of 10 Black filmmakers and/or visionaries who won awards for their film work in 2020.

Chadwick Boseman

The legendary actor from Black Panther, Get On Up, and 42 tragically died in 2020 from colon cancer.

Boseman suffered for years behind the scenes with cancer, but continued to push through the pain to give the culture amazing performances that will stand the test of time.

Boseman’s last two films Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom are two of the best performances of his career. And the former also netted him multiple “Best Supporting Actor” awards in 2020.

With Oscar season around the corner for 2020, Boseman is poised to posthumously be nominated for “Best Supporting Actor” and possibly even other actor awards for both films.

His commitment to telling important Black stories, no matter his status or fame cements him as a legend. And still, the flowers he deserves will continue to blossom long after his death.

Chadwick Boseman's Last Performance: A First Look at 'Ma Rainey's Black  Bottom' - The New York Times
Chadwick Boseman as “Levee” in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)

Kemp Powers

Powers in a “Soul” brain trust meeting in 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios. (Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Kemp Powers is a writer and director responsible for creating some of the most heartwarming and powerful films of 2020.

Powers served as the writer and co-director of Pixar’s Soul, a film about a New York jazz pianist trapped between earth and the afterlife.

Powers also wrote the script for Regina King’s outstanding directorial debut One Night in Miami, detailing a fictional account of Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Cassius Clay, all together in one hotel discussing the state of the Black freedom movement. It’s safe to say Powers has had a great year.

Soul has won awards for “Best Animated Feature” at multiple festivals in 2020, such as the Indiana Film Journalists Association, and has already nabbed “Movie of the Year” from the American Film Institute Awards.

Black filmmakers were on a tear in 2020, and Powers was undoubtedly one of the stars. One Night in Miami is still poised to go on an awards-season run in 2021, making sure Kemp Powers’ creative fortune rolls on.

Matthew A. Cherry

Hair Love' Director Matthew A. Cherry Signs First-Look Deal With Warner  Bros Television - JARO Magazine
Matthew A. Cherry during a portrait session the 92nd Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in L.A. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Matthew A. Cherry is a writer, producer, and also director, following the unconventional tradition of former NFL players pursuing their dreams of film and T.V. creation.

Cherry created the book Hair Love with illustrator Vashti Harrison, to give young Black girls a positive representation of their hair.

With the success of the book, Cherry looked to create an animated short film adaptation. So he linked up with Sony Animated Pictures to produce the film.

The success of this collaboration led to “Hair Love” nominated and winning the 2020 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

The film is a shining light of hope and love for young Black girls. And for it to be on the entertainment industry’s biggest stage means the world. Black filmmakers like Cherry were truly on a mission in 2020.

Karen Rupert Toliver

Karen Toliver shot by Michael Lewis at the SPA offices in April 2019.
Karen Rupert Toliver at the Sony Pictures Animation Offices in April 2019 (Michael Lewis)

This may seem like it’s double-dipping since Toliver also won and accepted the Oscar for “Hair Love,” but it isn’t. Toliver represents Black people in another powerful and important aspect of film, and that is the role of the producer.

Toliver has a bevy of animated film production credits from Ferdinand, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Meet the Robinsons.”

Her executive producing experience at Walt Disney Animation Studios, 20th Century Fox Animation, and Sony Pictures Animation, puts her in a position of power to get a short film like “Hair Love” made. And it allowed “Hair Love” also to be recognized at the Oscars.

There would be no “Hair Love” if not for Toliver, and while not a filmmaker, Toliver is a Black hero in film that did a great job supporting Black culture in 2020. She should be applauded as someone pushing the envelope for Black representation in animation.

Channing Godfrey Peoples

Portrait of Channing Godfrey Peoples (Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Channing Godfrey Peoples is a writer, director, and producer responsible for 2020’s Miss Juneteenth. Peoples served as a writer on the groundbreaking Ava Duvernay-produced show, “Queen Sugar,” but her directorial feature debut came last year with Miss Juneteenth.

The film is about a single mother and former beauty queen preparing her teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant. It is a beautiful film led by Nicole Beharie in the lead role with a beautiful performance.

The film garnered Peoples the winner of “Best Narrative Feature” at the Blackstar Film Festival. And was also featured in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as a nominee for the Grand Jury Prize.

Radha Blank 

Radha Blank
Radha Blank filming “The 40-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)

The great Radha Blank is a writer, director, and actress from NYC. Blank wowed Sundance in 2020 with her film The 40-Year-Old Version. The film follows a down-on-her-luck playwright that thinks the only way she can use her voice as an older artist is to become a rapper at the age of 40.

The Black filmmakers’ 2020 film is a perfect watch for creatives looking for inspiration to keep going.

The 40-Year-Old-Version won the directing award for “U.S. Dramatic Film” at the Sundance Festival in 2020. And it made Blank just the second Black woman to win the award at the festival behind Ava DuVernay in 2012, for her film Middle Of Nowhere.

Blank has also won the “New York Film Critics Circle Award” for “Best Feature” and is poised for an awards-season-run in 2021 as well.

Janicza Bravo

Janicza Bravo
Janicza Bravo, writer, director, and photographer (Variety)

The brilliant and multifaceted Janicza Bravo is a writer, director, and photographer responsible for bringing the viral Twitter thread from Aziah “Zola” Wells to life.

Zola is about a trip that Wells took to Florida with a stripper named Jessica. Bravo wrote the script with playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who has been garnering buzz for his play Slave Play.

The film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the “Grand Jury Award”. Bravo won the award for “Directors to Watch” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. As far as Black filmmakers in 2020 went, Bravo was at the top of her game.

Dawn Porter

Dawn Porter, Documentary filmmaker (UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)

Documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter is the founder of production company, Trilogy Films. Porter has appeared and worked on countless documentaries on HBO, PBS, Discovery, and Netflix.

But her 2020 film, John Lewis: Good Trouble was one of the defining films of the year.

The film followed the legendary civil rights hero and Senator John Lewis throughout his 60-plus years of social activism and legislative work on a variety of issues.

John Lewis: Good Trouble is timeless, highlighting many of the same issues that permeate our society today. And it came at the heels of Lewis’ death, just as the nation rose to acknowledge the wrongs done against Black people in America.

This film won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for “Best Historical/Biographical Documentary.” And it also continues Porter’s allegiance to creating documentary films that are important and timely to the state of this nation and society.

Ekwa Msangi

Ekwa Msangi website
Ekwa Msangi, Filmmaker (BAFTA)

Kenyan born-New York-based filmmaker Ekwa Msangi is responsible for writing and directing 2020’s Farewell Amor. The film follows three different characters that are Angolan immigrants to the United States.

It illustrates how refugees search for familial bonds and love in a new world. It is tender and beautiful in its approach to the subject of immigration.

The film has won “Best Feature Film” from the Denver International Film Festival and “Excellence in Directing” from the Hamptons International Film Festival. It also was nominated for the “Grand Jury Prize” at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020.

Spike Lee

The director Spike Lee with Isiah Whitlock Jr., Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, and Norm Lewis
Director Spike Lee with Isiah Whitlock Jr., Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, and Norm Lewis (David Lee / Netflix)

Spike Lee has a laundry list of classics under his belt like Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn, Malcolm X, and many more.

2020 showed that the Black filmmaker hasn’t lost a step in his directing prowess, as he made one of the best films in his discography with Da 5 Bloods.

The film follows four African-American Vietnam War vets struggling with returning to Vietnam for the remains of their fallen squad leader, and the gold they hid together during the war.

It is also a character-driven film studying the effects of war on Black soldiers years after the fighting has ended.

Lee reunites with longtime collaborator and actor, Delroy Lindo, for a career-defining performance sure to garner Oscar attention along with the last Chadwick Boseman performances that felt like a perfect sendoff to his career.

Spike Lee won the award for “Best Director” from the National Board of Review and the film won the award for “Best Film” as well. He is sure to receive Oscar attention this season after winning “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the Oscars in 2019. A best director win could be in his future.

These Black filmmakers, producers, writers, and more reminded us in 2020 that Black culture reigns supreme

From the iconic Spike Lee, to the just-getting-started Matthew Cherry, these Black filmmakers, producers, and more are a testament to Black creativity.

These stars in the film industry are also not done. As we approach a defining moment in our nation’s history, Black filmmakers will be there to document it the whole time.

Still, these Black stars in film deserve more flowers than they get, and so here is our tribute to them. Keep creating, and remember that without Black film and culture, the world would not turn.

Are meme stocks the new trend to losing your bread? We investigate

What in the world occurred on the stock market this late-January? Do Redditors run the world now? Also what on Earth does the term “meme stocks” mean? Why is GameStop poppin’ again? And is Robinhood robbing the hood?

We have the answers…


The first month of 2021 has turned into a full-fledged sequel to Wolf of Wall Street, thanks to Redditors on r/wallstreetbets.

Companies like Gamestop, AMC, Nokia, and Blackberry are rising into the mainstream financial conversation because of r/wallstreetbets manipulating the market and increasing the stock prices of each company.


Let’s get into what exactly happened over the last few days with these “meme stocks.” And how creatives can protect themselves in investments during this time.

So what happened with these meme stocks?

The markets for Gamestop, AMC, Koss, and many others are volatile at the moment. Meaning that the prices are fluctuating at a rapid pace, thus making investment predictions difficult.

Gamestop sat at about $18 per share three Fridays ago but has since doubled in four days. The Redditors on the “WallStreetBets” page have been encouraging each other to buy GameStop shares in order to push its value.

It’s a clear manipulation of the market because anyone in the gaming mainstream knows that Gamestop has been a failing company for years and has been steadily losing money over time.

For some companies that were on the verge of bankruptcy like AMC, these recent actions may have saved them. And it’s all due to the power of the people and their investments into these meme stocks.

Like a modern-day proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie.

The short squeeze

According to Investopedia, a short squeeze can be defined as:

A short squeeze occurs when a stock or other asset jumps sharply higher, forcing traders who had bet that its price would fall, to buy it in order to forestall even greater losses. Their scramble to buy only adds to the upward pressure on the stock’s price.

Most hedge funds were betting on GameStop’s stock to fall by going through a process called “shorting,” where investors borrow shares and immediately sell them in the hopes that they can get them again later at a lower price.

gamestop meme stocks
Tweeted by Jordan Deeb @Jordan_Deeb

This of course has backfired for them due to the market manipulation by Redditors, which encouraged much of the internet to buy into GameStop and the other companies to sell their shares off quickly and make some money.

Still, the GameStop boom was just as unexpected as the losses were for the hedge fund billionaires…

Robbing the hood…

Hedge fund investor Leon Cooperman puts the billionaire’s perspective on this situation plainly.

And that’s how many wealthy investors feel. Still, this prompted a response by popular investing app “Robinhood” to take action.

“Robinhood” for a period of time blocked the sales of stocks to these skyrocketing companies. This was in order to slow down the market and bring balance again for wealthy investors.

The result was an outcry from people upset that the market was blatantly manipulated against them. And then this recently led to a class-action lawsuit being filed against “Robinhood.”

This action by the company is even prompting political figures on both sides of the aisle like progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Ted Cruz to agree on investigating why this action was done in order to inhibit the free-trade market.

Robinhood has since reopened the ability to buy into these meme stock companies like GameStop. But for a company that prided and marketed itself as a place for the every-man to get into stock trading, the damage is already done.

So what should creatives do?

A lot of people have gotten into the stock game over the last year. If you were able to get into these surging meme stocks early on and flip them for profit, then great for you.

For everyone else, don’t fall into the temptation to invest in these GameStop shares. More and more each day this situation is presenting itself as a bubble that will inevitably burst.

The safe bet is to always invest in companies that are profitable or also have the true potential to be. Research their quarterly earning reports and more into the background of a company before you invest. There’s never really a good time to invest in failing companies.

But, if you got into GameStop way before this recent stock rise, now is the time to sell while it’s high and flip that money into a larger company like Tesla or Apple.

The choice is up to you. But it’s always better to take smarter risks rather than just any kind of risk.

And try not to rely on only a short squeeze, the trends on wallstreetbets, or what redditors might have some luck in predicting. Good luck!

Black motorists can drive with hope because of the Just Us app

One mompreneur is changing the game for black motorists with an app called Just Us…

One of the harsh realities of being Black in America is that the simple act of being stopped by the police could result in death.

This scenario rings in the heads of Black mothers nationwide fearing for their child’s safety. For Charmine Davis, clinical psychologist and mother, her fear pushed her into action.

Davis created and self-funded Just Us, an app that uses hand’s free voice control to notify designated contacts when you have been stopped by the police.

Download the Just Us app here (iOS)

We sat down with Davis and social impact technologist, Candace Walker, to learn more about the inspiration behind the app and how justice and technology are becoming more connected than ever. All in an attempt to help black motorists all over the country.

How does the Just Us app work for black motorists?

Video detailing how the Just Us app works.

It starts with love

Just Us wouldn’t exist without the power of a mother’s love. Davis’s love for her son hitting a milestone in life inspired her to create an app to protect all mothers’ sons.

“My son, he wanted a driver’s license and of course that’s something that we should celebrate. And I’m one of those mothers that celebrate every milestone but I couldn’t celebrate that,” said Davis.

“I couldn’t celebrate because of the fear of everything that’s going on and the unfavorable interactions that Black males are having with the police these days.”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

The Just Us app founder continued, “I went to bed that night that he came in and brought it up and I’m just thinking, how could myself and other mothers connect with our children and just know that they’re okay?”

For Charmine Davis, being able to create something that can put other mother’s minds at ease is a blessing.

It’s important to remember that it’s dangerous out there for all motorists. Not to mention young black drivers. “I was tired of feeling that debilitating fear that comes over you. As a psychotherapist, I see mothers and talk to them all the time,” said the mompreneur.

She continued, “When you talk about mental health issues and anxiety and folks that can’t sleep and all these things that lead to poor mental health it all turns back to families and our children and how things are going for them.

“So for me to have created something that can put these mothers that look just like me and want the same things as I do, to be able to put them at ease, it warms my heart.”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

Dream it. Create it. See it.

The app was entirely self-funded by Charmine Davis. She waited for nobody to get started on her dream project to protect Black children, putting her heart directly into creating this project. There was no time to wait for this app to be created.

For Davis, an app like this should have already been created. “The time was now and the time was then for sure. It took a while for the app to come full circle. As my children get older, as I talk to more parents and understand the impacts of their fears and what health issues they created…”

Davis continued, “And everything going on in the world with social justice and unrest, I kind of beat myself up because I felt like had I thought about or brought this app to creation faster, maybe some lives would have been saved. “

It takes two…

Just like Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, it takes two to make a thing go right and Davis knew she needed the help of a skilled technologist to make her vision become a reality. Davis sought out Candace Walker, a social impact technologist, and mother herself, to form the team that would create Just Us.

“It took about a year from the time I first brought it to Candace who is this amazing technologist that worked on some apps that I knew about previously and they were so phenomenal.”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

Walker and Davis worked so well together because they both shared the same dream to protect Black children through technology. That shared dream to see this app come together is what pushed them through.

“We chose August 28 to bring the app out in commemoration of the day Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. And this is our dream. Our dream is that we can send our children out to the world and they can be okay,” said Charmine Davis.

Of course, there are tons of apps and programs that have some of the same capabilities as the Just Us app, but the difference between them and Just Us is in the love, care, and community behind it.

“We know there are tons of apps out there that do certain things, but this app was created by moms. This app was created by us for us and for our community. And we wanted everything to be perfect.”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

The Just Us App is making Black motorists feel safe again

In 2019, researchers found through a study of nearly 100 million traffic stops from around the country that, on average, black drivers are 20 percent more likely to get pulled over than white drivers.

Black motorists have lived in fear way before the Green Book days and it’s a shame that drivers of color still have to live in fear of DWB (driving while black).

For those who are unaware of what the Green Book was, it served as a travel guide published during the segregation era in the United States that identified businesses that would accept African American motorists.

The book would go on to save so many lives…

According to Stanford data scientist Amy Shoemaker, a researcher who worked on the 2019 study, “Activists and individuals of color have long presented anecdotal evidence of this kind of bias… The new part is being able to understand it in quantifiable terms.”

We’re living in the height of the social media and technology age where justice is being filmed on cameras, social media campaigns are making voices heard, and hashtags are being shared around the world. Technology has become intertwined with justice now more than ever.

For Walker, technology has become just that.

“The one thing that technology can do, in mass, is democratize platforms and access. We think that technology aids in the process of providing justice because of its capability of gathering evidence because of the features of the app.”

Candace Walker, Just Us App Social Impact Technologist

Davis believes that this is all just a natural evolution of unmasking our struggles.

“Through all the civil rights movements that have taken place, even then to now, we all want the same things. We want freedom, we want equality, and we want to be able to be safe and have that American dream like everyone else.”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

“When you talk about technology, you talk about my son. All he has to say is ‘Siri, Just Us help.’ He didn’t have to move his hand. He says that and his phone automatically comes on and its alerts others within a two-mile radius. So my son is able to be relaxed because of this,” said Davis.

Inspiration for creatives

What Davis has created with Just Us will inspire other creatives to find new ways to incorporate activism and safety into technology for the betterment of us all. Ending our conversation, she gives creatives some advice.

“Be true to your dreams. There was an old professor of mine that would always say ‘What your head can conceive, your heart can believe, your hands can achieve.'”

– Charmine Davis, Just Us App Founder

The mompreneur continued, “He would always say that to us. When you believe in something, make it come to pass. If it’s something for your community, usually things are selfless, things that we can all benefit from. Find someone that you feel is knowledgeable in what you want to do and have them mentor you.”

Download the app saving the lives of black motorists here (iOS)

Customization artist Sierato takes ‘exclusive’ to another level with round21

For customization artist Sierato, creating is a must. The Baltimore-based creative and sneaker designer took his talents to the sports lifestyle brand, round21.

Together, they created an exclusive “Rec Set” that dropped on NTWRK of ping-pong paddles and mini basketball hoops that bring art directly into the realm of play.

The renown customization artist sat down with us for a Q&A session detailing the inspiration behind this collaboration with round21 as well as a few gems on keeping the flow of creativity going no matter the circumstances.

Collaboration is key for the customization artist

The partnership between Sierato and round21 is a departure from his normal business. Sierato is known for making custom sneakers for celebrities and star athletes like Ja Morant, Trae Young, and Zion Williamson.

The “Rec Set” steps away from the shoe and instead, focuses on how play can include art. For the customization artist, the collaboration was natural because they both saw the importance of championing new and diverse voices in the space.

“The founder, Jasmine, she champions for creatives and intentionally picking out multicultural people and things of that nature to kind of bring what they do best to the forefront and elevate what they have going on and get it out to the world and to everybody.”

Sierato opens the door for aspiring creatives

One thing that’s important to Sierato is finding a way to put other up and coming creatives on. Much of his passion for helping others comes from not having a clear road to follow himself at the start of his career.

“This is one of the things I wish somebody had done for me…”

“I just decided one day I was going to paint shoes. I saw my guy Marsh out here painting shoes for LeBron and I was like, if he could do that, I could probably do it too,” said Sierato.

It was a leap of faith that worked out and put him in the position to to make other creatives roads easier.

“There’s nobody to help me out. There’s nobody to promote my stuff or get it in front of people that really needed to see it. So now I want to return that and get some new artists some shine and showcase people that are doing dope stuff. “

Creating through hardship

2020 was a down year for everybody, but despite the world’s circumstances, creatives pushed on and did what they do best. For customization artist Sierato, the quarantine period gave him all the time he needed to be creative.

“Being in the house all the time, with not much else going on just kind of really gave me the opportunity to reevaluate what I had going on content-wise. I came up with new show ideas, new sketch ideas, just a lot of new content stuff that we’re going to have rolled out.”

Hope and looking forward to the future also pushed him to create. It’s the backbone of creatives to look forward to a change or positive influence that their art can create.

“I just had something to look forward to.”

That’s the message everyone should take with them. Always have something to look forward to. It pushes us to keep creating and keep going.

Make sure to check out the customization artist and his YouTube for more inspiration


Rare Martin Luther King Jr. photos holding us down for MLK day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is hailed as one of America’s greatest leaders who worked to bridge the gap between racial and class struggles in the name of equality. Rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that even the most famous public figures can be captured out of the public light.

King was a man known to move mountains with his words, using speeches to call America to arms of peace, love, and commonality. MLK, a larger than life figure, is able to retain his memorable demeanor and candor of expression in his photographs.

So, with MLK day on our minds, here are five photographers who captured King throughout his life in photos in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Photographers who captured the duality of King being a leader for the people, and a father to his children. Thus, on this day close to MLK day, we look at complex imagery birthed out of rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fred Baldwin

Wendy Watriss and Frederick Baldwin - HCAS
Fred Baldwin and his wife, Wendy Watriss.

A photographer driven by curiosity, Fred Baldwin was brave and ambitious in his pursuits. The camera was his means of expression and also a way to find out the truths of the world. In 1963, Baldwin came face to face with the truths of America.

Baldwin stumbled upon a Civil Rights march in Savannah, Georgia and began to take photos of the protestors. There he met many of the leaders of the movement, including Hosea Williams who was a trusted member of Dr. King’s circle.

Baldwin knew that the world needed to see what Black people were going through in this nation. And he dedicated the next few years of his life to photographing the movement including a picture of Dr. King at the municipal auditorium in Savannah, Georgia in 1964.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Municipal Auditorium, Savannah, Ga. January 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Municipal Auditorium, Savannah, Ga. January 1964.Credit-Fred Baldwin

James Karales

The Voting Rights Act and Shelby County v. Holder: How the Supreme Court  could make the VRA better instead of striking it down.
James Karales

Some of the most famous civil rights images were taken by James Karales. There was the young teenager marching with the word “VOTE” across his face behind a backdrop of an American flag.

Culture & History - Whats the Buzz
Cred: James Karales

Karales is one of the few photographers to capture Dr. King at his most earnest and vulnerable state, with his children.

An image from 1962 shows Dr. King with his daughter, Yolanda, explaining segregation to her. The angst and disappointment of the conversation are shown in his face as he struggles to explain to a child why the world is the way that it is.

It’s an image that shows King at his most hopeful. His hope was in the children just as he outlined in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

MLK day photos
Dr. Martin Luther King and his daughter, Yolanda King, 1962.

Ernest Withers

This is my favorite African American photographer . Ernest Wither  documented the civil rights era. E… | Black history facts, African american  history, Black history
Ernest Withers

One of the most respected photographers of the civil rights era was Ernest Withers.

Much of his work came at the very beginnings of the movement, such as photographs of Emmett Till in 1955, and the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ernest was revered by King for his documentation of the movement, and was allowed to travel with him and sit in strategy meetings as the main photographer documenting the history that they were making as a movement.

Thus, Withers’ pictures were truly rare photos and insight into Martin Luther King Jr.

The Double Life of Ernest Withers
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the funeral of Medgar Evers in Jackson Mississippi in June, 1963 -Photo Credit – Ernest Withers.

Withers was actually secretly an informant for the FBI. He would send them rare photos he had taken of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as contextual information of each event, and schedules of organizations and individuals.

King was never aware of this truth, as well as many other activists of the time period, but that takes nothing away from the wealth of history given to generations after the Civil Rights Movement through these photographs.

Steve Schapiro

Steve Schapiro | The Talks
Steve Schapiro

A photographer truly one of a kind, Steve Schapiro found himself in the middle of multiple historic instances, most notably his work documenting President Kennedy’s campaign.

His work capturing the civil rights movement came in the form of documenting the historic march on Selma in 1965.

Martin Luther King Jr. (with Flag), Selma March
Dr. King at the Selma March of 1965. Photo Credit – Steve Schapiro

Schapiro captures a rare photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marching with the flag of red, white, and blue behind him.

The black and white pallet of the photograph blends King in with his compatriots of peace behind him, all marching to the beat of the same drum of equality and love.

Yet, King is still able to stand out as the center of the piece. That attention to the subject and blending of their image and might is what makes Schapiro’s images what they are.

Moneta Sleet Jr.

Moneta Sleet, Jr. (1926-1996)
Cred: Moneta Sleet Jr.

Moneta Sleet Jr. is a legendary photographer for his work capturing the Civil Rights movement. This includes rare photos of the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of 1964, and the march on Selma in 1965.

Dr. King and Sleet grew to be close friends throughout the movement because of his respect for his work. While Sleet captured King many times through his life, his work through King’s death is what most remember.

Coretta Scott King and Bernice King - Atlanta, Georgia, 1968
Coretta Scott King and Bernice King at Ebenezer Baptist Church, April 9th, 1968.

Sleet captured an image of Coretta Scott King and the King’s youngest child, Bernice, at a service in Ebenezer Baptist Church. The image shows Mrs. King grieving and comforting her child. It’s a somber image showing the weight of Dr. King’s absence on their lives.

The image earned Sleet a Pulitzer Prize, making him the first African-American to receive the award for journalism. He made history with an image he took with his heart while also grieving for an old friend gone too soon.

Rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us the fight for equality doesn’t stop

Dr. Martin Luther King may never walk this earth again, but his legacy is forever. MLK day and these photos taken by brave photographers are constant reminders of how large his legacy truly looms over us.

Through their lenses, these photographers ensure that Dr. King will always be remembered for generations to come.

With MLK day on our mind, these photographers and their photos also should inspire all creatives to not only create, but document the times that we are in.

That is the true nature and responsibility of an artist and each of these photographers understood their role in the fight for change and equality.

Still DRE: Remembering the legend we almost lost through photos

When it comes to icons like Dr. Dre, it’s important to document their accomplishments through photos.

The Hip-Hop world stood still for a moment as reports came out that legendary Hip-Hop artist and producer, Dr. Dre, suffered a brain aneurysm.

This genre has seen its fair share of death and many of the legends of Hip-Hop die younger than anyone should. The world was able to exhale as Dr. Dre himself assured fans that he was ok.

Dre’s health scare is a reminder that we need to give people their flowers while they can still smell them, and that’s what we plan to do. Here are 10 iconic photos detailing some moments in Dr. Dre’s legendary career.

Humble beginnings

nwa photos
(L-R) Rappers MC Ren, DJ Yella, Eazy-E, and Dr. Dre of the rap group NWA pose for a portrait in 1991 in New York, New York. DJ Yella is giving the middle finger. (Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives)

He got his start in the music business with N.W.A. The rap group hailing from Compton, California is etched in Hip-Hop royalty for their contributions to the culture.

In this photo, it’s seen that Dr. Dre served as the main producer of the group and much of his early hard-hitting production style found its roots with N.W.A. The beginning of a legend starts here.

Nuthin But A G Thang

dr. dre photos
Dr. Dre photographed by Dave Allocca while attending the 1993 MTV Movie Awards in Culver City, CA – June 07, 1993

Here’s one hell of an iconic Dre. Dre moment captured by photographer Dave Allocca.

Here the famed music producer pulled up to the MTV Movie Awards on June 7, 1993 fresh off of his solo debut album “The Chronic” releasing at the tail end of 1992.

One of the biggest hits from the classic album was “Nuthin But A G’Thang” featuring Snoop Dogg. The pair performed the song at the awards show and rocked the house introducing Dre to the masses.

The Dogg and the Producer

dr. dre and snoop dogg
Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre photographed by Dave Allocca while attending the 1993 Billboard Music Awards in Universal City, CA – December 08, 1993

Allocca hits us again with another vintage photo of Dre. Dre…

It can’t be overstated how influential Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are to each other’s careers. This snap from the Billboard Music Awards on December 8th, 1993 is a testament to their friendship.

Dre met snoop through another West Coast legend, Warren G, and eventually signed him to Death Row. Throughout his career, he has always shown a penchant for scouting talent and Snoop is no different.

Their partnership would create classic hits for Hip-Hop fans to enjoy forever.

Dr. Dre wins “Best Rap Artist”

dr. dre photos of tlc
Dr. Dre & TLC photographed by Ron Galella while attending the 21st Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles, CA – February 07, 1994

Out of all these photos of Dr. Dre this one is a keeper. To put music history in perspective, imagine TLC and the upcoming producer, in the same place back in 1994.

Yes, that happened. On February 7, 1994, at the 21st annual American Music Awards, Dr. Dre won the award for “Best Rap Artist” presented by the girls of TLC.

This was a key moment for his career. A signal that he was now a big enough artist on his own apart from N.W.A.

Remember the Source Awards?

dr. dre source awards photos
Dr. Dre photographed by Steve Granitz while attending The 1999 Source Hip-Hop Music Awards in Los Angeles, CA – August 18, 1999

This photo from August 18, 1999, shows the producer at the infamous Hip-Hop Source Awards. The Source Awards were a beacon of the culture in the ’90s and early 2000s so of course, Dr. Dre would be in attendance.

Finding Slim Shady

Dr. Dre & Eminem photographed by Dave Allocca while attending the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City, NY – September 09, 1999

What would we have done if we lost Dr. Dre to a brain aneurysm?

The producer was able to find talent just about anywhere. One of his first signings to Interscope Records was a kid from Detroit we all know now as Eminem.

This picture from September 9, 1999 shows the pair at that year’s MTV Video Music Awards in NYC. Here Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg shared the stage to perform.

Pull up to The Wash

Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg photographed by Jeff Kravitz during the premiere for the film “The Wash” in Los Angeles, CA – November 12, 2001

The music artist also worked in the film industry staring alongside his friend Snoop Dogg in the movie “The Wash.” This is the pair at the premiere of the film in LA on November 12, 2001.

Play Ball!

Dr. Dre photos by Time & Life Pictures – March 18, 1990

This picture is from March 18, 1999, during MTV’s Rock and Jock baseball game where celebrities competed with professional ballplayers.

Now the icon isn’t all business. He has time to play some games here and there too. This definitely goes down as one of the best Dr. Dre photos.

Do you have 50 Cent?

What To Know About Dr. Dre's Relationship With 50 Cent
Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent in 2003

Even though 50 Cent was discovered and signed by Eminem to his Shady Record’s label under Aftermath/Interscope, Dr. Dre was pivotal in the making of his career.

The producer giving Eminem a platform to sign artist gave 50 Cent an opportunity to grow along with Dre executive producing his first album Get Rich or Die Tryin.

Out of all the photos, this places Dr. Dre in the position of having influenced three of Hip-Hop’s biggest artists. His fingerprints were all over the culture at this point.

Straight Outta Compton

Producer Ice Cube (from top left) director F. Gary gray and producer Dr. Dre, stand behind the actors playing N.W.A. via Universal Pictures

In 2015, the critically acclaimed film “Straight Outta Compton” released introducing the world to the story of N.W.A. the icon served as a producer on the film.

The hype surrounding its release led to him releasing his first studio album in years, “Compton” to celebrate this mark of Hip-Hop’s history and culture and cementing his and N.W.A.’s place in it.

The real danger of Dr. Dre’s brain aneurysm

These Dr. Dre photos are great and we are glad that the legend is doing well. Still, brain aneurysms are no joke and can sometimes be detected before they take a life.

If there’s anything these hard times have shown us is that it’s important that we don’t take chances with our health. Click here for more information about brain aneurysms.

Get well soon, Dr. Dre…

Smokers Club Records’ new animated rap video reminds us to create with the homies

Green R. Fieldz recently released his CinematicTV rap video for the song “Blockstar” featuring Zombie Juice and it’s a trippy animated experience.

The two journey onto a strange world and save it from the planet’s tyrannical overlord with the power of Zkittlez.

Of course, the video would not be possible without the Smoker’s Club creative team collaborating together.

We sat down with the stars of the animated rap video, Fieldz, and Zombie Juice, as well as Matt Van Sol, General Manager of The Smoker’s Club and animation artist Andrew William Ralph to go inside their creative process.

Are animated rap videos the new wave?

One of the things that makes the “Blockstar” animated video unique is it’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” approach to visual storytelling.

The animated rap video is coupled with the artist’s performance creating a lived-in Saturday morning cartoon feel that a simple on-the-block video could never achieve. 

When speaking about the decision behind going the animation route, Fieldz said:

“Well, I was talking to Matt and I’ve, honestly, always wanted to do an animated video. And, to be honest, I feel I’m kind of awkward in videos anyway. So, it was kind of fun to just do something fun.”

It’s all about good music, community, and creative

Everyone knows how the pandemic has changed our daily lives, but how have artists maneuvered around this new space?

For Zombie Juice, not much has changed. In fact, the pandemic has brought him closer to the people that matter to him the most.

“Well, for me, a COVID hasn’t changed too much, because I don’t really access myself to people that are worth my time, energy….”

“If we’re in a studio session, I’m trusting that I’m with good people and good friends.”

– Zombie Juice

“I don’t really see that the COVID thing stopping too much.”

For the “Blockstar” animated rap video, the crew was minimal with Fieldz, Juice, and music director extraordinaire, Rook, shooting in LA. Animator, Andrew Ralph would have loved to be there himself but safety in this age of creativity is the key.

“I would have loved to have been there for the filming because, like, maybe we would have thought of some more ideas, you know, different shots and stuff. But like, it’s kind of this the distance there.”

“We made it happen, you know… It was pretty cool that they were still able to get together and shoot a video.”

– Andrew Ralph, Animator

There’s more to weed and the creative process

Smokers Club Records isn’t just about weed as some might think. The brand is based on the community people share around weed. The laughter, joy, and companionship around a shared hobby and how it bleeds into the creativity of our culture.

Founded by Johnny Shipes, Smoke DZA, and Shiest Bubz The Smoker’s Club brand has come a long way. Matt Van Sol spoke on Shipes involvement:

“We just smoke a lot. And we really know music and we know festivals and culture. We’re really about giving back to the culture… “

– Matt Van Sol, The Smoker’s Club GM

“That’s just Johnny’s MO, and his energy asks, ‘What can I do for the community and big it up? Because it’s done so much for me.'”

For artists like Zombie Juice, Weed stimulates the mind and brings the best out of them creatively.

“I like to smoke while I’m writing my music. It just helps me stay in my memory state my thoughts and just bring up good emotions. This is literally medicine,” said Juice.

“I can make music without weed but weed just helps you snap into that zone, step into your body, and step into your brain a little bit more. That’s what it does for me. It helps me stay in that thought.”

– Zombie Juice

Weed is essential to the brand but also the basis for creative collaboration. The “Blockstar” animated rap video is a shining example of this and the passion artists have for working together to create their best work.

Check out more of what CinematicTV is doing with The Smoker’s Club by flipping through the playlist below